MP chatted with Dave Morgan, third-generation financial advisor and Certified Financial Planner, about his entrepreneurial journey. Morgan started in the financial services business in 1985 upon graduating from Rollins College with an economics major and business administration minor. After a 35-year career working for top financial services companies, Morgan and his business partner decided to start their own registered investment advisory firm, the High Net Worth Advisory Group LLC, based in Naples, Florida.
The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?
I have learned that any great business is not about yourself but the fantastic people you partner with and surround yourself with.
I have been blessed with a highly supportive business partner and family who keep me grounded.
It is easy to get carried away in the mentality of “it’s all about me” when the focus should be on “it’s all about us.”
The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur?
I never felt lonely when starting or building the High Net Worth Advisory Group LLC.
I felt incredibly lonely while previously managing a large complex for a major financial services firm.
The difference between the two is my current company has a shared and laser-focused vision of what excellence looks like that we choose to execute. In my previous job, there was a more conflicted version of someone else’s vision of what excellence looked like that I was then asked to execute.
Working as a team with a common goal eliminates loneliness, even if that team is just your family or friends that support you.
The Psychological Warfare
Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?
Self-worth should never be defined by success in business. If business success is your measurement of your self-worth, change that metric. I deal with many very successful people who have built unique businesses and learned by listening.
Each of them who put family and friends on the back burner due to the time constraints needed to build great businesses regrets that decision. If they could do it over again, they would take a slightly less successful business and spend more time with family and friends.
All entrepreneurs realize quickly that sleep is overrated, long hours are expected, and health may be affected by a lack of time rather than a lack of desire to change it. Those I will give you, but self-esteem and low self-worth issues, knock it off. You are chasing a dream, not living a nightmare.
I look at myself in the mirror every morning and tell myself how awesome I am and how much I love myself, just in case nobody else tells me that day.
Newer entrepreneurs often equate their success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?
I can understand people who equate personal success with business success. I believe the reason for this feeling is that they believe their career is a reflection of who they are.
If successful, they are winners. If unsuccessful, they are losers.
There are many times in business when you will lose. Would that then mean that each time you do, you are a loser? Or in my case, I look at a loss as an opportunity to learn what to do better.
I asked my wife to go out with me six times before she said yes, and today, we have been married for over 30 years. A line in professional sports says,” you never learn anything from winning.” With that as your tagline, you will never lose. Just allowed to learn.
When your final days come, will you lie there thinking about your business losses? I bet you will be lying there thinking about how you wish you had more time and the great times you had along the way.
What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?
- My biggest concern has constantly been losing great employees to a competitor when I did everything I thought I could to keep them engaged.
- My second most significant concern is my lack of technical expertise.
- My third biggest concern is misreading a business situation and making the wrong call.
Fear is a choice.
I wrote an article for our firm’s blog, "Afraid to Fly.” There is no valid reason for me to be afraid of the safest form of transportation available, yet I am. My fear, my choice. I dislike using the word fear in business because you always have a choice. I would instead use the term “concerns.”
I am genuinely not afraid of anything in business and am merely concerned about those mentioned above. I manage these concerns by always focusing on improving and understanding that people make choices based on their situations and perspectives since that is their reality, not mine, out of my control. I don’t worry about things I can’t control.
What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes?
- Staffing issues. The challenge of getting the right people in the right position.
- Marketing issues. Not enough time was spent on marketing the business versus getting it up and running.
- Not learning technology of the day to make myself less reliant on others and more efficient.
Business coaches tell you to work on your weaknesses to become strengths. This is a waste of time, in my opinion. Working on your strengths and leaning on others for your weaknesses is far more productive.
I am weak in technology but have surrounded myself with others, which is an area of strength. I tell people our business is like a plane flight. I fly at 30,000 ft so I can see the future and steer us towards it. My partner flies at 15,000 ft and can alert me if I am not seeing the stormy weather ahead, and the team we have assembled are our boots on the ground, giving us constant feedback on our execution of the vision.
Staffing issues are the most challenging, especially in today’s environment. I advise that a negative employee is cancer and should be removed immediately. The negative personality is not one I have ever been able to coach. Marketing should start on day one of your new business and never stop. We call it ABG. Always Be Gathering. Gathering new relationships, centers of influence, and information will help you grow your business. Technology, at least, becomes slightly proficient for efficiency's sake.
Video response provided by Isa de Burgh, CEO at The Social Tale
What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?
1. Budgetary Issues
You can never have enough seed capital to set your business up for success. Watch every penny to maximize return on investment. When you have excess capital, save it and reinvest in the business. When there is insufficient capital, review expenses, cut them, and raise them.
2. Lack of Management Expertise
Just because you have a brilliant idea doesn’t mean everyone else will think it is, and if they do, can the founder manage them as a cohesive unit? Egos tend to get in the way of the ‘my way or the highway’ mentality.
3. Succession Plan or Exit Strategy
I work with many individuals who had a monetizing event by selling their business and have no idea what life for them looks like after their newfound wealth. Create a succession plan, and get great people who know they are part of that plan. Plan for life after business and what that looks like.
What are three seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?
- Relying upon third-party providers to deliver the excellence you expect and hold yourself accountable to yourselves when it comes to service.
- Finding quality candidates for employment to grow the business who share the company's common goals. Loyalty is earned and should never be expected, but the job hopping of today makes that difficult to manage.
- Governmental decisions that affect our business and our clients well being.
Seemingly insurmountable obstacles do not always have a solution. Once you have received feedback from your team, consider all solutions to the problem, and move on and adapt to the environment.
What three ways have you boosted your productivity without causing burnout?
- Setting a common goal and celebrating the small wins.
- Taking the time to talk (and listen) about non-work-related events in each other’s lives.
- Holding each other accountable for a respectful but fun workplace where excellence is expected as a result for our clients.
How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?
This is a great question. There should never be a work-life balance.
There should only be a life balance.
Work is what we do.
Life is who we are.
I will work as long as I am mentally and physically capable.
Not because it’s who I am.
It’s because of what I love to do. I love serving and helping others. I never want just to be someone’s financial advisor. I want to be their trusted friend who they can bring any issue to help work out through an open and honest discussion. No judgment. Just a conversation.
Time is our most precious commodity. If you spend all of it on work, there is no time for life. Nobody asks for more money or work as they lie in Hospice. They all ask for more time. I visit clients of mine while they are in Hospice, and they all say the same thing. “Take care of my family and let them know I will be ok.” No one has ever asked me if I could bring some work for them to do while they are at Hospice. Work is what we do. Life is who we are. Be awesome! Live life, but work so you can pay for it.
What three critical pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey more manageable, and why?
- Build an amazing and supportive family.
- Find a business partner that shares your vision and complements your weaknesses.
- Develop a team of people you work with that uplift and support each other.
These are the three things that made my entrepreneurial journey easier. Without my business partner’s belief and trust that we could build something extraordinary and our families buying in for the long hours away from them as we started, I couldn’t have done it. This is not a one-person show. The High Net Worth Advisory Group LLC was founded on one shared vision and a lot of teamwork in executing daily.
My most incredible legacy will be the impact on the people I leave behind and what they accomplish in their futures.
What do you think the most significant difference is between how an entrepreneur sees their career path versus how an employee at a company sees their career path, and why?
Having worked in the corporate world for someone else for 35 years, I can unequivocally say that the amount of politics and gamesmanship in the corporate world is both counterproductive and mentally exhausting.
What role has intuition played in your success as an entrepreneur, and why do you think this is the case?
Intuition comes from being in the business world my entire life. I would prefer the word experience. Experience is a lesson learned; intuition is a gut feeling. As a professional who looks for trades in their favor, I find there is less risk in experience than intuition. Having said that, I work with a large percentage of female clients, and I would never bet against their intuition!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Life is a journey.
Enjoy every day, knowing that you can’t control what happens, yet you can control how you react to it. Being the founder of a business has taught me to be humble, kind, diligent, and to hold myself to the morals and standards I ask of others.