10 from 10
10 lessons/thoughts from my 10 year anniversary
th, 2015, this Saturday, is my 10
th anniversary of opening ClientFirst Strategy, Inc. Believe me; the time went by in the blink of an eye. But when I was in the thick of it, like the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed, the European debt crisis, flash crashes, and so many other perilous happenings, time didn't seem to be going by fast enough. Only by looking back does the retrospective clock truly spin a mile a minute.
Some say survival is a noble cause. Being a business owner, let alone owning an investment firm during some of the country's most tumultuous economic times, is humbling. So I say yes, survival is noble. Anyone who can't see that, I feel, hasn't grown up yet. And if you are shaking your head in agreement with me, right this very moment while you're reading this, then you get what I'm saying. Going out on my own with two kids, one more on the way, a mortgage to pay; there never was the "perfect" time. Luckily for me, I have an incredibly supportive wife (we recently celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary), whose confidence in me has no bounds. Also, I had already built a loyal clientele - In a world of "what have you done for me lately", loyalty is an asset that I cannot put a price tag on, but I know it is the rarest and most precious commodity on Wall Street. The go on my own decision paid off more than I could have ever hoped. The personal growth I've experienced was an unexpected and wonderful side effect. I am sure I never would have had that growth, had it not been for becoming a business owner and claiming my own slice of the American dream.
In 10 years it has been - 40 calendar quarters - Over 100,000 pages of account statements - Countless economic statistics - 1,000's and 1,000's of market and programmed trades - over 100 media quotes, published articles, rants, and musings . I don't mark time by any of these. I do mark time with moments when my clients became parents and grandparents. When my clients drove their child to college for the first time, paid for with the investment accounts we set up years in advance. When they got a promotion. When they got fired. When they just moved on to a new career. When they bought their first house; when they sold the house they raised their family in. When they moved to a 55+ community. When they opened their own business. When they sold their business. When their kids officially took over the family business. When they inherited money. When they gifted money. When they lossed a loved one. I have wept with some of them and occasionally, for some of them. Engagement announcements, communions, Bar and Bas Mitzvah's, weddings, fighting illnesses, funerals, and the list goes on. I've seen clients, beautiful and highly intelligent people, become cognitively impaired. I've had a front row seat to their lives. Yes, it adds up to a lot of time that I've marked. It has been my absolute honor and privilege.
Dad once said to me "if you do business right, your customers will become your friends". He also said "you don't know someone until you do business with them". Man O' man, was he ever right. Funny how 12 years after his passing, the things he said make more sense now than ever. Now, before I get too philosophical on you, let me proceed to the top 10 things/thoughts I've learned in the last 10 years. But just one more thing to get out of the way: Thank you to my clients. I can only hope I have had as much of an impact on your life as you have had on mine. I am lucky to call you friend and my life is better because you're in it. If you are not a client, you reading this means you've come along for the ride and it has been a great one. I thank you too!
- I learned what my value proposition is. You'd think I'd have this down before I actually opened up shop, but luckily, my clients got it - even before I did. They came along for the ride because they understood immediately that the firm I was opening was their firm! It was all about them and for their gain right from the beginning. It was everything they wanted in a firm - unbiased advice, a highly experienced advisor, a networker, market intelligence, a really good listener and communicator, shunning of esoteric investment products, and above all, someone who is a human being first, a financial professional second.
- The name of the firm counts big time - more than I expected. Piggy backing off lesson # 1, I named the firm after my clients - "ClientFirst Strategy". I could've named it M.G. Investments or some other variation of my name to pump up my ego, but that's not what this endeavor was about. It was about opening a firm to benefit its clients. Period.
- Writing is critical. I don't know how someone can be a steward of others' financial assets without writing. It clarifies one's thoughts, it lets EVERYONE know where you stand, it tells EVERYONE where you are going, it means you are an open person and you are making calls with an open hand. Above all, it means you are educating others, even those who may occasionally compete with you for business. And that's OK, because I see it as paying it forward, my good luck.
- Technology is very important. Seems obvious enough, but let me expand on this. You don't have to spend a fortune on it and in almost every case, off the shelf stuff works more than well. Software is so advanced today, that the need to hire programmers for customization is pretty much non-existent. I don't have the type of firm that services 100's of thousands clients, so I can skip most of the enterprise level CRM software. There are, however, plenty of industry specific software subscription services available to me that I use. One service I'd like to point out is Go To Meeting. This has been phenomenal. I have always been big on technology and I use it, speaking in broad terms, constantly to help me manage my business.
- The right partnership is critical. Another seemingly obvious one, right? When I went on my own, I researched independent Broker/Dealers/Registered Investment Advisors (firms set up to be the back office for someone like me). When I tell other industry members that I am with the first independent I ever went with nearly 10 years ago, they are amazed. NEXT Financial Group, Inc. has been an amazing partner for me. They keep promises and exceed my expectations daily. They are always researching new technology offerings, the latest in continuing education, and treating my clients with the greatest respect. The firm is open to my ideas and has given me the freedom to customize my business so it runs perfectly aligned with my clients' goals. In particular, their compliance professionals handle my content approvals, be it written, video, or social media, as if it is the most important thing in their world. Bottom line - the people at NEXT are wonderful professionals.
- Be great at crisis management. Because after the initial consultation(s), and after the initial paperwork to set up the new account is in place, things are expected to run smoothly. Until a crisis hits, that is. A crisis is your opportunity to be exceptional! Don't let a good crisis go to waste, as the old expression goes. Make phone calls, send emails, and write an update that explains what is going on, how you interpret it, ways in which you expect it to be resolved, and what actions you are taking or plan to take.
- Networking. A long time ago, the Boy Scouts of America used to run television ads saying "if you don't think scouting is worthwhile, then you don't know enough about scouting". Same exact thing applies to networking. I don't mean connive, lie, or bull**** your way into peoples' lives! I mean keep it real - help people meet the people they want to meet. Break bread with other business people; learn about them. Networking is all about building lasting relationships. But don't wait for someone else to do something nice for you. YOU should be the spark - do something nice for others and others will reciprocate. Or, as my own expression goes, "Never miss an opportunity to be a mensch"
- Be consistent. On the converse of that, don't go for the Sunday punch in your brand awareness and other marketing activities. Doing one big thing will be forgotten very quickly. But showing up consistently at events and consistently writing/producing content will get you remembered.
- Volunteerism is amazing. But don't do it just for business. You won't have the desire or means to keep up with the responsibilities required of you if you aren't truly passionate about the cause.
- Never stop learning! Well, here we are at #10 already. Become the leading expert in your business. Your customers and prospects will soon come to realize that you are a trusted resource in your field. Who wouldn't want to do business with someone like that?
Good bye to the last 10 years. Here's to the next 10 years!
Your thoughts are valuable! Email me to let me know what you think of this. I'll reply!
Have a question about your investments? Ask me. Let's talk!
Interested in a topic you'd like to read more about? Let me know.
I opened ClientFirst Strategy, Inc. in order to offer unbiased advice and investment management expertise. To find out how I may help you improve your potential to succeed in reaching your financial goals, please call or email me.
All the views expressed in this report/commentary accurately reflect our personal views about any and all of the subject securities or issuers and no part of our compensation was, is, or will be, directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendations or views we have expressed in this report. This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase of sale of any security or other financial instrument. Securities, financial instruments, or strategies mentioned herein may not be suitable for all investors. Any opinions expressed herein are given in good faith, are subject to change without notice, and are only correct as of the stated date of their issue. Prices, values, or income from securities or investments mentioned in this report may fall against your interests, and you may get back less than the amount you invested. The information contained in this report does not constitute advice on the tax consequences of making any particular investment decision. You should consult with your tax adviser regarding your specific situation. Diversification is a method of managing risk and doesn't protect against loss in a down market. This email is intended to reach only those in the following states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, IL, IN, KS, KY,LA, MD, MT, NJ, NM, NY, PA, TX, VA, WA. If you are a resident of a state not included in this list, please reply email so I may add your state or please opt-out.