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Building the Business 101

How two partners came to be Mosaic.

Veena A. Kutler and Annette F. Simon, 03/02/2006

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Building a financial advisory business from scratch ain't easy! More than five years into the endeavor, we can attest to that. Have we acquired some know-how and survived some "oh no!" moments that we can share with others who are starting down the same path? We think we have.

Over the months to come we will be writing a series of columns describing--as candidly as our egos will allow--the steps (and occasional missteps) we have taken in building our business. So, watch this space!

Who We Are

Mosaic Wealth Management is a fee-only comprehensive financial planning and investment management firm located in Bethesda, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. 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--the principals and equal owners of the firm.

Annette has an MBA and worked in management consulting for years before a brief stint as a restless stay-at-home mom. With her youngest starting school, she earned her CFP certification and hung out her shingle in 1996 as a solo planner. As a newcomer to the field, the most important step she took in launching her financial planning career was joining and becoming actively involved with the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the professional association for fee-only planners. At NAPFA conferences and study group meetings, Annette met planners with a wide range of practice models. She made many friends and invaluable contacts within the industry. She also saw business partnerships begin and subsequently end for a variety of reasons.

Over time she built expertise in financial planning but was reluctant to manage client portfolios. Struggling to build a planning-only practice, Annette eventually accepted an offer to work for a NAPFA firm in the area. However, soon after becoming an employee she felt suffocated by working for someone else and knew she would be much happier if she could return to her own practice--and find a way to provide the high-quality comprehensive service clients really needed.

Veena is also a mom but never a stay-at-home one. She hired her first nanny when her oldest child was just two weeks old. For many years, Veena, who is a CFA and has an MBA, worked for a large mutual fund company as an institutional portfolio manager. In 2000, seeking a shorter commute, less stress, and more family time, she left the fund company to accept a junior partnership with a small investment advisory firm serving individual investors. Like Annette, Veena quickly felt uncomfortable in her new situation--it was clear within two weeks that personality conflicts would be an issue. Within two months, Veena left to start her own firm.

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