Mike Reiner has spent the last 16 years building a solid financial services firm in Atlanta, Georgia.
Tell me about your current business, Mike. What are you doing exactly?
Capitol Investment Advisors is a fee-only financial advisory and portfolio management firm based in Atlanta. Since 1994, CIA has been providing clients with financial strategy and management tailored to the client's individual circumstances and objectives rather than advisor incentives or commissions. Capital Investment Advisors specializes in providing professional financial advice and investment management to individuals and small businesses.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before this, I worked as Vice President of an asset based lending group for a top 5 major financial services firm for 13 years.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I was brought into another practice as one of three partners to build a business related to retirement planning. As the business continued to grow, one of the three partners chose to go in a different direction. My other partner, a CPA, chose to stay on, and we expanded into doing individuals clients' business and personal financial management.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
I was fortunate that my partner was a CPA, so he served as both our bookkeeper and our accountant. I did hire a lawyer immediately to help with any and all legal issues pertaining to the financial world. I would suggest that any new entrepreneur hire key people immediately, even if just on a retained basis, to take care of the things outside of your area of expertise. Don't put your business in jeopardy by making mistakes in the areas of human resources paperwork or accounting.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
I know my marketing team is not going to like this answer, but money wasted on image and marketing in the beginning seems like an extraneous expense. Networking and referrals are a great way to grow your business, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there and ask for the business. Slick, expensive marketing materials are a waste of money. Professional, consistent messaging is much more important. Plus, with new, inexpensive marketing tools like Intuit for building websites and social media which is essentially free, small business owners have more options that ever before to help develop their businesses in an organic, ground swell-type foundation.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
We are fortunate that almost all of our employees have come to us via referral or word of mouth. In fact, we have only used an ad to find one person in the history of the company. With the collective history of our leadership team, we touched several large companies. We were able to pull from our resources and attract a wonderful staff.
Of all of my accomplishments, I am most proud of the fact that my staff is like my family. In the history of this organization, only two people have ever left, and both of them moved out of state. We have never had an employee quit or leave for another job.
I also feel like my approach to handling my employees has been very effective. I give my employees all the work they can handle. I wait for them to complain about being overloaded before I hire an additional employee. Because of the culture we have built, our employees work really hard, but they are free to tell me when they are drowning.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I honestly had no expectations when I started this business. I saw a need in an underserved market, and I set up this business to offer a service and meet that need. My fees were much lower than industry standards, and I worked hard to develop a solid core group of clients. I never turned down a single person who needed my help, no matter what their income level, and our firm still practices that way. I am surprised by how large we have grown. I expected to always be in the middle of the pack, but because of what we've been able to accomplish as a firm, we have developed into a large practice.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
You need to work in the industry before you start your business. That way you learn what to improve on and what not to do based on your specific industry experience. Also, don't try to grow it too fast. If you're going build a big building, it will not stand without a solid foundation.
Excellent advice, Mike. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with the entrepreneurs at Gaebler.com.