Competition not in the obvious places

Tina Haapala |

Competition. It’s part of the landscape for all businesses…and often dreaded. When they hear I’m from Wichita Falls, many of my peers from around the country assume that I must not have much competition in town. They don’t realize how large and varied the financial services industry is here.

After all, there is a lot of wealth in Wichita Falls. Some came directly from or as an offshoot from the heydays of the energy sector. Today the sources are more varied, but certainly not extinct. And where there is money, the financial services industry follows.

Sure I’ve had my run-ins with less than honorable competitors. I’ve been lied about, threatened, and even had one firm convince a prospective client that I sent them to him. Those are the exceptions. Mostly we all get along.

Several of us open our doors to MSU interns and participate in mentoring events together. Some have helped me with difficult client situations. I’ve taken the time to help others learn more about the investing side of the business when their companies began expanding (they had to buy breakfast). Then there are the many phone calls to and from my offices over the years as we share knowledge. So while there are jerks and a few crooks, most are hardworking folk who put their clients first.

Nowadays there is another competitor rising up: The robo-advisor. They consist of websites that have you fill in various questionnaires, and then spit out investment or financial planning recommendations. Some in my field are fearful. I’m not sure why. There have always been a large group of people who don’t want to use a professional advisor, but would rather do things themselves. For them, a new tool isn’t a bad idea. Turbo-tax and other software programs (many of which are free) have been widely used for years, yet there are still plenty of accountants putting in very long hours preparing tax returns for their clients.

 When I first started my business over 20 years ago, I looked around at the competition, noted it, researched it, and tried to fit in where people weren’t yet being fully served. It seems to have worked okay for us.

Back then as now, I felt that the true competition didn’t come from any kind of advisor. Instead, my greatest obstacle to helping those who would benefit from my services is ignorance and procrastination of those prospective clients.

So as I put a close to this series of lessons learned during the first 20 years of my firm, Personal Money Planning, I leave you with this. Don’t let ignorance prevent nor procrastination delay you getting the financial help you need. Whether you decide to work through personal research, financial websites, or hire a personal advisor, do what it takes to get to a point of financial contentment.

You owe it to yourself and your family.

This article was published under the title "Rivalries need not be dreaded" in the Wichita Falls Times Record News on November 2, 2014.