Debbie Grose, CFP®, Chief Operating Officer of Lake Tahoe Wealth Management, is passionate about the financial planning profession, and even more passionate about helping the NexGen community to grow. Over the course of her career, she’s been incredibly involved both with her local FPA chapter, and with various FPA programs including NexGen and Residency.

She knew early on in her career that she wanted to do something more than just help clients as a financial planner. Debbie looked back on her own experience as a new planner, and felt that she had truly stumbled into financial planning – and had wished it hadn’t been that way. That’s why a large part of Debbie’s career has been focused on mentorship. She’s a passionate mentor for new advisors, and specifically for women in the profession.

In addition to being heavily involved within the profession, Debbie is also passionate about bringing financial planning to the masses. At her previous firm, she helped to develop one of the first-ever subscription financial planning services on the market.

Debbie pushed to expand her firm’s ability to serve a broader client base, and as she worked to create this new service model and bring additional ideas to the table, she learned more about the ability to grow and change as a practice. She learned what to consider when making big decisions about her firm’s service model, and eventually transitioned to be the firm’s sole owner.

Now, Debbie works as the COO of Lake Tahoe Wealth Management, the firm she chose to merge with a while into ownership. Her original succession planning process at her previous firm, Lighthouse Financial, helped to guide her through the merger with Lake Tahoe Wealth Management.

Debbie is now a thought-provoking, supportive force within the financial planning community. This episode is fantastic for firm owners and new planners alike who are interested in mentorship, succession planning, and growing a firm.

 

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to start organic conversations around succession
  • How women can pursue ownership roles within their firm
  • Why succession is all about relationships
  • How to be proactively interested in succession planning
  • The importance of serving clients from every generation
  • The challenge that comes with developing new service models within a practice
  • How to take constructive criticism and grow
  • Why you can’t always make changes for efficiency or ease – and how new planners can learn to refocus on every aspect of the firm when presenting new ideas (including compliance, etc.)
  • How to bring your ideas to the table and take ownership, while still being respectful of your firm’s owners
  • How succession planning sometimes needs to be flexible to be successful
  • Why communication is key

 

FPA: The Succession Challenge 2018

 

Show Transcript

Episode Transcript


Alexandria:         So Debbie, thank you so much for joining the podcast today. I am extremely excited to have you on and to just be sharing your story and your experience with us today.

Debbie:                Thank you Alexandria, I am very excited to be here, thanks for having me.

Alexandria:         So, I’m going to just get right into it, because I know you’re very interesting story myself, but I want the listeners to get a little bit more of a back story about who is Debbie, and maybe share a little bit about your transition from a different career to the financial planning profession?

Debbie:                Sure. So, I’ll start at the very beginning, which was when I graduated from high school, and I really didn’t have a plan. I hadn’t prepared to go to college, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and all I knew is that I didn’t want to join the real world yet, so college seemed to be the best option. I bounced around with majors, went from marketing to finance, really didn’t like the sales environment of finance, and quickly switched to accounting because I liked the numbers and the analysis there.

Debbie:                I graduated from Sac State, started working in local government, and as a part-time accounts table clerk. One thing lead to another, within a couple of years I was the assistant finance director for that city, and I quickly realized that was not going to be my career, and I needed to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up, and what I really wanted to be, and at the time I was making good money, I had great benefits, and I thought, “I’ll figure it out later.”

Debbie:                So, life unfolded, a few years went by, I got married, I had my first child then was pregnant with my second and I was offered the position of being the finance director. I knew at that point I needed to figure out what I was going to do, but I certainly didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I thought, “well, I’m going to figure it out while I go on maternity leave.” And, just before I went to maternity leave I was offered that position as the finance director. I said, “no thank you. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Debbie:                And so, I got a new boss while I was away on maternity leave, and when I came back it was real clear that one of us needed to go, it wasn’t going to work out. So, I had proper and adequate motivation to figure out what I really wanted to do, and as I started figuring that out somebody had said, “hey Debbie, you should think about becoming a CFP, a certified financial planner.” And I was like, “a what?” And they said, “yeah, it’s somebody who helps people with their personal finances and figure out stuff, and I think you’d be real great at it, you should take a look.”

Debbie:                So, of course I went home and I Googled the term. I figured out what does a certified financial planner do, and I decided that is exactly what I want to do. I fell in love the notion of just helping people with their finances, or personal finance. At the city, I ran the day-to-day operations of the finance department which included the payroll department. So, I helped people with questions about the 457, and about the fine benefit plan, which here in California we have CalPERS, and so I was very familiar with how that worked, taking a look at the Flex 125 plan, some of the other tax advantage options.

Debbie:                And so, all of that felt very comfortable. I really, really enjoyed learning about those, how to be efficient, how to make the most of it. So, when I discovered this financial planning profession I was like, “well, I feel like I’ve kind of been doing that for a lot of the time.” And so, I knew that was what I wanted to do, so I separated from the city of Woodland, went back to school, earned the certificate in personal financial planning.

Debbie:                And then, I started going to my local FPA chapter meetings, and that’s where I met my now retired partner, Jim Johnson. He came up to me and made me feel very welcome, we got to talking, one thing led to another and I was offered an internship to work with him at Lighthouse Financial Planning. I did that for 200 hours. At the end of that he offered me a part-time position, the only problem was that I lived about 60 miles from where his office was, so we figured out how to work around that. I think we were very early adopters of tele-commuting, and doing virtual work. One thing lead to another, in 2009 I became his partner. I bought into the practice, and in 2014 I purchased the rest of the practice from him.

Alexandria:         So, that was a very fascinating story Debbie, how you changed from one career, not really knowing where to go and then finding financial planning, sounds like, by Googling it. A little back story from myself, I actually found out about financial planning because I read a newspaper article that Debbie published, and so that was how I entered into the profession. It’s always very unique to see how people get introduced into the profession, and it’s often times that little nudge that you get from the internet, a newspaper, or just someone introducing you and that exposure. One thing I’d like-

Debbie:                Alexandria, I did never know that. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I didn’t know about that, that’s pretty cool.

Alexandria:         Yeah, you were like the first person. I was like, “wow.” And, when I actually got to meet you in person, I was like “this is the person I read the article from.” So, it was a good moment, and so I love that I get to interview you now, and really let other people find out and meet you too.

Debbie:                Awesome. That’s awesome.

Alexandria:         So, one thing that I want to take us back to was, you started at Lighthouse Financial with Jim Johnson, and you were there for a couple years. What made you first think of maybe I want to be a partner? I know a lot of people get into the profession, and they go through different career paths, but not always are people interested in the partnership route. What was it that maybe turned your gears of even starting to be interested in that, or having that motivation to go, “yeah, I can do that too?”

Debbie:                I think that I just didn’t know what I was getting in to.

Alexandria:         Yeah.

Debbie:                I certainly at that point, didn’t understand the breadth of skills and what it takes to run a business, and be mindful of all the things you need to be mindful of to have an independent advisory firm. But that said, I knew I had confidence that I could figure it out, and what was most appealing to me at that time was, the journey that led me to learning about the financial planning world, the CFP certification, it left me with, well, why didn’t I know about that profession right out of … In high school. Why didn’t I know that was a career possibility, and I was a little bit irritated that I had to discover it by just tripping into it, and I thought, “that doesn’t serve the public well. It certainly doesn’t serve the profession well.”

Debbie:                And so, I had this notion that I wanted to make a contribution, that I wanted to do something to help the profession, and I wanted to do something more than just help my clients, and to me that equated to being more in charge of my career and what I was going to do. And, the best way in my assessment to do that, was to have my own firm that I would make decisions, and go in a direction that I thought would be helpful towards accomplishing that. So, that was my primary drive.

Alexandria:         Yeah, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have toggled with this idea of, “how do I help the masses?” And it’s started this wave of more people wanting to get in and start their own firm so that way they can help more of the masses, and one of the things that pop in my head with that process, is sometimes people go, “well, how do I do that?” And, one of the things is, is if you’re working at a firm like you were, of how do you maybe transition a partner that is working at the firm to go, “hey let’s try something new,” or, “let’s divert a little bit to the current structure of how we get clients or who we help.” What would you say that you and your partner worked out to decide let’s change the trajectory of the firm so that way you could start helping the masses by making you more of a partner? If that makes sense.

Debbie:                Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, and actually that was … And, it is the thing that made me want to be an owner, and so that thing what it was, when I first started working at Lighthouse Financial Planning, early on I went to the owner, Jim Johnson and said, “hey Jim, I really like what I do, and I love the work we do for our clients, and no offense but they’re all older people, and they’re retired, and they’ve accumulated their wealth, and we’re helping them manage and not outlive it.” But, at the time, I was in my 30s, and I said, “none of my friends … I couldn’t even be a client of this firm.”

Debbie:                It was a fee-only firm, so we charged for assets under management, and it was the 1% with the minimum, and I wouldn’t have been eligible for a client. None of my friends at the time would have been eligible to be clients, and I just saw that as a problem, and I went to Jim and I said, “hey, there’s a problem because I need planning, my friends all need planning, the people that I went to school with, they all need planning, and there’s no way for us to work with them right now.” And he said, “yeah, you’re right Debbie. go and figure it out, and come back to me.”

Alexandria:         Boom!

Debbie:                It was great because he saw the problem and he just gave the freedom to figure it out, and what I did was, I went back and I developed what we have. It’s called the Wealth Accumulator Program. I think it was one of the earliest subscription-based programs where I did the math, and I did all the analysis, what are the typical things I need, and my friends need? 401k allocation, should we buy a house, should we not? Do we have any student loan stuff? What’s our cashflow look like? Something about education planning.

Debbie:                And, I put it together in a little tidy package, and figured out the minimum fee, and if we charged $125 a month for that service it was doable, and that’s something I would’ve paid. I likened it to a gym membership, or a housekeeper. I know those analogies have all been made all over the place in our profession now, but Jim allowed me to do that, and I felt real good about that, and it was that little taste of making that contribution to be able to help a segment that at the time was woefully underserved. It just really gave me that taste for having the creativity, and the authority to create an implement, something like that.

Alexandria:         It sounds like, to help not only what the process of you becoming a partner, but you were able to basically build out this structure, wealth accumulator to help you build clients of your own, and really build that confidence in you being a newer planner, and being able to help the masses whilst still Jim kept his clients, and not only was it like, “this is great.” But, it was profitable for the business. What firm owner, or partner wouldn’t be like, “yeah, let’s do this?”

Alexandria:         I am always more surprised because it’s maybe harder for a newer, or younger planner to maybe come up with a model like that, to maybe even pitch it to a partner. But, I definitely see that as a way of people engaging in the business succession process. How would you say that it … Maybe some of the difficulties with doing that, of totally starting a new process and system, and model for a partner who’s maybe been doing it for a really long time?

Debbie:                Yeah. Alexandria, you’re exactly right. Just to touch on your observation, that it did give me a way to work with people that I felt comfortable with. You relate to people a little bit better when they’re your age, or your age group, than it is to relate to somebody who’s in an older, or even younger generation. And so, the ability to work with my age group was super helpful in building my confidence, not only because I was more comfortable with those people, but I was much more familiar with the issues, with the planning issues there, which then gave me confidence to just really develop my skills above and beyond outside of things that I was less comfortable with.

Debbie:                And so, I was super fortunate in that Jim was very open. He was receptive. I felt like he listened to me any time I would express some frustration about the way things were, whether it be with the profession, with the wealth accumulator plan, or within the company. “Hey, this process isn’t working right, and here’s how it feels for me and maybe we could do something to make it a little bit better,” or, “here’s where I see the problem is, can we address this?”

Debbie:                So, I always approached him with, “hey there’s a problem, here’s how I see it and here’s what I think might help.” I think he appreciated that I not only came to him with a problem, but tried to offer a solution, whether that was the solution that ended up being implemented or not, that’s different, but at least there was some thought about how to make it better. And so, I was fortunate in that, and I think that for owners now, that’s real important. For current owners to be receptive to feedback from new eyes in the business, or new team members coming to work for you to be open and receptive.

Debbie:                Now, it’s very likely in a lot of situations things are set up the way they are for a good reason, and not everything’s going to be changed, certainly a lot of things didn’t change when I had some information to provide to Jim, at that time a lot of things stayed as they were, and it was for a good reason. In hindsight as I learn more, especially in the realm of compliance and all the rules that we are subject to, sometimes you can’t make changes for the sake of efficiency, and ease because you have to dot I’s and cross T’s, and that’s just the way that has to go.

Alexandria:         So, I want to fast forward a little bit to talk about that transition with Jim. Was it a time where it’s like, it happened over years? Was he ready retire, so it was just a quick, “all right, I’m taking over on X date.” How did that look from your perspective of being able to switch onto partner level, and maybe some of the hiccups that came up with doing that as well?

Debbie:                Yeah, that’s a really great question, and it’s very nuanced. So, it wasn’t overnight. I first became a partner in Lighthouse Financial Planning in 2009, and it was the end of 2014 that I became the sole-owner, so that was about a five year period. At the beginning Jim and I had a lot of conversation about ownership, how the ownership would transfer. We had initially talked about 10% a year for ten years, and it didn’t necessarily go down that way, so we had to adjust due to a lot of things that were going on, just life. We were a small RIA, and you have the best of intentions of, you’re going to transfer ownership, one tenth this year. There’s a lot that goes into that in terms of the accounting, the legal, the paperwork, and sometimes we’d be off to a great start for the year and next thing you know it’s already the end of November and we hadn’t done any of the paperwork.

Debbie:                So, we just kept an open dialogue about how that transfer would happen, and we ended up doing it in three major chunks. I think that worked out well for both of us. That’s the business, or the legal side. As far as with the clients though, right from the get go Jim was great about telling the clients, “hey, we do a lot of work for you that’s a lot around retirement planning, and being able to retire someday. Well, I’m also doing my retirement planning and Debbie has become a partner. She’s much younger obviously, there are 20 years between us in age.”

Debbie:                And, he would point out that I was his succession plan, and it just gradually and naturally happened, that when that conversation happened with clients that I started to become more involved in the client meetings, and I started to become more involved in the communication to the clients. At the time we were doing quarterly reports, and we’d have a quarterly address, and sometimes I’d write it. Jim would mostly write it, and then we would both sign it.

Debbie:                So, that process started about five years before the actual transfer happened, and there was just a lot of conversation. Jim and I would have a lot of conversation about what was working, what wasn’t working well. We had a really good line of communication at the heart of it. He was a wonderful mentor, he was very open with me. Of course, it wasn’t all roses and sunshine, we certainly did have our moments where we got into a spirited debate, or had a lively discussion about things, but at the base of our professional relationship was a friendship, and the ability to communicate, and at the very foundation was doing the right thing for the clients, and keeping them in the forefront, and how they would respond, and how they would feel, and how much change was too much, and how much was too quick. Those foundation cornerstones at the heart of what we were trying to do really kept us grounded, and kept us from getting sideways when we could’ve easily gotten off track.

Alexandria:         What I really liked about what you said just now, was that you and Jim had the friendship part, and it’s so weird to think about this, but we’re all humans, and we’re going through … We work in this profession, and people go through business succession, and I think people forget that part sometimes, that it’s very business … A business thought process rather than like, “hey, this person is retiring, this person is purchasing a business.” And after that it’s like hey, we still have a relationship here. We can still be friends, and be very cordial, and share how we feel about the process, and still have open discussion about it. Yes there’s that legal side, and how it should work, but there’s still that part of us that we can really still be very open about the process.

Alexandria:         One thing you pointed out is that it wasn’t all roses and sunshine, and that’s one thing that I don’t think gets discussed too often in the business succession process. What would you say is something that would be like a, “hey, I wish we would’ve done something a little differently to help with the process.” Or, something that could’ve helped as a resource to maybe make it a little bit more smoother, for people that are out there transitioning now, but also to help you in your future transitions?

Debbie:                I think I would answer it this way, and say that more information is better, and hindsight provides a much clearer view on how things could’ve been structured maybe from a tax perspective, or this provision about clients sticking around could’ve been tweaked a little bit. So, the technicalities of the transition, those would’ve all been nice to just be more efficient, maybe that’s the financial planner in me, and looking back and saying, “oh, we weren’t very efficient in the tax arena because of that, or the other thing.” And, it would’ve been more efficient for him, more efficient for me, and we could’ve done something different.

Debbie:                So, those are really the only things that I would suggest that I would’ve done differently. As far as the friendship, you know Alexandria, I was thinking about this topic, and the purchase of Lighthouse Financial Planning, and look, we were a small RIA, and we had about 50 million of assets under management, that’s public information, you could find that on the ADV, so I’m not saying anything that will probably need to be edited out. But anyways, we’re a small RIA, and it was between two people who had their values, and their professional goals aligned. So, we were able to go back and touch base on that, and it helped us.

Debbie:                I wouldn’t have changed anything about the transition with the clients, or how Jim and I navigated the buying, and the selling, and the terms of our agreement. There’s nothing that I would’ve changed.

Alexandria:         So Debbie, once you’ve completed that purchase of Lighthouse in 2014, I know that you merged with the current firm that you are now a part of, called Lake Tahoe Wealth Management, since you had that experience of going through that first business succession, how did that help you with the next transition that you took the business with?

Debbie:                When Jim and I finished the agreement for me to buy Lighthouse I was in the place to figure out, “okay, what’s next? What am I going to do? Jim’s going to retire, he and I split the work.” We had one other person who worked here with us, but there was no way the two of us at that time were going to be able to do the work that the three of us had been doing.

Debbie:                So, I did some analysis, some reflection, I asked around a lot. I had a lot of conversation about … And, as I saw it, I had one of two ways to proceed. One way was to hire somebody to replace Jim’s contribution to the operation by hiring somebody, and therefore I then have two employees, and be trying to run the business in that capacity by myself as a solo-owner, or I had my colleagues to look around and see if any of them would be ideal candidates to partner with.

Debbie:                And, maybe this is overly simplistic, and maybe this isn’t the right way to look at planning and what it takes to be a good planner, but it’s the way that I look at it, and that is that you have two sides, two disciplines, one being the financial planning, the other being the investment and asset management. That likely was born from how Jim and I split our roles, and so at Lighthouse Jim is the one who did the day-to-day operation of the portfolios, and did the due diligence, and interacted with the custodians. He would do the initial research on investments and how we were going to implement our investment philosophy, while I was focused on looking at everything else, the tax returns, the cashflow, the risk management, employee benefits, and how to put a plan together and then build in the investment management and marry those two items together.

Debbie:                And so, when I looked at that I spent some time deciding, do I want to be a planner, or do I want to be more involved in the investment and the investment manager, or can I do both? And, I quickly knew that I couldn’t do both, or let me say it this way, I knew that I could do both, but I couldn’t excel at both at the same time. I knew that the planning is what I love most, and I’m much more interested and curious about the bigger picture and the plan entirely than I am about focusing on portfolios, and the latest research in this asset class, or portfolio construction, and why modern portfolio’s alive, or why it’s dead.

Debbie:                I’m interested in those kinds of things, but that’s not the sole focus of what I want to be doing, and so with that I looked around at colleagues I’d worked with and who might be a good fit for me. I had been a part of a study group since the time I’d attended FPA residency, and if people listening are familiar with FPA residency then you know what a special experience that is, and how helpful that can be, especially as a brand new planner. Anybody who’s not familiar with FPA residency, it’s definitely worth checking out and considering, especially if you’re within the first three years of earning your CFP designation. But, my group at FPA residency, we had formed a study group and we spent a lot of time exploring topics, and information, and you could see who was drawn more to investments, and who was drawn more to planning. You got to learn a lot about peoples personalities.

Debbie:                And so, through that one of my study group members, he had just formed an RIA, a small RIA himself, Richard Dee is his name, and he was in the process of putting together advisors who didn’t have a home to practice. So, the notion was, he had built Lake Tahoe Wealth Management, so that’s where he practiced, but then he also had a platform that advisors who wanted to do planning could focus on their clients and business development could come be a part, be an investment advisor representative, an IRA of that platform. He would manage the investments, and the compliance, and the day-to-day operations of the firm, and that was real attractive to me because he was interested in doing the investment management, he was really very good at that. That was something that he excelled at, and it just seemed like it was a natural fit. I was also interested in the platform of being able to help other advisors find a place where they could come and practice, and there’s a revenue sharing.

Debbie:                So, Richard and I started exploring that, and next thing you know we had decided we had such a nice compliment of skills that it would really make sense for us to join forces, and that’s how we ended up coming together.

Alexandria:         One thing that I am thinking of through this whole process is basically, how did the clients take it once you merged with another company, and how did that transition look like for clients?

Debbie:                The communication was, “I’m still here doing all your planning, Jim has retired, now we have this merger, another firm that has even more in depth experience. It’s going to bring more knowledge to the table simply because they’re fresh out of school. We now have a CFA on staff, and somebody who’s able to further enhance, and enrich the services that we’re providing, and so here’s why this is a good thing for you as a client of this now merged firm.”

Debbie:                And so, that was the message, and that was the motivating factor for me in the decision making to merge with Lake Tahoe Wealth Management. I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to offer the same level of expertise, and depth of knowledge to my clients if I had been on my own than I am now as a merged entity with Lake Tahoe Wealth Management, and so that just was the essence of where my communications came from. So, when you believe that, when you know that in your soul to be true it’s an easy thing to communicate, and help clients understand why you’re making the decisions, and the choices that you’re making.

Alexandria:         Before we wrap up our podcast today I wanted to dive into a topic that I believe the profession is constantly working to improve, that’s women in the financial planning profession, but more specifically for women owners of financial planning firms. What do you think the profession, or other women firm owners could be doing to engage women to think more into the future about business succession, or maybe taking ownership into their own hands?

Debbie:                I think, Alexandria, that’s a really important question, and it is certainly a robust conversation. A lot of people have thoughts and opinions about what we should be doing for the future of the profession, and certainly there’s a number of initiatives that the Financial Planning Association is doing to make more resources available for succession planning and ownership, and all that’s involved, and I think those are wonderful initiatives. There’s a tremendous amount of resources, and I think that needs to continue.

Debbie:                And in addition to that, as the profession continues to march forward, I think it’s going to be really important to continue to engage newer planners, and welcome everybody. I was just having a conversation this morning about diversity and inclusion, and often times we think about that in terms of either gender or race, but it’s so much more granular than that, and I think that economics is another huge area of culture, and how people interact. I see it myself when I … I live in Northern California near Sacramento, and when I go over to the Bay Area for example, I can just see the differences in the culture in Northern California, and over in the Bay Area, and how it’s different, and it’s unique, and I love experiencing that.

Debbie:                I guess, my point for referencing all of that is that there’s a culture that you have to get used to when it comes to being a business owner, and that is, you have to think about legalities, you have to think a lot more about compliance, you have to think about the direction, the long-term planning, the strategic planning, and that’s a whole mindset. When you’re around people who are business owners, then you start to feel that. I would almost say it’s somewhat of a little mini-culture, and if you’re uncomfortable in that space initially, well okay, that’s fine.

Debbie:                Find a mentor who’s been down that road, somebody who has gone through the process. I know I have used mentors my whole career as being a planner, both formally and informally, and just really learned from the people that have that experience and who are familiar with the ways, and you’re going to make mistakes, or you’re going to have little hiccups, but the goal would be to minimize the impact of those. Having mentors, they can help you from making the really big, really costly, really detrimental mistakes, because you’re still going to make them.

Debbie:                But, I think that is the thing that is going to be important going forward, is continuing to have the openness, the willingness to help people, and from people who are owners now, and who are going through the thought process of, “well what does my succession look like, and how do I bring somebody on?” Or, “do I sell to an asset gathering type platform?”

Debbie:                And, there’s pros and cons to each way that you want to proceed, and I just think that the more people are willing to open up, mentor somebody, or be mentored, that’s going to be hugely helpful for anybody who wants to consider being an owner, or progressing in their career.

Alexandria:         Even, I feel like in my own career path it’s like, if the mentorship wasn’t there you wouldn’t be exposed to the things you aren’t aware of, and often times it’s maybe that mentor coming in and even probing you, and asking you question’s to make you even think about ownership that may not even have crossed your mind until someone had explored that with you.

Alexandria:         But, I think sometimes, and especially for women, we have these biases, or we have these barriers we’re crossing as we navigate through the profession where we don’t maybe even get to that level yet where we go, “oh yeah, ownership’s even on the table.” Sometimes it’s like, I want to make sure I do everything in my role currently right before I even think of, “oh yeah. Okay, I could run this place.” And so, that’s what always pops in my head for women as we navigate, at least this profession that’s male dominated.

Debbie:                Yeah, and what’s coming up for me when you mentioned that Alexandria, is I would agree that not being overly general, but at the risk of being overly general, perhaps women tend to be a little more cautious, a little more thoughtful, not as aggressive, just running through something, and figuring it out in the moment that you need to, and perhaps that’s holding us back. And so, as women I think we need to just have the confidence to put our best foot forward, and to know that I don’t have to have it all figured out. What I need to do is make sure I’m paying attention, and that as things pop up, and that I do have resources, and I do have mentors that I can reach out to.

Debbie:                And so, I absolutely agree with what you just said Alexandria, and I think that it’s going to be equally important, incumbent on women ourselves to not hold our own selves back, to have that confidence to go forward, and I think having a strong network, be it mentors, be it your study group, be it colleagues that you just work really well with, and you can pick up the phone and call them with a question at any time. I think that’s critical.

Alexandria:         The mentorship and especially the study group. I am a huge proponent of the study group, especially for women in this profession. That is what’s going to make a big wave of change I feel like, to help women progress further through the profession. Before we close out here, I wanted to get your opinion on your thoughts, since we’ve really focused on your experience through this business succession planning process, and with your transition, and merger, and how the effects happened on your clients, and your self personally. But, now that you’re on the other end of the stick here I’d say, for business succession, and you are the owner, what planning have you done, or plan to do in the future to help with your business succession when you come to that next step in your career?

Debbie:                I look at it much like any plan that I’m doing. The immediate path forward for this longer term goal of getting a successor, or perhaps selling the practice is not immediately clear, but I know it’s out there, and I know there’s some work that I need to be doing in terms of educating myself, being prepared to make a decision when I get there. But, as far as the concrete steps, and how that’s going to unfold, and what that looks like, I got no clue. I have two partners, we have a lot of conversation about how long each one of us wants to work, and it’s not clear for them either.

Debbie:                So, I’d go back to what I was talking about when it came time to purchase the firm and move forward, being present, doing the homework, having the conversation, reaching out to the mentors, and the people that have done this before me to learn from them and take their wisdom and experience to include that in my thinking. And, unfortunately it feels a little uncomfortable to be sitting in the not knowing and not having a plan, because we’re planners we like to have plans, we like to predict, and know what’s going to happen, and anticipate. But, the reality is that’s just not the way the world works, and so the best thing we can do is continue to learn, to practice our skills, and figure it out with some intention, figure it out as we go forth.

Alexandria:         One of the things that popped into my head, I recently came across the succession challenge that the Financial Planning Association put out for 2018, and they touched on the biggest challenge for business succession is obviously finding the right successor. The one thing that I’m noticing, especially with what you’re talking about, is how that process isn’t coming from step one, two, and three. We’re keeping it … The conversation is organic. It’s like, “oh, I came across this great person, they do great work. I want to work with them.”

Debbie:                You’re absolutely right. The thing that I would encourage anybody who’s listening to continue to be present with, and to value is that of our community. If somebody’s listening to this podcast it’s probably because they’re well invested in the Financial Planning Association, they understand the value of community, and professional network, and having colleagues to collaborate with. I think as time evolves, and compliance becomes more challenging, our regulatory environment becomes more challenging, the strength of our profession, the strength of our association is important, and it matters in ways that are not easily articulated, or clearly able to point to like, we get this benefit for the long-term care group plan, or we have these resources for business development, or business succession.

Debbie:                It goes beyond that. It goes to the relationships, and the communication, and the ability to create something with like-minded people, and so it’s important, and we all need to participate at whatever level works for you, and maybe that’s just by paying your annual dues, and showing up at meetings periodically. Everybody’s got their own level, but it’s important and it matters.

Alexandria:         Thanks again so much Debbie for obviously coming on the podcast and sharing your wisdom with all the listeners out there, and also just a big thank you for all your volunteerism, with the profession and with next-gen planners, with myself. I’m just really excited for the relationship, and the conversation.

Debbie:                It’s my pleasure, and I invite anybody who’s interested in getting involved to get involved. It’s easy to do, you just have to take your first step, so thank you Alexandria for all the work you’re doing, and for continuing to carry the torch, and do this podcast. It’s been real fun, thank you for having me.

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