Read More

It's Personal, Not Business

Many will hopefully remember reading Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote while in high school or college.

In the book, Quixote battles windmills believing that they are enemies that need defeating and that once dispatched, he will collect riches and glory as a knight. Earlier this month while visiting a northeast city, I was having my Don Quixote moment… complete with a mix of confusion and utter humility.

After the better part of a year of ongoing conversations and now an hour into a nice dinner, I was asked by the prospective acquisition CEO how OneDigital compared to a firm that is in my opinion is the polar opposite of who we are as a company. I actually thought I was being punked and Aston Kutcher was going to appear from another table. It was my Quixote moment where having charged the windmill, my lance gets caught in a sail and is ripped from my arms.

At first my “Irish” emerged and I thought of saying, “well, let me start by saying they pale in comparison as a firm, have no culture, have no strategy other than to get bigger via acquiring anyone with a pulse, have done an endless number of acquisitions where owners sell and then leave making each property less capable/not more, have integrated nothing, and have under invested in solutions, tech and talent to the extent that they are competitively irrelevant almost everywhere in the country.” Then I realized that response might have been the 29-year-old Mike, but certainly was not the 59-year-old Mike.

The dinner simply reinforced the fact that it can be hard to see below the surface in terms of who firms are at a DNA level. When you work in a collection of rapidly consolidating industries (insurance, retirement, wealth, HR, PEO) that are very attractive to private equity and public markets alike, even firms that truly are inferior on almost every level can convince a great number of owners that you should look at the upfront multiple and then let the chips fall where they may—and in reality, plan to move on before or after the earn out and not worry about what happens to your team.

Culture does not fit into a banker’s spreadsheet, nor does it align with short term anything. It’s about happiness after the transactions.

Our path at OneDigital really is different. For us, it’s personal, not business. It’s entirely about the team, or more broadly—our tribe. Culture does not fit into a banker’s spreadsheet, nor does it align with short term anything. It’s about happiness after the transactions. In my opinion, no one is getting this better than we are today. I encourage owners and team members alike to seriously kick the tires on firms before you ever look at economics. Decide who fits you just like we were a hire coming into your office. It’s that personal.

Oh, and once the 59-year-old Mike composed himself, I explained why others at OneDigital told me they decided to join OneDigital via an acquisition versus a competitor:

  • A one-of-a-kind culture where people feel the difference surrounded by change makers and bold leaders who act and feel like a big happy family where people always come first.
  • Diversify your largest asset into less risk and more upside potential. OneDigital continues to return 35% year over year while its equity has never decreased. Reduce your worry over succession planning, and offer your employees expanded career development opportunities with an organization that excels in employee happiness.
  • Build a legacy of wealth and opportunity for your family and employees. With more fun, less stress, and more money over time, the team will thrive with more opportunities and become shareholders which creates wealth and opportunity for the owner’s team of employees.

If you’re contemplating joining with another organization, be it ours or any other, I urge you to consider these three points. Which resonates most with you? If you've already joined the OneDigital tribe, looking back, which of these three points speaks most to the decision you made to join?

To learn more about the investments OneDigital is making in teams, products and technology, visit Bold Studio.