[EMP Series] Networking and Investment Tips With Tim Harrison

John Corcoran 11:03

I’ve interviewed a lot of people that have worked with family members, some of whom have been fired by parents, I’m not sure that I’ve ever interviewed anyone that has hired a parent and had any awkwardness. But whether there ever any awkwardness, like no, you know, like he asked for a raise, you couldn’t give him one or anything like that?

Tim Harrison 11:22

Well, I’ll go the other way. So it was really cool. Overall, it definitely got more complicated as he got to be older. I mean, you’re coming from 62 to 72. And toward the end, I’ll just say it got harder. Just getting to a point where I knew that we were going to have to kind of move on beyond that. And probably the most unusual time was actually the other way around, where there was a year where I had a really, there was a short window, actually of about two months where I had to ask my dad for a couple $1,000 to meet payroll, who lent me the money. He was on my payroll, but he lent me the money. Fortunately, that was a very short stint. And then I was back on a good track. And but that did happen once. And he reminds her that well, you used to remind me that he’s he’s passed now. But nevertheless, it was,

John Corcoran 12:09

that’s hard, that’s hard to have that conversation. You must figure it out. At some point, you are good at sales. So at what point did you figure out that you have a knack for that?

Tim Harrison 12:21

Actually, I would tell you, I really never thought I was great at sales. I do think I’m really good at connecting people. And although some people think that this is the same. My best friend getting into when I was getting in the business told me that he didn’t see me doing this. I still view myself as an educator, not so much a salesperson, even though some might disagree. So I still don’t see myself actually, as a salesperson as odd as that might sound

John Corcoran 12:47

consultative sales, I guess is what some people call it. Right? Right. Yeah, I

Tim Harrison 12:50

think I listen well to what people are trying to do. And I believe I can then help them accomplish that.

John Corcoran 12:56

You ended up connecting meeting with the CFO of ConAgra, which is a fortune 500 company at the time, who ended up being a great connection for you. How did you meet that person?

Tim Harrison 13:09

Yeah, there’s a number of funny stories. But I would say that so in my sophomore year, it was going pretty well, as an intern, I was pretty much working full time while studying accounting, and I ended up passing the CPA exam and finish my degree, but at the time, I just was kind of working hard. But um, I met the first the comptroller of ConAgra at the time, and I remember walking into his office, and this is a C level executive. And I had no business being there, likely, but and he had a pillow on the floor and a sign on his desk. And he said, the sign said, Neil, here. And he said, so I came in, I was like, oh boy, this will be interesting, sat down, and he said your nickel and figured out that meant I should start talking and anyway, he became a client. Then he referred me to CFO, CFO became a great client. It took a few meetings, though, to kind of talk to him about what we did that was unique. He liked our planning approach. And long story short, he became a real advocate for me. And I think he just saw a little bit of maybe himself in me at a younger age, and was willing to walk me around to some of the offices introduced me to some other key executives, we were doing some things from a planning perspective that were fairly unique at the time. So like, what was what were you doing that was different? The biggest thing was I became really fluent in the all of the benefits for the executives there. So the controller, I basically asked him for his benefits booklets and at the time it was It wasn’t all electronic yet, but I would I studied these things. I mean, just like I studied accounting, I would study the benefits booklets, I’d be able to tell them what their long term incentive plan what their Chris plan was, what their non qualified stock option plan was. There was certain hours again and counting so I learned about some of the tax rules and treatment around what happened if you died. You know And let’s say you have stock options and you passed away, like what happens? What’s the tax treatment? And then what liquidity needs do you have for both estate planning and income tax planning at that time. So I just learned some things that were at least unique to most, even today. I mean, I talked to advisors around the country who still don’t really know what I knew when I was in college about helping these executives from a tech standpoint.

John Corcoran 15:24

So it because you learned it studied the benefits for ConAgra. So well, that naturally led to then you being introduced to other C suite executives around the country around ConAgra. And you can kind of go deep with this one comp company and you end up doing the same thing with Deloitte, you end up meeting the managing partner of Deloitte, who referred you around to a bunch of other managing partners of Deloitte as long

Tim Harrison 15:48

well, and it was so linked because once I learned what to do in that company, then we had Union Pacific and Omaha, we had fortune five fortune 500 companies in Omaha at the time, which at least for our size, City is a lot per capita. And so once you learn one, you can do the same thing and another company. And so there was then a group of us that all started to focus in this particular area. And so I just started to nest in. Yeah, can I agree Union Pacific, can name the companies Deloitte was one of them, you know, Deloitte, the law firms that serve these these companies like ConAgra, and Union Pacific. So it was a very easy way to kind of continue to nest around to others.

John Corcoran 16:28

Now, another strategy you employed was, I love this, you spent a couple of winters in Miami Beach in LA, which sounds wonderful if you’re living in Omaha, and you’re young, single guy, and you want to go travel, and you end up networking with I mean, people like the CEO of Carnival, Carnival Cruise Lines, I have to ask, like, if you reflect back on it, you’re you’re a young guy still establishing your career. Some people would never have the confidence to, you know, to have a conversation with people that are at that stature in their career, much less, get hired by them serve them. Was there something in you that that prepared you for that? Or why do you think you managed to do it well, when others would struggle with it?

Tim Harrison 17:14

That’s a great question. I would love to tell you, I have it all figured out. I just would say I had some early success that really fueled me and I look back and I could say, well, you know, I’m doing something. And I don’t know that I ever had that much success. Growing up. I was good at a few sports. But honestly, like, this was the most successful I’ve ever been in anything. So for me, that fueled me in and of itself to say, Listen, I really have something here. It’s something unique that apparently others don’t see or don’t have. And so, I did have a really good mentor, also in college, that that did work in that executive marketplace. And I was able to learn from him. So I didn’t talk about that yet. But that was helpful.

John Corcoran 17:52

That he was that mentor. His

Tim Harrison 17:54

name was Byron McFarland, still at the tail end of his career now, but really, really good in that executive space. And so I met him about a year into the business. He asked me to go down the hall, I got to note my mailbox. And I was I thought I was in trouble. He was the big guy in the corner office. And long story short, he said, you have wisdom. I’m sorry, I have wisdom. He said, and you have energy. He asked me to see my calendar. And I showed him how busy he was. And he said, Let’s try to team up. And so for a couple of years, at least, he worked closely

John Corcoran 18:24

with me. And he was at Northwestern Mutual. Also. Yeah, he was

Tim Harrison 18:29

questioned at the time. So he

John Corcoran 18:31

saw kind of some potential in you. And he had more years of experience. And so it’s kind of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Tim Harrison 18:38

Yeah. And then to your question earlier, same thing happened with the CFO of Deloitte that led or I’m sorry, the CFO of Kenanga. That led me to working with a Deloitte partner who is the managing partner in Omaha of several Fortune 500 companies. He became an advocate and a client that led me to you. So a lot of these mentors really helped me just connect to other dots that I probably had no business really connecting to, but they found I was doing some things that were unique.

John Corcoran 19:07

Now with some people, the struggle is you know, it’s not just meeting people originally, but it’s how to keep in touch maintain relationships with people without feeling naggy or anything like that. You know, these days, a lot of people do that with content marketing or social media. But, you know, we’re talking about a time period before both of those. What did you do in order to you know, keep top of mind main maintain in touch with people that you met around the country or different executives that you met, especially if they didn’t become a client right away? How did you keep in touch with them?

Tim Harrison 19:38

Yeah, something you could even look up. There’s something called the one card system. And there’s a guy named Al Grantham who essentially invented this system within the insurance industry in Chicago many years ago. But if you look it up, I think this this book has been like translated in 27 languages or something like that. But nevertheless, you look it up. Al did a like I said, 20 plus years. Edie’s of how to follow up and build a financial services practice. So I’m gonna give credit to what I learned throughout Graham. So to this day, John, what’s interesting is I keep and I can show this to a manual, what, what used to be called a blue book, that every single day activity for my 30 years in my career, I can tell you who I saw, any case opens any referrals I got from that person, whatever social I did that they maybe a lunch meeting or coffee meeting, I literally, I still

John Corcoran 20:29

keep it and I still have this on paper, not on software anymore, not on your phone. They have software. I did

Tim Harrison 20:35

that for a few years. And I realized, you know what, I get a lot more out of the actual cathartic exercise of actually writing it down. I have my team members, my other advisers on my team, we have 23 of us, and but the advisors at least all track it the same way.

John Corcoran 20:48

Really well. That’s funny. I mean, that there’s something to be said for that. Just that consistency, right, just doing any

Tim Harrison 20:55

work. And that’s the short of it is I think it is that consistency. So what what people say to me often is that Tim just he follows the system, he follows the plan, he does what he learned. And I mean, it’s about that simple.

John Corcoran 21:06

Now, another thing you discovered was city clubs. We’ll talk about what city clubs where and specifically where you should go sit to eat at City clubs.

Tim Harrison 21:17

Yeah, well, when I saw you mentioned that I spent a couple of winters and what happened is when working with somebody, Deloitte partners, and some of the conniver actually had another executive office up in LA. And I was single and young and doing well reasonably well. And I happened to be going and speaking at some cities to teach some other younger people what I was doing. And basically, I had an opportunity to go out and join a City Club in Los Angeles, when I went out there for a winter, I found out a little bit more about it. Usually, the city clubs were a something you could join socially. And usually they’re located on the top floor, or to have some of the better buildings in town. So I first joined it in in the City Club in LA. But what I found is when I traveled to Chicago, or I go to New York, or any major city, most of them have a City Club. And they have reciprocal arrangements, just like any country club would. And so what I ended up the third winter going down and spending time in Miami Beach, and I could tell that story. But nevertheless, they had in their city club, what they call the captain’s table, which is a table that sat 16 people. And I would go there every day, because in Miami Beach in particular, I didn’t have as many natural connections when I went down there. And again, separate story as to how I ended up down there. But so I just was like, well, maybe that’s one way every day to go to lunch there. You could just sit at that table and meet other people who perhaps did not also have somebody with them. And what I found is there was a lot of, you know, senators or former managing partners, there was, um, there’s just some really important people who would sit at this table every day. And then there’s this young kid really, who would sit there and and you know, long behold they start asking me questions, and they wondered who is this kid who’s willing to sit at this table? You know, the big boys table and it was a great way for me to meet people. But yeah, so it just it was one thing I chose to do that worked out really well.

John Corcoran 23:11

That’s a great strategy. All right, take me to 2007 you had when your best years ever course that was the year the financial crisis, kind of economic collapse housing crisis, and you like many people just bought a new house. You also had a lake house. And that was the first big rough patch for you. Take us back that time.

Tim Harrison 23:33

Yeah, so I I bought a lake house of reasonably young age, she was actually right before I moved out to LA for the winter. And that was kind of my dream home at the time being young and single and having you know, a boat and doing a lot of fun things. But got to a point where I kind of run its course a little bit. I got married I actually met my wife at that lake house. We had one young child on the way we knew we needed to move off the lake we were right on the lake and just concerned about a young child you know, Lake Lake Long story short, this house I’m currently in always looked at it from the golf course view and it’s like someday I would I didn’t even know that I could ever own a house like this to be honest. But someday if and lo and behold it became available around 2006 timeframe. And my wife went looked at even though I said I think that’s well out of our range long story short ended up being able to buy it the guy was in the divorce situation. I offered him well under what it was listed at and a year later we finally got it for what he said I was was trying to steal it for but he had to sell it so to your patient. You didn’t

John Corcoran 24:43

You didn’t come up on your price

Tim Harrison 24:46

came way down from where it originally was but he kind of had to sell it and for whatever reason nobody else bought it. But around that time market. I just could not envision it when I bought it that the market was gonna go to a Dow 6500 I just didn’t think something like That would actually happen and our income is very highly correlated to the market based on our investment management business. And

John Corcoran 25:06

what what was it what it topped out at? Prior to that?

Tim Harrison 25:10

You know, I should know that number, I don’t have it off the top, but I can just say it was less it was down 47%. So down 47%.

John Corcoran 25:17

So probably title 13,000 or something.

Tim Harrison 25:20

Yeah. So that was painful. And at the time having a young baby, and then, you know, fairly newly married and, and then having the lake house but not having sold it yet and moving into this dream house. But even though it was a great buy, it was still a lot for me, it was a stretch, and the market doing what it did. And you know what happened in the financial crisis aftermath? I will say, there again, not unlike maybe the first time I’ve ever made a huge risk was higher, my dad at the time financially, at least. And then the next was probably in that 2008 Nine timeframe, even though it was hard. I ended up kind of doubling down on my team hiring some really key people time. Could have really gone bad, but fortunately, went really well. Because I think clients appreciated the fact we were investing in them at a time that was really difficult. Yeah. So fortunate turned out, I did not know at the time how quickly the market would turn and I don’t think anybody did.

John Corcoran 26:18

Is it hard when you’re holding yourself out as an expert in some area, in your case, financial advice, and and yet you’re struggling in that same area to advise others. This happens frequently where you know, people, you know, they are an expert in something, but they struggle with it as well. Or they go through a period where they struggle with it. It could be fitness, it could be diet, it could be finances, or anything like that. Did that occur to you during that time period?

Tim Harrison 26:47

Yeah, I’ll maybe go to one other story there kind of reminds me of that maybe tells the story of that, which is in 2000. Well, wait, basically y2k, I just had a really good year. And I was literally sitting at a big conference that we do for the top, you know, investment leaders in this company. And I was sitting in the hot tub with some peers of mine and smoking a cigar and having a great time and thinking we’re great. My dad had called me because Guinea worked for me at the time. It said I had a margin call. And this is again, kind of y2k era, I had level three communication, I had these various individual equities that I own. And I thought I was, you know, I thought I knew what I was doing at the time. But it was early environment investment career launch, for

John Corcoran 27:29

those that don’t know what a margin call is. Yeah, exactly.

Tim Harrison 27:33

Long story short, when you borrow money, and then your your equity value goes down in your in your money you owe is still this amount, and maybe it goes underwater, you have to make up the extra difference. Take yourself back to where you can pay off your loans. Yeah, and there’s a certain percentage that you have to have. And long story short, I didn’t have enough money in there. So one day, that day, I had like $7,000 margin call the next day, I had another like 8000, our margin call. And it proceeded and got worse there for a short period of time. So I went from having a time, hundreds of 1000s of dollars of my own money and individual equities that I thought were doing really well to really, financially have a rough go. My answer your question is, that was not a great example of me being a great investment manager. But what it taught me is the lessons and what not to do. And so that was when I decided I’m gonna go out and really educate myself. And you mentioned earlier, I mean, I ended up having I have 10 different designations from certified Investment Management Analyst from Wharton, or certified private wealth advisor from University of Chicago. And I’ve done a lot of things since then, to actually know what I’m doing where at the time, I thought I did, but I really didn’t. And today kinda reminds me of time like that where people think they’re on a dart, you can do okay, and there are times there. That’s true. But there’s then you kind of really learn sometimes, when you really do or don’t know, your subject matter.

John Corcoran 28:49

Yeah. And then, you know, in terms of adoption of new technology, we’re recording this in September 2023. You know, AI has been a popular topic now. The industry for you that you are in investment management has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. What is your eye on? Is it AI? Is it other things? What direction do you think this industry is gonna go in?

Tim Harrison 29:13

Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I say AI is just an example where you look at specific companies that are really breaking out substantially where you’ve seen results where you’ve almost never seen the kinds of substantial numbers that are well above expectation, essentially. So again, without naming kind of individual names, I’ll just say if you look out there in the landscape of technology, and some of the things are happening with whether it’s semiconductors or you know, all across the technology space, and it’s totally different than back in y2k, where a lot of these companies didn’t have strong earnings. I mean, now you’ve got really significant earnings, substantial capital. So, I mean, the short answer to your question is yes, it’s changed dramatically what we’re interested in today and how that’s end comparative even to like, say international markets. And even though I kind of learned growing up, if you will, in this business, that having lower correlations by owning International and certain areas of the market might be good. I mean, there are things today with the word Ukraine, and Russia, and some of the policy challenges that China is having, and the D globalization of kind of everything. There’s just a lot of headwinds there that are changing the landscape of what may make sense today from a risk and reward perspective, compared to what I learned to say 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. And I think technology is a huge part of that. If you look at the say, the top 10 Holdings within the s&p Today, in the US versus say, the top 10 holdings in UK, for example, or Europe, they’re pretty substantially different, as far as I’ll say, the companies that are cyclical, and I’m going to call it maybe more old fashion industries that are not dying, but maybe struggling comparative to say, again, technology and some of these firms that are well capitalized that are growing significantly faster and, and better businesses. So

John Corcoran 31:03

yeah, and I guess the question, but Well, I guess I mean, it gets back to what you said a second ago, educating yourself. And you, you know, behind you, in the video, I see stacks of books, and you and I met at a program at MIT that is ongoing. We’re going to be back again next year, I think, right? You’ve probably agree that the answer to all these things is continue to educate yourself so that you’re prepared for changes in the market that happen.

Tim Harrison 31:29

Absolutely. And I fortunately have done a really good job of surrounding myself with really smart people. I mean, I think I’ve learned some things. But if anything, I’ve learned enough to know what I don’t know. And surround myself with people who do know. 

John Corcoran 31:41 

What are a couple of books that you would recommend that are baby stacked behind you or that you recommend to everyone who those who are thinking about investment?

Tim Harrison 31:49 

Well else investments specific. I mean, one thing that may be depending upon the level, but here’s what I would say. So during the pandemic, for example, I sent out a book to a bunch of clients and friends. Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth is a book by Nick Murray, a fantastic book. And the thing about it not unlike Warren Buffett, Nick Murray, who’s a 50 plus year industry veteran in our business, puts things in really simple terms that sometimes can be fairly complicated. And I think it’s been just a game changer for a lot of people who have read it. And I think it’s pretty influential. So it’d be one simple wealth, inevitable wealth by Nick Murray. I mean, I will say, I know within EO traction is obviously a very significant book that has changed as a business owner. To me, it’s been a game changer. And I know it’s not new today. But to me, it is a very influential book for any business owner who’s scaling up a business. So whether it be Traction, Scaling Up is another one that Verne Harnish, sorry. Verne Harnish wrote that I also think it’s fantastic. So I think a combination of those for any business owner who’s scaling up is fantastic.

John Corcoran 33:04

We’re almost out of time. So I’m almost about to wrap up. But you mentioned Buffett, Warren Buffett, of course, the Oracle of Omaha, and I live here in San Francisco. And you know, no matter where you live, there’s certain personalities that sometimes casts a shadow over the entire region. And I’m sure that must be the case with Warren Buffett. Tell me a little bit about if at all. One, is there any any sort of impact that he’s had on your career or your perspective? Going up in Omaha being in an industry related to the work that that he does?

Tim Harrison 33:43

Yeah, absolutely. It’s really hard to avoid here in town. But I would just say, I’ve gotten to many of the shareholder meetings. And I actually bring my kids and my son mainly that will come along with me each year. And then do we actually host a event, often annually around the Berkshire event. So I would just say, to me, Warren is one of those people where he’s obviously been extremely successful and very humble. Again, one of those people who can take something extremely complex, make it very simple. I mean, in his 90s, he’s sitting up there eating See’s Candy, drinking a Coca Cola, and can sit there all day long, taking questions on any topic, and can pretty much break it down to a simple explanation that people can understand. And that’s a Charlie Munger. Same thing. I cannot really describe how unique that is comparative to anybody I know. Wish I was in half that shape when I’m 90 or 100 years old, so amazing. I think he’s definitely been pretty influential. Yeah, yeah.

John Corcoran 34:43

Yeah. Yeah. Eat more C’s drink more coke apparently is the lesson behind. I want to wrap up with my gratitude questions. I’m a big fan of gratitude, especially expressing gratitude to those who’ve helped you along the way. In addition to family friends, I love to hear stories. Around peers, contemporaries, mentors, who you would acknowledge for helping you in your journey.

Tim Harrison 35:04

Yeah, I mean, there’s so many I mean, I mentioned Byron and I mentioned my dad, both, again had huge impacts. I told you earlier about a gentleman who is the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. And he was on the Orange Bowl committee, again, ran a very successful company when I was down in Miami. I actually kind of a funny story, although I’m a little bearish by but I’ll say it anyway. So I asked my dad who worked for me at the time to FedEx Kindles and rip the arm and the leg off, I think I heard this somewhere and I borrowed the idea. So we FedEx these, and peanut m&ms To all the CEOs in Miami area, because I didn’t really know many people, they’re saying, I’ve given arm or leg to meet with you, or I’m going nuts to try to get on your calendar. Well, Bob was like the only one that actually his assistant called me back, Bob, at the time was the CEO of this company. And they called me back and she said, you know, Bob would like to see you. And I mean, this is a hugely successful guy. I’m a young 20 something. And anyway, unfortunately, I had a reference list that I forwarded to him. And it was very impressive at the time, I guess. And he was willing to sit down and that he led me to quite a few connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. And it just gives you a boost of confidence that you can do that with anyone and hopefully, gotten talked to wherever you choose to. And that’s a cool thing at a young age.

John Corcoran 36:26

So and that one connection probably paid for the entire campaign setting.

Tim Harrison 36:32

That’s a little embarrassing. I did it, but I did and it works

John Corcoran 36:34

with one we’re in your garage, you’ve got a bunch of kin arms and legs that you don’t know what to do with him.

Tim Harrison 36:41

And he laughed about that one for a while, but I tried whatever I could try. It could work. That was, yeah.

John Corcoran 36:47

No, that’s, that’s great. I love that. Tim, this has been great. Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about you and maybe reach out and ask you questions?

Tim Harrison 36:56

Sure. Yeah, you can certainly just look up Harrisonfinancialservices.com. That’s our website and all about us. So that’s probably the easiest way.

John Corcoran 37:07

Harrisonfinancialservices.com. Excellent. All right. Thanks so much. Thanks so much for your time. 

Tim Harrison 37:10 

Thank you.

Outro 37:19

Thanks for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you again next time. And be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.