Perspective makes the difference for niche financial planners
While working as market research manager in the late-1970s for Caterpillar in Hesston, Richard Fanter was approached to help Caterpillar of Topeka branch into agriculture.
Spotting an opportunity, the Marion County Lake retiree made a pitch to provide financial forecasting services.
“I said, ‘I’ll tell you all I know about agriculture if you let me make a presentation because I have this idea,’ ” he said. “We talked about ag; I put together a presentation and went back up there.”
Over 40 years Richard, and now son Andy, grew Cyclecast, and now Intercast, into a national brand servicing billion-dollar construction equipment dealerships from Seattle to Miami.
Andy bases his forecasts for clients on housing and non-residential construction. Dealerships and manufacturers will have their own data points that show trends in the market, he said.
“The more data points they can get, the better forecast they can make,” Andy said. “If you’re young and have time then you can go study the stock market; you can do it yourself. If you don’t, you need to go find an Edward Jones or any of those places that can do it for you.”
It wasn’t until the mid-1990s when Andy decided to join the business.
“I grew up watching Dad do it but I really didn’t get interested in it,” he said. “I couldn’t figure it out until 1993 and then I got into it full time in 1994. I finally saw the value of the family business.”
Once Andy joined full-time he quickly adapted to the field, Richard.
“He liked it and got the hang of it,” Richard said. “He was adding more customers and making more money than I was. He enjoyed the business.”
By now Richard has transitioned into retirement, with the exception of a few customers.
“If some dealership called me up this afternoon and said they wanted me to come do this, it would be really expensive, but I’d go do it,” he said. “When you’re on your own, it’s fun. I always worked from the house.”
Working from home is comfortable but it requires a lot more discipline, Andy said.
“When you have your office in the house and are working for yourself, you have to be a self-motivator,” Andy said. “There are times in my business where there’s not much going on. There’s not much going on until they get first quarter data and we get past this mess a bit.”
One advantage of being his own boss is that it gives Andy an opportunity to travel on fishing trips to Africa, Venezuela, and other exotic destinations.
“The fishing opportunity comes with being able to take time off,” he said. “Cape Verdes is my favorite. That’s where I’ve caught the most and the biggest fish.”
Richard started forecasting for Caterpillar dealerships, but demand for his services grew to the point that another person was brought on to handle non-Caterpillar dealers.
The job comes with high client turnover, Andy said. Constantly being hired or fired requires mental stability to quickly move past rejection.
“It’s kind of like baseball,” he said. “Seventy percent of the time in baseball, you’re failing, you are not hitting the baseball. If you hit it 30% of the time then they pay you a lot of money, but you have to be able to deal with the 70% failure rate.”
While big clients 25 years ago were $400 million to $500 million companies, most are now worth between $750 million and $1 billion, Andy said.
“The bigger you are as a dealership anymore, the more you can handle these types of downturns,” Andy said. “Not just national downturns, but when the state softens up in its economy.”
Having both Fanters in the business was helpful because each identified with different audiences.
Sending Andy to meet clients allowed him to connect with a younger demographic, Richard said.
“When you get younger people, they look at things differently than I do,” he said. “As my business was growing my customers were getting older. The first thing you notice is they have their son or daughter, sometimes both, in the business.”
It also helps because Richard has a more established reputation.
When Andy meets with dealerships he is still sometimes asked what his father’s thoughts would be.
Dad has years of experience,” he said. “When it’s bad I go and talk to Dad, ask what he’s thinking. Dad’ll go, ‘That’s great son, but you cut that down another 10%.’ ”
While Richard is the one to temper expectations and look at where projections might fall short, Andy described himself as the one to take chances and thrive in a stronger economy.
“During the upturns Dad would defer to me,” he said. “To have two different people in the same business and the same room is very valuable.”
Last modified April 1, 2020