The quantity of conversations may drop but the quality rises

December 30, 2009 — 4:27 AM UTC by Brooke Southall

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The good reasons for refraining from work on days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Eve are time-honored, well-documented and religiously grounded.

Pies need eating. Slopes need skiing. Brains need recharging and spirits need rejuvenating.

Kids are home from school. Uncles [that’s me] are in from out of town. Invictus is out there for the seeing and retailers are slashing prices on every garment with an XL or XXL on the collar.

But while I’ve been working from my native hometown of Portland, Maine over the holidays I’ve made observations on the wisdom of working, or not, during a time of national Sabbath.

I am borrowing a desk in the city at the office of an RIA firm, an arrangement I have enjoyed for several years at the blessing of friends who run the company.

Holding down the fort

Half the partners are with their families and the other half are “holding down the fort” as they tell the [very] few clients who call.

The dividends that the rest will pay for the absent partners is hard to quantify but here are some reasons I accumulated for why working in holiday time has clear benefits:

1.) People who are either too busy to talk or too busy to talk for long can be reached. Even if they’re not working, many people return e-mails and phone calls. Other people just like to prove that their Blackberry really can reach them anywhere, anytime.

2.) Many people you reach seem glad to hear from you! There just seems to be a moratorium on nastiness, unless you’re speaking with an airline employee.

3.) The RIAs in my office are taking advantage of this atmosphere to have lunches with centers of influence, namely accountants. They are also taking the chance to see members of clients’ families who are not normally in town but have arrived for the holidays.

4.) Salesmen who drop by are getting proper respect. The fellow who delivers the water bubbler bottles made a pitch yesterday to add a case of Pelligrino orange-flavored water to the order. What might have been a “no thanks” became a “sure” and the air was thick with goodwill. The RIAs realized they needed a better offering than water for many clients and the salesman added to his holiday income.

5.) Casual conversations about future technology choices [the Advent Software sales literature got perused today], bonds to buy in this dip and prices of bond holdings got a going over in an atmosphere of non-lunacy.

6.) Decisions about how to raise cash for gifting to heirs get made.

7.) I was going to say that goodies dropped off by business associates and clients get gobbled but there were few this year – perhaps a reminder of the recent Recession.

8.) Real discussions are taking place about what custodians will get what assets in the year ahead. The discussion revolves around which companies can provide dedicated service personnel and good technology. The mix is elusive for these RIAs.

Starbucks cups

9.) There is the chance to stare out the window over Portland harbor for a moment here and there and to discuss matters of interest. Why has the Starbucks on Exchange Street suddenly stopped allowing customers to bring back their cup for a refill in the era of green? Instead they discard the cup and start again. Why can’t you get a parking space in Portland even when the streets seem ghostly quiet?

10.) The biggest reason for working is that work is fun – or at least quite bearable and low-impact – in the holiday atmosphere. You’re working the way Plato intended it when he said you’d be happy as long as you do what you most like.

Full disclosure: RIABiz is still very much in start-up mode. We really didn’t feel like taking the week off was much of an option.

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