We had the good fortune of connecting with Steve Taddie and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Steve, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I learned how the industry worked from some great folks over the years, and thought I could make a difference if I started my own firm. At that time, technology was emerging that allowed a small firm to get big firm access to information and services at a reasonable cost. Having my income correlated to business growth is something I got comfortable with early in my career, and taking the step to open my own firm simply magnified the reward side of the equation. Additionally, having a great partner in marriage that was a professional in her own right, reduced the downside risk of going out on my own.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Our business is quite simple, we serve as a fiduciary adviser applying our expertise and experience to navigate people through their financial planning and investment management needs. Our industry is tremendously fragmented. There are brokerage firm representatives regulated by FINRA, there are bank representatives regulated by state banking commissions, there are insurance representatives regulated by state insurance commissions, there are Registered Investment Advisers regulated by state commissions and/or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Each operating under a different set of rules and guidelines, many with built-in conflicts of interest, and each with different compensation structures. In the end, those differences drive different levels of service as seen with Fiduciary level of service offered by RIAs and non-fiduciary level service offered by most others. Most people don’t understand the differences, nor the implications on the service they should expect.
At the onset, Registered Investment Advisers were a minority, and managing portfolios of stocks and bonds was a niche business being less served every year by the major financial firms. A recent decision to merge my firm, Stellar Capital Management with HoyleCohen to increase the depth of talent and breadth of service offered to our clientele was a big decision. It created a glide path for me professionally to continue doing what I enjoy doing for a much longer period, and will contribute to improved outcomes for our clients, and improved professional opportunities for our employees, as we integrate a great financial planning firm with a great investment management firm…a true win/win.
Of the people I hang with, I think many of us maintain similar work ethics, and core values. It’s the subtle differences that I embrace, which makes for engaging conversations or enjoyable outings. In general, I lean towards trusting people, and have always liked underdogs. That said, second chances are few and far between, and have to be earned. Finding and maintaining balance in my life is something I had to learn. It is a tricky thing, not lending itself well to short-term measurements. Like many, in my early years, I leaned a bit more towards personal enjoyment, then played quite a bit of catch-up on the professional side, before gradually settling into my best balance. Over the longer-term I think I got it right, but there were times where I had to burn the candle at both ends to keep the proper balance, or, risk that things became unmanageable at one end of the candle due to focus on the other end. I was lucky to have a good partner in marriage, because it can be a bumpy road finding one’s balance. My turning point was when I decided that being successful was more important, actually more enjoyable than many other things. It was a sea change for me, as I had a lot of fun in my youth. Again, it goes back to risk analysis. I looked through many things that I was doing in everyday life and assessed whether something was worth the time, money, or risk. It didn’t mean that I stopped having fun, it just meant that I was finding my balance and got my head in the game. As an economist type of guy, I see it a lot like the Federal Reserve setting a 2 percent inflation rate target. That’s a great sound bite, but as we know, it is more a statement of a desired long-term average than it is a point estimate. Balance in life is much the same.
The single most important factor in my personal success, and the success of the brand was understanding the power of the truth, and the value of trust. Something I learned from my dad who embraced both. When people look at you, the company you built or the company you work for, it has to stand for something. The people you associate with, both personally and professionally have to be of the same caliber. Being known as a trusted resource, is quite powerful, and this was the core value of the practice. Everyone has a comfort zone, operating outside your comfort zone is a learned behavior, and it where personal growth occurs. My initial comfort zone was developed in one of the smallest towns in America, and I developed a wide tolerance around that initial zone, due to where I went to college, living and working in the biggest city in America, and my career path.
Venturing outside your comfort zone is not easy, it entails taking risk, and that is the starting point for many successful ventures, both personally and professionally. The key is to take risks that have meaningful upside potential, and appropriate reward/risk attributes. Differentiating between good risks and bad risks is where the rubber hits the road, and many never grasp the difference. In our business, there are those that are very risk adverse, meaning their focus is on not losing money. When in fact, the focus should be on not losing purchasing power, or growing purchasing power. Helping people understand, and remain comfortable with that fact, has been at the core of my business practice. Was it easy, no. Was it fun, yes.
A challenge I faced was moving on from some friends whose path in life was not compatible with mine. In some cases, it was fairly natural and fluid, in others, it was tough because we had a lot of history together, but our paths became so incompatible that the relationship was interfering with my family and my professional progress. Funny thing about growing into the person you have become is you understand how interrelated personal and professional (school/work related) decisions are. This is one of those things I wished I had grasped earlier in life…I have always liked understanding how things work. At times, the more complex the issue, the more fun it is finding a solution. Investment management is an ongoing issue with many fluid solutions. There is always a path forward, you just have to fully understand the environment surrounding the client, and have the courage of your convictions to chart the proper course.
Many firms manage money or provide financial planning, a select few have integrated that dual expertise and maintained the proper structure for each to flourish. The brand I was part of building over the last 25-30 years in Phoenix Arizona that focused on managing money is now part of a more regional firm with distinct areas of internal expertise to share with its clients, which over time will continue to expand its influence. The focus is growing into a better firm, with a stronger offering for our clients, and we will continue to seek out professionals that share that vision.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The Phoenix Mountain Preserve; so close, but so far away. Tucked away just north of the Biltmore in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix Arizona, it is a huge preserve that offers a way to take in the natural desert landscape one-on-one with nature. It feels so remote that you would never know you were in the middle of the sixth largest city in the country. It is tough duty in the summer, but for most of the year it is a great hike and a great way to recharge the battery. Remember to bring water and sunscreen, and don’t play with the snakes. For the less venturous, the Desert Botanical Garden; a more civilized commune with nature. It has mostly paved trails weaving through the desert landscape, a wonderful onsite restaurant (Gertrude’s), lots of water fountains and adult refreshments. World renowned, and certainly worth a few hours out of one’s day. If you happen to be in Phoenix when there are planned events at the Garden, you should check it out.
For an interesting day trip, rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle and head to Crown King Arizona. It is deep in middle of the Bradshaw mountains, just a little west of Cleator. If neither of these names ring a bell, it’s because both are on the outskirts of nowhere. It will take you most of the day to get in and out of Crown King, you will certainly need a high profile, and probably a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Since it is a day trip, you might as well plan on staying for lunch at Crown King’s local restaurant, and on the way back to Phoenix, make sure to stop at the Cleator Yacht Club for a refreshment. You can’t miss it. By the way, it’s for sale…brings back visions of Schitts Creek. The Southwestern style shopping available in old town Scottsdale is something you should not miss. You will find artwork and jewelry that you simply cannot find elsewhere in the country. No trip to old town is complete without stopping at the Sugar Bowl for a banana split, or of course the ice cream of your choice. You will be taking a step inside the cartoon known as the Family Circus where many episodes took place. I don’t know if the cartoon made the Sugar Bowl famous or whether is was the other way around, guess you’ll have to find out.
There are many other weekend getaways. Heading north from Phoenix, skiing at Snowbowl in Flagstaff, or Sunrise Park on the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s land near Pinetop can be a quick day trip or a weekend. Taking in the Grand Canyon from the Hualapai Tribe’s Skywalk is spectacular, and if you are in shape, hiking the rim-to-rim route in the canyon is quite memorable. Heading south from Phoenix, another weekend trip is visiting Arizona’s own “mile-high” city in the old mining town, Bisbee. On the way, one can visit Tombstone and see the famous boot hill, home to many that didn’t make it out of town in time, or were a bit too slow on the draw. In the middle of the state is Prescott, the old capital of Arizona, and Payson. Both offer a respite from the summer heat that is typically north of 100 degrees for most of the day in the summer months. Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the US, and for the last 20-30 years has almost always been one of the top 5 or 10 fastest growing cities in the country.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Certainly my wife Kathleen and sons Jonathan & Derek that put up with me throughout the years, cell phone in hand during many vacations, and the wonderful folks I work with every day, really make the world go round for me.