If I wanted to recruit I had to show my recruits, 'Look, we're out there spending money when most people aren't.'
Jeb Bashaw
The Firm: Jeb Bashaw & Co., Houston
Principal: Jeb Bashaw
B/D Affiliation: Linsco/Private Ledger
Year of Independence: 2001
Assets Under Management: $100 million

Prior to going independent, I was with UBS PaineWebber from June 2000 until November 2001. Before that, I was with a regional NYSE firm, JT Bradford in Nashville. With them, I was a financial advisor as well as a branch manager and partner. We were bought by PaineWebber. Even earlier I was with another regional NYSE firm, Equitable Securities, also in Nashville.

My experience gave me an idea for the kind of independent business I wanted to open. I knew if the customers made money and the brokers made money, I was going to make money. So I decided to build a firm where I knew the customers could have independent access to independent advice, the brokers wouldn't feel compelled to sell proprietary products and could really do what was in the best interests of their clients. That meant having a generalist firm with specialists in, for example, mutual funds or variable annuities. It meant having a more independent view of the market and the products that would be right for each client as opposed to being limited in the products we offered. And I knew if the customers made money and the brokers were well paid, I'd make a lot of money.

The other important thing I knew is that my clients had been my clients for 15, 18 years, and I felt almost certain they would come with me if I went independent, even in a down market. Since I was managing $50 million that felt like it would be a good way to start.

It was no easy decision to go independent. First of all it was right before September 11. Second, I was about to turn 40 and my father died when he was 42. Third, I'd be leaving behind about $300,000 in deferred compensation and options and everything else at Paine Webber. Finally, I knew I'd have to put a couple hundred thousand dollars of my own money into starting my own business the way I wanted to.

I did it in November 2001. Today, barely a year later, we're up to 10 people and have just under $100 million of our clients' money entrusted to us.

Our broker/dealer, Linsco/Private Ledger, was a great choice for us. They're always there to help.

What else has contributed to our success? The belief I had that to be successful we had to brand ourselves in our market. That's where a lot of the $200,000 I invested in the firm went. We spent about $60,000 or $70,000 with advertising agencies over the past year. For example, the city of Houston has a marathon every year in January. We did an event in conjunction with this where we had all of our clients come up. We've done Austin Powers nights where we rented out a movie theater and showed the new Austin Powers movie. We had a cocktail party here in May in the backyard of our new offices. We invited our clients to see the offices and we had a jazz band and a martini bar. We've organized fishing trips with our clients. We had a Santa Claus visit last year. We had all the neighborhood kids get their pictures taken with Santa Claus. And then we had carriage rides up and down the street.

We wanted to market ourselves and we feel we've been successful doing that.

It was a good investment because I felt the firm had to be bigger than just me. If I wanted to recruit, I had to show my recruits, "Look, we're out there spending money when most people aren't."

That's not to imply that it's all fun and games. Running any business is tough. It doesn't matter whether it's a restaurant or a car wash or anything else. And when you pick a business, financial planning, where you're dealing with people's most precious commodity other than their families--their money--you have to be prepared to go the extra mile. We do.