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?

Embracing the Future of Work

A few philosophies in FastCompany’s article  “These are the New Rules of Work” sound Foolishly familiar. Over the duration of our company’s history, we’ve evolved into a culture that’s now known for some pretty unique benefits. No vacation policy? Check. No dress code? Yep. Free healthy snacks? We promise! The Motley Fool seems to have embraced this future all along, which shines through these examples:

1. Work can happen wherever you are, anywhere in the world.

Open-office plans don’t jive with every work ethic, so we aim to help Fools work comfortably both in and out of the office. Slack has helped us to systemize accessible Fool-wide communication, plus our tech team has a dedicated channel to offer remote assistance. We also make a point to keep remote Fools informed through a weekly newsletter, monthly live-streamed huddles, and our company intranet.

Whether the blocker is traffic, travel, or family conflicts, incorporating flexible schedules into your company’s benefits can make a rewarding difference. Work location shouldn’t stand in the way of the passion you feel for a project.

2. You’re on call 24/7.

Do you check your email account on the weekend? If the answer is yes, you’re in the company of nearly half of employed adults. What’s more, a full 44% of US-based employees log-in on vacation. Though the typical 9-5 workday is slowly dying, it makes sense in our tech-enhanced world. Fools have the ability to work based on when they’ll produce the best results, and sometimes that’s not at 8AM.

3. You Work Because You’re Passionate about a Movement or a Cause – You Have to Love What You Do.

Fools share a mission “To Help the World Invest – Better.” We’ll be the first to tell you that working toward a shared cause is one key to higher engagement levels, better productivity levels, and boosted creativity among teams. The fact that Fools love our ultimate goal helps each of us strive to reach the next level.

Is your workplace out with the old and in with the new? See the full article here and weigh in on Twitter!


Motley Wellness Gets Mentioned!


Depending on a company’s approach, the definition of corporate wellness can stretch over a pretty broad spectrum. In addition to offering free 1:1 personal training, subsidized in-house massages, and a variety of fitness classes, Head Wellness Fool Sam Whiteside thinks outside of the box. We couldn’t agree more that our “health and fitness perks are off the charts” and feel excited to appear on Mashable’s list of companies with “amazingly unique wellness programs.”


Ranking #4 on a list surrounded by companies like Google, Fitbit, and Zappos, The Motley Fool was recognized for our fun fitness challenges, monthly health newsletter, and frequent involvement in area marathons and races. Sam Whiteside also shared that the Fool’s wellness engagement is nearly 86%.

See Mashable’s full feature on Foolish Fitness here!


Strengthening the Workplace with Social Fun


Creating social connections in the workplace isn’t a bad idea, especially now that employees are spending more time at the office. Having a friend at work can boost productivity levels, inspire collaboration, and offer an extra helping hand for coffee runs. When you think about it, company referral programs allow many people to earn jobs as a result of friendships. No matter how someone lands a new position, people appreciate feeling like they’re part of a family – even if it’s at work.

Our annual Fools-only retreat called “Foolapalooza” serves as the perfect opportunity to spark new friendships. The full day of business meetings (that we still keep Foolish, by the way) ended with a celebration at a local restaurant this year. Fools were able to mingle, meet new hires, and celebrate everyone’s accomplishments together.

If you’re looking for new ways to engage your employees, consider planning a social outing. The event can even be at your office – we keep cornhole sets and other games handy during the summer for impromptu gatherings. Giving employees an outlet to socialize after-hours can pull more benefits back into your workplace. Plus, doesn’t it make for a more comfortable professional environment when you know your coworkers’ names?