Sunday, August 5, 2007

Letter from the Editor

Life and Times of JWN
Eddie Lampert
A Tribute to Edward S. Lampert

Eddie Lampert is a self made billionaire and a business man that I admire and plan to meet. He is forty-four years old and currently Chairman of the Board of Sears Holdings Company - owner of Kmart and Sears stores and a variety of long-standing American brands such as Die Hard, Craftsman, and Kenmore. Also, his picture is the background on my laptop.

The thing that impresses me about Eddie is his incredible work ethic and passion for investing and financial engineering. He is the wealthiest man in Connecticut thanks to the phenomenal performance he has achieved at his hedge fund, ESL Investments. As founder and CEO of the company, he uses the assets of the firm to purchase large stakes in companies like Sears. Currently, he owns nearly 40% of the company's equity.

This type of "concentrated value" approach as it is dubbed in the investment world is what makes him unique in a financial world focused on diversification. Some dub him the next Warren Buffett, but he would prefer to be considered the one Eddie Lampert, although he studied Buffett's work unceasingly while working in the Risk Arbitrage Department at Goldman Sachs and studying Economics at Yale University.

Enough about his investing, let's talk about the man himself. It would be far too superficial of me to just like the man because he's made himself and many other people a ton of money. I generally have much deeper motivations for the things I do.

Eddie is candid but keeps an extremely low profile.
He will rarely interview and lives a quiet life in Greenwich, Connecticut, where both his office (ESL) and his waterfront home are located. His father died when he was very young,making him the man of the house far earlier than any boy should be. This seems to be the inspiration for the rigor and value he tries to create in his business ventures.

"One of the unspoken secrets about business leaders is that they often have no idea about where they're going to end up." - Eddie Lampert

He worked his way into college and started doing work for Goldman Sachs, one of the world's premier investment houses, before he even graduated high school! He continued work at Goldman after Yale, before starting his hedge fund in 1988.

Eddie was kidnapped in 2003 from the parking lot of his office, but convinced his captors to let him go after two days!

Eddie is a self made man
with an intense passion for what he does. He is incredibly thorough and despite his low personal profile, he communicates his thoughts about the businesses he runs openly to shareholders. Also, the English major in me speaking, he writes extremely well.

In one of the few interviews with the man, he explained his motivations in a simple, inspiring way:

"I want to be known as a great businessman." - Eddie Lampert

It is only a matter of time before Eddie and I are having breakfast at his favorite diner in Greenwich, Connecticut.

CLICK HERE to check out a rare interview of Eddie and his mother Dolores! The piece is very well done.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I own shares of Sears Holdings Corporation (Symbol: SHLD).

Best to you friends, ~JWN

P.S. Check out my piece, "Small Talk for a BIG Effect" below!

Small Talk for a BIG Effect

Small Talk for a BIG Effect

By: Joseph W. Norman

Let’s talk about the art of communication. I’m not talking about public speaking, COMN 101, or any of that jazz – I’m talking about one on one, mono y mono, conversation. This is stuff you don’t learn in a classroom…

When you go into a room filled with many people you’ve never met before, are you nervous? Of course you are! KEY FACT: Everybody is nervous in this situation - use it to your advantage!

While everybody else is caught up with butterflies in the stomach, think about a line from a song by the Smashing Pumpkin’s, “Disarm [them] with a smile.” If you enter a room with a confident step and a smile on your face, you immediately have the upper hand (no matter how nervous you are on the inside).

When initiating that first conversation, don’t fret over what you are going to say – simply introduce yourself. Many people think you have to come into a conversation with some great one liner – I disagree. I have found much success by simply walking up to somebody new with a smile and saying, “Hi, I’m Joe Norman.” They’ll respond, often graciously, with their name – now you’re ready to rock and roll. KEY FACT: Never forget a person’s name! “But Joe, how do I remember?”

ACTION PLAN: There are three key steps I use to remember somebody’s name;

1) Repeat it in your head at least three times (I recommend five).

2) Form a mental picture of the person and put the face to the name.

3) Use the name during the conversation, no matter how long or short the chat is.

NOTABLE: A friend recently told me, he always ends a conversation with a farewell and the person’s name. If you don’t say the name, he says, the person will often think you already forgot it. I agree 100%.

Now that you have learned the person’s name cold, you’re ready to connect with the conversation. This is where people think it gets difficult, but it is still pretty simple. Be observant! Notice what they’re wearing, holding, or saying and comment on it. This will often lead to some personal facts which you can use to follow up effectively. When in doubt, just ask questions – people love to talk about themselves.

When you are in the conversation, always be “present!” Nothing irritates me more than talking to somebody and not feeling like I have their attention. Even if you only speak to somebody for thirty seconds, let them know with your eyes that it is only them that you care about at that instant. Don’t look around the room for other people to talk to – be with them and only them for that moment in time.

NORMAN SIDE NOTE: Tips for talking on the phone. If somebody in the room asks you a question, excuse yourself from the phone conversation and answer the question. Do not just answer the question and let the person on the phone keep talking. The same applies for receiving a phone call while in a face to face conversation. Excuse yourself if it is urgent - otherwise let the person calling leave a message. Be respectful! My mother taught me this and it is very valuable information.

Back to the conversation – you’re chatting freely with your new acquaintance about life, sports, love, happiness, etcetera. Whatever the topic, you’re doing great. But, how do you close the deal and move on properly? First, know the purpose of the future interaction. Do you want to date this person, or just build a friendship for future business relations, fun, or both?

If you’re trying to get a date, simply say, “I enjoyed our conversation and I’d like to get together with you sometime. What’s your number?” Too many people stress out over this – if you need something in this world, just ask! You’ll be amazed by the results. Nearly the same applies for a friendship or future business relationship – just ask for the contact information so you can follow up.

NOTABLE: Try to book the future engagement at the end of the conversation. Set a date or time and write it down. If handing out a business card, write the planned get together on the back and then hand it to the person. Always put it in writing! It is too easy to forget such promises. Then, follow up.

Congratulations – you’ve just learned how to small talk for a big effect. Remember a few key points:

1) Everyone is nervous – disarm them with a SMILE

2) Be PRESENT in the conversation

3) Know your purpose (date, friendship, business, etcetera)

4) Set up the stage for future interaction (Get the contact information)

5) Have fun and follow up

KEY FACT: Be yourself! “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Suess

Keep checking back for more information on topics such as; “Follow Up or Lose Out,” “Make a POWERFUL Impression,” and more! Best, ~ JWN

NOTABLE: Joseph Norman is co-founder of a weekly e-newsletter, Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles, with his friend and business partner, Ben DeGeorge. Together they have built relationships with dynamic leaders in many organizations and industries. For more information, check out:, or, email Joseph at