Not Just What. Why?
I’m learning to fly working towards my private pilot license. My instructor is a retired doctor and a no-nonsense, meticulous man of science. This is the guy you want keeping you safe in the air. He’s fair but often quite critical. As we’ve gotten to know each other, he’s taken to the habit of having a little fun at my expense. After a day filled with particularly rough landings, we finally taxied to a stop back at the home hangar. My instructor got out and started looking under the plane and inspecting the wings. “What are you doing?”, I asked. “Just making sure all the parts of the plane came back with us”, he quipped with a wry smile.
Back in the flight room we began to deconstruct where I had gone astray. I knew the steps to safely land the aircraft. But this time I was all screwed up. We had just spent the afternoon bouncing around sky and runway with me in poor control. We determined that although I knew WHAT I was supposed to do, I didn’t necessarily know WHY I was doing it. And there lied the problem. If we do something simply because it’s convention or standard procedure without understanding its purpose, we often go astray.
Segue to our firm. We recently concluded a round of interviews with several local clients. We sought honest feedback on our performance and how we could improve as a firm. Although the majority of the feedback was positive, there was criticism and some recurring messages. In some of this criticism we were blind. Perhaps we’ve been so focused on the WHAT that we missed the WHY. My takeaway of the feedback is that although clients are generally pleased with our performance, they want more communication on their own personal financial situations versus a larger plan. “How long to a comfortable retirement? Are my savings enough? On this course, what will my financial situation be in ten years?” In short, our clients want to see and hear not just the WHAT but the WHY?
The Future of Our Firm
Message received. After much thought and reflection on how to improve, I am quite excited about our path forward. First, we are renaming the firm. Effective June 1, I will be purchasing 100% of the firm and Blackwell Boyd will become Tidal Creek Capital Advisors. After more than 10 years of rapid growth, it’s time. We started our firm as a startup with no dedicated office space and just a handful of clients. Several of you reading this message were clients from those humble beginnings and have seen us grow to a much larger firm.
For existing clients, you will not see a great deal of immediate noticeable change. We’ll have a new logo, new email addresses, etc. Otherwise, your account numbers will stay the same and your login details at Schwab will remain as they were. And if Todd was your primary contact, he’ll remain so. Later this week you will be receiving a non-consent letter that is regulatory requirement informing you of the name change and the change in ownership. I encourage you to read it (it’s short), but otherwise you don’t have to do anything or even reply.
After these cosmetic changes to our new name and logo, you will begin to see the deeper changes in response to what we learned from client feedback. I am reinvesting heavily in the firm with plans to hire more smart people tasked with developing additional communication tools and relevant feedback to our clients. We’ll be shoring up our Certified Financial Planner position either hiring an experienced CFP from the outside or developing the expertise internally.
I have often referred to our firm as a “boutique”. Our original mission was to provide superior investment results and service to a relatively small group of clients. With rapid growth, that boutique feel is threatened. We’re going back to it.
More than a decade ago I left my Silicon Valley job with Cisco Systems to found a startup investment firm. In my goodbye message I sent a note to my Cisco colleagues entitled “I’m Taking the Fish With Me”. It was a reference to the popular movie Jerry Maguire played by Tom Cruise. Similar to the movie, we’d be a boutique and do things differently with a focus on the client as the center of our universe. With the relaunch of our brand, I find myself again reminded of Jerry Maguire. The fictional sports agent delivered a mission statement to the people in his firm. In it, Jerry tells his colleagues “we are losing our battle with all that is personal and real about our business.” He goes on to conclude that the answer is “Fewer clients. Less money”. That’s absolute heresy for a growing business. And in the movie, Jerry gets fired for pursuing that line of thinking.
But no one can fire me, except you. We’re rededicating ourselves to our original mission.
ps: Just for your enjoyment, here’s the mission statement clip from Jerry Maguire: Jerry McGuire Mission Statement – YouTube