Sometimes I get asked how I came to be in the investment advisory business. So I thought I would use that as a prompt for a post here.
After getting out of the Army, I spent some time raising my kids at home. My wife, who is still in the Army, was in law school. Moving around often is very difficult on employment prospects for military spouses, and the rate of unemployment is high. At the time I knew I wanted to do something in the world of investments, but not exactly sure what, or even how to go about that. I simply started investing on my own — reading just about everything I could get my hands on. (Of course, including all the great books like Security Analysis, etc.)
After a few years, I purchased a couple of private businesses. I already had an MBA — but let me tell you that nothing in the MBA education can compare to running a business yourself. When you own your own business, are making payroll for employees, managing inventory, and paying taxes, you get a far better understanding of how businesses work. Put in more financial nerdy terms: when the cash flow from operations is negative and you have to fund the losses yourself, it becomes far less abstract than just looking at financial statements. I made some pretty drastic changes and learned a lot through the process.
Alas, it was time to move, so those businesses closed, and I sold off all the assets. Throughout the entire process, I kept a focus on investing. I began to engage with some management teams, especially ones I had a large position in. I enjoyed talking with people in the world of finance and those who were running the companies that I was investing in.
Because of these experiences, I thought I would be a great fit in the world of finance. I called someone who worked with a very large firm to ask how to do so. He told me what I already knew — it would be exceptionally difficult to be in the finance business and move around… that it is just not conducive to how the business operates.
Well, I found that to be an unacceptable answer. I am an entrepreneur, so I decided to start my own firm. I did a little research on how do so. I drove to the local testing center and passed the Series 65 exam. When we moved to our next location, I formed my own Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm and was able to get exactly two people who are long-time friends to invest a small amount with me.
A few years passed, and it was time to move again. This is actually a bit of a pain from a regulatory perspective because when you are a small firm, you register with a state, and when you move you have to register in the new state. Anyway, that is what I did.
We had landed in Leavenworth, and that is where I decided to set up a physical office. Along the way, I picked up a PhD in Business Management.
Now, I had learned in my prior endeavors to control costs ruthlessly. So I became somewhat of a beast on keeping all costs as low as possible. Once my wife had decided to retire from the Army in Leavenworth, we bought a building to give a permanent home for the firm – I wouldn’t have to worry about leases, landlords, etc, and I could spend all of my time focusing
There are some significant benefits to having my own firm. I don’t have to raise large amounts of capital to make someone in “corporate” happy; I don’t have to justify my own job. I work solely for my clients. And to that point, the most important part of owning your own firm is getting the right clients. To me, that means having clients that are interested in achieving long-term results, who realize that investment is not chasing after the investment that everyone else is talking about. It’s important to me to have clients that realize that in the investment world, activity is not achievement — and invariably leads to suboptimal outcomes.
So I guess the firm I have created is a bit of a throwback. But I don’t think I would have it any other way.