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On Purpose
June 13, 2024

We talked with Barbara about:

  • The story that brought her into gerontology and how she serves financial professionals
  • The growing aging population and the issues they face that financial professionals can help with
  • Some of the ways financial professionals can identify problems with aging clients before they arise 

About Barbara Micheletti:

Barbara Micheletti is the founder and CEO of Interrupting Aging. Using her gerontology (the study of aging) expertise and financial services background, she transforms how financial professionals engage with their aging clients. Starting as an insurance agent in 2006, she built a successful business but faced significant challenges two years later when Brooke Corporation went bankrupt while she was also experiencing personal financial hardship. Emerging stronger, Barbara learned resilience, crisis management, and the importance of transparency. Today, she emphasizes the importance of holistic financial planning for all life stages. Through Interrupting Aging, Barbara inspires a positive approach to aging, guiding financial professionals to better support their aging clients both financially and emotionally.

Featured Resources 

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Full Audio Transcript:

Lauren (00:05):

All right, well, we have Barbara Micheletti who's joining us today, and you all are in for a treat. I'm excited to pass over the mic here and for her to share a little bit more about her background but she is the founder and CEO of Interrupting Aging. I'm going to pass it on over before I try to take the wind out of her sails and let her share a little bit more about what she does and her background for an aging population. Over to you.

Barbara (00:35):

Well, thank you, Lauren. I really appreciate the offer and the opportunity to be here, so I want to thank you for that.

Lauren (00:41):


Barbara (00:42):

I don't know if you want to start off with why, my why story or where you want to go from here.

Lauren (00:47):

Yeah, let's go ahead and just start there. I feel like hearing a little bit more about your background, how you got into the space, why you founded this company, tell me a little bit more.

Barbara (00:58):

Well, it started off back in 1998 when I became a gerontologist. Now I often explain what a gerontologist is after 26 years of being one. It simply means we studied the aging body from midlife to the whole lifespan but we focus on older and elderly people and what they go through and experience — their life experiences. So I like to say I love to help people love growing older is what I like to say that I do. But also it also started off a little bit tumultuousness when I started my insurance career. So let me give you a little history on that. Back in 2006, I started off as an insurance agent where I opened my insurance agency.

I literally went from being a stay-at-home mom one day to the next day becoming this insurance agency owner and a franchise owner for a company called Brooke Corporation. Now, this journey was very challenging in that right after I started my insurance company with zero clients — zero clients back in the day — I built that up from 2006 to 2008 and even got use of a company car in 2008. I experienced extremely challenging circumstances where not only I was a franchise owner of Brooke Corporation where Brooke Corporation committed investor fraud and was sentenced and went bankrupt in 2008 and subsequently went to court and all that through the Securities and Exchange Commission. But I also experienced personal financial betrayal from my ex-spouse while we were going through a divorce. And it took me a long time to understand and grasp the depth and severity of that financial devastation.

Now I tell you this because what I gained from that, and you like to think about it as how Nietzsche said, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, but also how a diamond is forged from intense pressure. Well, I like to think that's where I came from and that's why I do what I do today and why I'm such a big advocate, especially for women in this space. What that taught me and what I bring to my clients today is it taught me resilience, how to be resilient in the face of absolutely adverse circumstances where you have no choice but to commit to a path and to follow that path. So it taught me resilience, it taught me crisis management because literally that year as the corporation went bankrupt, they literally dropped every single franchise owner and there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of us.

But as I went through my own personal financial betrayal in my own family dynamic, I had to take that whole crisis management onto a new level and learn how to navigate not only personally but professionally. So what did I do? I was able to contact every single client I had and let them know this is what happened. So I was very transparent and very honest with them, letting them know this is what happened. I'm regrouping at another company called B&B Insurance Agency and I'm going to bring you over to this new company. Then I contacted, back then it was 1,111 insurance carriers, and I reached out to them. They knew exactly what was going on because a lot of them lost money too because premiums were kept by this corporation. So they lost a lot of money. So they were happy I was able to have that resilience and go through this crisis management and commit to the strategic problem-solving by taking all these clients and bringing them over and putting them right back into their policies. So every single client followed me. Every single insurance carrier took me back. So that taught me how to quickly adapt and it taught me the value of transparency and being a fiduciary to your clients, and that's what brought me to where I'm at today, talking with my clients, helping my financial professionals, the insurance professionals, to be that fiduciary, to demonstrate the transparency and the integrity with their clients so they in turn will trust them to know and do the right thing for them.

Lauren (05:26):

I think so much you talked about is so much in the heart of entrepreneurship, like grit, tenacity, being able to work under extreme pressure, keep that smile, right? It's that perseverance that sometimes it's always like people see the surface, they see the top, but they don't see everything else that's going on underneath. So you sharing that it brings to light. Some of these real challenges we go through but they kind of thicken our skin, especially if you go to start your own venture or it's going to thicken your skin somewhere along the way to be able to have that stamina. So tell us a little bit more. You talked a lot about you working in the financial services space. How about a little bit of how you got here and you're working currently with an aging population. You talked about fiduciary. I know there's a component to listening to your clients. Tell us a little bit more about why this demographic and what you're doing to help others. I think it mostly is in the wealth management and insurance space — support for this audience? Can you share a little bit more about that and what this audience looks like when we say aging demographics. I know that's a lot of questions there but I'd love to unpack that a little bit more.

Barbara (06:42):

That's okay. We can dive right into that. So the reason I chose the aging population is because of that gerontology background, and again, gerontology simply means aging —we're all aging, and here's the thing, we are living in this rapidly aging population. We're living to age 100 really is this new normal. When you do a Monte Carlo, they often advise financial professionals use age 100 as that benchmark. And I can say as an aging expert, as a gerontologist, we are living in an aging population. So the aging population, and you and I, Lauren talked about this offline here for a few minutes and I'll talk about what that means quickly. So an aging population is to be clear, we are aging the minute we're born. We don't start aging at 40 or at 65. We don't become old. We're aging throughout our entire life. We just don't think about it until we start developing physical pains or maybe a mental cognitive pain or our employer tells us now we're a federally protected workplace employee. I have that insurance background, business insurance background, to know we're a federally protected employee at the age of 40.

So our society has a bit of a challenging time when it comes to what our age is and an aging population. But from a financial planning perspective, we do want to focus on our financial professionals helping people of all ages financially plan. So what brought me in was the gerontology, and then the other story I'll share with you, another one of my why stories is when I was that insurance agent, I had regrouped my company B&B Insurance, and then I sold it to a national brokerage and I became a top producing salesperson, a commercial salesperson for that organization. It was during my tenure as a business insurance advisor that I can't tell you, Lauren, how many clients I helped, not only with their commercial insurance portfolio but with their personal aging issues as well. And some of the most devastating ones were the cognitive impairments I was able to step up as a gerontologist to help my clients with. That in part helped me transition over. I made the decision, I couldn't help them as just an insurance agent. It ultimately led me to where I'm at today.

Lauren (09:06):

Okay. So just to take a step back and sorry for this is maybe a little bit of the marketer in me like, okay, I want to narrow it a little bit more and I can understand the definition too of right, we're aging all throughout our lives, but is there a particular demographic that you're primarily focused on — ages 40 to 60 or to 80 — that you really kind of zero in on when you're working with these professionals? Do you mind sharing a little bit more on that side?

Barbara (09:33):

I do, and that's a very good question because I do focus on those age 40 and above. We'd like to see financial planning happen in people's 20s and 30s for sure. But when we hit age 40, that's when we start developing chronic diseases. Oftentimes we could hit 'em in our 30s — women, we develop a thyroid impairment in our 30s, which is very typical for us, which now that's considered a chronic disease. So we start developing as a whole men and women chronic diseases in our 40s, financially preparing for this aging issue and our financial planning. We want to focus on those age 40 and above and thinking about not only our financial planning and that retirement goal we have but also thinking about what are these current and future aging issues we have.

Lauren (10:26):

So then in kind of furthering that definition, 40 and above, you had alluded to health issues and you had also talked about earlier folks who have these mental stopgaps. Is there aging? So how do I say, what kind of challenges are you pulling apart, just maybe some examples like you had the health issues, what other conversations are you having to help individuals or really maybe to help advisors or insurance agents work with these individuals through these aging issues?

Barbara (11:06):

So one of the aging issues you brought up is the cognitive issue. One of the most devastating diseases any of us could face is dementia. So there's the dementias as an umbrella. If you think of dementia as an umbrella term, and under the umbrella term you can have Alzheimer's, you can have Lewy body dementia, you can have frontotemporal dementia. So those are some of the more, I say, popular ones. Alzheimer's by far is the most widespread and unfortunately it could be close to 7 million people now who live in the United States with Alzheimer's. Two-thirds are women. So it's a future aging issue we want to think about from a financial perspective. So for the financial professional to have their conversation with a single woman or a single man or a couple, that conversation absolutely wants to come up, have you financially prepared for the chance it's abnormal aging. It's not normal. We all don't develop that. But have you thought about if this happens to you, will your spouse be your caregiver and be the husband as well? Just more women develop this. So to have a financial plan, have the conversation in advance, not when you start seeing signs. And even if you do start seeing those red flags of a cognitive impairment, of which financial decision-making is one of the first to go, then have that conversation as soon as possible. 

Lauren (12:48):

So then are you coaching advisors and folks in the insurance space on how to have these conversations and then also how to listen for these things so they can best support their clients? Is that really the engagement?

Barbara (13:04):

Exactly. Listen and look. So I like to tell my clients, financial and insurance professionals, asset managers, bankers, you name it, that you are an ideal set of eyes and ears for your clients because they see them on somewhat of a regular basis, whether it's annual, whether it's every six months, but you can see physically how they are acting, how their body is holding up. I mean, we're just breaking down over decades, right? As we age, if we're lucky to get into old age, our body just simply breaks down; this is just our natural aging process. Some people's bodies break down even more. So sometimes when our bodies break down, it can also trigger a cognitive issue, a brain issue. So that's something financial professionals could look with their eyes and with their ears. So getting to know their clients, really understanding their clients, very similar to how a coach understands his or her players, very similar to that for financial professionals to really understand their clients, and that way you can better predict their future behavior.

Lauren (14:18):

Helping them and helping them get better. Coach. That makes sense. Exactly. Yeah. So then, okay, so this is probably also the marketer hat in me. So once you start to be able to really know what to pick up on those nuances or the things like you said, you look and you listen, a lot of times you think about creating an experience that really helps to optimize it for that particular demographic. Do you also work with advisors, insurance agents on updating maybe their onboarding process for that audience or meeting frequencies or maybe even a gifting strategy or outreach approach? What is your involvement in that part of it to make sure people are heard how they want to be heard?

Barbara (15:05):

I think that's such a great question because as with any relationship, we want to be as authentic as we can be. We want to be as transparent as we can be as we get to trust that other person. So as the financial, the insurance professionals, the asset managers, the bankers, any money expert, they want to have this type of candid conversation with their client to say, look, we're playing on the same team. My job here is to understand as much as I can to help you to have this long-term relationship with you and to understand your family dynamic, to understand what you are looking for as you age with your money. What are your values, what do you value? And understanding these can change with time because we humans, we change with time, we evolve, we meet new people, we form new opinions, we digest more information, and it changes how we integrate this new information with what our existing information is.

And we come to different conclusions. Family dynamics can break down, relationships can break down, bodies can break down. So it's such an ideal spot for this money professional to be able to start the conversation with their client, having that transparency, saying to the client, let's be candid. I want to help you and I'm here to help you. And when you're letting me know what's going on in your life, I can better help you plan not only for now, but for your future from a holistic financial planning approach, not just a traditional one. And that's not to say we need to throw out the baby in the bathwater, traditional financial planning, asset protection investment, because I did take my Series 65 and the securities industry exam; I was going to become that financial advisor until I became this consultant. But having the traditional financial planning process in place along with holistic financial planning, look at people as a whole human as they age and encompassing their aging process, their health, their mental health, physical health, their family dynamic, their legacy, what you talked about, what kind of legacy do they want to leave, what inheritance, the estate planning, all those things.

Lauren (17:28):

Yeah, so helpful. There's a lot to cover. And I also really appreciate what you talked about earlier too, of there not being a formulated process. You have to be able to be nimble and adjust as individuals are moving but being able to have that thinking and to be able to know how to listen and to look and listen, as you said earlier, I think it's a real tool, right? There's an art in all of that.

Barbara (17:52):

Absolutely. Absolutely. But to your point, you can, so we talk about having a system, we talk about having a repeatable process, and especially if we're in the RIA space or a broker-dealer, but I know your audience is more of an RIA space, you can create a repeatable, easily repeatable process with this because while we humans are unique and it's very personal, and that's why it's called personal financial planning, we can create a repeatable process when we're talking to every single client, no matter they're a solo aging woman or a man or a couple or a suddenly single person where women live longer. So they're often more on the single side than men. We can create an easily repeatable process for this.

Lauren (18:46):

It's so true. If you have that repeatable process it takes out some of the thinking that's been done, right? But then it is paired with that human side and that touch.

Barbara (18:58):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. 

Lauren (19:00)

Okay. So I just want to be mindful of time. This is helpful to be able to appreciate you unpacking some of this, sharing a little bit more about your background because you have had so many conversations with different folks, you've really helped them to listen and learn. Are there any key things you feel like, gosh, if just the general population knew more about, I don’t know —maybe fraud-related issues or caring for their loved ones — what to expect and thinking forward about that? Are there themes you often see that come up? And I'm just asking because these might be conversations that could turn into webinar topics for advisors or for insurance agents, or they could be partnership opportunities or what have you, and things that would be helpful for an aging population to know about.

Barbara (19:53):

Well, you touched on one of my, I say favorite topics, but because of what I experienced earlier in my career, well at the beginning of my insurance career back in 2006 forward was financial fraud. I saw the investor fraud. I saw the personal fraud. So because of that, and here's another thing I didn't tell you until right now, back when I was in graduate school and I had no idea I was predetermining my future, back in graduate school when I was in my early 30s, I was an older student at my gerontology graduate school, and I took marketing as a minor because I always loved business. I chose senior financial fraud as my thesis. So I talked about and I wrote about all those years ago, telemarketing, fraud, mail fraud, senior fraud. 

And it still goes on. And the numbers were horrible back then, and I had it when I worked in a bank back then with a client, and it just struck me so much. So I resurrected that research I did back in 1998, believe it or not, and I updated it with current numbers back in 2021 when I really was getting this business going and the numbers were frightening. So I created a national presentation I call The Wolf Who Ate Grandma, and it's on senior financial fraud. And I am part of a senior financial fraud mastermind group where we are presenting to government entities. We've presented already to others at Elder Justice and the Department of Justice. So I'm very honored to be with that group of colleagues. But fraud is something that's very near and dear to my heart. It happens all the time. It's everywhere all the time. And it's something financial professionals really want to deeply learn more about along with the aging issues of older people, because there are certain things we go through in our aging process that sometimes increases the likelihood of being financially frauded.

Lauren (21:53):

Yep, it's so true and it's such a scary thing. And I feel like it's one of those things where you've got to learn about it before it happens, not after the fact. 

Barbara (22:01):

Exactly. And the caregiving you spoke of, the caregiving, that's such an intimate component with that as well, because if you're a couple, you've got that financial fraud, that is a possibility. But when you're a couple or when you're by yourself, you could be caring for an adult child or something. But the caregiving is another untold story. There's so many caregivers, the numbers are staggering. The number of people I meet, I meet a lot of men, believe it or not, who are caregivers, and we don't talk about them as much, and I wish we did. Forty, 40% of US men are caregivers but we don't talk about that. So caregiving is a huge financial piece financial professionals can talk to their clients about. Are you a caregiver now? Will you be a future caregiver to your spouse, your mom, your dad, your grandma, your grandpa?

Lauren (22:54):

Yes. Oh my goodness. There's so much to unpack just as you're talking about this. I feel like I can see there's a lot to learn, and I think as we kind of talked about in the beginning, sort of that definition of aging, it's important to learn this I think even before it becomes an issue. So that education is really key. And I feel like financial advisors in particular are in such a place to be able to have a stage to be able to share that. And so it's really a place they can help to further empower individuals. So I appreciate you sharing a little bit more about your insights and working with this demographic. So Barb, thank you again. We'll make sure to include a link to your website with more details.

Barbara (23:37):

Thank you so much, Lauren.

Supporting Financial Professionals and Their Aging Clients

Discover how Barbara Micheletti, founder of Interrupting Aging, guides financial professionals to better support their aging clients through every life stage.
Operations & Management
June 6, 2024

We talked with Kate about:

  • How to sustainably implement CRM changes 
  • How to loop in the whole team
  • Tips and tools she loves with Redtail and Wealthbox

About Kate Guillen:

Kate Guillen is a seasoned operations professional with over a decade of experience in the investment management industry. Her journey began as a client service associate for a broker-dealer and she later became the operations manager at a registered investment advisor. There, she was given the freedom to solve operational issues with technology and discovered her passion for AdvisorTech. In 2020, she founded Simplicity Ops to help financial advisors and their teams simplify systems and standardize operations. Today, Simplicity Ops has partnered with over 50 firms, dedicated to maximizing their technology and ensuring robust operating procedures to support growth and excellent client service.

Featured Resources 

Enjoyed this? You’ll also love:  

Full Audio Transcript:

Lauren (00:04):

Kate, thanks for being with us here today.

Kate (00:07):

Thank you so much for having me. I'm really looking forward to the conversation.

Lauren (00:10):

Yeah, me too. And kind of nerding out on this whole CRM. I know that's your specialty. So I'm going to pass it over to you to just share a little bit about your background but high level, you are the founder of Simplicity Ops. And is your specialty working with just, is it just RIAs exclusively?

Kate (00:30):

Yep, RIAs and hybrids that use Redtail or Wealthbox.

Lauren (00:33):

Okay, awesome. So, okay, that will be fun to get into those specific platforms as well. So before we do that, do you mind just sharing how you got into this industry, these spaces, and what have you? And then sharing a little bit more just for context, going into the conversation about what you all do.

Kate (00:49):

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, good question. So it's kind of funny how I got into the industry. I was actually part of a workout group and my workout partner was an older gal, and I was expressing to her my discontent in my current job. And she's like, you know what? My husband's looking for an assistant; he's the vice president of an investment company. You should meet with him. And so I went and met with him. I didn't know the difference between a stock and a bond. I had absolutely no business being there but we hit it off. He and his partner took a risk on a 24-year-old kid who literally didn't know the difference between a stock and a bond. And they taught me the ropes. And I worked at that broker-dealer for three and a half years, learned the language, the regulatory stuff, everything. It was a great introduction to the industry.

They were really patient and wonderful with me. But ultimately I left and joined an RIA, which was my first introduction to a CRM. And at the time we were really only using the CRM as a glorified Rolodex. We had contact records but that was about it. And we were going through a major transition. We were leaving our TAMP, consolidating assets at custodians, bringing in a portfolio manager, and growing our team. And anyway, there were way too many balls in the air. Every morning was a fire drill. I had to bring some calm and consistency to the office and tried to figure out how to do that. And the brief little research that I did, I figured out the CRM was a hell of a lot more than a Rolodex if someone took the time to build it out.

And so I spent years learning the ins and outs of how to optimize it for contacts, tasks, your sales pipeline, your client calendar, your client service experience, and then workflows to help deliver those services at scale. And as I was going through the process, I realized I was a geek about it. I loved it. I found it very fun, and then I was watching it yield amazing results. I was watching my team now be able to operate independently and have the confidence to execute our client service experience. The business was growing and we just now all had that level of calm and consistency in the office. And luckily I was friends with the advisor I was working for and I was like, hey man, I think I got a cool business idea. What if I was able to do this for other advisors and not just this single office? And he was like, ah, sad to see you go but I think this is a really good idea. And so with his support, I kind of started to put together this idea of Simplicity Ops. At the end of 2019, beginning of 2020, I landed my first couple of clients and the writing was on the wall. It was time for me to go off and do my own thing. And that was in March 2020. The world ended.

Lauren (03:33):

Yes, your timeline was down.

Kate (03:35):

The world ended like March 15, and I'm like, oh God, I've made a terrible mistake here. But honestly, it was kind of the right place at the right time. There was never a more apparent time that advisors needed an online system to run their practice than in 2020 when we all got sent home.

Lauren (03:53):

Okay. So just to kind of fill in the blanks here, so when you were setting this up at this firm prior to starting Simplicity Ops, what CRM platform were you using?

Kate (04:03):

We were using Redtail.

Lauren (04:05):

Okay, so Redtail was kind of your key CRM that you got super familiar with. Okay. And then I love what you said too about this idea of creating the calm. I feel like when ops are done really well, that's so much of what it does; it just creates systems and trust and consistency and all these other kinds of things.

Kate (04:25):

And confidence.

Lauren (04:26):

Yes, it's so true. So tell me, when you enter into a situation where we're like, all right, we're going to get the house in order, what kind of situation are you normally entering in? What's normally some of the bigger challenges you're seeing firms have and how do you go about, I'll call it wireframing, their CRM? I’d love to hear a little bit more about that.

Kate (04:52):

Yeah, that's a great question. So I can explain how to go about optimizing your CRM as the operational hub of your practice. That's really our core belief. We believe your CRM should be the one-stop-shop for managing your business. And every system we are building is optimizing for an amazing client service experience. That's what my background is. And our best clients, their core value, their mission is to exceed the expectations of their clients by delivering a wonderful experience. And so we very much take that approach and most of our clients come to us and say, all right, I get it. Our CRM should be our one-stop-shop or our centralized database but the data's disorganized, the team is using it inconsistently. Some of us are using the calendar, some of us are still using Outlook. We've never touched a workflow. We don't really trust the system, so we don't really use it. A couple years ago that was what I heard the most and now what I feel like I'm hearing, and I mentioned this earlier, is like, all right, we've started to build out systems but we're having a really hard time getting adoption. We're having a really hard time getting people to buy into the value.

And so it's shifted a little bit, and honestly in my experience, the easiest way to get adoption is by meeting your people where they are at, okay, figuring out what do they value and helping them understand how the implementation of these systems is going to get them there faster. It needs to be articulated in a way they understand and find valuable. They need to also deeply believe your CRM is the key to exceeding the expectations of your clients by delivering excellent client service. The systems that get implemented need to be really simple and easy to adopt.

Lauren (07:03):

That makes sense.

Kate (07:05):

And nobody likes change. If you just totally flip everything upside down, people get resistant, and that's when you don't get buy-in. The key to successful CRM implementation is mutual adoption by everybody. So it needs to be done slowly. It needs to be done with intention, it needs to be done methodically, it needs to be done at a manageable pace that people feel comfortable taking off these bite-sized chunks, implementing, feeling really comfortable with the shift or the change before we move on to whatever the next component is.

Lauren (07:39):

So just to paraphrase what you were seeing when you kicked off this business — this was COVID timeline wise — it was more of we don't have a system. We need to put a system in place of some sort and maybe just hypothesizing here that more folks maybe have systems because we were forced to be in this digital world. So then therefore, what you're hearing right now is it's really how do we adopt our culture to actually use the system? And that's really the key issue you're walking into right now with teams. Is that fair?

Kate (08:14):

And even the people that do have systems, there’s still the opportunity to make it perfect. They've kind of scratched the surface but the hardest part I've been finding right now is just getting everybody on their team to adopt the system and use it consistently. It doesn't work if there's outliers who are unwilling to adopt

Lauren (08:35):

Because the adoption of the system and the consistency helps with scalability. So that just means you nailed it, the data. Okay, so what kind of tools are you using? You were talking about it's got to be in their language and it's got to be done at a pace that works for the firm. Are you doing trainings? Are you having internal champions or leaders? What kind of advice would you give for someone who's really struggling — they see it but they're not sure how to shift that culture?

Kate (09:06):

I love this question. So when we partner with firms, we nominate a project champion, the person who is the CRM guru. And so we work with both Redtail and Wealthbox users, and we have found the most successful teams have a champion in their office who owns their CRM. They're a wealth of knowledge and the person we partner with and collaborate with most closely to dump our knowledge into them so they have somebody in their office with that level of capability, and then we guide them through a four-phase process. That starts with, and I always joke, I think about building a house. I know everybody is really excited about workflows and integration but none of that works if we don't lay the foundation and build the frame. The entire structure collapses if you throw the roof on first, right?

Lauren (09:55):

Yes, yes, yes. Makes sense. It'd be backwards.

Kate (09:57):

It would be backwards. And I know the foundation is pretty boring and lame but we have to start there. And in its simplest form, your CRM is a database. So we start with structuring the data. How should it be organized? Who are these contacts in your database and what is the best way to organize them? And then we'll take them through here's who these people are and how should they be structured? Here's what your categories should be. Here's your keywords and your tags and your custom fields. We get really clear on that and we document that, right?

Lauren (10:24):

You made it sound so simple. It's so not simple but okay, keep going. 

Kate (10:31):

Yes, we’ve done this a lot of times. So to me, now I can get into a database and be like, yeah, no, this is how this should work. And then we remap everything, clean it up and we're golden. I get it. Then after we know how the database is organized, we got to get the team on board. And so this is the educational component where we teach and train them. The best practice for using the CRM is the hub. And what I mean by the hub is it becomes the place for managing contacts, your tasks, your sales pipeline, your calendar, your accounts, running reports, any sort of audits. It becomes the source of truth for managing your client relationships.

Lauren (11:10):

Okay. Client relationships, I guess, which is also related to data.

Kate (11:15):

Yeah, exactly.

Lauren (11:16):

Okay, so kind of shifting topics here a little bit but related, you've got your adaptation that's going on, right? You're getting people involved. That takes time and it may not be up to speed. How are you managing expectations of the C-suite, where they're going, we should have these reports. It should be so simple. Shouldn't all that information be in there when in reality, what I was referred to earlier, as you make it sound easy, that component of being able to tag and create workflows and these sorts of things, that takes time and it takes training to be able to build all that out. So what is your kind of communication and expectation setting for folks who are like, don't we just have this? Can't you just flip a switch? And what is that timeline expectation setting that maybe for someone who thinks it doesn't have the context for the complexity of it? What are you telling that audience?

Kate (12:15):

Yeah, that is a fantastic question because that is a real struggle because unless you are on the front lines of managing a CRM and managing client relationships, you have absolutely no idea how long this stuff takes.

Lauren (12:29):

Okay, so true. 

Kate (12:30):

I always joke, I'm like, listen, it took me three and a half years to jigsaw puzzle all of this together and build out a framework for running a practice. The benefit of collaborating with someone like us is we can knock it out a lot faster; we’ve already gotten it figured out. And so our engagements last anywhere from six months to a year and a half depending on the complexity of the business, the disaster that's their database, how many team members they have, getting it all in order. And so to set expectations, we build out a timeline. We're like, listen, here's what we're going to accomplish week over week. Here's some key milestones you are going to feel like major efficiency pickups.

Lauren (13:07):

These wins.

Kate (13:10):

Those wins. And then we get together at those milestones and celebrate those wins together. We'll do a deep dive training with the team and be like, all right guys, we've gotten this far, we've rolled this out. Everybody has a task management system. No more Post-It notes, no more legal pads, no more DMing.

Lauren (13:24):

Yes. Throw it away. Yeah.

Kate (13:27):

And it's like set in stone. It's like here, it's going forward. And then this is why you have to take a slow, intentional, methodical approach. Once you've met that milestone, then we move on to the next set of curriculum, and then we get into building out your service experience, and then we get into building out workflows. So it's done very incrementally so nobody feels fire-hosed.

Lauren (13:50):

Yes, that's fair. So it's essentially stepping stones but celebrating those stepping stones along the way, which also is managing the optics of the volume you're trying to push or change or what have you. But also not saying like, oh, we can do this overnight. Yeah, you're right. No problem. It can happen. Right? Because it is very nuanced. So related to the nuanced part of it, right? When you get into the CRM, you start to unpack, let's say all the things that make a client experience exceptional. Do you find your projects just spin off like, oh yeah, we needed that and oh yeah, we needed that and we need to actually have more emails here. How do you set those expectations in the beginning to make sure the timeline doesn't shift every, what is it, every 30 days or 60 days or what have you? Because I'm sure you're discovering more as you're going through the process.

Kate (14:44):

Yeah. Well, we set very clear expectations in the beginning. We're going to do an audit to figure out what the pace of this should look like, set a timeline to just keep everybody on track and set those expectations. And if we get in there and we realize, oh shoot, you need this, this, this, and this, we will tack those on at the end or wherever they make sense, not even at the end sometimes, oh, we don't have an online calendar tool, or we're still using Calendly. Well, you should be using GReminders. It has a native integration, blah, whatever. We'll introduce those things as we get to them.

Lauren (15:19):

Got it. Okay. So it's part of just unpacking it essentially.

Kate (15:23):

Yeah. Absolutely.

Lauren (15:24):

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So are there any other trends you're seeing or maybe new things related to integrations with Wealthbox or with Redtail that folks should have on the horizon as they're thinking about these platforms?

Kate (15:42):

Yeah, totally. And so I believe your CRM should be the operational hub but it's not all the things, right? It's not your note-taking app. It's not your online calendar tool. Okay? There's some other things that play very nicely with those systems that help deliver an amazing client experience. I love FinMate. It is a note-taking bot that joins your call, takes your notes, puts together the transcription, and pushes the meeting summary into Wealthbox and Redtail. You can select tasks from that meeting summary to task to your team, the action items that need to be done. And it comprises a follow-up email to the client. I'm like, oh man, that's a frequent weight changer. Yeah, so I’m a huge fan of anything that makes the client experience better and makes your administrative team’s lives easier. GReminders is another one I love just from a client servicing and just creating efficiency around managing calendars and schedulers for both the client side and the administrative side. That's  huge, I mean, that's going to save you tens of hours a week implementing a tool like that. I like Bento Engine for client advice and timely milestone educational pieces. I think it is awesome. I'm really excited about this whole AI thing. I know it's a really hot topic. I have no idea where this is going to go but I'm excited to figure it out. I heard somebody talking the other day about a virtual AI assistant, like literally a VA but that's a bot.

Lauren (17:27):

Yes, I know what you're talking about. It is really cool and it actually feels like it's a human the way it's set up and you can create all this conditional logic in the background. Totally. I know what you're talking about.

Kate (17:38):

And I'm into it. I think it's really exciting. I don't know if the regulatory bodies are going to love that. I don't know if I really want them in my CRM with everybody's personal information. That's still a little gray to me. But again, I come from an admin and ops background. Anything that makes those people's lives easier so they can be spending more time serving clients, I'm all game for.

Lauren (18:04):

I totally hear you. We feel the same too. We've actually gone through and have cleaned up a lot of our systems and workflows with the whole objective of trying to be able to cut out the manpower, the manual manpower, so time, energy, and resources can be really spent on making sure you have exceptional customer service as you were alluding to earlier. And I appreciate you sharing those tools too, because they get leverage. So then you can go, okay, now we can spend more of our time on X. Having a really clean kickoff or building those relationships or good conversations or what have you. So fun. Kate, any other final thoughts you want to share or things you think would be helpful for folks to know?

Kate (18:45):

Oh gosh, I love this conversation. I think one of the things I get pushed back on a lot is like, oh man, this sounds like so much work. Oh, this sounds like so much time and it does take time but it's short-term pain for long-term gain. Your future self is going to thank you so much for taking the extra couple minutes to document the process so you're not reinventing the wheel every single time you go to do something. As you start to document those processes, if you are not using your CRM as the place for maintaining processes, you should.

Lauren (19:21):

It's so true. And I think it also just takes off that mental checklist you have. Oh, I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do this. But it's set it and forget it. It's there for you. So you don't miss those steps along the way. And then you can also remember, oh, that was a brilliant move. I should be reaching out to this person at this time. I should be doing X, Y, and Z. But that automation helps again for you to be able to put your best foot forward. You nailed it. So fun. All right, Kate, well thank you again for your time. It was really fun to learn not only about your business but about this world of CRMs, right? And the importance of really making sure they are set up for scalability and also give you data so you can better make decisions. So thanks again. 

Kate (19:59):

Love It. Thanks for having me.

Lauren (20:01):


Unlocking Growth: How to Optimize CRMs and Operating Procedures with Kate Guillen of Simplicity Ops

Discover how Kate Guillen, founder of Simplicity Ops, helps financial advisors simplify and standardize their CRM systems and operations to fuel growth.
Marketing & Sales
May 30, 2024

We talked with Nick about:

  • How to set up your marketing leaders for success
  • How to know when to hire an integrated agency and when to hire a CMO
  • How to align your marketing efforts to your overall goals 
  • Niche marketing, integrated operations, and business strategy

About Nick Richtsmeier:

Nick Richtsmeier is the principal at CultureCraft, an innovative firm dedicated to providing tools that unlock critical questions for wealth management professionals and firms. With a career deeply rooted in the wealth management industry, Nick spent nearly a decade as an advisor before transitioning into executive roles. His experience includes serving as CMO and COO for small to mid-sized registered investment advisor (RIA) firms, where he identified recurring issues that kept RIA businesses stuck in unproductive cycles — a key factor fueling the current era of consolidation. Passionate about addressing these challenges, Nick founded CultureCraft to equip wealth managers with the insights and strategies needed to break free from these cycles and achieve sustainable success.

Featured Resources 

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Full Audio Transcript:

Lauren (00:05):

Nick, welcome. We're glad to have you here today.

Nick (00:07):

Oh, thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Lauren (00:09):

Yeah, so I have just enjoyed all of our conversations today. I think one of the things I super appreciate about you is you have not only been in the weeds, you've been on boots on ground, with so many experiences. I know you've worked with TD Ameritrade, you've worked with a variety of financial services businesses, I should say, but that's not like your 100% sweet spot. I know you work with other companies as well, but you've seen the nitty gritty in the weeds of all kinds of production to the very, very high-level strategy of really being able to go in and really unpack some of the really difficult questions and be able to change and shape culture and adjust course. So I'm excited to get into that today. And more specifically, we're going to get really into what is the role of the CMO or how do we unpack that today. So before we do that, do you mind just sharing with folks a little bit about your background, go into that a little bit more, and your experiences?

Nick (01:10):

Yeah. I've been in or near wealth management for the bulk of my career. I was an advisor for almost 10 years, sold my book of business, ended up moving into more enterprise executive roles, and part of that was a CMO/COO role for a small to midsize RIA, and really found I was falling in love with these repeated themes that were keeping RIA businesses sort of locked in a cycle that wasn't working right. And it's part of what fed the consolidation era we're in now. This was in the mid-2010s that there were just questions people were having a really hard time answering. And consolidation increasingly became an answer in the M&A environment. So I created CultureCraft to start to give people tools to unlock these questions. A lot of them apply to wealth managers and wealth management firms. It's really any entity that has to leverage trust to grow the business. Everybody says, well, trust is the engine of growth for every business. It is, but it's different in these long-term high-dollar relationships like investment management and the RIA world than it is if you are a bakery. I mean, the bakery has to be trustworthy. They're not going to poison the cookies, right?

Lauren (02:34):

Right. Yes.

Nick (02:35):

There’s a difference in the kind of trust-based organizations we work with, those in the RIA wealth management space.

Lauren (02:42):

Yes, it's so true. And it's a long sales cycle, right? Trust can be built in so many ways. I mean, we can unpack the marketing component. You can look at it even from operations, right? Operations impacts just are you going to get the same product? Is it going to be at a certain quality? And you could go a variety of angles. And in particular, let's get to the CMO level, right? It's trust within the numbers and being able to talk to the C-suite. It could go a variety of directions. So let's kind of go into the CMO world. You see that, you see the high level. How do you see the role of the CMO today?

Nick (03:21):

Yeah, I mean, I've been either in a full-time or in a fractional capacity, a CMO at a wealth management firm multiple times. And I would say the CMO role is as in trouble as it's ever been. I mean, it is really a tough job. It is. And if you're watching the trades, a high-level CMO cycles out about every 18 to 24 months of the big brand name firms. And there's a reason for that. It's because the role is not well designed for the current environment. It's because the majority of people hiring for it have never seen a great one. So they don't know what they're hiring for. And they also don't know how to do division of labor among the C-suite that validates the CMO’s expertise. I mean, I've talked to multiple large RIA founders who are trying to figure this out. Do we need a CMO? If we do, what do they do? How is that different from these other things other people are doing because they've defaulted to a more heavily tactical director-style role or an outsourced partner. Either one can work but they have big strategy questions no one in the building can answer.

Lauren (04:43):

Yep. It's so true. Harvard Business School put together a great article on this, and it goes through these different roles of the definition of the CMO. To your point earlier about you've got to have strong input to have strong output. Can you talk a little bit more about that, different types of input for what the role of the CMO can look like today, either through title or job description or that sort of thing is a big question to be able to unpack.

Nick (05:10):

For sure. So what you want I think is if we take the title off it and then we'll put the title back on at the end. In a wealth management or kind of trust style business, you want someone who says growing the brand and growing the business is an equal equation to me, and I am going to take ownership of both. Now, on the growing the business side, they have to do collaboration with other business development people who might be head of sales, might be a head of advisory, could have different roles in different firms but you want that CMO who’s very comfortable saying, I'm not here to just give you marketing metrics. I am here to comfortably sit and say, we will grow the firm organically, tactically in collaboration with the advisors and the other business development folks in the building. If you're going to pay top dollar for a head of marketing, 250, 300 plus, that's what you need. That's what you need. And if you don't have that, somebody else has to take that spot. And in many firms, there's a gap there because your business development people came out of usually advisory. They've been advisors but they don't have a concept of the entire toolkit or the entire growth toolkit, all the things they can do. Or you have people who have come out of classic marketing channels and they're just embedded in 2017 marketing.

Lauren (06:52):

Or just hyper-tactical.

Nick (06:53):

Yes, hyper-tactical. What we will call the tactical hamster wheel is we're going to go from SEO to blogs to events.

Lauren (07:01):

Taking it all and trying to just do it, trying to use everybody.

Nick (07:06):

And it's what irritates the hell out of people about marketers because they're like, well, I don't really care how many clicks or views or whatever. What did this actually do for the business? Your CMO needs to be able to easily answer that question. They have to have a business acumen to be able to do that. I would say that's really, really rare in the wealth space, both from a talent perspective because the industry hasn't produced that kind of talent and from an organizational design perspective because executives don't know how to build the org with that in mind, and it creates these gaps. There's a direct correlation between the failure of the CMO role in wealth management and the just absolute halt in organic growth. These two things are correlated and they're caused by similar issues.

Lauren (08:01):

Yep. I hear you. And even if you were to get back to the root of the cause, just the clarification of the role to begin with, just that clarity, like you said, trying to answer those tough questions at the top. And then I also think you kind of alluded to the fact that there's folks who are pushing all the activities but one thing you said earlier that I think is really critical is this idea of collaboration. And I think that's so much a part of the role of the CMO. It's being able to literally go around, have those one-on-ones, and really be able to influence and persuade and also drive the agenda against the bigger picture strategy, which is something that is much easier said than done.

Nick (08:48):

Yeah. I want to just pause there for just a second. I wrote about this morning on LinkedIn thinking about this meeting. The CMO is the most collaborative role in the C-suite. The CMO, when functioning correctly, is hand in glove with org dev. It's hand in glove with advisory business development. It's hand in glove with the CEO owning the brand. So that is part of the challenge from even a leadership capacity standpoint is as a CMO, you have to make the case for your value all day long, every day. And you have to be a grownup about it. And you can't go on LinkedIn whining about how mean people are to marketers. You just have to get to that cycle. But you also have to have the humility to say, I don't really get to take credit for anything by myself because everything I'm doing succeeds in collaboration. That's the ABCs of a marketing leader.

Lauren (09:43):

So true. So well said. And I think that's almost hard to be able to communicate upfront because it is so intertwined with everything. I mean operations, the way things flow, they're communicated from onboarding to offboarding and the tone that's set there, the sales team making sure they're really heard and they have their needs. And it's not about a shotgun. Everybody across all departments wants this but it's about really setting the big picture strategy and then being able to get everybody behind that. It is reducing the shiny object syndrome, which is again, easier said than done.

Nick (10:23):


Lauren (10:25):

What do you see, because you go into these kinds of conversations and you're unpacking them with teams and leadership, and what is that big picture strategy process like to be able to unpack it? What does the timeline look like and what advice would you give maybe to a CMO, or maybe I should even say to a business leader who's thinking about unpacking that strategy? What would they need to do to be able to go in or be prepared before they go into that actual conversation so they're set up for success so they've got the big picture, they can reduce the shiny object syndrome and everyone's set up for success?

Nick (11:02):

I mean, that's like a masterclass in and of itself, but we'll try and do it in a way. So one of the things I tell leaders is the reason why mirrors exist is because none of us know what our face looks like. And the big challenge for even very smart — and I've just talked to so many of them in the RIA space — very smart, very successful leaders who've grown into that nine-figure revenue size and below, but just really healthy firms, and they can't tell you why their firm works. And that's the first challenge is somebody has to be able to go, this is why this place works, and these are the things that if we invested in them more, it would work better. That level of just clarity.

And it's not anybody's fault, it's just the RIA wave was just that. It was a wave and everybody rode it in fairly similar ways. Even though every firm is unique, there was sort of this continuity to the wave, and now we're on the back end of that wave in a different era, and now it's like, well, I have to figure this out, not for the whole industry anymore, but for me.

There are unique identities. So some people will call that branding, some people call it positioning. All of those things come into play but there is just that sense of this is who we are and this is how we're going to progress into the future. I think that takes some form of third-party analysis, etc. Some firms, we come to have some of that already. They've done that work. Obviously, that accelerates the process. So let's say you've done that work. If you've done that work, now the question is, okay, we know we want to grow in these markets, or we want to do this mix of acquisition and this mix of organic, whatever it might be. Now it's what are the actual strategies? What are we going to do in the next six months, 12 months, etc., to make that happen? And that's when marketing starts to come into the conversation. And almost always, the firm has a level of, maybe not as far as distrust but distaste for marketing. There's been some disappointments. There's been leadership churn. Marketing has been put in a fulfillment role, it makes shiny objects for us. Marketing doesn't like it, the firm doesn't like it. So the next question we work with the business leader on is, are you willing to fix that?

Lauren (13:34):

And by fixing that means a shift in culture, a shift of expectations, all of these things.

Nick (13:40):

Yeah. It is really across what I call the trust dynamics. So it's across cultural, it's across org design, it's across budgeting, it's across all these factors. Sometimes a business leader will hear that and go, oh, you're just telling me I got to spend a bunch of money. No, absolutely not. I have to test for willingness first. Are we open to this going to be a journey? Now, we're going to do lots of great tactical stuff along the way, and I know you and I have tactical stuff we want to talk about today. We're doing tactical stuff along the way but we've got to see that tactical stuff as a journey to a more holistic growth engine, a growth engine that is multifaceted and not dependent on any one magical thing, because all those magical things are incredibly fragile today, which is again, why organic growth is failing. So we try to get you in a place where we're making tactical progress while also strategic shift within eight to 12 weeks.

Lauren (14:39):

Oh, that's relatively short.

Nick (14:43):

Because the big thing that needs to happen is you need to have wins. Everybody's got to have a win. Even if that means working with a great agency to create a great deck or an event tool we can repurpose or something like that. We need your growth mindset to shift. And part of shifting, it's just having different experiences. So what I always tell people is it isn't this: we're going to disappear into a conference room for a year and then come out.

Lauren (15:15):

Write all this fine print, make everything perfect. It's going to sit on the wall, a book that's going to sit on the wall or shelf or whatever. 

Nick (15:25):

Yeah. This is going to be sleeves rolled up. Scratched up arms in the garden and put dirt on the fingernails. But we're on our way to a strategic shift.

Lauren (15:36):

So for CMOs who have lost the trust of the C-suite. Is that where you see, you basically need a bolt to be able to come in, somebody has a different voice like yourself or team, or it sounds like it is really a pause, readjust, but readjust has to be a willingness to be able to say, yes, we are willing to shake this up for this to be successful. Longer term.

Nick (16:07):

Sometimes the marketing leader and the CEO will just use those as sort of a stand in for what we're talking about. Sometimes the marketing leader and the CEO just need a third party to translate and to say, this is what he's been trying to say to you. This is what she's been trying to say to you. And all of a sudden, we make a little bit of progress. Now, there has to be, again, everything's willingness. There has to be a leaning in from both parties. If either the CEO or the CMO are like that bridge is burnt, then we just have to move on. And I hate that.

Lauren (16:46):

It just is what it is.

Nick (16:47):

It is when we have to move on. That's not the case in most situations. Everybody's got sunk costs, right? We've invested in each other. We're here, we want this to work. So when there's an existing marketing leader, we want to translate first and help that translation and oftentimes reflect back to the CMO and say, hey, what you're saying makes a ton of sense. I know what you're saying. Your founder doesn't know what you're saying or you are not hearing him or a lot of communication because executive-speak and marketing-speak are just completely different vernaculars.

Lauren (17:30):

Yeah. Yeah. It is different jargon. It's different worlds. And the only sometimes similarities are things that are at the very end of the road. It's ROI but there's a whole path to be able to get there.

Nick (17:46):

Even ROI is such a Rorschach test. Everybody means a different thing by it.

Lauren (17:52):

Yes, it's so true.

Nick (17:53):

Usually we bring up ROI. One of the first things I say is, great, how are you going to measure it? Before you ask me, is this going to produce ROI? How are you going to measure it? Because attribution is the hardest game in growth right now. There's nothing harder right now than attribution. How do you actually say this thing produced this revenue? And so usually we're talking ROI in a very theoretical sense. I was talking to a senior executive or a COO at a larger firm not that long ago, probably five or six months ago, and he's like, well, we're just organizing things more. So what produces ROI and blah, blah, blah. And I said, well, I listed four or five things I knew he was in favor of us doing that had happened in the previous months. I said, what about these four or five things? There's no way to prove ROI of those things.

Lauren (18:44):

But they're still important.

Nick (18:46):

But his immediate response was, well, we intuitively know those are valuable, so we had to get underneath these cohorts.

Lauren (18:54):

Yeah. There's so much power in that definition too, and really being able to unpack that as well. Oh my goodness. You're right. There's so many master classes that could spin out of this, because I do want to ask, before we get into some of the other tactical pieces, you had talked about the situation when you come in, we'd gotten into this idea of there's an existing, we'll just say the title CMO, and maybe they've lost trust with the C-suite or what have you. Are those situations you're seeing a lot? Are you more seeing situations where the CMO, there just needs to be a resetting? What are you seeing with these firms when you're coming in to partner with them?

Nick (19:42):

I would say the thing that's most prevalent is that the firm has — because of just a lack of understanding of what a CMO marketing leader should do — has set these expectations for the role that are impossible and even haven't even necessarily communicated those expectations and have hired a person who has just no career experience to be able to fulfill those.

Lauren (20:16):

They're just already walking in day one and not set up for success.

Nick (20:20):

I mean, there's just a lot, and I don't want to be disparaging anybody who's listening to this. All of you, I believe in you. You're doing great work. There's a lot of CMOs, VPs of marketing, etc. around the business that the title's too big for them.

Lauren (20:36):

Yeah. And it's not okay. It's nice to have a flashy title but with certain expectations it's not going to get you to really accomplish what they want.

Nick (20:49):

And everybody's going to be frustrated. So it feels good initially to have the big title but with the big title comes big expectations, and particularly in marketing, it's expectations no one knows how to verbalize. So you’ve got to know you're ready for the big dance. You have to have thought about strategy. You have to have thought about growing the business. I mean, talk to marketing leaders who are like, I'm ready. I want the big chair. I'm like, great. What should we do in this situation? And then they spin up things like, we should do a cool holiday gift strategy. Like, whoa.

Lauren (21:25):

Or sales is over here and we need these five things and this is going to help us and blah, blah, blah. And they're like, okay, let's execute. And you're like, yeah, it might be a people pleaser component now but longer term, that's a habit and a pattern you're creating in your communicating that's not getting back to actually what does north look like and does that actually map to the business strategy. We worked with a company and one of the awesome things to be able to watch, it wasn't a CMO role, it was a COO role. It was a leader coming in and just hearing everybody and really working closely across departments, working with leadership, getting buy-in, setting really a high-level strategy that really took them beyond three years. You could see all the gaps, and then there was so much more beyond that, but it was just, what it did is it really helped to put energy into the team. And then you can put goals behind that. And I think that model is something that a CMO, again, for lack of better words, can also take that same approach and like you said earlier, pack in or fit with those across departments to make sure there's alignment.

Nick (22:43):

Yeah. I think of one firm we worked with where we just had to spend the first three or four months working with the team to figure out fulfillment. How are you going to get decks out the door? How are you going to get one pagers out the door? And we knew that literally none of that was going to sell anything but the needs and expectations of everybody were so broken down that you just have to start somewhere.

Lauren (23:11):

Yes, totally. Right.

Nick (23:13):

And so that's the magic of a really skilled marketing leader is they can go fast and go slow at the same time.

Lauren (23:20):

So true. Yes. I know. We use that internal go fast go slow analogy as well. A good one. I feel like it's a powerful one. It's the art of strategy, being able to manage that. So you alluded to earlier the wins. So I just want to be mindful of time. I want to get some more of the tactical questions. I think each one of these actually could probably go its own class as well. We'll kind of hit you with a few questions here. So thank you. I know you got some questions from others prior to this. So one of the questions folks ask is, if someone is entertaining outsourcing versus remaining in-house, how do you determine if you need to outsource someone or if you need to actually bring things in?

Nick (24:14):

Yeah. So I'll give you the best-case scenario answer, which 80% of people won't be able to answer. So we'll have to do a few other answers. So the best-case scenario answer is exactly how you want to grow the business, and you know how quickly you want to do it and how long you're going to invest in it. If you know, that probably answers it for you, because if you are like, hey, we don't actually really know how we want to grow the business but we need to support our advisors and we just need fulfillment, and we need to just get the wheels moving and need ideas. Integrated agencies, you guys, is a great place for that. We have a general sense of where we're headed and we need quick wins with people who are good collaborators. That often is about partnering with the right agency.

Lauren (25:11):


Nick (25:15):

The case for hiring is really about, we are going to build a long-term growth engine, and we want to empower leadership to do it. So what we tell people who are in that kind of mode is like, okay, if you're going to hire a person, CMO or whatever, just realize there's 10 hires after that or maybe five. 

Lauren (25:44):

That’s so true, and that's such a good expectation setting upfront.

Nick (25:48):

Yeah. But don't hire one person to manage a bunch of agencies. That's chaos. Don't hire one person and think they're going to make all your decks, do your social media, give you strategy for how to grow the business, collaborate with all your advisors with all their different ideas; that person will implode or lie to you, or both.

Lauren (26:16):

Yep. Agree. So much good stuff. Okay. I've got another one for you. This one is really big, we could talk for a while. The question is, what's the best way to identify your ideal prospect? What tools do you use and what filters? I feel like this is where I feel like we need to call in Kristen Luke or someone who's really focused on the whole target market deep dive, just high-level thoughts on that. 

Nick (26:47):

I'll give you the one thing we give people. We have a whole program for this but I'll give you the one thing that tends to shift the dynamic for people the fastest is building your ideal client profile needs to first and primarily be about psychographics. It should be about how they think, how they feel, how they make decisions, what biases they come to the hiring a financial advisor decision with. It should not be about how much money they have, whether they're dentists, all your niche marketing demographic stuff flows out of your segmentation. And segmentation is a subset of ICP. So ICP is the person you want to walk into every iteration of you, your office, your website, your social media, and go, people like me do stuff like this. And the shortcut is, oh, if it says dentists, do you have a financial advisor? We think we've solved that for people but we've all lived on the internet too long, we all read through that. So what actually works is, do I feel like I belong here? And that's because you've really thought through the psychographic of your ICP.

Lauren (28:10):

Yeah. And that's a deep level of thinking. That's where you go down, I feel like the black holes of the internet and trying to understand what are people actually searching for and really listening in different way and questions, and it might sound silly, but little things, do they like Nespresso or are they more of a, I don't know, a Starbucks drinker? These nuances are little insights into the bigger psychographic of the individual. 

Nick (28:39):

I would say the other side, all that's true. The other side of it's just to put teeth on this, so I haven't been specific enough, is usually a place to extract it is who works well, your business. So if you're a firm that does a lot of team-based stuff, then your ideal client likes that. If you're a firm that's very technical and delivers a lot of technical information and gives big investment reports, then your ideal client profile likes that; they're a technical person.

Lauren (29:13):

Yep. That's so fair. 

Nick (29:15):

You need to match your ICP. So sometimes the best way to extract an ICP is what we do all the time — let's go find more people who like our favorite clients. Otherwise, you develop that imaginary ICP who you have to rebuild your whole organization around and that's going to fail.

Lauren (29:38):

Yeah. Or something where you're trying to force it and it just doesn't. Yeah. And I think that same kind of framework can apply to hiring as well. Absolutely. And then you can lean into those little, like the Nespresso example, right? It's like there's an energy here that just whatever it is, it matches our firm.

Nick (29:57):

Yeah. I mean, one more quick example on that. We worked with a firm to do this kind of work, and one of the things in what we call the client profile is they want to feel exclusive. The client wants to feel like they went through the metaphoric glass door that tells you what kind of coffee to serve. Once you've decided your ideal client has an exclusivity bias, what they realized is their million-dollar client and their 50-million client both had an exclusivity bias. They wanted to feel like they were special. Then that tells you a lot of things: how to operate the office, what kind of coffee to serve, how to do a client intake. There's so many things that answers for you.

Lauren (30:46):

And then there’s this example where it directly connects back to how marketing and operations and just across departments all work together. You're doing a client intake form that impacts marketing, how it's put together, the experience that's put together, so on and so forth. So just to try to connect the dots there too. Absolutely. Okay. So I got just a few more, we'll wrap it up. 

Nick (31:10):

We'll go rapid fire. I'll be fast.

Lauren (31:11):

Okay. Best practices if you're integrating outside agencies. So what should folks be asking themselves? What should they be preparing for? Are there any best practices to make sure the relationship yields results?

Nick (31:27):

I think the first thing you want to know is what's normal for the agency you just hired. Because if you make them play left-handed and they’re right-handed, it's going to be bad. So some of this gets handled in the hiring of the agency. You want their normal engagement to feel good to you. If they normally sit in on internal meetings and you want them in internal meetings, then that's great. If you're like, hey, we need you to sit in our internal media. Maybe they're EOS, right? We want you to sit in our level 10 and they've never sat in a level 10 before.

Lauren (32:00):

It's going to be like, whew.

Nick (32:02):

It's going to be a mess. So some of that is in the hiring process in terms of just your own rule set. You want to make sure they have visibility to all the prerequisites to their success. So that's part of the agency conversation: What do you need to know? What do you need to see? What information do you need to have access to succeed?

Lauren (32:29):


Nick (32:30):

Because the bulk of tactical marketing has a ton of prerequisites. So it's really getting agreement on how those prerequisites are going to happen and how they're going to have access to them.

Lauren (32:42):

And being comfortable sharing all that. There's got to be a press from the beginning. If you're going, I don't want to hand over the keys to the castle, then that should also be a red flag, I think.

Nick (32:51):

Yeah. Then you're going to get what you're going to get. 

Lauren (32:53):

Information is knowledge and it's going to be able to help everybody win but it requires trust for that to be able to happen. Totally. Okay. Well, I want to wrap things up. Any final thoughts you want to share about just the role of the CMO? Just thoughts and for either folks in leadership, C-suite positions, or even for CMOs themselves?

Nick (33:17):

Yeah, I would say if you're in a CMO/head of marketing role, you have to get really, really skilled in business strategy now, marketing strategy, business strategy.

Lauren (33:29):


Nick (33:31):

If you aren't on an aggressive growth curve with that, and I had the luxury, I came from an operation leadership role where I was overseeing tech operations, asset management, and marketing and seeing all those together. And I was doing a bunch of training too, so I could see how everything affected everything else. So I got a free education. If you're a CMO, you’ve got to be on an upward slope, find a way, and we have some tools that can help you with that that are free, that if you want, we can help you with that. If you're a business leader, 90% of the time the marketing questions you think you have are not about marketing, they're about growth. And you've got to make the growth decisions first and then make the marketing decisions. Unless you want to spend a bunch of money on tactics.

Lauren (34:22):

Activities that can be like hamsters in the wheel. 

Nick (34:28):

As a business leader, you have to be able to differentiate between your growth decisions and your marketing decisions. They are not the same.

Lauren (34:34):

Yep. So well said. And that's also such great input too for folks who are thinking about hiring and what they would want to be able to define as success before they actually even put together a job description. Okay. Well, Nick, thank you so much for your time. I feel like we could talk here for hours, so I'll spare everyone, but this is so fun. So I just want to do a shoutout to you as I know you do tons of writing on LinkedIn. If you also go to additions.culture and there's a signup for your e-newsletter or what have you, and then you've got a growth checklist as well. Do you want to talk to that briefly? 

Nick (35:11):

Yeah, you and I have talked about the Growth Check as well, that it's just this tool we can use. This is a paid service but it's a tool that we use. If you want that eight-week unlock. What Growth Check is for is it takes all the factors that are impacting growth in your organization. It peels them apart. We do some surveying, we do a bunch of other stuff, and then we give you a prioritization that says you can act on these things next and you can walk away from CultureCraft at that point and take your own journey. We can continue to support you but we really wanted to build this tool that allows people a very quick, very actionable, here's how we move forward next. So that's Growth Check; if that's useful to people, we have it available.

Lauren (35:58):

Great. Thank you so much, Nick. We'll make sure to link to all that below and thank you for your time, for sharing your insights, and also just your deep expertise in this space across so many levels of seeing what the CMO role is or isn't, but then also just how it impacts so many other bigger picture questions. So thank you again.

Nick (36:15):

Yeah, I enjoyed it. Thanks, Lauren.

The Role of Marketing and the CMO in Today’s Financial Services Industries with Nick Richtsmeier

Discover insights from Nick Richtsmeier, principal at CultureCraft, as he shares tools for unlocking critical questions for wealth management professionals.
Operations & Management
May 23, 2024

We talked with Bridget about:

  • The importance of identifying and serving a niche demographic 
  • The strategic move she made to expand her capacity to continue meeting the needs of her growing clientele
  • How she paved the way for a seamless transition to bring her daughter Marnie on board as her future successor

About Bridget Venus Grimes

Bridget Venus Grimes is president and founder of WealthChoice. She launched her family firm in 2016 in response to the financial challenges faced by breadwinner women across the nation. Recognizing the need to expand her capacity to serve her growing clientele of over 65 families, she made the decision to bring her daughter Marnie on board. Through this strategic move, Bridget aims to ensure continuity and quality service for her clients while fostering a legacy of financial empowerment for future generations. With assets under management reaching $90 million, Bridget's dedication to providing comprehensive financial guidance while nurturing a successor reflects her passion for empowering women to make informed financial decisions. In her book, Corner Office Choices, Bridget compassionately guides women through the four financial derailers she has observed over time. With keen insight and unwavering dedication, she continues to support this dynamic group of women, addressing their unique challenges and empowering them to navigate their financial journey with confidence and clarity.

Featured Resources 

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Full Audio Transcript:

Lauren (00:05):

Well, you all are in for a treat today. We have Bridget Venus Grimes joining us, the founder of WealthChoice among a number of other different roles, including she's on the CFP® Board. And well, I'll let her get into all of it but what is going to be really fun for us to be able to dive into today is how she has actually brought her daughter into the firm and what that process has been like to be able to train her and really bring her into the fold. So I'm going to hand it over to you to share a little bit more about your background and then we'll get into the details of bringing on the next gen into your firm.

Bridget (00:42):

Sure. And Lauren, thank you so much for having me. I am really excited to be here. So just a little bit about me. I launched the firm almost eight years ago, September 2016. And really just in response to a whole bunch of issues I'm sure we can get into in a few minutes. So run WealthChoice; our clients are what I call breadwinner women. So they're women who have a ton of stuff on their plates and their career. Their income is really what we need to leverage to drive everything they want to do in life. So those are my people. Basically it's a virtual practice. I'm sitting here in an office in Coronado, California, where I do have a physical office but nobody comes to since my clients are all over the country. I have not met most of them in person and probably never will. Totally.

Lauren (01:36):

Oh my goodness.

Bridget (01:37):

Yeah, that's a unique component.

Lauren (01:39):

Yes. Okay.

Bridget (01:41):

We were ready for COVID because we were already remote.

Lauren (01:43):

Yeah, you were already there.

Bridget (01:46):

So that is how we run. We're super deep financial planning. I also co-run a co-founded firm called Equita Financial Network, which provides the platform for my firm and we'll talk more about that too but we also make it available to other fee-only women-led firms around the country. So I started WealthChoice really because of my experience in financial planning. And I'll tell you, it was either launch a firm or leave the industry. That's kind of where I was. This can be a very difficult industry for women. So I had started in 1986 trading at a hedge fund in Manhattan. And so my entry to the financial industry was I was on the buy side trading for many years and actually wound up absolutely hating it.

It's trading, it's not investing to me and didn't resonate with me but it was kind of an interesting way to get into the industry. Anyway, I left the industry and came back when I got divorced and I really wanted to serve women who looked just like me. So I got into the industry, started at a wirehouse, which is a super easy way to do this. Build your own practice definitely wasn't the model I wanted for myself and my clients. And so I transitioned to a fee-only RIA in San Diego, where I was for a number of years. And I was serving women like me, a lot of women attorneys, but really wound up being very frustrated. I was told I was too ambitious. I had asked our owner, hey, what's it going to take to get into management? And was pretty much shut down. Like, hey, it's not an option. And that was pretty disappointing. I worked really hard and I figured the harder I worked, it would all work out and that's not how it works. Also found out I was paid 50% of my male peers, and that is a truth, just a bunch of frustrations.

I really looked for another role out there and I realized I pretty much wasn't going to find anything different with the lateral move. And one of my mentors, JD Bruce, an awesome guy who was running Abacus at the time, said, Bridget, you're only going to be happy if you launch your own company. And so hence comes WealthChoice.

Lauren (04:14):

That was eight years ago.

Bridget (04:16):

That was eight years ago, and it's been an amazing ride.

Lauren (04:19):

Oh my goodness. Okay. So tell me more about how you got that firm going where you are, and then I'd love to hear about this component of bringing your daughter aboard to the firm.

Bridget (04:29):

Sure. So when I had left that RIA, it was a broker protocol firm, which means you're allowed to take certain information with you, which is great. But I was also only allowed to take the clients I had brought with me from my wirehouse. For some bizarre reason I had put that in my contract even though I never planned on ever leaving. So that was really a good thing and I would say ended up working out.

Do that, do that; you just don't know the future. But when I left, I had zero revenue and I had a very big mortgage and two children in college and I said this had better work out. So no pressure. Good news is my father runs a company, he's an entrepreneur. And he had said to me, okay, you need a business plan. You need to figure out how many clients do I need to get in when, how much revenue do I need to have when? So I was just super heavy in clients who found me, and had a really good strategy my attorney helped me with. And then just a ton of business development. I love to write, I love to speak. So I was really focused on that. And then a year and a half later I wrote a book. So I thought that would super help with credibility and that was really helpful. But really just boots on the ground, I'm going to bring in clients. And I had built this amazing website and I thought it really spoke to my client base, and that's how we started. And it's just been really a lot of work but really rewarding.

Lauren (06:04):

So you really went in with clarity around who you were going to serve. Not dependent on a particular geography but just really that audience. And then it sounds like you were able to leverage, it sounds like centers of influence through an attorney you said you were working with or what have you.

Bridget (06:21):

Yeah, so I think the niche is critical, and I know Kitces speaks on this nonstop and he's right. So I have always had a specific niche. Like I said, when I got into this industry, it was to help women like me. So breadwinner women who have a ton of things on their plate, aging parents, kids, husbands, partners, you name it. And so I have just continued to serve those women and there are very specific needs and challenges this demographic has. So our firm focuses on, hey, here are these challenges and we know the solutions and we look like you because we are you. The niche is really important.

Lauren (07:00):

So it sounds like you built your processes, procedures, your messaging, and it sounds like also where you're spending your time really reaching out and talking to this demographic. Is that all fair to say? And I'm assuming your book is also aligned to this audience as well?

Bridget (07:14):

Absolutely. In fact, the book's called Corner Office Choices, and it speaks to the four, what I say, the four derailers are for these women, financial derailers I've just seen over time. If they only knew to do these four things they would all be in better shape financially. So it's kind of like a how-to book but it also was a book for my peers because I thought we were doing a lousy job of guiding this group of women because they really do have very specific challenges and needs that are unique.

Lauren (07:43):

It's so true. I know you can't kind of talk to everyone or it all kind of washes out. So yes, and I feel like we could go a whole deep dive on that component. Now you're starting to talk my language again into the marketing world, target market and what have you. Also, Kristen Luke's another one who has a great whole process on that and really building out that audience as well. So critical to go deep in and know who you're talking with. Let's shift a little bit to talk about really the shift in your business to be able to bring on your daughter. What was the trigger for that? Why her? Were you at a place where you were looking for talent? I'd love to hear a little bit more about that and then where you are in the process.

Bridget (08:24):

So this is years in the making. My firm has $90 million of assets under management. And so I had heard years ago from some industry resource that when you got to $35 million of AUM, you're going to need to add some help. Well, $85 million came and went, and like I said earlier, I delegate a lot of the work in my practice. So I have an outsourced CI, I have a trading team, I have a bookkeeper, you name it. I have really good people in those seats through that other company that provides this suite of business resources. But I never outsource the planning. I love financial planning. I love the relationship part. I love doing deep dives. I want to be here when a client's like, hey, I want to buy a house. What should I do? Should I lease a car? Should I rent a car? I want to be available to my clients for that because I feel like those financial decisions can really make a difference. 

Lauren (09:32):

They're personal. They're big. So you need a trusted resource when you're going to make those big decisions.

Bridget (09:37):

You so do. And I want to be there for my clients. So I have 65 families I work for, it's like almost 100 people. And I found I was not able to do the deep work I love doing. I was now fully at capacity. Like I said, I never brought anyone on to help me with the planning part. I didn't want to give it up. And I realized I just couldn't do the quality of work I really was proud of. And I mean, I love the work I do but I had moved away from special projects for clients throughout the year, and I wanted to get back to that. So the only way to do that was of course to bring in help. And I talked to my daughter, she's almost 27, and so out of college a few years, and I had talked to her a few years ago about, hey, would you ever be interested in financial planning? And we talked a little bit and we thought maybe, yeah, who knows? Planted the seed. But she was a business major from college, and she worked in a finance role in tech, so she's made great money.

Lauren (10:46):

Oh yeah, she'd already been there.

Bridget (10:49):

The only thing was she was working with numbers. She's super smart, really driven, but there was no people component. It's a lot of numbers but no people, and she's a really great people person. So we kept checking in on that, and then I said, hey, Marnie, is this something you're really serious about? Because if it is, we need a plan. And so she actually, a couple years ago said, so I'm going to study for the CFP®.

And I said, okay, great. So on her dime on her time. And she then said, okay, I'm willing to commit to you. And we did an internship last year. She would sit in toward the latter half of the year on client meetings just for me to make sure, is this really what you want to do because this is going to be a lot of work for me. Long story short, we signed a letter of intent — I'm like, this is a business deal — at the end of year. And she started working for WealthChoice as a W2 employee on January 1.

Lauren (11:48):


Bridget (11:49):

Yeah. So this is real.

Lauren (11:53):

This is the real deal.

Bridget (11:55):

And so she's got a hybrid role. I do not plan to retire. I love our industry. My business model for my firm is I do this until I can't because it's very gratifying. I don't have a vision of retirement where I play golf or pickleball. My vision of retirement is I work part time and I can travel but I see my father who is still running a business at 86, who is very viable. The guy's amazing but he's also cognitively aware and he feels fulfilled. That I think is critical. So that's my vision for myself. But that said, I definitely need somebody who's a clone of me. So Marnie's job, my daughter, Marnie Bonner, her job is really to become incredibly good at financial planning, an expert in that space but also a business owner, somebody who will know how to run this company because we solos, we wear two hats, business owner, and we take care of clients. So how do you do both? Well, she's getting a crash course on everything.

Lauren (13:13):

Can you tell me more about that crash course? I feel, I mean, I felt that too, right? Growing a business and then that first hire is a big one. You've got a lot of stuff that's packed in your head that you have to really think about, how am I going to help to transition this, fold them and help them learn along the way? I mean, onboarding, you're in the throes of all of that. What have you done? I mean, I'm sure that's naturally happened just over the years of her seeing you and watching and learning but what kind of systems have you put in place to help her be able to lean in and really see you in action and brain dump, for lack of better words, of all the things, right? 

Bridget (13:52):

Yeah, there's a lot there. So we started with a really tight onboarding plan, and I reached out to some great resources. Dimensional Funds has this amazing practice management arm, and we're a DFA shop. So you know what? They spent a lot of time with me — here's how we would figure out compensation, this is what onboarding should look like, this is what you should do in terms of timelines, in terms of responsibility. They were fabulous. The CFP® Board has amazing resources. And then I reached out to peers. And so by the time she started, we had a very tight onboarding plan from timeline to responsibilities. And so really, I feel like my gift is not managing people. And I was really stressed out about how I do not know how to manage. I do not know how to train. I just know how to do; I know financial planning inside and out but I have never had to train a person. And so it was really partially for myself to make sure if we had this really great outline of what she accomplished, it would help me make sure we stayed on track. So we put together the onboarding and we had really good resources behind us. We use Advyzon for portfolio performance and CRM; it is fabulous. I’m really close to the guys who launched Advyzon; we were early adopters and they keep enhancing that. So one of her goals is to master our tech because I have not had time to dig deep enough.

She spends time on our workflows, putting them in and everything is how do we systematize better than I have done when you're cobbling it together between everything else you're doing. So really getting her to focus on, okay, here are the different resources we have access to; now master them and incorporate those in our client meetings. So she's done a really great job. It's so funny. So many people ask me, hey, how's it going? Friends, family, peers are like, so how is that going? And it's going great. I'm not kidding. It's beyond my expectations. Part of it might be that she drives herself really hard, and I don't think she wants to disappoint me.

Lauren (16:20):

A natural. She's got a natural sort of entrepreneurial spirit about her, which is I think critical as a small business is you need that entrepreneurial kind of energy. So not who knows what do I do but providing those recommendations, doing the research, pulling it together, finding that sort of cut of person is not always an easy,

Bridget (16:44):

No, it's not. And I'll tell you, it's a crapshoot, right? You don't know. Do you really know your child? And their work ethic. So I had made it clear, I am not a micromanager. I'm training her. I meet every single day. And Monday and Friday we have really deep dive meetings. Like Monday is, hey, well, here's what's going on this week. Friday is how did that go? What could we have done better? And then daily, it's like, hey, let's just check in. Did you have questions? So we've got a lot of framework but at the same time my expectation is that she’s doing her thing. She’s in Manhattan. 

Lauren (17:20):

Oh wow, and you're in San Diego. Yeah, you're coast to coast.

Bridget (17:23):

We have tasks we create in our CRM, so we know what our responsibilities are, and she just does it. But you don't know when you hire a child, are they going to show up? Are they just going to take a paycheck? And so it's been really, really rewarding. It's been really successful.

Lauren (17:47):

Yeah. Well, hats off to you too, for taking the time and resources to be able to reach out to connections and then to be able to put together that plan. I feel like so much of, if the front work is done, it makes it just all kind of go downhill from there, assuming you've got the right fit and everything for the role, it almost seems like you've got a great template that then you can adjust. Did you want to hire more folks? 

Bridget (18:11):

Yeah, I don't know if that's the vision, honestly, but who knows, right? I never thought I'd sit here and be talking to you about bringing my daughter on as a mother-daughter team.

Lauren (18:21):

So I had talked with Stevyn, who owns Grow Wellthy™, and she had seen her father grow up in the advisory space, and then she spun off at a business. I interviewed her a few months ago, and it's all about health and well-being specifically for advisors. And so I think one of the things she probably alluded to earlier, she's seen in the space what that's like and to be able to grow up with that and the kind of energy it takes to really go all in. So that training seems like it was sort of built in the ethos. 

Bridget (18:54):

Yeah, it's funny because she does work I was doing before, and she said, I don't know how you did this, because I did both roles, right? I just said, so this is why my children think all I do is work. I'm like, so yeah, that's kind of all I did was work because there's so much to do. And so now it is actually really nice to have someone who's helping me with analysis for client reviews so I can spend some time on business development and marketing.

Lauren (19:22):

Absolutely. You can put your energy toward that. Sounds like she's got an operations component to what she's taking on. Are you already bringing her into client meetings as well?

Bridget (19:30):

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. She's up and running. She's a sponge. So at every client meeting, she's in there, she takes notes. She's actually just starting to contribute. We've got an agenda. Our meeting structure is really good. It's very repetitive. So she's got, man, I think at this point she's probably been in 30-something, maybe 40 meetings at this point because we are very heavy on meetings in the beginning of the year. And then she will follow up with the clients that this is what we heard. These are action items we've identified. She actually is, because she's taken the CFP® coursework and because she's interned and we spend a lot of time in financial planning together, she's helping with analysis for prep work for these.

She's deep in the numbers and the weeds. Yeah, this is a crash course. You will be a financial planner.

Lauren (20:26):

You're jumping into the deep end. And then just, I want to be mindful of time here. There's a few other questions for you too. So I also see you're in a unique situation, right? Solo firm, moving into family business. I also see multi-generational family businesses, not just in this space but in other industries as well. Is there anything, especially since you did so much upfront due diligence and putting together the onboarding and talking with folks, were there any common themes you saw across the board? Was it that onboarding was really critical? Was it that it really needed to be treated like really extra lean into that, more business engagement? Are there any themes you saw that you would like to make sure people here, if they're entertaining bringing on their child, or they're thinking about that succession and bringing them into a leadership role and their active business, are aware of?

Bridget (21:18):

I guess it starts with what's the vision for your firm. If you're building a firm to sell it, I don't even know if it makes sense to bring in a family member. And really, when I made the decision, I had my firm valued a couple of years ago, and the expectation was you build it to grow and sell it, and then you retire somewhere. And when I changed my vision for my firm, I thought it would be terrific to have her here as a successor. Now, like I said, I don't plan on leaving and God willing, I could stay a long time but ultimately Marnie will probably take over this business. I would hope so. I think depending on what your vision is for the firm, I think it could make sense to bring a child on. I think you also have to be really clear on how you separate family from business. And I think that's an advantage for us working remotely because she's got her private life and I have my life but when we're on a call, even at the end of the day and we review, we are business, we don't talk about personal life. We really have limitations, very clear barriers. I think it's something to think about for folks if you bring a child on, and I was advised to be really clear with what's business and what's personal by one of my peers who really helped me with Marnie's onboarding.

Lauren (22:47):

That's fair. And I'm sure as you proceed forward, you sort of continuously draw those lines in the sand for what that looks like, I would assume.

Bridget (22:56):


Lauren (22:57):

Yes. Oh my goodness. Well, any other final thoughts? I know before we originally were chatting, I know there's a Kitces podcast you did where you talk a little bit more about the delegation component and what have you, and some other articles we'll make sure to share in here as well. Are there any other final thoughts you think would be helpful to share for folks who are in a position where they're looking to bring on a family member or any tips?

Bridget (23:19):

Sure. Yeah. I've had a number of people ask me, peers ask me how I did it. And they have children who they think could be a good fit for their firms. I would say I would encourage anyone to do it. I mean, obviously it depends on the child and it depends on the business structure. But I would absolutely encourage folks to think about that. To think about bringing on a child. I think it's a natural successor, and I would be happy to talk to anybody who had any questions about it. There's a mom perspective about bringing your daughter on and a business perspective — they need to align and make sense. But I'll tell you, it has been absolutely rewarding to have her on and to see her grow and to see her really get up to speed and take initiative and get stuff done and do a really good job and actually really help the business get better. So to that end, I wrote an article on Rethinking65 that covers a lot of these details too. When I spoke to Kitces this last fall, we really were talking about how do you scale? And a lot of this that we didn't really cover was by bringing Marnie on, we can bring on clients. I was absolutely at capacity.

Lauren (24:36):

Even though you're outsourcing other components, now you've really got someone who’s deep into it. Someone who can get into the planning side of it or get at least their kind of feet wet with it a little bit.

Bridget (24:49):

Yes, absolutely. So our goal is to bring on 40 awesome clients within five years, and then I think we're probably going to be done. We'll see. I mean, I know I probably should not say, but yeah. So there was no way I could bring any more people on and do really good work myself.

Lauren (25:06):

Yeah, that's fair. And it's honorable too, right? You've had a capacity and you want to be able to lean into, pour as much as you can to your clients. Oh, well, this is great. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit more about your journey, especially since it's so fresh that she's come on relatively recently. And to be able to see the success so quickly I think is also, like I mentioned earlier, a tribute to all the effort you put initially but then also her pouring into it as well. So thank you for sharing your story.

Bridget (25:34):

You're welcome. And thanks for having me.

Lauren (25:36):

Absolutely. We'll make sure to link to your website below and those articles we mentioned too. So thank you.

Bridget (25:42):

You are welcome.

Building a Family Business: How Bridget Venus Grimes Solved Her RIA Capacity Problem With Her Daughter Marnie Bonner

Discover how Bridget Venus Grimes empowers breadwinner women through comprehensive financial guidance with the help of her daughter, Marnie Bonner.
Marketing & Sales
May 16, 2024

We talked with Ellie Alexander, Jimmy Lim and Tiffany Silverberg about:

  • Reasons your company might need a website redesign
  • Why identifying your target audience is important 
  • What we use to organize and plan before designing a website
  • The process of finalizing the design and copy elements  

About Jimmy, Tiffany, and Ellie:

Step into the dynamic world of website redesigns with the directors team at Out & About Communications. Ellie Alexander, our design director; Jimmy Lim, our marketing director; and Tiffany Silverberg, our content director, are experts on the intricacies of website redesigns, and all the elements needed to help breathe new life into your online presence. From crafting the initial wireframe to creating compelling design elements and meaningful copy, our directors take a client-centric approach while guiding businesses through this journey, and also share their insider’s perspective on the evolution of our very own Out & About website redesign. 

Featured Resources 

Enjoyed This? You’ll Also Love:  

Lauren (00:05):

All right, so you are in for a treat today. We have our director's team at Out & About here for our On Purpose interview. I'm going to let each of them introduce themselves but we are really looking forward to chatting about website redesigns today. So we're going to get into the whole process, what it's like, and specifically we're going to talk about our website — Out & About Communications. We just redid our brand. We'll talk to that more in a minute. And now the next big hunky item is a website redo. So before we get into all that and what the process is like, I'm going to go ahead and do a round of intros. So Jimmy, why don't we start with you?

Jimmy (00:40):

Okay, cool. So I'm Jimmy; I'm the marketing director. At Out & About, I help clients come up with strategy, of course working with the rest of the directors team to determine how to get clients to where they want to go. And I'm excited to share more about our website today. On to Tiffany.

Tiffany (01:01):

I'm Tiffany. I'm the content director. I help our clients find their brand voice and make sure all the communications written especially really align with that brand voice and as well as their goals. So making sure everything is pointed to the target market and all of that. All words basically come through me and that's what I do. So on to Ellie.

Ellie (01:30):

Yeah, thanks. So I'm Ellie Alexander. I'm the design director here at Out & About. And so what Tiffany is to words and voice I am to visuals and design, whether that's helping one of our clients build a brand from the ground up and like, oh my gosh, we're starting at zero. What does that then look like? And working with our team of designers to craft that or further on down the line when we've got everything locked and loaded and we're rocking and rolling, just making sure the brands and visuals all stay consistent. So that's my world.

Lauren (01:54):

Awesome. So websites are sometimes put out there in the world quickly. You can literally redo a website overnight, 24 hours, you've got a brand new website and it is exactly what you want. Well, we are here to tell you that while you can make that happen, it's probably not going to be exactly what you want because websites are kind of like mini business plans. It really forces you if you're really doing them end to end to go through a bigger picture exercise and really think about how you want to be positioning yourself, especially in this very digital day and age. Your website is sort of like your office front. It's really that first introduction that a prospect — warm or cold — is going to have to your brand. So we, in another episode we can link to, went through a whole rebranding exercise. Ellie was on that and talked about what our whole brand looks like.

I’m very, very proud to be able to put that out there and shout out, major shout out to you, Ellie, and to the team for the work that was done on that and all the compliments and things we've been receiving. So very proud to be able to put that out there. But that was a lot of whole exercises to go through. So now we're going through the whole website component. So what we're going to do here is we're going to talk through what the stages look like. We're going to go through our wireframing, which is our first stage — really strategy heavy and really thinking through those big picture components. We're going to get to the design side of it and how you show it visually and the copy, how those are married together, and then the build and launch. But really with the team here, we're going to focus on those first two phases, the wireframing and copy and design. We'll get into just a little bit of the build too but before we get into all of that, why don't we start with why in the world would you do a website redesign because it is such a darn hunky project. So, anyone just want to speak to that before we get into the different phases?

Jimmy (03:38):

I can add to that. So I think we would kind of visit the idea of a website refresh or website redesign for a couple of reasons, starting with evolution within the company. You have new service offerings, your team has changed significantly. You're doing something different or new technology, maybe there's a function for those that are selling consumer products, they have the WhatsApp chat function. That could be something that's helpful to customer service. They could just do a web refresh. Sometimes it's like living in the same house but you just want a fresh coat of paint to make it look fresher. People who come to your house just feel like, oh, okay, it's a little bit different.

Lauren (04:24):

Any other thoughts?

Ellie (04:27):

Yeah, I echo everything Jimmy said but especially if you or your audience has changed, I think that's a big one. Maybe your website is technically fine, it works, it's on brand, maybe it's not. But yeah, if you've realized your company has changed enough that your website now appeals to the wrong group of people or you need to hone in more on a specific subset of who it should appeal to, whether that's what it says, the content, or the design or this is going back and I hope nobody is like this, but if it is not mobile friendly, if your website is so old that it is the same on a desktop computer as it is in a mobile device, it’s definitely time. Definitely time. I think most people have caught up to there but there are still a few stragglers out there. 

Lauren (05:09):

Tiffany, any thoughts too?

Tiffany (05:11):

Yeah, I mean I think they've pretty much covered it but I think the only other thing is just, well, I always say your website should work hard for you. It should be an asset. And so I guess just the other layer is if it's not really serving you or doing what you want it to do, I think it's easy to consider a change. To your point earlier, that turnaround, 24 hours thing, it's easy to just slap a logo on and type some copy and I have a website but there's so many things your website could be doing, whether it's SEO or maybe it's a lead generation tool or it's figuring out that passive marketing for you, what you want that to be doing and then building it from there. 

Ellie (05:54):

Yeah, that's a good point, Tiffany. There's a big difference between having a website and having a targeted strategic, accessible, SEO-optimized website. It's night and day.

Tiffany (06:05):

Exactly. And that's where it becomes a whole redesign. So with some clients, we do just pop in and make a few tweaks. We're not looking to make big changes. But the question of why do a redesign is for this: let's just take it all down to the ground and rebuild based on what sort of strategic decisions we want to make.

Lauren (06:22):

Yeah, that house analogy is a really good one, Tiffany, that you were alluding to, and Jimmy as well. So let's talk about the break it all down component, the first phase. So Jimmy, can you talk us through that wireframing phase? What's it about? If you were going into that phase, what should you be prepared for? Tell us a little bit more about what that looks like.

Jimmy (06:41):

Yeah, I think it's really about just thinking about the target audience, who will be using the website, who do we want to attract? And then how they will be using it and then why they would be there, how they would get there. All of these questions usually, why? And then really building that out, putting yourself into the shoes of both the company that's having the website, and also the user, how we want them to navigate it, leaving little breadcrumbs and they're following a certain path you want them to follow. I think that really helps with the wireframing that intention.

Lauren (07:21):

You mind sharing a little bit more about what an information architecture is or kind of navigation and what a wireframe is. You hear these words and they're very jargony, and what would that kind of deliverable look like if you were to receive that once we've started to unpack those big picture questions?

Jimmy (07:38):

Yeah, I think it's always helpful to start with the information architecture, which really is almost like building a web, a food chain and then, oh, this is a homepage, this leads to this. It's just a visual representation of where content sits and how it's organized in an optimal way. And then from there you could take each component, which will be the webpage, and then you take it, build it, another visual around it, and then just, yeah, it looks like a website but it's just a webpage but it's just really a skeletal outline.

Lauren (08:12):

Yeah. It makes me think about if you were to go in and write a piece, you write a blog post or what have you, it's like that outline before you actually get into filling it in and that wireframing. And then I love this kind of skeletal idea of information architecture because it really helps you think about what's the organization. It's like if you've got a file cabinet but nothing's labeled and it's all kind of shoved in there; it really helps to get through that organization. And then Jimmy, how long does that process normally take in that kind of phase one engagement? A lot of meetings? What is that kind of like? What's the responsibility at someone else's end?

Jimmy (08:48):

Yeah, I think it really depends on how intricate all the pages are, how many pages. I think that influences it as well. I would say maybe first we'll have obviously a meeting with the client, kind of understand where they're at, what kind of content, just what the why is and things like that. And then once we have that, really it's building that information architecture. I would say that takes maybe a week or so, and then another maybe another week or two back and forth with the client to just get it ironed out. Then we build web pages themselves, the wireframe, so the individual pages. So yeah, I think that whole stage, depending again on the pages, if we're talking just a simple website, maybe six, eight weeks to be complete, I think.

Lauren (09:39):

Yeah, something around that. It can really ebb and flow depending on the number of templates or versions or things of that sort. It's part of the creative process but that sounds about right. Okay. So wireframe is a big component. Any key players who should be in those conversations too that you would want to make sure are helping to shape that? Just to go back to that initial discovery, who would you want to have in that call?

Jimmy (10:04):

From the client side, I think the sales team for sure. I think that would be helpful because again, the website is very much a part of the sales process nowadays. I mean, it's part of the puzzle. So I think the sales team's input would help. Obviously the marketing person, I think that would help because they would really understand their target audience really, really well and how that whole process of sales just unfolds. So we want to make sure they are involved so the website really just fits nicely and helps to move things along faster instead of causing hindrance.

Lauren (10:48):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And then I know sometimes we've brought in key leadership just depending on the size of the company or what have you to help shape things out. So I love that point about the sales team because that's so true. That's a kind of marriage between sales and marketing, making sure that's brought out as well. So thank you, Jimmy. We'll jump over to Ellie. I want to hear about phase two when we get into the design component of it and the copy and the marriage between those. So once we've got the wireframing in place, I know we have an internal handoff here to make sure we're all on the same page. And Ellie, maybe we'll transition from Jimmy to Ellie here. What does that look like for you? Where do you even start? Sometimes people want to go in a totally different direction. They're like, my website was built in the ‘90s. So tell us about that.

Ellie (11:34):

Yeah, it's a whole can of worms. They can go a couple different ways but I think in an ideal world, I'm going to assume we have, even if the website's really old, I'm going to assume we have some sort of updated brand guidelines. If you do have a website that is 15 years old and you're doing a complete flip, you want to make sure you have something on the horizon set you're working toward. So whether we could use that website as a use case or a proof of concept for what the new brand would look like. And then that kind of becomes its own exercise as saying like, okay, we don't know what this brand is going to look like or we're evolving yours. We'll use the homepage to kind of figure out what feels right. And sometimes we have clients with a print piece, if they just have a print piece on hand, you're like, okay, we need to update our onboarding brochure.

And sometimes then we'll use that as our example piece to kind of drive a new brand. But yet you could absolutely use a website. But then let's say you had the brand all figured out, then I think the next stage would be just asking lots of questions because sometimes designers may or may not have been, and myself may or may not have been in certain conversations but okay, why is this on the wireframe? What functionality do we need it to have? So having that meeting where we probably pepper Jimmy with lots of annoying questions like, okay, what do you mean by this? What kind of stuff is going to be in this dropdown? What do you need? What's the user going to do here to make sure we really holistically just get the brain dump of everything on that website so we understand it frontwards, backwards, inside and out. And then we can kind of start making sure the functionality is there underlying, and then start putting the brand frosting on top.

Lauren (13:05):

Yes, I know, I love that. The brand frosting. That's so fun. Tell me a little bit more about that. That website is so critical to all the other pages, the homepage. So you've got your global elements, your header, your footer, your typography. How do you go about choosing that brand frosting, if you will, like you said, to really spice it up because web design's different from print design. So what's the direction you're giving to our designers to really be able to help bring out that feel for the client?

Ellie (13:43):

Well, I think a big part of it too is I am kind of getting into actually the tactical weeds. Part of it is knowing what platform we're designing for. Are we building this website on Webflow where we have lots of creative freedom and we can, whatever we envision with this brand, whether it's really expressive, big animations or huge type more of sky is the limit type thing. Or let's say we're doing a smaller website that may need to be updated more frequently. So we're using a more user-friendly platform like Squarespace where the client could kind of go in and do their own updates but then our designs are a lot more limited on what we can do, the capabilities. So then it becomes more of an exercise of, okay, how can we bring maximum brand personality into a platform that might already be pretty locked down?

Lauren (14:28):

Okay. So do you mind sharing a little bit more about our website? We're going through that whole design process. I mean, we did the information architecture and Jimmy, we can swing back to that process for us too. But the design was such a critical component because we had just gone through that branding exercise. How did you go about bringing that to life? And is there anything that came out of that that you're like, yeah, that feels totally like us. So I'd love to hear a little bit more about our design process in particular, right?

Ellie (15:03):

Yeah, I think a big part for us too, and I think would be the case for lots of brands, but yeah, as you said, we already had new brand guidelines. We kind of knew what the brand could look like. We had our colors, we had our illustration style, we had the logo but we hadn't yet designed any big full pieces. So sometimes you think you look at brand guidelines and that should tell you exactly what everything should look like and it can but even within that, it's like, okay, we use those fun kind of limey to turquoise gradients. How much of that is on the page? If three chords are on the page, it's full of brightly colored gradients, it gets a totally different vibe than if, okay, we use that very sparingly or how much of the black we were using. We had all the parts and pieces but it was kind of like, okay, what are we maxing up? What are we trimming down to find just that right balance of how all those pieces interact.

Lauren (15:54):

So right. And then just to layer in there for us as we were building out our brand, we had to even start to create social media graphics and different things as a baseline. So we kind of knew how it would play. But Ellie, you did such a great job of leading the team to really say, now how does that translate into digital experience? Can you also talk a little bit more to the animation component, right? Because it’s not just designing flat files. What does that kind of show up as someone who's actually reviewing a design before it's going to be built?

Ellie (16:29):

Yeah. Well, I think we are, in this case, we are really blessed to have a really talented developer working with us. Josefina is just fantastic. And so it's been such an asset to have, because I can visualize, wouldn't it be neat if the animation does this or wouldn't it be neat if the animation does that? So can our designer but we were able to just say, okay, we know we want this to move. This is what we're thinking, Josefina — what can Webflow do? What have you seen out there? Because she’s probably closer to the web industry and where trends are going. So we could kind of seed her with, okay, we're thinking this, we want it to feel this way. And she could almost always take it up a notch, be like, oh, I see what you're saying. What about we do this? Or, okay, this new thing is trending. Oh, this is going away because of X, Y, Z. So in terms of animation, she could really point us in the direction of, okay, and also what's feasible. There might be two options that are equally great. Oh, we could animate it like this. Oh, we could animate it like this. This might take 10 hours, this might take one. And really, we like them the same amount. So then let's go with the more efficient one, all things being equal.

Lauren (17:29):

Totally. I mean, to Jimmy's point earlier about having the marketing sales team in the discovery, there's a marriage, there's a marriage also between design and development. And if you break out the two, I feel like the outcome isn't as strong. Okay, super. I want to make sure we get Tiffany in here. So once we've got our design, we've got our framing and everything in place, we've got our designs, then there's that. Maybe we kind of talk about that handoff again. And how do you make sure it doesn't feel like copy's just like, hey, I'm over here and the design's over here and they're not really like, so Tiffany, do you mind talking about that too? Some people are visual, some people are words people. Do you partner with Ellie too and the client to make sure we get really that right voice and tone that goes, they're talking to me.

Tiffany (18:16):

Yeah. Well, I was just thinking about that. I mean, as far as the actual workflow, copy does come at the end technically but I think part of it is just the three of us work together really closely all the time, and I think it's just a lot of communication. So I'm talking with Jimmy as the wireframe is being built out; do we need this kind of content? What kind of story would we tell here? That kind of thing. And the same thing with Ellie. She'll come to me like, should we do this picture or this? What kind of story are we trying to tell so when it does come to the copy stage, I mean technically we're kind of in a box now, the design is all built out and the Lorem Ipsum is there but really we've been working together all along. So we sort of know what each of those sections or whatever is going to say. So then it's just pulling out the voice and the details of who are we going to talk to and what are we going to say, which words would they use? So yeah, I think that's a big part of it, just staying involved in the process.

Lauren (19:11):

And Tiffany, how do you, even the question to Ellie initially, how do you tee that up with a writer? Because there's so many different styles of writing, technicality, voice tone, and then being able to really get inside the prospect. So when they're reading that, they go, they're talking to me, this feels like me. What's that evolution to be able to get from concept to actually reading it on the page?

Tiffany (19:36):

Yeah, I mean, I think to Ellie's point earlier, if we have a good brand guide in place, that really helps if we sort of know where we're trying to go. I mean, we'll always say this, the three of us, but if we have a brand personality that's super helpful if we know what we're trying to get to. So that does help. But even then, I mean I think this is the unpopular answer but the reality is that there's going to be a lot of give and take and back and forth with the client. Even with ourselves, there was a lot of, that word doesn't feel right, I would actually write this. And I think just being open to that process really helps because websites are very close to us but words are also very close to us. And so I think just being open to, okay, we know that's what we wanted to say generally but we'll make a couple tweaks here and there and make changes and just work through it.

Lauren (20:26):

So well said. I know at that stage in review, we've sometimes had sales folks come in and even take a look at it too.

Tiffany (20:33):

It really helps to have the key players involved because to Jimmy's point, sales is going to be using these pages all the time, or the team is going to be using these all the time. So they really to make sure, we would never use that word, and sometimes nobody would know that until it's actually, honestly, maybe none of us would know that but nobody would notice it either until it's in the design stage or even on the staging site, like, oh, now it's standing out to me. We would never say that. So I think just again, being open to the process and working together is really important.

Lauren (21:13):

Absolutely. And one of the things I really enjoy is that we take the design and we drop the copy in there.

Tiffany (21:18):

Yeah, exactly. It feels way different.

Lauren (21:19):

I feel like reading copy off a document versus in the design — Tiffany, anything you want to share regarding that, and even Jimmy, sometimes you play in there, you're like, okay but this is what we meant for it to go for this, or why did it go this direction? Because fill in the blank. So yeah, anything about that stage, this is pre-built. 

Ellie (21:43):

So yeah, one part of the iterative process is as we've been saying in general, it goes from wireframing, then we go to design and then copy generally kind of right to the design. If we realize, oh, we need much more content here, it might come back to design and we might adjust something to make room for the content or vice versa. But another thing we intentionally did was, especially across the site in the hero components or when there was a really big callout or a big piece of beauty copy, we knew there was going to be some big statement here, and we knew it was going to hit home some message but we didn't know exactly what the words were going to say. We didn't waste our time yet going and finding the perfect image to go with that because in all likelihood, we could kind of steer the design, the image could have steered the copywriter in a direction that might not have been as impactful or just might not have made sense. So we said, okay, we know there's going to be some big beautiful statement here. We're just not going to worry about what imagery goes with that until it's written, and then we'll come back and we'll find the perfect image to correspond with that copy.

Lauren (22:43):

Any other thoughts too? So well said, and I love you. You'll do the for placement only, just like, hey, we could go down a whole rabbit hole finding the perfect one but then it just doesn't match the copy. You're right. They have to speak to each other.

Tiffany (22:56):

So it's just a matter of working closely together. And as I was saying, it's just about telling the right story. So sometimes that comes from the image first and sometimes it comes from the words — because we've built sites too where we've put so much effort into an animation and it doesn't matter what the words say. That's the story, and then we will tell the story with the words later. So sometimes it goes either way.

Jimmy (23:21):

Yeah, I just want to add that this whole process, as much as we described it in almost like a linear way, it's not playing the telephone game where the information goes one way. There's back and forth. So maybe at Tiffany's stage, she may come back and say, hey, when you put this here, what was your intention? Even right down in the design stage or sometimes when everything's laid out, and then it's kind of back my way, kind of like, okay, did this kind of fit with that initial vision? And it's everybody's vision. It's not my vision. It's not just the client's vision. It's like a collaborative vision to make sure it works for everyone because it has to.

Ellie (23:59):

Yeah, the iterative process isn't like this. It's so creative.

Lauren (24:04):

And we didn't even get into SEO or other components like video that could also ebb and flow with the way that it turns out. Well, just for time’s sake, I know we didn't get into the build side of it as much but once we go through phase one, really the wire framing to phase two, the design and copy, then we get into the build, which is a whole technical component onto itself, and then the iterations to make sure it's ready to go for launch. As we alluded to earlier, mobile ready, responsive testing on various devices and actually just feeling it in kind of the real environment. But just, and I think we talk about this for hours honestly but just as we kind of narrow in any kind of final thoughts for folks if they're thinking about redoing a website, maybe they want to just add, as Jim, you alluded to earlier, a new coat of paint, something like that. Just thoughts you might want to kind of close with this process at large.

Ellie (25:11):

Yeah, I am kind going to echo what both of you guys said but I love the idea of thinking about it like a house remodel. It doesn't have to be a gut job. I'm actually in the middle of a house remodel right now. There is nothing on these walls. This house is somewhere in the middle. We're gutting parts of it and keeping other parts. But sometimes you ought to tear it down to the foundation. Sometimes you're moving across the state or sometimes you're just like, yeah, coat a paint, touch things up a little bit and they'll be good to go. So yeah, you don't have to scare yourself by thinking it has to be an all-in down to the ground demo job. It doesn't have to be.

Lauren (25:43):

That reminds me, just like a house, when you're going to recut it, sometimes you get it and you're like, whoa, didn't know this was here. Sometimes when you go through the process and you get further along, you go, oh my gosh, what about blah, blah, blah, or I didn't realize dah, dah. And so that's part of, like you were saying, Ellie, it's just part of the creative process, and that's for everyone, even if you're in a creative seat or not creative seat, we're all in creative seats. Any other thoughts?

Jimmy (26:13):

Yeah, I think since we're going with the house analogy, I think just really listening to your gut. I mean, kind of like the house as well, if you kind of feel, yeah, I wish there were more power sockets here. I wish there was one more room for this third child I'm expecting. Listen to your gut. It's the same thing with websites. If it's not flowing in a certain way, it may not be a whole refresh. Don't be like, oh, I need to tear the whole house down and build it again. Sometimes it's just a fresh coat of paint.

Tiffany (26:48):

And there's still very strategic things we can do to ensure it's aligned with your target, speaking to your target market, aligned with your goals. We can really get it working for you and not just kind of a business card or brochure on the internet. So I agree there's a lot of different starting points and endpoints along the way.

Lauren (27:07):

And I know we've even done just, can someone just look at my website and just give me what a fresh coat of paint looks like? Not even the full end to end, the whole wireframing and this and that, we kind of alluded to earlier, there's various kind of flavors of redesigns or upgrades you could do, and so you just have to decide where you're at, what your appetite is for undertaking a project, and it helps to steer you accordingly. So well, thank you all for being here. This was super fun. Started off with you’re in for a treat, and you guys totally delivered, so it was fun to unpack this a little bit more and hopefully provide some context of what it's like to do a whole website redesign or a component of it. All right. Thanks guys.

Tiffany (27:52):

Thanks. Thanks.

Website Redesigns: The Process Behind Building Websites for Financial Services Companies

Explore the process behind building websites for financial services companies with Out & About Communications’ visionary directors team.
Hiring & Talent
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We talked with Erica about:

  • How she used her own experience as a military spouse to find her niche
  • How remote work is helping to revolutionize the job market for military spouses
  • Empowering military spouses to leverage their unique transferable skills across diverse industries
  • Improving overall personal wellness and quality of life by addressing the high rates of unemployment and underemployment among the military demographic

About Erica McMannes:

Over the span of 22 years as a military spouse, Erica McMannes has weathered numerous moves, career shifts, and challenges inherent to military life — and discovered her passion for fostering community and enhancing the quality of life for military families. Frequent relocations and the demands of raising a family posed constant challenges to maintaining a traditional career path. Through it all, she emerged as a trailblazer in connecting military spouses with remote work opportunities. Fast-forward 12 years, and Erica's journey led her to found Instant Teams, a company dedicated to bridging the gap between military spouses and employers through remote work opportunities. Leveraging her expertise in customer experience (CX) and talent sourcing, Instant Teams provides a vital service to companies by matching them with skilled remote workers tailored to their needs. Through Erica’s efforts, Instant Teams is addressing the high rates of unemployment and underemployment prevalent among the military demographic while simultaneously improving military spouses’ overall personal wellness and quality of life. Check out the new Instant Teams website.

Featured Resources & Shoutouts

Enjoyed this interview? You'll love these:

Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:05):
All right. Well, Erica, thank you for joining us today. We're glad to have you here.

Erica (00:08):
Thank you. I'm excited. Always a good day for a conversation.

Lauren (00:12):
Oh my gosh. And this is going to be a really fun one. We're going to be talking about Instant Teams that you've created, founded, and it's incredible how it's just blown up. So we're going to get into that a little bit more. I was just on your website taking a look, and it was like the Inc 5000 number was 208 overall. And so just the footprint and the mark you're making is tremendous. So we're excited to get a little bit more into that. And I think just before we do, I also want to make sure to introduce Tiffany here who's on our team and has a number of military connections as well, myself included. So we all share that common thread. But let's just go ahead and dive in. Erica, I'll pass it over to you so you can introduce yourself and share a little bit more.

Erica (00:57):
Yeah, I appreciate that. I also enjoy this conversation as you are both unicorns, being military spouses out there in the world, high-level professionals. So just thank you for having me on today and I'm really excited to get into it. But yeah, my career has taken many twists and turns. I have been a military spouse for the past 22 years. My spouse actually just retired in September.

Lauren (01:20):

Erica (01:21):
We are on that fresh, what does this mean as a transitioning family journey now? But over the course of those 22 years, I took a lot of twists and turns as many spouses do, finding their professional identity. I have skill sets, I have education. How do I actually make this work? So I actually started out working for MWR, which I think a lot of spouses do. They're wherever we do, they're on installations. And for anybody listening in who’s not familiar with MWR, it's the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation departments of military installations where they do the family programming, childcare programming, sports programming — anything kind of fun in military life kind of tends to be there in MWR. I had two degrees in human ecology so I was doing child development work, working with military families on installations and was able to do that off and on for the first 10 years, but then three moves in three years, and two kids later, we found ourselves out in Monterey, California.

And it was kind of like, woe is me. I'm 30, I'm done professionally, never going to have a career, just going to be the trailing spouse. And when you kind of hit that moment, something usually comes, right? There's an opportunity that opens, and Monterey is kind of at the end of Silicon Valley. And so we ended up running into some friends of friends as we do in the military as well. And it was a veteran-owned startup, and he was like, listen, I know you don't have a business degree. You're not in the startup space but I really need somebody who knows the military spouse community and can help us get our apps and help us launch things we're creating. And I was like, as many spouses do, sure, I'll give it a try. This is awesome. And that's really kind of where fast-forward now to 12 years later, that's where I was just exposed to this incredible space of building things and having business ideas and learning how to develop them. And the bonus was with impact, I was able to do those things that also helped spouses I knew along the way by building these little teams and building these pods. And that eventually led us to what is now Instant Teams. I did that enough as a consultant. I was like, you know what? There's a whole business model here. Let me find a business partner, and then we'll go from there.

Lauren (03:34):
I love that you started at the hub of inspiration, right? In Northern California. So yeah.

Tiffany (03:45):
So tell us a little bit more about what Instant Teams does and impact sourcing.

Erica (03:51):
So we are a customer experience or CX for short talent marketplace. So early on our business model, our inspiration was really, we knew all of these organizations and at that time, mostly out in Silicon Valley, that were looking for really great talent. We all know it's a very expensive place to live, kind of its own little ecosystem that you feel like you can only tap. And then our neighbors and our peers as spouses were these highly educated, super passionate, super resilient, adaptable potential employees. And so we saw this opportunity to bridge that. So that's evolved over the past almost eight years now. But we build out customer support, customer experience teams for middle market to enterprise-level organizations. And we do all the heavy lifting. So we source the talent, we match it to each customer's needs from a skill set perspective. We are skill-based hiring. So we don't focus on chronological resumes, gaps in resumes. It's really what skill set is needed, what skill set do you have? Awesome. You're going to be able to make this work. And impact sourcing has evolved as a way where that means a lot to organizations. So the easiest way to define that is intentional sourcing or hiring strategies from untapped talent pools. And that takes on many different forms but we're really excited to be able to be in that niche spot of impact sourcing directly to the military community with how our business model works.

Tiffany (05:20):
So I think we all sort of know the background about why military spouses would historically be unemployed or need an opportunity like this but this is a softball question. Why is it needed? What's the gap there?

Erica (05:39):
Yeah, I think people often hear whether it's national news at certain times or in conversations around military spouses that they are highly unemployed or highly underemployed. And I think that just passes through people's minds. They don't actually grasp the problem.

Lauren (05:53):
What does that mean?

Erica (05:54):
Why is that? Yeah, what does that mean? What is the impact of it? And I think it comes down to two things really. Mostly it's the constant moves, which with COVID and remote work continuing to be adopted and accepted, that has started to change a little bit. But historically, moving every two to three years and changing jobs was not looked at as a benefit. And so it was called job hopping, right? I think we're past the job hopping categorization but it's hard to get into a new organization and work your way up when you just have to start over. And then oftentimes, as you probably both know, it's just location. Right out of college, I was with my spouse in Fort Rucker, Alabama. There is not a lot in Fort Rucker, Alabama. I had two options on the job board. It was clean hotels or take children to court-appointed mental health appointments. And that hasn't changed so much. There are still military installations that are kind of geographically isolated. They need land and they need opportunities to practice and do things. So I think that's usually the two reasons why. It's just the constant moving and that geographic isolation that really causes a challenge.

Tiffany (07:16):
And then so just more about the impact, again, I'm asking a leading question here but can you share a little bit about the impact that causes for military families and the service member and the military in general? I mean, there's layers of the problem that can cause.

Erica (07:35):
Yeah, I think once you really understand what the challenges are and why underemployment and unemployment happen, the kind of next is like, well, what does that actually mean for military spouses? And I think the easiest one is financial. If you can't be employed because of all the challenges, then you're a single-income family. And I don't care where you live or what your rank is nowadays, dual income is a necessity. It's not something nice to have. It really is. Quality of life kind of depends on a dual-income opportunity. And that sets military families back very easily when either there's lapse in employment or there's just constant inability to have employment. And then it kind of turns to the personal wellness piece, personal identity, my own individual purpose in the world, which kind of seems like, oh, a soft side of the conversation. But that is the holistic approach to quality of life. And when an individual feels they have a purpose other than the title they're fulfilling, that leads to even retention of military active duty service members. So it's a really interesting trickle effect of, oh, okay, people are unemployed. I think people can just be real with that sometimes. And you're like, well wait, this is actually a social problem. This is an issue for military families. So kind of that financial impact and then that personal identity piece as well.

Lauren (09:07):
So once you identified this business model and the pain point for individuals and families, the military's big, but it's not that big, but it's big enough. What was your story to get it going and just to be able to help let it catch fire so that, I mean, not only can you catch fire within the military communities but then to businesses that are needing these services as well. What did that look like for your team?

Erica (09:33):
Yeah, it was a challenge. Sometimes I'm like, wow, we really created a lot of difficulties for ourselves here as a marketplace. Not like we're just launching one product to one business outcome. We've got this chicken and egg every single day. It's got to build the pipeline, get the word out to customers about our solutions, build those partnerships. We're very partnership sales driven because our products are people. We're not just handing over something off of a product line. These are individuals, these are teams, these are people. So we pay a lot of attention to that relationship side with our customers. But then, yeah, we have to also get talent pipelines, building and vetting people's skills and building a brand. So we actually started with building the brand to the military spouse community, which might seem opposite for most traditional business approaches but we knew the military spouse community is very protective of itself, and we had to build something the community trusted before we could ever start saying, oh, hey, businesses, we have people we can provide you.

Lauren (10:33):

Erica (10:34):
So the first six months were really around showing we were a part of the community, showing up in different ways to contribute to the community and really building that voice and messaging to like, hey, we're going to do this; if you want to hear about it when we get ready to do a full launch sign up here. So it was just early on marketing strategies to build that. And then once we had enough buy-in and trust and the brand had a little bit of brand integrity, we were able to then start to go after customers.

Lauren (11:06):
I love the piece of it that it is so authentic, just your own stories for how things got going, because it's not like you're sort of trying to force your way in but it is just born out of it, which is really cool. Yeah. Okay. So then you went to the business side of things, and it sounds like that that flourished through just partnerships or what have you, and those relationships once you marketed to the military side. Is that right?

Erica (11:30):
Yeah. And the actual business solution has evolved over the years. We first were working with very, very small companies, solopreneurs, people who were like yes, I heard about so-and-so, or they were personal connections. They were like, yeah, I see what you guys are doing. We'll try you out. But I mean, that's how most businesses start. You have to have a few champions and a few believers. And then about year two, three, we started to invest time in some business accelerators and started to understand the investment space and what it means to be a company that can take on angel investors and venture capital. And so about that timeframe is when your network just naturally starts to open up. And I think that's something, especially as military spouse business founders, that was so beneficial. Like you said, the military community is small and sometimes it's a little insular, kind of in a bubble, and we really needed to break through that to get into the networks and create the relationships and partnerships that would give us those opportunities to continue to prove ourselves and take on a little bit more than we could chew and come through the other end and then repeat that and try it again.

So yeah, over the past eight years, we've gone from working with direct referrals to working with really large enterprise-level organizations and building out teams of anywhere from 10 to our biggest account has 120 people on it.

Lauren (12:54):
Okay. Wow. Yeah. So it's wide and varied, and I'm sure at various stages of businesses, as you alluded to earlier.

Erica (13:01):

Tiffany (13:03):
How was that moment, going outside the bubble, how was it telling the Instant Team story? And we were talking about earlier explaining the problem and how was that received? Did you feel like you were knocking on a lot of doors for a long time?

Erica (13:21):
I mean, both. I think there's always the traditional but trying to do something new and innovative, you're going to have to knock down doors. You're going to have to repeat yourself 5,000 times before people understand it. But this was 2016, so this was pre-COVID, so 100% remote work was not truly a thing yet. Some people got it. Like Silicon Valley, early-stage tech companies, they understood access. And the remote work concept, I'll always remember we were pitching a government entity at one point about remote work, and the poor individual, he just stopped the call. He is like, I don't understand why people want to work on a remote island. He's like, why would we send people? I was like, oh, we're not speaking the same way you would here, right? We say remote, we mean somebody from their home can work for an organization located elsewhere. And from the government perspective, he was thinking of somebody remotely out, stationed somewhere, conducting espionage work. It was just those are the things you had to deal with.

Lauren (14:16):

Tiffany (14:18):
Yeah, that's hilarious.

Erica (14:19):
Always solvable. Those were always conversations where we were learning how to communicate better and how to extend the mission and advocacy of that. But so a lot of those opportunities continued to evolve through COVID, where all of a sudden we had this business model we had been building for four years, and when COVID hit all of a sudden organizations like, oh, remote work. This is a lightbulb moment.

This is an opportunity. We see what you're doing now. So that evolution of just where we've had to be able to be successful, and it has changed. And sometimes they've been very fast changes, and other times they've been kind of gradual.

Lauren (14:58):
Okay. So shifting a little bit here. We have a lot of folks who are in the financial services space, and it's challenging to be able to find talent. It's just been a trend, and it depends, honestly, it's across all levels. So I'd love to hear if someone was interested in your services, what is that process like and what's the time horizon? What do they need to know going into it so they can better see if there's a fit for their needs?

Erica (15:30):
One of the benefits of being a talent marketplace specializing in CX, those customer experience teams, is we can kind of cross different industries. So we build out the same type of teams. We know the skill sets we need, but they can specialize in edtech, healthtech, fintech, and insuretech. And so we do work across all those different industry verticals, and there's been some unique things we've been able to bring to, let's say financial services or insurance organizations, in that military spouses who have a certain line of education can be taught a specific tech platform or tech skills pretty quickly to adopt and adapt. Some good examples of that are in an edtech space, teachers or people who have been volunteer presenters, they're really great at communication. They're really great at understanding step-by-step processes and guiding others through step-by-step crisis situations, or even just general problem-solving.

And so those are always neat opportunities to see the specific things customer accounts are needing done in their customer experience processes and operations. And then having the individuals with the skill sets, soft or hard, to be able to plug those two together. One of my favorite accounts is a cybersecurity firm, and it is a team of all military spouses doing crisis response. So if their customer’s software tells them there's been a breach, this is a team of military spouses getting these very panicked individuals, like, my software is flashing. We've had a cybersecurity breach. These are panicked individuals, and we've got very calm, collected, trained military spouses who can walk people through these times of panic. And so it's just really cool. Also, back to the personal identity, these individuals find, oh, this isn't something I knew was of value to somebody but because of these things I've been through, or even some of the training we receive as military spouses around community support, crisis response, those become very valuable to organizations. So yeah, I think military spouses and fintech or financial services, that orientation to supporting people through a process following compliance and protocol, those are all very ingrained in skill sets that really do transfer well.

Lauren (17:52):
That makes so much sense, and I love how you're able to point out those very real examples and then how that translates to just, you're just through that life that you have as a military spouse.

Tiffany (18:04):
So how do you help military spouses see that in themselves? Right? Those things become very ingrained but they probably don't always know how to translate it. So as you're building the talent pool, how do you get that message out there and help them feel empowered?

Erica (18:23):
Yeah. Having military spouses understand where they can connect in is a challenge. I think there's incredible nonprofits out there who are very career coaching and what is your employment future? And those are always great to tap into to just ask those questions. Where do I actually belong in the world? What is my professional contribution? What does that look like? Sometimes it's just people taking a chance on themself and having that bravery to say, I've been a teacher for 20 years, or I've been a bank teller. I don't know how I could support people from a customer experience as a customer success manager at a financial company. I'm like, listen, that core competency is still there, and the intelligence level is there. You just have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and take an opportunity to find a way where the real professional world can use that and you can continue to grow.

So as a company, we've done that in different ways. Some of that's marketing, some of that's webinar series. We participate a lot throughout the community and do different things to support other opportunities and organizations. So we've even done pilots with the Department of Defense around skill development, and I think that's an easy part. Let's put you through a skill development program with an outcome at the end. It kind of takes you through those steps. So different ways but I think really at the end of the day, it's the individual, right? The individual has to either believe it or be willing to take the chance to just see what is out there and what the opportunity is.

Lauren (19:53):
Oh, good. My goodness. Well, we're wrapping up our time here. This has been really eye opening and also inspiring to hear about your story and the direct links to all that work you're doing within the military community and beyond. So any kind of final things you think would be helpful to share? Things you all have coming up or resources or what have you, for either employers looking to hire or folks who are looking to sign up to look for work opportunities?

Erica (20:19):
Yeah, we have a really great site — It has opportunities to engage as a potential customer or as a military spouse. We also have an entirely separate app for military spouses, specifically called Twelve Million Plus. So we are as a business model taking in career seekers and building teams but we also have a really more quality of life-centric app. The military spouses can get that skill development, build, attend events, just as a kind of opportunity to give back but then also just prepare people for opportunities.

Lauren (20:54):
Holy smokes. I feel like we talked about so much. We didn't even get into Twelve Million Plus. That could be a whole other recording. So it's really cool just because I think what's also cool about that is you, it's evident you've had your ear to the ground listening to what people need and being able to create these additional services and then just be able to show up and shine. So thank you for all the work you do, and also for joining us today and sharing your story. We'll make sure to include links as well.

Erica (21:19):
Okay. Yeah, y'all made this really easy. Thank you.

Scale Your Financial Services Team By Hiring Military Spouses With Instant Teams

Explore how Instant Teams founder Erica McMannes is revolutionizing military spouse employment, connecting them with remote job opportunities.
Marketing & Sales
May 2, 2024

We talked with James about:

  • Email marketing that works and why it often won’t if it’s done wrong
  • How you should and shouldn’t measure success with email marketing
  • Building an email list through lead magnets
  • Choosing the right lead generators to improve your conversion and close rates

About James Pollard:

James Pollard is a seasoned marketing professional with a passion for personal finance. With nearly two decades of experience in the marketing world, he found his niche assisting financial advisors with their marketing efforts, particularly focusing on email marketing strategies. His journey into this specialized field began when he helped a financial advisor improve their marketing, leading to tangible results and subsequent referrals. This organic growth spurred him to establish his own company, The Advisor Coach, where he initially offered coaching services but later transitioned into an information and publishing model to reach a wider audience of financial advisors. Today, his website,, is one of the leading sources for business-building information in the advisory space. His products and services have helped more than 50,000 financial advisors attract more clients since 2015.

Featured Resources & Shoutouts

Enjoyed this interview? You'll love these:

Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:05):

James, thanks for being here.

James (00:07):

Thank you so much. I always love to talk about email marketing. It's one of my favorite topics, so thank you. And I can't wait to get into this.

Lauren (00:14):

Yeah, me too. So for those of you who don't know James, he is The Advisor Coach, as it says on your sweatshirt right there. You rock.

James (00:22):

Oh, it does actually.

Lauren (00:23):

Yeah. You got it going on. And you know this advisor, wealth management world. Not only do you know it but I feel like you’re also living it. You're the one who's in the data, you're doing the advising, you're talking to people, you're having the tough conversations, and specifically know this email component of it, which we're going to get into in a minute. But before we get into the nitty gritty about email, email marketing, workflows, all that fun stuff, tell us a little bit more about you. How did you get to the seat you're in right now and what kind of wakes you up every day to do what you're doing?

James (00:59):

I do have an absurd amount of data. A lot of that comes from talking with financial advisors every single day for the past, almost seven years now, in and out. The newsletter is in the seventh year. People ask me questions every single day. I'm having conversations about everything from content marketing to social, to referrals, to networking, to you name it. So long story short, I've always been interested in personal finance and marketing, and this is a beautiful way to weave the two together. I've actually been involved in the marketing world for almost two decades now. So I have been, let's just say marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing for 10 years and then marketing with financial advisors for another 10. And it's been a wonderful journey and that is pretty much the long and short of it. I transitioned from marketing into marketing for financial advisors because I helped an advisor with his marketing: surprise. It's so simple.

I don’t have this huge backstory that's super sexy or anything like that; I just helped this person. He got results. Then he gave me a referral, then my name started to get spread around because I mean financial advisors know other financial advisors. And I was like, I should probably charge for this and charge more and take the show on the road. Started a company called The Advisor Coach, which I have on my sweatshirt and still have today. Don't do any coaching, have transitioned into an information or a publishing model. That way I can reach far more financial advisors at scale. And it's from a selfish entrepreneur perspective, it's a far better business model. So that is where I am right now.

Lauren (02:32):

Yeah, I can appreciate that, right? You learn along the way and you're tweaking and you're really wanting to make sure you're constantly adding the best value for what the market's demanding. So okay, let's lean into this email marketing side of things, right? Because not only are you helping advisors with this but you've got a pretty awesome email list that you're also managing on a day to day. Tell us more about that and how you got on this bend of email marketing and a little bit more about what you're helping folks to actually do with email marketing?

James (03:06):

There are a lot of reasons why I love email marketing and the reason why I do email marketing is because it's super effective from a business standpoint. For me personally, it is a great conversion mechanism to get financial advisors to be clients and customers of mine. And the same is true in almost every service industry. It is a relationship business and someone will be working with another person, whether that's an advisor or an accountant. But in my world, advisors, it is very important to build trust, credibility, and rapport before that sale takes place. And email is one of the best ways to do that because you can give people a little bit of trust building, a little bit of rapport building, a little bit of credibility building, and then again and again and again every single day.

Lauren (03:55):

Adding that value.

James (03:56):

Totally. And also there have been so many studies — there's a guy named Robert Clay who did one. If you just google Robert Clay follow-up study, the majority of conversions happen after the fifth follow-up attempt. And with email, that's very easy because that's a week of daily emails. So I started to realize you could get the bulk of your conversions as quickly as possible if you just had a way to follow up and email is that way to follow up. And people don't get upset about it because they're the ones joining your email list. So that is the tip of the iceberg but it's a win-win win from that standpoint alone.

Lauren (04:34):

Right. Okay. So can we talk about that first component of it, right? Because you could buy a huge list, dump it in, start blasting people. It's not easy to build an authentic list of people who actually are opting in. And what carrot are you dangling to get them to opt in? Well, you've got one of the biggest lists for this advisor community. Tell us, how did you even go about that? Building your name, actually giving them something they want that would actually add would be worth their time, right? We're all short on time. So how did that happen?

James (05:09):

Well, that's the secret. If I were to go back in time, I would spend a lot more time working on my lead magnets and I have good lead magnets today. But that is the advice I would give someone. If someone's just starting out, in your mind you're thinking, I'm going to tackle this email marketing strategy, your mind immediately goes to how can I write great emails? And that's valid. That's wonderful. That's a part of the equation, right? It is necessary but it is not sufficient. The lead magnet is so important. If you take your lead magnet and you put it in front of your audience or a potential person, a potential client, and you say, hey, I'm thinking about doing this, this, and this. If they say anything to you except where can I get that it is not good enough to be amazing.

And the reason it has to be amazing is because when you put it in front of people, they're going to have to opt into your email list. That's how you build the list. So ask your audience, put it in front of them, shop it around. If someone tells you — so in the book “Secrets of Closing the Sale” by Zig Ziglar, there's a story where Zig had a prospective client tell him, oh, you're such a good salesperson or you've really got this pitch down. You're nailing this but the person didn't buy. So if someone says, oh, that's really pretty, that's really good for you, that's wonderful — but they don't ask you where to get it — it's not good enough. Get rid of it. I know it's hard to kill your darlings as the writing thing goes but you have to do it. It has to be amazing.

Lauren (06:42):

Yes. Okay. So really listening to your audience, do they actually want it? And they're like, give it to me now, kind of thing. But in what form? Because sometimes we see people who will be like, well, what do you think of as lead funnel? And I'm looking at it, I'm like, okay, the magnet field, it feels off. It could be a great landing page, it can be a great whatever but are you giving away ebooks? What do you even recommend as the league magnet? Is it a webinar? Is it just dependent on the audience?

James (07:09):

So that's actually a really good question. For the longest time I thought PDFs are the way to go, and PDFs are still some of the best performing lead magnets I've seen people put out. But the more I start to interact with advisors and really dig into the data and understand people more, I mean, I thought I understood people years ago but now it's like every day I'm learning something new. I'm starting to realize that perhaps — now I'm not saying this as a sure thing — but perhaps the best lead magnets are the ones that follow the expectations you set. Meaning if you are meeting with your clients over Zoom or you have video chats with them, perhaps delivering a video lead magnet makes more sense. In my case specifically. Now, this may or may not apply to financial advisors. The PDF lead magnets work exceptionally well for me because financial advisors can buy more PDFs from me and I have written content. So I'm attracting readers who will then read more and financial advisors if they have a webinar that's kind of like a meeting, especially a live webinar. So the person who is attracted to a live webinar is likely going to be attracted to meeting with a financial advisor over that same medium. I hope that makes sense.

Lauren (08:24):

Yes, that totally makes sense. So in other words, in basically a nutshell, you have to not only know your audience, know the medium that would make the most sense for them to absorb it but with what they actually want and something that would add value. Okay. So let's say you test it and you can talk a little bit more about the data side once you get it out there. How do you know if your hypothesis was right, if it's a good lead magnet that’s actually working or not? Are there certain KPIs or things you're specifically looking for, they're like, yeah, this is dead on. Is it just people subscribing? What would it be?

James (09:00):

It would be people subscribing. But after that, you basically look at the emails, and the most important thing in my case is appointments set. Open rates are cool, click-through rates. Cool. All of that is nice. But you could have a super high open rate and no appointments. You could have a low open rate and more appointments. One of the things that is really funny, when I see people talk about open rates and high open rates, first of all, to the best of my knowledge, and this may have changed, iPhone counts loads as open.

Yeah, sorry, when someone's loading your email, that doesn't count. It's not real. The second thing is you could have an extremely high open rate with a crazy subject line that doesn't really mean anything and doesn't lead to an appointment. But if I have a subject line that says “Pre-retirees in Georgia, please read this,” it will get a low open rate but the people you want to read it will read that email, highly qualify, and have the opportunity to take action. So I focus on appointments. Now, sometimes I'll get criticism and people say, oh, well, I don't get paid based on appointments. I get paid based on clients. The data answer to that is for most financial advisors, it is hard to gauge statistical significance with clients simply because there is not enough data. So if I can't gauge based on clients, I gauge based on appointments. And in the rare cases where I can't gauge based on appointments, then I try to look at other metrics. But that's rare. That almost never happens.

Lauren (10:32):

So let's assume you got this killer lead magnet. You still have to show up. It takes a lot of effort to be able to figure out the right carrot to dangle. So those, let's just call it five emails, after just a series of emails, I mean, is there a method to the madness? Is it telling a story through the emails? Is it connecting them from one to one? Is it like, what are you talking about? I mean, I'd love to hear a little bit more about that. And then how are you, sorry, a lot of questions but then how are you even validating it? Share a little bit more if you don't mind about that whole, okay, got 'em. They're interested. Let's keep 'em engaged.

James (11:11):

So when someone subscribes to your email list through an opt-in like an ad or through your social or on your website, if you're a financial advisor and you have done your job well, two things for sure they know. You're a financial advisor. So you offer financial advice and financial planning. This is obvious, right? Because they're opting in from a financial advisor's social media or a financial advisor's website. The second thing for sure is they have not set an appointment with you. So now you know they know you're a financial advisor and you have these services and you have a particular niche market or whatever.

But they haven't moved forward. So the goal is to remove those barriers. They're hesitating for some reason. So you are getting them to not hesitate anymore. So many financial advisors think, oh, I'll send more information and more education and more education, and that can help diminish the I don't believe you're knowledgeable objection but it does absolutely nothing to handle the I don't think I have enough money. I don't have enough time. I don't know what your process looks like. I don't know what your initial meeting looks like. I don't know if this is a good fit for me. There are so many other hesitations. If you're a young financial advisor, the hesitation might be you don't have enough experience or you are too young. So in email number two or three or four, you could tell a story about how people think you're too young to help them but it's actually an advantage because you'll be able to work with them for their entire lives, whereas other financial advisors will retire along the way and leave you high and dry.

So that's kind of like the gist of it. I think a lot of financial advisors could be extremely well served if they literally, and I mean this for real, literally sat down with a pen and paper and at the top of the paper wrote reasons why people don't work with me. And reason number one, reason number two, don't have enough time, don't have enough money. I'm intimidated by the financial planning process. That's huge. I mean, I did a whole study on that last year. The number one reason is people are intimidated by the process. So whatever it is. And then the most common reasons make each one of your emails and explain that away because people have those hesitations. People have those objections, and for you to believe they don't, that is naive. And for you to ignore them does nothing to get them closer to an appointment with you.

Lauren (13:31):

So that's an awesome way to think about an outline, right? Things you're addressing, you're addressing fears, concerns or questions they might want to ask and lessons learned you've had. So I'd also be curious, if you're in a sales seat and you're having those initial prospect meetings, would those kinds of questions that may come up, would those also be good to put in there? What is your process like? Things like that? Or are you thinking to hit more of the stuff that's the fear-based stuff, or why they wouldn't work with you to pull them on the other side?

James (14:04):

I'm not sure. And the reason I say that is because when you answer questions people in front of you have asked, so in this case, prospective clients, it could also be clients. One of the most common pieces of content marketing advice is to make content about the questions your clients are asking you. That can be very dangerous. And it's related to the question you're asking because survivorship bias is in it, meaning you are only getting questions from people who have made it to you. So you're kind of jumping over the whole process of what about the people who never sent an appointment in the first place? So I would do it, right? Because I mean, content is content and obviously people are asking questions for a reason but I would never make that all I do simply because of the survivorship bias.

Lauren (14:48):

Super interesting. So I guess in a way, if they're already talking with you, they sort of qualified or hopefully they've qualified if they're somewhat a fit. But then if you're addressing the questions where they could be potentially qualified or they could learn when they would be qualified as you're helping them to sort of navigate them before they even have a conversation with you through these emails. Is that fair?

James (15:09):

Yeah, and I mean studies have been done, I think advisor value propositions by Pershing and BNY. I think that's it. I could be wrong but there was one study that found people search for years of experience, certifications, location, investment philosophy, things like that. The study has already been done. The research has already been done, polls have already been conducted. People say, when I go to an advisor's website or LinkedIn profile, this is what I'm looking for. I want to see these things, so why not put that in your email? Email number one, your welcome email. Hey, I'm John Smith. Hey, I'm Sarah Brown, whatever. I'm a financial advisor. I have this many years of experience. I'm in this location. I serve this niche, and I have this investment philosophy. You're in the very first email checking off each box. And the reason that's so wonderful is because not everybody does it.

And so many advisors say — they don't say this to me explicitly most of the time but they say it implicitly — they say, oh, my clients come directly to me. If there's a referral, they just come directly to me and they don't interact with any other financial advisors. That's a pipe dream. People shop around for financial advisors, they shop around. They're having multiple appointments, they're going to multiple websites. I'm sorry if that burst your bubble but it is reality. It's true. But if you handle all of those things, people will start to think on an unconscious level. You have already fulfilled many of the needs they have, many of the desires they have. And not only is that smart business, it's incredible positioning because now you have people becoming unconsciously attracted to you and they don't know why. That's the evil psychology marketing of it. You have handled everything they want.

Lauren (16:54):

It's honest, and you're helping to address what issues are kind of upfront before perhaps even being asked, which helps you get deeper faster when you actually have a conversation. So super interesting. Okay, so are you delivering these in a written format video? Is it dependent on the list? Maybe I'm answering my own question by talking about your answer you had earlier, which was sort of around the target and how they would absorb the questions. But what's been your learning through the data?

James (17:21):

Plain text, like words.

Lauren (17:23):

Plain text. Okay, that's it. Just plain text. Plain text as if it's coming from an individual or if it's coming from the company?

James (17:30):


Lauren (17:32):

And personalized text like, Hi, John, it was great. Thanks for joining our webinar, whatever it was, lead magnet.

James (17:42):

Oh yeah, that's fine. So sometimes personalization is not necessarily; Hi, John, hope you're doing well. John, insert first name here. I've never seen that work for me. I have seen it work for other people. Full disclaimer. It's just I personally only ask for email and my stuff works just fine. Some of the personalization I like doesn't come from the initial email. Now, this is super advanced but here we go. So the personalization comes from the reply, and I'll explain what I mean by that. I purposefully like to talk about books and movies and TV shows and things I know people on my list are watching or listening to. I know this, I read very esoteric stuff and very niche stuff. I don't have an example with me but if I said, I'm reading right now, I'm reading “Evolutionary Psychology” by Dr. David Buss. No one listening to this show is reading that book. Not a single soul. It is literally a Harvard textbook about evolutionary psychology. If I were to write an email about that, it would be dumb. It would be a big mistake. People wouldn't be able to relate to me. But if I write an email about the game last night and I say, wow, the Steelers really had a blowout last night, didn't they? That was awesome. Oh, by the way, and segue into the email, just that one little sentence.

I will get replies from people saying, oh, yeah, I saw that too. And again, they begin to think, this person is just like me. This person reads the same books. This person watches the same shows. It's all intentional. If you're a financial advisor with a geographic area, someone who serves a geographic area, one of the most effective things you can possibly do is to talk about landmarks in that area. If you're in Miami, talk about Joe's Stone Crab. Talk about what you're doing on South Beach, because now you are going to the same places, eating the same meals. You're running in the same circles as the people who are receiving your emails. And if you want to talk about rapport, compared to like, oh, here's what the stock market did last week, it's unreal how much more effective it is.

Lauren (19:56):

Totally get it. It's funny, we see it in the data too. When we look at just websites, bio pages skyrocket. Of course, homepage is going to be number one but people, they care about people, they're shopping but it's a human to human business, and it's a trust business. So that's part of that, cultivating and building those relationships. Okay, so going back to these emails, are these automated emails that are posted? Are these individual emails automated?

James (20:23):

They can be both. Okay. So when a financial advisor comes to me, and if a financial advisor doesn't know anything about email, and the financial advisor says, James, what should I be doing? My answer would be you should create an automated sequence of between five and 12. Again, because of the data. Most conversions happen after five. They drop off after 12. So automated emails five to 12, you put 'em in there. They handle the objections, they tell stories, they entertain, they build trust, credibility, and rapport, all that good stuff. Then you go live your life, do whatever, come back in six months, look at the data, see which emails do horribly, swap those out and then move on with your life. Now, if you want to write weekly emails, so when I say daily, I mean daily emails. The emails in the sequence get sent out every single day.

So if someone joins your email list on a Tuesday, that person will get an email Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and so on and so forth. But once the person has done that sequence, if you want to continue writing an email every week so the person will exit that sequence and go onto your main list, now you just send an email every week to your main list — more power to you if you want to do that. I don't think you need to. I think the sequence does. I'm an 80/20 guy, so 80% of the results are going to come from 20% of that effort, period. But there are some people out there who want to squeeze every last bit of juice out of everything they have, which I admire. So that would be the way to do it.

Lauren (21:49):

Super interesting. Okay, we're running up on time. I do want to talk about your list. What happens with that list? I do have a question though. I want to swing way back to the beginning of, okay, we've got the magnet. How do you build an audience? What are your tips? Do you recommend paid ads to be able to get the magnet in front of people? Do you recommend commenting on forums? Is it part of, I don't know, a workshop? At the end of the workshop, you're like, okay, everybody sign up for my list. What have you seen that works for advisors to be able to help build up your audience to know that the league magnet is actually there?

James (22:31):

All of the above. Let me answer your question with a question. The average sale revenue Nike gets per customer is $110. How much profit do you think Nike makes on $110?

Lauren (22:50):

Probably a decent amount of money is my guess. So I don't know. I have no idea.

James (22:56):

It's $11, shockingly. But let's say, say we quintuple that, right? $55. Okay, we'll just say a new CEO comes on and makes it amazing, the lifetime value, if you start to think, oh, yeah, it could be high or whatever, forget about all that. We're talking about $11 right now. Think about how much money Nike spends on one sponsorship. Millions, right? Then they do millions more in branding. They do millions more in ads. They are spending so much money to get that $110 sale with $11 profit.

Lauren (23:27):


James (23:28):

Okay. Now, let's compare that to a financial advisor's metrics. How much money do you make per client? How much money do you make per financial plan? You have recurring revenue. You have my dear financial advisor metrics that other companies would salivate over. They see financial advisors metrics. They're like, oh, I wish I had high ticket recurring business. Or high retention; the retention rate is 90+%.

Lauren (23:54):


James (23:56):

And I'm in a subscription business and I work my tail off to get churn down, and I have some of the lowest churn ever, which is so hard. It makes me want to pull what little hair I have left out. It's hard but financial advisors have it relatively easy compared to companies like Apple, Nike, and all these other huge companies. So just think about that financial advisor. Maybe it makes sense to put a little money in your marketing, maybe paid ads. Maybe you could hire someone to help you with social media. Maybe you could hire someone to help you with your content to refine your existing strategy. So many advisors are afraid to put money into marketing when it's just, I don't want to give the impression that it's just super easy because it's absolutely not. It's difficult. It is. I mean, compared to other businesses, come on. You can't be serious. It's amazing compared to other businesses; once you've got that client, you take good care of them, and a lot of clients do stay for a long time.

Lauren (24:48):

Yeah. Super. Okay. Any final thoughts?

James (24:58):

I would say don't be afraid of email marketing, just like your website works for you 24/7, making a good first impression. Hopefully it never gets sick, never takes a day off; neither does your email automation sequence. It continues to work for you all the time. Continues to shake hands, metaphorically speaking, it continues to break those barriers down for you that, again, for sure exist. Why wouldn't you do it? So I love that, and I think it's just something that if an advisor can do it, I think an advisor should do it.

Lauren (25:28):

Okay, so I know you've got, also, speaking of lead magnets and an awesome ebook, I think you said it was like 80 tips, 80 pages or something.

James (25:37):

Yeah, it's 80 pages.

Lauren (25:38):

Yeah, go for it.

James (25:40):

I think advisors, even if you're not interested in getting on my email list and you're like, oh, not another email. I know you get hundreds of emails, right? I get it. If you're the average financial advisor, if for no other reason, you opt in to see what a good lead magnet looks like, you should go to number five, the number seven mt. That's 57 mt, and it stands for 57 marketing tips for financial advisors. It is an 80-plus page PDF with 57 marketing tips for financial advisors. That lead magnet works extremely well for me because it is something financial advisors want. Also, it sets the expectation in the very beginning. If someone listens to my podcast, the Financial Advisor Marketing podcast, they say, I'm interested in marketing. I'm going to listen to this. They opt into the email list, which offers more marketing, then they can graduate and move on and get more marketing. So I actually call this the pepperoni pizza rule. If you have pepperoni pizza, you should offer pepperoni pizza. You should talk about pepperoni pizza, and you should have that in your ads. Don't talk about this secret sauce recipe or how your mom came from the old country. All of this other stuff that doesn't really matter. Give people what they want. And in this case, in my case specifically, financial advisors want marketing tips, so I offer that over

Lauren (27:03):

Awesome. Thanks so much, James. We'll make sure to include that link below as well. Thank you. This was so fun, so many insightful tips. I also just really appreciate not only tips but then we got a little bit more into the nitty gritty, and so I think there's some really good takeaways. Thank you again. Appreciate it.

James (27:18):

My pleasure.

Email Marketing Insider Tips for Financial Advisors

James Pollard is a seasoned marketing professional with a passion for personal finance. With nearly two decades of experience in the marketing world, he found his niche assisting financial advisors with their marketing efforts, particularly focusing on email marketing strategies.
Operations & Management
April 25, 2024

We talked with Kevin about:

  • His path to become a consultant and starting his business with his wife
  • Why a lot of firm owners aren’t prepared to be leaders
  • How to reframe your leadership approach to be more effective
  • How to use coaching to help develop your team

About Kevin Poland:

Kevin Poland is the owner, CEO, business consultant, and coach at The Renaissance Group, a pioneering firm specializing in business and leadership coaching in the financial advisory space. Kevin’s journey into entrepreneurship began when he and his business partner, his wife Jody, made the decision to leave the corporate world and embark on their own business venture. They stumbled upon the transformative teachings of Michael Gerber, particularly his renowned work, "The E-Myth," which revolutionized their understanding of business ownership. Inspired by Gerber's philosophy, Kevin and Jody immersed themselves in learning and implementing his principles. Their dedication led them to become among some of the first consultants certified by Gerber's company. Their mission? To revolutionize the financial advisory landscape by empowering business owners to establish systems and processes that mitigate dependency and cultivate sustainable growth. For over 25 years, Kevin’s holistic teachings for organizational development have helped hundreds of business owners solve their most pressing problems, steering them toward prosperity and achievement.

Featured Resources & Shoutouts

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Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:03):
Kevin, welcome. Thank you for being here.

Kevin (00:06):
Well, thank you for having me and I appreciate it.

Lauren (00:09):
Yes, I am excited to hear more about your business. You have so many great years working with, really coaching on the strategic planning side, business training, especially for folks in the RIA space. So we share that parallel there and I'm really looking forward to getting into coaching — what does it mean? — and talking a little bit more about leadership. I mean, this could be a multisession conversation, I know, but at least talking high level about it. So before we get into all of that, let's just hear about you. I want to hear a little bit more about your background and how you got to where you did today, and then we'll get into some of these questions.

Kevin (00:48):
Okay. Yeah. So The Renaissance Group, we've been in business for 25 years and my partner is my wife, Jody. We both left corporate America to start our own business, and that's kind of how the journey started actually. As we were in the process of starting our own business, I accidentally fell into the concepts or learnings of Michael Gerber and the E-Myth.

Lauren (01:17):
Yes, yes, yes.

Kevin (01:18):
Do you remember 25 years ago how people used to get their professional and personal development, especially corporate people? Cassette tapes we podcast, right? And so we were part of that Nightingale-Conant program where they send you tapes and you have them for 30 days and you can listen to them and if you want them, you can keep them. Or if you kept them, you have to pay for them or you could send them back. And I just remember this one conversation with my wife saying, those tapes are due back tomorrow; are you going to listen to them or not? This particular set — and just coincidentally I had about an hour drive to go see a client — they were these tapes called the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. Coming from the corporate world, I wasn't really familiar with small business training.

I wasn't familiar with Michael Gerber, and I don't know why I said, all right, I'll just listen to him. And I was just enthralled by this man. He was kind of yelling and screaming on the tapes about how most people who start their own business are not entrepreneurs but technicians suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure. And that what I'm really doing is not building a business but building a job.

Lauren (02:35):

Kevin (02:37):
And I was just amazed at his message. And so obviously I kept the tapes and especially the part about building processes and systems to really help grow your business and make it less dependent on you. And I was an industrial engineer. I came from the pharmaceutical industry, so systems and processes were in my wheelhouse and I'm like, wow, this guy's making sense.

Lauren (02:58):

Kevin (02:59):
I bought the book, read it, and at the end there was some contact information. So I reached out to Gerber's company and I asked them if they could help me and that kind of thing. And they let me know they were certifying E-Myth consultants; they were just getting started.

And so my wife and I went out to Santa Rosa, California, and we were part of, I think the second class ever to be certified as E-Myth consultants. So that's really how we got started doing the business coaching. And that's the first big problem we solve — we help business owners grow in a way that makes their business less dependent on them using these E-Myth philosophies in terms of financial services or financial owners. Coincidentally, one of the people in our certification class was a financial advisor from Los Angeles who worked with a lot of small business owners and he was looking for a way to help them, and he's the one who said, hey, you should work with financial advisors; they’re technicians really trying to figure out how to grow a business. So that's the main service we offered: the business coaching. And then as our clients grew and added teams and staff, what we noticed was what was missing was some leadership coaching. So the other big service we offer today is what we call Leader as Coach but leadership coaching for not just the owners but for anyone who's got direct reports, a team leader, a division leader, or the business owner. So 25 years later, we're still doing business and leadership coaching and I work with mostly financial advisors.

Lauren (04:36):
The E-Myth is so good. I think it was one of the first books I read as well. I'm just kind of getting into things and I feel like it really, so many other kinds of philosophies, EOS® and others, have kind of stemmed off from there, if you will. But now to swing back with the financial space, are you exclusively working with RIAs, financial advisors, or is it other folks or is that your main core?

Kevin (05:02):
Personally, I primarily work with financial advisory type businesses. However, since a lot of them work with business owners, they give me referrals to their business owners. And then we do target some other segments, women-owned businesses, a couple other segments some of our other coaches work with. So we segment the market, the small business market, primarily with professional service type businesses.

Lauren (05:30):
So I'd love to hear, since you're in that kind of world, talking with business owners, especially those in financial services, are there thematic leadership challenges you're seeing maybe at a specific stage of growth or maybe that technician, sort of how they let go of being able to the delegate or die syndrome kind of thing? Or I'd love to hear more about what thematic changes or leadership challenges you're seeing.

Kevin (05:54):
Sure. Yeah. Well, people are hard. Our team could be our biggest source of joy or our biggest frustration. So what's really missing I think, is there's not a lot of training for leadership and management of direct reports. And you think about any of the certifications, a financial advisor gets a CFP®, a CFA, I mean they don't really teach you how to lead and manage people. So there's that lack of knowledge. And so there's that frustration of I'm not really sure what to do when it's leading my people and that type of thing. What I've seen over the 25 years is business owners, the owners of the business, have gotten better at what I call strategic leadership, putting those visions, values, missions, and strategic plans in place. And maybe I'm biased because in a lot of the business coaching, that's what we do. So I am seeing that. What I'm seeing, what's missing, is kind of what I call everyday leadership. What are those day-to-day things we should be doing when we have direct reports?

Lauren (07:17):
Can you give some examples of those? When you talk about day-to-day leadership, is it a meeting style? Is it complimenting people? Is it spending time? What kind of pieces do you feel are missing?

Kevin (07:29):
Yeah, so a lot of things you said. Just how do I give my people feedback? How do I conduct meetings, especially a one-on-one meeting? That type of thing. How do I know if my people are happy here until they leave? How do I have real conversations with them? How do I develop them and grow and I guess what they call employee engagement. It's a big discussion, especially in larger firms but how do I know if my people are engaged and what can I do as their manager, as their leader, to engage them?

Lauren (08:14):
Right. Let's take one slice of that. So you talked about meetings, those one-on-one meetings. What kind of recommendations would you have with someone? I mean, I've talked with advisors too where they're like, I want to focus on my art. I love doing what I am doing. I love working with clients but then managing a team is hard. What kind of tips would you give in those situations? I think meetings can also impact your day-to-day, your communication style, that kind of thing. How would you go into that and being set up for success that’s a win-win for both sides?

Kevin (08:47):
Yeah, and you're right, that technician from the E-Myth, that craftsman and us got into business, a lot of us, because we like doing the work. Advisors see their clients, and that's where they want to spend their time. So one of the ways to think about it is to have different roles. And so one of your roles, as soon as you add even one person, you're now a leader and a manager. And so when you're in that role, it's a different skill set than giving financial advice.

Lauren (09:19):
It is. And you're just in that role. Doesn't mean you've had experience with it, training, any of that stuff.

Kevin (09:27):
So you're kind of the accidental manager or you didn't choose to do that. So it is a set of behaviors and skills you can learn. And because we don't like it, especially at the beginning and we're not good at it, the technician in us doesn't like to do things we're not good at.

Lauren (09:53):
It's harder to push through. It's like this new way of thinking, adjusting your, I mean the whole thing, your speech, all of it. So share a little bit more about that.

Kevin (10:02):
So what do we do? We just, I don't want to say ignore our people but if they make a mistake or we just cross our fingers and hope they will get it right, we don't confront them. We don't go back and say, well, maybe it's me. Maybe I didn't train them correctly. Maybe I didn't share the vision enough times. Maybe I didn't train them correctly on how to answer the phone or talk to clients. A lot of times we will blame them instead of looking internally. And so you do have to make that switch. And so the reason we call it Leader as Coach is it's taken on a new identity. And so if you think about it, this starts with your mindset. If you change your mindset and take more of a coaching mindset or what we call developmental bias, then your behavior’s going to change to match that. So again, if your current mindset is you are the craftsman, you are the technician, you are the only one who can give great advice, where are you going to spend your time? So I said, well, what if your job when you're in this role of leader is to be the coach? Your job is to develop your people.

And so change is hard but that's the first step in making that behavioral change of just let's change our mindset and start thinking like a coach. Then we can start acting like a coach.

Lauren (11:34):
Now I know you've got this kind of foundation for what it means to be a Leader as Coach. Can you share?

Kevin (11:39):
Yeah, that would be great.

Lauren (11:41):
It might be helpful to kind of talk through what does that actually mean for someone, let me see if I can get this just a little bit bigger here for us but can you kind of talk us through this? We'll get even a little bit bigger here for what this means, right? I know you've been using this terminology Leader as Coach, and I think it would be helpful to kind of break it down just a little bit more to kind of understand those components of it.

Kevin (12:14):
It's right in the middle. So that's kind of your starting point. There's so much to leadership and management. We just try to break it down into a couple of foundational behaviors and foundational skills anyone could start working on this year and see some really great results with your people. So like we said, it starts with that mindset and your job is to develop your people. And when you have that behavior, or let's go back, let me go one step back quickly. If you start to think in terms of that mindset, that every interaction with your people, whether a formal meeting or just a bump in the hallway, you have an opportunity to develop your people and help them make progress. And again, from an identity standpoint, identity drives our behaviors. If we can make this switch to thinking of ourselves, almost like a sports coach. It's not a perfect analogy but when you think about what a sports coach is doing, yes, they're sharing the vision and the plan but then when they're practicing or at game time, they're giving constant feedback and talking to performance with people all the time. They're not waiting for an annual review and especially your talented people. And here's a great visual, if you can picture this, I use it sometimes in presentations. I got a picture of Coach K, the Duke coach, Krzyzewski, when he coached the Olympic teams. And there's a picture of him giving LeBron James, some say maybe the best basketball player, instruction, giving him coaching. So even our talented people, if we can picture ourselves as we're coaching our people, that's what we want to do. And so then these three behaviors — conducting regular scheduled one-on-ones, regular feedback, and delegation — are just some behaviors we can start to help our people develop.

Lauren (14:19):
So can you talk a little bit about feedback, right? Because people receive feedback in all different ways. Sometimes it's very defensive, sometimes people are like, I want all the feedback. Give it to me. I want a 360, I want regular feedback. Some people hide behind curtains to avoid feedback. In that coaching mindset, what kind of recommendations do you have maybe in those one-on-ones to be able to help with the feedback piece of it too?

Kevin (14:55):
Yeah, that's perfect. Yeah. So what you're going to do is you are going to tell your people that one of the things I want to do this year is get better at leading and coaching you. And so I want to give you some more feedback. And so we teach a couple of feedback methods and we focus on what we call positive feedback and neutral feedback. The positive feedback is basically you want to catch people doing things and give them clear and specific feedback, what they did, how they interacted with that client.

You want to not just be general, hey, great job. You want to say, hey, that was perfect the way you responded to the client, answered all their questions, got the forms in a timely manner. That's exactly how we taught you positive feedback. We want to correct behaviors. And again, we're focusing on behaviors. If it was something we want changed, we're going to give what we call neutral feedback. Say you're someone who interrupts other people during a meeting or something like that. You want to give it in terms of neutral, saying, hey, Kevin, listen, when we were at the meeting today, every time Lauren spoke, you kept interrupting her. Could you stop doing that? That's all. People don't want to get feedback afraid. It's going to take too long. It's a discussion of Kevin's mindset during the meeting. Here's the behavior that's acceptable. We don't interrupt other people during the meeting. Could you stop doing that?

Lauren (16:30):
So less is more in this situation, just in a warm way but kind of direct but also not kind of going on for five minutes about talking and interrupting.

Kevin (16:45):
And then your other point of some people don't accept feedback. Well, one of the things you'll do during your one-on-ones is have a discussion about how we give feedback and how you want to receive feedback.

Lauren (17:03):
So actually having a conversation and getting that from the start.

Kevin (17:07):
Yeah, you can talk about feedback. Again, you can put it in a way, like you said, different people accept it in different terms. So you do want to customize it to the best you can. But again, if you're focusing on the behavior, here are the behaviors that make people successful at our firm, and here's what I'm seeing. So again, one of the ways to think about feedback is if you can't see it, it's hard to give good specific information on it. Right?

Lauren (17:40):
It's too abstract. It's hard to latch onto. Yeah.

Kevin (17:44):
You don't ever want to say things like you have a bad attitude. If I say you have a bad attitude, what are you going to say?

Lauren (17:53):
No, I don't. Yeah, tell me more. Yeah, I don't understand. Yeah, right.

Kevin (17:58):
But you can say, hey, I noticed you interrupt. Every time someone speaks, we can see it. So you want to let them know that you are giving feedback to improve future performance. That's the whole point of feedback. And you might have to talk to people about what is the best way to accept feedback.

Lauren (18:20):
Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, so just a piece on delegations, I want to make sure we get to skills. Just being mindful of time, just a quick thought today, actually literally minutes before we chatted, I was going back and forth and I saw something I personally try to reinforce with our group, something that needed to be updated, and I know I could have done it and it probably would've taken me just a few minutes. But the simple act of, I think, asking someone else to do it helps to get into the patterns and habits. Really easy to do it yourself. And I think the delegation of the feedback helps people to learn. Do you have any other examples of folks who are in a leadership role that would help encourage delegation, not just here's 10 tasks kind of thing?

Kevin (19:10):
Yeah, well, yeah. So the obvious thing is we are all stretched for time. If we could delegate work, we would be able to save ourselves some time. Here's what we do with our clients. And again, back to the coaching mindset and taking it to the next level. We think of delegation as a way to develop our people. So we think of it as delegate to develop.

Lauren (19:33):
Oh, I like that. That's a positive bend on it.

Kevin (19:37):
So if we need our people to eventually say maybe be in a client-facing role, maybe they're in a paraplanning-like position now. Or what we want to start doing is delegating some work that challenges them and develops them. Maybe the presentation skills or being able to ask and answer questions and those types of things. And so get back to that technician. And you talked about it a little bit. The challenge is we're craftspeople. We like to keep the challenging work. We like to do the hardest work, which is also the most time-consuming to ourselves and delegate the less than fun work, right?

Lauren (20:22):

Kevin (20:23):
But again, if our vision is we want to grow this business beyond ourselves, that technician, that craftsman, if we eventually need other people who can do client work, we need to develop them. And so if we can delegate some of the harder work to them, then you start to become the coach. You start to become the teacher. So some of the topics of your one-on-ones are you're going to work with your direct reports. So how are you going to get better at speaking? What are you going to do first? What are you going to do second? And then as you continue the one-on-ones, you have conversations about the work you delegated to them; how are they progressing? So that's how we kind of tie it together to this development mindset. This coaching mindset is in addition to saving us time, one of the reasons we're going to delegate work is to help develop our people, to get us to where we want to go as a company.

Lauren (21:20):
Yeah, I like that paraplanner example you gave too, because it's that — how do you help to bring folks in? I also see models too, where there's more of a senior advisor and a junior advisor too that's in the room to be able to learn from folks and get into it. Let's get into the skills portion of it, that outer ring too, and listening, questioning all of these pieces. I'd love to hear a little bit more about that.

Kevin (21:45):
And again, these are very fundamental and on the surface, they're easy to understand but they're not easy to always implement.

Lauren (21:57):

Kevin (22:00):
So really no one's really trained us in listening; we’re just expected to know how to do it. One of the things we want to do is get better at what's called active listening, really paying attention and making eye contact, and even listening with understanding and empathy, listening to learn. And especially during the one-on-ones, when they come to us with a problem, we want to make sure we're listening. And here's the cool thing, especially for a financial advisor who is giving advice to direct advice to a client, is they should be good at listening. They should be listening to what a client is really saying, what the client's real concerns are, what the clients are really trying to accomplish. And so it's a skill set we should already have. We probably already have. We just really don't think about it consciously or potentially apply it to our own people.

Lauren (22:57):
You could do a whole workshop just on listening, I think especially for financial advisors. I mean not just within teams but even just with clients. I'm sure you've done those before.

Kevin (23:06):
You want a quick tip? If you find yourself drifting off and not listening, wiggle your toes. It'll bring you back to the present.

Lauren (23:16):
Oh, that is a very good tip. I like that. That's a great takeaway.

Kevin (23:21):
All right, so questioning.

Lauren (23:23):

Kevin (23:25):
If you do just get one thing better this year, asking better questions will help develop your people more than anything. And we have this mantra we teach, ask versus tell. And so what happens when one of your people interrupts you or comes to you with a problem? We get paid a lot of money to be experts. That's our satisfaction. And so we want to solve the problem — solving your people's problems. Don't tell them the answer, don't be the advisor. Ask them questions.

Lauren (24:13):
Help them to collaboratively come to that end solution.

Kevin (24:17):
So one of the ways to develop people, probably one of your needs is you need people who can solve problems. And so we're going to teach them in a sense how to solve problems by turning it back to them saying, well, what's the real challenge here? What is the problem? What have you tried so far?

Lauren (24:38):
Pulling it apart versus just sort of like bam — pack on a solution without actually understanding what's going on there.

Kevin (24:47):
And the challenge is this way, it takes longer short term but like I said, long term then your people stop coming to you with problems. They come to you with solutions. And that's what we're trying to do in this whole idea of developing the one-on-ones; you should be spending most of your time asking questions, not telling, similar with a client. When advisors are working with a client, they should be spending a lot of their time listening and asking questions, not doing a lot of the talking. So again, it's a skill set to pay attention to. And if we can ask more than we tell, we start to really see our people start to grow and develop.

Lauren (25:40):
Okay. And then this last piece of it here, the directing.

Kevin (25:44):
Directing is being very clear about what you expect from people. It turns out we're really not that good at it. We think we're very clear because we're having these conversations in our head all the time, and we think if we tell our people once they understand. And so when we say directing, really think about clarity. Does my person, do my direct reports really understand what is expected from them, expect in terms of timing, quality, quantity. Have we really laid it out? And I mean, this is a really simple problem but we probably hear it a lot, and you'll say to one of your direct reports, hey, I need you to do this right away. Send this client this or get this signature or I need it done right away.

Lauren (26:47):

Kevin (26:50):
Right away means something to you but it means something different to me. Well, right away it means, well, as soon as I'm done with all my other stuff, I'll get to that, boss.

Lauren (26:58):

Kevin (26:59):
So when we say directing and being clear, say, look, I need this to the client by 9 a.m. tomorrow. Do you understand? Can you make that happen? Versus again, I mean it's an oversimplification but we do it all day long.

Lauren (27:14):

Kevin (27:15):
Get this to me first. Can you get this to me first thing in the morning? Well, what's the first thing in the morning for you versus first thing for me?.

Lauren (27:22):
That's right. Yep.

Kevin (27:24):
So if we can be very clear and specific, that's what we're talking about in directing — we really have to be better at our clarity.

Lauren (27:32):
Yep. Oh, this is good. I also enjoy, as you've been talking about this, there's connections you can make between all of the rings. How directing can impact one-on-ones and the feedback and all these things. So you can see how it all is at the center point of the coaching mindset. I appreciate you talking through this and we are about at the end here. I feel like time’s been drifting away because I think, like I said, when we started, I think we could have multiple sessions on these topics but I really appreciate you getting to some of those nuggets and what does it really mean for that coaching mindset at large. Are there any other kinds of final tips you think would be helpful to share or resources for folks who do want to lean into more of that coaching mindset? I mean, maybe it's for an advisor who’s got a small team, or maybe it's for a larger firm that has multiple managers or even managers of managers, any other kind of maybe books or tips or resources even you all have?

Kevin (28:36):
Yeah. So one of the ways to think about this is to think of leadership as this Leader as Coach, as a system or a process you can teach other people in your company. It's almost like a coaching culture. So as your firm does grow and you have other people with direct reports, here's the way we give feedback here. Here's the way we conduct one-on-ones here. Here's the way we ask questions. Here's even maybe a list of some of the best questions that work during one-on-ones. So one of the ways to get it to work for you is to start thinking about this. Back to the E-Myth. As a processor system, leadership at our company is a system. We have it documented and we can teach others how to do it. So I think a great way to think about it is to help your firm grow.

Lauren (29:32):
Yeah, I love that because it's not just about shaping the systems but that shapes the culture. So the systems are helping to shape the culture, which helps to also just shape the scalability of the culture to be able to keep that intact of that leadership first and helping each other. Because I think a lot of the methodologies you shared, they're not the, I'm going to excel by bringing other people down. They're the more we support helps to grow collectively, which also impacts the culture at large too. So fun. Well, we'll make sure to include links to your website and resources as well. I'm sure folks will be interested to learn more. Like I said, I feel like we could talk about this for quite some time but some really great takeaways I really appreciate. That chart was really helpful and I think it really helps to illustrate that coaching mindset. Thank you again.

Thank you, Lauren.

Using a Coach Mindset to Unlock Your Full Leadership Potential

Discover how Kevin Poland helps business owners in the financial advisory space use a coach mindset to unlock their full leadership potential.
Company Culture & Values
April 18, 2024

We talked with Bob about:

  • His personal and professional experiences with generosity
  • What generosity and collaboration mean and how they impact your team
  • Real tips that can improve your company culture overnight
  • How to authentically communicate what your culture looks and feels like

About Bob DePasquale

Bob DePasquale, aka “The Generosity Guy,” is a broadcaster turned financial planner and passionate advocate for the power of generosity in building strong company cultures. He advocates for the implementation of programs and systems that empower individuals to use their skills and talents for the collective good. Bob believes fulfillment comes from contributing meaningfully to a shared cause. With his commitment to promoting generosity, he inspires individuals and organizations to unleash their full potential and create a ripple effect that positively impacts the world. 


Featured Resources & Shoutouts

Enjoyed this interview? You'll love these:

Full Audio Transcript

Lauren (00:05):

Thanks for being here.

Bob (00:07):

Glad to, Lauren. How are you today?

Lauren (00:09):

Yeah, I'm good. It's really fun. I know we chatted before, and of course LinkedIn is this awesome place, so it's been fun to chat with you there. And I think I'm not just here about your passion with this idea of generosity — we'll get into that more — but I really appreciate all the content you put out. You're not just kind of preaching to the choir but you're hoping to educate people about what it actually means to be generous, and how that impacts company culture in your day to day. And we'll get into more of that. But just for folks who aren't familiar, I'll let you do an intro. I mean, you are a keynote speaker. You talk a lot on this topic, give a variety of presentations. I know you've got a rich experience in financial services and it's more of your day to day. But before we get into it, I don't want to steal away your thunder but why don't you share a little bit of background about yourself, and then I’d also love to hear more about how it's taken a bend to be a bit more on the generosity focus. So over to you.

Bob (01:09):

Sure. Thanks for giving me the floor. I'm going to try something new on you and the guests because someone asked me on LinkedIn actually the other day, how we connected, and they said, so what do you do with your life? The way they worded the question was kind of intense. I mean, not insulting by any means, but I was like, oh, I never really heard it proposed that way, if you will. And I said, all right, well, I had a minute to think about it because it wasn't a live conversation. It was on LinkedIn. So how am I going to respond to this? So I came up with this: I'm a broadcaster by education, I'm a financial planner by profession but I am a generosity guy or The Generosity Guy by passion. And so when you talk about the things I do, and I appreciate the compliment, by the way, with the actionable items on the content, because I believe that's really, really important with what I'm doing, and maybe I'm biased but I would argue the most important content producers and people thought leaders in the space these days are the ones who are doing good things and empowering people to use their gifts and skills for good in the world.

And that's what I believe part of my mission is. So I think it's imperative that I give people steps and things they can do to actually implement, because otherwise, if it's just thoughts and ideas and dreams, it'll never get implemented. In fact, I was just writing content about this today. I had a gentleman by the name of Brian Kluth on my podcast, and he calls himself The Generosity Mobilizer.

Lauren (02:35):

Oh my goodness. So you share that parallel. Yes. Tell me more.

Bob (02:39):

Yeah, and he's all about mobilizing. I mean, actually doing it, not just talking about it. So that's what I do on a daily basis. Now, like I said, I am a financial planner by profession. I own an RIA firm but I think the main reason why I do my work is so people can be as generous as possible. And I don't just mean with their money, I mean with their lifestyle and mindset.

Lauren (03:00):

I love that. When you think about generosity, you do sometimes think about what you are giving away from a charity perspective or what have you. But let's talk more about the mindset thing and how did you come into this? Was it just something you kind of saw as a part of your own experience with work? Is it something you kind of started to coach others with? How did you — I don't know if I should even use the word — stumble into it, but yeah, tell me more.

Bob (03:23):

Yeah, stumble is probably the right word. So I'm going to confess here. Live recording with Lauren. Thank you for asking the question. By nature, I'm not an extremely caring and generous person. I'm a spoiled only child who my parents like to say they gave up after having one child. I think my dad wanted five, and my mom said, oh no when I was like, about a year old.

Lauren (03:54):

Maybe. It is a lot.

Bob (03:57):

And I didn't get any easier. Was I a bad kid? No. But I had a lot of opinions and expressions I needed to make. And so I've grown up most of my life really feeling this need to express myself. And I think that's why I studied broadcasting, because I thought that was the way I was going to do that. And so you asked about how I came upon generosity, and it really was a life shift, and I'm not going to be one of these people who says, I went through one specific event and it completely changed my world. I can tell you a story, I will, I'm sure I'll share it here in just a moment about how generosity changed my life but it's really been a lifelong journey. It's not something that a switch just flipped and I said, you know what? I'm going to talk about generosity. It's been a lifelong shift, really. It's been a change over time in my life mindset.

Lauren (04:52):

Okay, so let's talk about how it goes in company culture, right? Because I think sometimes it's easy to check the boxes of like, well, we have this benefit. We've got 401(k) benefits, and we've got these holiday days off. And by the way, we've got a great kitchen stacked with tons of food and coffee and donuts and everything you'd want but it doesn't necessarily impact the heart to heart stuff. And how you helped empower people. And I was alluding earlier about some of the content you're creating — you're giving the real stuff away, it's not just about other on the wall things or even values on the wall, why those are important but how do you live that out, right? You've given examples before your time and helping to coach people and even the language you're using. Can you share a little bit more about that and how do you actually live that out, and how does generosity unfold within the workplace, if you will? So I'd love to hear a little bit more about some of those examples you often share.

Bob (05:49):

Sure. I'm one of those people who's attracted to a good story, and I think a lot of people, in fact, I think storytelling is probably the most powerful form of communication we have in the world but I'm one of those people who I used to do business with organizations or at least consider doing business if I needed their services if I felt they were a giving, generous organization. And when I realized about a decade ago now — it's hard to believe it's been that long — but about a decade ago, my wife and I had an opportunity to do some more traveling and some flexibility in our schedule, maybe some more in the budget to be able to do this. And I started looking into needing to do research on other things like hotels and travel and eating out more and all these different things, luxuries we have in today's world. And I was drawn to organizations that said they were giving back. And then I realized just about all of them said they gave back in one fashion or another. And the example I have is, have you ever flown Delta before? Have you been on a Delta flight?

Lauren (06:57):

Yes, yes.

Bob (06:58):

Okay. Delta happens to be a great airline for my wife and I because we live in South Florida and she's from Michigan, and that's the easiest for us to fly through Detroit and connect to the small town where her mom still lives. And so we fly Delta a lot. I noticed in the jetway to get on the plane for Delta flights they're all the same ads. One of them is a picture of people, presumably, I guess you would consider them to be Delta employees but they're volunteering with an organization called Habitat for Humanity. Some people may be familiar with them. Their mission is essentially to make sure just about everyone on the planet has adequate housing. And although they've made quite a dent in that over the years, it's still quite an issue in many places in the world. In fact, the company I used to work for at one point, I'm not sure if they still are, but they were the world's largest donor and financial partner with that organization. So I actually went on some trips myself. So I knew the experience with Habitat for Humanity and the program called the Global Village, where you travel to another country on a mission and you build a home regardless of your skills; believe me, I have no construction skills. I can barely use a screwdriver.

Lauren (08:10):

So they take you how you are ready to help.

Bob (08:15):

Get people involved. And so this is not my criticism of Delta by any means but I got the feeling just in talking with a couple people and then also looking at the ads that was kind of checking the box. They thought, well, we need to show the consumer like Bob, who's going to be flying us, that we care about the world and that will ultimately be good for business. I don't think they have been doing it for the past decade since I noticed it. I noticed it that day. And it's probably the same picture. Here we are 10 years later.

They're doing it, and I'm sure it's helping business one way or another, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. But I got the feeling it was just checking a box to use the language you mentioned a little bit earlier. And I don't believe that's actually how you build a culture of generosity in your organization. That may be a marketing tactic or a branding skill but it's not the way that you truly get people involved. Because generosity, in my opinion, Lauren, is not an event. Generosity is a mindset. Generosity is something built over time. I mentioned Brian Kluth a couple minutes ago when I was talking, and he also said generosity must be trained. It's not something you just do. There's a natural inclination for humans, as scientifically proven, to support others but that doesn't mean you'll actually take action.

And so I strongly, strongly believe the best leaders and the best organizations have programs and systems and language — you mentioned that earlier — in place that empower and encourage their employees to do their best work and use our gifts and skills to contribute to the cause of the company, which is a cause that's bigger than just themselves. And this is in stark contrast to many organizations, specifically sales-heavy organizations, that give incentives to their employees to win a contest or take down the person in the cubicle next to them, to come in first for the quarter or the year and do things to get recognized as opposed to doing things to get the company or the mission or the purpose and the cause of what they do recognized, and I always say this, instead of trying to work toward being recognized, what if you work toward making an impact with the gifts and skills you have? And that's the reason why you were hired, right?

Lauren (10:37):

That's right. Yep.

Bob (10:40):

And the parallel in my financial practice and working in that world is that I've counseled thousands of business owners over the years. And without fail, I could probably count on one hand the amount of them who really only cared about the bottom line of their business. The ones who were the most generous and the most caring of their employees were the most successful and the most fulfilled because their culture was enjoyable. They enjoyed their work, they retained the top talent. People didn't want to leave. And it wasn't just because of the donuts in the break room, like you said.

Lauren (11:15):

That's right. That's right. Yes.

Bob (11:16):

And customers are really loyal, and maybe I'm speaking out of both sides of my face. I've been a loyal customer of Delta, regardless of my criticism I just gave. But for the most part, people want to know and want to see that what you're doing is truthful and that there's meaning behind it. And I believe truly and deeply in my heart that the most loyal customers are attracted to generous organizations.

Lauren (11:41):

I love that. I think that's so true. And it's something you can't, I don't know, it's not putting any lipstick on a pig sort of thing, right? It's real. It's the real thing. One model I saw recently was this idea of culture champions. They're the people you can train to this stuff but part of it is also some people just are embodying it, and they help to reinforce either, like you mentioned earlier, the language or the support or the time or what have you, as kind of a methodology, especially for large organizations, to be able to have those culture champions to help keep that culture alive and help it waterfall down. Are there other things you're seeing that really help to hold culture over time? Because over time, there's people who leave and come and you grow, especially businesses that are focused on growth. How do you maintain that culture so it isn't frail, it doesn't kind of unravel over time? I love to hear more on that side of things too.

Bob (12:50):

Well, I'll give you an example from my wife who's actually a kindergarten teacher and kids are geniuses on their own. I think there's something to be said for innocence and connection with other people. And so my wife tells this story — I had written about this in my book — she talked about having a class one year that was terribly misbehaved, and this is a few years into her teaching career. She's in her, I believe it's her 17th year now, so she's got way more experience but this was deep enough into her career where she didn't; it wasn't like an imposter syndrome type of thing. I mean, she was like, there is something wrong with this class. It's not me being a lousy teacher.

And every industry, including the financial industry, and anyone out there who's listening, I'm sure if you have a designation or some kind of professional degree, there's some kind of continuing education you need to do. So my wife tells a story about her and her aide going to one of those professional continuing education types of courses to get the credits they need. And it was one of those things where they're like, well, I don't know if I really want to go here. I'm just going to go to get the credits. I have to.

Lauren (14:00):


Bob (14:01):

Little did they know at that session, they learned a classroom-changing for the rest of the year technique that I believe, and I have seen worked tremendously in organizations, whether it's a Fortune 100 company or a kindergarten classroom. And that is simply this: catch people in the act of doing something good. And so when you talk about language and processes, I can give you a million programs and systems for goal setting, how to run an effective meeting, how to motivate salespeople…

Lauren (14:36):

All of it.

Bob (14:37):

Yes, I can show you all that stuff but the simple act of making it a habit of catching people in the act of doing something effective when they're around other people is such a powerful force. And so what my wife did was she immediately got back to the classroom after that. It was during break. It was actually during the holiday break they went to this continuing education. They came back in January and immediately she told herself, she made a rule. I have to correct children or stop them from doing things that are wrong, whether that's speaking out of turn or doing something wrong or being mean to your classmate, whatever, I have to do that. But no matter how many times I catch them in the act of doing something wrong, I'm going to catch them in the act of doing three times as many good things as wrong things they've done.

Lauren (15:29):

So positive. It's so true. Yeah. I love that, and I think also what you said too is to give them praise in front of others. And so praising in public I think is something really, really key too, to be able to reinforce that.

Bob (15:45):

Yep. Great.

Lauren (15:46):

You'd be surprised what a big difference that makes.

Bob (15:48):

You'd be absolutely surprised. I mean, yeah, sure. Someone asked me this the other day, actually, Lauren, I had to bring this up because this one hit me hard. They asked the other day, she said, what has a boss done? Or what can a boss do that's ineffective and effective for making someone feel valued? And it reminded me that I was put in this situation of, well, more than a handful of times in my previous role as I was given gifts and awards and recognition for specific things I did. And how many times did one of my superiors come up to me and ask me how much I liked the trip or the television or the whatever.

Lauren (16:33):

Yeah, the stock? The thing?

Bob (16:36):

Yeah. I didn't realize it at the time. I was nice. I thought it was a nice question. It wasn't mean or anything, so I don't want to overblow it. But what I realized yesterday, or was it yesterday, a couple of days ago when someone said this to me, I realized it was their own way of validating their own actions. That person wanted to know I like the gift they gave me. And you don't want that of your boss.

Lauren (17:02):

That's not the purpose of it, boss. Yeah.

Bob (17:03):

No, you don't want your employees to think, man, I have to tell them, what was I supposed to say? No, the trip was terrible and don't ever give me another, I mean, come on. You can't do that. No, it's got to be consistent. And you would be absolutely surprised how much more important, simple, subtle, hey, great job. I'm glad you did that. That's it. Do that three times. As many times as you tell them you probably should have done this instead. I bet you within just a couple weeks, the culture of your organization will turn around.

Lauren (17:35):

So powerful. Okay, so I think we could talk for a really long time having really fun with this. I'm going to slide in one more question here if I can. So one of the challenges, arguably the biggest challenge right now in financial services is talent, right? Attracting talent, especially in the wealth management world, finding really good talent that's a company culture fit. We've had clients we've worked with that are like, okay, we've hired executive search firms, we've done this and that. It's not working. And so part of it is how do you showcase that culture outright, externally? But it's a tricky balance as you were alluding to earlier. It's not just a check in the box. It's not just this and that. Any thoughts on this idea of authentic marketing and getting the message out there of being generous, of having that? How do you take that internal company culture that's like, yeah, if it is, yeah, authentically putting it out there to be able to attract, that's going to help to fuel that company culture?

Bob (18:45):

Well, if you're specifically in a recruiting type of role, I think it's a little bit different than maybe the company's branding aspects. And I can speak to both briefly if you are truly in that recruiting role. Surprisingly, I think it's less about the actions you take and more about the questions you ask potential people. So instead of saying, hey, if you do something good at our job, you're going to get a nice pat on the back instead of a bonus. I mean, that's not how to address it. But if you ask questions like, well, what's important to you? Or what's your most valuable thing in a relationship with a colleague you can find? Or how do you accept praise? Those types of things are great questions, and it almost doesn't even matter the answer unless they tell you something off the wall that totally disqualifies them.

But what it does is it gets them thinking and making them realize these are things you actually care about. So that's for the person specifically in a recruiting role or a leader. If you're trying to hire your first VA or you're on your 75th advisor, ask good questions. And then for the company in a branding aspect, I think the number one thing you have to do is talk about it. And what I mean by that is, once again, not specifically, hey, today we celebrated our employee of the month. That's good. Do that. And if you can work that into your marketing and you think that's worth it in the budget, tremendous. Put that stuff in your content. But when I say talk about it, I mean talk about the things you see happening, relationship-wise in your business. For example, one of the big things I learned in my previous role, my employer, is that it made a lot more sense for me to work together with the people, even though a lot of times I was pitted against them in sales contests and leaderboards, and we were kind of all fighting for our own thing.

But the more I collaborated with them, the better. So when you have language on your website or in a social media post for example, that says, let's say you're an investment organization and you have a CFA, or you have a couple of different investment analysts on your staff, instead of having you say, well, we're going to bring on Bill to talk about commodities, or whatever it is, you might say something like this. You might say, well, in our next webinar we're going to highlight an article that was written by Bill and Jenny, who have been collaborating on this project for the past six months. And then when you bring them on the show, when you bring them on or you write about it, wherever it is, you just display that collaboration between the two of them.

Lauren (21:31):

Yes, yes. It's the positioning and the messaging of that too.

Bob (21:35):

Absolutely key.

Lauren (21:36):

Oh my gosh, this is so fun. Like I said, I think we could go on for a long time, and I appreciate the time and also the thought you give to this. Sometimes I think there's some folks who, for lack of better words, generosity might come easy, and for others it might not. But I really appreciate you've taken the time to also think about what that means and break it down for all different audiences to kind of understand how you can be more generous. How can you create that throughout your organization and reinforce it as folks grow? So thank you again for your time.

Bob (22:11):

Oh, absolutely. You're welcome. I wish people a generous day and the simplest things. It's all about simplicity and just making people feel like they're capable of contributing to something great.

Lauren (22:22):

So well said. Thank you.

How To Develop and Infuse Generosity Into Your Company Culture

Explore how Bob DePasquale sparks transformative change through the power of generosity, inspiring people to unleash their full potential to impact the world.
O&A News
April 12, 2024

We are thrilled to share the exciting news of Hannah Hogencamp’s promotion to project manager.

Hannah’s dedication to our clients and team shines through her work every day. Her knack for fostering relationships and implementing effective systems has been instrumental in achieving consistently improved outcomes. In her new role, Hannah will continue to grow in a variety of responsibilities essential for project success, focused on client satisfaction.

Beyond her professional achievements, Hannah carries with her a passion for outdoor adventure, particularly her love for snowboarding. Her spirit of adventure undoubtedly infuses her work with creativity and enthusiasm.

Congratulations, Hannah — the journey ahead looks exhilarating and we’re excited to see your continued success!

Announcing Hannah's New Role

We are thrilled to announce that Hannah Hogencamp is taking on a new role as project manager.