Chugging along Florida’s Atlantic coast in a rented RV, the recently engaged financial planning power-couple Norm Boone and Linda Lubitz weren’t on a relaxed vacation planning their upcoming wedding. The motor home, which drives more like an overstuffed U-Haul than a sleek land cruiser, was on its way to the first in a series of seven house calls.
“I had a new client in Gainesville [a well-known professional athlete] who wanted his wife to meet us,” Lubitz explains, “and I don’t know a thing about sports.” Norm happened to be in Miami that week, so the two decided to meet with the new client together–it didn’t hurt that Boone is athletically well-versed.
The trip ended up being one of the best experiences they’ve had, Lubitz says, though she wasn’t entirely sure how her clients would react to their mode of transportation. “It was On the Road With Norm and Linda,” she laughs. “We were driving up in this big old RV and thinking it was silly, but the clients thought it was a great idea. They loved it,” Lubitz declares. “We spent one night in one client’s driveway with long extension cords plugged into their house; other nights we stayed in an RV park just 40 feet from the ocean.”
While road trips are a bit out of the ordinary for most advisors, traveling is second nature to Lubitz, 55, and Boone, 58, co-authors of the book Creating an Investment Policy Statement–Guidelines and Templates (FPA Press, 2004). In fact, it’s such a passion that they have established a New Year’s Eve tradition of being in unique places when the clock strikes midnight. Three years ago they rented an apartment in Paris on the Champs Elysees, two years ago they were on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and last year they were in Mendocino in Northern California, which was when Norm proposed.
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Lubitz, president and founder of the Lubitz Financial Group in Miami, and Boone, president, founder, and principal of Boone Financial Advisors, Inc., in San Francisco, travel several times a month to be together. “Linda spends every other week in Miami running her business,” Boone says. “She spends the off weeks in the Bay Area as the managing director at my office, and every other week that she is in Miami, I am with her. We spend three of the four weeks a month together.”
Running two successful planning practices on opposite ends of the country has posed some professional and personal challenges for the couple.
Different Goals, Similar Values
As presidents of their respective planning firms, Lubitz and Boone agree they have different management practices and business goals, but also have similar values. “Norm once said he was surprised at how different our implementation styles are,” Lubitz says. “I am a little weaker at closing the deals and getting the money in than Norm might be.”
Lubitz describes Boone as more growth oriented and business focused; he has spent the last five years setting up systems to help his firm grow rapidly over the next five to 10 years. As of now, his firm has about $250 million in assets under management.
“I would like to add successful advisors who are tired of being out there on their own and want to join a team,” he explains. He anticipates housing a number of advisors around the San Francisco Bay area and “providing them with a hub of services such as investment management, financial planning, technology, personnel,” and so forth.
Boone and Lubitz are working with a coach to help them lay out a plan for their businesses. “She’s helping me decide if I should shrink or grow my practice in Miami,” Lubitz says. “I love going out and getting clients; I love meeting with them. But my staff often tells me that I can be an impediment to administrative progress. To some extent, a financial planning firm mirrors [the management style of] its leader.”
Linda is a marketing machine, Boone interjects. “She will walk down the street and collect clients before she gets to the end of the block.”
Lubitz’s firm is about half the size of Boone’s, with $120 million in assets under management. “I went through a deliberate process when we decided to be life partners,” she explains. “It became apparent that Norm’s firm is dominant and that I would spend more time in California than he does in Miami. The question became, what does that mean for my business? My coach was amazed my staff and clients stayed with me during this uncertainty.”
Boone and Lubitz have spent a lot of time deciding whether Lubitz should sell her business. They discussed everything from reducing her client list and turning away all referrals to laying out a growth plan and maintaining both practices. After what she describes as a very emotional process, Lubitz decided to maintain and build her business. Currently, Boone has 13 employees while Lubitz has six. “I decided it would be stupid to cast away this business that I have been working very hard at for the last 15 years. I have developed a pretty good reputation in Miami,” she says. “I have been here for 35 years and know a lot of people. I feel a responsibility to my clients and my staff.”
To accommodate her decision, Lubitz has hired a new director of operations to take over some of her workload and to provide her with more time to spend with clients. Lubitz has also changed her schedule and will alternate every two weeks between Miami and San Francisco.
“I haven’t determined how big I want to get,” she adds. “A typical CFP can work with 80 to 90 clients. That offers some good growth potential, but I don’t have a vision of growing too large.”