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?




March Madness is a Workplace Win


It’s that time of year again – March Madness is back! Although this month signals an exciting time for sports fans, most companies aren’t as enthused. Research shows that March Madness can be distracting to employees, plus decreased productivity is estimated to cost American companies nearly $2 billion dollars in 2015.

Perhaps the real madness lies behind employers banning the tournament from workplaces. That’s right – just hear us out. Our own Sam Cicotello said to The Washington Post, “”If employers lock things down, what that ends up doing is putting the employee in a very bad spot, where they have to lie and can’t do something they enjoy.”

Like The Motley Fool, more organizations are starting to view March Madness in a positive light. If the tournament is embraced, it can be the perfect opportunity to foster collaboration and build employee relationships.

Still not convinced? Sam Cicotello shared a few more Foolish thoughts on March Madness in The Washington Post’s feature – click here to read on!

Tips from our Foolish Financial Health Day


In addition to physical and mental wellness, we strive to keep Fools’ financial health on the upswing. Thanks to our Foolish Learning and Development team, Fools recently celebrated “Financial Health Day” by budgeting their workdays to learn more about our employee benefits, attend educational workshops, and participate in office hours with Foolish financial planners.

Classes on the agenda were all Fool-taught and included How to Buy a Home, Couples & Cash, Foolish Family Finances, and Estate Planning: Wills, Trusts, and Health Care Powers of Attorney – Oh, My! One of the most popular classes was Living Cheap, which was hosted by Rule Your Retirement advisor Robert Brokamp.

Here are 3 tips from this session that can help you, too, cut your expenses:

1. Monitor your spending every day. One Foolish reader wrote, “If you do this for 30 days, it can change your life. Also, that feeling of being in complete control of your finances is a real self-confidence boost.”

2. Food is one of your biggest expenses. Make a master list of what you absolutely need every week, and try not to stray from it when you’re shopping. A wise Fool told us during the class, “It’s not a value if half of it goes bad.”

3. “Use Stuff You No Longer Want to Buy Something You Covet.” Take a look around your house and make note of what you don’t use anymore. Consider selling an item on Craiglist or to a friend, then put the profit toward purchasing something you need.

It could be difficult to host a similar event at your own organization, especially if you don’t work in the finance industry. However, a few of the quick challenges that were introduced throughout our day would be easy to recreate. Tasks that were completed in exchange for raffle tickets included signing into your 401K account and confirming or adjusting the contribution; accessing your free credit score; developing a strategy to get out of debt; downloading our expense system’s app; and confirming correct personal information in our HR platform.

Learning more about your HR tools will help employees understand all of the benefits your company has to offer. Encouraging a dialogue about personal finance – whether it’s providing helpful website links or hosting a full-fledged Financial Health Day like us – will only profit your employees’ well-beings.

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.

Sharing Strategies with Glassdoor

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We’re featured on Glassdoor’s Recruiting Blog today to share our top 5 strategies for how to be a better place to work. We spill (some) of our secrets for enhancing employee engagement, company transparency, and workplace culture. You don’t want to miss out, so click here to read our tips!

Do you have any advice that can help organizations improve for the better? Please share below, and don’t forget to Fool On!


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