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September 28th, 2011 - Nick Harroz III

Business advice from my grandfather


Nick Harroz III
President, Mark I Asset Management Ltd.

Historically, communities grew around the general store. The movement and availability of supplies were critical to the livelihoods of early Oklahomans, so the local store had to be built somewhere decidedly convenient for suppliers and customers.

Because neighbors were miles apart and leisure time was scarce, people would catch up while they shopped at their local grocery store. Without technology to preserve food for long periods, they shopped — and socialized — often. Without thoughtful intention, the grocery store often quickly became the town headquarters for news and fellowship.

“The key is to stick with your plan for the long term.”

In 1929, my grandfather, Nick Harroz Jr., helped his father open the first Harroz family grocery store at S.W. 29th Street and Agnew Avenue. After serving in the Navy during World War II, my grandfather returned to Oklahoma and followed in his father’s footsteps to open his own store in Midwest City. Over the next several decades, based on his commitment to friendly, full customer service, he established seven grocery stores in the Oklahoma City metro — all under the Crest Foods name.

As a child, I spent a lot of time in the local grocery store, which was owned and operated by my family. I may not have known it at the time, but summers stacking milk crates and greeting customers under my grandfather’s direction provided me with a core set of business values. I watched as my grandfather worked in a career that he loved. To him, it was much more than stocking shelves, making payroll and turning a profit: It was birthdays, weddings, Little League, politics and funerals. He genuinely cared about the people who walked through the front doors each day.

The values my grandfather taught me are lessons that continue to impact the way we work for our clients today.

1. Provide personal attention. My grandfather’s most important lesson is the value of customer service. One of the best parts of my job is getting to know an investor well enough to make recommendations based on his or her personal goals. I pride myself on my commitment to personalize investment plans. No investor has the same specific goals, so no investor receives a cookie-cutter approach.

2. Work hard. Many would agree there’s no such thing as an 8-to-5 job these days. My grandfather has been telling me that for years, but he would also say that if you do what you love, then it is a central part of your life anyway. You’re happy to work extra hours if the work is rewarding to you and your customers.

3. Do your research. In grocery stores, profit margin is extremely low. My grandfather knew that every purchase he made impacted the future of his business. He based his decisions on extensive study, the way every investment we advise our clients to make is based on hours of research. It’s important to know the companies you invest in, too. The research used to design your investment plan must have merit. Most large-cap companies are followed by several analysts, who provide opinions on those companies’ outlooks.

When I review analysts’ reports, I ensure the “big picture” story makes sense. Next, I look at the fundamentals, specifically, studying valuations, accounting estimates and cash flow. Third, I examine the analyst’s track record. While past performance is no guarantee of future returns, some analysts get it right more than others.

4. Stick to the plan. All businesses have setbacks and periods of economic strife. When my grandfather moved from his small Brett Drive Grocery to his first medium-sized store on S.W. 29th Street, he struggled with the transition. Similarly, investors suffer short-term setbacks due to market corrections and changes in the economy. Investors often begin with a plan to grow their small nest egg to achieve the next level. However, markets do not go up in a linear pattern. Volatility exists in the marketplace, and investors suffer from short-term setbacks, just as expanding businesses do. The key is to stick with your plan for the long term.

5. Do the right thing. Running a business well, whether it’s a grocery store or an asset management firm, is all about doing the right thing for your customer. In our case, that means serving as the eyes and ears in the investment world. Our clients know they can depend on our commitment to provide the best investment advice out there. My grandfather’s customers know they can depend on his commitment to provide grocery items of the highest quality at the lowest price.

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