Colleagues And Competitors

Two months ago at TD Waterhouse's annual conference, I was leaving the exhibit hall when I bumped into Chris Dardaman, CEO of Brightworth, the Atlanta-based advisory firm profiled in this issue's cover story. Chris invited me to grab a bite with him and when I sat down at the table, I was introduced to some Brightworth folks as well as advisors from Homrich & Berg, the subject of November's cover story.


Coincidences aside, what struck me was the easy banter, civility and mutual professional respect with which two of Atlanta's largest firms engaged each other. It dawned on me that in this profession, the relationship of rivals, often more collegial than competitive, is the norm.
In any business one quickly discovers that it's a much smaller world than you ever imagined. Look at the small community of periodicals that chronicle the evolution of this emerging profession and certain parallels with the advisor profession appear undeniable.

When I spent the decade of the 1990s as editor of Financial Planning, it wasn't difficult to enjoy a professional friendship with Investment Advisor's publisher, David Smith and their editor, Bob Clark. Both were always unfailingly gracious.

When I decided in 2000 to launch Financial Advisor with David and Charlie Stroller, their keen interest in this business eased my comfort level at moving to a start-up. Moreover, they had worked closely with a columnist, Nick Murray, whose writing was often extraordinary. When they said Nick would write for us, and when Russ Prince said he would move over as well, I decided to leap.

A few months later that year, Bill Glasgall joined Investment Advisor from Business Week, which had hired no fewer than four talented staffers at Financial Planning during the 1990s. I sometimes felt like charging McGraw-Hill a consulting and training fee. All joking aside, Bill and I had shared some editing experiences long before we ever met each other.

On the publishing side of our business, I spent years working with both Dan Goldeman, the new publisher of Financial Planning, and John Whelan, the group publisher at Investment Advisor. It was very clear, when Dan was a young ad rep and John was a Webmaster, that both of them would go far.

For several years we had talked about doing a survey and ranking of registered investment advisors but we always got sidetracked. Late last year, when I discovered that former Bloomberg Wealth Manager Editor Robert Casey was available, we retained him as an editorial consultant. The last time I had worked with Bob, on some newsletters my employer was launching in 1987, I found that he was one of those rare consultants who actually deliver value.

Sometimes there are competitors you hold in almost reverential respect and wish you could work with them. Yet, it seems that fate always has other plans. So when I came into work one day last month and found an e-mail from Andy Gluck saying, "Let's talk," my eyes lit up. I had always thought "The Gluck Report" was one of this world's best columns. Over the years, I'd talked several times with Andy about writing here, but it never worked out.

For whatever reason, luck was on our side this time. Starting in next month's Financial Advisor, we're delighted to give you "The Gluck Report." With Andy, Joel Bruckenstein, David Drucker, Rebecca Pomering and David Lawrence, we think our practice management and technology coverage is as good as you can find. But one can't be complacent in any business where the quality of the competition is as good as yours-or ours.