Edward Doughty is a thoughtful wealth management professional with tons of great advice. Meet this inspiring entrepreneur!
Thanks for sitting down to talk with us, Edward. Tell me a little bit about your new company.
Epic Capital is a client-focused financial planning and investment management firm. We provide actionable wealth planning solutions for affluent individuals and families. Epic Capital utilizes a proprietary 4-step planning process that aligns client's individualized goals with a customized task-oriented life-plan that is implemented throughout various life-stages.
Congratulations on getting Epic Capital to its first anniversary! What were you doing before you founded it?
I was a Financial Consultant for 16 years with a major Wall Street investment firm in Charlotte, NC – I started directly after college graduation in 1993. Epic Capital is my first business.
How did you come up with your business idea?
The idea itself is certainly not unique. In fact, opening up an independent wealth planning firm has seemingly become all the rage.
The black-eye that hangs over the big Wall Street investment firms challenged many high-quality investment advisors to reevaluate their own integrity and purpose. I didn't feel like the brokerage firm I was with played a major role in the client relationships that I maintained, and I eventually began to think that they were actually doing me and my clients a disservice.
I think the majority of the big investment firms got caught up in their own success and quickly began to forget what made them big in the first place. Things like treating clients like people and not a dollar sign, promoting a customized client experience and having unshakable core beliefs and values.
"Hanging my own shingle" was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when. Then came the onslaught of financial companies and banking missteps that occurred in 2008. The bad press that followed gave me an added level of confidence that it was the time to do it. I'd always been independent and self-reliant in my thinking and research, but now I began to chew on the idea of being completely independent in every aspect of my business, and that began to create an intense level of enthusiasm to break-away.
The ideas that followed were in mass, I had a notebook with me at all times. My true passion for what I do began to carry my every thought. That is when I knew it was right. I resigned within 9-months.
Did you write a business plan before hanging out your shingle?
I did write a business plan. In fact, I wrote three major scenarios for my business plan: Optimal client transition, industry average client transition, and poor-results. Everything that I did early on would be determined by the success I had in transitioning my existing client-base to my new company.
Fortunately, we exceeded our highest planned outcome – but I was prepared, had we not. There were important differences in regards to technologies to be implemented, costs allotted to different things, office set-up, and other service-oriented initiatives. The outcome of the transition success basically determined how quickly I could fully implement my desired vision.
The one thing I didn't plan for accurately was the time it would take to fully transition at a very high level of success. What I thought would take 6-months, took close to 9-months. We welcomed that delay, but it did put us behind in implementing some of our client-service initiatives and that very was frustrating to me personally. Basically, many of the "ideas" were getting shelved for lack of time.
All in all, the business plan I wrote was the foundation for everything thing we have done and all that we continue to do. I cannot fathom not having put the time in to create such a thorough "plan of action" and business roadmap. I refer to it often, and now that we have crossed-over our one-year anniversary and revenues have become much more predictable, I believe I can plan our longer term goals and initiatives much more accurately.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
The first thing I did was sought an attorney who specialized in incorporating businesses – all I had to do was sign a few forms, and nod yes to most of his questions – he did everything else.
The second legal counselor specialized in business contracts – I leaned on him tremendously for our lease negotiation. These two attorneys, who were very highly regarded in our geographic area, were worth every penny. There is a level of comfort that you gain from retaining legal counsel which allows you to focus on your core competencies. I can't imagine trying to have taken on the legal aspects of starting a financial planning practice. I have no background in that field, and that's why there are those who do it for a living. Hire them to do what they do, so that you can move forward with doing what you do.
The third person I retained was a small business CPA. She has been my sounding board and voice-of-reason in anything and everything I do financially for Epic Capital. She also aligned me with a local payroll firm that specializes in small businesses. Again, she allows me to sleep easy knowing that we are doing all that we need to do to keep in the good graces of the tax-man – and staying practical in our bigger projects and initiatives.
Leveraging the expertise of other professionals just makes sense to me – and frees up my time to focus on my clients first and foremost and my growing business second.
Initially, what did you do for office space?
Actually, our first three months were spent working out of one small room in a corporate "office suite". I was in one corner of the room, my assistant was in the other corner, and the photocopy/fax/scanner machine was in another corner … metal file cabinets and boxes of stationary supplies took up the remaining wall space. Talk about tight quarters! But I wouldn't have traded that experience for the world. There were no frills. It was a paper-work processing facility, and our technology headquarters. We had so much technology jammed into that little room I'm surprised we didn't short-circuit the whole building.
The reason I say I wouldn't have traded it for the world, was because it allowed both me and my assistant to have an absolute stream-lined focus. I contacted clients, and she processed the necessary paperwork to transfer their accounts to Epic Capital. It was high-energy, fast-paced, and we fed off one another. As well, it afforded me the opportunity to save on costs while our permanent space was being built (downstairs in the same corporate building).
It was an absolutely amazing experience. I was able to see how my assistant worked and interacted with clients and other business associates, and she was able to gain first-hand knowledge of my interactions with my clients. There was never any down-time and we were able to communicate with one-another by simply turning around in our chair. The only drawback was when we were both on the phone at the same time – usually one of us went out in the hallway (which was possible with our wireless headsets).
Again, it was such a valuable experience.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It's actually a tad funny and I'll explain the way I really sum things up to people.
I really do think about everything that I do, I envision a lot. So I leave very little to chance. I simply spend time outside on the back patio with a pad, a pen, and a beer (or two). I just clear my mind, and let my thoughts wander. I reflect, and recall, and I steal ideas from everywhere – books, magazines, TV commercials, industry publications, you name it. I look at the attributes of the most successful individuals in the industry, and I add my own "Epic" touch. I look to take their ideas one step-further - why reinvent the wheel? There's no time for that this early in the game.
I'm also a big "check-list" guy. There's something rewarding about checking something off a list as it's completed. Having something go from a mere thought to a physical reality is powerful. I feed off that. Maybe it's a competitive trait. I try to challenge myself daily, and set the bar high because I believe that achieving 80% of a goal set high is better than achieving a mediocre goal.
So in short, I think when you put that much thought into things, and plan each step and activity, you end up with great results. Again, you leave little to chance, you bullet-proof your success.
Here's how I sum it up … the only thing that is noticeably different than what I expected in setting out to run my own business is the coffee. For whatever reason, the coffee we make here seemingly tastes so much better than it did when I was working for someone else.
Any concluding advice for aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
My advice to anyone looking to start a similar business is: leave nothing to chance. Make planning a priority. Account for, and control as much as you can. Put ego aside and understand the things that are beyond your control, and plan accordingly. The peace of mind you gain from this is worth the amount of time it takes in being this thorough.
Thank you so much for your time and advice! From the sounds of it, Epic Capital is on the road to success!