As we hit the one year mark for Zizzi Investments, Brennan and I want to express gratitude for all the support we have received and share with you a bit of the journey, both looking back to where it all started and casting a vision for what’s to come. This year has been a reminder to me that growth only comes when we decide to get uncomfortable.
Sometimes it’s important to reflect on the little bread crumbs along the way that have gotten us to where we are today – not to dwell on the past, but to learn from it. So, let’s start with a deep dive into some personal background…
Where We Began
When I moved back from Spain at the end of 2011, I was evaluating what was next. I studied finance and accounting in college and always had a passion for investing. It was purely by chance that when I tried out for the Harrisburg City Islanders to continue my soccer career, there was also a direct connection to a local financial advisory firm.
I was offered a job and the basic pitch to join that firm resonated with me at the time:
- You can keep playing soccer while you get up and running
- We are independent
- You own your own business with unlimited potential
- We always do what’s best for our clients
This opportunity sounded great for a 24 year old kid whose main passions were soccer, finance and a desire to help people.
While evaluating the opportunity, I also happened to speak to a close family member who had been taken to the cleaners by an unethical broker. This interaction with the broker literally destroyed their finances with no serious repercussions to the broker. It meant everything to that family member, but it was too small to mean anything to the regulators.
So, I accepted my first job as a financial advisor and set out with two objectives:
- To have an impact on as many people as possible so they wouldn’t have the same experience my family member had
- To become a sponge and learn as much as I could about the industry I was entering
Whether it was soccer, work, school, or a new hobby, curiosity for continuous learning and improvement has always driven me. So, when I retired from soccer at the end of 2014, I dove full on into educating myself on financial planning. There was one full-time associate at the time who was on staff supporting all of the advisors. The person in that role resigned unexpectedly in early 2015 with nobody to fill the void.
I was asked to take on the position. I stepped into the role and grew it exponentially over the next several years. Unfortunately, that meant balancing the responsibilities of a full-time support position with the competing desire to grow on my own as an advisor. I was told the support responsibilities would lessen over time to allow me to go back into an advisor role full-time, but that never came to pass. When push came to shove, the responsibilities of the support role were always prioritized over my own desire to grow as an advisor.
By the end of 2019, even with my brother coming on board the year before at our prior firm helping take much of the support work off my plate, I was starting to become increasingly unhappy at work. The work associated with the support role had become very stale, and it was no longer challenging me. My wife was excelling in her career, but knew she always wanted to be a stay at home mom. She decided to be home with the boys full time in November 2019 and I began to think about what was next for myself as well.
Then we all know what happened in early 2020. When the Covid chaos unfolded we had two toddlers at home, with a third on the way soon after, leaving very little bandwidth to think about what was next. That 18 month stretch was one of the most challenging times of my life. As Covid began to settle down in the back half of 2021, like many others, I began to reevaluate things again. Reading “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer was a real gut check for me. When I slowed down (only just a little at this point) to start examining things, I realized I was a 9 out of 10 (or maybe even a 10/10) on the scale of “hurried sickness.” I knew something needed to change.
Pursuing Growth as a way of life
I used to hear frequently at my old job, “if you aren’t growing, you’re shrinking.” Unfortunately this was just a cheap way to define the word growth to mean, “if you aren’t growing revenue for the company, then you are failing.
When I started to think about what it really meant to “grow,” I realized I wasn’t growing at all anymore outside of work, and in fact I was shrinking. Quite literally, I lost about 10 pounds from Covid in 2021 and was feeling the most unhealthy I ever had in my life. I realized I had been allowing the comfort of monetary success and the pressure to achieve at work to slowly seep in and destroy all the other parts of my life – not rapidly, but little by little, creating a feeling of discontentment within me.
Out of this discontentment is where the concept of “growth as a way of life” began for Zizzi Investments
With the encouragement of my wife and some close friends, I started to slow down and reevaluate where my priorities were. I started by writing down a list of my values versus how I was actually spending my time, which were completely out of alignment. I began to make meditation and prayer a habit in the mornings. I knew I needed to step up as a spiritual leader in our house. I needed to prioritize my role as a husband and father and become a better leader for our family. We were into the back half of 2021 and 2022 by this point, and the message I kept hearing over and over was to “be patient” when I would quiet my mind from everything else during this morning habit.
I was frustrated. I knew there was no future where I was, so I kept asking why not now? By this point, I thought I was ready to move on, but I believe the message to be patient was God telling me I wasn’t ready. I questioned, I doubted, I asked if this was just me making excuses for not doing what I knew needed to be done. Was I just pretending so I didn’t have to face the fear of a really difficult decision? But the message I kept getting when I took the time to slow down and listen was consistent, “just be patient.”
This internal wrestling went on for a few more months, and then one morning in late January 2022, I was sitting in our workout room early in the morning. I hadn’t sat down for more than a minute and clear as it could be, “TIME TO PREPARE.” I was stunned. I got up right away and grabbed a dry-erase marker and wrote this phrase down on the white board that hangs in our basement.
I knew this message could only be about one thing, but when you are an over-thinker and over-analyzer you always question. No more than two weeks later, my former boss walked into my office and asked me to put together some information for him.
It was information I had given him before, but this time my gut knew it was different and the timing seemed off.
I knew without needing any more confirmation, plans for the future were changing. We had always been given the message previously that the transition of the firm someday was going to be gradual and internal.
Things had changed, it was time for action and this was the kick in butt I needed to jump. It was, “Time to prepare.”
I followed God’s lead and jumped on it. There were many days I was exhausted after work and many late nights and weekends, but it didn’t matter. Having the conviction and clarity that I was making the right decision was all the motivation I needed to keep moving forward. By April 2022, the LLC was formed. By the time we went on our family vacation in August, I had all the ducks in a row.
Brennan got married on the weekend of September 30th. Whenever they got back from their mini-moon, we drafted our resignation letters for Thursday, October 6th. Prepped and ready to go. That same week we were given notice that the M&A advisor who was helping to facilitate a sale of the firm behind the scenes was coming in to speak to the advisors in our office on October 5th.
God’s timing is always perfect. On October 5th, we got the news from the M&A advisor that our old firm was going with one of three options.
- Stay as is and do nothing (knew that wasn’t happening!)
- Selling to firm A
- Selling to firm B
On October 6th, with that news in hand we gave our resignation and walked out the door.
On October 7th, Zizzi Investments, LLC was officially registered with Pennsylvania as an RIA.
Rather than sell and accept a check from a big insurance firm backed by a private equity firm, we wanted to make sure we continued to deliver on our promise that our client’s would come first. After looking at all the options available out there, we realized the only way to deliver on that promise and build the business we really wanted was to establish a firm that is truly independent and fee-only.
And a year later, after the sale of the former firm we worked for was made public, I look back confident we made the best decision for our clients.
NOW MOVING FORWARD…
I recently attended the XY Planning Conference and we continue to be committed to learning and adding new resources to our business. Here are the two biggest takeaways I had from the conference:
- Technology makes it exponentially more efficient for a small RIA to operate now, and the technology we have available is oftentimes superior to a large firm since it can be scaled across the thousands of independent advisory firms that now exist nationwide. This means we operate without any of the bloated overhead that many large advisory firms have. We are currently reviewing a few pieces of technology for tax planning and budgeting that we hope to implement in the near future.
- Regulation is the topic we have to keep an eye on the most. In the financial services industry, regulation is constantly changing and is the most costly and challenging thing for a small firm to navigate. In an attempt to control the antics of large wall street firms and banks, regulators often propose blanket legislation that is overly burdensome to small firms. The complexity associated with keeping up with regulation and compliance is what will likely continue to be our biggest challenge moving forward as a business, and something we will stay ahead of in order to plan well.
We are excited to continue improving and refining our business as we move forward. The past year has been amazing and humbling. The mission from the beginning has always been the same – exploring what it means to grow in all areas of life and helping our client’s understand that investing is about much more than just growing a portfolio of stocks and bonds.
When growth and investing are not aligned to values and purpose they don’t lead to something meaningful.
Starting Zizzi Investments has allowed me the freedom to share what I have learned over the past 10 years, and provide more insights on what I’m currently learning. That 24 year old kid who had a passion for soccer, finance, and helping people is now 35 with similar passions and a much clearer path forward, and I am grateful for each bread crumb it took to get here.
Growth is a way of life and we look forward to continuing to grow with you.
Thank you for all your support in our first year!