Double duty

Tom Haught recounts the day in early 1999 when a CPA at Cohen & Co. approached him with a challenge: Align with the accounting firm to launch a financial services division.

At the time, Haught was president of his own company, Sequoia Financial Group Inc., in Cuyahoga Falls. At 34, he was a successful certified financial planner with a solid reputation and a growing client base. Starting a new endeavor for Cohen & Co.’s Akron, Cleveland and Youngstown offices was compelling, although it would entail pulling double duty.

“It made perfect sense because our two firms would be able to share services to help clients reach their goals,” Haught says. “And it all came together because we shared the same vision of doing what’s right for the client.”

After six months of structuring a best-practices mission statement for the new division, Cohen & Co. partners welcomed Haught into the fold by becoming shareholders of Sequoia Financial. Sequoia’s full-service offerings include almost a dozen specialists in several disciplines, from insurance, pensions and stock analysts to option specialists and beyond. The firm now operates in the same space with Cohen & Co. — but it’s different from one-stop shopping, Haught explains.

“Sequoia and Cohen & Co. have added more value to better help the client, whether it’s with tax questions, financial planning, insurance concerns, asset management, college funding, estate planning or other specialties,” he says. “But if it doesn’t add value, we don’t get into it.”

Cohen & Co. partner Mike Kolk says that since the affiliation, Haught has broken records.

“His managed business has doubled in the last 12 to 18 months, and his growing client base includes a number of high-profile Akron area folks who only have good things to say about him,” Kolk says.

Haught reveals the actual number is about $100 million in assets under management.

“Our growth comes from a lot of hard work and from doing the right things for clients, who recommend us to others,” Haught says.

Here, Haught reveals his personal keys to success.

Screen carefully and hire the best.

“We’ve grown because we’ve hired only the most talented people who, when they work together as a team, can do great things,” Haught says.

Foster teamwork.

“We’re different from most financial service firms in that we all work as a team to deliver the best results for the client,” Haught says.

One way Sequoia achieves this is by putting certified financial planners on salary, rather than commission. That’s uncommon in this industry, but Haught says a transaction-oriented approach thwarts a team mentality.

Put the client first.

Listen to fully understand the client’s goals, then develop an individualized plan to achieve them.

“It takes a lot of extra time to listen, instead of just selling clients what you have,” Haught says. “We take that time to listen and plan, because we believe in putting the client’s best interest first.”

Stay in contact.

You can’t know a client’s needs if you’re not in touch. Haught says Sequoia calls clients quarterly to provide asset performance updates and to determine if their financial goals or lifestyle have changed.

“They really appreciate that extra attention that helps keep their financial plan up to date,” Haught says.

Get involved.

Dedicate yourself to your community by getting involved in charity work and community events. Haught says that benefits everyone in business. How to reach: Sequoia Financial Group Inc. (330) 255-4334 or

Victoria Reynolds is a contributing editor to SBN Magazine.