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Maintaining the Magic

Scott's Column

Forty-five years ago I had the best meal of my life in a restaurant called Taillevent. I had just graduated from college and was traveling through Europe looking for adventure. I linked up with my father in Paris, and he suggested that we have dinner at Taillevent.

I don’t remember what I ate that night, but I vividly remember the feeling of eating at Taillevent. The beauty of the room, the atmosphere, the service and the presentation of the food all combined to create a magical evening, shared with my father.

He was so taken by the experience that he asked for a menu as a souvenir of our wonderful night in Paris. He framed it and hung it in his dining room where it remained until his death. I have kept the menu ever since.

More than 40 years later, I returned to Taillevent with my wife. I brought pictures of the keepsake menu so I could show them to the staff at the restaurant and share my story.

We paused outside Taillevent to take some pictures to mark the occasion. A man emerged and offered to take pictures of us together. I told the man of my previous visit and showed him my menu pictures.

The man, Taillevent’s “Directeur,” Jean-Marie Ancher, considered my pictures pensively. He escorted us inside and asked us to wait in the restaurant’s beautifully appointed reception area.

He reappeared holding a menu from the night my father and I visited—the same menu I had framed in my house. “But tonight,” he said, “you shall have a new menu signed by the chef himself.”

We found ourselves in a spotless kitchen that was vibrating with activity. M. Ancher, introduced us to chef Alain Solivérès and snapped pictures of us flanking the world-renowned chef, who signed our new menu with a flourish and went back to work.

M. Ancher graciously assured me that the evening would be even better than my previous experience. “The food is even better now and we have learned more about how to present it. Plus, you are here with your lovely wife and your father is here too.”

M. Ancher’s assurances proved accurate. The food and the wine were every bit as wonderful as I remembered them. The atmosphere and the service were still magical.

Those two experiences, separated by over 40 years, taught me four lessons that I now apply to my professional life.

Lesson No. 1

How you achieve a result is as important as the result itself. We produce two things for our clients—an investment return and the experience that goes along with it. We need to remember that a client is attached to every portfolio we manage.

Lesson No. 2

Consistency is at the heart of excellence. We want to manage each client’s wealth over the course of a lifetime. Being spectacularly right sometimes, but spectacularly wrong at others does not build trust. Our process must inspire confidence.

Lesson No. 3

Experience does not ensure success, but the two travel in the same circles. People are attracted to exciting stories and hot, new trends. But experience is the cornerstone of sound decision-making. It’s harder to sell than sizzle, but better for clients.

Lesson No. 4

There is power and beauty in a big idea executed with an attention to detail. We serve as stewards of our clients’ long-term financial security. This is an enormous responsibility. If we aspire greatly, there is no limit to what we might accomplish.

Merci beaucoup, Taillevent!