That’s Bill Parcells on the left, giving a Trump-esque power handshake to Bill Belichick, back when Parcells was The Man and the head coach of the New England Patriots, and Belichick was … neither. There’s a lot of body language going on in this photo, right? If I were a betting man (and I am), I’d make a big wager that Bill Belichick has never forgotten this moment, and I’d make an even bigger wager that it motivates him still.
Bill Parcells is the author of one of the greatest statements ever about, yes, the game of professional football, but even more so the human-defining games of professional politics and professional investing.
“You are what your record says you are.”
I can roll this line around in my head all day long, and it never gets old. This is Truth with a capital T, in soooo many ways. Anyone who works in a performance business knows exactly what I mean. Anyone who lives in a world where your public identity, aka your reputation, is important knows exactly what I mean. Anyone reading this article knows exactly what I mean.
It’s why THIS is the first question you ask a portfolio manager when they’ve decided to strike out on their own:
Do you own your record?
You’re not questioning their truthfulness. You’re asking whether they have the legal right to share a record of their performance with you and other investors. Yes, there’s an element of due diligence to the question, but the more important thrust of the question is to figure out if you can market this manager to the world. Because if the manager doesn’t “own” his or her track record, from a business perspective and a social perspective and a reputational perspective it’s pretty much the same thing as not having a track record at all.
If you don’t own your track record, you are invisible to the world. You have no identity that you can project, either to protect yourself from false reputational claims or to elevate yourself with truthful reputational claims. You are, not a slave, but an indentured servant to those who DO own your public identity.
So let me ask you, and I’m not (just) asking about whatever investment record you may or may not have, but I’m asking about every aspect of your behavior, from how you spend money to how you take care of your health to how you participate politically to what you watch on TV to where you go in your car to where you go on your browser to what you say on your phone and who you say it to …
Who owns your record?
I bet it’s not you.
Yes, we should render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.
But we should damn well take back that which is not.