Let’s get one thing straight: starting a financial planning firm at the age of 29 to serve other young professionals is a terrible idea. Doing it on a fee-only basis is even worse. The average age in the financial services industry is 58, and no one will respect you unless you have grey hair and wear a suit and tie. Just go work for someone else, you’re going to fail. At least, this is what I was told by everyone in the financial services industry, but I did it anyway.
I get asked quite frequently why I started my own business after I finished my MBA instead of going to work for some other RIA, especially when there is such a shortage of skilled advisors and the pay can be fairly lucrative. My standard canned response sounds like many others: “I wanted more control over my time and the freedom to operate on my own terms, and I saw the opportunity to help an underserved market, so I took advantage of the circumstances and created my own company.”
While this is all true, there is another underlying reason that I don’t usually say: I’m borderline unemployable. I don’t like being told what to do (or how/where/when/why to do it), and I’m not afraid to challenge conventions or authority when I feel it’s necessary. I am a naturally curious person, and I ask a lot of questions. I want my work to have a direct impact on people and leave my stamp on the world with my own hand. There aren’t many employers that are looking for a pain in the ass like me, so I’m kind of forced into entrepreneurship. Of course, I would like to say that I am a natural entrepreneur, but the reality is I am probably just dysfunctional. It took me most of my twenties to come to terms with this reality, but I was determined to make the most of it.
Now, nearly a year after taking the leap, I have to admit that the experience was much different than I expected. Let’s start with the positives of running a small business. There is truly no one to tell you what to do. I could lay on the couch and binge watch Netflix all day, and nobody would know (or care). Hell, I don’t have to put on real pants if I don’t want to! I also get to design all the systems and processes within my business, and if I don’t like the way something is working, there is no corporate red tape to get in my way of changing it. Most importantly, I get to do what I love: help young professionals become financially successful, secure, and educated. While nobody is beating down my door to work with me, the business is growing just fine, and I’m proud and confident in what I have to offer.
One benefit of entrepreneurship that isn’t talked about frequently: job security. You may like the security of a regular paycheck, but it’s pretty hard to get fired from your own company. Sure, individual clients can fire me, but that’s not the same as going from a predictable paycheck to totally unemployed. Next week we will cover two of the biggest challenges of being a small business owner.