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Michael Kitces' #FASuccess Podcast: Starting Over with Donna Skeels Cygan

Donna Skeels Cygan explains why she sold her first advisory firm and started over.

 

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Welcome back to the 129th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!

My guest on today’s podcast is Donna Skeels Cygan. Donna is the founder of Sage Future Financial, an independent RIA in Albuquerque, New Mexico that oversees nearly $90 million of assets for about 40 client households.

What’s unique about Donna, though, is the way that she successfully built her first advisory firm to over $100 million of AUM with 5 full-time staff members, and then found herself so mired in the time it took to run the practice and serve her clients that she sold it and came back 3 years later to start over again, building a much more deliberately crafted structure that’s intended to only ever have 40 affluent clients.

In this episode, we talk in depth about Donna’s journey of building both her first and second advisory firm. The way that years of continued growth allowed her to hire more team members but frustratingly never got to the point where she was able to free up her time to spend more of it with her family, why she ultimately decided that the only way to relieve the burden of the firm was to sell it, the reason that Donna ended out coming back to start a second advisory firm after all, and how her current structure with just 42 clients paying an average of nearly $18,000 a year in fees allows her to run so efficiently as a solo advisor that she finally has the work-life balance she wanted, needs only 2 part-time assistants for support, and is able to drive nearly 80% of the firm’s revenue to the bottom line.

We also talk about Donna’s actual process in serving clients. The way she arranges two meetings a year with clients that include a biannual rotation of ongoing planning topics, the structured agenda she uses for each client meeting that includes new and pending issues, financial planning topics and an investment review, the way she leverages her virtual assistant to maximize her time in meeting with clients, and the software she uses to run her advisory firm.

And be certain to listen to the end, where Donna talks about why despite the ongoing buzz in the industry about the need to consolidate and grow to gain economies of scale, she has no concerns about her ability to remain competitive as a standalone solo advisor, and actually feels even better than ever about having sold her larger advisory firm and started over with the goal of building a smaller but far more profitable one instead.

So whether you’re interested in what being intentional about starting over and building a new lifestyle practice looks like, how she manages to run such high margins while serving 42 clients, and the services she provides for her clients, then we hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast.

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