Winning it all with the amazing power of ‘Who Luck’

Jeff Bernier |

By Jeff Bernier

With St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon (and with the search for a new strategic assistant on my to-do list!), I’ve been thinking a lot about luck. More specifically, I’ve been pondering the amazing power of ‘Who Luck’.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was recruiting for a paraplanner and client service administrator, and because I’d been flooded with resumes, I decided to invite the top candidates to a presentation on a Saturday morning. My thinking was that I would share our philosophy, our mission, and my vision for the future. Those that liked what they heard could take a couple of short assessments, and voila!, the perfect match would appear before my eyes. I was hoping for what Jim Collins, author of the bestseller Good to Great, refers to as ‘Who Luck’: for the right person to appear at the right time to do the right job. What I didn’t expect was how it would actually happen.

The session started at 10:00 sharp, and when the clock struck the hour, a group of a dozen or so qualified applicants were all in their seats. All except one. About 15 minutes later, in stumbled a young woman—though the wrong door, limping from a recent ankle injury, and flustered by the fact that all eyes in the room were not on me, but on her. And yet, before we said goodbye that morning, it was pretty clear that this unique, unexpected woman was, indeed, the Who Luck I’d been praying for. That was the summer of 1998, and that woman was Mona Fahmy, our Sr. Financial Advisor, who has played such an integral role in driving the success of our firm and helping us meet our clients’ needs for the past 20 years.

What I learned most from that experience was that finding the right person is just as important—if not even more so—than finding the right skills. Could many of the people in the room that day have done a sufficient job as a client service administrator? Would they have been capable paraplanners? Possibly. But I am certain that none of them would have been the unbelievable colleague, advisor, and friend that Mona has been to me since her first day on the job.

Jamie Stolz, our portfolio manager, is another great example of my Who Luck. After taking time off to have a baby, she was looking for a place that valued her skills and could give her the flexibility she needed as a dedicated mother. She sent me an un-solicited email inquiring if we had an opportunity that matched her skills and experience. Although we weren’t looking for anyone at the time, I agreed to meet with her. She walked in the door with almost a decade of experience, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification, and an MBA. But even more importantly, after meeting her, I knew immediately that she was the right person to help us grow into our vision. Five years later, I’m thankful every day for my Who Luck.

The thing I find most fascinating about Who Luck is that it’s really about anything but luck. It’s about having a clear idea about who you are as a person, about understanding your why in life, and then aligning yourself with people who understand and value that why. If you have a great marriage (and I sure hope you do), it’s surely not because your spouse fit a long list of qualifications. Instead, it’s because you connect on a deeper, more permanent level. It’s because you agree on the things that really matter, and because you value each other’s why.

At TandemGrowth, I’ve also seen Who Luck play a vital role in how we choose our clients, and in how our clients choose us. We’re very clear about our why. Our mission is to help our clients create financial clarity and the confidence to live a great life—however they define it. Achieving that goal requires more than financial know-how and more than checking the boxes on a financial to-do list. Connecting on that deeper level requires taking the time and effort to build a personal relationship with each client. It requires deeper conversations and real connections. It requires doing whatever it takes for us to understand what each person is passionate about, what they want to achieve in their lifetime, and what they need financially to fulfill that purpose. It’s an approach in which we believe deeply, but it’s not right for everyone.

Frequently, I’ll get a call from a prospective client who found us through an internet search or has heard about us from one of our associations. The first step in our process, always, is to have an introductory call to see if we may be a good fit. In some cases, I can tell we aren’t the right fit in the first five minutes of the call. How? The biggest hint is when the questions asked are not about how to tackle their goals, or how to create a long-term plan for the future. “How did your strategies do last year?” “Can your investment recommendations outperform my previous advisor’s?” “I think this is a good time to invest in gold. What do you think?” These questions are all indicators that the investor is not goal-focused and planning-driven. Sure, they may be coachable, but if their focus is purely to grow their portfolio by any means necessary, if they’re not interested in exploring their goals and their vision of the future together, and if they’re looking for a product—not a plan—it’s unlikely we’ll be able to build a long, valued relationship.

Of course, acceptable investment results are important to every investor, but we believe the portfolio exists to serve the plan—it’s a means to an end. In my experience, the path to a great outcome is built by aligning the investment strategy with goals that make life meaningful. Creating a rising income that cannot be outlived. Educating children and grandchildren. Leaving a meaningful legacy. It is goals like these that give investors a reason for building their wealth, and that provide the incentive to stick to a strategy over time. A goal like ‘outperformance’ does not.

Almost everyone we work with has a different set of goals and a different why for building their wealth. For some, it’s to build stronger relationships with their grandchildren by having the financial freedom to take them on amazing adventures every year. For others, it’s to have the freedom to contribute to and volunteer for a certain charity. And for others, it’s to have the freedom to choose how much—or how little—they want to work after a certain age. But without a why, money is just money. True wealth, however, comes from creating the capacity to live your dreams. By being clear about that mission, and with a whole lot of Who Luck, Mona, Jamie, and I have been able to bring together an incredible family of clients that get our why as much as we get theirs. That’s what I call winning it all.

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