| September 19, 2016

Money & Career

10 People Every Man Should Have in His Rolodex

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On top of the desk of a mid-century man, you’d find a few essentials: a fountain pen, a framed family photo, a coffee mug, and, a Rolodex.

A Rolodex held a bunch of easy-to-access index cards upon which its owner had written the contact information of folks who were handy to know, both professionally and personally. It wasn’t so much for friends and family; you generally (at least in those days) memorized their contact info and could dial them up at any time.

But say you needed an electrician. Or a lawyer. Or a clergyman. Rather than digging through the phone book, you’d simply look through your Rolodex for the information of someone you had contact with in the past. Maybe not regular contact, but enough to know each other when a need arose. Through time and experience, you’d come to have a network of reliable folks in different domains who you could count on.

In the 21st century, the physical Rolodex has become outdated, but its useful concept has not.

Today, it seems we simply call or visit whoever pops up first in a Google search — trying a new provider every time there’s a problem — rather than establishing long-term relationships with different vendors or advisors. But as documented below, it pays off (sometimes literally) to get to know certain people and professionals that you can return to for various services and guidance throughout your life.

Below are the 10 people every man should have in his Rolodex, er, smartphone.

Lawyer

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Unlike many of the types listed here — where just one person’s all you need to represent a certain domain — you do probably need multiple lawyers in your Rolodex, depending on your circumstances. Some attorneys will have multiple specialties, and some will work in firms that can offer various services, but you often need multiple contacts in the field: an estate planning lawyer, a family lawyer if you’re divorced, a small business lawyer if you’re an entrepreneur, etc. Even if you don’t know several different lawyers, keeping in contact with at least one will still come in handy — he’ll probably be able to point you to a vast wealth of resources and/or acquaintances for specialized concerns that might come up.

While many people are intimidated by lawyers and anxious about anything legal-related, having a lawyer in your Rolodex will give you the freedom to just make a phone call when anything potentially damaging or nefarious pops up in your life. Rather than combing through digital white pages, you can rest assured that you have a trusted contact to guide you in the right direction.

Please, stay away from the personal injury guys you see advertised on TV. As with all the fellows listed below, your best bet for finding a good lawyer is to ask around to your friends and colleagues. When you find some contacts in the field, feel free to interview them. Do your personalities click? Legal matters are often personal, even when business related, so you don’t really want someone who bothers you. Are they willing to work with you and educate you rather than just charge for every minute of conversation and piece of advice dispensed? While it may take some time, finding a good lawyer is certainly worth it in the long run.

Accountant

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Accountants, in many people’s minds, fall into the same general category as lawyers. They’re sort of intimidating because they’re dealing with things that can have harsh consequences when done improperly. In the accountant’s case, your taxes and financial proceedings.

While the abundance of tax software out there makes it easy to do your taxes on your own, it’s probably worth seeking out a professional, even if your finances are pretty straightforward. They’re likely to save you money on your returns that will easily offset their cost.

And if you have a financial situation that’s even remotely complicated (Entrepreneur? Divorced? Paying for childcare or your own health care? A million other scenarios?) you should absolutely have a professional on your side rather than slogging through taxes on your own. Not only can a professional accountant save you money, they can also make sure you don’t do anything inadvertently illegal, and they simply take a major stress load off your shoulders.

Don’t go to H&R Block or some other strip mall tax prep place. They’ll get the job done okay and make sure your returns are on the up and up, but they generally aren’t going to go to bat for you and think of creative ways to save money on your taxes. Their seasonal employees are often minimally trained and are coached to get as many returns done as possible. Them’s just the facts.

Use referrals from coworkers or neighbors, and also search online directories like Yelp, Angie’s List, and the American Institute of CPAs’ directory. When you find someone, ask for references, licenses/certifications, and about any areas they specialize in — e.g., if you’re a small business owner, you obviously want to find someone who’s adept in that particular field. It’s okay to trust your intuition a little bit in feeling out whether a candidate will be a good match.

Barber

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Most men are content to get their haircut at whatever chain salon they happen to wander into, and accept whatever cut the stylist happens to give them.

A better route, especially as you leave college and begin to get more serious about the importance of your appearance in your professional career and love life, is to develop a long-term relationship with a quality barber who can take your hairstyle up a notch.

Make it a habit to go to a local barbershop and establish a rapport with a barber who specializes in men’s hair, can help you figure out the style you want, and will come to know your unique hair over the course of many cuttings.

Not only will your regular barber provide a good haircut, but usually good conversation (see Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow) and an occasional shave and hot towel as well. As Brett has documented, perhaps no grooming pleasure is greater than visiting a nice barbershop for a shave and a haircut.

While we had to shut down our own AoM crowdsourced barbershop locator (should we resurrect it?), www.barbershopsnearme.com does a pretty good job at finding places for you to check out. Here are some things to consider when you’re trying to figure out if a barber is worth your business and could become your go-to guy.

Also, learning how to talk to your barber will go a long ways in ensuring you get exactly the hairstyle you want, or helping you figure out what you want if you aren’t sure.

Butcher

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Rather than relying on mass-produced grocery store products, every man should have a butcher he can regularly go to for either everyday eats or at the least, weekend barbecues and special gatherings that should utilize a little better fare than what you’d normally get.

You may ask if the difference in flavor is really that great. You betcha!

It’s like drinking a good craft beer vs. Budweiser. Bud is fine, but if you can afford it and good drink is important to you, going craft is always better. In many cases meat from a local butcher will be more expensive, but not terribly so. For a dollar or two more per pound, you get better tasting meat, plus greater customer service and savvier advice. Also, you can often save money by buying packages — say a quarter pig, or a beef package that includes ground, steaks, sausages, etc.

So what do you look for in a good butcher? You want a place that buys whole animals; that way they control its freshness in a way that can’t be done when things are bought vacuum-sealed from a wholesaler. You want to find folks who can talk about where the meat came from and the farms they have relationships with. How’s their customer service? Can you go in with a request like, “I want a good cut of meat to grill that won’t cost an arm and a leg,” or, “I’m cooking for a friend’s birthday; what do you recommend for something unique and special?” and get a thoughtful response? While some grocery meat departments can satisfy these requirements, most can’t. This kind of expert advice, paired with quality meat, will really up your game in the kitchen.

Tailor

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They key to looking good — above all other clothing characteristics — is how a garment fits your body. Fit should always be your first consideration when buying clothing. The problem is that everyone’s body size is different, and it’s unlikely that a standardized size from a department store is going to fit perfectly. And of course most folks can’t afford bespoke clothing. So what’s a man to do?

Find a good tailor.

While buying custom clothes will run you into the triple digits per garment, tailoring an off-the-rack shirt or pair of pants may not cost you more than $20 (can be more or less depending on how many alterations are needed). It’s a reasonable price to pay for having clothes that fit you perfectly.

Using a tailor can also save you money on clothes that used to fit, but don’t any more; rather than buying a new garment after losing/gaining weight, a tailor can let something out, or bring something in, and make it wearable again.

When you first go in to a tailor, you’ll often be asked questions about your style, the accessories you wear, what kind of shoes you tend to like (when altering pants, of course), etc. While some things will change with each garment, a tailor will come to learn how to alter clothes specifically for you without needing a full run-down each time you go in.

You’ll also come to learn the kinds of alterations he can do, as opposed to trying a new shop every time and learning their repertoire on a trial and error basis.

Antonio Centeno has a great article on what to look for when choosing a tailor; check it out to get some tips from a clothier himself.

Auto Mechanic

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It’s hard finding a good, reliable, honest mechanic. It’s often a relationship that comes through the testing of multiple shops and comparing how they all operate/cost. But when you find that good mechanic, boy is it a relationship that you want to hold onto. They’ll not only provide good service, but also honestly tell you what’s going on with your car (rather than sticking to corporately-mandated sales pitches) and if you’re lucky, provide you with some instruction on how your car works.

When you find a mechanic you like, rather than dreading your next visit to the auto-body, you can actually come to look forward to your next “lesson” and know that you aren’t being ripped off. Frankly, it comes as a relief versus having each visit be fraught with the nervous possibility of yet another repair that you just aren’t sure is really necessary. Like with a good dentist, you’ll learn to visit not just when something goes wrong, but when it’s simply time for a check-up or a regular oil change.

When it comes to looking for a mechanic, you’ll have to decide what’s important to you. Timeliness? Cost? Proximity to your home or office? The best mechanic will be a good combination of the three, or you might come to realize that you can compromise on one of those things if the other factors outweigh its importance.

Click here for a full rundown on how to find a good mechanic.

Handyman

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While it’s stereotypical to say, it’s hard to find a contractor or handyman who is reliable and communicates well. Plenty of guys do great work, and do it efficiently, but can’t be trusted to show up when they say they will, or to communicate effectively when questions arise or a quote is needed for another project.

If/when you do find a handyman who’s an ace in the reliability department, hang on to him. While some contracting jobs are specialized for a reason (HVAC, electrical, major plumbing, etc.), there are still a lot of guys out there who can do a little bit of everything. From basic jobs like fixing fences, to major jobs like bathroom renovations, and all sorts of jobs in between, a good handyman and his crew just know how to make things happen. They’ll also be honest about when they need more expertise or when something they do wont be as cost-effective as hiring a specialist. They’ll come to know your house, and you’ll come to trust them to do an honest job when you might be away at work or even on a vacation.

How to go about finding a good handyman? This is a case where it’s particularly wise to stay away from the internet. When searching for “handyman in (insert city)” you’ll often get a website that aggregates handyman contact info. When you call their number, it actually just re-routes to someone who is probably paying to be on that network, and therefore has to charge a higher fee. I frankly don’t know a lot of handymen who have websites, so you’ll probably just have to ask around to find one. If you know a realtor, they’re often a good source since sellers generally need some small handyman services done. Also ask your neighbors (including the Wizened one — more on him below).

When you find some leads, ask for referrals, ask about licenses/certifications, ask about timeframes for various projects, and “test” with small things around the house rather than jumping right in with major renovations.

Pastor/Priest/Spiritual Mentor

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Every man has occasions in his life when some moral guidance is needed. Whether it’s an opportunity for an unethical business deal, a growing desire to have an affair, a sneaking problem with drinking a little too much…or something less disquieting like simply feeling as though you aren’t giving life all it’s worth.

In these instances, every man should have a spiritual or moral advisor he can turn to.

Now, why not just use your spouse or BFF as a confidant? In some cases that’s okay, but every once in a while you need someone who’s impartial. Spouses and friends are often too protective or too loving (or in some unfortunate cases, too self-serving) to give thoughtful, objective advice. They’re just too close to the situation. While pastors or spiritual mentors can be close too, they’re often at least separated enough from the intricacies of your life to be helpful in such scenarios.

If you’re a religious person, the obvious advisor here is your pastor or priest, or perhaps mentor from church. If you’re not a religious person, you should still have someone who can serve as a kind of moral guide and compass in your life. Maybe it’s an ethics professor from college, or even a church pastor who isn’t trying to evangelize to you, but rather gives advice as an impartial observer in times of need. (I in fact know many pastors who have non-religious mentees; it’s a relationship that can and does work!)

Career Mentor

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Men have always needed mentors in their career — guides to navigating office politics and moving up the corporate ladder.

Such mentors are arguably even more crucial in our day and age where the marketplace is so fluid and uncertain, entrepreneurship is common, and workers often not only have to change jobs, but find entirely new careers.

A career mentor can help you figure out which job to take when presented with multiple offers, advise you on whether to keep or leave a less-than-stellar job, give tips on asking for and negotiating raises, and much more.

While supervisors can function in the career mentor role, you can see that it could get tricky and awkward very quickly. While having a good and open relationship with your supervisor is a great thing if you have it, you should have people on your side who aren’t also in charge of your paycheck. As with the spiritual advisor, you want a person who is a little bit separated from the specific scenarios and can give impartial advice.

The career mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be older; it can be a former coworker who you really respect (it could be a current coworker in some situations, but again, it’s safest for this person to be a bit separated). It may also be a former supervisor if it’s someone you really respected and had a good relationship with; being removed from your day-to-day supervision, they can probably act and talk impartially in ways they couldn’t before. The career mentor could also be someone you’ve met at a networking event and struck up a good relationship with, even if they aren’t necessarily in your field of work (sometimes that’s even better — they can provide a totally outside perspective!).

If you don’t have a career mentor, how do you go about finding one? It can be a tricky task. In many cases, you just have to wait for the right timing (perhaps you move on from a job and can use your old supervisor), or simply seek to establish a relationship that has potential to turn into a mentorship. Generally, folks don’t like being asked straight up “Can you be my mentor?” It’s awkward. If you think someone is worthy, offer value to them first, and then follow some of the tips in this article about contacting a busy person. Patience is key; if you’re on the lookout and intentional about it, a mentorship will come along, and likely develop naturally out of a relationship rather than being directly and forcefully established.

Wizened Neighbor

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Every neighborhood has one. That guy on the block who’s been there the longest and seems to know just about everything that goes on. While it borders on Sheriff-like, his knowledge of neighborhood happenings is second to none.

He can probably tell you what kind of tree that is in your front yard, because he was there when it was planted. He’ll scowl at rowdy kids throwing rocks into the street. And he’ll be there to give advice for any kind of question you might have about your premises or the area. Looking for a good steakhouse? He’s your guy. Need to know how to winterize your sprinkler system? You know who to ask.

Whether or not this neighbor is actually wizened, chances are good that you have one within a block or two of where you live. He usually makes himself known either by introducing himself outright when you move in, or by simply being around a lot. Tinkering in the garage with the door open and taking frequent walks are a couple of his trademarks.

While his pervasive presence can at times seem annoying (he seems to just know when you’ve gone on vacation or when you’re having work done inside the house), it can also be extraordinarily helpful. He’s like an encyclopedia for your house and neighborhood, and is always eager to help when you ask.

Knowing him (as well as your other neighbors!) also just makes for good security. When people on the block are friendly (or at least on friendly terms), everyone sort of looks out for each other, especially when someone is out of town. He’ll keep an eye on things for you, generally even if you don’t ask (but really, you should ask).

You probably already know who your wizened neighbor is. Rather than blow him off, seek out a relationship with him. Beyond just being a useful guy to know, he may in fact become part of your friend group for years to come (or if nothing else, your poker group!).

Last updated: May 8, 2017

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