March 18

Hogs Unite!

For those who don’t know, I spent a good chunk of my 20s as a consumer spending securities analyst in Tokyo. I looked at consumer trends, analyzed brands and studied in detail the accounting statements of companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to determine which companies were worth investing in. The critical part about being a consumer spending analyst is not confusing one’s own spending habits with which stocks are good investments. Just because you like Starbucks coffee doesn’t mean that Starbucks is a good investment. It’s hard to turn off that part of my brain even all these years later because I’m always analyzing business models — of every business I come in contact with.

I’ve always been cautious with investments but a few years ago I read an article about Harley Davidson’s brand, looked at the numbers and decided that we should buy a few shares of Harley Davidson stock. This 5’0″ asthmatic, gluten-free, vegetarian is about as far away from the typical Harley Davidson motorcycle rider as you can get, but it has turned out to be a good investment.

Then this day comes every year, when I get the invitation to the Harley Davidson shareholders’ annual meeting. I don’t typically go to the annual meetings of companies whose stock I own but I admit to being curious about what goes on at the Harley Davidson meeting. First of all, does everyone arrive on a Hog? Is everyone wearing leather with fringe? How about the Chief Financial Officer? Is he in leather too? The company HQ is in Milwaukee, which I drive by several times a year when I’m in Wisconsin teaching or lecturing and I always think, Should I just show up one of these days in my regular clothes, tattooless, driving my middle-aged, soccer mom Prius? Would that be beyond bizarre or would that be a ton of fun? Is it a good thing to surround oneself with a culture you don’t understand or is it a recipe for feeling awkward? Or do I ask our awesome contractor, who’s like a younger brother to me, who not only is a Hog owner but has a Harley Davidson logo tattoo on his arm to go with me so I have some street cred? One thing is for sure, if leather is involved, I’ll need to wait until I’m no longer having hot flashes because the dry cleaning bill would kill me.