The Washington Monument is an obelisk located in the National Mall in Washington, D.C..  It was built to commemorate George Washington, once Commander-In-Chief of the American Revolutionary War and the First President of the United States of America.  Construction began in 1848 but was halted for 23 years due to lack of funds.  It stood an abysmal 150 feet when construction was stopped, far short of its intended height of 555 feet.  Funds were eventually raised, both from private and government resources, and construction resumed in 1877.  However, due to the lapse in time, marble and granite had to be sourced from a different site, and the difference in hue from 150 feet to the top is still visible to this day.

In the late 90s, the monument underwent an extensive restoration project including cleaning, repairing and repointing the monument’s exterior.  The question was asked at one point as to why the exterior stone had degenerated to the extent that it had.  Most marble and granite in other monuments built around that same timeframe were still in good shape.  But the Washington Monument had deteriorated much faster.  By then, the National Park Service was appointed as the operator and maintainer of the structure and surrounding grounds.  So, what does the government do when there’s a problem?  They form a committee to study the matter!  The appointed committee initially found that there appeared to be a large concentration of pigeons around the monument.  And where there’s pigeons…well, there’s pigeon poo.  Lots of it.  The monument was covered with it.  And the poo contains stuff that just makes things deteriorate faster than usual.

But, that begged the question…why were there so many pigeons at the Washington Monument?

The committee set out to study the matter and low and behold they discovered, there was a large concentration of moths in the area.  So much so that they’d lay their eggs in the nooks and cranny’s and porous crevices of the structure, which ended up being a tasty dinner for the pigeons.  A never ending smorgasbord of food for the winged fowl.

But, that begged the question…why were there so many moths at the Washington Monument?

The committee set out to study the matter and low and behold they discovered that moths…like light.  The Monument was first lit mid last century, well… to make it look cool.  Little did anyone ever imagine, lights are warm, moths like warmth, and hence the large concentration of the maddening insect in the area.

The Monument is now lit with cooler bulbs, like LEDs, and while this has solved some of the problem, it still persists to this day.  It will be some future generation’s issue to deal with all over again!

Which brings me to my topic of Root Cause Analysis.  As inferred by the name, it’s the process of peeling back the layers until you get to the heart of the issue.  In the case of the Washington Monument, it was the pigeons…no I mean the moths…umm, nope…the lights.  But Root Cause Analysis just isn’t used for finding out the root of something that’s bad.  It can also be very helpful when analyzing what went right as well.

The first week of January of this year, our firm crossed over $300 million is assets under management.  This is a fancy way of saying the total value of all money our clients are entrusting us to manage.  To some, a very small number.  To me, it’s astounding.  20 years ago, my business partner, Adam Zuercher, and I set out to start a wealth management firm.  We wanted to help people manage their money, and we felt a passion and desire in our hearts to start a business that would be different from others.  And while I could spend many thousand words explaining all the nuances of the ‘root cause’ of our success.  It think it suffices to address what I believe to be at the very core of the analysis.  When one peels back the layers of how two high school buddy’s from Pandora who started with $0 assets under management, 0 clients, a telephone and a computer who ran our sparkling new business out of a spare bedroom in Adam’s house; to where we are today…I think it boils down to the 4 Core Values that we created and have tried to live out since the start of our business.

  • Honor God.
    • In the Book of Matthew in the Bible, there’s the Parable of the Bags of Gold (Matthew 25:14-30).  The Master entrusted wealth to 3 servants.  The first servant invested well and doubled his Master’s investment.  The Master replied, “Well done.”  The 2nd servant also invested well.  The Master replied, “Well done” again.  The 3rd servant hid his Master’s wealth in the ground and gained nothing.  The Master replied, “You’re lazy.”  Our desire is to honor God by stewarding our business well.
  • Integrity.
    • Do the right thing even when no one is looking. Do what you say your going to do.  Take responsibility for your actions, even when you’re wrong.  Don’t make excuses, own it.
  • Professionalism.
    • Be competent. Get your designation.  Keep up with your Continuing Education.  Treat others the way you would want to be treated.  We’re managing money, dress like you care.
  • Excellence.
    • Go above and beyond. Be remarkable.  Don’t settle for average.  Put 2 feet on the ground every day to outperform.  Put a smile on someone’s face.  Be an encourager.  Present yourself well.  Be confident, yet humble.

These 4 Core Values have guided our path these past 20 years.  I believe our team has lived them out each and every day.  They serve as the root cause of our success.  And we believe in continuing to live them out to the best of our ability for the next 20!