Why it Pays to be a Contrarian

In his famous poem, Robert Frost declared that he preferred to take “the road less travelled by.” I take that idea not only as a useful philosophy for life, but also as an even better guide for business.

When I began to buy and sell commercial real estate in 1968 I was told that the market had been weak for years, and I was foolish to even consider that kind of investment.

Luckily, my father raised me to be a contrarian.

I smiled and began to invest. The market soon improved dramatically. Since that time, I’ve continued to follow my father’s advice and grown my business into a billion dollar company.

“If everyone is buying, then sell,” he used to say. “If everyone is selling, then it’s time to buy.” He once called his stockbroker, Carr Neel Miller, and asked for his company’s research on the First Charter Financial Corporation. Mr. Miller said, “Fred, the Savings and Loan industry is so shaky that E. F. Hutton & Co. doesn’t even follow it. We have no research.”

My father smiled and bought 4,000 shares of First Charter Financial at $7.00 a share. Four years later, when brokerage houses were heartily recommending the stock, my dad sold First Charter at $28.00 a share. That’s a profit of 300 percent in four years.

It pays to be a contrarian.

Of course, being a contrarian doesn’t mean you always go against the grain. You have to be selective. But being a contrarian means that you are always willing to QUESTION your direction, especially when everyone else seems to be floating with the current.

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About the Author

Alan Fox is the president of ACF Property Management, Inc, and author of The New York Times bestseller PEOPLE TOOLS: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity. He has university degrees in accounting, law, education, and professional writing. He was employed as a Tax Supervisor for a national CPA firm, established his own law firm, then founded a commercial real estate company in 1968 that now owns over one billion dollars in real estate. Fox is the founder, editor, and publisher of Rattle, one of the most respected literary magazines in the United States, and he sits on the board of directors of several non-profit foundations. Visit

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