Operations & Management

Building a Family Business: How Bridget Venus Grimes Solved her RIA Capacity Problem With Her Daughter Marnie Bonner

Share to:

Listen To The Podcast

We talked with Bridget about:

  • The importance of identifying and serving a niche demographic 
  • The strategic move she made to expand her capacity to continue meeting the needs of her growing clientele
  • How she paved the way for a seamless transition to bring her daughter Marnie on board as her future successor

About Bridget Venus Grimes

Bridget Venus Grimes is president and founder of WealthChoice. She launched her family firm in 2016 in response to the financial challenges faced by breadwinner women across the nation. Recognizing the need to expand her capacity to serve her growing clientele of over 65 families, she made the decision to bring her daughter Marnie on board. Through this strategic move, Bridget aims to ensure continuity and quality service for her clients while fostering a legacy of financial empowerment for future generations. With assets under management reaching $90 million, Bridget's dedication to providing comprehensive financial guidance while nurturing a successor reflects her passion for empowering women to make informed financial decisions. In her book, Corner Office Choices, Bridget compassionately guides women through the four financial derailers she has observed over time. With keen insight and unwavering dedication, she continues to support this dynamic group of women, addressing their unique challenges and empowering them to navigate their financial journey with confidence and clarity.

Featured Resources 

Enjoyed This? You’ll love:  

Full Audio Transcript:

Lauren (00:05):

Well, you all are in for a treat today. We have Bridget Venus Grimes joining us, the founder of WealthChoice among a number of other different roles, including she's on the CFP® Board. And well, I'll let her get into all of it but what is going to be really fun for us to be able to dive into today is how she has actually brought her daughter into the firm and what that process has been like to be able to train her and really bring her into the fold. So I'm going to hand it over to you to share a little bit more about your background and then we'll get into the details of bringing on the next gen into your firm.

Bridget (00:42):

Sure. And Lauren, thank you so much for having me. I am really excited to be here. So just a little bit about me. I launched the firm almost eight years ago, September 2016. And really just in response to a whole bunch of issues I'm sure we can get into in a few minutes. So run WealthChoice; our clients are what I call breadwinner women. So they're women who have a ton of stuff on their plates and their career. Their income is really what we need to leverage to drive everything they want to do in life. So those are my people. Basically it's a virtual practice. I'm sitting here in an office in Coronado, California, where I do have a physical office but nobody comes to since my clients are all over the country. I have not met most of them in person and probably never will. Totally.

Lauren (01:36):

Oh my goodness.

Bridget (01:37):

Yeah, that's a unique component.

Lauren (01:39):

Yes. Okay.

Bridget (01:41):

We were ready for COVID because we were already remote.

Lauren (01:43):

Yeah, you were already there.

Bridget (01:46):

So that is how we run. We're super deep financial planning. I also co-run a co-founded firm called Equita Financial Network, which provides the platform for my firm and we'll talk more about that too but we also make it available to other fee-only women-led firms around the country. So I started WealthChoice really because of my experience in financial planning. And I'll tell you, it was either launch a firm or leave the industry. That's kind of where I was. This can be a very difficult industry for women. So I had started in 1986 trading at a hedge fund in Manhattan. And so my entry to the financial industry was I was on the buy side trading for many years and actually wound up absolutely hating it.

It's trading, it's not investing to me and didn't resonate with me but it was kind of an interesting way to get into the industry. Anyway, I left the industry and came back when I got divorced and I really wanted to serve women who looked just like me. So I got into the industry, started at a wirehouse, which is a super easy way to do this. Build your own practice definitely wasn't the model I wanted for myself and my clients. And so I transitioned to a fee-only RIA in San Diego, where I was for a number of years. And I was serving women like me, a lot of women attorneys, but really wound up being very frustrated. I was told I was too ambitious. I had asked our owner, hey, what's it going to take to get into management? And was pretty much shut down. Like, hey, it's not an option. And that was pretty disappointing. I worked really hard and I figured the harder I worked, it would all work out and that's not how it works. Also found out I was paid 50% of my male peers, and that is a truth, just a bunch of frustrations.

I really looked for another role out there and I realized I pretty much wasn't going to find anything different with the lateral move. And one of my mentors, JD Bruce, an awesome guy who was running Abacus at the time, said, Bridget, you're only going to be happy if you launch your own company. And so hence comes WealthChoice.

Lauren (04:14):

That was eight years ago.

Bridget (04:16):

That was eight years ago, and it's been an amazing ride.

Lauren (04:19):

Oh my goodness. Okay. So tell me more about how you got that firm going where you are, and then I'd love to hear about this component of bringing your daughter aboard to the firm.

Bridget (04:29):

Sure. So when I had left that RIA, it was a broker protocol firm, which means you're allowed to take certain information with you, which is great. But I was also only allowed to take the clients I had brought with me from my wirehouse. For some bizarre reason I had put that in my contract even though I never planned on ever leaving. So that was really a good thing and I would say ended up working out.

Do that, do that; you just don't know the future. But when I left, I had zero revenue and I had a very big mortgage and two children in college and I said this had better work out. So no pressure. Good news is my father runs a company, he's an entrepreneur. And he had said to me, okay, you need a business plan. You need to figure out how many clients do I need to get in when, how much revenue do I need to have when? So I was just super heavy in clients who found me, and had a really good strategy my attorney helped me with. And then just a ton of business development. I love to write, I love to speak. So I was really focused on that. And then a year and a half later I wrote a book. So I thought that would super help with credibility and that was really helpful. But really just boots on the ground, I'm going to bring in clients. And I had built this amazing website and I thought it really spoke to my client base, and that's how we started. And it's just been really a lot of work but really rewarding.

Lauren (06:04):

So you really went in with clarity around who you were going to serve. Not dependent on a particular geography but just really that audience. And then it sounds like you were able to leverage, it sounds like centers of influence through an attorney you said you were working with or what have you.

Bridget (06:21):

Yeah, so I think the niche is critical, and I know Kitces speaks on this nonstop and he's right. So I have always had a specific niche. Like I said, when I got into this industry, it was to help women like me. So breadwinner women who have a ton of things on their plate, aging parents, kids, husbands, partners, you name it. And so I have just continued to serve those women and there are very specific needs and challenges this demographic has. So our firm focuses on, hey, here are these challenges and we know the solutions and we look like you because we are you. The niche is really important.

Lauren (07:00):

So it sounds like you built your processes, procedures, your messaging, and it sounds like also where you're spending your time really reaching out and talking to this demographic. Is that all fair to say? And I'm assuming your book is also aligned to this audience as well?

Bridget (07:14):

Absolutely. In fact, the book's called Corner Office Choices, and it speaks to the four, what I say, the four derailers are for these women, financial derailers I've just seen over time. If they only knew to do these four things they would all be in better shape financially. So it's kind of like a how-to book but it also was a book for my peers because I thought we were doing a lousy job of guiding this group of women because they really do have very specific challenges and needs that are unique.

Lauren (07:43):

It's so true. I know you can't kind of talk to everyone or it all kind of washes out. So yes, and I feel like we could go a whole deep dive on that component. Now you're starting to talk my language again into the marketing world, target market and what have you. Also, Kristen Luke's another one who has a great whole process on that and really building out that audience as well. So critical to go deep in and know who you're talking with. Let's shift a little bit to talk about really the shift in your business to be able to bring on your daughter. What was the trigger for that? Why her? Were you at a place where you were looking for talent? I'd love to hear a little bit more about that and then where you are in the process.

Bridget (08:24):

So this is years in the making. My firm has $90 million of assets under management. And so I had heard years ago from some industry resource that when you got to $35 million of AUM, you're going to need to add some help. Well, $85 million came and went, and like I said earlier, I delegate a lot of the work in my practice. So I have an outsourced CI, I have a trading team, I have a bookkeeper, you name it. I have really good people in those seats through that other company that provides this suite of business resources. But I never outsource the planning. I love financial planning. I love the relationship part. I love doing deep dives. I want to be here when a client's like, hey, I want to buy a house. What should I do? Should I lease a car? Should I rent a car? I want to be available to my clients for that because I feel like those financial decisions can really make a difference. 

Lauren (09:32):

They're personal. They're big. So you need a trusted resource when you're going to make those big decisions.

Bridget (09:37):

You so do. And I want to be there for my clients. So I have 65 families I work for, it's like almost 100 people. And I found I was not able to do the deep work I love doing. I was now fully at capacity. Like I said, I never brought anyone on to help me with the planning part. I didn't want to give it up. And I realized I just couldn't do the quality of work I really was proud of. And I mean, I love the work I do but I had moved away from special projects for clients throughout the year, and I wanted to get back to that. So the only way to do that was of course to bring in help. And I talked to my daughter, she's almost 27, and so out of college a few years, and I had talked to her a few years ago about, hey, would you ever be interested in financial planning? And we talked a little bit and we thought maybe, yeah, who knows? Planted the seed. But she was a business major from college, and she worked in a finance role in tech, so she's made great money.

Lauren (10:46):

Oh yeah, she'd already been there.

Bridget (10:49):

The only thing was she was working with numbers. She's super smart, really driven, but there was no people component. It's a lot of numbers but no people, and she's a really great people person. So we kept checking in on that, and then I said, hey, Marnie, is this something you're really serious about? Because if it is, we need a plan. And so she actually, a couple years ago said, so I'm going to study for the CFP®.

And I said, okay, great. So on her dime on her time. And she then said, okay, I'm willing to commit to you. And we did an internship last year. She would sit in toward the latter half of the year on client meetings just for me to make sure, is this really what you want to do because this is going to be a lot of work for me. Long story short, we signed a letter of intent — I'm like, this is a business deal — at the end of year. And she started working for WealthChoice as a W2 employee on January 1.

Lauren (11:48):


Bridget (11:49):

Yeah. So this is real.

Lauren (11:53):

This is the real deal.

Bridget (11:55):

And so she's got a hybrid role. I do not plan to retire. I love our industry. My business model for my firm is I do this until I can't because it's very gratifying. I don't have a vision of retirement where I play golf or pickleball. My vision of retirement is I work part time and I can travel but I see my father who is still running a business at 86, who is very viable. The guy's amazing but he's also cognitively aware and he feels fulfilled. That I think is critical. So that's my vision for myself. But that said, I definitely need somebody who's a clone of me. So Marnie's job, my daughter, Marnie Bonner, her job is really to become incredibly good at financial planning, an expert in that space but also a business owner, somebody who will know how to run this company because we solos, we wear two hats, business owner, and we take care of clients. So how do you do both? Well, she's getting a crash course on everything.

Lauren (13:13):

Can you tell me more about that crash course? I feel, I mean, I felt that too, right? Growing a business and then that first hire is a big one. You've got a lot of stuff that's packed in your head that you have to really think about, how am I going to help to transition this, fold them and help them learn along the way? I mean, onboarding, you're in the throes of all of that. What have you done? I mean, I'm sure that's naturally happened just over the years of her seeing you and watching and learning but what kind of systems have you put in place to help her be able to lean in and really see you in action and brain dump, for lack of better words, of all the things, right? 

Bridget (13:52):

Yeah, there's a lot there. So we started with a really tight onboarding plan, and I reached out to some great resources. Dimensional Funds has this amazing practice management arm, and we're a DFA shop. So you know what? They spent a lot of time with me — here's how we would figure out compensation, this is what onboarding should look like, this is what you should do in terms of timelines, in terms of responsibility. They were fabulous. The CFP® Board has amazing resources. And then I reached out to peers. And so by the time she started, we had a very tight onboarding plan from timeline to responsibilities. And so really, I feel like my gift is not managing people. And I was really stressed out about how I do not know how to manage. I do not know how to train. I just know how to do; I know financial planning inside and out but I have never had to train a person. And so it was really partially for myself to make sure if we had this really great outline of what she accomplished, it would help me make sure we stayed on track. So we put together the onboarding and we had really good resources behind us. We use Advyzon for portfolio performance and CRM; it is fabulous. I’m really close to the guys who launched Advyzon; we were early adopters and they keep enhancing that. So one of her goals is to master our tech because I have not had time to dig deep enough.

She spends time on our workflows, putting them in and everything is how do we systematize better than I have done when you're cobbling it together between everything else you're doing. So really getting her to focus on, okay, here are the different resources we have access to; now master them and incorporate those in our client meetings. So she's done a really great job. It's so funny. So many people ask me, hey, how's it going? Friends, family, peers are like, so how is that going? And it's going great. I'm not kidding. It's beyond my expectations. Part of it might be that she drives herself really hard, and I don't think she wants to disappoint me.

Lauren (16:20):

A natural. She's got a natural sort of entrepreneurial spirit about her, which is I think critical as a small business is you need that entrepreneurial kind of energy. So not who knows what do I do but providing those recommendations, doing the research, pulling it together, finding that sort of cut of person is not always an easy,

Bridget (16:44):

No, it's not. And I'll tell you, it's a crapshoot, right? You don't know. Do you really know your child? And their work ethic. So I had made it clear, I am not a micromanager. I'm training her. I meet every single day. And Monday and Friday we have really deep dive meetings. Like Monday is, hey, well, here's what's going on this week. Friday is how did that go? What could we have done better? And then daily, it's like, hey, let's just check in. Did you have questions? So we've got a lot of framework but at the same time my expectation is that she’s doing her thing. She’s in Manhattan. 

Lauren (17:20):

Oh wow, and you're in San Diego. Yeah, you're coast to coast.

Bridget (17:23):

We have tasks we create in our CRM, so we know what our responsibilities are, and she just does it. But you don't know when you hire a child, are they going to show up? Are they just going to take a paycheck? And so it's been really, really rewarding. It's been really successful.

Lauren (17:47):

Yeah. Well, hats off to you too, for taking the time and resources to be able to reach out to connections and then to be able to put together that plan. I feel like so much of, if the front work is done, it makes it just all kind of go downhill from there, assuming you've got the right fit and everything for the role, it almost seems like you've got a great template that then you can adjust. Did you want to hire more folks? 

Bridget (18:11):

Yeah, I don't know if that's the vision, honestly, but who knows, right? I never thought I'd sit here and be talking to you about bringing my daughter on as a mother-daughter team.

Lauren (18:21):

So I had talked with Stevyn, who owns Grow Wellthy™, and she had seen her father grow up in the advisory space, and then she spun off at a business. I interviewed her a few months ago, and it's all about health and well-being specifically for advisors. And so I think one of the things she probably alluded to earlier, she's seen in the space what that's like and to be able to grow up with that and the kind of energy it takes to really go all in. So that training seems like it was sort of built in the ethos. 

Bridget (18:54):

Yeah, it's funny because she does work I was doing before, and she said, I don't know how you did this, because I did both roles, right? I just said, so this is why my children think all I do is work. I'm like, so yeah, that's kind of all I did was work because there's so much to do. And so now it is actually really nice to have someone who's helping me with analysis for client reviews so I can spend some time on business development and marketing.

Lauren (19:22):

Absolutely. You can put your energy toward that. Sounds like she's got an operations component to what she's taking on. Are you already bringing her into client meetings as well?

Bridget (19:30):

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. She's up and running. She's a sponge. So at every client meeting, she's in there, she takes notes. She's actually just starting to contribute. We've got an agenda. Our meeting structure is really good. It's very repetitive. So she's got, man, I think at this point she's probably been in 30-something, maybe 40 meetings at this point because we are very heavy on meetings in the beginning of the year. And then she will follow up with the clients that this is what we heard. These are action items we've identified. She actually is, because she's taken the CFP® coursework and because she's interned and we spend a lot of time in financial planning together, she's helping with analysis for prep work for these.

She's deep in the numbers and the weeds. Yeah, this is a crash course. You will be a financial planner.

Lauren (20:26):

You're jumping into the deep end. And then just, I want to be mindful of time here. There's a few other questions for you too. So I also see you're in a unique situation, right? Solo firm, moving into family business. I also see multi-generational family businesses, not just in this space but in other industries as well. Is there anything, especially since you did so much upfront due diligence and putting together the onboarding and talking with folks, were there any common themes you saw across the board? Was it that onboarding was really critical? Was it that it really needed to be treated like really extra lean into that, more business engagement? Are there any themes you saw that you would like to make sure people here, if they're entertaining bringing on their child, or they're thinking about that succession and bringing them into a leadership role and their active business, are aware of?

Bridget (21:18):

I guess it starts with what's the vision for your firm. If you're building a firm to sell it, I don't even know if it makes sense to bring in a family member. And really, when I made the decision, I had my firm valued a couple of years ago, and the expectation was you build it to grow and sell it, and then you retire somewhere. And when I changed my vision for my firm, I thought it would be terrific to have her here as a successor. Now, like I said, I don't plan on leaving and God willing, I could stay a long time but ultimately Marnie will probably take over this business. I would hope so. I think depending on what your vision is for the firm, I think it could make sense to bring a child on. I think you also have to be really clear on how you separate family from business. And I think that's an advantage for us working remotely because she's got her private life and I have my life but when we're on a call, even at the end of the day and we review, we are business, we don't talk about personal life. We really have limitations, very clear barriers. I think it's something to think about for folks if you bring a child on, and I was advised to be really clear with what's business and what's personal by one of my peers who really helped me with Marnie's onboarding.

Lauren (22:47):

That's fair. And I'm sure as you proceed forward, you sort of continuously draw those lines in the sand for what that looks like, I would assume.

Bridget (22:56):


Lauren (22:57):

Yes. Oh my goodness. Well, any other final thoughts? I know before we originally were chatting, I know there's a Kitces podcast you did where you talk a little bit more about the delegation component and what have you, and some other articles we'll make sure to share in here as well. Are there any other final thoughts you think would be helpful to share for folks who are in a position where they're looking to bring on a family member or any tips?

Bridget (23:19):

Sure. Yeah. I've had a number of people ask me, peers ask me how I did it. And they have children who they think could be a good fit for their firms. I would say I would encourage anyone to do it. I mean, obviously it depends on the child and it depends on the business structure. But I would absolutely encourage folks to think about that. To think about bringing on a child. I think it's a natural successor, and I would be happy to talk to anybody who had any questions about it. There's a mom perspective about bringing your daughter on and a business perspective — they need to align and make sense. But I'll tell you, it has been absolutely rewarding to have her on and to see her grow and to see her really get up to speed and take initiative and get stuff done and do a really good job and actually really help the business get better. So to that end, I wrote an article on Rethinking65 that covers a lot of these details too. When I spoke to Kitces this last fall, we really were talking about how do you scale? And a lot of this that we didn't really cover was by bringing Marnie on, we can bring on clients. I was absolutely at capacity.

Lauren (24:36):

Even though you're outsourcing other components, now you've really got someone who’s deep into it. Someone who can get into the planning side of it or get at least their kind of feet wet with it a little bit.

Bridget (24:49):

Yes, absolutely. So our goal is to bring on 40 awesome clients within five years, and then I think we're probably going to be done. We'll see. I mean, I know I probably should not say, but yeah. So there was no way I could bring any more people on and do really good work myself.

Lauren (25:06):

Yeah, that's fair. And it's honorable too, right? You've had a capacity and you want to be able to lean into, pour as much as you can to your clients. Oh, well, this is great. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit more about your journey, especially since it's so fresh that she's come on relatively recently. And to be able to see the success so quickly I think is also, like I mentioned earlier, a tribute to all the effort you put initially but then also her pouring into it as well. So thank you for sharing your story.

Bridget (25:34):

You're welcome. And thanks for having me.

Lauren (25:36):

Absolutely. We'll make sure to link to your website below and those articles we mentioned too. So thank you.

Bridget (25:42):

You are welcome.

Catch this episode on our podcast