Do I Have To Be Different?
By Gary Silverman, CFP®
I give a lot of advice. This is good as that’s how I make my living. I also get a lot of advice. Some asked for, some not. Most of this is self-inflicted as I read a lot about finance, economics, investing, and running a business.
In the area of running a business, especially a financial business, is the concept of the niche. I’ve been told, for about the last 30 years, that unless I focus on a niche and become the best in serving that niche my business will fail.
What about the middle-class? Nope, not a niche. North Texas Region? Nope, not a niche. Nice folks who need help? Sorry, still not a niche. The experts prefer something like physicists working at the Fermi Labs, dentists with mature practices and 3-10 employees, or owners of family-owned non-franchised restaurants.
I don’t doubt that having a niche is a great thing. There are nuances in every financial situation, so the more closely you group similar folks the easier it is to become an expert in those nuances. While I’m sure I’d do a good job helping a professional baseball player manage money, I do not have experience in that area. There would be a lot I’d need to learn about the profession.
In a way though, that’s the point. I’m sure there’s someone who began a financial practice saying: “I’m going to specialize in helping [insert niche] clients” but I’ve found that everyone I know who has a niche practice ended up that way because one of their early clients was in that demographic, who referred their associates, who then referred theirs. Along the way the advisor learned about these folks, added staff and resources to better deal with their problems and became known as “The” person to go to.
I’ve also learned that a lot of financial people, yours truly included, managed some success helping the non-niche people in their area sort out their finances, save, and invest. Seems to me the highly focused, highly successful niche firms didn’t become a niche and then become successful. Rather on their way to becoming successful they developed a niche. And others on their way to becoming successful didn’t.
My analogy to this is my travels to Fort Worth. I enjoy eating at the Cheesecake Factory. They have several seafood dishes I like, and a couple of Asian meals I find yummy. They are not, however, a niche restaurant. That they’ll never do fish as good as Eddie V’s or Asian like P.F. Chang’s is no doubt. But that doesn’t make the meal any less palatable to me…just different.
All three seem to be quite crowded, so I’ll assume they’ve had more than a semblance of success.
As much turmoil as we seem to be going through, the United States, by most any measure is a success. Let’s keep it that way and make it better by listening before speaking and empathizing before criticizing. Have a great 4th!