What's your practice niche? Mostly professionals – doctors, lawyers, engineers, small business owners. The practice is 60% women, and a lot of them are single, high-earning professionals. We have a pretty good sampling of couples who aren't married. It's a consultative practice, all about making the client's life work.
Portfolio construction: We have a team that manages internally, and we run off models that are almost totally discretionary management. What's in those models is a mix – anything from individual stocks and bonds to ETFs. We measure passive and active against each other. We’re very aware of expense ratios and internal fees. I tell clients, “We have one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes and both hands on the steering wheel!”
Client service style: We’re very high on personal connection. I’ve always felt that you get paid for the amount of service you give, and that's been part of our code. Every Monday we email a report on what our thinking is regarding the previous week, what occurred in the markets and what we expect for the coming week. We have in-person planning meetings; and for clients who aren't in town, we do computer screen-share, where they can see all the data. We also Skype with clients and have brief “Touch-and-Go” meetings for updates and answering questions. We also have a LinkedIn presence and a Facebook page. There's been a big emphasis on education to teach people skills to build money muscle. Efficiency is more than a priority! My daughter [Linette Dobbins, president-CCO], in the practice for 28 years, is all about technology and processes. I really like attention to detail and want to make sure that we haven't missed anything.
Biggest challenge you’ve overcome: In 1988, both my parents died at age 65, within two months of each other. Soon after, I had surgery for an ovarian tumor, and they found I had breast cancer. I had a double mastectomy. Then I got divorced. Everything happened within just a little over a year. Earlier, my 20-year-old brother was killed on a Navy reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam. All this deepens your ability to understand what goes on in other people's lives and what they might be going through. It lets you address very difficult things with compassion so that you can be helpful.
Philanthropy and its role in business: Because we’ve been blessed with some success, part of what we’re about is giving back. For me, it's more of a social commitment than marketing for the business. It does help build our reputation as to who we are as a firm, but I don't do these things because I’m out looking for clients. I do them because I want to make the world a better place. Every employee is given money and eight hours of paid time to volunteer wherever they choose. This year we’re building a house for a veteran under Habitat for Humanity. The whole firm is donating time and money.
Business advice to other advisors: This is such a caring and helping profession. We’re part analyst and part care-giver. It takes skills to be helpful, so continuing education is important — knowing what you’re doing and not just knowing about it but being disciplined in your education and attitude. Be absolutely reliable and trustworthy. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. It's important to be connected to other people in the community that can be helpful to you. And you need to participate in the industry in [activities] that will broaden your understanding of the profession. If a young person can attach to a firm or to advisors that are willing to care about them enough to help them grow, that's the best of all worlds.
On being chosen for the Advisor Hall of Fame: It's huge. It's humbling. And it's going to be cherished because it says that my life has meaning in a very concrete way. Every day is a challenge. I have a very low boredom level. So if it weren't challenging, I’d probably find some other mischief to get into.
Disclaimer: Compiled by industry researcher R.J Shook of the Winner’s Circle Organization, who weighed factors such as assets under management.