Don’t Talk About It, Be About It

When it comes to “Don’t talk about it, be about it,” who are you doing? What happens to companies when they overuse trust words? George G breaks down a recent study and talks about the dangers of virtue signaling!

Jun 26, 2024 | Blogs, Podcast

About the Episode

Don’t talk about it, be about it. Easier said than done? In a time when everyone seems to be virtue signaling about something, what impact does this have on the returns of companies? 

George G talks about new research on the use of trust words in 10ks and how that impacts the returns of companies, as well as how much attention those companies receive from the SEC!

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George Grombacher

George Grombacher

Host

Episode Transcript

today’s letter comes to us from Little Nicky. Little Nicky writes, Dear George Gee, would you rather talk about it? Or be bad? It? What a great question, Little Nicky thanks for taking the time to write him. But I think that, you know, I think that you know that I would rather be about it, than talk about it. Which begs the question, who would rather talk about it? Versus be about it? And I guess that the answer to that is probably, that nobody would rather do that yet. So many of us actually do it. So many of us just talk about it. And too few of us are actually about it. Be about it, to wait easier to talk about it. It’s way harder to be about it. The whole Monday morning quarterback, armchair quarterback backseat driver, this that the other thing, cheap seats, player hating from the sidelines, the man or woman in the arena, the critics, the records versus the builders, oh, my goodness, the list goes on and on and on. Maybe people that just talk about it, they don’t know how to be about it. Maybe they’re a little too lazy to be about it. A lot of interesting stuff here. But again, the answer your question, Nikki, is that I would rather be about it. So I am fond of saying that I am a human doing versus a human being. I’m trying to become a human being, I understand that there’s value in that just be but I am that human doing, where I just wake up and start doing things. I am more comfortable in motion that I am at rest. These are all potentially flaws, their character flaws, their flaws and habits, but it is what it is. So and I am consistently annoyed and irritated, mildly offended by people that simply talk about things but never actually do anything about it. But I understand i i understand sort of the psychology or why it is if it’s a psychology, it may be a pathology, actually, as to why people talk about things but don’t actually do it. What brought this about? Well, first and foremost a question from our buddy, Little Nicky here. But also, there was a fun article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, beware when it company says it’s trustworthy. So I thought this was pretty great. Don’t think that deep down, we all know that the more people talk about how honest they are, and how trustworthy they are and how we do business the right way. That it just sort of makes you wonder, like what’s going on here? Is there something that we ought to be concerned with? It turns out turns out that yeah, there is when there’s smoke, there’s fire sometimes study found that the use of what they refer to as trust words, lead to negative financial outcomes for companies. So companies that use these trust words, examples are ethical, integrity, responsibility, words that are meant to instill confidence actually have and result in negative outcomes, negative financial outcomes. So how are they able to do this? Well, the metric they used was 10, KS, which is the term for an annual report made by or produced by made public by publicly traded companies. So there’s all sorts of different reports of quarterly reports. There’s these 10 Ks, and it’s all public information. It’s from a transparency standpoint, and accountability standpoint, we can review company’s financials. So this research went through 1000s and 1000s, something like 4000 company’s annual reports over the course of 23 years. And they found the companies using these trust words have lower returns, and were 15% more likely to receive negative attention from the SEC from the Securities and Exchange Commission. So that’s the body that regulates or one of the bodies that regulates publicly traded companies. So they looked and they saw, okay, we’re going to look for these trusts. We’re In a 10k, and we’re going to look at when this 10k is released, how does the stock perform there shortly thereafter, and turned out that the companies that use a lot of those trust words have lower returns than companies that don’t pretty interesting. And again, companies that used to trust words 15% more likely to get some kind of a negative attention or letter or comment from the SEC. So pretty interesting. So rather than convey a company’s virtue, trust words, may instead act as a red flag. We’re trying to do this. And this happened, total backfire. Gosh, does that surprise you? It absolutely amuses me, I’m just sort of tickled by the whole thing. There’s so much virtue signaling going on in the world these days. You know, virtue signaling. That’s the the definition is the public expression of opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrates to demonstrate one’s good character, or social conscience, or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue, as it show up anywhere in the real world. I don’t know but shows up on social media probably shows up in the real world too. But oh, my goodness, Are we committed to virtue signaling, we’re just we love it. We’re talking about being all about it, we are. We are all about signaling just how virtuous we are. That amazing, amazing term I am, I’d stand for the newest thing, whatever it is, these non playable characters out there, just spouting off talking points. And just spouting absolute nonsense and Bs about things that people have so little understanding of, and I’m sure that I’m guilty of this too. I must say that I keep my mouth shut about stuff. But that’s certainly not true. But when I run my mouth, as I commonly do, numerous times a week, I don’t think that I’m signaling virtue necessarily. I really do try and give an honest assessment of what I think about things, or people like it, or they don’t. So virtue signaling is, in a lot of ways. So the use of these trust words, it’s the trust words. It’s like telling me that you’re cutting corners without telling me that you’re really cutting corners. Here’s a couple of here’s, here’s a couple of terms, that that sort of tickle me, and I don’t know where we’re at. In this world, but the term anti racist, I’m an anti racist. Let’s slow down. Who? Yeah, I’m, I’m against racism. I’m anti war. I’m pro environment. I’m against animal cruelty. I’m anti poverty. I’m pro worker. Isn’t isn’t everybody unless you’re a monster. Want to monsters out there too Little Nicky gotta be careful. Or you could say, another one is, I’m an atheist. Okay. Need a label for that. Good enough. Good enough. So many terms. So here are some amazing quotes. Amazing quotes that I think are very germane to this conversation about virtue signaling. And it just goes to show that this has been around forever. Forever. famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the latter, he talked him his honor, the faster we counted our spoons. I love that one. I love that one. Some idiot at the dinner table that you invited over to your house talking about how honorable he is. Like oh my gosh, make sure this clown is not stealing our silverware, our flour. And of course, from George Orwell 1984. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the ministry of Love with torture, and the Ministry of plenty with starvation. Is contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy. They are deliberate exercises in double thick. A little bit of that going on today too little bit, a double thing going on here in contemporary times, not just back in the day when Orwell wrote that Oscar Wilde and what sort of lives these people who poses being moral lead themselves, my dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrites, Thomas Paine. The greatest tyrannies are always perpetuated in the name of the noblest

causes Whew, buddy, Charles Glassman, the ones who raised my suspicions most are those who announced to the world just how nice and kind they are. Modern society doesn’t have a problem with treating the janitor the same as the CEO, we have a problem with our need to show the world that we treat the janitor, the same as the CEO. Margaret Thatcher, being powerful is like being a lady, you have to tell people that you are you aren’t projection, kind of what we’re doing. We’re projecting on other people. I’m sort of going off the script a little bit here. But I think that I think that it’s what’s on my mind and the games that we play with words and the way that we mislead ourselves and other people. Projection is a psychological defense mechanism where person to act attributes their own thoughts, feelings or traits to another person or group, either consciously or unconsciously or more nefarious still, when you’re doing exactly what you’re claiming the other team is doing. See that going on anyway, here’s another one for you. This is a pretty, pretty powerful term accusation in a mirror to false claim that accuses the target of something that the perpetrator is doing or intends to do. gurbles Joseph gurbles the awful Nazi instructed colleagues to impute to enemies exactly what they and their own party are planning to do. tatata. man All right. One last term it is it? Is it? Is it a Latin term or a Latin phrase. And it is a seaquam the dairy as seaquam the dairy, and it means to be rather than to see, to be rather than to see, it’s been used as a model by a number of different groups. Put another way, don’t talk about it. Be about it. So I like that one, as seaquam medary to be rather than to seem to be about it, rather than just talking about it. But how will people know how great we are, if we don’t tell them? There’s that too. I get it. You do need to toot your own horn. We are so living in a time where every company seems to receive an award for greatest places to work. And everything just sort of gets watered down. Or we’re all able to pronounce and make pronouncements have a wonderful we our personal branding, company branding and all this stuff. Lots of conflicts, lots of conflicts, potential conflicts going on. I need to be getting the word out. But at the same time, I need to be focused on doing my work and being about it. So like everything else. The truth is somewhere in the middle. But the evidence is in based on the Wall Street Journal article and study that was conducted on over 4000 Different companies, the ones that trade in trust words like integrity, oftentimes are the ones that are running afoul of it. Sounds interesting. Take everything with a grain of salt. Do your own research, make up your own mind about things? This is always good and solid advice. Thanks for the letter. Little Nicky and for the question. Always appreciate it. Keep the letters coming in. If you have question if you have a thought, well, we’d love to hear about it. You can find me on social media post on LinkedIn quite a bit and we’d love for you to chip in or chime in on a comment and signal your virtue. If you think that I’m an moron, I’d love to hear about that if you think that I’m making some good points lead here, but that too. So finally, for the reminder, never going to be anybody more interested in your financial success than you are. So act accordingly.

 

 

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