It's the highest-rated show ever for A&E and the second-highest-rated cable show in the nation. Duck Dynasty entertains millions every week with the antics of Louisiana's Robertson family. The Robertsons run a multimillion-dollar duck call enterprise and are now among the most recognized families in the U.S. Could the secrets of their success lend themselves to an investment strategy for the rest of us? Here are five principles from Duck Dynasty that can help you become a better investor.
1. Focus on what you understand.
There's no doubt that the Robertson family understands ducks. Avid duck hunter Phil Robertson, the family's patriarch, founded Duck Commander in the early 1970s to market his proprietary duck calls. Focusing on ducks has certainly paid off.
Investing in what you best understand is a great way to begin buying stocks. As a personal example, I worked for years in the health care technology sector. One of my best stock picks ever was physician software systems vendor Quality Systems (NASDAQ:NXGN). Because of my understanding of the industry, I knew that there was a likelihood that demand would accelerate for technology to help doctors.
Quality Systems benefited from the passage of the HITECH Act in 2009, which gave financial incentives for physicians to purchase electronic medical record systems. Its sales took off -- as did the stock. Because I also anticipated that the wave of buying by physicians wouldn't last forever, I sold my shares after a couple of years. The stock now trades more than 50% lower than its 2011 highs, reflecting changing dynamics in the clinical systems market. Focusing on what I understood resulted in excellent returns.
2. Don't be afraid to try something new.
Although duck calls made their fortune, the Duck Dynasty family hasn't been scared to branch out. Willie Robertson, Phil's son and CEO of the business, made the decision in 2006 to launch Buck Commander. The newer business unit includes marketing deer-hunting videos and selling products for deer hunters.
Likewise, investors shouldn't limit themselves too much in the stocks they buy. It's always important, of course, to understand the business and industry, but you don't need years of working in an industry to learn enough about it to invest.
Trying new things doesn't always work out, of course. In season one of Duck Dynasty, Willie Robertson thought that he could run a winery. "Mallard Merlot" didn't pan out too well.
3. Involve family and friends.
Practically everyone in the Robertson family works in the business in some capacity. Employees who aren't related to the Robertsons are such close friends that they are nearly like family. Involving family and friends in the business (and the cable TV show) has proved to be quite successful.
Some treat investing as a solo effort. However, there are plenty of benefits to be gained from involving family and friends in your investing. Children can learn a lot from understanding why a company is or isn't a good business in which to invest. I often enlist the help of my daughters in researching information about stocks. They now know many company tickers as well as they know element symbols on the periodic table.
Involvement in a community is great, also. You can join a local investment club or an online community like The Motley Fool's CAPS. Better yet, do both. You'll be able to learn new ideas and share your experiences with others.
4. Don't always listen to your crazy uncle.
The one person who steals any scene he's in on Duck Dynasty is Uncle Si. His stories from "back in 'Nam" make TV audiences across the country laugh. But it's a good thing that others in the family don't always listen to Si. His ideas can get them into trouble.
Although involving family and friends in your investing is a very good thing, you shouldn't automatically follow their advice when it comes to buying stocks. Anyone can get it wrong, including usually astute investors.
Be particularly cautious when family or friends suggest buying a highly speculative stock. What looks like the next "sure thing" might be the next sure thing to lose your money.
5. Keep the big picture in mind.
At the end of every show, the Robertsons gather as a family and pray before eating together. They might argue and get on one another's nerves during the episode, but they always keep the larger perspective in mind. Any disputes are temporary and get worked out.
Investors should also focus on the big picture. That means buying businesses that should do well over the long run and not worrying too much about short-term setbacks that aren't material to the company's long-term prospects.
It's easy to place too much attention on the immediate negatives and too little attention on the bigger positives. I made this mistake in 2011 after buying shares in Mindray Medical (NYSE:MR). I ended up selling my shares for a loss when the stock fell due to weaker-than-expected demand for its medical devices in Europe and the U.S.
That weakened demand proved to be only temporary, though. Mindray went on to report a record year in 2012. The Chinese medical device company continues to grow revenue and earnings by nearly 20%. Had I focused on the larger perspective and held on, I would be up more than 30% now.
It might seem silly to derive an investment strategy from a reality TV show. However, following these five principles could make us all better investors. Sometimes the best ideas are right before our eyes -- but wearing camouflage.