Running Your Own Race in a Crowded Space

To be a transformative company, you have to shut out the noise and focus relentlessly on your core mission—a mission that everyone in the company must understand and buy into.

Before the Great Recession, the financial industry seemed impenetrable. Today, there are an incredible amount of new businesses that have disrupted the space and taken on the Goliaths, succeeding in what was once seen as mission impossible.

The truth is, regardless of your industry, you can successfully run your own race in a crowded space. But to be a transformative company, you have to shut out the noise and focus relentlessly on your core mission—a mission that everyone in the company should understand and buy into. In our case, it’s about transforming financial lives through the combination of technology and people.

Over the past ten years, our company has grown from hiring its first employee to eclipsing $11 billion in assets under management in one of the most vast and competitive industries out there. It isn’t easy taking on both hundred-year-old firms and hungry, well-capitalized startups, but it is possible. If you’re a transformative brand looking to change your industry, here are three key tenants that must be core to your strategy:

Hire wisely. Building a business begins with hiring the right talent. As we set out to build a new kind of financial services company, our very first hire was a lead engineer. Without being technology-focused from the very start, it would’ve been impossible to build our vision of something the industry had never seen before. As we expand our team of financial advisers, we are focused on hiring people who have great skills and experience, yet agile and enthusiastic about transforming the way financial services are delivered. Our ideal hire is someone who has worked at another firm for long enough to know that there must be a better way. Developing a playbook to identify the right people took time, but it was one of the best accelerants we created.

Stay focused on the customer. From industry talking heads to competitors, everyone will have an opinion about what you’re building. For this reason, it is critically important to drown out the noise. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ignore all input. One way to separate chatter from valuable feedback is to focus on the customer. If your business model is aligned with your customers’ goals, you’ll see it through positive feedback, referrals and growth. Delighting customers beyond their expectations wins their trust. Once you have your their trust, you have to work every day to keep it. This means making sure that every employee is delivering the same high-level customer experience. A culture built around an unrelenting focus on the customer paves a path towards repeatable and sustainable growth.

Do the right thing, always. Innovate, yes. But it’s especially important as a leader to also take great care that you aren’t cutting corners, taking unnecessary risk or creating any unnecessary conflicts of interest within your business. As a hybrid business we’re a mix of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, at the fulcrum of industries that have histories of being either stuck in the past and “too big to fail” or innovating so quickly they neglect to protect their customers. When we became a Registered Investment Advisor, we committed to working as fiduciaries, meaning our advisors are legally required to put the client’s interest first. And we’ve also committed to innovation, to bring forward trust and transparency through the use of technology and data to illuminate paths towards better outcomes. The clash of two industries empowered by people always committing to do the right thing, always, is our magic.

Disruption is more than a buzzword. From finance and tech to health and wellness, it’s a ubiquitous reality facing business leaders across the country and around the world. And it’s a process that never ends. Shaking things up can create a lot of noise, but by staying focused, surrounding yourself with talented people, and committing to doing the right thing always, a new generation of leaders and organizations have the opportunity to boldly help millions like no one before.