Is a 2 1/2-week vacation for a busy financial advisor too much to ask for? How about 2 1/2 years?
That’s how long Scott Leonard spent on a 50-foot catamaran sailing from Florida to Australia with stops at dozens of exotic ports of call along the way.
And that long absence apparently only made the hearts of his high-net-worth client base grow fonder: he didn’t lose any clients and indeed gained an additional 5 to 8 clients a year from 2011 to 2013, the years Leonard, his wife and three sons set out on their seafaring adventure.
Back from his voyage only four months, the principal of Redondo Beach, Calif.-based RIA Navigoe is hitting the dry land running with the publication of his new book, just out, called “The Liberated CEO: The 9-Step Program to Running a Better Business so it Doesn’t Run You.”
“I’m so energized to be back in the business,” Leonard tells ThinkAdvisor in a phone interview.
“Leading up to this trip, the whole marketing and growth part of the business was put on hold. The whole design of the business was to allow me to take this trip. I’m 47 now but I feel like I’m 28 again. I’m so rejuvenated. It’s incredible to feel this way again,” he says, comparing the feeling to that of a new college graduate with boundless time and energy but no money, the difference being that this time he indeed has some money.
In a world in which many business people, advisors especially, don’t permit themselves a week away with the family without carrying their cellphone everywhere, the success of Leonard’s experiment would seem to validate his business management principles — most particularly the idea of designing one’s business to allow for such a trip.
Indeed, the initial planning began some 13 years ago, when Leonard’s eldest son, Griffin, was born. Leonard, who early on cultivated a high-end practice — his average portfolio size is about $2 million — was struck by the comments from more than one of his wealthy business owner clients to the effect that:
“If I could do it all over again, I’d give up my wealth to have that time again with my kids.
I just don’t have the relationship with my kids that I want to,” he recalls them saying.
“That really resonated with me,” he says, especially since his own father died at 48 of a heart attack, leading him to worry about his own longevity.
He hearkened back to his childhood dream of circumnavigating the globe, and to the dreams he shared with his wife, Mandy, when they met, and proposed to his wife that they take that trip at a time when their kids would be old enough to enjoy it but not too old for it to interfere with their high school education.
Without any hesitation, Mandy agreed, and they had years to plan for the day that Griffin, Jake and Luke (now 13, 12 and 8) would spend 2 1/2 years homeschooling at sea, touring exotic lands and living a life of adventure.
But the question advisors are probably asking is how do you run a business with $250 million in discretionary assets under management from the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia?
“It was a deliberate process,” says Leonard, a financial planner and DFA Funds acolyte. “The key thing that needed to happen was that the relationships needed to be transferred from myself to the company. Clients needed to look to the company for answers instead of me.”
While that might sound like a straightforward concept, that message didn’t always go over easily when Leonard began telling clients of his plans in 2009 — during the depths of the Great Recession.
“I’m gonna take a 3-year sailing trip around the world — I hope you’re cool with that,” he jokingly recalls.
More seriously, a few clients responded: “That’s great. I respect that. But we’ll have to take our assets and go.”
So Leonard explained all that he had put into place to make his business, then known as Leonard Wealth Management, stronger and better.
“Before…all they had was Scott Leonard, CFP,” which he told them was problematic if he were hit by the proverbial bus.