If you answer "No" to any of the questions in this blog post, you have marketing silos/barriers.
On October 10th, Forward View will be four years old. Our founder decided to use this opportunity to share what he has learned in four years of business.
Instead of running through the news for October, our founder would like to discuss what he has learned from our first three years in business
This week, I've spoken with the Director of IR for Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS), Nate Gilch, and the CFO of Sportsman's Warehouse (SPWH), Kevan Talbot. Clients have received the notes from the discussions, and you can read them, too, with a trial of the Sporting Goods Monitor research product here on Harvest. Most importantly, these conversations delved deeply into the state of the sporting goods retail sector and its competitive pressures. Where Dick's sees an opportunity to steal market share from the bankrupt Sports Authority, Sportsman's Warehouse is focused on beating the Mom & Pop hunting and fishing retailers. Sportsman's Warehouse doesn't work to best Cabela's (CAB) with destination stores and giant aquariums. Instead, they're all about low prices. Meanwhile, Dick's is trying to elevate the in-store experience, especially with footwear. These two companies are thus pursuing different paths to success in the sporting goods industry. (I'll note, though, that Dick's Sporting Goods only competes directly against Sportsman's Warehouse with the company's Field & Stream brand.)
Initiation reports coming soon!
When I was initially thinking about opening Forward View, I happened to read a devotional centered on Proverbs 24:3. (See the text below.) After reading this verse, I copied it to my computer for further contemplation. As Forward View began to take shape, I realized that this Proverb essentially described my ideal business. Let me break it down in detail.
First of all, Proverbs 24:3 notes that it relates to "any enterprise," not just large businesses, religious organizations or family farms. This Proverb provides universal advice, and that guidance is appropriate for any venture, including Forward View. Secondly, the Proverb states that an enterprise is "built by wise planning." I think the entire Forward View team is dedicated to effective planning. We don't jump into much of anything without having looked ahead. There are very rare occasions when a sudden opportunity or business risk requires an immediate decision, but, 99% of the time, we've taken time to map out future projects, new research methods and fresh strategies. Thus far, Forward View has been built by (hopefully) wise planning.
Proverbs 24:3 also says that an enterprise "becomes strong through common sense." In our complex consulting and research projects, I can admittedly become too immersed in data, math and technology to focus on common sense. That's a mistake because common sense is terribly lacking in business, particularly on Wall Street. (Ask a child if you can squeeze junk together and suddenly have gold. "No!" he/she will yell. Believe it or not, that child has just identified the problem with the collateralized debt obligations that sank the economy in 2007–8.) It's very easy to become overloaded by information in the 21st century, but this Proverb reminds us to step back and ask ourselves, "Does this make sense?" Forward View team members do a great job of using common sense to solve problems, especially when I don't.
Finally, let's focus on the last section of this Proverb, which declares that any enterprise "profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts." Notice that the final word is "facts," not "popular opinion" or "generally-held beliefs." To keep abreast of the facts, Forward View team members gather information from trustworthy sources and engage in our own research. We use facts when creating relevant content for client websites and in our equity research reports. Our willingness to track down information and develop novel sources of facts is, I believe, one of Forward View's greatest strengths. You'd be amazed at how much competitors rely on guessing!
In closing, Forward View was developed to satisfy Proverbs 24:3. We're not perfect, but, overall, I think we successfully follow the Proverb's key elements and words of wisdom. The verse is just as appropriate today as it was 2,000+ years ago!
First of all, I'd like to apologize for the lack of newsletters in December and January. I was hospitalized for almost seven weeks at the end of 2015 and admittedly didn't delegate writing our newsletters to another Forward View team member. (That was a mistake that I won't repeat.) In the hospital, I did have plenty of time to think about exactly what opportunities Forward View should be chasing and, more importantly, what paths we should not pursue. With a small business, I've come to realize that what we don't do is often more meaningful than what work we complete. Let me explain and offer examples:
Forward View sells investment research and has developed a loyal global readership. We don't, however, offer "corporate access" services that involve selling opportunities to communicate/meet with company executives. That is a change from the typical research industry business model. I, however, don't believe in putting a price on our contact list or the wonderful relationships we've developed in finance and multiple other industries. Forward View also doesn't engage in trading or investment banking services that would generate conflicts of interest with our research publications. Again, that lack of services is a departure from Wall Street. We simply enjoy being different and prefer to focus on our core strengths. Forward View's research team thus has no trouble sleeping at night because we're free of the typical ethical dilemmas that give finance a bad name.
On the consulting side of Forward View, we'll remain dedicated to small businesses and nonprofits. We're not going to pursue large corporate clients. The small business market is both extensive and woefully underserved, especially here in Southwestern Virginia. I enjoy serving entrepreneurs who've been ignored by other firms because they're both driven to find a consulting partner and exceedingly interested in our proposed solutions. Again, though, Forward View is defined by our self-imposed restrictions and "limitations."
This year, I'm going to refocus on The Forward View. (That's our unique outlook on the future of finance and small business success.) To accomplish our goals, we'll be launching a new equity research product in the Spring. Wall Street will soon have to pay more for our reports, but we'll also be making more analyses available to smaller investment firms for free/low-cost through StockViews. Our internal processes are also being revamped in order to better serve new, and existing, consulting clients. I look forward to presenting more of these developments in future newsletters.
In closing, I'm excited about what Forward View can accomplish in 2016! I believe we have a fantastic team and without them, almost nothing would get done. The future looks bright as long as we do what we do best... and nothing more!
I'm very happy to announce that October 10th was Forward View's first birthday! So much has changed in the past 365 days, but I honestly can't imagine a more successful year. This is the only company I've ever owned, and I didn't know if Forward View would survive to celebrate this special day. Not only is the firm still open, "I" has become "we." When I created the business, I did every job myself. I was CEO, CFO, CTO and CJO (Chief Janitorial Officer) in addition to completing every consulting project without assistance. Then, I was blessed with opportunities to add team members who have talents that I do not possess!
Kerri Costello came aboard first, and she brought impressive digital design skills to the business. I cannot even draw stick people, but Kerri's logos and graphics have added beauty and class to our website development projects. (Kerri also drew our firm's logo! It's so awesome that the CFO of a multi-billion dollar company once wrote just to say that the Forward View logo was perfect! He never commented on my 20 page analysis of his corporation, though) A couple of months after Kerri joined me, Forward View lost a large consulting job following my serious efforts to win it. Missing that work (and the large fee) made me realize that we should have a copywriter. Jamie Brown's ability to find the right word every time made her the perfect fit for our copywriting and content strategy needs. Forward View has never lost a project since she began working with us. Coincidence? I think not. Jamie also crafted our own marketing materials, and they generate a great first impression for Forward View.
During the summer, I realized that relying solely on my own investment research skills wasn't smart. I needed analytical support and assistance. Thus, I contacted David Wilson, a good friend from my Southern New Hampshire University B.S. program. David was finishing his M.B.A. and wanted to get financial research experience. It was perfect timing. Collaborating with David on Forward View projects is easy and fun because we worked together in our SNHU classes so frequently. He fits in with the business perfectly and just visited the headquarters of Westmoreland Coal, a company whose stock we cover. David's meeting with the CFO generated great insights for our research clientele. Talk about a success!
This fall, we rounded out the Forward View team by adding Grace Wu and, most recently, Chelsea Hippler. Grace provides wonderful website development and graphic design skills to our rapidly growing number of digital projects. She also has a degree in Business Finance, so you might say that Grace is Forward View personified! We love mixing finance with technology here, and that's an accurate summary of Grace's abilities. She's also a wonderful friend from my SNHU classes. Chelsea, meanwhile, was suggested by Jamie when we needed additional copywriting and editing support. I can't imagine finding anyone better to dive right into helping our clients! There was no training period necessary for Chelsea. I look forward to working with her as long as she's interested!
I thought writing about the Forward View team would best illustrate our first year's growth. I must also say something about our wonderful clients. Without them, there would be no Forward View Consulting! To date, we've had fifteen website development, logo design and digital marketing clients along with hundreds of investment research clients/readers. Forward View equity analyses are read across Wall Street and around the globe. (South Korea's central bank even requested access to our reports.) If you have investments with any of the world's largest financial firms or banks, they've almost certainly read our research.
A sample of the coolest projects we've completed are:
- Developing a custom online ordering system for my county's hottest new restaurant.
- Providing the first websites and logos for two wonderful churches.
- Creating an online membership database for the Dickenson County Chamber of Commerce.
- Valuing equities for a professional trader.
- Providing an on-demand industrial company earnings analysis to another research firm.
- Visiting a Joy Global machinery rebuild shop to prepare a unique analytical report.
Last but not least, let me acknowledge our wonderful business partners, Bigcommerce, StockViews and Thinknum (more about this last partnership soon). Without their support, our business wouldn't be where it is today. Forward View's potential is limitless due to our collaborations with these other companies. We all share a desire to focus on small and medium businesses as well as those underserved by the big players in our respective industries. I look forward to years of shared success!
I don't know why I've been so blessed this past year. I thank God every day for this opportunity to do what I love and to work with so many wonderful people. The best part of this business, though, is that we're just now beginning to get serious traction. There's so much more we can do over the next 12 months, and I couldn't be more excited. Our best days are still ahead. That's the Forward View!
A very blessed,