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The Butcher of Park Avenue

I don’t look the part.

I never did. Neither does my crew. It wasn’t always so.

Once upon a time, working at a series of third-tier brokerage firms, I was trained to always be the best dressed person in any setting. It was a broker thing. Armani suits, thick and lustrous Canali ties, Gucci belts, Ferragamo shoes, Rolex watches and, believe it or not, literally cufflinks. Guys were walking around these coldcalling offices wearing pinstripes as wide as highway dividers and some even wore suspenders. Suspenders!

It was the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The bosses of these firms were raised on ‘Wall Street‘ and Gordon Gekko. Go get yourself a decent tailor, kid. One firm even had a bathroom attendant handing towels and mints out to brokers in the middle of the day.

One of the few useful things I learned from these monsters was that style over substance can actually work. “You’re selling the sizzle, not the steak,” we were told whenever one of us had a question about the investment product du jour we were expected to promote.

The thing is, this approach of looking the part only works for a little while. Eventually clients figure it out. So do employees. Image is worth nothing and people won’t pay for it forever. At a certain point, there’s got to be something of substance backing it up.

I like my suits. I’m a Joseph Abboud guy. He just gets me (seriously, I’ve met him). His stuff just fits my retired-offensive-lineman’s frame. But I’m much more likely to be in jeans and sneakers than in a suit most days. Because I’m here to work and get stuff done, not to impress people who ought to know better.

And if someone chooses a different wealth management firm because this whole squad’s rockin’ Nikes and New Balance, then frankly, we’ve dodged a bullet. That’s the wrong client for us. We want to work with people who are talking to us for the right reason – wealth management, investing expertise and true financial advice. We don’t know from regattas.

My office is a sublease on Park Avenue in the 40’s. We moved in here when we first launched the firm and it was a stretch to afford it. We’ve quintupled our assets under management from this space. We’re bursting out of it in terms of size needs at this point, but it was the right place for us as a startup. I’m sure we’ve had people see it over the years and judge us for it. “They don’t even have their own space!” I felt a little bit subconscious about it. Until this morning.

The New York Times featured our firm on the first page of their business section today. The story is about how enterprising advisors like us are able to leverage technology and support in order to build the firm of their dreams.

From the article:

When it...