Stuff Bosses Have Said

Tyler Durden's picture

In 26 years on Wall Street, Nic Colas of ConvergEx, has worked for seven firms and reported to nine different people.  His insights make up a highlight reel of things those people have told him which have stuck in his memory over the years (for better or worse) and seemed worth sharing with a broader audience.  The most insightful: “Don’t make this game harder than it has to be.”  From the same boss, the most motivating: “Someone is getting the information before you.  Why don’t I fire you and hire them?”  On customer service: “What am I? A pimp?  Get me a black car.”  And possibly the most important for someone who makes their living serving the investment community on the sell-side: “Do you know what it means when a dog shows well?”


I have had the good fortune to make a living on Wall Street for just over 25 years, and during that time I have reported to nine different bosses.  All of them have held the reins with a light hand, but they all have at some point passed along some wisdom that has stuck in my head.  Today’s note is a compendium of their most notable sayings, with a brief explanation of the featured aphorism as well as a little context around them.


“We clean our trays.”

Like many investment professionals of my generation, I started during the great mutual fund boom of the 1980s.  My first job was in the customer service department of what is now one of the largest fund companies in the world, sitting in the mail room looking for checks from brokers to buy either a mortgage securities, small cap stock, or technology fund.  That was the extent of the offering at the time, which gives you a sense of how early the firm was in the development of its mutual fund offerings.


My first boss came out of the transfer agency world, and he spent most of his time on the road visiting the operations departments of our broker customers.  He was what we would now call an “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder” neat freak, and the first thing he would do when boarding a plane was to check the cleanliness of his tray table.  If it wasn’t spotless, he would spend the rest of the flight worrying that the requisite airplane maintenance hadn’t been done properly.  His unofficial motto for our operation was “We clean our trays.”  We managed to stop him from putting that on the corporate t-shirts, thankfully.  The idea that little things matter did, however, stick with me.


“Do you know what it means when a dog shows well?”

After three years tending to mutual fund shareholders, including the 1987 crash, I went off to business school with an eye to getting a job in stock research.  At the time, the best sell-side firm for this discipline was the old Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette.  So in my second year of business school I ended up at DLJ’s offices in Manhattan interviewing with their head of equity sales.


I asked him what he looked for in a research analyst.  I expected to hear quantifiable attributes like deep fundamental understanding of their industry, or a real edge in accounting and financial modeling.  Instead, he asked me if I had ever been to a dog show.  I said yes.  He then explained that he was looking for people that “Showed well” – basically energetic presenters who enthusiastically engaged the client base.  I still embrace that message to this day, even though the canine comparison is a bit off-putting, to say the least. I never did get to work at DLJ – they ended up not hiring the year I came out of business school.  But this quote is too good to pass up, so I include it here.


“What am I?  A pimp?  Get me a black car.”

My eventual employer was First Boston, where I covered the auto industry.  One of the dirty secrets of the sell-side analyst world is that you spend considerable time tending to corporate management while carting them around to see clients.  Even the most laid-back CEO or CFO still likes to be treated well, and I learned that this means wildly different things to different people.


While traveling in Milan with one management team, the limo company sent us an old Bentley sedan in shining pearlescent white.  The CFO took one look at it, and asked if I thought he ran an escort service on the side.  He didn’t like the car, and even after a long flight from the States he was unwilling to ride in a conveyance unbefitting a U.S. corporate chieftain.  Half an hour and several frantic calls later, an ancient black Lincoln showed up (Lord knows why a Milanese car company has such a car) and all was good again.  But the lesson of “Know your customer” is a deep and occasionally unfathomable river, to be sure.


“You will make a lot of money, but you’ll be very unhappy.”

When I told my last boss at First Boston that I was going to a highly successful hedge fund, he shook his head like I was a puppy who had just soiled an expensive carpet.  “You won’t be happy there.  You are essentially a happy person.  You’ll be around very rich guys who are miserable all day long.  You are going to make more money than you can imagine, but you will regret this decision.”


At the time I could not fathom the notion that money and happiness were anything but happy bedfellows.  But he was more right than wrong.  I learned more about the markets and investing in six months in my new job than I had in nine years as a sell-side analyst.  At the same time, the all-consuming nature of the job fulfilled his prophecy.  Your job has to fulfill a whole range of personal requirements as well as pay the mortgage.


“Don’t make things harder than they have to be.”

“Early is the same as wrong.”

“I can make more money; I can’t make more time.”

“Some is getting this information before you.  Why don’t I fire you and hire them?”

All these quotes come from the same secretive multi-billionaire hedge fund manager who was my next boss.  What he taught everyone in the room was that information is only investable when it comes early and is different from what the market believes.  In that respect, managing money is a simple task.  Making this mandate more nuanced is a waste of time.  And more time is the one thing even a billionaire cannot buy.  Truly actionable information is hard to get, and it is the only job of anyone interested in running money.


“Dentist and doctors are lousy investors.”

After the hectic pace of the first hedge fund, I went to a second one, managed by a highly pedigreed value manager.  One of the deep dark secrets of the hedge fund world is that every manager needs two edges – how to manage money effectively, and how to get investors whose needs fit that investment approach.  Easier said than done, that second one, and in many ways just as difficult as the first.  His target audience was doctors and dentists, for he found that even the most accomplished medical groups were full of woefully incompetent investors.  My boss was not a smooth presenter for all his investment acumen.  But he came across as someone you could trust, and that was enough for his target investors.


The lesson here is that success comes in many forms.  Every hedge fund manager of any note has hundreds of meetings with potential investors on their way to their first $1 billion in assets under management.  The clever ones know that there are pockets of capital – some of them very deep indeed – that go under-serviced.  Who needs the smart New York based fund of funds when there is a successful dental practice in Islip with $25 million to invest or a group of dermatologists in Houston with $100 million burning a whole in their pockets?


“Everyone can be a real estate agent for one year.  It’s the second one that kills them.”

This last one comes from my current boss, and I am still surprised as to the number of circumstances to which this aphorism applies.  His point is that many businesses get off the ground with one trick.  For a real estate agent, it might be combing through their personal contacts for likely customers.  When they exhaust that pipeline of customers, likely with some early success, they have nothing in the bag to sustain the business in year two.


The underlying problem is one of competitive advantage, the most underappreciated challenge in everything from stock analysis to personal development.  Developing an edge as a company means finding your best advantages, honing them, communicating them to everyone from employees to investors, and forgetting everything else.  Can’t make more time, as the hedge fund manager boss told me.  As an individual, the lesson is essentially the same.  

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Marc_W's picture

I guess we'll see.  At least I am trying to do something to escape the totalitarian fascist American police state while you arm chair Doomer Boomer's sit around whining about it on the internet like the pathetic sacks of shit you've always been.


You complain about problems while I identify them and attempt to produce solutions.


My problems are thus:


1. the U.S. is full of illegals and negroids

2. the U.S. is a fascist totalitarian police state


My solutions are thus:


1. Leave the United States forever


What the fuck are YOU doing?

AnAnonymous's picture

A US citizen who gets his US citizen priorities right...

Revert_Back_to_1792_Act's picture

I thought we were US Persons and that includes Resident Aliens who swore in writing under penatly of perjury that they weren't subject to Backup Witholding?



TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

AnAnonymous said:

A US citizen who gets his US citizen priorities right...

I can't argue with that.



_underscore's picture

All the best on your quest MW, but I'd suggest (like one of those fight Club rule thingies..) you don't tell anyone or broadcast these intentions. The best disguise & ticket to ride is boring anonnimity. I don't believe

you can stealth yourself with any technology (TOR etc.)  & that those concepts/ideas in fact are just other deceptions. Everything form of communication we use, futher than a whisper, is a postcard.

Ayreos's picture

And that's why you develop a code for every single person you need to share valuable information with.

merizobeach's picture

Let's not forget that at this point, in the perspective of the folks reading here--whether they are sheeple or not, agree with you or not, or think you'll eventually do as you say or not--you're all talk.  You have a 'plan' to move out of the ole USuckAss, but so do many people, who've said they've 'planned' longer than you have.  Until today, you're still a USuckAss-ian, still participating in the problem.  Get back to us when you've successfully made your transition--or don't, but at least then you'd have a measure of credibility.  And by the way, if you were a member of the military, wouldn't that have made you one of the most acute aspects of america's shitty effects on the world?

Vendetta's picture

You forgot the problem that you don't have much money.  Bye

Mentaliusanything's picture

Go live in Tasmainia - and Island that can feed itself, speaks English, housing cheap , people wealthy and they killed off all the natives in the beginning. Other than that NZ but you have to learn to speak "rugby"

And if your going to burn the banks Buy a big ocean going Yatch 0% down and give them a teaser rate buy paying the first monthly payment using their own card, and in 2months your well into the South Pacific - you would be hard to find in the 120,000 bays and estuaries of the South Pacific. Think of it as a movable feast.

May not be a bad move.

TwoJacks's picture

you'd be better off burning your cards ands staying here off-grid.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Mercury said:

By all means, saddle-up the unicorn.  Europe awaits! - where the money is sound, the spreads are tight and the demographics are so pretty.

Where the fuck are you going...Camelot?


(As in Munchkins and Emerald City, not Koalas and Adelaide.)


MrButtoMcFarty's picture

Fuck all that....I'm moving to Austin at the end of the summer.


I want be in TX when the shit goes down.

Raymond Reason's picture

Right.  20 million third world sports fans. 

theMAXILOPEZpsycho's picture

Hell Yeh! Thats where you want to be if you want some action!...

I live in Bordeaux, France...dull

Overflow-admin's picture

Hey Marc, where the hell are you going? Do you expect your "land of your ancestral herigage" not becoming a fascist totalitarian police state? If yes, please elaborate and name the country, I'm interested in moving ;)

Kokulakai's picture



Don't let the door hit you in the ass.

Ranger4564's picture

Sadly, this being a GLOBAL crisis, tjere is nowhere to go. You can run but you can't hide, so you might as well join the fight now, to minimize the violence to the utmost minimum.  Wait longer and the likelihood of gross violence grows exponentially. 

Vendetta's picture

Right again Ranger.  The fiatsco's will be going down together like the domino's in my movie.

Marc_W's picture

What I learned in my first year in my first real job:


Appearances are everything.  Reality means nothing.  If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying.  The best liar always wins.

OldPhart's picture

What I learned in my first year of my first real job.

Be on Time.  Wash your hands frequently.  Get all the shit off the bottom of the pot.  How to core lettuce.  Make sure the customers are having a good time.  Goats will eat almost anything, chickens will eat the rest.

Age 11, Dude Ranch Cook's Assistant

Marc_W's picture

I don't consider that a real job.

Lednbrass's picture

It sounds like you shuffled either paper or electrons...thats real?

OldPhart's picture

Really, getting a paycheck doesn't constitute a real job?

Lednbrass's picture

If you didnt have to tote your iGizmo in a manbag to keep your hands free for your morning latte, I get the feeling he wont see it that way.

MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

Tiny bubble you're living in there...

sheikurbootie's picture


You have no clue how hard it is to obtain a work permit in a foreign country.  Unless you have an employer lined up or multi-millions to invest, you're only allowed a short term visitors visa in most countries outside of the US.

You certainly don't have a good plan on escaping anything.  Australia sucks btw, I lived and worked there for 3 years.  As far as pussy, good luck with the Aussie "ice princess" .  Australia has tiny small population and the ratio to tourist to citizens is 1-20.  That's a lot of tourist.  How many good looking Aussie girls are there, not very many.  How many will give you more than the time of day?  Even less.

I'll bet you go travel a bit, run up those credit cards and end up back in the US will no job and an arse load of debt.  You'll be a slave to that debt.  Good luck with that one!


RKDS's picture

That is the lesson that the world of work seems to be teaching anymore.

Mercury's picture

Beware the culture clash:

Room full of new parent company VIPs (and at least one woman)

Boss's big PowerPoint presentation is not working and now he's on his hands and knees trying to force-eject a CD-ROM from his computer while barking at IT guy via speaker-phone. Frustration mounting.

IT Guy: Is the paperclip in?...stick it in all the way...there's a catch that you can reach but you have to put it pretty far...

Boss: (angry, loud) Goddamnit! I'm in balls-deep here!...and nothing’s happening!

Female VIP: (quietly, to colleague) Once this is on our platform, our sales team will be...

VIP Colleague: (barely audible, eyes closing) Yes...yes...


jack stephan's picture

Trust bosses, employees ? I don't even trust my family or bosses who they say are family (Ha Ha).  As days progress, you become a hermit because over time bottom feeders come out, resentful, bitter and diseased. Supposed well wishers that grow pushy in contact or some emotional meltdown.  Blah blah blah  Go full siege over very small and petty things just like work.  Family members act like they just so happen to know youre name and number, you are low hanging fruit, something for cherry picking or name dropping exploitation. Again just like work.

I quit homo earth, you had a 30 year pepsi fucking challenge and you failed in spectacular fashion, even with do overs, generous do overs.  I like me now and trust my judgement above all else,  Jobs can drink a tall cool glass of chihuhua piss.  Even if I fail a lil bit, I still better than at least 80 percent of 7 billion. 


Sorry Rant off, go back to caviar, or shitty caviar, or anything, I like olives. Later zh, If you cant spot the weakest in the room, youre probably it.  Dont wake up to kneepads too.


tony bonn's picture

so now muppets have a face - dentists, dermatologists, and doctors

Calculated_Risk's picture

"fake it till you make it."

From an incompetent boss that lied to get his position.

Marc_W's picture

If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying.


Is there a special place in the soup kitchen line for the honest man?  A special place in the grave yard for the ethical man?


I think not.  All ethics are derived from slave morality.  These mores and ethics exist only to enslave the common man and stifle his action.  Meanwhile the enlightened man rises above slave morality and acts in an optimal manner for his own self interest.




Fucking laughable.  Your slave morality makes me laugh so hard.  Endure your pathetic lives here on Earth, while waiting for some illusory reward in "heaven."  Imbecile sheep.  You deserve to be raped by the bankers and your other superiors.

StychoKiller's picture

Dr. Faust had a good advisor, named Mephistopheles.  You should read his story:

malek's picture

Another Nihilist trying to find encouragement for his views on ZH... <facepalm>

dogbreath's picture

we've had some trolls here before but have we ever had a certifiable sociopath.  I am not an expert though, anyone else??

stacking12321's picture

he comes across as a sociopath, but he really isn't one, he's trying too hard to come across that way.

if it were for real, it would come naturally.

a real sociopath isn't really aware of his own sociopathy.

the fact that this one is, tells me that it's a fake.

not that he isn't entertaining, though, i give an A for effort.



BandGap's picture

First, you have to believe that he believe's what he is saying. I view his comments, without viable substantiation, as wishful thinking. In fact, I found myself wandering down the path with him.......for a short while. Then a collective reality set in. To actually pursue this path takes quite a bit more planning than is being expressed here, not to mention a ceratin amount of buy-in from the natives, as expressed before.

Sigh, I am a slave to the trajectory of my own life. Not so much the house or the job but to my own children. I will make the best plan possible and gut out the future as the home team, on my own turf. At least I know where the high ground is.

But it was a nice daydream while it lasted.

Lednbrass's picture

Whose "slave morality" are you blabbering about? Your response is a total non sequitur. If you dont have an alcohol or drug problem, youre off your freaking rocker.

You read Nietzsche, wow like omg u r so kewl. So did I and so have lots of others. When you feel the need to spend time on the internet telling people how awesome you are you arent the kind of man he was talking about, much less to- just another Last Man who is a bit more narcissistic than most.

Zarathustra down from the mountain you ain't.

Vendetta's picture

You sound like you really got what it takes to be a banker.

evolutionx's picture
Facts about Poverty!


1)      47.8% of households that receive food stamps are working, because having a job is not enough to keep them out of poverty.

2)      The number of people on food stamps has increased by 20 million over the past five years. 

3)      10 million more Americans fallen below the poverty line since 2006.

4)      About half of all Americans are now either living in poverty or are considered to be low income.  So is America a "wealthy" nation?

5)      The number of children living in poverty in America keeps rising year after year. The %age of children living in poverty in the US increased from 16.9% in 2006 to nearly 22% in 2010.



vato poco's picture

Nice quotes & pretty good lessons from da Bosses, there, Nic. Lucky fucker. Every boss *I* ever had never once told me anything more memorable than, "I know that's completely opposite of what I said yesterday, just do it, OK?!?"

I'm thinking the ratio of good/decent/wise/teach-you-stuff bosses to standard-issue shit-for-brains empty suits must be about 20 to 1. I guess I musta just crapped out - maybe that's why Dilbert is so popular.

connda's picture

Boss man sounds like a total ass.

wisefool's picture

"Let them march, as long as they pay their taxes."

Al Haig >>>>>>>>>>>>>> ZH/Einstien/steve/jobs

silverdragon's picture


Don't know how well the racist rant thing will work down under, Aussies are all pretty well travelled and most grew up in a multicultural society that functions, so don't need to blame the immigrants, especially as almost every Aussie or their parents or grandparents is an immigrant.

Bubble's picture

Haha. Yeah, Aussies are rarely racist. Just ask the wogs, abbos or slap heads.

Overflow-admin's picture

This is a little out of the subject, but I think it's important:


gs_runsthiscountry's picture

"When your competitions boat is sinking, you don't throw them a life ring - you throw them an anchor"

Apply that to the natural gas industry the past 3 years and you know whats been going on.


NuYawkFrankie's picture

Re Don’t make this game harder than it has to be.

You will make a lot of money, but you’ll be very unhappy

.... blah blah, blah

Geez... these fortune-cookie cliches are supposed to be words of wisdom gleaned from over 26 years on Wall St ???

I can only assume the author is pulling our collective leg... failing that - what a freekin nitwit! LOL!!!

_underscore's picture

I agree.  These aphorisms/soundbites sound the same level of sophistication as the ingenue teenage girl falling in love with Keats after the  1st high school English class - everything becomes so clear. I believe though, the author is genuinely sincere in the belief that these are rules of life to savour over a malt whiskey & beside a crackling log fire - but that just makes it even more jaw droppingly naff.