Two years ago this week I gave notice at my previous employer, moved my family across town, filed the registration for this firm and found out we were going to have our second little one. Without question it was the best professional decision of my life. Apparent risks aside, I am now in an environment of my own creating, one where I can provide clients with what I truly believe to be the best advice in a fee arrangement that I feel is most appropriate and has fewer conflicts of interest than traditional structures.
From time to time I get a familiar question from new clients and prospective clients: “You’re going to be around, right?” I can see the apparent concerns of working with a young sole proprietor. Is he in this for the long run? Is the business model viable? Will he be around for us in 10 years? 20 years? I have always done my best to quell these fears. I enjoy my work, I have created a wonderful work-life balance for myself and I cannot see myself going back to a traditional wealth management firm (or, quite frankly, working for anyone else other than my clients). This leaves the “Is the business model viable?” question remaining.
On the surface I find this somewhat hilarious. Many of my clients are so accustomed to paying 1% fees that it seems inconceivable that an advisor can successfully earn a living and grow a viable business with flat annual retainer fees. This despite the fact that literally thousands of attorneys and CPAs in this country build businesses and feed their families with hourly and/or retainer fees for professional services. So my answer is “of course it is viable” but sometimes that is insufficient. As a result, I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit and show you.
Here’s my 2-year revenue growth through 8/21/14. I removed the scale for personal privacy. The firm’s registration was official in November 2012. Currently my year-over-year revenue growth is around 100%.
As you can see, things here are just fine. The model is sustainable and I am very happy with it (as are, I believe, many clients). My margins are healthy as it is possible to run an efficient business with the help of technology and good systems and practices.
Truly, I enjoy my work. I am about to sit down with an existing client to review their pension and social security claiming options and cover a few other topics, and I am looking forward to seeing them and working through their questions together. Now that I am practicing in an environment of my own creation where I am free to give the best advice I can and feel quite comfortable with my fee arrangement, I have no desire to hang this up and start anew somewhere else (corporate finance? tax? math teacher? post-graduate education again? Shudder.).
And after the meeting when my notes are complete and I’ve made sure I’ve gotten back to all calls and emails, I’ll likely be out on the trails this afternoon. Who would give this up?