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I recently celebrated my 10th anniversary as an independent financial adviser. After resigning from my corporate job, I started my own firm in January 2006. Now seems like a good time for reflection.

So how would I sum up the last 10 years?

I'll start by offering some advice to other financial advisers who are considering doing what I did a decade ago and going independent. You may have heard the saying, “Jump, and build your wings on the way down.” It’s a nice saying, and I’m sure that people offering such encouragement mean well. But here’s my advice: The next time you hear the phrase, “Jump, and build your wings on the way down,” please add the following: “…but be prepared to hit your head against the rocks a few times on the way down. And know that you might end up with a concussion or two before you actually start soaring.”

I started my practice because I thought I was good at advising people. What I didn’t take into consideration was that I also had to be good at business-related skills—most importantly, bringing in the clients to advise.

I have often heard that becoming a financial planner and starting a practice is easy and has a low barrier to entry. The argument goes that once the education requirements are met, anyone can be a financial planner and hang his or her shingle out for business. But even if that argument is correct, there is a world of difference between being a financial planner and running a financial planning business—something not taught during the “education requirement” of a financial planner's training. There's a huge difference in operating solo and managing a team. I’ve had to learn, as Michael Gerber wrote in his book The E-Myth Revisited, there is a big difference between working on the business and working in the business.

That being said, these last 10 years have been amazing because of the people I’ve met along the way and the clients I’ve served. As a business owner, I think we are nowhere near the size I would like to be. As a financial planner, however, I’m feeling pretty good, for I’ve shared in my clients’ goals, their fears, and their joyous moments. I’ve enjoyed their celebrations, I've seen pictures from their amazing vacations, and I've felt their pain of losing someone close. And even though I keep conventional office hours, I've spent many evenings and weekends thinking about how I could make life even better for my clients.

Let me be clear that as a business owner, I want our firm to grow and be considered one of the best independent financial advisory firms the country. I recognize that we have a long way to go. But what I’ve gained over the last 10 years beats any concussion I’ve experienced along the way.


Frank Paré is a certified financial planner in private practice in Oakland, California. He and his firm, PF Wealth Management Group, specialize in serving professional women in transition. Frank is currently on the board of the Financial Planning Association and was a recipient of the FPA’s 2011 Heart of Financial Planning award.