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RFG CEO shares his personal story - Getting Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable

by: Bobby White
published: December, 12th 2016


 By Bobby White, Chairman & CEO, RFG Advisory


In a conversation with my good friend and business partner Tommy Williams, I stated, "I am an entrepreneur who happens to be a financial advisor." Tommy immediately replied he was a "financial advisor who happens to be an entrepreneur." Which of us was right? Tommy and I joke about this often and have agreed entrepreneurial thinking is crucial, regardless of how you say it. Thinking and acting like an entrepreneur allows advisors to grow and successfully navigate change.

The fear of change is directly tied to our survival instinct and our urges to seek comfort at almost any cost. Our brains are hard-wired to resist change. As the founder of RFG Advisory, I know our success, in part, hinges on my unrelenting confidence and my own ability to change. But, I’ll be honest, there is a "Struggle" in being a founding CEO and entrepreneur.

In his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz describes this as:

" The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place. The Struggle is when people ask why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer. The Struggle is when food loses its taste. The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse. The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams. The Struggle is a cold sweat. The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure."

An RFG Advisory Board member recently gave me this book. Those of us who have built firms and grown teams and independent advisory practices know the Struggle. Those of us who have relentlessly pursued growth know the Struggle. That paragraph reflects the lack of comfort I feel from time to time as we push forward.

A little more than two years ago, RFG Advisory had set upon a course for growth. Having completed two succession-driven partnerships, we doubled the size of the company. The growth of RFG is represented in 37 affiliated independent advisors, $1.3 billion in advisory and brokerage assets under administration,1 and offices in Birmingham, St. Louis, Shreveport, and Naples. We are well positioned to participate in the exciting consolidation altering the landscape of the wealth advisory industry. It was a series of amazing business opportunities, and we jumped at the chance. It wasn’t easy, and our management team was stretched at times, but we needed to take the chance and be willing to change our business model. We needed to force ourselves to get uncomfortable.

In my opinion, within the next five years, a firm must have at least $30 million in revenue and $3 billion in AUM, and be predominately fee-based to be relevant to advisors and their clients. Value-added services in technology, consulting, investments, compliance, business development, and lead generation will need to be world-class and continuously improving. Smaller firms will need to acquire, recruit, secure capital, and invest for growth to have a seat at the table.

To attract and retain best-in-class advisors and execute future successful acquisitions, my management team must be "A Players." We must have our roles and responsibilities clearly defined and have the right people in the right seats— all while protecting the culture that sets RFG apart. We are proud to combine our southern charm with a competitive spirit. We love to win. RFG advisors, their clients, and our employees are family, and we work very hard to operate in a way that delivers those values every day.

A Navy SEAL gave me this advice: "Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable and you’ll never be uncomfortable again." If you think of yourself only as a financial advisor because that makes you comfortable, you may achieve a reasonable level of success. However, until you also think of yourself as an entrepreneur and accept the discomfort that goes along with that, you’ll never know your full potential.

To learn more about RFG Advisory, please visit www.rfgadvisory.com.


1 As of 12/31/15.