Could you provide a brief recap of your career since graduating from Owen?
Once I got to Owen I realized that what I always loved since a young age was the markets. I decided private wealth had the interpersonal elements I was looking for. It had the sales piece and I loved being in a business where you had to develop intimate trust because you’re getting into people’s finances. After my time at Owen I ended up working as a financial advisor for Wells Fargo. During my time there I did very well and learned from mentors that the optimal investment policy for someone is not the best policy. I learned that to be a fiduciary for someone you have to invest in what’s best for them in the long term but what may not track the S&P 500 shown on the news everyday. After I left Wells Fargo I went to a Registered Investment Advisory. At that firm their main clients did not align with my moral compass and realized I would be making more money if I took the clients I had brought there, charged them less and ran my own shop. That’s when I started Woodside Investment Counsel.
What is your company and where did the idea come from? What served as the biggest motivator or influence in starting your company?
Woodside Investment Counsel is a wealth management company focused on creating a wealth plan for you that suits your life plan. I build people highly tailored wealth plans that suit that individual on a case by case basis. I think large organizations cannot serve individual clients adequately. That’s why I exist. My whole thesis is that most businesses are asset gatherers. They’re trying to serve the shareholders, retain clients and get the fees without having to do a lot of talking or trust building along the way. What a lot of firms do is deconstruct Vanguard funds which I call the “everyone portfolio,” and they charge people for it when it’s publicly available. This is what’s different about me.
In my portfolios I use a lot of alternative strategies, mostly parts of the market where nobody is touching. My aim is to maximize the terminal value of the portfolio in accordance with what the clients want. It’s not just about how much money I have made in my portfolio, it’s what my portfolio is doing. It gives people a sense of more identity. You have to love what you’re invested in and love your plan. Otherwise, it’s not sticky capital and people jump from thing to thing.
With me, you’re buying a black box and taking a leap of faith. I ask for my clients to forget about how we’re doing year to year and say give me 10 years. I think I’ve found a niche where height proposition is unique from a portfolio construction standpoint and I’m using strategies and entering beaten down and emerging third world countries. People have home bias and there’s more people with money in the developed nations. I think I have an edge in this perspective because with the trust I build with my clients by talking to them every month I make every client my friend because being emotionally invested in their life makes me that much more invested.
What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur and how have you worked to overcome this challenge?
Working alone – there’s so much you learn from people that are older than you, smarter than you and not as smart as you. I miss having conversations with some of my ex-colleagues.
I also talked about building the tiers of trust. When investing, you don’t know. It’s like telling the weather 10 years out. Visuals give clients more confidence and investors always say 98% chance of hitting their clients goals but that’s not necessarily true. It’s gloomy but you have to treat people with honesty.
What qualities are most important to possess as an entrepreneur?
Stoicism. That whole philosophy about understanding that it’s what makes us bad investors actually, naturally. Humans need dopamine hits on a minute by minute basis nowadays. The sales cycle is so long in this business – it’s a trust business. It takes so much time for people to find the time in their day, make a decision, sign the paperwork, transfer the assets etc. I would say being stoic, knowing that you have a value proposition that means something. You have to get religious about that. I have my gratitude journal and do all that goofy stuff with my matcha tea in the morning but the main thing is I say “I add value to my clients and I want to help more people.” If I say that enough, it puts me in a mind state where I know my mission is to help more people.
It’s being stoic in the face of failure or perceived failure because nothing is really a failure until you quit. The other piece is just do it. Call the person. What’s the worst thing that can happen – they can hang up on you, but onto the next person that’s willing to hear my message.
Those two pieces – it’s a religious belief in what you’re doing and being stoic in the face of failure and understanding it takes time to make and build something that’s meaningful. Know what you’re doing – be passionate.
What are you most proud of about your business?
I am most proud of the fact that I’ve engaged each and everyone of my clients in the process and they feel like they’re a part of it because it is them. It’s them, with a little bit of guidance. Statistically, this business is ridiculous. To judge someone’s skills as an investment or stock picker you need 20 years of data on the person and nobody is tracking you for 20 years on your decision making process. All of my investments are algorithmically coded. I can override it but as soon as I get the investment policy statement I input an algorithm so that my emotions are not tied.
What advice do you have for students as they launch their business? Are there any tools you consistently use as an entrepreneur?
Don’t do what you love – follow your talent. If you are exceptional at something, you will enjoy it. If you can’t figure out what your strongest talent is, pick something obscure and become the subject matter expert on that.
Just as important: produce art. Produce the highest quality work you can – ship it proudly – and give your work visibility. Do not seek to please everyone…you won’t…listen solely to those few who appreciate your art. Run new ideas by these customers, over-service them, etc. They will be advocates for your brand – and word of mouth marketing (aka the social proof effect) is the most potent way to grow.
Twitter has also been a great resource. I wasn’t into social media at all at Owen and for a long time afterward, but I got on Twitter and found this corner where they use #fintwit and its the gods of investing. These are my heroes. The minds and accessibility of this resource is just amazing. I contacted a huge hedge fund guy and asked him to be my mentor. He saw what I was doing, loved what I was doing, and saw that I was endlessly curious about it and committed to making as much time as I would need. There’s an internet community that feels real to me and satisfies that mentorship piece.
What do you do to live a balanced life? Do you have any interesting or fun hobbies?
For me, the most important thing to live a balanced life is sleep, exercise and meditation. Strangely, I can’t separate them because exercise helps me sleep and if I get good sleep I’m able to have good meditation sessions. It’s this virtuous loop. If you get your basic needs, your spiritual needs, your health, the feeling of belonging and that sense of I’m worth something then you can take some risks and feel more courageous. I’m a little addicted to running. It’s also being a parent and making time for myself to listen to podcasts.
I go mountain biking with my brother about twice a week. Being in nature is huge. The science is thin at this point but touching soil, whether you’re a gardener or are outside biking, touching soil has an antidepressant quality to it. There’s wonders in nature that we have to start respecting.