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If You Could Start From Scratch

If You Could Start From Scratch

How would you proceed if you could just wipe the slate clean and restart your career in the investment business?

I received a call last week from a long-time friend who wanted to meet for coffee.

I’ve known this gentleman for 25 years, and while he didn’t tell me what he wanted to discuss, I knew it was important.

After exchanging pleasantries, he shocked me: He said he’s totally unfulfilled in his current job and wants to do something new.

I was floored because he is an outstanding investment banker – at the top of his game. From the outside looking in, he appears to be living the dream.

After that bombshell, I asked him the question I couldn’t get out of my mind: “Are you afraid?”

“Yes,” he said. “Afraid and relieved.”

His relief stemmed from the fact that he is going to shed the tremendous demands of being an investment banker at the highest levels. He was afraid because he didn’t know what was next.

I thought to myself afterward,  “What a courageous and totally refreshing move.”


A Fantasy Reboot

That dialogue triggered a larger conversation with myself and others.

What would you do if you could start from scratch? How would you proceed if you could just wipe the slate clean and restart your career in the investment business?

For those quietly pondering a similar path, three great opportunities seem crystal clear.

First, I would create my own investment playbook. Discard the ready-made investment choices served up by your old firm. For independents today, there’s almost infinite variety. The pleasure in creating your own approach is that there are so many options. Your clients will appreciate the greater choice and flexibility, too.

Second, I would whole-heartedly embrace technology. Build your own robo (online) advisor to complement your full-service advisory practice. Innovate across your entire operation – everything from consolidated performance reporting to your own mobile phone app. Freeing yourself from your current firm’s archaic technology will be life altering by itself.

Third, cull the difficult people from your life. These are the naysayers who weigh you down – superiors, colleagues or clients. Negativity is corrosive, and it always lingers. It also distracts you from giving others your best. While you’re at it, cull the skills you mastered to survive at your current firm, so you can focus on those that really matter.


A Happy Ending

I wanted to share one of the all-time greatest reboots I’ve known because it shows what is possible if you believe in yourself.

Fifteen years ago, when I was with Montgomery Securities, Mike Sawyer, one our top producing brokers, delivered some bad news to his boss: He was shutting down his transactional brokerage business to transition to a fee-based business.

At the time, this was unheard of: No one walked away from making a ton of money as a broker to become a fee-based advisor. But Mike had a different vision. He wasn’t fulfilled and he knew it. With the support of his wife, he decided there was a better way. So he started from scratch.

How did it work out?

Unbelievably well. Mike’s been on the Barron’s top advisors list consistently for the last 10 years. People who have worked with him have gone on to achieve comparable success. He’s become a role model to others, and he remains one my heros.


A Better Life

Starting from scratch may or may not translate into more money, but it often means this: More happiness in your life. Mike’s decision, just like my friend who bared his soul to me over coffee, were both made for the right reasons.

I wish my investment bank friend well on his journey, confident knowing that a happy ending is just over the horizon for him, too. 



Jeff Spears is Founder and CEO of Sanctuary Wealth Services, a business accelerator for independent advisors and author of the blog, Wealth Consigliere.  Follow Jeff on Twitter and Facebook.

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