When people I’ve just met learn what I do for a living, their first question inevitably is “Where should I invest?” After I explain that I am not an investment advisor and don’t make stock picks nor give general investing recommendations, I do point out that there is no “secret” to investing, no quick way to wealth. Instead, I tell them that you have to do the basics: save more than you spend and do so consistently and over time. Jumping in and out of the market is a formula for disaster, and to diversify any investments you might have. If they haven’t yet moved on to some other person at the cocktail party, I tell them that the only way to have a chance at real wealth building is to start your own business. Taking that risk, putting your money and your energy and your time toward building a business, is the best way to not only increase your chances of eventual monetary success, but also to be in control of your life. I’ve worked at enough owner-operated small businesses over the years to know that running your own business is intensely time-consuming. In fact, it can be all-consuming.
While much of the practice management content in this magazine and on AdvisorOne.com is meant to help you run a more efficient business, to help you pick the right partners, to help you grow your business, to make your practice less all-consuming, I’m well aware that many of you are quite happy to have a practice that affords you enough of an income to meet your needs and those of your family while also serving a manageable number of clients.
However, you can have a practice that provides you with the lifestyle you want, and also be a better businessperson. In fact, I’d suggest there’s a moral imperative to doing so. As Mark Tibergien said in an interview about his new book, many advisors are “process-oriented in their craft, but not in how they run their business.” Since Tibergien is not afraid to call a spade a spade, he has “no problem with solo practitioners,” and if “mediocrity is your goal, that’s easy to attain.” Is that your goal? After all, he suggests, “it’s your call; just be good” at the business model you choose.
I’d only add that your clients will be affected by that model you choose, not just now, but when you are no longer running your practice. There’s a near-sacred trust that you have with your clients that must outlive your mortal years. You owe it to your clients and their families to ensure that the services you provide will continue at a high level even if you get run over by a bus tomorrow.
Banks, insurance companies and asset management firms traditionally touted their years in business and their landmark headquarters buildings in New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco as signs of their longevity and financial strength. The financial crisis which spelled doom and government subsidized bailouts for Lehman Brothers, AIG and others put the lie to the notion that big buildings and respected pedigrees ensure any kind of guarantee that those firms would always be there for their clients and customers. What are you doing to ensure your clients that you will always take care of them?