Part of the mystery of modern air travel is wondering who you’re going to wind up sitting next to and how annoying they’re going to be. There’s no telling what John Waldron thought when on a flight in 1999 he saw that his seat was next to a couple with an eight-month old child returning from vacation.
As often happens he began chatting with the father, Krishna Pendyala, who was seated next to him, and they talked about what each did. Pendyala explained that he vice chairman and chief technology officer of MediaSite, a video search and retrieval company he had helped found. Waldron mentioned that one of his clients was a former chairman of the FCC and asked if Pendyala would like to meet him. Much to his surprise, Waldron called about two weeks later to tell him he had set up a meeting with the client who agreed to join Pendyala’s advisory board.
Pendyala’s not na??ve enough to think that as a business owner who had already sold one successful company that he wasn’t a potential client for Waldron, “but I never felt like he was hitting me up,” he says.
Time went on and as the two continued to talk and share perspectives on their respective businesses, they found common interests and developed a friendship. One of Pendyala’s interests has long been mentoring and coaching and he recalls predicting to Waldron in one of their early conversations that the human side of the client would become as important to his business in the coming years as managing their wealth.
A short while later he accepted an offer to sell MediaSite to a company based in Madison, Wisconsin. After years of having been his own boss, he now found himself as an employee, commuting several days a week from Pittsburgh to Madison. By that time he had two children and felt that the strain it was putting on his family was too high a price to pay, but he wasn’t sure he could afford to quit the job.
He wanted to know what was the minimum amount of money he needed to make in order to maintain his standard of living. It turned out not to be a simple question. He went to the manager of his portfolio, but he
only managed money. He went to another advisor whose replies all had to do with retirement, not current income. He went to a wirehouse “advisor” and says he felt like he had walked onto a used car lot.
“Finally I said, ‘I know John [Waldron], let me ask him.’ He said, ‘we do that all the time. That’s basically called cash flow-based planning.’ So they did a 20-year cash flow to answer the question, ‘what is the minimum amount that I need?’ Apparently, rarely does somebody ask that. It’s usually, “how can you grow, how can you do this, how can you do that?’” So what they prepared told me, ‘okay, you can quit that firm.’