There's a great scene in the movie Jerry Maguire when Jerry (Tom Cruise) receives the unwelcome news that he is being axed from his sports agency firm.  On his way out of the office for the last time, he creates an awkward scene in front of the employees, imploring them to quit on the spot and walk out with him in solidarity and come work for his new agency.

He only got one taker – a secretary – along with a fish he removed from the company aquarium.  Then the three set off to craft a successful new sports agency business and they all lived happy ever after.

The genesis of Harvest Rock Advisors shares a few similarities.  Back in August 2013, my exit from my employer was also sudden and dramatic (but not unexpected by me).  And only one employee – Heather (the key one), walked out days later to join my new practice - we took no pets.

We worked from the sun room in my house for months until our office was ready for occupation.   Through hard work, focus, great clients and good fortune, things came together nicely and now, thankfully, we have a prospering wealth management business. 

This week we are celebrating our fifth birthday.  The milestone has been distracting as I think back about how 2013 seems so short and so long ago at the same time.  I marvel at the litany of business obstacles that we successfully overcame, the kind of challenges that present themselves to all start-up businesses.

I was kicking around how to share some of my business owner experiences and Carrie suggested the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum – an appropriate title and simile since kindergarteners are…five years old.

Per Fulghum, we master all of the elemental rules of life in kindergarten.  Following is his list and how they (loosely) connect to the business world, at least with our five-year old business.

·        Share Everything.  You need to share your business's proprietary value with as many prospective customers as possible in the marketplace in short order.  That demands a well-developed marketing plan before you launch the business, one answers the question:  why does the marketplace need another widget maker?  What makes your new business different?

Then be as dexterous as possible, open to trying new marketing ideas as your business evolves.  And you will indubitably spend money on marketing ideas that were obviously stupid in retrospect.

·        Play Fair.  Your mission statement must be the creation of an exceptional customer experience and to treat employees, vendors and constituents as you expect to be treated.  Then, business revenue will follow, you can't reverse the order.

·        Put Things Back Where You Found Them.   Be organized.   Develop standard operating procedures, checklists and systems as soon as possible to gain operating efficiencies and a consistent customer experience.

·        Don't Hit People.  Better yet, develop a culture that enables employees to grow and feel they are materially contributing to the cause.   Culture, good or toxic, derives from the attitude of the owner.  And if you have figured out how to get peak performance from a Millennial, please call me.

·        Don't Take Things That Aren't Yours.   The spirit is make do with the resources at your disposal.  Working capital is the lifeblood of the business.   What is your capital plan and from where is it coming?   To project robust cash flow and profits out of the chute is naïve; under-capitalization is the single key factor that leads to business failure.

·        Flush.   I would add "aim well".  Don't dwell on your mistakes, learn from them and move on quickly – flush them away.  From non-critical mistakes comes experience and smart risk-taking is how a business reaches launch speed and sustains it.  Don't stop taking risks.

·        Say You're Sorry When You Hurt Someone.   You must be passionate about your business to be crazy enough to start one and to run it, so don't start one just to escape a bad boss.   If you have a young family, it may not be wise to start a business when your time is required at home; it may cause double failure.  Your life partner must be on board from square one, given the sacrifices by each.

·        Wash Your Hands Before You Eat.  I'm reaching, but the owner is obviously key to business success, so health maintenance is important and thusly so is life, health and disability insurance.  In addition, you will need a written continuity and succession plan once the business stabilizes.   We have a good one.

·        Clean Up Your Own Mess.   Or sidestep avoidable messes by hiring good consultants, networking with other successful business owners and ideally, find a mentor.  Spend up for a good tax professional who brings proactive tax planning ideas to you, not the other way around.

·        Live a Balanced Life.   Time management is the hardest part of running our business, it's staggering the demands placed on my time.  Learn to be a master delegator, prioritize your work and put e-mail and the cellphone in off-mode as much as possible.  Exercise, or at least feel guilty when you don't.

·        When You Go Out Into The World, Hold Hands And Stick Together.   Take leadership roles by getting involved in trade associations and community organizations to raise your business profile and build a network more quickly.

·        Take A Nap Every Afternoon. That's for fifty-something year old business owners.

·        Warm Cookies and Milk Are Good For You.  I got nothing.

·        Wonder.   Keep a watchful eye on industry changes and ponder the potential impact on your business. Read everything!  Stepping back to work on your business is hard but essential if you don't want to end up a buggy whip manufacturer.

·        Look.  Always be watching for new opportunities, even off-hours and in unsuspecting places.  Be ready to nail the question: "What do you do?" with an interesting elevator message.

I'm already looking forward to writing our ten-year birthday blog post!

Until next time, be well….Tim

Contact Tim