Author: Marty Moore, CFP®
Carroll Financial is a remarkable success story.
Of course, I lack all objectivity in that view. CFA has been a big part of almost half my entire life and over 31 years of my work life.
If it’s not remarkable then it surely has defied the odds of small business success. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first ten years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.
What have been the success factors to enable CFA to steadily grow and prosper over the years?
For me, however, it’s a simple story. A few very smart, dedicated people came together with a focused objective to help others make good, sound investment and financial planning decisions. They set few goals other than to help their clients make the most of their financial resources. From that they never wavered. These were the foundational elements, and they exist today.
CFA is a small business. We have about 55 employees, barely a blip on the radar compared to the behemoth technology companies. But we are also a large company – one of the largest independent Registered Investment Advisory firms in the country.
Over the years, especially the last five years or so, Larry and Kris have been approached many times by other larger firms wanting to partner with, merge or acquire Carroll Financial. Those firms recognized CFA’s growth and success, and the unique culture of our firm. Larry and Kris seldom went far with any discussion, and they only listened with intent to a few. While some of the offers were financially attractive, none of them would have materially enhanced our ability to serve clients in a better way. None of them would have made us a better firm.
We will soon become part of Wealth Enhancement Group (WEG), a highly respected national financial planning and investment firm. Why Wealth Enhancement Group? Bottom line: they will provide resources and support that will enable us to be better.
In my discussions with clients this past week a few have expressed concern that CFA will become too “big” and will cede control and decision making to an impersonal group focused only on bottom line profitability. I understand the concern, and I am confident that won’t happen. I’m so confident, and I hold the leaders of Wealth Enhancement Group in such high regard, that I have decided to take an ownership position in the company.
Will we change? I suppose we might, over time. If we do (a big “if”), it certainly won’t be soon. We’ll continue doing what we’ve been doing for 41 years. To the extent there is change, I’m confident you will see it as positive change.
I also know some things that will not change – the dedication that Larry Carroll, Kelly Graves and John Patterson, the early founders of CFA, along with the current head of our firm Kris Carroll, have to their clients. These are professionals not easily swayed from their convictions. Should any outside influence attempt to throw them from their focus on serving clients to the best of their ability, you can be sure it will be dismissed … in a heartbeat. I have known Larry, Kelly, John and Kris for over 30 years. Their integrity stands beyond reproach.
Your advisor team will not change. Braedon, Lisa and I will continue on as always.
Carroll Financial will still be Carroll Financial. Maybe our name will change at some point but our formula for success will not. We’ll continue to be lifelong students of our profession and to become the best financial advisors we can be. And we’ll continue to strive to get to know our clients as best we can, to put ourselves in your shoes, so that we can do the best job we can in helping you make the most of your financial resources.
I will share with you one of the first things that Wealth Enhancement Group’s CEO Jeff Dekko said in the first meeting to our advisors as a group:
“I can’t say that I know for sure that we are the best financial and investment advisory group there is, but that’s what we want to be. And that’s what we’re going to work hard to become.” For me, that said a lot about the firm’s leadership.
I look forward to sharing more with you about the future of Carroll Financial, and Wealth Enhancement Group, in the days ahead.
A personal story:
Thirty-two years ago, my job with Piedmont Airlines was coming to an end (Piedmont was being taken over by USAir). My position was transferring to Pittsburgh, a move my wife and I did not want to make. I had recently finished graduate school and over the prior several years had become interested in the possibility of becoming a financial planner.
In the late 80’s, financial planning was a fledgling profession. Most people didn’t even know what a financial planner was or what a financial planner could do for them. There wasn’t a lot of career opportunities in those days. I just knew that I was intently interested in investing, and I knew that making good financial decisions was not just important, as it is of course, but something I thought I would enjoy helping other people with.
Thus, the proverbial career change was in order. I had the great fortune (a blessing, truly) to come across an article in the Wall Street Journal in which Larry Carroll being quoted. I found the number to Carroll Financial in the phone book (remember those?) and called Larry out of the blue. Whereas the heads of most companies would have never even taken my call, Larry was not only willing to talk with me but quickly accepted my request to meet with him so that I might get his advice on how to go about getting started as a financial planner.
As they say, the rest is history – for which I am grateful.
While every job has its ups-and-downs, and there have been difficult times for sure, I have greatly enjoyed my 31 years as a financial advisor. By far … by a wide margin … the biggest benefit has been the personal relationships developed with clients over the years. I can’t begin to adequately express what they have meant to me.
So, in this time of change, a time when Carroll Financial looks ahead to the path it will take for the next 40 years, I want to thank you for your confidence and trust in what we do. And most of all, I want to thank you for the privilege to get to know you and for the personal relationship we have developed over the years.
I look forward to seeing you soon.