By Graham Acheson, Wells Fargo. Graham is a Level III Candidate and Society Member.
CFAMN members have learned about a variety of different industry specializations at “A Day in the Life” events. On Friday, we were introduced to CFA Charterholders Bruce Langer and Dan Aronson of EPIQ Partners, LLC. Their topic was a new one for this series: Entrepreneurship. This idea, a dream for many Americans, also stimulates fear in some of the most motivated individuals. With their hour and a half, they managed to bring to life many of their experiences.
As they begin, “If we can do it, anyone can do it” seems fitting for a series on starting your own business. However, this is not a motivational speech. This is truth, a statement on their abilities in comparison to those in the audience. More importantly, Dan asks us to be honest with ourselves, “Is this for you?” And if you just answered “yes,” the next step is to see a psychiatrist. Really. They did. Bruce and Dan met with a professional, not to see if they were crazy for considering this endeavor, but to understand each other and create a foundation for a hopefully long partnership.
Forming EPIQ on values that they both agree on, Bruce says that he is happier as a business owner, and without having met him in the past, looks happier too. This exuberance comes from a lifestyle prepared long in advance. The business was overcapitalized, answering a question on fear and uncertainty posed from the audience. Two and a half years in, much of the initial capital still remains. Keeping their costs down was vital for a duo that prides itself on people, not perception. The partnership is at the core. Both agree that they, together, are the most important part of the business. In an upcoming event, they plan to rent a car and drive a couple of clients down to the Berkshire annual meeting. At a larger firm, this event may be overlooked or even considered unnecessary, but as their own bosses, they decide what adds value to their clients.
Their current situation is, as they state, “two men and a Bloomberg,” but they have found a niche. Working on what they add and outsourcing the rest creates a brand their clients can understand. As a small business, inefficiencies still exist. Learning to live with them, and spending a day setting up the complicated business phone system, will get you a long way. A sense of slow and steady comes to mind. With a tone that heeds warning not to overextend yourselves, Dan mentions that in their 600 square foot office, the conference room is the break room is the front desk. In answering another question, think strategy, not simply a plan. Being patient and accountable, they never had to consider supporting a failing business. The thought of continuing just to make it work was never required.
So, if you were looking to make this leap, hopefully Dan and Bruce detailed the pros and cons of forming your own registered investment advisory firm. If you were there for some entertainment, anecdotes of the struggling professionals with three kids each satisfied. And if you showed up just to get a free lunch, the CFA society always provide it. Whatever the reason for attending, the A Day in the Life series truly betters our membership. When you have a chance, check one out, there is a topic for everyone and it would be a day in your life well spent.