Dream big, to build a brighter future

~An immigrant’s saga offers lessons for all Americans, in every social and economic class~

Mark Murphy

Whether they are bright-eyed college graduates plotting their life courses, entrepreneurs expanding their businesses or executives approaching retirement, my advice to anyone seeking to build a brighter future always starts with two words: Dream big!

I have found that entrepreneurial business owners will often overestimate what they can accomplish in one year and underestimate what they can accomplish in five years.

From my personal experience, I can think of no better example of the payoffs that basic, bold thinking can bring than my longtime client “Dylan” and his family (name changed to ensure his privacy).

As a young man, he crossed from Ireland to the United States and bussed tables in restaurants. Humility, hard work and the unlimited opportunity of America was his guide. Immediately, Dylan saved: a few dollars here, a few there. Eventually he had enough to invest in a convenience store. And another. And a third.

Five decades later, Dylan and his family have built an empire of over 600 convenience stores across the country. Their portfolio also includes a major real estate conglomerate and a chain of printing shops.

Dylan’s saga is a poignant case in point of two things. It shows that realizing dreams is not just the stuff of Horatio Alger and Netflix movies. In this 2018 economy, it is within anyone’s reach. To a large extent, it always has been.

His story also illustrates the role that a smart, innovative strategy can play in making that reach for the stars really happen. As a consultant, I have worked closely with Dylan and his family and other clients for decades, helping them make wise business planning and investment decisions. To articulate that vision and turn it into an actionable plan is one of the highlights of anyone in my profession.

Our recommendations often differ dramatically from other consultants’ advice. Theirs is often an old-school approach: take investors’ savings and put them in mix of money market CDs, IRAs and 401k’s, and talk about the returns they can generate. That’s beneficial, but it’s also limiting.

In the end, these generally amount to little more than inflation-adjusted holding accounts. The yields are limited. Did Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos earn their wealth by maxing out on 401k contribution?

Our advice: Open yourself to considering more imaginative options, each plan individually tailored to each individual entrepreneur. In general, we recommend focusing on other investments like re-investing in your own businesses.

In addition to devising such plans, providing ongoing, sound, consistent, long-term counsel, direction, compassionate companionship and corporate creativity is also vital.

In an era when the economic landscape can shift frequently and rapidly, corporate creativity – the efficient use of profits and innovative tax strategies – is especially important. The new US tax code, enacted at the end of 2017, has opened exciting new options. It includes some excellent new provisions to spur reinvestment.

More and more, these unconventional approaches to investment yield the most impressive boons. And in working with dentists, doctors and other professionals, we also seek to change their concept of retirement.

In the past, the retirement formula involved selling one’s practice and living off the proceeds. However, an exciting, alternative option is to maintain ownership of practices and transform them into revenue producing ventures. The clients can then step back from their daily professional careers and pursue their dreams.

So far, only a small percentage of entrepreneurs is open to these uncommon ways of thinking. Most prefer socking away profits in those money market funds and other old-school approaches to investment. For those more comfortable with portfolios that yield modest but secure returns, that is understandable. Often, it’s a core belief.

But one of the roles for companies like mine is to challenge core beliefs. We believe that entrepreneurs who are willing to engage in unconventional approaches can come much closer to achieving their dreams.

There are many additional examples. Andrew is a dentist who worked diligently to put away $5 million in savings over three and a half decades. Using that cache to make strategic investments, he slowly but steadily acquired the means to enjoy the life he and his family dreamed about when he first opened his practice.

Indeed, the time and commitment required is one of the most essential and least understood aspects of transforming big dreams into realities. Entrepreneurs are often restless and impatient; they are visionary and big picture. That’s good.

But the important thing is to identify the goal and be patient and diligent in working toward it.

In Dylan’s case, he was able to articulate his dream early. Beyond the business investments, what he really wanted was the unity and happiness of his family. The businesses were always a means to that end.

Before opening his first convenience store, Dylan sent back to Ireland for his eldest son. Soon he brought another over. Others followed, one by one. Fifty years later, the whole clan and its descendants, more than two hundred strong, is settled in the United States – thriving, investing, expanding and hiring.

With that, Dylan’s real big dream became a reality. That’s why we love working with entrepreneurs, investigating more visionary alternatives, and focusing on the “long game” with our clients.


Mark Murphy is the founder of Northeast Private Client Group and author of “The Win-Win Outcome: The deal maker’s guide to buying and selling dental practices.” Financial advisor Benjamin Bush is a partner in the Group.