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Lessons from the Super-Rich: Invest in your Own Business or Practice, Rather than the Stock Market

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Golden egg on top of pile of regular eggsThis week I want to share with you some fascinating insights I've gleaned from some of America's wealthiest families, but more importantly, give you some new ways of looking at investing in your own business, practice or organization.

Due to a prior business relationship, I have come to know a fair number of investors and entrepreneurs who enjoy personal fortunes in excess of $100 million, along with many of the nationally prominent attorneys and investment people who advise them.

Sadly, since I don't personally enjoy a $100 million estate, I can't convince my "big league" investment advisor friends to take me on as an official client. Therefore, I am left to pick their brains "off the record," but place my bets through one of the same "retail" brokerage houses that all my other friends and acquaintances use.

Over the past year and a half, I have noticed a sharp contrast in the advice I was getting from both camps.

The "smart money" crowd whispered in hushed tones, "Look out, all those bad mortgages are going to turn out to be a huge debacle for our economy."

Meanwhile, my own stockbroker's advice has remained unchanged since the day I first met him 11 years ago.   In effect, "Just keep on keeping on...invest a little each week...no one can predict the stock market ... in the long run you'll do well."   Blah, blah, blah.

Most people on TV and on the Internet were saying the same thing. (If I see Suzy Orman pitching herself on public TV one more time I am going to throw up.)

Think about that for a moment. A financial tornado was advancing, yet almost everyone in the financial industry either failed to notice or worse, told others to ignore it and keep doing the same thing.

Like so many others, I did nothing until early September when I caught Nouriel Roubini on Charlie Rose talking about the Freddie Mac and Sallie Mae meltdowns. Charlie Rose said something like, "This is really scary."

I called my broker the next morning to sell everything.

He was reluctant.

I was insistent.

I dodged a bullet.

He followed his own advice and took one in the gut.

Here's the point.

I don't think most everyday financial advisors are bad people. In fact, my broker is a really good guy. I like him, and I hope he forgives me for writing this.

The trouble is, most financial "experts" seem to have unquestioningly bought into an oversimplified model that might work much of the time, but which is seriously flawed when circumstances change significantly.   Frankly, the same old story feels like a "sucker's game."

Sure, Warren Buffett recently wrote that he is buying stocks now. I wish I had the same insider information, money and knowledge he has. If so, I would be pouncing on opportunities left and right.

But I DON'T have great information, billions of dollars or world-class financial expertise.

Warren gets the goods before the store opens - I get the "sale rack" after all the good stuff is gone.

So, looking around, where ELSE can I invest?

Hmmm, not my house, though fortunately I have been pretty conservative there too.

Oh, how about this crazy idea?

My own business!

Something that I can control to a very large degree.

Something that I feel responsible for.

Something I know and understand.

NOT something where I am number 1,543,222 in line.

Let me be clear here.

I am not saying not to invest in the stock market. I will buy stocks again someday, though hopefully next time I will be savvier.

(Note: The widely acknowledged fact that no one can predict the stock market is compounded today because, 1. We are currently in uncharted territory, and 2. If you believe Harry Dent, the fact that baby boomers are about to retire en masse - and therefore reduce their consumption drastically - will trigger a long-running depression completely independent of today's financial crisis.)

Think about it. Even if the stock market were to quickly (and unexpectedly) return to 10% annual returns, will that mean you can retire wealthy, or just beat inflation nicely?

Put another way, I look at my own 401K Plan as my retirement last resort safety net, not my road to riches.

Marketing your own business, on the other hand, can sometimes yield 500% returns on your investment, or even greater.

Every month, Lonnie and I put our money where our mouths are and invest significantly in our business.   And I am REALLY glad I didn't take that money and put it in the stock market.

My advice: quit focusing solely on the cost of marketing your healthcare business or organization.

Instead, consider the upside and INVEST in your business's future.

Don't go throw a pile of money into marketing if you are a neophyte. Learn. Study. Grow. Invest a little, but when you find a winner, pump it up.

Oh, and one more thing: many of you have already written about decreased revenues and profits due to the recession. If that fits you, I would look at marketing as an asset protection play.

Patients will still spend money - though not as much.   The only question is, will it be with you?

So take positive action and build your practice or healthcare business now. I would argue that your best possible investment is your own practice.

Pass it on.

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