“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Mark Twain (American Writer)
My business partner, Adam Zuercher, and I started our business out of a spare bedroom in Adams’ house with zero clients, zero investments to manage, a desk, a phone…and a passion in our hearts to help investors make wise decisions with their money. Well, that’s a lot of zeroes. You see, the thing about a wealth management business is that you can’t operate with zero clients. And if you have zero clients, you have none of anyone’s money to manage. And with no money to manage, there’s no revenue to collect. It’s a recipe for excitement, hard work, and anxiety. Not necessarily in that order.
Adam had quit his job at a local CPA firm and launched our business in August of 2002. The hope was that there would be enough business around that I could join soon. I finished out my last tax season at a different CPA firm and started with Adam in April of 2003. And, business started coming in. However, the way that we set our firm up was slow slogging. You see, there’s 2 ways of getting paid in this business: 1) commissions and 2) management fees. The former was a quick way to gain revenue, as you could sell a financial product and collect a hefty commission to stuff the coffers. The latter was slower…only charge a small percentage of the investments we’d manage. But we knew it was best for our clients; not to sell them a product, but to offer comprehensive wealth management to steward their financial lives for a small fee. It was slower, but it was right.
Rewind to 2003 and it was the days of cold calls. We had engaged with other successful people in our industry, and they had recommended that cold calling would generate the clients needed to sustain our start-up business. And with that, we bought a curated call list of prospective clients that would surely fill our firm with qualified leads.
Truth be told, cold calling sucks. There’s just something that doesn’t feel right about it. But we were determined to make this thing go…so we ate the frog. Our goal was to make 100 calls per day. And that’s what we did. Now, you haven’t felt rejection unless you’ve made cold calls. Some were decently kind in telling us to buzz off. Some were a bit meaner about it. I didn’t blame them. They just didn’t want to be bothered.
Then, it happened. In June of 2003, registration for the FTC’s National Do Not Call list began. Enforcement started in October of that year. Undeterred by our cause, we purchased a service that you’d dial into first before making the call. It would determine if the number you were dialing was on the Do Not Call list before it’d let the call go through. And out of our 100 calls, a vast majority of them were blocked. We had to find another way.
In late 2003, we’d decided that moving our office to Findlay would help. It did, but it wasn’t any easier. After netting anemic results from our cold calling campaign, we hit the streets. Whenever possible, we’d schedule lunches with attorneys and CPAs and other centers of influence. We attended networking events. We joined non-profit boards not only to give of our time and service, but to get to know people as well. Some of those connections were meaningful, some of them, not a good use of our time. But we continued, day after day. Giving up on our dream wasn’t in our DNA.
And somewhere between then and now, 20 years has elapsed. In that time, we’ve been blessed to have served around 300 client households while helping them steward around $300 million of their investments. And the journey continues. We’re not done. Bigger frogs await😉 There’s more clients that need our services, more opportunities the market will provide, more team members to join us in our mission.
Can’t wait! The Best Is Ahead!