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Clients, Colleagues Foster 15 Years Of Growth

It was gray and snowy January day, 15 years ago, when I lugged a computer and an unassembled desk into a converted movie house to start my business. And it was very, very quiet.

No more commuter train to Manhattan; I could walk to work from our Westchester co-op. No throng in the lobby of a glass-and-steel tower; my office was tucked away at the far end of an alley. No team of eager young associates to help me serve clients, which was OK, because there were no clients, either.

But there was a concept, which was that a financial advisor should address every sort of issue that a client might face, and that only the client should compensate the advisor, and that the client always should know how much the advisor was being paid and for what. Soon, there were clients who liked this concept. They sent other clients. My wife, Linda, joined me at the office to help build the business.

Eager young associates followed. A college freshman named Jonathan Bergman came first to look for a summer job. Today, he is our vice president and chief investment officer, running an investment practice he built that manages about $1.2 billion.

More young people arrived, a steady stream, remarkable young people who care about learning and care about the clients we work for. If life is a journey, the vessel for our professional lives is this business. This January, we have 21 souls on board.

The day’s last light is painting some puffy Florida clouds as I write this. I am sitting in our firm’s Fort Lauderdale branch, high in a glass-and-steel tower. At the main office in Westchester, it is gray and snowy. But it is no longer so quiet. Sometimes I stand outside a room and listen while two or three of our staff sort out some issue, and I marvel at how far a concept can travel in 15 years.

This seems a good time to thank all the clients and other friends who have helped us grow, and who treat our staff with enormous courtesy and respect. Thanks are due also to the colleagues who put so much of themselves into this enterprise that it stopped being my concept a long time ago and became ours.

I hope 2008 is kind to all of you. Keep an eye on this space; I intend to be back in another 15 years to give you an update.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s most recent book, The High Achiever’s Guide To Wealth. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Anyone Can Achieve Wealth,” and Chapter 19, “Assisting Aging Parents.” Larry was also among the authors of the firm’s previous book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55.