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Permanent Equity is a private equity firm based in Columbia, Missouri. They plan to hold investments for 30 years, rarely use loans (aka debt) to buy businesses, and don't plan to sell any of the businesses they buy. They steward sustained growth of already-successful businesses while maintaining their legacy. They share a steady stream of quality content on Twitter and LinkedIn, and email frequent newsletters and white papers. They even publicly shared the way they analyze companies. You feel like you get to know them.

They also have a No Asshole Policy.

"Traditional" private equity firms buy businesses using loans, "eliminate positions," close underperforming locations and product lines, and otherwise manipulate the business to sell for a higher price a few years after buying. Rarely are they concerned about the company, employees, or customers, so long as they make as much money as possible as the investment. Most information, including how they analyze companies, is held close to the vest.

And while there are many good people in traditional private equity, there are also a lot of assholes.

Ritholtz Wealth Management is a wealth management firm based in New York with locations around the US. They've long been known for presence in old media (Bloomberg TV and CNBC) and new media (social media, podcasts, and blogs). As their CEO Josh Brown explained this week, they built their business via organic growth. They use content as a way to build trust – prospects know what Ritholtz thinks and how they approach money management.

"Traditional" wealth managers typically grow in one of two ways: acquiring other firms, or referral relationships with big brokerages (Schwab, Fidelity, etc.). These are quick ways to add clients and grow your business ("add AUM"). Compliance departments water content down to sound the same, which is why you see Merrill Lynch employees sharing the same boilerplate market update on LinkedIn.

In theory, neither Permanent Equity nor Ritholtz Wealth should succeed. I doubt they would have been business school case studies when they were founded.

Both took the hard route. Both could've followed the traditional playbook to grow their businesses faster, spending zero time publishing content (without help from AI), recording podcasts, or appearing on CNBC.

But both firms have succeeded. Wildly so. They're now in a strong position in their respective industries, with massive legs up on the competition. They have durability other firms would kill for.

PE gets thousands of inbound opportunities to buy businesses, and they get their pick. I'd bet they even get opportunities to buy businesses cheaper than the competition. Owners want to sell to PE.

Traditional private equity firms go to the same conferences, hire the same business school graduates, and have the same 50-page Powerpoint presentations to pitch their firms. They compete based on who can pay more, who has a more polished Powerpoint pitch, and who hosts a nicer (or drunker) prospect dinner. It's a numbers game. Prospects are lines on a literal spreadsheet rather than real businesses with real legacies full of real people with real concern for their jobs.

Ritholtz chooses who gets to be their client – investors reach out practically throwing money at them.

Traditional wealth shops compete based on fees and who can offer (but not guarantee, of course) better performance or access to the newest investments. It's all performative. I've been in meetings where money managers discuss making meaningful trades in accounts "to make it look like we're earning our fee."

PE and Ritholtz are one of one. Their competition battles based on fees, empty promises, connections, and luck.

Sameness makes you a commodity. And when you're a commodity, your existence is fragile.

And I don't just mean in business.

In our careers, we build the same skills and resumes as everyone else because it's the path we "should" follow. As parents, we sign up our kids for the same hectic schedule as everyone else so our kids "don't miss out." We hold on to old friendships because of inertia and memories of our old selves. We're on cruise control in life.

Instead, we can build a career skillset unique to us. One that fulfills us and makes us someone people would kill to hire.

We can take the time to get to know our kids and build a life that's right for them. We can let old friendships wither to make room to nurture new ones. We can become indispensable to our families and friends.

We can be thoughtful and intentional about how we spend our (very limited) time, focusing on what sharpens our blades rather than dulls it.

We can become one of one.

Years of unapologetic uniqueness has made Permanent Equity and Ritholtz leaders in their industries.

Where could we be if we committed unapologetically to our uniqueness?