18 years of strong relationships and proven principles
February 2, 2004: I opened the doors of Sound Stewardship (then called Syverson & Company). All of my financial planning registrations and regulations had come through the Friday before, so I officially hung my shingle up that Monday morning to very little fanfare. I had zero clients until about six weeks later, when my first prospect signed on. He didn’t even know he was my first client! But we’ve been serving him and his family ever since.
Back then, I would wake up every morning and pray, “God, who can you help me meet today to get me one step closer to a client?” I was just trying to talk to real humans who needed some financial help. I had started a relationship business from scratch, and now I had to create those relationships.
Eighteen years later, I’m so grateful to say that my daily prayer is no longer “Who can I meet today, God?” It’s “God, how can I serve my clients today even better than before?” Sound Stewardship was built on solid relationships with clients and our staff. It’s the firm foundation that has kept us growing and sharing our unique areas of expertise all these years.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (MSG) reads: “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth.” It has been an honor to share both work and wealth with all of you the past 18 years.
In the beginning, my wife Tammy and I were having garage sales and selling our old college textbooks just to buy milk for our toddler twin girls. I sold my prized trombone to cover our mortgage one month. There were lots of sacrifices those first few years. But with every new relationship—with both clients and the employees we brought on board to serve them—things got easier.
We were developing the Sound Stewardship Principles™ at the same time we were building those first relationships. And we were learning to follow those principles alongside our clients. In 2006, Tammy and I were able to buy a vehicle with cash for the first time. That was a milestone for us, not only because it meant this business was working, but because it meant the principles worked, too.
By 2008, we had codified those seven principles, and not a moment too soon: They helped us guide our clients through The Great Recession. More recently, they helped us usher our clients through the “Covid Canyon” of March 2020. One of the things I’m most proud of, and thankful for, is that these principles have allowed us to get everybody through some trying financial times. And that’s because we’re trusting in time-tested practices. We put faith before fear. We put people ahead of quick profits.
When I started, I was expecting a meteoric rise to financial planning greatness, but now I know I’m more of a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kind of guy. I think you have to be if you’re not willing to compromise on your principles and values. Putting values first means looking for people who share them. Whether clients or employees, we’ve prioritized “good fits.” We don’t convince people to hire us or work for us. We search for devoted, principled, understanding, exceptional, generous people. Why? “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)
Sound Stewardship is only as strong as its relationships, internally and externally. That really started to become clear around 2015, when Jonathan and Derek joined Joel and I on the Advisory Team. That’s when we really began growing. We crossed over the $100 million mark in 2015 for managed assets, and then, of course, Jonathan became our first co-owner in 2019.
Now we’re 10 employees strong (plus our future summer interns—get those applications in). We advise on more than $200 million in assets these days. More importantly, we walk alongside 160 clients, helping them find financial confidence and contentment. We know their names. We know their kids’ names. We know their dogs’ names! We know their goals, their worries, and how they are making a difference in the world.
As we look toward the next 18 years, I want us to nurture those relationships and create new ones. I want Sound Stewardship to continue to develop financial planning talent that will take care of our clients and their families for generations to come. If we do that, we’ll also be making a difference in the world. We’ll also be able to hit our generosity goal of collectively giving away $500,000 and volunteering 500 hours by 2029. If we continue to care for each other and live by the principles we teach our clients, we’ll be celebrating these anniversaries for decades to come.
Looking for financial planning driven by generosity and real relationship? Reach out to one of our wealth advisors to find out if Sound Stewardship is a good fit for you.< Back to Updates