2021 Road Map – Getting Better – For Our Clients

Feb 5, 2021 | Blog, Newsletter

“Less than half (47%) of the Fortune 500 companies spent anything substantial on R&D, in 2018” While they may be profitable…these companies are at the greatest risk from new competitors, startups, changing customer demands and market shifts.”

Top 1000 companies that spend the most on Research & Development

(Too) Old Money

Do most wealth management firms invest in R&D? Not really, many firm principles/founders strip every last dollar out for their lifestyle. Not us. We view reinvestment into better client outcomes as a core reason we exist. 

If we cannot get better client outcomes, and help clients achieve their goals, what’s the point?

So here is our vision:

“We view consistent and meaningful reinvestment into our company as a commitment to our clients, partners, profession, and the long-term sustainability of our company.” 

If we can’t show you how we invest our money, time, and attention, why should you trust us with yours?

Here is our vision of how we want to invest in better outcomes for our clients. 


Investment Management

Why should clients care about this? 

  • Client outcome: More options to earn greater returns, increase control or diversification, pay less in taxes, or pay lower investment fees.  
    • More expertise and time is needed for nuanced and textured diligence on constant innovation in product types, fees/incentives, and (growing) scams.

What we continue working on

Better private investment due diligence

  • What we did in 2020
    • We spoke with Northern Trust and Duff & Phelps operational due diligence groups, but they were expensive, and not the right fit. The IMDDA certification wasn’t going to work either.
      • CYA checklists feel good. But we need to really protect clients.
      • We want to know we’d put our own money side-by-side with our clients. 
        • When people who have careers in due diligence tell me they have no private investments, what conclusion should I draw from that? 
    • Talked to an ex-alum at Wells Fargo Family Office and U.S. Bank’s Family Office Ascent. 
      • Speaking well is important. Titles help. But I need to be in the trenches; I need I-have-my-own-money-in-deals type advice. So many of these folks are “corporatized.” 
    • One “family office” that shall go unnamed (kidding) tried to tell me they wanted to be paid placement fees for all deals they might share. How much time do you have for all the other red flags?
    • Honorarium: Zach Rollins, deserves a huge thank you. Zach worked at a family office in Denver doing due diligence. We reviewed investments together, and actually talked about what really creates a great private investment, and how to review deals. Zach reviewed about 200 local real estate deals in a year. When others told me they’d seen 10 over their careers. He was also instrumental in renegotiating terms for a deal we might label as fraud for a client.     
  • I started thinking…We need to work with more emerging sponsors, and general partners who really know how to read the economics of a deal. Sponsors who help diligence other sponsors. 
    • We have a few more family offices we are going to work with and share our diligence process with, so we can get better. Also, impressed with Gabe Bodhi, and his contributions to helping us learn more here as well, as a sponsor. Thanks Gabe.

Our own fund 

  • More and more, clients want alternative investments that are not expensive, opaque, non-gotcha with fees, with people they trust outside of “the market”. Where clients can meet and really “know” the manager.
    • The reality is, right now, fees are higher, and profit splits are worsening for limited partners (you).
    • We also don’t want to give clients a market return with more risk and less liquidity for “fancy” investments. Yes, this happens all the time. Most clients don’t know. We do. Adding value is not getting the same returns as the market while paying a lot more in fees. 
  • While we have access to direct private investments options for certain clients, admittedly, it’s not the best process, lacks scale, and it’s inefficient. We give and lose economics as a firm.
    • Just so you know, many other advisory firms (like us) charge 1% on-going to 2% placement fees to get clients into these investments. 
      • We don’t, and view that as a conflict of interest. 
    • I started thinking…What about our own private investment fund for our clients that would be diversified, and have lower fees for our clients to benefit?
      • We have a sponsor that will white label our own real estate fund, and since they will not have to fundraise, they can significantly reduce the fees to our clients. 
      • Again, I am torn, I love the flat-fee structure we have, but having a fund internally is more costly for us to manage. Currently, we feel it’s equitable to charge more to clients that want private investments, but how can we truly stay objective if we did our own fund, and earn fees on it?
        • It’s expensive, with fund maintenance costs starting at $30k, as another firm quoted.

Better process for public investments 

  • Honorarium: Last year, I asked Yiwen Chen, CFA to review our entire firm operations on trading and portfolio management. Yiwen built his last firm’s back office trading, investments, and portfolio construction process, as they grew into a billion dollar shop. 
    • We went through our entire process for trading and portfolio construction. 
      • He asked tons of questions. We shared some laughs, and intense arguments about how to do portfolio management the “right” way.
        • Great questions came out of that meeting, with things I still think about as an investor.
        • Another great reminder that a lot of what we do is an art as well as a science, and while there is a very wrong way to do something, there’s a range of right ways. 

Direct index investing

  • Last year, I diligenced five different technology vendors for direct index investing
    • A great strategy for reducing equity concentrations, and lowering taxes for high income earners. You invest directly in individual stocks instead of ETFs. This can add up to 1.5%** a year in after-tax returns in taxable accounts (**not always). 
    • This allows for constant tax-loss harvesting, sometimes on a daily basis, and your ability to generate huge tax losses to offset the gains from concentrated positions or low basis stock. 
    • Many of the solutions are not cheap for our clients, and I am continuing to look. 
      • All charge asset-based fees, and many vendors don’t quite have the perfect setup yet. But, I was very impressed with Sherman Yuen at Just Invest. He understands this space, competitors, and how clients can benefit better than everyone I talked to. 


  • Last year, I bought my own bitcoin on three different exchanges. I hated most of the experience. 
  • So, this is a tough one. There are endless regulations, compliance, and technological complexities to getting this right.  And they are constantly changing.  
  • We are currently helping Kingdom Trust demo their advisor solution for clients where we could hold, trade, and tax loss harvest for our clients. Thank you to the CEO Ryan Radloff
    • Not sure if we will offer this to clients. 
  • We’ll keep you posted here. I’m not sure about cryptocurrency as an asset class, but I want to have it as an option for our clients. 

What do you think? Clients, peers, partners. Let us know if you feel strongly about someone we should meet?


Tax Preparation  

Why should clients care about this?

  • We feel answering client questions and providing strategies on saving taxes is more valuable than data entry. We need more time to invest in education, so clients can understand as much as they want to about taxes. Preparation should be an easy process for clients, and us. 

What we continue working on

Outsourced preparation

  • Next year, we are targeting Sara as a final reviewer and signer of our tax-returns, so she can have more time available to spend with you during tax season. It will be around $30k to $50k for part-time help.

Better process this year 

  • Sara has created videos to help clients understand our questionnaires, and what data we need. After reviewing many industry options, she wasn’t happy with our options. So she created a questionnaire to make our clients lives easier.

What do you think? Clients, peers, partners, let us know if you feel strongly about someone we should meet?


Community and peers

Why should you care about this as a client? 

  • Better advice, lower costs, less time finding other professionals, and others we can encourage and support. 
    • One, clients need other services besides the ones we offer. We want great options for our clients in every category of their life where they interact with money. Great people are hard to find.
    • Two, we also need great peers because I view our peers like doctors would view other physicians when they are trying to get better patient outcomes. 

What we are continuing to work on

We need more strategic partners to make investments into. Not money, but seeing them succeed, so they can help our clients. 

Here are the categories of strategic partners we still need: 

    • Marketing companies, and ad agenciesWe need someone who can demonstrate process, and results; Less talk and large agency big retainers.
    • Independent mortgage brokers Truly independent. Fee conscious. Good technology and process. Transparent pricing. No quote low, and increase on back-end stuff. 
    • CPAs We’d love to have a network of other CPAs we could refer to if we are not the best fit. Hard to find someone who is not close to retirement age, good with technology, and has actual technical and people skills that want the work. 
    • Executive recruiters, placement firms, and coaches – Executive recruiters, or recruiters at companies that want access to a very smart high income workforce. Firms who provide outsourced solutions for bigger companies and hire remote workers: part-time project based work, but do not want to commit to 40 hour work weeks. Coaches that can help repackage, and get higher compensation and fulfillment for our clients’ next role.
    • Independent property and casualty insurance Thorough reviews of the coverage. Not all about transactions, speed, and getting a premium. Service when claims happen. Domain expertise and passion in both personal AND commercial. 
    • Fractional CFOs We have clients that are scaling and will need this soon, and others that could benefit from setting a foundation.
    • Intellectual property attorney – Less paperwork and legalese talk. Litigation of infringements a plus, not part of a large firm, and fun to work with.
    • Multi-family offices We’d love to share deal networks, and help give some of the vast planning intellectual capital we keep building up. 
    • Bookkeepers We need a few small book keepers that still have good technology, and want to grow, and make clients’ lives easier. 
    • Purple squirrel > Typical partners We have many classic partners. But we are always looking for purple squirrels. People who are truly different. Love their work. And, want to work with firms and individuals who are just as passionate. I don’t care what they do! Hair stylists. Landscapers. Chefs. Bartenders. Artists. Musicians. Whoever. 
      • Like my friend Ellen, who is a copywriter, and trained opera singer that coaches New York Best Selling authors on how to write better.
      • If you work with someone you love, and you think they can help our clients, do not hesitate, send them over. 

We need more sparring partners

We plan on meeting with over 50 firms again this year. If you are an RIA founder, or someone who reads this and has ideas, or you need help, reach out to us. We want to help the right firms. 

There are so many clients who really need your help. Let’s get better together for our profession and our clients. Fee-only founders with technical knowledge and business/industry knowledge is a huge part of the folks we love meeting.

What do you think? Clients, peers, partners, let us know if you feel strongly about someone we should meet?


Client planning experience 

Why should you care about this as a client?

  • We want our clients to not only have more money in their pockets, but to feel good about getting to their destination too. We want our clients to feel empowered to make change, and leave the world a better place.

What are we going to do about it?

  • Video
    • This is very underutilized, and we feel we can explain, provide insight, and tell our story better. We are already using Loom internally, and have researched using Wista for an internal knowledge base library for our clients.
    • Aspirationaly, I’d love to have videos explaining the most difficult concepts for our clients to understand the 101 topics, and can always reference back to this library. 
      • No searching through cat videos on YouTube, or feeling like clients are having to raise their hand too much in meetings. Like a Netflix of good content that is easy and fun to watch. About taxes!? Yes, maybe.
  • Content
    • What do you want to learn more about? Let us know. We have things we know that you don’t know that we want to share, but what do you want to know? 
      • I will send a survey at some point in the year to make sure we are writing about things that are important to our clients, and community.
  • Onboarding experience 
    • We are working on a more streamlined experience.

What do you think? Clients, peers, partners. Let us know if you feel strongly about someone we should meet?


Marketing and Sales

Why should you as a client care about this? 

More time on adding value, less on promotion  

  • If we have the right clients, we just focus all our time, money and attention on making our clients’ lives better. We are not interested in building a mega firm, so getting to our “enough” client base is happening quick. 

Marketing plan 

This year is the first year we are running our plan, and also looking for help. 

We have not found the right marketing person to help our firm, but we are still on the lookout. If you know anyone great, please let us know. We need diagnosis, strategy, and execution (doing the work with us). Not a big time agency. Not just ideas guys. Need process, and someone that is open to collaboration. 

Refined core offer 

    • We need to do way better here. One of our clients had great feedback this year. “I don’t know where the line is of what you will and won’t do.” 
      • They asked for greater transparency on just what we offer, and what was additional complexity. 
      • Also, I’ve had prospective clients ask me, “So what am I buying?“ Many clients have never worked with a financial professional before, let alone a firm with our vase and deep capabilities. 
  • We do a lot, and have done a poor job explaining where we add value, and providing education on what we do. 
        • So, we are also currently in the works to create a five minute video, and design of our core offer.
        • We created a new engagement letter based on this and our compliance consultants guidance which outlines everything in much greater detail. 
          • We want our clients to see all the work we do because we did a poor job explaining this in the past. That’s on us. 


The perfect client for us is evolving…again…

  • Picking “niches” keeps you in ditches 
    • Niche or die they say. It’s not reality. You don’t choose a niche, a niche chooses you. I believe that now. It just took two years. 
  • Round one, when I first started, I focused on pre-retirees
    • With my experience and flat-fees versus asset-based fees, this should’ve been a no-brainer, right? Not really. I failed.
      • But, something strange happened in the process, I loved working with a sub-types of these clients:
        • The “I want to do what I love, or something part-time, not just retire. I’m going to be bored…What will I do?”
        • Ones that provided unsolicited parenting advice, and wisdom they wanted to share about life. 
        • Three, those that had enough, and just needed someone they could trust with the expertise to thoroughly prove they could finally do it. 

I was torn. We are not the pre-retirement very old people with chairs-in-the-sand-firm-homepage-picture-firm, but dammit If we are not niched, we are dead, so here goes round two.

  • Round two, some technical niches, here we come.  
    • Exit planning, Sara and I met a prospective client who said we “were like the children he wanted to sell to, what do we know.” This is going great.
      • Many business owners are not ready or willing to invest in making their business sellable. Ageism and sexism got old. Trends continue. Older guys talk to older guys.
    • Cross-border, after gaining some competency with complicated case work, and more prospective clients, we realized just how much work exists in these cases. 
    • Equity compensation, We have expertise here, with tax nuance, concentration risk, and low-basis stock, but we didn’t want to make the whole firm about this. No fire. 
  • Round three, Then, we started to work on very complex cases. My peers call them “heart medication” cases. Because anyone other than Sara and I would need heart medication.
    • Other firms would price this work 3X to 4X, and a full team would work on the client case. I know, I asked. But, we like challenges. What can I say?
    • And, while we realize we could run a practice full of very deep and complicated cases, it’s not something we want to build. 
      • Today, we are happy to serve a handful of these clients because we know we offer a ton of value, and value the challenge.   

What is our passion? Who are our people? 

    • Work-optional, solopreneurship, and real estate. 
  • So, what the hell is “work-optional”? 
      • Almost everyone I talk to doesn’t not want to work. They just want a different relationship with work: where it serves their life, with flexibility, energy, creative juices, and purpose. They want to know they have the choice, and they are not forced to work, and wait for someday to live.  
        • Feels like a pipe dream when I read it again because it goes against 90% of how this industry is set-up. And, I love that. 
          • How can that not be our mission? 
          • Empowering people through possibility, purpose, and giving them confidence, so they don’t waste their life doing something because they think there is no other way.
  • A public portfolio, a small business, and/or some real estate. Optimizing this mix, with less taxes. Three legs of the stool keep you from falling on your ass.
  • 30% of our country’s wealth is in real estate
    • Why is there no one really specializing in this? Not just entering it into your financial plan. Not scared because they get paid less when you buy a rental, even though they own some. 
  • 50% of all millionaires own a small business. But, it all started somewhere. 
    • There is a huge market of people who just want to do their thing, make money and enjoy their life. 
    • No more working for the man, but no ambitions to build the next Amazon. 
    • As they grow, everyday, they run out of time. They are outnumbered, and they feel they are farther from this goal, but most don’t know how close they really are! 
  • So Sara has convinced me to listen to ourselves. It’s okay. We don’t specialize in dentists, “social responsible” investing, or old guys that will never sell their business, because those aren’t our people, that is not our passion.


We are growng

We need great people to serve. We are growing, and have space. If someone you know needs, help, please let us know. You can check out our refer us section on our website.

If you have feedback we welcome it

Yes, there could have been another 20 pages on other areas we can improve, but we wanted to highlight some of the areas we are working on. This is about making sure everyday we do what is important for our clients. 

Simply put: We don’t want to waste one dollar or minute on things that don’t improve client outcomes or the long-term interest of our company. We realize some experiments, or ideas will fail. But we would rather die trying, then rest on our laurels.  

Have any ideas of how we can help get better client outcomes, let us know.



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