My History in Finance: Thanks for the Help

Personal Money Planning |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®


We are in week three of reminiscing over the 30 years owning the firm, Personal Money Planning. I think we made it to year three last week. At that time the firm’s finances were traveling perfectly along a chart I had created as part of my business plan. Unfortunately, this chart showed what I thought to be the worst-case scenario. Was I going to become a failed business statistic? (Please worry not—after all, I’m still here.)

This is where business owners can get into trouble. Things aren’t going well—do you throw in the towel or throw in more money? Remember that I’m an optimistic pessimist, so I threw in more money: All my money (well, our money, because I’m married) and all our credit lines to get through those first years.

It worked out—worked out quite well—but there is never, not even still, any guarantee of success. I had a lot of help. Readers of my column know that I believe in God. And while God does not say things will be great down here, I feel that the blessings I’ve received come from Him. This usually took the form of good timing (luck to some) and good people. First, of course, is my wife, Joanne; though a bit skeptical at first, she was supportive throughout. Employees like Gina and Renee went the extra mile with clients which helped build my base. Plus a nice side hustle provided by a former manager of mine, Phil.

My first job after the Navy was as a trainer at a nuclear power plant. Training and development work was ground into me in the Navy, expanded upon at the electric utility, and bailed me out while building my company. You see, Phil had a nice consulting practice going with contracts at several Fortune 500 companies. They liked that he could go in and get new or refurbished production lines up to full-speed months, if not years, quicker than historically possible.

He needed help, and as I was “fortunate” enough to have few clients, I could handle both Personal Money Planning and still put in well over 1,000 hours of contract work. It was fun, lucrative, and desperately needed. I got him over his problem of having too many needy clients and solved my problem of not having enough.

Eventually, Personal Money Planning grew enough to support itself, but not necessarily my family. Remember how I wanted to be a professor? I picked up adjunct work with Vernon College, Wayland Baptist University, and even a class at Midwestern State. While students were split between me being either the best instructor they had or the worst, I enjoyed the heck out of it. As a bonus, through the experience I met Michelle, who would become my first full-time employee. More on her later.

Along the way, I went from a 100 sq. ft. office I shared with an accountant friend to 10 times that space. I employed many high-school and college kids, many of whom are still friends (thanks Sarah and Becca and Veronica and DaNella and all the others I’m forgetting—did I mention I’m horrible with names?). And our client base grew from friends and relatives to a size that paid for the business and my family and my employees’ families.

I had made it (with a lot of help)! And there were definitely hiccups along the way. Next week, we will talk about the queen.