‘Don’t Shine The Turd’

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21st Feb, 2022

Some years ago, when we were just starting our wealth management firm, ‘Sahayak Associates’, we approached a HNI investor we respected and hoped would invest with us.

We were optimistic and passionate, but also new and nervous, and I think he could see that.

I started my sales pitch and had been talking for too long, probably over-explaining out of anxiety. He eventually cut me off and said, “you know what, son?” (I’m not sure if he actually said “son,” but I think it helps the story.) “I will invest with you.”

My joy knew no bounds.

“On one condition,” he said.

Uh oh.

“Just don’t shine the Turd.”

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. I said, ‘Sorry Sir, can you please repeat yourself.’

“Don’t shine the turd.”

I wracked my brain. The what?

Keep in mind, I was new to the industry and  I didn’t have a financial services background, I wondered if this was some jargon or slang I haven’t heard of? Is it an acronym? T.U.R.D…?

Turns out I was overthinking. He just went on to say, “nine times out of ten, getting only good news is actually bad news. If something is shit, don’t hide it. Because eventually, I’ll smell it. It concerns me when I get consistent updates that all is well only to hear later that a problem has been allowed to grow and snowball into something much bigger and less fixable.”

He went on to add, that he’d been investing for a long time, and he accepted the possibility of failure and the market volatility and an adopted strategy not working out as planned. He wasn’t afraid of it anymore. But what he wouldn’t put up with was someone pretending everything was going great when it actually wasn’t.

We agreed not to hide anything. He agreed to trust us and invest with us.

We really held onto that advice, and kept that promise, ever since, with all our clients. We have actually made this as one of our basic values and principles of our business.

It’s hard to be a wealth manager and one of the most difficult things is reporting bad news about some loss of corpus, especially to someone who has trusted you with their money.

That’s why we share this advice with our entire team: ‘When you update your investors, be honest, tell the whole truth, and give context. Mistakes happen, but no one can help you fix them if you aren’t honest that they’ve been made. Be up-front. Figure out the problem, Create a plan to reverse or minimize it and always own up to it.’

This advice is as applicable not only in the investment space but in all aspects of life. Don’t be afraid to admit to a mistake, don’t try to cover it. The actual solution will appear only when you first acknowledge that there is a problem.

Shit happens, you will make mistakes, ‘Don’t shine the turd’ and stay blessed forever.

(With inputs from the blog of the same name by Craig Shapiro)