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Lifting the Curtain
Allow me to reintroduce myself.
After sitting behind the mask of anonymity for about a year and a half now, I have decided it is time to introduce myself. When I started WSG I kept myself private because I wanted the focus to be on the work itself. However, after much deliberation and a few enlightening conversations with others, it’s time.
Hi, I’m Michael Kandolin
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How I Got Started
My investing life began in the summer before my freshman year of college. Introduced to the stock market by my cousin, who I deeply admired, I opened a brokerage account and worked extra hours to save up $1,000 to buy my first shares. After moving into my dorm room in the fall of 2015, I placed my first buy order for 5 shares of Apple at $112. (Pre-split)
I am self-taught with an informal background. In college, I earned my Bachelor’s in both Finance and Behavioral Economics but instead of going a traditional path right out of school, I wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship. This meant going back to the summer job and asking the owner to be her right-hand man. By the time I left, I was managing the place, building a staff schedule, sending in payroll, placing inventory orders, and running a staff of teenagers and cooks.
Since this was a summer restaurant, I had to find a job during the late fall through the spring. The first year I was a logger cutting trees and driving a skidder (which is a lot of fun) and the second year I worked with a mason as a laborer mixing mortar and moving bricks. He had a relationship with a carpenter who specialized in 17th-century home restoration and we did some of that work too. I enjoyed the work, it was a year-round gig, it gave me plenty of time to focus on investments, and again I got to sit right next to a successful entrepreneur.
I gave my notice to the owner of the restaurant and dove into timber frame restoration full-time. This has been home 40 hours a week for the past 3 years.
I don’t have a formal resume because it would be littered with these jobs that wouldn’t make any sense to someone on the outside. That’s because the job history only tells half the story.
Along with investing, entrepreneurship has been a common theme in my life over the same time period. It began when I started a clothing brand in college and sold T-Shirts to all my friends, family, and coaches. This first-hand experience of running my own thing taught me the importance of marketing, customer service, and the relentless workload that is building a business.
The T-Shirt company was the first of many venture iterations that I have started, plowed all my effort into, and then ultimately moved away from. Some of the others include website building, selling coffee, app investing, attempting to buy and flip land, social media marketing, and a slew of blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos.
For a long time, these experiences filled me with a sense of failure. I was never able to get something off the ground. It is only in hindsight that I am able to see the value these perceived failures gave me. I was trying to find my place in the world, and I wanted to find it as fast as I could.
Most of the shortfalls came from impatience and working outside my circle of competence. My investing work always came before the other ideas and this second-fiddle mindset doesn’t work if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. I started businesses to try and grow cash flowing that I could then invest elsewhere to obtain more cash flow, sound familiar? The issue was, I was starting with the end in mind.
At the time I didn’t think there was any other way to be an entrepreneur in the investing world other than starting your own shop.
After devouring Buffett's partnership letters, I was determined to replicate what he did. I was 21 when I called all my family and friends and wrote an introductory letter outlining my investment philosophy, how I picked names, the power of compounding, and of course the fee structure. I didn’t have money for a lawyer, so I wrote the partnership agreement by myself copying an outline from the internet. The vision was clear, I was going to be the next Buffett. Nothing could stop me.
About a month later I attended an Economics Department dinner to entertain a speaker who would be giving a presentation for the department the next day. During a conversation, an individual asked me what my plans were after college, I told him I was in the process of starting my own fund. He seemed surprised, asked who my investors were, and asked, “Are you licensed?”
“Are they accredited?”
“No, but the rule says if there are less than 100 people, they don’t need to be” I said with an arrogant confidence as only a 21-year-old who has read a bunch of books can.
“Uhhh Son, you might want to go read the rules again I think you missing something. If I were you I would go read them again.” He worked at Drexel Burnham.
I sped home after the dinner, anxious that he was right, and re-read all the SEC rules about investment funds, advisers, and what exempts a fund from SEC registration. I found what he was talking about, and he was right. I was crushed.
I found him in the seminar the next day and thanked him for saying something.
“It’s not what you know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”
With the lesson from the past in mind, I decided to try and do it the right way after graduation by sitting for my Series 65. To my chagrin, I found out after passing that my state only allows individuals with 3 years of industry experience to open their own shop.
The same crushed feeling came back to the surface.
At this point, I was forced to look at reality and decide about my future.
I could leave carpentry, go get industry experience, and then start my own shop. Or, stay in carpentry, save as much as I can, continue to learn, read, and write and give myself the flexability to respond to opportuntes as they present themselves. As a little time passed the answer came from within and I stayed in carpentry and continued to pursue investing with intensity on the side.
The directon was firm but the path was less certain, if anything I was going to need more patience.
As I shut the door on a part of myself, another opened.
After embodying my new fate, my Mom approached me and asked if I could sit down and review her retirement account. We talked on the phone, and she told me she was thinking about giving it to someone to manage but wanted to know what I thought.
“Well, Mom, I can do it free and I would have the most skin in the game here because if I screw this up I am going to have to take care of you.”
One hell of a pitch huh?
She laughed but agreed there was a serious alignment of interest and after talking with my Dad she gave me the keys with full trust. After hearing about this, my Aunt approached me with the same idea and I agreed to do the same for her.
In a matter of a few weeks, I went from not knowing if an investment career would be for me to becoming a steward of family capital. It is something I don’t take lightly and want more than anything to make them proud. I made a promise that I would do everything I could to protect their hard-earned money and make sure it is in the best shape when we need it down the road.
Where I Stand Today
It has been a little over a year since I began investing for my family and I have been able to fill the portfolio with ideas. The money I look after is more diversified than my personal PA, this is a guard against hubris. Have the results been great? Eh. Not horrible and not great, currently I’m behind the market. I have given myself a 5-year window to see if I can outperform and if I don’t then I will take the step necessary to change the strategy.
In restoration I have been learning more about the business and trying to be as helpful to the owner as possible. He has me in a variety of roles from replacing rafter plates to sitting down and doing a cash flow analysis. I enjoy the variance, it keeps days interesting and my only goal is to be a sponge and add value.
The desire to create still burns bright and after explaining this longing to my fiancé on a ski trip this past winter she told me to go for it. It would mean less time for me and her but she was willing to make the sacrifice and her words poured gas on the fire.
Before this moment I had been publishing my investing thoughts and research on my substack for about a year with no real cadence or plan. I wanted this to change.
I am still in the process of figuring out my rhythm and style, fine-tuning it to match what works for me while also achieving my standard of quality. For the past three months, this has meant a new post every two weeks and I am working to shorten this down to a new post every week.
Each new iteration continues to deepen my love for the game and the hard work that goes along with it. I have yet to find something that gives me as much joy as getting lost in financial statements with a notebook handy.
In terms of where I want to go from here, I have a sense of direction but I’m indifferent to the path. One day I would like to be my own boss and work with people whom I respect and admire. There seems to be plenty of opportunity in both this writing and my day job so I am going to keep moving with persistence and intention.
If I focus on adding value. I am confident the rest will take care of itself.
If you ever want to get in touch with me to talk shop please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. Feel free to email me anytime at Michael@wsgresearch.com
Please be advised, Wall St Gunslinger is not an investment adviser and does not give personal investment advice. All content is for educational and entertainment purposes only and should not be interpreted as anything other than such. Investing entails a lot of risks and should be managed appropriately. Please do your own research and consult with an investment professional before making any investing decisions. Thank you.