Anyone familiar with independent advisors knows the pioneering roles played by James Budros and Peggy Ruhlin in everything from sharing their insights with their peers to birthing the Financial Planning Association.
What you may not know is how prescient those planners were in transforming their Columbus, Ohio-based practice into a juggernaut of a business with $2.2 billion in assets under management and 55 employees. Even 30 years ago, they weren’t just building a successful planning firm for today; they were planning for when they wouldn’t be running the firm.
Budros, Ruhlin & Roe’s succession plan has worked because of the “generosity of Jim Budros,” says Brian Jack, vice president of operations for BRR, who’s been with the firm for 18 years (people tend to have long tenures there: co-CEO John Schuman is also an 18-year veteran).
Budros sold his stake in the company to several younger employees as part of a 30-year plan, Jack reports. “We’re executing the same plan with Peggy [Ruhlin] now”— Ruhlin becomes chair on July 1 — and “in 12 years we’ll do the same with Dan,” says Jack, referring to Dan Roe, co-CEO and chief investment officer.
The company’s leadership isn’t averse to bringing in leaders from outside the firm, however. Earlier this year it named Scott Rister, a veteran Charles Schwab & Co. executive, as president.
But it’s not just executing a thoughtful succession plan that sets BRR apart. About 20 years ago, Ruhlin decided to focus on the company’s business side rather than serving individual clients, despite her initial misgivings. Budros and Roe followed her path away from day-to-day client interactions, though Jack points out that all three continue to attend client meetings when appropriate.
Ruhlin’s sense that it was “important to be running things as well behind the scenes” as in front of clients informs BRR’s strategy, says Jack. “And that’s when we started to transform from a practice to a business,” he recalls.