SIPA Member Profile: With Cabot, Lutts Discovers Success

Timothy Lutts, Publisher, Cabot Heritage Corporation, Salem, Mass.

SIPA: How did you get into this business?
LUTTS: I’ve been part of Cabot since 1970, when my father started writing and publishing The Cabot Market Letter on the proverbial kitchen table. In the beginning, family members and neighbors collated and stuffed envelopes and we were paid in ice cream sundaes. But then I went off to college, and before joining Cabot full-time, I had a number of jobs in high-tech companies, the last of which was as a vacuum furnace technician at GCA Vacuum Industries. That company was dying then and it’s dead now, but it’s not my fault. I joined Cabot full-time in 1986, when my father invited me to be the editor of a section about mutual funds, which were hot then. And I’ve been with Cabot ever since, first as an editor and tech guy (we bought our first computer in 1987), then as co-owner and now as owner and publisher.

Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
If there was any defining moment, it was the point when I realized I was being paid to read and learn things, and that I could keep on reading and learning things and being paid for it for as long as I wanted. In recent months, I’ve learned about, and written about, bone marrow donations, tractors, Jesus statues and Italian cops, as well as solar power, cloud computing, pharmacy benefit plans, membranes in lithium-ion batteries and gambling in Macau.

In brief, describe your business/company?
We publish 10 investment advisory products, all aimed at the individual investor, though roughly 8% of our subscribers are professional investors. Prices range from $49 per year to $1,400 per year. Our core expertise is growth stocks, but we also provide advice on value investing, Green investing, small-cap investing, foreign stock investing (particularly China), market timing and options.

What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
Most important is to hire smart people, motivate them and reward them when they succeed. Second is to adapt to change. Over the decades, our business has gone from 100% paper-based to more than 90% digital-based. More touchy-feely, but no less important, is to communicate to your customers the fact that you sincerely want to help them, and then help your employees adopt the same attitude. Zappo’s is a great example in that regard. Finally, test, test, test.

What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing now?
We go to our prospect list, which recently topped 200,000 names, with an email five times a week. Some of it is targeted marketing, using all the time-tested bells and whistles. Some of it is stuff I write about Jesus statues and Italian cops and other topics on my mind.

Do you see a trend or path in 2010 that you have to lock onto for 2011?
Two initiatives for us in 2011 are to optimize our websites further and to tighten digital security. Also, we’re just launching a new weekly email to build a list of prospects for our investment digests, two publications we acquired in 2008.

What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
SIPA has been a tremendous resource to me over the years, and while the marketing tips and tricks are always welcome, the biggest value has come from relationships with more experienced publishers and the wisdom they’ve passed on. Ed Satell, for instance, said, “Incent, so you don’t have to manage,” and “Think long-term, about everything.” Tom Phillips said, “Work on your business, not in it.” Finally, I have to mention that the conferences have proven invaluable over the years, and I hope to attend many more.

Where did you grow up?
Right here in Salem, Mass. In fact, the Cabot office is in the old branch library building where I worked in high school, and across the street from my 5th-to-8th grade school…which is now condos. I have 39 relatives in Salem.

What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
I attended University of Maine in Orono, like my father and grandfather, but only lasted a couple years. Years later, when I had grown up some more, I graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a B.S. in English.

Are you married? Do you have children?
My wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary this year. We have three children, including one, Chloe, who joined Cabot as an editor last year…the third generation!

What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
My favorite hobby is competitive Scrabble, though in the past year I’ve gotten a bit rusty as I’ve been doing more crossword puzzles. Also, I’m a lifelong skier and a self-taught snowboarder, but I don’t get to go often enough.

Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?
“The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” by Matt Ridley is a great reminder of the way mankind has progressed over the ages despite the doomsayers, and it provides plenty of reason to believe we will keep doing so. As to movies, checking my Netflix list, I note that “Mary and Max” and “The Lookout,” were both unusual and unusually satisfying.

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