What are some significant events or experiences in your life and explain what effects they have had on you?
In looking back, I would say my mother’s depression and later her diabetic condition. It really took hold of her when I was about eight or nine years old. Mom pretty much stopped being active in life. She would not leave the house or if she did it was to drive my sister and me to school or me to the grocery store to do the shopping. The positive from that is mom trained me well on how to grocery shop – such things as looking at expiration dates, how to pick out fruits and vegetables and so many other things.
I continue to be forever grateful that I have not suffered from depression or diabetes. The combination of the two illnesses can be debilitating as it was for my mother.
One of mom’s messages to me was to be able to take care of myself from my own abilities and find employment in alignment with those abilities.
So, I started babysitting at the age of ten or eleven – earning 50 cents an hour. I definitely remember the summer when I turned eleven earning $45.00 equaling 90 hours of babysitting.
From that point forward, I always had employment. I knew that I did not want to work in fast food. I joined a business group in High School and was placed in various offices doing clerical work and such in the Novato business community.
From those roots, I became a survivor. When I started full-time work in estate planning and insurance, I worked my way up from a clerical assistant to a business owner. With that background and the support from my husband, Craig, I have been able to create a very successful Wealth Management Practice.
Who or what influenced the direction of your life and when? What did they do that had such an influence on you?
I would say my parents, my mentor and Craig.
Pops – How to appreciate and be grateful for life. Always seeing the glass half-full and believing that each day is precious.
Mom – To be able to take care of myself by being employable. She directed my studies to business and I am forever grateful for that choice.
Mentor – Vi is now 88 years old and I still call her when I need to vent about a career decision. She taught me a lot about presenting myself – “dressing for success.”
Craig – He is my biggest challenger and yet the individual who is my strongest supporter. He encourages new projects and for me to be my very best. He has directed me to tools (which I took) to increase my confidence and self-esteem.
What are a few things about yourself the make you uniquely you?
The care and love that I provide to family and the care and guidance that I provide to those that I serve – my clients.
Did you ever aspire to do anything else with your professional career than to run a business?
I was about 25 years old when I realized that I wanted to work with a small business and be able to make an impact. My salary was less because of this choice and I worked long, long hours; approaching 80 hours per week. Ultimately it led to the growth that I desired. I wanted to be in charge and owning a business was the way to do so.
Tell me about your business: age of company, products/services, geography and types of clients served, etc.
I have been a business owner in financial services for 20 years with the previous 15 years working with a small Estate Planning and Life Insurance Boutique Firm.
Craig and I own a full service, comprehensive financial planning firm. I call this Family Wealth Planning with a focus on Legacy Planning Across the Generations™. The mission of our firm is: To guide our clients to financial success, including achieving the things, based on understanding their values and goals, which are most important to them.
We typically get paid by the amount of assets under management. Our joy comes from being able to assist individuals and families create their financial success that is in alignment with what has been and is important to them.
We are located in the Silicon Valley. Primarily, our client base is located in Silicon Valley and surrounding areas. We do have clients that have retired and moved elsewhere. We continue to work with those clients in guiding and assisting them with their retirement goals.
How did you get started in this business?
I helped my dad in his life insurance business while I was in Junior High, High School and Junior College. After receiving my AA degree, I went to an employment agency in San Francisco and was immediately hired to work in the health insurance area. I did so for five years. Working with a larger company and a lot of agents was not what I wanted to do. I left my employment there and started working for the Estate Planning and Life Insurance Boutique firm that I mentioned earlier. Making that employment change was the transition I had been looking for; I moved toward an ownership position.
What do you find interesting about your business?
The people I meet. I like helping my clients find solutions to their entire well-being; which includes their money.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
By taking business courses, being adept at understanding the importance of cash flow management, not being afraid of math (letting it be my friend) and most importantly having a strong desire to help others – especially helping women to be empowered with knowledge of financial literacy.
Do you have a business partner? If yes, who?
My current business partner is my husband, Craig. He has been my strongest supporter. It takes both of us to run our business. We both have visions and desires for our company and clients. Mine are more cautious and his more adventuresome. With our uniqueness, we bring a balanced approached to Wealth Management strategies and Legacy Planning to our clients.
How did the economic, environmental, and technological environments impact you in becoming a business owner?
Craig and I have been early adopters of technology. We started scanning over thirty years of client documents in early 2000. Since then, we have taken on back-up/archive organizations that are in The Cloud – eliminating back-up tapes and file storage. Except for working on current cases we are a paperless office. We have one shelf in a file cabinet that contains paper copies.
As a Wealth Manager, market volatility definitely influences our cash flow positively or negatively. In the Great Recession, our revenues went down by about 40% (the S & P 500 peak to trough went down about 54%). Our goal was to remain in business and be able to guide our clients into recovery and beyond. We were able to do that and retain our employees. All of us had skin-in-the-game. Our employees took a 10% pay cut and Craig & I took a 35% pay cut. I am proud and grateful for our accomplishment.
Outside of your trade association, whom do you seek unbiased advice from for your business?
From my participation with TAB, our Study Group (which is not a trade association), our colleagues (yes, we do share best practices with one another), and (for me) from my Legacy Planning Groups.
What I like so very much about TAB is my fellow board members come from so many different backgrounds and businesses. They provide a fresh insight into different practices for my business.
As a business owner, the buck stops with you. You are accountable to no one else but yourself. How do you bring accountability to yourself and your business?
As Wealth Managers, we are accountable at all times to our clients. We are fiduciaries and we must always act in their best interest. We are also accountable to government compliance/regulators.
In addition to being accountable to our clients, we are accountable to our employees and to our profession.
What is the single most critical talent you possess in your role as a business owner?
To always move forward positively and never look back negatively.
What gives you the most satisfaction in running your own business?
Helping my clients to achieve their goals, hearing about their dreams and where they want to go and understanding their Legacy.
How do you define success as a business owner?
I love the challenge.
Being profitable so I can continue to provide value to those I serve, my clients, and have fun along the way!
What would you recommend to a small/medium business owner to help enhance the valuation of their business?
An understanding of who or what is your target market and how best to serve, have an understanding of your finances, hire the right people, and be prepared to work a lot – hopefully smarter versus harder.
What has changed the most in the business environment since you started your business?
The absolute need for transparency of all actions/transactions to influence our clients’ well-being. The “good old boys” attitude is part of the past and needs to remain there.
Technology would be a big change for our firm. We started out with typewriters, teletype & adding machines and rotary telephones.
Today we use smart phones, iPads, see our client on monitors (with the use of Web conferencing) and store our data in The Cloud.
If you had to do over again, what would you do?
Yes, I would own my business. I love the relationship building and being able to assist.
How did you overcome the 2008 economic crises?
By being available to our clients at all times. By being willing to stay-the-course. By the absolute belief that our Wealth Management Strategies lead to a recovery and beyond.
What do you find most challenging about running a business in 2016?
The public media states their opinions about the financial markets. Their goal is to create fear, especially with individual investors. Sadly, many investors listen to their opinions. Our job is to educate our clients otherwise.
How do you expect the business environments to change over the coming years?
For those individuals that want guidance and advice on their financial well-being that is in alignment with their goals, values and objectives, a firm such as ours will be available to serve them. I am very positive about the future growth of our firm.
If assets under management is the only service being provided, I believe that fees will be questioned and fee reductions could take place.
What would you like to tell people who want to start a business in your field?
Work with a larger firm first. A lot of training and education is needed to become an insightful, valuable Wealth Manager. Education in financial services is critical for confidence building and giving accurate advice.
Be prepared to work a lot of hours and be prepared to be rejected. Not everyone will want to work with you.
It could take seven years or more to build your business. If you like working with people and want to watch them create their financial and over all well-being, the career of a Financial Advisor/Wealth Manager could be for you.
What advice would you give others based on the successes you have had or the mistakes you have made?
Know your own capabilities. Do your best not to over commit. Follow through with what you have promised to complete or do.
What are some of the personal values that are very important to you?
Empathy and compassion for others and for me, integrity and passion.
If someone gave you $100,000 and told you that you could not give it to any of your friends, family members or use it for yourself, what would you do with it?
I would make donations to 501 (c) (3) organizations that provide scholarships to young women and re-entry career women to assist them in achieving their highest potential.
What are a few things that you are grateful for?
My health, Craig, my family, friends, clients and community.
What are you most proud of?
Having a business that has been successful for two decades plus, receiving my Masters of Financial Services Degree and recently being honored by the Morgan Hill Community as the American Association of University Women – Morgan Hill Branch Philanthropist of 2015.
How and what do you want to be remembered for?
I touched another heart by sharing my compassion and my empathy.
What are some of the things you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Reading, writing, cooking, being with Craig & family, being with my friends, belonging to community groups, and working on community projects.
What are the items on your Bucket List?
Staying healthy first and foremost. Being fluent in French and staying in a French Village for a month or more. Being able to assist my family, friends, clients and community.
Always to do my very best!