365 Days a Foolish Investor

After a year at the Fool, Rana Pritanjali – a recent graduate of our Analyst Development Program – reflects on her experience. Her takeaways speak not only to Foolish investing principles, but also our workplace culture. Keeping an open mind is perhaps the best way to adapt to a new role – and learn how to be Foolish.

“How I Became Foolish in One Year”
Rana Pritanjali

One year ago …

It’s my first day in the Fool’s Analyst Development Program, and I’m taking in my HQ surroundings. I notice placards hanging from the ceiling — big signs with the names and logos of the Fool’s best-performing recommendations. I am surprised by the companies; hardly any of them seem like the right picks from a conventional point of view. To top it off, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) is among The Motley Fool’s highest-conviction stocks. As a value-focused investor, it’s a surprising day. I head home and tell my husband: “I simply don’t get it. Seriously, Facebook?”

One month ago …

I find myself explaining to my husband how advertisers can use Facebook’s platform to connect with their audience. How the anticipated double-digit growth in advertising revenue comes from changing consumer trends and Facebook’s seamless transition to mobile advertising. How the huge opportunity to connect with the world gives Facebook the potential to emerge as a big winner.

In the past year, my career followed a great but steep learning curve. I might be a bit biased, but I think the Fool’s Analyst Development Program is most beneficial to investors who come in with a serious value bent. It challenges your thinking by showing you a completely different way of investing — one that’s even backed up with an amazing track record.

I still support my investment theses with valuation, but I’ve learned to apply other qualitative frameworks, too. Here are lessons that have improved my analysis and made me a better investor:

Management matters: Like many investors, I used to think that the quality of a company’s management team is baked into the stock price, so I never cared much about the leaders running the ship. But I was completely wrong.

At the Fool, leadership plays a key role in evaluating a company. After going through many case studies in my classes, I realized that having excellent management gives a company (and its shareholders) huge optionality and that the chances of a good business evolving into a great one are way higher when leadership is strong. On the flip side, bad management can screw up a great business. So here are two things I’ve learned to never ignore: Who is running the show, and how is he incentivized?

A good work culture translates into high productivity: Similarly, I never understood the importance of work culture until I started working at Fool HQ. Working with the right set of people in an employee-friendly environment keeps your morale high, accelerates your learning curve, encourages you to give your best, and motivates you to get better every day. Because a company is made up of employees, if each employee shares in the positivism, the overall productivity and performance of the business will probably improve.

A flexible mind-set goes a long way: Having a curious and flexible outlook goes a long way. Valuation is still an important part of business analysis for me, but giving equal weight to more qualitative components helps me understand the whole story. What’s more, working on the edge of your circle of competence is good for slowly but steadily widening your circle. You can always decide what works and what doesn’t for you — and at least you’ll be making an educated decision.

Learning how to merge valuation analysis with these more qualitative approaches takes time, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. You get the best of both worlds.

Here’s to many more years of learning!

Rana (TMFBuild)
*Originally published July 8, 2015 on TMF’s Inside Value members-only website.

Learn more from Rana and other Fools in our most recent ADP cohort:

We Can’t Be “ON” 24/7 – WorkHuman 2015

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Erin Miller, an Executive Coach here at the Fool, was lucky enough to attend this year’s WorkHuman conference in Orlando, FL. And she even started a trending hashtag – #OperationRobLowe. But back to the point – for those unfamiliar, this event’s mission was to educate participants on workplace engagement; creating a culture of happiness; and finding a place for purpose and meaning at work. Speakers included Arianna Huffington, Rob Lowe (yes, that Rob Lowe), Shawn Achor, and Brigid Schulte (a friend of the Fool!).

Our People Team joined Erin once she returned to hear all about her experience. Takeaways from Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post; Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis; and best-selling author Adam Grant were particularly intriguing. If you, too, are all about workplace innovation, we hope these reflections will be inspiring.

0920_huffingtonArianna Huffington, Co-Founder & Editor-In-Chief of The Huffington Post

As if it wasn’t common sense, modern science proves that humans require downtime. History defines success as money and power, yet health and wellness have been missing from the equation. Since there’s little separation between work and life, Arianna stressed that we don’t need to work more – just make work betterNo human being should be forced to be “ON” 24/7.

So how does The Huffington Post ensure that employees avoid burnout?

  • They have 2 nap rooms instead of more coffee machines.
  • An email policy is enforced. When employees finish work, they’re not expected to be on email – they’ll be texted if it’s urgent.
  • Management watches billable hours and, if an employee gets too high, there’s an “intervention.”

0813_favprof_630x420Adam Grant, Wharton’s Top-Rated Professor & Best-Selling Author

You could say that Adam Grant’s resume is impressive, to say the least. His book Give and Take earned immediate praise as Wall Street Journal’s Favorite Books of 2013; The Washington Post’s 2013 Books that Every Leader Should Read; and even Oprah’s list of riveting reads.

During the conference, Adam focused on 3 Fundamental Styles of Interaction and how they impact success. These styles play a role in both recruiting and management. Who do you want to hire? What type of boss would you rather work for? There are Takers, Givers, and Matchers, but Adam argued that what we really need is a culture of “help seekers.” We should encourage employees to ask questions because, despite the stigma, being curious is not a burden. In more difficult conversations, Grant recommends focusing on the behavior – not the person.
Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and Founding Editor-In-Chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology
Gratitude plays a huge part in our lives. Emmons shared the impact of practicing gratitude in the workplace. A few of Emmons’ points on the importance of gratefulness included:
  • It increases emotional well-being.
  • Grateful people achieve more.
  • Grateful people get along better with others.
  • Grateful people pay it forward.
  • Grateful people are less depressed.

The future is co-created. In order for us to grow into innovative workplaces, the suggestions from those who spoke at WorkHuman are important to consider. Will you be a workplace that follows these trends?

Happy Employees = A Good Investment

Here at the Fool, we spend a lot of time reviewing great investments. These discussions are all over the board, from stocks to wellness to investing in employees’ long-term career paths. Our CEO Tom Gardner focused on investing in company culture at a Worcester Economic Club event citing, “If you make culture, leadership, and workplace engagement a key factor in your investment approach, you do better over time.”

Tom supports his point by chatting about our impressive Glassdoor recognitions, the state of employee engagement in America (it’s low, FYI…), and other companies dedicated to this same investing approach. Find out more about Tom’s visit here!

Beyond FoolHQ: Connecting Globally


Business is global, or at least it is here at The Motley Fool. With the help of technology, we support full-time Fools in Australia, Germany, Canada, and beyond. While some remote Fools work from home, did you know that we have an office in London? And another in NYC? As the need for communicating outside the walls of FoolHQ becomes more important, we’re constantly in search of tools that will help us.

Fools rely heavily on email, Skype, Trello, and even the good ole’ telephone to get in touch. Our intranet is useful for company-wide announcements, plus Slack is another great tool for efficient communication. A few other takeaways for mending communication gaps:

1. Consider the time zone.

Scheduling can be confusing, especially if you’re working with many people in different places. Be considerate of others’ schedules by checking time comparisons and reaching out beforehand to ask what time of day is more convenient.

2. Face-to-face communication matters.

We want all Fools to have the same opportunities for collaboration, and live meetings through Skype or Google Hangouts can sometimes be more effective than email. Consider limiting these meetings to 2-3 people for maximum collaboration.

3. Get together in one place.

Full-time employees are encouraged to attend our annual Foolapalooza retreat for a chance to learn more about the business, bond with fellow Fools, and compete in the occasional Australian kangaroo boxing match. Time away from the office serves as a great opportunity to meet Fools – and in the same time zone, no less.

How does your organization work best with remote employees? Do you have any awesome global communication tips?

4 Open Office Benefits at FoolHQ

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Developing the perfect office space is one tough feat, but our People Team is constantly striving to fulfill 300+ Fools’ needs and wants. From adding new quiet spaces to knocking down walls, one Fool’s role is solely dedicated to our office’s cultural development. No matter if a Fool is shy or social, 4 benefits of our open office stand out:

1. Real (read: not electronic) Communication

At healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline, the absence of cubicles created more transparency among employees. After implementing an open office layout, overall email traffic declined by more than 50% and decision making accelerated by 25%. These productive shifts occurred because “workers were able to meet informally instead of volleying emails from offices and cubes.” In a casual, open environment, employees are more encouraged to engage in face-to-face conversation. Plus, you never know when a random brainstorm might lead to the next best idea.

Closed offices are a thing of the past, paving the way for more openness in both the physical and literal sense. One source explains, “Reasons for going open make for great agency rhetoric: communication, ideation, collaborative resonance, speed.” In an open office, there’s a sense of community that can’t be mirrored electronically.


2. Approachable Company Leadership 

Maybe your organization’s executives are intimidating, even though we all know they shouldn’t be. Our open office definitely plays a part in connecting Foolish leaders with employees. Tom Gardner and David Gardner are just like normal Fools. Private offices aren’t requirements for them; in fact, you’ll often find Tom on a public treadmill desk and David among fellow investing Fools on his Supernova team. FoolHQ maintains a supportive environment for collaboration and creativity on all levels.

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3. Unique Workspaces

We encourage Fools to do whatever it takes for them to produce the best work. Think beyond a cubicle and imagine moving around to different spaces throughout the day. Couches, beanbags, and working tables fill our office to accommodate different personalities. Not feeling inspired? Sit beside a window or find a quiet space to concentrate. Conference rooms don’t have to disappear, but we’ve added more informal meeting spaces that don’t have to be reserved.

FoolHQ is in constant flux. Fools voice their opinions on office space through engagement surveys, coaching sessions, and casual conversations. If a request can be honored, Fools will go to great lengths to ensure others’ happiness.

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4. Convenient Collaboration

We keep Fools’ desks on wheels for a reason. If different teams need to work together, collaboration should be easy for them. With stationary desks, full office moves took too much time. Now that Fools’ workspaces are mobile, these moves can be finished in one (busy) morning.

Don’t isolate employees based on their departments. Some Fools are embedded onto different teams to boost collaboration and spread mastery of other skill sets. Shuffling Fools around to fit the needs of our business simply wouldn’t be as seamless without our open layout.


Our Examples of “Enviable” Workplace Culture


While a top-notch workplace culture is enviable, it also sets an example for what other organizations should strive to achieve. Tim Stevens wrote in his FastCompany article, “There is nothing worse than working in an organization that has a bad culture. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how many weeks of vacation you are given; when you work in a toxic environment, you still come home tense and stressed at the end of each day.” Stevens is on point; I felt miserable on a daily basis during one of my first “real” job experiences (and no, it wasn’t at The Motley Fool).

Stevens goes on to list 12 traits that suggest your organization is among those with a fantastic culture. Here are a few that resonate with our organization:

1. Turnover is Low.

We want our employees to be Fools for life. Our turnover rate is less than 2%, which is remarkable by industry standards. We go to great lengths to ensure Fools’ happiness, whether it’s ordering gluten-free pizzas to celebrate monthly birthdays or building out more quiet spaces in our office. Foolish coaches also hold regular “Happiness Check-Ins” to chat with Fools about their work-life balance. Low employee turnover means you’re at least doing something right.



2. Team Members are Energized by the Mission.

Fools are passionate about our mission – “To Help the World Invest – Better.” You can feel the energy here, as well as from Fools all over the world. We have full-time Fools based in Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore that are all working passionately toward the same goal. When Fools are excited about projects, productivity levels rise to new heights. Creativity can also inflate, adding more valuable ideas to the mix.

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3. It’s Not Just a Job.

Fools are not only excited to come to work, but they’re also enthusiastic about Foolish extracurriculars. Fools are friends too, so attending happy hours, concerts, plays, and other cultural events in the area aren’t foreign concepts. In fact, we actually enjoy spending time with our coworkers. We’re not running toward the door to exit right at 5PM (…we do have a flexible schedule), and it’s kind of refreshing from the corporate norm. A work environment is definitely more positive when it has this type of ambience.


4. People are Smiling. 

Fools are shiny, happy people (and some are music lovers, too). Our Office Ops team does a great job of keeping FoolHQ an upbeat environment. These creative Fools host activities to all scales, from smaller touches like pushing around snack carts to planning larger events including our annual Holiday Party and company retreat called Foolapalooza.


5. Communication is Strong.

Though communication can always be enhanced, The Motley Fool strives to keep our conversations transparent. It’s important that your employees stay on the same page with what’s relevant, be it your company numbers or external conference opportunities. Fools are happier when information is provided instead of hidden, even if something is in the works. Simply stating “We’re working on it, but we wanted to let you know…” can make all the difference.

Interested in checking out the other qualities that make a workplace enviable and one of a kind? Click here to read more.



Have you heard the exciting news? Glassdoor has named us the #1 company to work for in America – for the second year in a row! Out of more than 125,000 companies eligible to win, The Motley Fool was ranked highest by those who know best – our Foolish employees.

Winners were determined based entirely on accurate and approved company reviews submitted to Glassdoor between November 13, 2013 and November 2, 2014. All of the reviews remain absolutely anonymous, and The Motley Fool took the top spot on the list for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees.


What makes a company the best place to work? Besides a motivating company mission, employee engagement and workplace culture are also major factors. Head People Fool Lee Burbage adds,”We don’t believe perks drive our employee engagement, but feeling like your leadership team cares about you and what you want or need to be happy does drive engagement.” Our CEO Tom Gardner and a few other Fools share more in this exciting video:


Thanks to Fools near and far that contributed to our success. Fool On!

Coffee Brews Conversation

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I hear a lot of chatter about coffee at FoolHQ, but the buzz doesn’t always revolve around the need for caffeine. As an opportunity to connect, Fools are encouraged to request Starbucks gift cards sponsored by The Motley Fool. In return, Fools must treat a fellow coworker – ideally one they don’t know well – to a drink. Though there’s definitely a monthly card limit, some Fools don’t mind to fund Starbucks runs on their own dime every once in a while. You could say that coffee meetings are a popular part of our culture, to say the least.

Our CEO Tom Gardner envisions more to this benefit than just a free soy latte. Introducing the idea at a company-wide huddle last year, Tom encouraged using the cards as a chance to learn about others’ projects; identify best practices Fools use; and collaborate on challenges or ideas. Fool Amy Dykstra approximates that she hands out around 10 gift cards per month.

Jerry Seinfeld also recognizes room for great communication in a cup of coffee. In fact, it’s the focus of his successful Emmy-nominated web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Seinfeld explains, “…why it’s great to meet someone for a cup of coffee — the ease, the simplicity, the compactness. And that it also obviously gets people talking. You have coffee and for some reason it makes you talk a lot.” Whether or not you order coffee, tea, or a glass of water, it’s the conversation that counts.

While Jerry Seinfeld hosts his guests in cars, Tom and David Gardner hold a monthly event at FoolHQ called “New Fool Coffees.” Spending an hour together with our founders, recent hires are able to learn more about our company and ask tons of questions. Conversations can travel anywhere from Tom’s favorite drink to what inspired his team’s latest stock pick. Starbucks – or FoolHQ conference rooms – are hot spots for Fools, but the location shouldn’t stop you from incorporating this idea into your company’s culture. And it doesn’t even have to be about a coffee drink, either. Simply encourage employees to leave their desks, welcoming the idea that a fresh environment can inspire new and valuable thoughts.

Engaging others through stimulating conversation – caffeinated or not – is important. A quick sit down can allow for new concepts to brew and employees to mesh together, both of which will benefit your organization. Steven Johnson reinforces, “We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens.”

Tom Gardner Talks Company Culture at GoogleHQ


“All of the greatest companies want their people to succeed.” It’s true! Learn more from Tom Gardner’s presentation at Google HQ about the importance of investing in your organization’s culture. Don’t have time to watch the video? Here are Tom’s four takeaways:

1. Name your own value.

2. Know everyone’s name at your company – learn as many name’s as possible.

3. Connect with people outside of your company.

4. Craft your own job.

To learn more about Tom’s points in detail, read his full article here.

4 Tips to Improve Your Organization

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Where would The Motley Fool stand without the mentors that have shaped our company with their bright insights? The road to success hasn’t always been smooth, but we hope these 4 tips inspire you to take the wheel and change your organization – for the better.

1) Hire the Right People

Much like The Motley Fool’s investing strategy, we prefer to hire and hold onto employees for the long-term. Chief People Fool Lee Burbage explained, “When we are hiring for life, recruiting is the most important thing we do.” Our team strives to find the perfect candidate for every position because, in the end, the best hires will pay dividends. With every candidate, we consider whether or not they could potentially take our business to the next level. Throughout the hiring process, recruiter Jen Elliot focuses on applicants that are entrepreneurial, innovative, and unafraid to break the status quo. Burbage noted, “We want this to be the last job you ever have, and the long horizon makes things like job titles and hierarchy unimportant.”

No matter the job title, personality skill-tests are instrumental in maintaining employees’ happiness. If developed within your company, chances are high that employees will evolve and even develop their own job descriptions. Kara Chambers, VP of Talent Strategy at the Fool, notes that while cognitive diversity and collaboration is important in the workplace, communication issues can arise as a result. Assessments like Myers-Briggs and Kolbe allow managers to better acknowledge issues in advance and pair people in a more strategic way.

Les McKeown influenced us to evaluate new projects and teamwork organization with his Visionary-Operator-Processor triangle in mind. His quick assessment digs into the psychology behind how an employee handles their work. Because Fools feel more empowered and aware of their strengths, teams that struggled before are now thriving. Les has given us the ability to view a project’s life cycle by better understanding where we’re deploying resources.

2) Focus on Your Highest Performers

Burbage believes that while job fit is important, employee performance must be taken into consideration, too. Imagine that your workforce was a portfolio and you primarily invested in underperforming employees as stocks. Over the holding time, you’d progressively see a negative return on this investment. Though the real profit lies behind investing in high performing employees, many companies continue to foster their low performers.

Enter Steve Kerr, a member of The Motley Fool’s Board of Directors, who encouraged us to focus more energy on top-tier employees. Cultivating high performers to the level of Steve’s vision begins with measuring employees’ performance through feedback and one-on-one meetings. While asking for feedback isn’t mandatory here, it’s something that we care about and encourage. Guidance and constructive criticism only boosts motivation.

Steve once said that the highest performers are your future leaders. Do you want to leave your company in the hands of those that could fail?

3. “See the world through the eyes of your customer.” – Steve Kerr

A great employee is one who understands your business and, two years ago, we implemented Steve Kerr’s smart advice in a company-wide initiative to invest. Most Fools learned the investing basics, which started with how to open a brokerage account. Once the account was open, $1,000 was deposited into each and every one. Investing became a topic no longer segregated to our writers and analysts, but instead a dynamic, accessible discussion for everyone.

Sam Cicotello, who heads up Member Experience at the Fool, reflected on the benefits that this challenge left with our Member Services team. Expanding on the shared emotional experience, Sam explained “If a new member is ready to start in the stock market, we understand it’s not just as easy as pushing a button. Like members, the team feels on top of the world when trades are up, and angry or anxious when the market takes a negative turn.” It’s true that we’re a better company because Fools are smarter about the nature of our work.

4. Be Transparent

Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store and a true Fool himself, shared that one of his company’s foundation principles is “Communication is Leadership.” We’ve adopted the value as our own (thanks, Kip!) because we believe in the power of being a transparent organization – and we’ve seen the benefits first-hand. Our goal of having “totally informed Fools” is achieved by giving everyone in our company access to pretty much any information they want. Head Communications Fool Adrienne Perryman adds, “Building a culture of open communication between every facet of the company is a high priority of The Motley Fool — it builds trust, engagement, alignment, and ultimately, happy, productive Fools.”

This is not to say that communicating is easy. We’ve found that benefits of being upfront and transparent, especially when the news isn’t the best, far outweighs the damage that could occur if we didn’t share. With an open, honest, and timely explanation, employees are able to react more quickly and, even during the toughest times, collaborate for a solution.

Open communication is used in a number of ways to keep Fools up-to-speed in our fast-paced culture. Our monthly Huddles, which are attended by the entire company and streamed for our remote Fools, offers a full hour of 100% transparency. Do we talk in-depth about our numbers? Yep. How about strategy and what’s coming next? Check. Role changes? Sure do. Is there time for open Q&A? Obviously. In between monthly Huddles, we keep Fools informed via our intranet, which features weekly videos and a news feed, our weekly email, and sessions with leadership around specific topics.

We make communicating a priority because it matters. In fact, it makes us a better company. Does your organization do the same?