The Briefcase Office

September 1, 2010 1 comment

Today’s blog post is more a question to my readers than any great insight. One of the goals of my practice is to be completely portable and virtual. In my mind, I think of this idea as the briefcase office. I would like to be able to be able to do virtually any business function necessary in my practice from any location (with wifi) using nothing more than what I can easily carry in one briefcase.

The first requirement I identified in order to achieve this is to make as much software choice available in the cloud as possible. The second requirement is to be as paperless as possible.

So, what’s third?

Here’s what I think needs to be in my briefcase and on my laptop right now:

  • Laptop
  • Notepad (sometimes I need the flow of that pen to get ideas going)
  • Pen & Pencil
  • Financial calculator
  • Smartphone
  • Headset for phone and laptop

On the laptop or in the cloud:

  • Google Apps
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Voice
  • Cloud-based planning software (e.g. MoneyGuidePro, Interactive Advisory Software)
  • Cloud-based CRM (if not built in to planning software)
  • Bookkeeping software

What am I missing. What would you need in your briefcase office?

Categories: Uncategorized

My True Vision Statement

It has been some time since I’ve added anything here. That is not because planning is not going on, but because I am working through some minutia and details that really would not bring much value nor interest to the community. I am, in fact, getting very close to launch.

A couple of weeks ago I did strike upon what I believe to be my true Vision Statement, which I will share below. It is certainly very non-traditional, and I will continue to maintain my prior Vision Statement in some manner, but it is a Vision that can help drive much of my business decisions-making.

Vision Statement

Our practice will have had such a positive impact and held such a valued place in our clients, partners and colleagues lives that many of them would want to and would choose to attend our funerals.

Achievable? Maybe not. It speaks to me, nevertheless, and will provide a great guide when deciding what path to take. What are your thoughts? Is it too “out there”? What is your first impression when you read it?

Categories: The Business Plan, Vision

Couples Financial Needs Survey

Yesterday I posted a survey on my Living Financially Aware blog polling about the financial concerns and needs of my target market. I thought I would share that survey here today, as well.  The purpose of this survey is to gain an understanding of the financial concerns and needs of newlyweds and other young couples. The information provided will help me create a financial planning service tailored to the needs of these couples.

I would greatly appreciate your participation and sharing of this survey with other couples.

Click here to take survey

I May Have Missed Something

Over the past couple weeks, I have been working my business plan and business model through my head and have also begun the process of registering as an investment advisor with the state of Wisconsin.  This weekend, while traveling,  some of my thinking was challenged by a fellow road-warrior and financial planner, Chad Nehring, CFP® of Conceptual Financial Planning, Inc. in Appleton, WI. During this thought-exercise, it dawned on my that my model has a major flaw, or at least a major flaw when it comes to my strengths and weaknesses.

In a previous post, I discussed being an introvert. During that thinking, I realized that it would be important for me to build a practice based on developing long-term relationships and even friendships with clients. It is in these types of relationships that I do my best work and will be able to provide the deepest and highest value service to my clients. My current practice model is not designed to establish these types of relationships.

The difficulty is, I strongly believe in the model I have designed. I want to provide a service that can impact a great many people and that is affordable and within reach of most couples. Unfortunately the model I have put to paper so far does not play to my strengths and I need to revise the model.

I will be blogging my thoughts on this revised model over the next couple weeks. I would welcome your thoughts and ideas in the mean time as well. I also want to put a question out there:

Is it better to take the time to overcome a weakness or better to play to strengths and simply ignore a weakness?

My “Come To Jesus” Post

It’s time for me to come clean…I am procrastinating. I could launch my practice today but I am not doing it. There are still things to be worked out, things that are better figured out during the course of running a business. I am procrastinating and it’s all because of one issue…should I register as an investment advisor?

The Argument Against Registration

My gut tells me no. I have a practice model that does not require investment advice to be delivered. I do not put a great deal of value in investment advice to individuals beyond the most  basic advice. My marketing plan includes referrals from investment advisors and financial planners who are unable or unwilling to take on clients in my niche. Will they be comfortable turning prospects to me if I have capability to deliver their bread-and-butter service?

Most importantly, I do not see myself as an investment advisor and do not see the services & value I will delivery to clients as including investment advice. I have a fundamental objection to being labeled “investment advisor” because I will not be delivering investment advice. I do not believe I should be subjected to the same compliance regime and hurdles that a practice providing investment advice is subjected to. I am deeply opposed to this notion. As I have written previously, I am not opposed to some regulatory body overseeing my practice…I am just opposed to it being this regulatory body.

The Argument For Registration

BUT, I do want to be able to help clients pick investment advisors and financial planners whom I think would fit  them well. I want to be able to discuss that I believe that an individual can basically manage their own portfolio with very little effort by diversifying as cheaply as possible, by understanding cash needs and maintaining that cash, and by mostly leaving the damn portfolio alone. I want to speak generally about investments and offer basic investment education. Some of this explicitly requires registration, some treads the line between requiring registration and not. I do believe there is value in offering this to clients, but I question whether the value exceeds the cost of being able to do so.

They Both Make Sense!

So, it’s time for me to choose. Do I launch my practice and stick to my guns by simply not providing any investment discussion in my practice? Or do I set aside a fundamental belief I have in order to provide my practice a bit of leeway when it comes to investment topics? Or do I select a third choice: launch now and see if my current plan is manageable and adjust if necessary? Or do I consider a fourth, high-risk choice: tread the line of allowable investment discussion without registration? As an aside, I am not a big risk-taker, choice four is not really something I would consider.

I have turned to my practice values and mission statement to help reach a decision, but continue to find myself torn.

What are your thoughts? How do you overcome a decision which requires deep compromise? How do you balance between two alternatives which both benefit clients? How do you make this choice?

Who Will Regulate Me?

I would like to have a board or regulatory authority to that provides oversight of my actions and services. Unfortunately, no body currently exists with any true authority to act in this role. My practice will operate without any meaningful oversight…and I don’t like it.

What About Securities Regulators?

I am working on building my practice in a way that avoids the necessity to register as an investment advisor with either state regulators or the Securities and Exchange Commission. While I would like the ability to provide my clients basic investment education as a part of my service, the costs of registration and compliance are simply too high to work in my practice model.  I do not want to act as an investment advisor to my clients and, therefore, do not want to bear the cost of maintaining registration as one. Those costs would flow through to clients in the form of increased fees for a service which did not return equal value. I cannot justify this to myself nor my clients. I will have no discretionary power of client assets, no distribution authority, no access to account names or numbers. I will not be placing trades for clients nor selling securities to them. How can I then subject my practice to the same rigors set forth for someone who does all those things?

I Do Want To Be Covered

So who will regulate me? I am a financial planner offering financial planning advice. By removing the investment discussion, I am working in a largely unregulated space, yet I would like some regulation. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. regulates my use of the CFP® marks and can revoke them, but even if that happened I would be able to practice the next day anyway. I am not held to a fiduciary standard although I will be providing advice on matters equally, if not more, powerful than investment advice.  I should be held accountable by some authority that has true power over me.

My Call To Action

I am calling for an authority to be formed that can regulate financial planners, an authority that recognizes there are financial planners who provide general investment education to clients which is incidental to the primary services delivered but who are not investment advisors. The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 passed by the Senate yesterday provides for a study of the creation of just such an organization. I support the concept strongly and urge you to consider it, as well.

Website Sneak-Peek

This morning I thought I’d share a sneak-peek of my practice website. There is really nothing super exciting here, hopefully just a simple and clean design. I am working on reducing the wordiness – clearly a bad habit of mine. Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you would like.