Today, we’re joined by financial advisor and equity fund manager Scott Wolfrum to talk about the world of wealth management, and how he got to where he is today…
Scott Wolfrum came from a small town in Indiana, both his parents ran small businesses, and although they weren’t strapped for cash they were far from well-off.
Scott went on to study Economics at IU and became a successful financial advisor through hard work and commitment.
He shares with us how he got started working in wealth management, some of the hardships involved with being in the industry, along with the most important lessons he learned along the way.
“What I figured out is how to solve their problems, you learned to listen a lot more and not talk as much.” – Scott Wolfrum
“It was becoming pretty clear I needed to do it for me, I was working for other people and very well..” – Scott Wolfrum
04:49 – What Scott’s home life was like growing up and how his dad made his money.
05:57 – How Scott’s dad influenced his desire to become an entrepreneur.
06:42 – The struggles Scott’s father went through running his beer company.
10:03 – The other businesses Scott’s family had and how he helped them when he was a child.
14:14 – Studying economics at IU and working in wealth management at Merrill Lynch.
20:16 – Some of the hardships Scott went through working for Merrill Lynch.
22:40 – What people look for in their wealth management and the best lessons Scott learned working in the business.
26:04 – Why Scott got fired from Merrill Lynch and which investment management company he moved to next.
28:13 – The difficulties of managing your own practice and the benefits of working in a team.
32:51 – How Scott went from working in wealth management to building his own equity fund.
Connect with Ben Jones:
BEN: Hey, welcome back to Money with Mak and G. Today we’ve got a successful individual from the Indianapolis area who runs a private equity firm, which has several businesses in it, as well as a long-standing money management or wealth management firm. We’d like to welcome today Scott Wolfrum. How’re you doing Scott?
SCOTT: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
BEN: We’re really lucky to have you today and don’t forget, we also have Tony here who will add some comedic relief as we go along. But…
TONY: I’m a modern-day Ed McMahon.
BEN: Exactly. And that’s why we like to have him here. But you know, when we do this thing, we’re really trying to show people a little bit about persistence and trying to be successful and as we were just joking about your trajectory to being successful was just a straight line, right? Straight up.
SCOTT: Straight up. Man, it was just nothing, buddy. So, so easy-peasy and people just silver-spooned, right?
BEN: They just don’t understand how easy it is.
SCOTT: I don’t know why people wake up and are stressed out.
BEN: Exactly. And I know you’ve been stressed out for some time, Tony?
Tony: I’ve got a little whoop strap here. I got one on him. His resting pulse rate is 37.
BEN: He does like the work get a good workout. I know. It’s like I got to go. So but that’s all good stuff. You know, we want to learn a little bit more about you, Scott, just a little bit of your background, where you come from maybe a little bit of the family dynamic. And the reason we do that is because we think that some of that determines who you are like me coming from a family of six. I became a little bit more like the peacemaker, but I was the stern one. And so just a little bit different as we go along. And are you originally from Indianapolis?
SCOTT: No, I was from Northern Indiana originally.
BEN: And which part in northern Indiana?
SCOTT: Little town called Rome’s City, Indiana. So it’s north of Fort Wayne, north. So I went to east…
TONY: Is that where all the Italians were?
SCOTT: No, I can’t pronounce your name.
BEN: But so you’re north of Fort Wayne, in the middle of nowhere?
SCOTT: Middle of nowhere pretty much yeah.
BEN: And you were just kind of sitting there thinking one day I’ll move to Fort Wayne or the really big city, Indianapolis and like how many people in your family?
SCOTT: I have three sisters.
BEN: Oh, that explains some things.
SCOTT: Yeah. So I had and I was the troublemaker. So if you’re the peacemaker, trouble. Trouble guy.
BEN: So you learn how to get along with other people then too, because with four, I remember having those conversations, Tony, you probably had those to where I was sitting talking to somebody and I’m like, let me ask you this question. Are you an only child? And it’s like, you kind of know those people that can’t play well with other sometimes. Right?
TONY: ‘Those people.’ We’re going to have to edit that one out.
BEN: No, no, no. We do know that only-child children can be very different. Yeah, they could be very good with other people too. So you had three sisters?
TONY: So how do you work out with three sisters? How do you work out the pecking order thing? Because like when you raise with boys, they all beat each other and figure out who’s the top dog? What happens when you got three sisters?
BEN: You braid each other’s hair and see who did well?
SCOTT: It took me a while before well, number one, I had to play some house so they play some hoops. You know, that was you play you know? And then when they start to say, you know you played, we got to play another game, I’m like, no, so you’re starting to manipulate me, I said we’re gonna go play some hoops now. Guess what, what? They weren’t coming outside.
TONY: The hoops that you were playing was like hoop skirts.
BEN: Exactly. So what number were you? One, two?
SCOTT: I was number two.
BEN: Number two. Okay, so at least you’re towards the top. That’s probably a good thing. And mom and dad were they together?
SCOTT: They were together. So my mom passed away, unfortunately, when I was a little kid, so like six months old. So she was from Indianapolis and she had breast cancer.
BEN: I’m sorry to hear that. I didn’t know that.
SCOTT: Yeah. But, you know, part of the stuff you face as a kid is how to overcome adversity and so I didn’t know my mom, my real mom. My dad remarried when I was like three. And so my older sister and I were from the same mother and father and then I had two stepsisters and that’s how that all came together.
BEN: Remember what were we talking to Sam, Tony, that was he lost his father. pretty young. Is that right? Yeah, I think he did. But that’s interesting. We’ve heard it a little bit more often than probably the general population for the successful people that we’re talking to. So you lost your mother, dad got remarried when you’re about three and pretty good home life, dad had a lot of money. He was…
SCOTT: Well, my dad did own a company. He owned a beer distributorship in our little town. Yeah.
TONY: And you’re invited to every high school party.
SCOTT: Are you guys starting to get to me?
BEN: We are.
SCOTT: Troublemaker beer boy. There was a bad recipe in there. And I would say home life was pretty good. I mean, we have had some issues for sure I mean, with a new mother that came. Yeah, I mean, being real about it. I mean, there was a lot of pain and growth in there. I mean, today what is my stepmother is truly my mother, the way I look at her but we had to kind of grow through some pain kind of growing up being real about it. I mean, there was, you know, some a lot of hard times be just adjusting to what was going on. Yeah,
BEN: I got it. Got it. And so your dad, he owned a beer distributorship. So he’s not actually producing the beer, he’s actually dividing it and distributing. So there’s that kind of where some of your desire to be an entrepreneur came from?
SCOTT: Yeah, because I remember thinking growing up, man, I loved the freedom that dad has to go and do what he wants to do. And to me, it was more about freedom than the economics. So just being able to call your own shot. So to me, that was the driving motivation.
BEN: Because we talked about on the podcast, a while ago, there was a book, ‘The Psychology of Money and it was just talking about the fact that one of the key aspects of being happy that they found is flexibility and the ability to kind of choose what you want to do when you want to do it is one of the key determinants of being happy. And I thought that was great. And what this guy was saying was, hey, if you got money, you got that ability. So that’s pretty cool. So was your dad successful? Was he like hard worker or what?
SCOTT: Yeah, I mean, I was in now he had to struggle to I mean, if anybody knows anything about the beer business in Indiana, that there were territories. And so everybody had, what that meant was nobody could compete in your territory. So, it was monopolistic really. So that got abolished in the early 70s. And so it became very, you know, get big or get out.
TONY: Was that the Beer Baron Mouse?
SCOTT: Exactly, yeah.
BEN: If it’s not alcohol, you know I’ve got it.
TONY: I did a little studying at Ball State. Very little.
SCOTT: About industries for interesting views. Yeah.
BEN: You could read that resonated with you.
TONY: Yeah, so there was a lot in there that my dad had to learn about the pain of business. And meaning, you know, we had to take on a ton of inventory and carrying costs, and there was a lot.
BEN: You’re talking about after that change.
SCOTT: Correct. Because I mean, you know, what you had to figure out is, how do we compete. Because you didn’t have to used to, you didn’t have to compete before.
BEN: Now did he bring you in and say, hey, can you help me? I know…
SCOTT: He called me about when I was seven or eight.
BEN: Oh, that was pretty early. Okay.
SCOTT: Tell me I guess you’ve got some big problems.
BEN: You talked to some of these people that’s like, hey, he made me like run trash or he told me do whatever.
SCOTT: No, no, we buy scrub beer cans when I was 14 years. Yeah, I started scrubbing them because what you do is if you had a case of beer that was broken, usually it was one can or two cans out of 24, we don’t want to throw the whole case away. But you can’t just repackage a case of beer with nasty stuff on the cans. So you got to wash the cans. And we didn’t have a fancy line that that would wash these things and repackage them. It was me and my sisters. So we would get paid like two buds an hour or something crazy.
TONY: Did you just say you got paid two buds an hour?
SCOTT: Yeah. Well, that was really my bonus.
BEN: Well, that’s cool, though. So you got to see the inner workings of what he was doing even though you saw the enjoyment of all the flexibility and you got to see also hey, he’s got to deal with some, you know, crap. right?
SCOTT: And financial stress, you know, he had to figure out how to, you know, my grandfather drove big old Cadillac, got a new one every year kind of thing. And my dad threw all that out, and we’re driving Ford fiestas. And then Honda Civics and you know, we needed to watch your costs because we needed to figure out how to ramp the business up.
BEN: So when you solve that you liked the flexibility, but it didn’t really sound like he gave you a whole bunch of other luxuries. It was a little bit more of a front like, Hey, we got to tone down our spending over here but really, we got this.
SCOTT: No, we weren’t living big. I mean, we you know, we were comfortable. But I knew that my father was stressed during that era. And you know, and my mom and so it was pressure we felt as kids you know, when parents are dealing with business pressure that’s…
BEN: So they hear it they feel it even though you say everything’s okay, you kids still know right?
TONY: Was mom part of the business?
SCOTT: Yeah, she well, yes, we had a furniture company. I know beer and furniture.
TONY: You said the rocking chair, the lazy boy.
SCOTT: I was waiting for that connection. So mom brand the furniture. She’s always been an interior designer and so she ran the furniture business. And the cool, the only really great synergy if you talk about synergistic things in business, which, you know, you guys like to look at business too but was we had manpower in the beer business to get furniture when furniture need moved. And so if you sold something, you had some guys available to go haul the stuff. So that worked fairly well, I will tell you that was not a great business. Capital intensive, you got a lot of inventory, you didn’t move very well.
BEN: So it sounds like at an early age, you are one, being exposed to businesses. And I was going to ask you if they’re normally there’s more than one business, if you’ve got a parent that’s kind of interested you got two. But in addition to that, you’re seeing the good and the bad, right? Seeing some synergies, you know, you said capital intensive, meaning you got a lot of dollars invested in it. And it sounds like you’re learning quite a bit at a very early age.
TONY: Did you get into inventory turns?
SCOTT: In the beer business? Yep.
TONY: What about the furniture business, was it bigger than one?
BEN: You sold it one you’re done.
TONY: We were going to have to do a little definition example of inventory terms. Not right now. But for the audience. Like why is that important?
BEN: Exactly. But that’s certainly…
SCOTT: It took a little longer than that so little small-town stuff that might…
BEN: Oh you owned a laundromat too?
SCOTT: My family did. So little, you know, I mean, it’s just small-town America, you know. I got exposed to a lot of that kind of stuff.
TONY: Next to the laundromat, did you have a pizza place?
SCOTT: We had a grocery store.
BEN: Wow! So this is starting to actually come together. I know, the audience doesn’t know. Go ahead.
TONY: No, this is what happens is somebody drives up there, their car breaks down, and they’re stuck there for three months and they have to buy everything from his family. They stay in the hotel, they buy the furniture, the food, repair the beer, and more beer. And if you want to get out of jail, you got to call up.
SCOTT: You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.
BEN: That’s right. So it sounds a little bit like what you’re doing now. And I’m not trying to jump ahead but so you formative so you get these items that you’re going through with your family and you’ve learned a ton, right and you’re in high school-ish kind of learning.
SCOTT: Yeah, well, I mean, probably started going to work in middle school for my father.
BEN: That seems like a common denominator.
SCOTT: I start driving a beer truck when I was 14.
TONY: So I’m out. The driver’s license is 16 in Indiana.
SCOTT: I’m kind of old though. It was a little bit debatable.
TONY: Actually means is he the Clydesdales.
BEN: Here comes the beer, here comes the beers.
SCOTT: Now in fairness, they didn’t really cut me loose to go like deliver it. But they were teaching me how to drive one because I really wanted to. I mean, I worked there every summer all the way through college.
BEN: Man, that’s awesome.
TONY: Where’d you go to college?
BEN: Yeah, I was going to say I know where you went. I knew.
TONY: Wait, you went to IU didn’t you?
BEN: I did. I do understand our conversation or do we need to speak a lot slower for you?
TONY: You know where he started though? This is my favorite story. No, no, it’s in every one of these videos. I worked in somewhere. No, he actually went to Purdue his first year of college. I went he transferred that year from Purdue to IU the average IQ went up at both schools.
SCOTT: I always was on the low side. So Ben came I’m sure he did bring it up.
BEN: The lowest guy at Purdue is higher than the highest guy that IU is what he always…
TONY: I wouldn’t, I was not trying to imply that it might have come across that way. I apologize.
BEN: So you went to IU and what did you choose to go, what kind of school or what kind of degree?
SCOTT: So I got an economics degree. But it was mostly because I was not studying appropriately that I was you know, the business school thing was way too high of a standard for me how much I wanted to go to class if you want me to be real about what was going on there.
TONY: I really have a question when I hear somebody because and I don’t want I’m gonna get in trouble I’m a roaster for this but you know why they came up with an economics degree is they wanted to make weatherman look accurate. But so are you micro or macro guy?
SCOTT: Both. Yeah, we did both as a major.
TONY: But which one did you prefer?
SCOTT: Oh, a macro for sure.
BEN: Okay, macro. So you go to IU, graduate. Did you have fun down in IU? Is there anything fun to do at IU?
SCOTT: No. I struggle with that a lot.
TONY: Wait, did you do a little five-biking thing?
SCOTT: No. I was in a good enough shape.
BEN: Good. Because in our prior discussions, it was a very interesting with Mr. Barr I’m sure. But so you got through IU. It sounds like economics you graduated. Did you meet your wife down there?
SCOTT: No. Failed marriage. So if you were going on all in I so I was married. So I went to work at Merrill Lynch in 92.
BEN: Okay got out of school in 90?
SCOTT: Graduated in 90. Yeah.
BEN: And why Merrill Lynch?
SCOTT: Well, so my father sold his company right around the time I got out. So and I went there and helped him kind of get ready for the sale, we sold it. And then I ended up at Merrill Lynch.
BEN: Ended up? I mean, there’s got to be some kind of story.
TONY: They were big.
SCOTT: Yeah, I mean, it was I just didn’t know where to go candidly, because I didn’t really anticipate that dad was going to sell the company. So…
BEN: But how did you get hooked up, then somehow you, somebody must have said, hey, you’d be good at or, hey, there’s an opening over here, or…
SCOTT: I don’t remember how that came up. So I had a friend of my father’s, his name was John Kenny in Chicago who worked for Merrill Lynch. And John was a real estate guy in Chicago. And he’s like, Todd, your kid was born with brass. You know what.
BEN: A lot of gumption.
SCOTT: So he’s like, he just belongs in the financial service industry. And you know, we’ve been developing real estate Chicago for years. He’s been exposed to tons of business, he’s got a demeanor that’s…
BEN: And that’s you.
TONY: You were buy-side, sell-side or…
SCOTT: I was in investments for Merrill.
BEN: So just to let everybody know, Merrill Lynch big, you know, investments company helping individuals, plan, invest, you’re getting in there, and you’re going to be talking to individuals, right? So you’re going to help them from macro economic perspective, you know, how to help…
SCOTT: 22 foot by the way.
BEN: But that’s good.
SCOTT: But what do I know!
BEN: But you got all the training from Merrill Lynch, man.
SCOTT: Well, and I was street-smart. So honestly, because I, you know…
TONY: You drove a beer truck at 14.
BEN: That’s right. People can’t hang with you if you try for beer truck at 14. That’s awesome.
TONY: He said leg up right there.
BEN: That’s right. That’s right.
SCOTT: I mean, I started I mean, honestly, it was like my first job, you know, because I’ve been working eight, nine years, ten years probably.
BEN: Bit too shocking. You knew how to talk to people. We know you. Yeah. It’s pretty easy to talk to you like to get out there and say hello to people. And so now you’re at Merrill Lynch. I’m sure they probably trained you and then just say, hey, start rocking the phone.
SCOTT: Oh, yeah. They paid me a solid 20 grand to get started, I think was 18 actually. Paid me 20 G’s after I passed my test. So after you pass your test…
BEN: Which one, the series 6 or 7?
SCOTT: 7. And all the rest of this stuff and they give you bogeys that you’re either in or out after four months.
BEN: Yeah, they’re pretty ruthless, aggressive, probably aggressive.
SCOTT: And I mean, we hadn’t raised in 92. It was $10 million in assets. And I don’t know the production accounts are really were more ancillary, but it was all about assets.
BEN: So when you say raise for individual’s listening, they’re saying you have to bring in enough people that want to invest with you and you had to do $10 million?
SCOTT: $10 million bucks in two years. Oh, my!
TONY: That’s a 22-year-old.
SCOTT: 22 year old.
BEN: Wow. Because I’ve talked to a lot of people when I was going through wealth management and I was like, man, that’s really tough.
TONY: I’m trying to think right now some 22 year old came up to me said hey, dude, I get this awesome investment for you.
SCOTT: By the way, I drove a beer truck.
BEN: Ran a laundromat.
TONY: And if you want to play some league, I’m in. You’re like hey there old man. I just need 2 million AUM. What do you got?
BEN: So you got out there and you must have started to hustle because you’ve been successful?
SCOTT: Yeah, but I chased $6,000 IRAs all over the planet at the time, you know, because I, you know, I always felt like, you know, everything in business still think this today is that there’s rabbits and then there’s elephants. So if you rabbits and squirrels if you’re just busy. You know, if you’re practicing on somebody, you know, they’re $6000 bucks if all they got and I remember thinking well, that $6,000 to $10 million is a long way to go. But I thought I going to get some wins. And if I just chase people that have $100 grand or $500 grand or a million or $2 million, I’m not getting enough at-bats. So I thought I’m going to go slug it out. I’m driving to Fort Wayne. I’m driving to Richmond, Indiana. You know, I’m all over the place. For $10 grand, two or three times, two or three meetings to get $10 grand. So it was, you know, relentless. You had to be relentless. And I mean, I, you want a funny story?
BEN: Yeah. Well, all kinds of funny stories.
SCOTT: So what I could still tell you shouldn’t say your name on the air. But there was a lady in Fort Wayne, I came back to, I think it was a whopper might have been $17,000. I got a flat tire in my Honda. So my car that was the only thing dad gave me when he sold the company. He’s like, you know, so he was like go make hay. So, but you know, car’s big, you need wheels to get moving. I had two suits to my name. And so I meet with this lady, it’s 10, 11 o’clock at night. And I’m driving back to Indiana, I get a flat tire in my car. I got one of my two suits on. It’s pouring down rain. It’s like rain in sideways. And I’m like I can’t trash one of my suits. So I take off my suit. So change my tire my underwear. Their semis drive by just rolling water on me. I tried to jack the car up. And you know, all you can do at the time, you’re like, man, you have to laugh at yourself. Like this is the most ridiculous thing ever.
BEN: I don’t want to burst your bubble, but they weren’t throwing water at you.
SCOTT: Anyway, so I mean, it was not like, all glamour for sure. Just go into work for a big Wall Street firm.
BEN: And that’s part of the discussion is everybody always thinks they see somebody and they go man, he was so lucky, right? He just had a spoon his mouth, his dad owns, you know, the beer company, whatever but at the end of the day, it’s not always like that. And you’ve got to learn how to hustle. And you know how to talk too plus, you’re probably smart. We know that. And then you’re talking to these people. And how long did it take you? Did you make it two years, the $2 million?
SCOTT: I made it in, a matter of fact, I graduated 20 months I think was the number.
BEN: So you got it done?
SCOTT: Yeah, matter of fact, I smoked it. I started chasing the goods and pretty good whales in my pipe. I was all about pipeline. So it’s no different than everything else. If you’re selling anything.
BEN: It’s the harder you work, the luckier you get.
SCOTT: And I you know, I was getting more comfortable with what people wanted to hear and what they were looking for. And you just learned, I mean, and I had a lot of no-goes of course,
BEN: Can you tell us a little bit about what they you know, what people really needed? And like, what kind of advice you could give them how you helped them.
SCOTT: What I really figured out was how to solve their problems. So you learn to listen a lot more and not talk as much.
BEN: Two ears one mouth, right?
SCOTT: And at 20 some odd years old. So and that took a while but the at-bats teach you that. So the next thing you know, you get into a meeting with somebody that, you know, they put their pants on one leg at a time, just because somebody has $17 grand, that $17 grand is super important to them, right? So it’s just as important as somebody is $500 or $5 million. Well, the guys with $5 million had just as big of a problem, as a matter of fact, they had more, but they weren’t paying as much attention as the person who had $17,000. So you start to solve their problem. And what I found lots of problems and what they were doing and…
BEN: Bs there a couple problems you can tell us about?
SCOTT: Sure I can tell you the big one that I landed was sure there was a $24 million pension that I landed, you know, I’m 20 hit me, 23,24 years old. I lost it too later. So I’ve had a man, I’ve had him out. It’s part of the deal.
BEN: And how’d you get it?
SCOTT: What happened was there was a bank in Fort Wayne, I won’t name them for episode but they were charged in a lot to custody the money, like $120,000 bucks. So this entrepreneur was paying, he was making a lot of money, like a lot, like $50 million a year. He was making a lot of money. But he wasn’t watching all his costs. And I found that he was paying a bank for the privilege of holding his money $120,000. And we could do it for essentially zero. And, you know, so I sat him down, he couldn’t believe it, you know, and even you know, $120 grand mattered, it mattered. And a bank that had you know, been a partner his for a long time and helped him grow his company but they were overcharged him for the custody of his pension plan. So he moved the whole thing to me.
BEN: So you solved the problem, got a big…
TONY: Sounds like 50 beepers the bank was trying to make.
SCOTT: For custody.
TONY: They’d have to work really hard on that because they got to have a place to put it all.
BEN: So for anybody that doesn’t know bips is basis points, and 100 basis points for one percentage point. Nice and easy. And dippers…
TONY: Beeper is way you call it if you had a glass of wine.
SCOTT: I knew what it meant.
BEN: I know, I did too. I was like I loved it. I was trying to explain because we want to teach people, right? But that’s fantastic. That’s really I can only imagine how much like work and the different stories that you had. And oh my gosh, $17,000. I remember talking to a guy that only had nowadays a little bit different, he had $25,000 and it was grueling to get the guy to work with you. And so sometimes the small deals are three times as hard as the big deals. But it’s a little bit weird. So you’re doing this for two years, you made it through because you’re 20 months or four months early. And I think if I recall correctly, that you moved from Merrill Lynch right? And we don’t have to go through each move.
SCOTT: I ended up technically getting fired from Merrill. I got into an issue with my secretary. It wasn’t anything inappropriate. It was around a bonus schedule that was not formally, you know, embraced by the company and approved by the company. There was no structure then like there is today. I had a bonus schedule that I gave her bonus on her maternity leave and she didn’t like the bonus that I’d given her and they cause some issues.
BEN: Got you. So then you left Merrill and then went somewhere else?
SCOTT: I ended up at AG Edwards. And then I became the manager at AG Edwards four years later. So I was practicing, have my own practice, we were running $100 million, $150 million at the time. And…
BEN: And so for anybody that’s listening, $100 million is a big deal, right? What’s the break-off between I forget state and fed?
SCOTT: Feds now. I think $125 million.
BEN: Okay. So you start to come under the roof of the fed, once you start getting big enough. And $100 million back then, that’s a big deal. I just want people to know that. So you’re running this, now you’re managing it and sounds like you’re successful, because you’re just successful that way and what happened?
SCOTT: So the next challenge for me was managing managing advisors. Older than me by a long way. I know that’s not quite true, because we fast forward in there a little bit but I was probably 30 something you know.
BEN: But that’s really young still, you know?
TONY: I’m thinking some of the guys I know from AG Edwards, but we don’t want to name any of them here. We’ll do that offline.
SCOTT: Well, you would know my predecessor or two wonderful people. And they ended up working in my office. So I know who you’re talking about but from your country club. Yeah.
BEN: So then you’re managing large amount of money, you’re managing individual, what do you call advisors and how’s that going?
SCOTT: So now running two things, right? So you’re running your own practice and you’re running, you’re trying to grow on both and then you start to say, okay, which one’s more productive.
BEN: For you which one was?
SCOTT: Well, candidly growing the office was more productive. Because if you could go, you know, the way they did you know, way AG Edwards ran it, it was just you were paid off the profitability of the office. So if you had 50 advisors, and you word 15, then you know, you start to say, if we get our p&l managed right, and then I got a percentage of the profitability. So it was 20% of the profitability if you’re performing on your metrics. So you’re like, well, this is a pretty good gig.
BEN: You working a 100% or 50 people working 50%. It’s a lot better.
SCOTT: A lot better. Yeah. So pretty soon, that’s the whole you know, the light bulb goes on, right? It’s no different than having any business is that if you learn. You know, it’s one thing to do everything yourself, next thing to do if you start to manage people, it’s the same.
BEN: Teamwork. Synergistically great stuff. So you go through this, you learn this lesson, you think that’s another piece of the puzzle?
SCOTT: Is that another piece of the puzzle? Absolutely.
BEN: Meaning like you saw different things going on with your day. Now you’re seeing this and that…
SCOTT: It’s your managerial style right? So you learn a lot about what is it about Scott. Scott wants to teach these people and it’s my fundamentals and my beliefs. And so my beliefs were you know, you treat people right, no matter who they are, and you want people to feel good about where they’re working. And so it sometimes the expense of profitability. Sometimes you would make calls to say this is more about taking care of the people because ultimately, I believe that I will get that back tenfold in loyalty later. And so, you know, we did that. And I think, you know, you would find people that worked in the office that I managed, for the most part, you never have everybody that loves you, of course, but you have a lot of people do.
BEN: But I think that’s a good point because you know there’s very successful people out there who say, hey, if you help someone else get what they want, you will get what you want. And by learning that early, I think that’s a very powerful thing because if you treat people with respect, a lot of them just want to be heard and respected and if you do that in your life, that really leads you to a very fun, profitable place.
TONY: So you didn’t make them come in on Sundays and fill out the TPS reports?
BEN: What’s a TPS report? I don’t even know if I know that.
TONY: That’s a reference to office space.
BEN: I was gonna say that.
SCOTT: I will tell you that. That’s funny. You say that, Tony, because there was a lot. I mean, you know everybody has a choice. If you were running. And I’m not faulting what they were doing more than and that what I was doing was right, I just chose how I wanted to do it. And so there were people, that’s p&l were ridiculous. Like, they’d have 26%, 27%, 28% net profit in their office, which was really high. But then the people weren’t, you know, the staff wasn’t making money, they were making people buy their own coffee, and they were working in a really crappy office and weren’t feeling good about themselves. So all of those were choices.
BEN: So how did you learn that though? I mean, is there anything that trips your wire or you’re just like…
SCOTT: I would check them out. I wanted to know what those guys were doing and I would make a choice like I chose I didn’t want to do that. Right or wrong and candidly, it cost me money because I would sacrifice it in the short run. But I was building I was building what I thought was something bigger, better and a team that cared and would appreciate what I was doing for them.
BEN: I mean, I think that’s like another great lesson. Because, you know, people want to feel valued but in addition to that,you got to be who you are. And that’s the only way you can live because there’s too much stress and tension when you try to be somebody else. So, you’re successful, you continue to do the wealth management, you built it up, you’ve been running an office over $100 million. And then kind of what gets you to a point where you start thinking about, hey, you know, I really like this, but maybe I want to take a look at something else.
SCOTT: So I don’t know that I had like this big aha moment. You know, we had you heard the phrase, “you got kicked off your lily pad,” you know, where you’re like, I don’t know that I would have changed had I not gotten kicked off my lily pad. The lily pad at the time was AG Edwards was acquired by Wachovia and then by Wells Fargo and the managerial structure changed. Again, not for what I would consider the better but you know, it was just different. There was a change. And so I struggled with that a lot because I had a lot of autonomy. I had this thing roll and it was moving and people were happy. You know, we were having fun. We had a good synergy. I was having new guys wanted to come in. We were growing like a weed all over the place. And then we change cultures. And I’m like, this isn’t fun anymore. You know, so you’re like, I’m not sure what I’m gonna do with this. but in the meantime, you know, I don’t know if anybody’s paying attention more keeping score with this as the financial crisis 2007-2008. So you’re not doing anything during that move. I remember your history during this, Tony. I mean, it’s not fun going through that valley but that’s life, you know, you’re just you know, sometimes you got to roll and sometimes not so good. At this was a not-so-good time. But you know, I stuck in there and I ran that all the way through 2011. So I went through two mergers and we changed the name three times. And I never left the building and the culture change tremendously, but I was like, it’s not time to go. It wasn’t time to go for my people in the office, it wasn’t time for my clients. I felt good about that decision. I mean, yeah, there’s decisions I made in my life that weren’t great. That one was pretty good to ride out the storm as it was.
BEN: And I remember one of the guys that I work with, he always said he alerted me. He said, the hardest thing to change in a business was culture. And if you get it forced upon you, I can’t even imagine three times how challenging that would be. And you just sticking it out. That’s like crazy.
SCOTT: I think that that was formed formative for me too.
BEN: I would believe 100% That would be.
SCOTT: Because it was becoming pretty clear that I needed to do it for me. I was working for other people and very well. And so the point of being kicked off my lily pad. If AG Edwards had stayed in the game, and just given me the formula that I had, I may not have changed, because it was very lucrative, and it was rewarding. The people were, you know, we had I mean, people walked in the play and you were uplifted immediately. And I still see these people all over the place. And you know, I’m blessed by them all the time.
BEN: And they have positive light before with you. And when Tony and I were talking to Sam, you know, the funny thing that he just totally jokes about remember, he’s like, he got fired. He was like, he was driving up to talk to the private equity firm. And he’s like, my buddy’s gonna get fired, and it is really terrible. He gets up there, he gets fired. But his whole point was, he walked away from that he’s like, I’m never gonna get a job, nothing ever good is gonna happen to me and what happens like within a week, he’s like, doing great. So embarrassed that he got fired. But then he got knocked off his lily pad and he was just like, he got going down this path that was so different. But he was so happy that it kind of led him down there. And so you’re probably, I would say, probably confident, because you’ve seen that you could do some stuff. You also enjoyed building a team wanted to do it on your own, you’re probably kind of itching a little bit, maybe to do something a little bit different. And we know you because you talk to everybody. So your network is probably huge at this time. And now, you’re sitting there going, what can I do maybe? And what do you do?
Scott came from a small town in northern Indiana. He didn’t know his biological mother and his dad owned a beer distributorship when he was young. He became a successful financial advisor through hard work, but he clearly enjoyed business. He’s now learned a lot about business the hard way, but has been able to use that to his advantage. Join us next time when we hear about how he used his experience to build a $30 million private equity fund. Thanks for being here. And we’ll see you next time for more Money with Mak and G.