Joe Duran is on a mission to make the wealth management industry more about life and less about money.
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October 2, 2020 4 min read
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
This interview was conducted via email with Joe Duran, Head of Goldman Sachs Personal Financial Management.
You started a company, United Capital, which was acquired by Goldman Sachs. What was that experience like?
I had just sold my company to General Electric and made the decision to leave. I then interviewed 100 entrepreneurs who had successfully sold their businesses for my second book.
I started every interview by asking the question, ‘What did it feel like after you sold?” And after they initially told me it was the American dream, everything you could imagine — I would tell them that it didn’t feel that way to me. Then they all, regardless of gender, background, or race, shared that it had felt like a death in the family and they would have done it differently. They had all made huge sacrifices in a manic race to be successful and get to the top.
It was during this process while putting my book together that I came to the realization that we all make huge sacrifices for money, but money is just fuel. I needed to help people focus on living richly, rather than dying rich.
I started United Capital to change the industry to make it more about life and less about money. The idea was to focus on having people understand what really mattered to them and use money to narrow the gap between the lives they wanted and the ones they were living.
For entrepreneurs hoping to follow a similar trajectory, what do you think enabled you to catch the eye of Goldman Sachs compared to similar businesses?
We have a unique client-centric culture that unifies all of us. We are on one platform delivering a consistent experience to all of our clients. That is extremely rare in the wealth management business, which is traditionally quite niche. I also feel that they believe, like I do, that we could do more together than apart and that they could accelerate their plans to expand the firm with our help.
Why did you decide to stay on as Head of Personal Financial Management?
I love new challenges. I’m learning more now than I ever have and I feel that I’m making a bigger impact too. The ability to take everything that we can now do and expand Goldman Sachs beyond the Ultra High Net Worth individuals they already served was and continues to be incredibly appealing to me and the entire team.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to build and scale a business?
First, you need to be adaptable to change. Keep your eyes on the big picture beyond your competitors and your industry. Client experience is evolving in every purchase of every product or service that we each make. Focus on how your clients live their lives and how the technology they use shapes their expectations of service.
Second, humility is very important. Ask yourself the question—what if I’m wrong? It allows for others to speak up and challenge you. It makes your firm more resilient. The team you build works to serve your clients, not your ego. If you’re doing it right, your company is never really “yours.” Beyond that, share the spotlight as you grow, give others the opportunity to learn and shine.
Lastly, practice what you preach to your clients or customers. If you’re burning both ends of the candle, not getting any sleep and not taking care of yourself, it will impact not only your own health but the culture of your business and your ability to sustain your work over the long term.