Ian: So we’re here today with Yusuf Abugideiri from Yeske Buie to talk a little bit about his career trajectory and growth through the firm to be partner. So, Yusuf, thanks for being here.
Yusuf: Thanks for having me.
Ian: So as we think about this month and when we’re thinking about managing and networking, you came to mind for me because you and I have talked a lot over the years about your different opportunities through Yeske Buie and your career trajectory and track and the ability to manage people. And I think it’s a wonderful story, and I’m really interested to hear where did it all start?
Yusuf: It started at Virginia Tech. The story about how I met Elissa is interesting. I was in the right place at the right time. Quick backstory, the financial planning program at Virginia Tech had just completed a field trip up to D.C. to visit several financial planning firms. And that was where I realized, sitting in someone else’s office, looking out at the view from behind their desk and hearing them talk about how they worked to serve clients, this was the career for me. And so I was really excited.
Yusuf: We got back to Tech, I believe, Friday night, and I think it was a Saturday morning that I was giving a presentation as one of the ambassadors of the College of Business. So it was an information session for parents of prospective students, and it was a presentation I had given a number of times. Decided to spice it up a little bit.
Yusuf: For those who know me, I’m a sneakerhead, and I had noticed one of the kids coming in had a pretty rare pair of Adidas sneakers. They were lime green, and so I chatted him up before the presentation, got up onstage, and to kick off my presentation, I said, “Okay, where’s the kid with the shoes?” And hen he helped me out. He put his hand up. So what I did was, I said, “Look, here are my notes for today’s presentation. I’m going to give them to you, you follow along, and if I hit all my points blind, you give me the shoes. And if I miss one or I mess up, then you get a free ride to Virginia Tech.” Which obviously was not within my power to offer. And Dean Sorensen at the time was pretty unenthused with the [inaudible].
Yusuf: But it turned out fine, and the kid played along with the presentation, kept me honest. We had a good time with it. And I ended up hitting all my points, and I closed.
Ian: Did you get the shoes, though?
Yusuf: No. I didn’t get the shoes. I didn’t bother him for those. But I closed by saying that I wanted to be a rainmaker at a top financial planning firm. Now, unbeknownst to me, as I’m giving this speech about how Virginia Tech helped me find my career path and I’m all passionate about financial planning, Elissa Buie is sitting in the audience with, at the time, our operations manager, Marcia Buie, and her daughter, Lauren, who was set to become a freshman at Virginia Tech.
Yusuf: And they had somehow received my resume. I had applied for an internship with a firm now known as FJY. They had filled the position before I even interviewed. They passed along my resume, and Marcia had seen it, so they recognized my name and said, “Okay, there can’t be that many Yusuf Abugideiris in financial planning. Let’s talk to this gentleman.”
Yusuf: And so they came down and introduced themselves to me after the presentation. Elissa gave me her card and offered me an internship, saying, “I have a financial planning firm and loved your presentation. Like to get to know you a bit more.” And I turned her down. I had an internship for the summer already secured. This was April of 2008. I was set to work with GE for their Asset Management arm up in Stamford, Connecticut, as part of their financial management program.
Yusuf: So we parted ways, and it was maybe a week later or so I was talking to Derek Clock, one of the directors of the financial planning program, and said, “Oh, hey, isn’t this funny? This woman offered me an internship. I must have given a great presentation.” He gets all wide-eyed and says, “Well, what’d you say?” I said, “Turned her down. You know I’m doing the F&P thing for GE.” And he said, “No, no, no. You need to call her back. You need to apologize, and this is who she is,” and blah blah blah. Once I became aware of what kind of an opportunity it would be to learn from her and ultimately get a chance to meet Dave and learn from him, it was quite clear that I needed to revise my approach.
Yusuf: So I ended up calling her and apologizing. We met, she interviewed me, I believe in May, and then we worked out a winternship. So I satisfied my obligations with GE, and then I ended up interning with Yeske Buie December and January for over a three-week stretch between the end of ’08 and the beginning of ’09.
Ian: And so, from that internship, what were your responsibilities as an intern at Yeske Buie?
Yusuf: So they put together a list of things that I would do in the office, and they also gave me a list of materials to read and brush up on, just to familiarize myself with the firm’s philosophy. What was unique about that time is, things were pretty crazy in the markets, and Yeske Buie had just formed … it was January of 2008 was when the merger between Dave and Elissa’s predecessor firms happened, so just at the end of its first year of existence.
Yusuf: You know, things were, again, pretty crazy out there, and so what Dave and Elissa offered to members of the firm, rather than giving out huge end-of-year bonuses, was, “Look, we’ll man the fort for a couple of weeks. Everyone take time and be home with your families.” Except for me. I was arrived. So it was a great opportunity, right? I mean, you get a chance to hang out with the CEO and managing director of a financial planning firm.
Yusuf: And I said, “Thanks for the homework. Thanks for all the reading assignments. I’ll do that on my own time. I’d like to spend as much time as possible doing real work at the office with you.” And so I was reviewing portfolios and learning how to rebalance accounts, doing database management. I mean, you name it, anything from typical intern work to as close as you could get to real financial planning work. I sat in on meetings, I took notes, all kinds of work. And it was great. I was hooked.
Yusuf: And by the end of it, I was fortunate enough to have been extended an offer, and then I joined the firm in September of 2009.
Ian: Awesome. So September of 2009 comes, you’ve graduated college, you’ve spent some time at home. You went out to California, is that right, for your first stint with Yeske Buie? Or your first period of time?
Yusuf: Yeah, the first chapter, sure. We were shorter staffed in that office at the time, and that’s where Dave and Elissa told me they needed me. And the agreement was always for me to come back to Virginia at some point. Not quite as quickly as it ended up working out. The initial plan was I’d go out there, do grad school out there, spend a few years, and then come back as I settled into my career. Within the first few months, we had some turnover. Folks left, and we kind of hit the reset button. By April of 2010, the only people who worked at Yeske Buie were Yeske, Buie, me, and Summer, who was our client service administrator.
Yusuf: So Dave and Elissa sat me down and just said, “Okay, where do you want to be? Do you want to go back home? Do you want to stay out here? You know, you’ve made it this far. You’ve demonstrated the commitment that you want to be here, so where do you want to further your career?” And I decided I wanted to come home for a number of reasons and then shipped back to Virginia in August of 2010, and I’ve been here since.
Yusuf: But the time in California was incredible. I mean, there was a stretch where it was just Dave and I in the office, and it was like Batman and Robin. He got the clients, he did the complex financial planning, I did the support work, I did the paperwork, took the notes in the meetings. That’s where I learned how to work big hours, how to manage my time, how to triage stuff. And that was also when he was going back and forth every week between our two offices, and so I’d have a week where it was wall-to-wall meetings and then a week where I’d get all my work done and then come back and then would repeat.
Yusuf: But it was an exciting time.
Ian: Yeah. So you’re talking about long hours, real financial planning experience. So I’m curious. You get to California, you’re new to the area. You’ve actually said to me one time, you have to eat, you have to figure out where to get your laundry done, all of those things that come up. And so how do you make the transition from college student who excels in a financial planning program and then receives a job and then has to make the transition from no longer being a student and on some level having someone looking out for you to being all on your own on the opposite side of the country and having to manage yourself both personally and professionally?
Yusuf: It’s a huge learning experience, right? I mean, you are being stretched everywhere you go. Everywhere you look, it’s something new. And so the advice I would give to people making that transition is just be patient with yourself. It’s not going to be perfect. You’re going to have messy weeks. You’re going to have weeks where you’re spending more than you had budgeted to for that week for food just because you didn’t have time to meal prep or whatever, so you’re going out to lunch every week. Fine. You’ve got to figure out where the gym is, you’ve got to figure out what your routine is.
Yusuf: I mean, I remember my routine was studying for the exam. I thought by then I had settled in, so my meal prep routine was precise, but it had to be. I had no time to waste. I’d get everything ready on Sundays. Monday morning I’m on the train, studying for the exam. I get to work, work all day, get back to Berkeley. I was living outside the city. Hit the gym, get home, eat whatever I had scheduled for the week, study for a couple hours, and then get right back to it. But it didn’t start that way. I had to build a routine first, and it took months before I was settled. And so you’ve got to be patient, and then ultimately, if you work at it, things fall into place.
Ian: Just to harp on this point for one moment, you’ve talked about routine a lot. What does routine like for someone who’s used to purposefully not scheduling 8 a.m.s or doing things that, in college or in university or wherever you are, you’re able to do? When you get into the professional world, that transition’s a little different. There are higher expectations and pulls on your time. So the routine’s super important, but where do you get started setting a routine? Is it just one thing every day, like, “Okay, so for this week, we’re definitely going to meal prep and have some success early on”? Or is it “I’ve got to get to the meal prep, got to get to the gym,” all of those things have to happen in the first month or two?
Yusuf: Yeah, so for me, it used to be a daily thing, and I found more success with a weekly rhythm. It’s really hard to have a good day every day, but it’s a lot easier to have a good week. So, you know, if I start planning on a Sunday, as I was when I was living in Berkeley.
Yusuf: Now my planning happens on Fridays, but it’s the same process. When you look out a week in advance and you identify, okay, what are the things that I need to have a good week? Three, four workouts? Okay, check, check, check. We’re going to have those on these days. Meal prep for the week? Okay, that’s going to happen on this day. Probably going to be in the office 50, 60 hours, given what’s on the calendar. Okay, well there’s a block of time that’s off the books. Okay, what’s left over, and what else do I want to make sure I accomplish and start fitting things in to time slots where you can achieve those things, right?
Yusuf: If it’s coordinating a phone call with your family who lives three time zones away, all right, well, that has to happen at a point where it works for everyone’s schedule. And then you make the plan so that, as your week unfolds and things don’t go according to plan, you can adjust on the fly. You kind of have this vision of, “Okay, well, I thought I was going to get this done, but I can swap this thing and that thing, still achieve both.” Or, “You know what? Hey. This other thing that I really wanted to get done this week’s not going to happen. Fine, I’ll push it to next week.”
Yusuf: But taking that macro look at it, for me, enabled me to find success with building a routine.
Ian: Would you say that there’s an importance to personality integrity, meaning integrity to yourself in this routine, doing the things you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do them and holding yourself accountable?
Yusuf: Yeah. I mean, you’re building a relationship with yourself. You’re building trust with yourself and setting realistic expectations and then meeting those expectations. It does. You do demonstrate that integrity that you’re talking about, and that’s a massive confidence builder, and that’s something that’s really important, especially as a young professional.
Ian: So you’re setting your routine, you’ve become a great employee, you made your way back to the East Coast, and I assume sometime between moving back to the East Coast and the most recent developments in your career, you’ve dealt with some feedback, some reviews from your bosses, those kind of things?
Yusuf: Yeah, once or twice.
Ian: So how do you think to yourself, “I’m coming into the review, the year has gone by, I’ve had integrity with myself and followed my routine.” And then you come out of that review with some feedback, some opportunities for improvement going forward. How is it that you’re able to manage that aspect for yourself, and how does that affect the firm, you responding to feedback well?
Yusuf: So again, let’s look back at the context, right? I mean, I, for a number of months, was the only non-founder financial planner at the firm. I wasn’t getting feedback in scheduled review meetings. It was live, real-time. And that’s a part of our culture to this day. Yes, we certainly do have formal reviews and goals-setting meetings and all of that, but our culture is one where, if you didn’t do something up to standard, you hear about it more or less immediately.
Yusuf: And the same is true on the other end of it. If you do something that’s exceptional, you’re going to hear about it too. The growth process is constant, and managing the process is a constant thing. So for us, we have communication agreements that were developed after my initial years, but the principles were in place from the beginning. And that feedback is delivered in an honest, direct, respectful manner. It’s timely, it’s clear, there’s an opportunity for you as the person receiving that feedback, to ask questions.
Yusuf: And for me, it was all about, “Okay, look, I have to meet the standard of two exceptional financial planners.” I mean, these people have national, international reputations. They’ve been at this for a long time, they’re really good at it, and they’re trusting me to be an integral part of their firm. So I craved the feedback, like, “Please, tell me, what am I doing that’s not up to your standard? Where am I falling short? Where can I improve?”
Yusuf: And I asked for it constantly, after every meeting, “What could I have done better?” Anytime I turned in a deliverable, “What could have been improved upon?” And I appreciate their ability to give me as much feedback as they gave me was also a bit unique to the circumstance. They could afford to dedicate that much time to my development. And it’s still something that we strive to do as a firm today, deliver that consistent feedback. But not everybody gets to get it from Dave Yeske and Elissa Buie.
Yusuf: So that was a unique benefit that I took full advantage of.
Ian: As well you should. So as your career progresses, what was the decision, the transition to start being a part of managing new hires and your development and work on the internship program and working through with residency folks? How did that transition happen for you?
Yusuf: Organically. I mean, I, within my first year at Yeske Buie, was responsible for training others. We hired some folks in June of 2010, so as I was transitioning out of San Francisco, I was playing a role in the training of my replacements. We had hired two financial planners at that time, neither one of which is still with the firm, but they were with us for a time. And one of our client service administrators, who is still with us, Dorothy Novales. So I played a role in their onboarding.
Yusuf: The level of involvement, certainly, was not where it is today, but I was given an opportunity to start getting that kind of experience very early on. So, you know, it’s just another blessing of Dave and Elissa’s trust in me at a young age. I had by then mastered many of the pieces of paperwork that we do for clients on a regular basis. I knew account forms, account transfer forms, and all that kind of thing, so I had the wherewithal to train on those items. I was familiar with the software that we use for financial planning, all our internal systems, and so I was given the opportunity to train in all those spaces.
Yusuf: And so I gained experience kind of immediately, and then I’d say that I built the level of confidence that I have now piecemeal from there, managing interns, onboarding other recent graduates and helping them grow into financial planners who could play a support advisory role. When we launched our financial planning resident program in 2014, that was when the managerial and training experience really leveled up. So we can dive into that, if you’re ready.
Ian: Yeah. No, so my next question, I’m curious. The reason that this whole buildup is I think it’s really interesting to hear the progression. Starting out as a Hokey ambassador, potentially working at a different firm, accepting an opportunity with a financial planning shop with great experience to work from, and then setting your personal management style. How do you make sure that you’re doing your job every day? And I think what I’m curious about now is, as you think about managing others, interns, residency folks, onboarding full-time employees, how does the responsibility feel for you, and the change from “I’m no longer just managing myself. There are people, whether they are interns or full-time employees or residency folks who are looking to me to not only be in the office to ask questions but show up myself and be the example I need to be”?
Yusuf: So I don’t mean for this to be a cop-out, but I was never only managing myself. Yeah, I was never Dave’s supervisor. I was never Elissa’s supervisor. But you do have to manage up, right? I mean, these are people who are incredibly busy. Dave is bouncing back coast to coast. It’s my job to make sure that the things he needs are put in front of him in a timely manner, that the things Elissa needs are delivered to her in a timely manner. And I’m working to meet those requirements within the context of their ever changing schedules.
Yusuf: Also getting my stuff done as we’re having folks join the team, helping them get comfortable. So it was never just me. And I think that’s also a blessing in the way that my career unfolded because that’s the way I just learned to operate. Yes, I, Yusuf, have things that I have to get done every day, and they’re within the context of what we, Yeske Buie, are trying to achieve. Okay, so given that context, where is my time best used? Well, what are my most pressing deadlines? What has to happen to meet what’s required for those various deadlines? And then working backwards from there.
Yusuf: And that’s again why a routine like building out a plan for a week in advance, I think, enables one who is in a management role to have success, because you know what needs to be achieved. You know what’s critical, what can be pushed, and you know the job. Clients have unexpected needs, things happen, markets happen, and you just have to adjust and be able to discern what’s most important, given the new context on a daily or hourly basis.
Yusuf: But if you have that understanding, if that’s the way you operate, then you’re well suited, I think, to manage others and make sure that they’re getting what they need within the context of their schedules and their task lists and whatnot. Is that a fair answer?
Ian: Yeah, no, I think it’s great. I think what I’m hearing from you is that, from the jump, it’s all about how you show up.
Ian: I think that’s what we’re getting to, right, is that, from day one, Yusuf is both managing himself and managing up to the best of his ability, and I think for folks to think about “Where do we want to go in our careers? What do we hope the ends are of our careers, and where does it all start?” It doesn’t start five years later, once you realize that you’re at the firm you maybe want to be at forever, and then you start showing up right. I think what we’re hearing from you is that you showed up day one, and I’m going to give this everything I have and a certain level of commitment there. Is that fair to say?
Yusuf: Totally fair. And so something that you just said triggered two things that I want to make sure that I share with you right here. Thinking about where you want to be, you just mentioned that, and in that first interview with Elissa, she said, “Look, it’s not out of the question that you could be a partner at this firm in 10 years.” So the way that my mind shifted immediately was, “Okay, I need to prove that I can do what she and Dave do, and apparently I’ve got 10 years to do it, so clock’s ticking.”
Yusuf: And that was just something that I imposed on myself, because that’s ultimately where I wanted to be, and I was 100% clear on that. And the opportunity was kind of obvious. If you have a chance to learn from the best and join the best at doing what they do, you don’t pass that up, and you do whatever it is that you can to make that opportunity come to fruition.
Yusuf: So that’s one. Two is, my first official review meeting, I’ll never forget it. It was February, so I had been with the firm for four, five months. Elissa walked into my office in San Francisco. “Now, you’re doing a great job,” appreciated me for some growth that I had demonstrated, and then explained my job to me as follows. “Your job is to do everything so that Dave or I is positioned to walk into a meeting with a client, deliver exquisite advice, give them an outstanding experience, and walk out, and make sure that the plan is going to be executed exactly as we discussed in the meeting.” So that’s a big job. That’s pretty wide-ranging, and so I was challenged to learn a number of different aspects of the implementation of the financial planning process very early on and was charged with owning that process.
Yusuf: And having extremely high expectations placed upon me was a good motivator and ensured that I was adequately incentivized to do everything I needed to do and to show up in the best way that I could.
Ian: As you’re talking, I’m thinking to myself, “I wonder …” You may be one of the best people to ask this question. I love this question, so you work for two phenomenally well-known financial planners within the profession. And I’m curious, have there been moments, as you’re working with them, that you have some thoughts that come to your mind that are critical in nature and you want to bring them up, but “Dave and Elissa said we should go right, and I’m kind of thinking left might make a better answer for this particular client.” How do you approach that with a Dave and an Elissa?
Yusuf: So I’ll talk about how that evolved over time. So, look, they’re incredible financial planners. Rarely is it the case, if ever, that they’re going to be giving advice where it’s like, “Oh, you know, I think I’d actually do it differently.”
Ian: Of course, of course.
Yusuf: Let’s get that out there on the table first. It was always in the form of a question, and it used to be after the meeting. At first, you’re just absorbing everything, then it’s, “Oh, well, I’m not 100% clear as to why you gave this recommendation. It’s different from maybe a recommendation that I’ve heard you deliver in the past.” “Oh, well, you said these specific circumstances dictated that we should take a different approach. Oh, okay, got it.”
Yusuf: When I started to have ideas about recommendations I might want to deliver, I would propose them in advance of the meeting. “We’ve got an opportunity for Roth conversion for this client, and I think it makes sense for the following reasons. Elissa, what do you think?” She might agree with it, she might not and give me the feedback, and then we’d go into the meeting and take care of the client.
Yusuf: When I started to become comfortable enough with our approach, our philosophy, the way we do financial planning, and just the practice of financial planning, and I started to have ideas in meetings, I would ask afterwards, “I thought about this when you said that. Should I have brought that up?” And sometimes the feedback would be, “No, because you’re not thinking about this, this, and this.” “Oh, okay, thank you for enlightening me.” Or “Yeah, you should have brought it up, and don’t be afraid to speak up.”
Yusuf: Again, it was Elissa. After I transitioned back from San Francisco to Virginia, I spent more time in meetings with her. But it was her that said, “As long as you’re not afraid of me correcting you in front of a client, at this point in your career, you’ve reached the space where you can start offering those suggestions.” And that was four or five years deep. It took a while to get there. I had to really learn our clients, really learn, again, the practice of financial planning and more about how our firm approaches it. And from there, from that point, I’m not always right.
Ian: Of course.
Yusuf: I’ve learned to become more comfortable with throwing my suggestions in there. And certainly now, as a lead adviser, I’m in Elissa’s chair. It’s my chair now. I’m the one delivering recommendations. But the opportunities for feedback from the folks who support me continue to exist. I mean, we debrief after every client meeting. “You know, Yusuf, I thought the way you presented this, you could have slowed down more” or maybe “I don’t think the client was totally following you when you were at this part of the presentation.” You know, I’m rambling a bit here, but it’s funny. You’ve got me thinking about growing into the position I’m in, how I benefited from the feedback from Dave and Elissa and now how I’m continuing to benefit from feedback from those who are supporting me.
Ian: So all of this happened over some time, and how many years have you been there now?
Yusuf: It’ll be 10 years in September.
Ian: 10 years in September. And so do you want to take a moment to deliver the most recent news at Yeske Buie when it comes to the leadership structure?
Yusuf: As far as how many owners there are at the firm at this point?
Ian: That’s right.
Yusuf: Yeah. As of January 1 of this year, myself, Lauren Stansell, and Lauren Mireles came on as partners, and that’s something that we are incredibly excited about.
Ian: Woop, woop. Congratulations. So now we’re looking forward towards your time with Lauren and Dave and Elissa as partners at Yeske Buie. How do you sit with the responsibility of being a partner and the inevitable management that’s going to come with that?
Yusuf: So you asked me about integrity earlier in this conversation, and that’s the driver. That’s everything about ownership to me, because I’ve spent literally my entire career dreaming of having this opportunity, trying to prepare myself for that opportunity. You know, also saying, “Well, when it’s me, how am I going to fulfill those responsibilities? What are my expectations of leadership as a follower? What are my expectations of leadership as a leader?” And trying to remember what it was like in those early years and then challenging myself to say, “Okay, am I going to honor the expectations that I had of leadership when I was coming up? Am I going to show up in the same way?”
Yusuf: It’s easy to talk about it when you’re not in the position. When you’re in the position, the challenge is to try to remind yourself of the needs of all the people who support you and that you support as a leader and manager. Then you have come correct. I mean, and it’s not easy.
Yusuf: So I’ll give you an example. Not long after I transitioned into this new role, one of our supporting advisers called me up and said, “Hey, I made a mistake.” And it was a critical one, and it was one that could cost the firm some money. Not a huge amount, nothing that’s going to affect anything in a material way, but hey, that’s coming out of my pocket now. And I felt an emotional reaction. Thankfully I was able to manage it. So I’m in real time checking myself and saying, “Okay, I’ve always said I wouldn’t be reactionary, I’d be solutions-focused, give positive reinforcement and make sure that the individual understands the severity of the error, gets the feedback in real time in a respectful way, and then has what they need to go forward and improve things.”
Yusuf: And I was transparent with this individual. I said, “Look, this is a big deal, and this is an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you’re going to respond to something like this. And I have to tell you, I’m reacting to this differently than I might have two weeks ago.” In the moment I asked him. I said, “Look, how is this sitting with you? Are you hearing the importance of this issue in our conversation, and are you receiving feedback in a way that’s also going to enable you and empower you to grow from this?”
Yusuf: And we had a great conversation, and all is settled now. But to get back to your question, it’s just about that integrity and just challenging myself to be the person that I imagined I would be, that we as a firm think our partners, our owners, our leaders, our managers should be and executing those responsibilities the right way. Takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of time, takes a lot of focus, but it’s awesome. It’s an incredible challenge, and when you’re meeting that standard of integrity, it’s incredibly affirming.
Ian: So you become partner, and on the opposite side of the coin, let’s say you had laxed a little bit on your personal integrity and showing up to the office early or ensuring that you’re doing the things that you need to take care of yourself. How does that affect your management, do you think, if that side of things isn’t working well?
Yusuf: So I’m going to answer your question a different way. Making mistakes now is so much harder than it was at the beginning of my career. Coming up short now, missing deadlines, just making errors, it hurts so much more because “You should know better” is a thought that comes up. I expect a certain standard out of myself, and when I catch errors, when I see that I’ve come up short, it’s so much harder to admit it to myself, to my other business partners, to the team that supports me. I feel like I’ve let them down.
Yusuf: So managing the shame, anxiety, disappointment that comes with that is a continual part of the process, and it’s humbling. And ultimately it’s good, because it reminds you that you can climb as high as you want up the ladder, but you’re not perfect, and you can’t do your job without the support of all the other people in your organization.
Yusuf: We, and I’ll use the context of a lead adviser for this analogy, but we get to be the face, right, or in credit. But we don’t do so much of what has to happen for our clients to be served or for our firms to operate or, you name it. And it’s not just in the coming up short, where you’re humbled and aware of this, but it certainly does hit home for me in those moments. I don’t exist in a vacuum, and just being appreciative, being grateful of the people who help you do what you do, I’d say that’s the benefit that comes with … Coming up short, spending some time reflecting on how to improve, and then appreciating that you’re not perfect.
Ian: So the last thing I think I want to ask you and sort of see where it takes you is, again, looking forward, leading alongside your business partners, how do you think about things proactively? And so, you think about it from a revenue-generation perspective, setting goals on an annual basis, the culture of the firm, any HR items that might come up, whether it’s hiring or, again, back to culture, figuring out what your employees need. Is that a regular process for you personally? And then, rolling it back up into all the other partners, does everyone think about it separately? What are your thoughts there?
Yusuf: Oh my gosh. You wanted to ask me this question now, when we’re running out? All right, so a few things. Number one, I couldn’t do the job that I’m doing without partners. I couldn’t be a sole owner. The stress, the anxiety of having to figure everything out, it would cripple me. I am free to be the best version of myself because of the fact that I have two partners who came along with me, who’ve grown with me at the firm, and because we’ve benefited from years and years of mentorship and guidance from David and Elissa and we get to chart the path forward with them as well.
Yusuf: So, given that, I’m on a team, right? We can use a basketball analogy, given that there’s five of us. I don’t have to play all five positions. I’m able to play the position I’m best suited to play. So for me, I get to do a lot of that kind of thinking. No one individual is in charge of setting the vision for the firm. We all collectively do it. We have our process that’s facilitated by our business coach, and we do a lot of visioning work at our annual staff retreats, and we’re constantly touching and affirming the vision at our all-hands meetings throughout the year.
Yusuf: But I get to play an active role in participating in that visioning. And in doing so, you feel a sense of ownership, even before becoming an owner, but that’s also the filter for making decisions about the next projects that we take on as a firm or how the firm needs to change or improve or what have you. So that’s part of the response.
Yusuf: Another part would be, one of the things that I always worried about as I approached this role was, when I’m in role as a partner, how are we going to figure out all of the answers to answer the questions or the problems that the firm is facing? And what I’ve learned so far, and this is … I’ve been in the role for three months, your team will tell you what it needs. You have to be willing to listen. You may need to add or help individuals revise an idea or massage it or tweak it or whatever, but the people who are doing the work have a really good sense of how to make improvements to help them do better work. And ultimately our clients are the beneficiaries of that, so if you’re willing to listen, if you’re then able to use the filter of the firm’s vision to determine order of priority or feasibility or what have you, things happen.
Yusuf: And I’m not saying that you don’t also have to be on the ball all the time. You certainly do. Be staying abreast of what’s happening within the profession, what’s changing from a policy standpoint, what are the new roles within which we have to play and exist, certainly what’s happening in markets. There’s an infinite number of things that we have to stay on top of, and we, as owners, are not alone. We have our teams with us, and we all get to play in figuring out how the firm should move forward. So it’s a shared responsibility, based on my experience so far.
Ian: I guess last, before we wrap up, is there anything you would say to prospective managers down the road within financial planning as they’re looking at their careers and trying to see what it might look like and what they need to do?
Yusuf: Patience and empathy are probably the two most critical things to practice in leadership. And by the way, I’m stealing those words from Lauren Stansell. We were asked a similar question in a recent conversation with some other folks, and that was her answer, and I loved it.
Ian: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Yusuf: When you’re managing, you need to be able to connect with the folks that you’re supporting, that you’re leading. And a critical function of a manager is to be empathetic and understand where their people are coming from, meet them there, and then help them move forward. And I think that’s where the patience piece kicks in, is understanding, “Okay, you, manager person, have a given set of strengths that has enabled you to get to where you are. Those may or may not be the same strengths of the people that you’re managing.”
Yusuf: And so learning to help them maximize on their strengths takes patience, and yet it’s a very fulfilling journey, to walk with someone else.