We had 75 phone calls to make and no one on our list was expecting a call from their financial advisor that day. There was no one in our office to hear the conversations since we had yet to hire our first employee. When Katie Brown and I sat down that morning in spring 2018 and began to dial, we shared a story for the first time that was both thrilling and challenging: we were going out on our own.
That was how the first day of Morton Brown Family Wealth began three years ago this month. The thrill was that we could finally share the DNA of an advisory firm designed in the image of the families we serve. We could talk out loud about how every ounce of our knowledge, experience, and ambition was being channeled into this, our great entrepreneurial leap.
MAKING A COMMITMENT
The challenge was that so much of our story was aspirational; It was all about what could be. We began that first day with no clients. Our office space was temporary. Our names were on top of the letterhead for the first time. There was no tangible evidence of what this new firm actually was. Absent that evidence, we focused on the one thing that was evident in our planning, preparation, and the tone of our voices: commitment.
These were the commitments we made explicitly and implicitly to our new Morton Brown community from the start:
- Our values will be aligned with your highest expectations of an advisory relationship.
- We will build a talented team to serve you.
- You will benefit as we become better advisors, investors, and leaders.
If you want to see me get choked up, remind me how it felt when after our first week we had commitments of over $100 million in assets under management for our new firm. Extraordinary, humbling, and unforgettable.
PROOF OF CONCEPT
After that came the hard work of living up to those high aspirations, but we can now point to evidence that a fiduciary firm with a planning focus can compete. Here is where we stand after 3 years:
- Team of six professionals
- Serving 146 families
- $190 million in assets under management
We are very grateful for the trust of our clients that has brought us this far, but truthfully, there is still so much that is aspirational about the work we do. If we are going to continue to get better and grow along with our clients and community, we will need a healthy dose of dissatisfaction with the status quo.
A COUNTERCULTURE APPROACH
When business leaders talk about culture, they sometimes confuse it with “the way we always do things.” I would describe the spirit that drives our growth as counterculture. It is invigorating to be surrounded every day with people who are hungry, humble, and smart; people who challenge the lesser elements of the advisory business and share a commitment to make it better.
These are some of the forces that counterculture tilts against in an entrepreneurial advisory firm:
- Underestimating Clients: When someone trusts us to lead their financial journey, they should expect us to meet them where they are and then challenge them along the way. Too many advisors and institutions make excuses for their clients by saying “Our clients would not be interested in that…” We embrace the opportunity to help families we serve to discover new ideas and methods of planning, investing, and communicating.
- Stagnation: Every person on our team is engaged with a coach, a mentor or a master-mind group. Ours is an experienced team, but each member knows how powerful it can be when we show up at the table together having learned more about ourselves and our craft independently. We are improving in the roles we play today and preparing for greater responsibility later.
- Off-the-Shelf Mentality: Whether in technology, communication, or ideas, we are skeptical of any solution or platform that cannot be tailored to the specific needs of our community. We know who we serve and are in a unique position to influence and design the experience of managing wealth on their behalf. We foster this awareness and depth to help people make more confident decisions about money.
Plenty of things could have gone wrong as we started dialing and sharing our story three years ago, but we are optimists first, planners second. If you are thinking about how to invest or your heroic next act, remember that it is infinitely harder to plan your way out of a pessimistic mindset. We want every person involved with Morton Brown Family Wealth to embrace the potential of an optimistic spirit and thoughtful planning for the future.
Thank you to our team, our clients, our community, and our families for sharing this journey together.