What you’re supposed to do

(This is going to be a little off topic. Sorry.)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of catching up with the always thoughtful Carl Richards of Behavior Gap/Sketch Guy fame. If you’re not familiar with Carl, well, you should be. Read both of his books, check out his NYT column, enjoy his artwork. Carl is a rare breed. A CFP, author, columnist to be sure. But also an intelligent, thoughtful, slow moving guy trying to figure out finance and investing and life and people. He’s a good guy to catch up with, in short.

Carl asked me how things were going with Bason and I told him, in short, they couldn’t be better. That I have great clients and have had incredible growth (by my standards) and I was winding down the growth phase, slowing down the pace of new client onboarding, shifting focus. This led to a good discussion about what one is “supposed to do” at this point in the cycle.

You see, right now I’m “supposed” to be ramping up. I should be adding staff, other advisors, marketing more heavily. I’m “wasting opportunities” and all that. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying” they say. I am in an unusual position and doing an unusual thing. I have somehow managed to build a fairly successful practice and I’m not pushing hard to turn it into a billion dollar firm. I have two possible roads today. One, to slow down growth, enjoy the practice and the balance it provides to my life. Two, pursue more growth, probably make more money, work longer hours and end up managing a bigger enterprise of other advisors, support staff and everything that goes with it.

I’ve long said I’m going to choose option #1 and I still am. Even as recently as this weekend I was presented with an opportunity to bring on a very solid, ethical, outstanding advisor who is also a friend of mine, and ultimately decided against it. It would have been a good fit and would have expanded the firm, increased revenues and allowed for a higher profile for the firm. But that path simply isn’t what I have in mind for this firm, which will stay small and remain being something I can and want to manage.

Carl asked me why I think I chose this path, why it seems easy for me (it’s not really) to say no to more growth, more revenue, more visibility. I’ve written before about having enough, on the personal value of being satisfied and contented, which is part of it. But another part of it is knowing when not to listen to what most people tell you to do. People told me I was crazy to serve a $2,000,000 client for $4,500 a year and I did it anyhow. I’m sure plenty of people think I’m crazy for turning away eager clients because I am running out of personal capacity and satisfied with the firm’s size, but I’m doing that too.

Having good outside counsel is important in life. But more important is making sure you know who to listen to, that they know what you are trying to accomplish and what you want from life and business. The crowd is often right, but as Tim Maurer has said, personal finance is more personal than finance. I think that applies to a great many things.



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