September 16

The Book of Joshua

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Hi, I’m Josh. The one in the middle with the red tie. This picture was taken ten years ago.

This is me with my co-founders Barry Ritholtz, Michael Batnick and Kris Venne. I made them all wear suits for this photography session. We didn’t have a website yet.

In the blue, that’s Erika Mauro, our first client service associate. She’s now the head of client service for our Preserve-level client tier, talking to families with a net worth of tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars per household.

The other guy in the suit is Patrick Haley, who had just joined us from Merrill Lynch. Patrick came over as an advisor but revealed some superpowers along the way. He is now the director of trading at the firm and deals directly with our Preserve-level client tier as well, assisting with everything from stock option strategies to concentrated positions to tax optimization as he leads a team of four full time traders.

We’re standing out in front of 90 Park Avenue, where we were subleasing office space from Manhattan Consulting Group. Just before we’d arrived, another startup had been incubated on the same floor by a young man named Jon Stein – that company ended up becoming Betterment (true story).

We outgrew this space and stopped walking around in suits. The six of us laid the foundation for what is now – exactly ten years later – a registered investment advisor and media empire comprising millions of readers, followers, fans and friends, over 4,000 clients, more than 60 employees, $4 billion in assets under management and an unlimited future ahead of us.

If you’ve been down since day one, you were right about us. I hope we made you proud.

And if you’ve been doubting (or hating), that’s okay too. I love you anyway.

***

I give an all-hands employee meeting every Monday morning and every few weeks I repeat the firm’s top three goals. I’ve been doing this for the last ten years and these priorities have never changed. The repetition is to bring new employees up to speed or to remind the veterans about what it is we’re all doing here.

Our top three goals, now and forever:

One: Build the most respected advisory firm in America. 

Two: Kick ass for our clients. 

Three: Enrich all employees, financially, spiritually and emotionally. 

Ask anyone who works here. They can recite it. This is what we’ve done for a decade. We will never stop.

***

When we launched the firm, we had a few dozen clients at TD Ameritrade Institutional. We used Morningstar for performance reporting and sent printed PDFs out by mail every 90 days. We had two employees. We had offices the size of walk-in closets. We had a logo designed in Microsoft Word. We had no CRM. We had zero experience in hiring, benefits, payroll or managing a company checkbook.

But we had two things that made the rest of that stuff less important.

We had the universe on our side and we had each other.

Still do.

***

Joshua is about to cross over from the wilderness into the Promised Land. He hesitates.

His nation, the people of Israel, are not as confident as they once had been. For decades they had followed Moses and the prophet’s closeness to God had been proven to them many times. This was enough. Moses is gone now and stretched out before them is an occupied land. There are towns and tribes the likes of which they haven’t had to encounter before. The uncertainty is high. There are rumors of giants brought back by their spies. There are weapons and fortified walls and all sorts of obstacles in the way.

This land, promised though it was, will not simply be handed over.

They will have to take it.

Now, standing on the threshold, Joshua stops short.

The people know what will be required of them and they find every excuse to wait, to procrastinate, to remain at safety. They lack the will, as does their leader.

Until God says to him “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed.” 

But what of all the warriors in front of them? What of all the battles to come? The kingdoms that must be subdued? The fights and bloodshed that must be endured?

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”

It’s enough.

Joshua steps forward.


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