From Startup to Street Cred: (Re)State Your Mission

February 12, 2019, by Matt Sonnen
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In a recent conversation with an advisor who had launched his RIA the same year we launched PFI Advisors, we were discussing our business paths and how they have somewhat paralleled each other. This advisor participated in his own version of a Breakaway 3.0 in 2015, in which he left an RIA to start his own business and build his own book of clients. He felt underappreciated at his former RIA and struggled to persuade the older advisor of the possibility of an internal succession plan. He has since flourished in his own RIA, and has made great strides in establishing his systems, operations, and client base. Most importantly, he’s also recreating his personal brand, which has naturally translated into his RIA’s brand.

PFI Advisors was founded with the intention of helping larger, billion-dollar wirehouse teams looking to break away and form their own RIA as well as help existing RIAs as they tackle the various operations and technology challenges that inherently occur with growth. We have continued to remain focused on our mission: To further evolve the RIA industry from a collection of practices to businesses, and to be a continued voice in validating the industry as a legitimate landing spot for billion-dollar teams and their clients.

In our discussion with this advisor, we were comparing both our firms’ development and struggles that all young firms face as they fight to find their voice in their respective marketplaces. The advisor made the comment, “Yeah, with three years behind us, it’s like we finally have street cred!” While we continued joking and talking about business, his comment stuck with me. It brought me the recollection of a discussion I had a few years ago with a serial entrepreneur. He began our conversation by saying, “I have only briefly glanced at your website, and without knowing the details of your business, I can tell you that you will find a boom of success in your fourth year of existence. You just need to keep saying what you’re saying, and after three years, people will finally start to take note. I’ve seen this with varying companies across multiple industries.”

Mr. Serial Entrepreneur shared this tidbit that I have kept in mind as I’ve met with countless business owners since my conversation with him: in the fourth year of business – any business – you can expect a pivotal moment. He detailed that as long as the message and model that you share with others remain consistent, other individuals in the industry will eventually begin to listen to what you have to say after you’ve repeated it for three years. In our experience, the first year is about getting a foundation built and developed while sharing the firm’s mission with anyone who is willing to listen. The second year is about gaining clientele and deeper punctuating your firm’s mission. By the third year of existence, others will begin to pay attention and realize you’ve remained consistent and unwavering in your firm’s marketing, and clients and referrals will begin seeking you out. Year four should bring about growth and solidification.

PFI Advisors launched with the hope of helping RIAs, advisors, and their clients in a specific way. Like any firm finding its bearings, we have built a foundation encompassed by the message that we are an operations and technology consulting firm looking to serve a small niche within the ever-growing RIA space. Just recently, we have expanded our goals in terms of self-generated content for article publications, in an attempt to get our message to more and more people. We have persevered in our efforts to be clear in who our target client is and how we serve them, and have done our very best to be a beacon for billion-dollar RIAs’ best practices.

If you are looking to start your own firm – be it a new RIA, or a business in an entirely different industry altogether, think about what your messaging and mission is. Write it down. Type it out. Save it as your desktop background. Post it on a sticky note next to your nightstand. Have it be something that deeply resonates with you and with your target market as you communicate it to everyone you meet. Give it time, and you, too, will eventually gain that glorified street cred!

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