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Building the Business 101: NAPFA, Our Not-So-Secret Weapon

How NAPFA has helped us build our practice.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 11/02/2006

This monthly series of articles describes the many steps and occasional missteps we took in building our financial advisory business, Mosaic Wealth Management. Mosaic is a fee-only comprehensive financial planning and investment management firm located in Bethesda, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. At this writing, we have about $50 million under advisement, 40-plus clients, two employees, an 1,100-square-foot office suite in a Grade A building, and the two of us--Annette and Veena--the principals and equal owners of the firm.

We're writing this article just hours after the end of the NAPFA Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, which was held in our hometown of Bethesda, Md. As always after a NAPFA conference, we're brimming with great ideas, feeling recharged, and eager to implement the best of what we've learned in our practice.

We've alluded in the past to our affiliation with NAPFA and how important it has been in the growth and development of our business. We're taking this opportunity to elaborate on that topic, to dispel some common misconceptions about NAPFA, and to encourage qualified planners who might be hesitant to take the plunge and join this wonderful organization.

What Have We Gotten from NAPFA?
In short, not what we expected, but so much more than we could have imagined.

Annette joined NAPFA in 1996, while the ink on her CFP certificate was barely dry. Her primary reason for joining was the consumer referrals, which looked very enticing to someone launching a new practice with no financial-planning experience. She began attending the monthly meetings of the Washington, D.C., area NAPFA Study Group and quickly found a few established practitioners who were interested in hiring her on a project basis and willing to refer smaller clients to her nascent planning-only practice.

In the spring of 1997, Annette attended her first NAPFA National Conference and was immediately hooked on the conference experience. The quality of the educational sessions and the level of interaction among attendees was exceptional. But the real value came in the networking that went on between sessions. Although NAPFA members range from solo practitioners to planners in firms with 20 or more employees, they share a passion for excellence. Members share a commitment to keeping up with best practices and giving their clients, from newlyweds starting from scratch to the beneficiaries of massive family wealth, exceptional value for the fees they pay.

Overwhelmed by the talent of her newfound colleagues, and their generosity toward her, Annette soon became active in NAPFA's leadership at the study group, regional, and eventually national level. Her three-year term on the National Board of Directors ended in August.

Veena joined NAPFA soon after launching her practice in 2000. She, too, joined for the referrals and began attending local study group events. One of these was a three-hour workshop on employee stock options led by Annette. Soon after this session, we had our first lunch and began exploring the possibility of working together. So the list of what each of us has gotten from NAPFA includes a partner we value, trust, and respect!

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