Surely you’re familiar with the saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” When I started my career as a financial planner at a large firm, I quickly became disenchanted with all the bureaucracy; what seemed “greener” to me was setting up my own shop—so I didn’t have to deal with a boss, quotas or stifling rules.
I still remember my first day as a solo practitioner. I had a computer and a phone—and no clients. I was overjoyed to be my own boss, but as I started building my business, I realized I’d lost more than I realized in choosing to go it alone.
I had no one to talk to—a horrific position for an extrovert, and most financial planners fall into that category. I lacked the camaraderie, input, and support I’d received as a member of a firm, plus I had to do everything myself: answer the phones, make copies, deal with compliance issues, handle the marketing, etc.—on top of servicing my clients. Another thing I didn’t count on was not being able to take a vacation; I found myself chained to my business—and the “grass” was looking a bit brown.
Is this all there was?
I really didn’t want to return to a big firm, so I started thinking about how I could have it all: the great things that went along with flying solo and the benefits of working in an organization. I chose to form my own firm. I realized by hiring people to handle the administrative tasks that ate up so much of my time, and providing a “home” for other like-minded financial planners, I’d be happier and more successful—and I was right.
If you choose to work on your own, one of two things will happen: you’ll do a great job for a small number of clients, or be not nearly as good for a larger client base. That was my dilemma; I felt like I needed to stop getting new clients because I wasn’t certain I could service them. Once I morphed from being a solo practitioner to part of a firm, that was no longer an issue.
Working at a small firm results in plenty of benefits, including relative informality, support from colleagues to deal with challenges like problem clients, and tons of professional resources. You can focus on the things you’re good at and occasionally “disconnect”—knowing your colleagues have your back. One of our financial planners recently enjoyed a vacation to Mexico and another faced recovery from neck surgery; neither had to worry about his clients being taken care of, since other team members covered for them.
I don’t regret my time as a solo practitioner, since it allowed me to learn some lessons I still find invaluable—and discover a way to make sure my grass is always as green as it can be.
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