Just Show Up

Amongst all the hectic news and markets I never got a chance to say goodbye to someone special to me and to my teammates at Baird. Paul Purcell, long time CEO and mentor to us all, passed away on February 28 at the age of 73. There have been many amazing tributes to his life and legacy both inside and outside my firm  (my friend John Taft wrote a great one here in Barrons) but I wanted to use something he often said to guide us in these turbulent times.

Imagine your CEO emails you and says “hey, can you add me to your blog/daily email?” Ummmm, sure Paul, absolutely, let me just pace around the office for an hour first. While I was incredibly honored I was also a bit nervous, I mean who wouldn’t be, but him reaching out is what’s so amazing about Baird. Every leader, all of them, are super approachable, having him read my content was no different than anyone else because he made it easy between us. Paul was always happy to engage with me, if I sent an email he’d respond instantly. I never wondered if he read it, he’d constantly send me “thank you’s”. When I see our advisors on the road they love to show me where Paul recruited them. “See that table over there, Paul wouldn’t let me leave it until he convinced me Baird was the right place for my business.” They all, to a person, remember every single interaction with him. They also echo something Paul used to say about the key to success: Just Show Up.

It's a simple phrase with profound wisdom. Just show up to work, just show up for your teammates, just show up for your clients, just show up for your community. In these incredibly difficult times that phrase might seem out of place but it’s not, it means even more. If you can’t show up at your office because you are working remotely then find a spot to work and show up for your company there. If your clients need help because they are scared, show up on the phone or in a Zoom meeting. If your family is sad or worried about what’s going on, show up and offer them strength. If your neighbor is elderly and scared to go to the store because of a pandemic, SHOW UP FOR THEM.  

We recently entered a bear market and if we use history as a guide it could last awhile. My friend Callie Cox wrote: “Bear markets are a process, the past 11 bears have taken an average of 15 months to find a bottom, and 8 months from the bottom to reach new 52-week highs”. No Bear market since the mid-19th century has dropped 20% and made the round trip in less than 3 months. You know what else? You just lived thru the craziest month in stock market history.

Volatility is going to be heightened for awhile, expect gigantic daily moves. After the crash of ‘87 the market bounced 15% in two days, then re-tested the low 33 days later. Every bottom is different, this one will be too. What matters right now is your risk tolerance and your horizon not someone else’s. Hyper focus on that, play to your strengths.   

One of the great, if not best, things about this nation is that we don’t wait for people to tell us what to do, we do it because it’s right and it needs to happen. In the past when our nation mobilized to defeat an enemy it started at the individual level, then the community level, then the national level. Not the reverse.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, now is the time to heed the words of a great man who is off to a better place: JUST SHOW UP. In ANY WAY you can. For yourself, for your teammates, for your family, for all of humanity.      

Thank you for all you did for me Paul and for us at Baird, we’ll never forget you or your words that echo thru eternity.