Hannah: Well today we have with us Mary Beth. Thank you for joining us.
Mary Beth: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Hannah: Yeah, so your firm, Workable Wealth, you’ve really built up a really great personal brand. We’ll get into that a little bit more. But can you tell us about your practice, how it’s structured and who you serve?
Mary Beth: Sure. Workable Wealth is the only financial planning firm. I work virtually. I’m based out of San Diego. Clients all over the country. The way I work is I do actually a full on financial plan up front for my clients, and then we work together going forward to implement the recommendations and to adjust for changes along the way. I predominantly work with clients probably, if we’re talking age range, I’d say late ’20s to it’s evolved now to actually early ’50s. Probably I have someone in the ’60s as well, but when I started I marketed to gen Y. But my clients are probably older gen Y, gen X, the whole spectrum there.
Mostly professional entrepreneurial women and military officers and families, young families. I’d probably say those are the subset. I have a lot of professional or entrepreneurial women who come to me first. They find me and then they bring in their spouses. I’d say that’s one area. Military families is another subset, and then just general young families who are buying homes, getting married, having kids. Those are the three subsets of who I work with, and sometimes overlapping in all three areas.
Hannah: How many clients do you have?
Mary Beth: As of right now I think I’m at around 60 to 65, somewhere in that range. Maybe 63-ish.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. How long have you had your practice for?
Mary Beth: I launched in August of 2013. I think I took my first client on the November, December timeframe. This is going into my fifth year. I think just four years. A little over four years in.
Hannah: When you started your firm, what was your vision for your firm?
Mary Beth: Honestly, to make financial planning fun, affordable and accessible was what I always said when I launched. I just wanted to have more personality and to be something fun and not necessarily dry, coming from the traditional financial planning world, there is a lot that I learned but I just felt that there was constantly the mahogany desks, the really fancy reports and just lots of wine tasting events and it was so formal. I felt like there was just something missing, and so when I launched my firm my vision really was just to bring it back to the basics. At that time, that’s why my focus was on gen Y. I thought okay, this is the group that needs just the basics.
And then as the firm grew and my marketing presence, media presence grew, I realized nope, all age ranges need just the basics. I have women who, even from learning in the firms, I saw and worked with women who were in their ’40s and ’50s who earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, who still didn’t know what was going on with their finances either, where their cash flow was or understanding the difference between a stock and a bond.
My vision really was just to make money fun and educational. So many people are afraid of it, and so my vision was just to be okay, no, I want you to trust me as your financial planner, I want you to value my opinion, but I also want you to feel empowered around your finances and what’s going on with it. That was really the vision, was just to make it something that was relatable, to take away the taboo. All of this formalized processes and just extra stuff that’s been added in by our industry and the media, just making it so complicated when really it doesn’t have to be. My vision was to peel back the layers and just show nope, if you stop comparing yourself and stop worrying about what everybody else says and focus on your own goals first, money can actually be fun and then you will feel great about using it towards those things that you now have clarity on.
Hannah: And what’s interesting to me hearing you say all this, is that you were targeting gen Y at first but that you found that message really resonated with older clients as well.
Mary Beth: Oh, yeah. It was kind of surprising to me. I spoke to millennials. That was the hot topic when I launched. It was the newer thing to do, to work with millennials. Millennials were just becoming the thing five years ago, and it was just they didn’t have money or whatever. Maybe it’s still a thing but I’m just not on that side of the industry anymore where people are saying no, they don’t want the help. But yeah, by talking to them I found that people were reaching out to me like, “Well, do you work with this age group?” I was like, “Of course I do.”
I ended up realizing that I was speaking more to a type of person then I was speaking to an age range. Because we say gen Y is going through all these transitions, but gen X is going through all of these transitions as well. You start to realize oh, this is who my niche is and who I work with. Yes, I’m bringing on clients in their ’50s, who have done well and gotten themselves to a good point but still they’re like, “I have no idea how I got here. I have all of these things happening and I’m not sure if I can meet my goals.” Those are actually really exciting conversations for me, because I realize that I can tell them, “You’ve done great, but if we have some clarity and a plan in place, look how much progress you could actually make by going in one straight line instead of 15 different directions.”
Hannah: So do you do a lot of career coaching as well, or do you stay more in the financial planning side of it?
Mary Beth: Oh, no. I do a ton of career coaching. Career coaching and actually business financial planning as well. I’d say the business financial planning is one of the things that sets me apart a little bit from what other people do. I say that because I haven’t seen other firms that do it to my level yet. But I also live in my own little world right now as well. So career coaching, in terms of negotiations for salaries and that’s a personal thing for me, especially working with this age group and fees and what not. I always personally like to try and get them raises that cover my fees. That’s just a thing that I do because I’m competitive like that. If I can do that, that’s fantastic. But yes, career coaching, salary negotiations. I review job offers and let them know what to go back and ask for. Comparing benefits, all of that sort of thing.
And then on the entrepreneurial career coaching side, I actually do profit and loss analysis with them. I help my clients understand what they’re looking at in terms of their business cash flow, what they’re pricing their products and services at and if it’s actually sustainable. So understanding cost of goods sold and what they value their time at, and how that should actually be factored in, and helping them think through those calculations so that their businesses are more sustainable and grow an income as well.
Hannah: So when you’re looking at a lot of the business side of it, are you just trying to get them to meet certain ratios, or just basic business concepts?
Mary Beth: That’s the interesting thing right, because I work with a lot of solo entrepreneurs or service providers, to be honest. They typically ask me, “What should my profit margin be?” And so one of the questions I always have to go back at and say is, “Well, are you factoring your time in there? Are you paying yourself for your time or is your profit margin including your services?” I don’t necessarily target ratios for them. What I do is if somebody signs on with me, I basically say, “If you own a business, we’re gonna align your business goals to your personal financial goals. So we need to know what you need to accomplish to achieve your personal financial goals, and that’s how we set some income goals for the business.”
That’s more big picture where I focus. I try to give them some ratios and educate them around that, but it’s so hard when you’re a service provider to really get that. Even us, for example, financial planners. There’s my time, but then I have team members who help or I outsource some of the content development. There’s so many things that it’s hard necessarily to understand those ratios as much when you’re doing service, so I focus more on what do we need you to do, what’s attainable and hourly rate that would make you happy. What would you feel good at, and what do you need to meet your goals? I really just tie them all together as part of the financial plan.
So I say basically, “If you’re pricing a package or service that you offer at $1,000, for example, but you’re outsourcing $400 of it, okay, you net $600. But if you’re spending ten hours on it, you make $60 an hour. You say your rate is 200, but you’re making 60. Is that in line with what you want?” And they’ll typically say no, and so we go back and increase their prices, or try to understand how they can refine their process or systems so they’re spending less time in those areas. It’s educating them about what those numbers actually mean and how to think about it.
Hannah: So do you work with them on just the marketing and that side of business development?
Mary Beth: Some of my clients refer to me as their rent-a-CFO. In terms of understanding their cash flow, that’s a big part of it. In terms of marketing, I don’t necessarily coach them in terms of media development. There’s a handful of clients, maybe a few actually, that I’ll say, “Okay, well realistically, from my own experience, here’s how you can create content. Here’s the resources that you can leverage so that you save yourself time and money, or increase your exposure.” I will coach them on that side of it, just because from experience and what I’ve built already I know those things.
But a lot of the times what we’re going through is we’re looking at the P&L and I’m saying, “Okay, you spent a lot in this area this month. Is that anticipated? Is that ongoing? What are your business goals? Where do you see yourself needing to invest? Are you planning on making a new hire? Do you need to go from LLC to S corp and set up payroll?” I really help to strategize around those areas. A lot of the women who come to me don’t understand the benefit of having a payroll set up, for example, or the retirement plans around that.
Honestly, I can tell you most of my clients like, “Oh yeah, I have a bookkeeper.” And I say, “When was the last time you looked at your P&L reports?” And they basically never … A lot of them just feel good knowing that somebody else is organizing the numbers, but they don’t know how to interpret those reports. A lot of the time I’m spending time just helping them and teaching them, again, about how to read the reports, about how we’re gonna take that okay, if you have … Creative female entrepreneurs, for example, have a thing with buying domain names. If you have a hundred domain names that you’re not using, let’s give some of those up and free up your cash flow. And so stuff like that I’ll show them as a percentage of their income, here’s where it’s going.
There’s the thing, which we all hear as well in our world, “My business is netting, or I brought in six figures. I brought in half a million dollars,” whatever it is. That’s great but what did you actually net? What are your expenses? And so helping them to understand that whatever everybody else is doing and bringing in does not actually reflect anything unless you know what they’re netting on the other side and what they’re putting in their pockets. Teaching them those kind of financial concepts helps them to be more strategic and make better decisions in their businesses, and helps them therefore to meet their personal financial goals.
Hannah: Did you know that you’d be working and doing this type of work with clients when you started, or has this been an evolution over the four years you’ve been in business, four or five years?
Mary Beth: A complete evolution. I had no intention of doing business financial planning, and that’s actually just become a subset of what I do. When I started I was just like, “Who’s gonna work with,” … I had the same fears that we all did, like who’s gonna work with me? Is started from zero. I launched no clients, had the benefit of having a part-time income, because the firm that I left kept me on part-time to phase me out and phase in my replacement. But I had no idea that it would evolve to me working with these niches and it was really a learning on the job. I found that this was the group that was coming to me. These were the questions that they were having.
I found myself answering those questions over and over again, to the point where, as I mentioned before, I do an up front financial plan that I was finally like, “Send me your P&L,” and now my financial plans have a business planning section in them. That’s where we address some of the big picture concerns that I can see are red flags, like the payroll, the bookkeeping, continuity plans for your business, disability insurance, liability insurance. Those are some of the issues that I see with clients. I plug those also into the action checklist and recommendations that I have for clients.
Hannah: I love it that it’s an evolution. I feel like so many times we put the pressure on ourselves to have it figured out right out of the gate. But realizing that these plans have to change over time-
Mary Beth: Oh yeah, completely. I will say one of my best practices that I’ve done since I launched was, because I do the plan up front in terms of streamlining processes and systems, I have the template obviously for the plan. But new clients come on all the time and so I’m creating new plans and everybody … Things are similar but things are different, so I found myself making different recommendations. I actually have one golden document that I think is 50 pages, or I don’t even know how long it is at this point in time. It has all the recommendations that I’ve given in plans so I can also open that and template it, basically. I had an intern actually create it for me. I can go in and plug and play different things. I can see maybe there’s something that pops up that I hadn’t considered. I can very easily see what I’ve done in the past for other people as well, and it helps make it a little bit more efficient.
But that was how I realized that this was becoming a need, was I was finding myself giving so many business recommendations and found that area growing in the template. I realized okay, this is actually just a marketable part of what I do and so I should speak to it more, as opposed to just having it pop up as a part of the process. Now I’m proactive about it instead of reactive.
Hannah: Clients come on and you do the full financial plan for them up front. Are you doing most of that work yourself, or do you have a team behind you that’s helping you put that together?
Mary Beth: I’m doing most of it myself. I have a director of client services, director of getting it done. She wears a ton of hats. I’ve had an associate planner who’s helped me in and out with different things. I had them prep the template, so I start the plan template, plug in some certain areas like the cover page, that sort of stuff. But in terms of making the recommendations, I typically make all of those myself. But again, with the help of the template that I have.
Estate planning is, if they don’t have a trust, you’re pretty much recommending the same thing for everybody. Get your guardianship, if they don’t have an estate plan. You’re making the same recommendation for everybody so that’s templated, and I’ll plug in certain attorney recommendations and I’ll alter that. But estate planning recommendations take maybe, to be honest, ten minutes if there’s no documents in place because I’m just saying, “You need documents and that’s on our to do list going forward.” There’s not much more time to spend there. That’s a copy and paste thing if there’s nothing done then it’s recommend a referral and then moving on. There’s stuff like that, that you can make more efficient.
Hannah: You’ve done a lot. You’ve started your own firm. You’ve written a book. You have your own podcast. You have 60 some clients that you have right now. You’ve also had two kids in this time period. How do you do it all?
Mary Beth: I’m a little bit crazy. So A, number one, I laugh when I say that, but it’s like I’m a little bit crazy because people are like, “You wrote a book while you had your baby the first time?” That’s how I wrote Work Your Wealth was I was on maternity leave with our daughter. Babies sleep, and when you don’t have another baby, you think you have time. But this past time I realized I have no time during this maternity leave because there’s a toddler. So for the record, there’s that. A couple things.
I will say when it comes time for me to do big projects like writing the book, or launching the firm, launching my podcast, launching the book, but after writing it, the launch process, I will invest in a project manager or a coach. I need the accountability. I’ve always been a procrastinator. I work better under pressure, and so for me to get things done though, I’ll say, “I’m paying you to nag me, hold me accountable.” I will invest in it that way, because that’s how I hold myself accountable if there’s nobody else on the other side. That’s one area. When it’s a big project that I know can pay off or can benefit me, I will invest in help to be held accountable.
Also, having a super supportive husband has been very helpful. I always say that I would not have gotten to where I am without his support. He’s a huge cheerleader for me, because it’s a rollercoaster, right? There’s good days and bad days. Even though I’m passionate, so passionate about what we do, there’s days where it’s just exhausting, right? We’re in a relationship business. When you have six client calls in a day, you’re just drained sometimes from being on, even though you love your clients. I’d say having a support system in place from early on, understanding what the changes were that were gonna impact us by me giving up my income when we did launch. Because again, we went from a nice income to not much of an income from me. So what that was gonna look like, still having his support there, and being able to make the adjustments.
Also, I think by being in contact with other people. Having a study group, a mastermind to lean on. Those are the things that have helped me to get things done. I don’t believe that I can do things on my own. There’s the humble part of me that’s like I look to other people for guidance or support or input on certain things, people that I respect and value their opinions. I lean on other people for support. I was never the kind of person who was gonna start my own firm, close the door and not reach out to anybody, because that would have been probably awful and I would have failed. Having a study group or mastermind in place from early on, and reaching out to other people to connect was also something that helped me to do all of these things.
Hannah: When I hear your name, I think she’s a great example of really building out a personal brand along with her practice. What are your thoughts about a personal brand versus your practice?
Mary Beth: It’s really interesting. I still think about that, in terms of building the personal brand. I didn’t necessarily know I was building a personal brand. It happened accidentally. I mostly was focused on going back to the beginning, so when you ask me what my vision was, I was really just focused on being different. Not having the older retired couple, holding their hands on the beach on my website. None of that and then none of the lighthouses or mountains. There were certain things where I was like, “I don’t want those.”
I had looked to what some others were doing and I ended up just like okay, my face is gonna be on the website. I’m weird about stock photos. Yeah, these people are so happy about their money. I just never thought somebody would open the webpage and be like, “I can relate to that.” I personally will open a webpage and if it’s somebody that I’m gonna hire or I’m considering working with, if I can see them smiling back at me I’m learning about them, then I feel better. But if they have a stock photo I feel like not so much. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about those things. That’s how it happened.
Honestly, I think right now for where my practice is, I think it works and it still works. My practice is still growing. I constantly have people reaching out to me. It’s opened up other doors and opportunities. I think really it just depends on what your short and long term vision is for what you’re trying to build. Obviously this thing has evolved more than I ever thought it would, but I think it’s paid for me a legit personal brand. Will I eventually add stock photos and a team? Yes, and if you go to my website now you can see pictures of Lisa and Lex, who I’ve worked with. They’re on there. There’s a team section.
It’s just incorporating in that way, but I still think the personal brand, being able to share part of my story, that I was a military spouse, that I grew up in a family that struggled financially, that I had my own anxiety. Sharing stories and pieces of who I am has led to clients reaching out to me like, “I’ve listened to your podcast and I can totally relate,” or, “We wanted to reach out to you just knowing that you’re a military spouse and you know our numbers and know the language that we speak.” Or women who struggle financially, or just with the emotional side of things and they know that I’m not some guy in a suit with a mahogany desk. I’m very low key and relaxed. Low key and relaxed is probably now how people would describe me, but that I’m laid back. I won’t judge you. Nonjudgmental would probably be the better word.
But doing that has actually worked out really well. Being authentic, I think, has worked to me building the practice. Will it work long run? I think it will still continue to grow, but obviously there’s a point where I have to shift my messaging to you will work with me and/or my team, or somebody on my team. That’s the shift that I’ll have to make probably in the next year or two. They come to me but there’s also these qualified people on my team and here’s who you’d work with, that sort of messaging. But for right now it’s worked out really well, and for the people that I wanna work with. It depends on your target market, I will say.
There are people who are turned off by my marketing and messaging because it’s not professional enough, or refined enough or whatever. Those are not people that I wanna work with, though, so oh well. Everybody’s got an opinion. But for me, and what I’m trying to build, and the practice that I want to support my life and allow me time with my family and allow me to really enjoy my clients and my relationships, it works.
Hannah: One of the things that I’ve heard a lot, especially from younger advisors, is that there is this fear around even just putting your picture on the front page of your website, or sharing more about your story, putting all that information out on the internet. What are your thoughts around that? Was that a concern for you when you started?
Mary Beth: I was a little nervous about it to start, because it is so different. There’s a concern because you’re different. Our industry says one thing. I was nervous about what other people would think. I was nervous about what other people in the industry would think, though. We’re being told one thing. I was being told before I launched that this generation didn’t want advice, people wouldn’t pay you for it, the subscription model wouldn’t work, all of the things. I had this fear of oh gosh, am I wrong? Will it work? Will it not? What will happen? I understand the fear. The thing is do it anyways. Your website is always editable. Put it up there and give it six months.
I’m a woman and I know this is a totally different thing with men and how much to share or not to share, and there’s a different thing, but for me I work with women. Women appreciate other women who are being vulnerable. My study group and I, we say … I had a coach one time. Tara Moore is the author of the book Playing Big, I think, and it’s your inner critic. So my coach made me name my inner critic, and I always say I named her Betty. And so we say is Betty talking or not? Basically, there’s always gonna be this person, this Betty, this negative voice who you’re gonna be afraid of.
But worst case if it doesn’t work, you pivot and honestly women, for me to be vulnerable, to put myself out there and say, “Hey, I struggled financially,” and to even share about my family, that was a scary thing for me. Just to talk about my parents and their finances. I wondered how they would judge me or how they would react, and I really wanted to do it appropriately and work it into my story but not shame them, obviously, either. Those were scary things to do, but they ended up being so appreciated by clients and people who reached out to me.
Knowing that I struggled and I came from the same upbringing, and that I say that I still have bag lady syndrome even though I’m a financial planner. There’s still a fear of mine that I’m gonna end up on the street running out of money, just because of the way that I was raised. They appreciate that. Because they don’t wanna know that you’re above them, they wanna know that you’re basically next to them guiding them along, and that you too have your own story and your own experiences. And because of that, you’re able to better help them.
I think there’s this concept from how we were all raised in the industry that we’re supposed to be better than, and show them that we’d never make mistakes, and that we’re professional and polished. That maybe worked for one generation, but for the group and demographic that I’m working with, that would just not work. If I showed up in a suit to meet some of my clients, it would be awkward to say the least. They’re in jeans and flip flops and they meet with me virtually. Literally one client propped me up on their dining room table one night while they were feeding their baby and eating dinner. We just chatted while the kids were in the background.
That kind of stuff is what works, and again, that’s what I’m building. So there might be that fear, but I think the more that you share of yourself and your background and your own story, the more people can relate to you and the more likely they are to then schedule a consultation. They’ll come to the consultation and feel like they already know a bit about you, and they’re more comfortable with you because you’re putting that out there already, as opposed with being like okay, there’s nothing to talk about besides the weather or maybe sports teams or whatever. They already know I have two kids, that I was a military spouse, that I have two dogs, I live in San Diego, I like to drink wine. They know those things from my website and it’s nice. We already have a connection before they even sit down.
Hannah: The phrase that keeps coming to mind as you were talking, I can’t remember what conference it was at, but they were talking about how the future is human. It’s not just interactions with other people sitting across the table from us, our clients sitting across the table, it’s also how we present ourself. Are we willing to present ourself as humans to the world?
Mary Beth: Exactly. One of the things that’s been interesting to me too, and I’ll be totally honest, when I was launching I was looking to other … I think Brittney Castro had launched and had her own firm before I did. I looked to Brittney. And then Sofia Bera and I launched around the same time and we were in the mastermind together. Looking at some of these women, other women who have big online presences … Presence? I don’t know what presence is. Figure that one out later. I felt a little different because I’m over here married and popping out kids.
I had my own comparison thing where I was like oh my gosh, they have more freedom and flexibility to do these things. I don’t have that power single woman thing going on for me. There was a little fear there. I also felt a little insecure, like oh gosh, how am I gonna do this, and manage the family and do these things, especially when I got pregnant with our daughter. I really struggled with can I do it all? Can I be this power woman business owner and be a mom? And then probably 6 to 12 months after I had Ellie, just started leaning more into the mom role.
I had to embrace it. I could fight it or I could embrace it. Nope, I’m a mom. It is part of my story. It is who I am, and holy cow, now I’m raising a toddler and it’s funny and I have to talk about it. It’s just otherwise you’ll cry. You have a two year old terrorizing you. And so now that I incorporated that into more of my messaging as well, in terms of Instagram or Facebook, my media marketing, I’ve actually had more people reaching out to me by me just being like, “I am a mom. This is it. I have a business. It’s put together, but man, life can still be a crap show behind the scenes because you got kids running around.”
NBC was supposed to come over a couple weeks ago, and then I realized oh my calendar’s open Monday, and then I realized oh my calendar’s open because preschool’s closed and I have a newborn. There’s no way I can actually handle that interview. He was supposed to come over and I was gonna try and power through and then I had to cancel it. I was like, “No, I cannot do this to you or to myself,” because that’s real life behind the scenes. There’s no way that was gonna go well.
But I share those stories, though, and when I lean in it makes other people … Again, it’s more relatable. That’s human. That’s life. That’s what happens to everybody, and when we’re all trying to put on this protective layer and show that we have it all together, it’s not real. I say it to my clients and I say it to my friends, I say, “Life is a mullet. Business in the front, hot mess in the back sometimes.” That’s just what happens when you have families and little kids.
But yeah, I think the future is human. I think that’s what makes relationships sticky. I will say, I love my clients. That was one my fears too, was could I ever have clients like I saw other people, those relationships they had in the more traditional firms. Those clients were 60 and 70 years old and I was like, “Oh, I don’t relate.” But now the clients that I have, they’re friends and they send their friends to me. I get so many referrals and I get some really good, qualified referrals and leads from my clients. That is amazing, that these people trust me enough to send their friends and family my way. It’s become really cool and it’s because, again, we have these foundational relationships that we can build upon and relate and share stories and laugh about with.
Hannah: One of the issues facing our profession, you kind of hit on it here, was really women in the profession and how do we retain women in the profession. What are your thoughts on that? Or I guess what I’m really trying to get at is I wish all the women out there knew that there was a career path that could really bring them, I don’t want to say everything, but a lot of what they want.
Mary Beth: I think there needs to be more mentorship in our industry, honestly. One of the things I struggled with early on was … I’d say I learned a lesson very early on. I didn’t struggle with it. I learned a lesson very early on when I was at my first firm. I got my first job in the industry in college, and when I graduated I had all the CFP courses done as well because I majored in financial services. One of the advisors told me that I couldn’t sit for my CFP exam until he could sit for his. I had already been in salary and negotiations with them, trying to get a raise, and he was serious. He was not kidding.
I realized holy crap, nobody’s going to look out for me. I look out for myself. It was at that point that I became an advocate for myself in terms of salary, in terms of position, in terms of the things that I was looking for. I realized that although our generation was known as the ladder hoppers and would just move around places to find whatever’s a fit, that was me. I would move firms and constantly build upon my positions to grow. I didn’t have enough women mentorship in my life. I didn’t know.
The problem was with women, I think this service that we do for most of the next generation and women especially, is that there’s no way for us to get comfortable. I feared starting my own firm for so long because of the word sales. I hated sales. It was just a gross word. I felt like car sales was what it was. When it came time for me to have to get my own clients and to think about that, I just had total anxiety and panic. Then I launched Workable Wealth and early on I remember Alan Moore telling me, he’s like, “You need sales training.” I was like, “I don’t know how to sell,” and then I finally just sat down and built up my script for how I wanted to run my consultation calls. After a while I was like okay, this sales thing is actually educating people on what I do. That’s basically what sales is. There’s not really anything else. You’re educating people.
I think there’s this disconnect. Women don’t know about this industry because it’s basically pushed as sales. I remember being in college and Northwestern Mutual people coming to try to recruit us for their firms. And then even being in the traditional firm, told I had to bring my own clients in. I was told I had to bring in people who had a million dollars, investible assets, who were my grandparents’ ages. It didn’t relate. There was nothing pulling at my heartstrings to do that at the time. There was nothing in there for me, and so I lacked in that area. I actually contemplated leaving the industry multiple times throughout my career because I just felt like this is not for me. This can’t be done.
It wasn’t until I think FPA came out with their mentorship program. Gosh, must have been six, seven years ago. I had already known who Brittney Castro was and she happened to I think accidentally sign up as a mentor and she was also a mentee, but I picked her as my mentor. She had already had her thing. I think she was with maybe LPL at the time, or maybe with another … Whoever it was before that. But I basically chatted with her once a month for six months, I think, while I was still at the other firm and learned what she was doing and how she did things. It wasn’t until a year, maybe a year and a half later that I launched Workable Wealth. But that was what started me to realize okay, how she had built it, what she was doing. Other people were taking these risks.
But I think the big thing is we need more mentorship from women. We need women reaching out to other women, sharing about this, and also educating the sales side of it, what it actually can look like. You can work with people who are your peers and there is a way to do it. Are you gonna make a million dollars off the bat? Probably not. So again, going back to being clear about your personal financial goals and what you’re trying to accomplish, but I think there just needs to be more women talking about the issues in the industry. The issue is that there’s not enough women mentoring other women at this point in time.
I find that a lot of women aren’t comfortable advocating for themselves. There was points in time where I would encounter women who were stuck in the client service associate roles. They couldn’t get out. They were just told again and again, oh eventually you’re gonna grow. But the firm owners never really pulled them along and so they were just waiting. A lot of women just sit around waiting to be recognized. I think that is a big issue. If you’re not being recognized, you just need to move. Take initiative and go. If you’re not being recognized now, you’re probably not gonna be recognized in six months.
I tell my clients the same thing. If they’re not willing to give you a raise, and they are not willing to work with you to create a path to get you that raise or to get you to that next level, that is your sign. Move on and take a risk to do something else. I find that too many women stay in positions just hoping that something will come their way or something will change eventually. It typically doesn’t, though.
Hannah: Yeah. I love that you have to take control of your own career.
Mary Beth: Did I answer your question? I went in a roundabout way. I don’t know if I answered the question. But those things, mentorship, taking also control of your own thing too, I think is really important.
Hannah: My question was a roundabout question too. Okay, so you’ve written a book, Work Your Wealth. You also have a podcast. How have those impacted your practice and your brand?
Mary Beth: Oh, the book has made me a ton of money. No, not really. The book basically-
Hannah: I was like “That’d be a first!”
Mary Beth: … was a passion project. Yeah. No, that’s not why you write a book. Just FYI, do not write a book to make money. But the book was always a passion project of mine. I’ve always loved writing, even before I launched my firm. Early on, when blogging just came around I had a blog under an alias. Personal finance blog that I wrote. I think it was called … Oh gosh, I can’t remember. I don’t know. Financially savvy something. The writing this was always a passion of mine. And then as I was building Workable Wealth, I was finding that even though my fees were lower at the time than they are now, I was finding a large amount of people reaching out to me who couldn’t even afford the lower fees that I was at. And so I wanted to have something of a starter point.
I know there’s a lot of personal finance books out there, but for me, I wanted to make it fun. I basically wanted to walk people through how I created a financial plan for them, what my process was, what to consider, each step, and basically teach people how to build their own financial plan in a way that wasn’t so pay off your mortgage first. And also a way that was speaking from one peer to another. I wrote Work Your Wealth and I chose to self-publish.
That’s a question I get a lot. I chose to self-publish although I had options to reach out to other publishers and could have been on that route. My full purpose on doing the self-publishing route was so that I could have full control of the creative process. I had a vision for what I wanted it to look like and I had a vision for what I wanted the cover to look like. You give up some of that control when you work with a traditional publisher.
Work Your Wealth has a big glittery dollar sign on the cover of it. It is just by having the gold glittery dollar sign, it ends up being geared towards women because men are not picking up books with gold glittery dollar signs on it for the most part. With the book, though, I did a whole launch team around it. I built a Facebook group around it. It launched. It did great. It literally is still paying off. I think I wrote it three years ago. I can’t remember. I have a newborn and so I’m pretty sure I wrote it three years ago at this point. It could be two years. I really can’t remember, to be honest. I need to double check this. It was either two or three years ago at this point.
Basically even just recently, the book had sold thousands of copies all over the world. Maybe I was on maternity leave just recently at the end of 2017, somebody reached out to me and wanted to buy over a thousand copies of my book for a subscription box that she sends out to female entrepreneurs. This book that I wrote is now … I’m being paid for the copies of the book. Obviously I gave her a discount for a bulk order. Being paid, making money on the sale of the books, and then the books, over a thousand books are being mailed to my target client this month actually. It’s going out all over the world, or all over the country, I mean, to a thousand women.
Stuff like that is pretty cool. Those are opportunities that the book has opened up for me. Every new client that signs on, they get a copy of the book along with a pre-printed note card that has pretty calligraphy on it that has a quote and says, “Welcome to the Workable Wealth family.” Basically it’s enabled me to do more speaking and to leverage the book. Through speaking, I can sell discounted books as part of my speaking fee basically. I throw in books in there as well. I can get paid more. It’s a business card, basically.
I’ve definitely gotten clients from the book, and people who reach out to me who say, “I read your book first,” and they can go here and schedule a consultation. I was able to do opt-ins in the book. People sign up for worksheets and so they’re on my mailing list now. That’s how the book has worked out. As we were just chatting before the call, the podcast is something that I created spinning off the book. People ask if I’ve gotten clients directly from it, and I don’t know. From the measurable, I found your podcast and then I found you … Mostly people find me from other podcasts and then they find my podcast. I don’t know if they’re directly finding me. I think it’s building trust and building credibility.
I had a consultation call this morning with somebody who has already emailed back and said yes, they wanna move forward. When we were on the call she said that she had spent a day or two listening to my podcast, just so she could get to know me and my style ahead of time. She came to the call feeling like she could already relate to me and she knew my story. The fact that she listened to that to educate herself up front, and literally emailed me two hours after I sent the consultation follow up email and said, “Yes, we’re ready to move forward,” that’s fantastic. That’s a $7,500 retainer right there. That’s how it pays off in the practice, in ways like that. It’s staying relevant, staying top of mind, and it’s really a value add is what I think.
Hannah: I find this really interesting. You wrote this book basically outlining your planning process or what you would take them through to do a financial plan. Has that kept clients from coming to you because they got all the information that they needed?
Mary Beth: No, because the big thing is, as most financial planners know probably, is the accountability to actually getting things done. Somebody will spend $10 on a book, read the book, and they can pick and choose things. It’s a great baseline, but when you’re at the point of your life getting complicated and you need somebody to actually do a mortgage analysis for you, chances of you doing it for yourself, for example. If anything I think, again, it helps to keep me top of mind and relevant to people. I have people reaching out now for consultations who are like, “I followed you.”
I have a consultation I think next week. I was just going through them and she’s like, “Oh, I found you two years ago or three years ago from Jessica Lively’s podcast,” which is a podcast that was small at the time when I was interviewed and then it blew up afterwards. This woman’s been following me for three years. She’s probably read the book since then. But people reach out I think as their situations get a little bit more complex and they’re more qualified to need that kind of help. I think if anything it’s actually, again, just kept me more in front of them than anything. I don’t think it’s prevented anybody from reaching out.
Hannah: You also do a lot of media. You talked about NBC coming to your house. I think I just saw you on an AARP commercial recently.
Mary Beth: Did you?
Hannah: Well, I saw your Facebook share of it. It wasn’t on TV. But still very cool. So what’s that like, seeing yourself on TV and in that role?
Mary Beth: I love the majority of it is not live. Live TV is a little nerveracking. I usually do okay with live but I’m always like, “Okay, please edit me.” Financial planner to financial planner, it is great in terms of, again, building that trust, building trust with people who say that they’ve seen me on NBC or in Forbes or commercials or whatnot. There’s that trust factor there, where they’re like, “Okay, this woman knows what she’s doing or must know what she’s doing if she’s on these things.” Does it bring in clients? To be completely honest, I think I’ve gotten one client from all of the things that I’ve done for NBC. I’ll be completely honest there. It looks cool and it is cool. I love the experiences.
One of my personal passion projects is obviously educating a wider audience. That’s why I do what I do. It’s cool to see and it’s cool to experience because it’s aligned with those things that I’m passionate about. Does it bring in money? No. For the most part it doesn’t bring in money. I do have some paid gigs and those things, and that’s a different kind of opportunity. But to see myself on TV, I will say the coolest thing for me is honestly when friends or family will text me or send me screenshots like, “You’re on my TV.” It’s across the country. NBC stuff gets syndicated onto other channels throughout the week after I’m on sometimes, so I’ll hear from somebody a week later that they saw me in Florida and I’m on NBC San Diego.
Stuff like that is cool, and honestly my favorite part is being able to show my daughter when I’m on TV. She’s two and a half and she can say, “Mommy’s on TV.” To her, seeing that sort of thing, that’s probably my favorite part. Just seeing how excited she gets and knowing that I can be a role model for her. That’s probably the totally cliché, but I just love seeing her get excited for those sort of things.
Hannah: One of the other things that I think is really fun about you is you’re one of the few advisors that’s really on Instagram, and doing some interesting social media stuff. I guess this goes even bigger than just Instagram. But all of your writing, do you do that yourself or do you have a team that helps you? What does that process look like for you?
Mary Beth: When I launched I did it all myself, and then as I grew I started to outsource some of the writing. At this point in time my blog content is outsourced. I do have a social media marketing content manager. She does everything for me. She does my Facebook, she does my Twitter, LinkedIn, and she writes and schedules my blog posts for me. The Instagram is the one thing that I do myself, and so I use Kailey, who a lot of you probably know.
Kailey does a lot of my marketing and media stuff, and she will now pull from … As I’ve started to incorporate, going back in, more of my family stuff into my Instagram that’s a little bit more of the blend, the mix, the mom and the business type stuff, as I’ve started to do that she will actually pull from my Instagram and put it on Facebook. There’s sometimes where even me I’m like, “Am I ready to share that to my Facebook audience?” So yeah, I still get a little bit nervous, but it’s almost good that she takes that out of my hands and does it. I’m like okay, this is a little bit vulnerable, it’s a little bit funny, and a lot of those sometimes prompt things. Again, it makes me more real.
But yeah, the Instagram is the one thing that I manage on my own, and then Kailey does the rest for me. We have a whole editorial calendar in terms of what the topics are, what I wanna address each month. I try to do monthly themes and that’s all planning on my part. I delegate topics and that sort of thing, and then as I’m quoted in things or if I’ve written anything else on my own, because I still do a lot of my own writing as well in different areas, like I’m writing for Forbes right now and different things, I’ll forward those links to Kailey and then she’ll just work them into my marketing schedule.
That is an area where I say that I invest in. My practice is still run from my house. I have a home office. There’s not necessarily a need for me to have office space right now, because honestly my clients are all over the place. Where I don’t invest in office space, I invest in having help with the media and marketing. Those are trade offs and things that are important to me.
Hannah: With your media plan, do you have an online sales funnel that you take people through, or is it more of a just get them on your email list?
Mary Beth: Oh dear lord, I wish I had a sales funnel of something. But no, I do not have a sales funnel, to be completely honest. I should. From all of the online marketing that I do and all of the people that I talk to, there should be some sort of level one, two and three, but there’s not. For the most part all of the opt-ins lead to one endpoint, which is the newsletter list. They can opt-in from the book, they can opt-in for the worksheets and then they end up on the newsletter list. There was a podcast for there’s a Work Your Wealth for entrepreneurs book that’s gonna come out eventually. There’s a list for that already too, that puts them onto one list. But eventually they end up all on the newsletter list and that is something that I write for myself as well. That goes out once every two weeks. That basically is a roundup of the most recent blog posts, the most recent podcast episode and then three or four around the web articles that I think are relevant for my newsletter audience.
Hannah: You said that you worked with creative entrepreneurs. What have you learned about being creative from working with them?
Mary Beth: One of the things that I’ve learned in terms of being around this group is the small things, in terms of little touches. For example, gifts. If clients buy a new home, instead of sending them a bottle of wine or champagne, I send them a personalized address stamp with their last name, the little re-inkable ones. I shop small for my clients by being around my clients, basically. I shop small. I send them a handmade, personalized address stamp. If somebody has a baby from Etsy I order a piggy bank with the baby’s name on it, and it’s hand painted and it has little polka dots or whatnot and I send it to them.
Doing small touches like that, really personalizing things, sending out the Work Your Wealth with the note cards that I’ve had designed by a calligrapher and they match the Work Your Wealth or Workable Wealth brand colors, those small touches and those personalizations incorporates more of my brand, my personality into the business and allows me to show my clients it’s not a generic thing. I can do personalized gifts and small things to recognize them or to celebrate with them. I think that’s one of the big things that I’ve learned, is just little, small thoughtful touches as opposed to the old school send a gift basket or just a Starbucks gift card. It’s just stuff like that.
And then I had, again, birthday cards that were designed by a small business calligrapher, that were designed with Workable Wealth branding. I paid a small business for that, and then those go out every month to clients. I do the snail mail, so small touches like that. I spend time in those areas and I learned that from this group, basically. Shopping small, supporting other small businesses and helping them to build themselves up too has been really fun.
Hannah: Do you identify as a creative now yourself?
Mary Beth: I do. I always say I cannot design or create colorful, pretty things for the life of me. My PowerPoints are super bland. But I will, again, pay somebody and outsource that to make them pretty for me now. But I have always called myself a creative because of just the way that I choose to deliver advice and the writing side of things. I can’t paint, or draw, or do calligraphy for the life of me, but in terms of the writing side of things, that is my creative outlet. That is what I choose to do and that’s my creative side. Most of the content that you see on my website, any of the early blogs, that’s all me. Even making resumes sound better and stuff like that. I have a way with words. That’s where I’m creative.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. You have this great brand built up. You have this firm that you’re hiring people. I mean, you have hired already people. Where do you go to continue learning? Where are your places to go?
Mary Beth: This is a really interesting thing for me. When I launched, I had a study group that I was part of, a mastermind group. That was really great in terms of getting us out there, launching, lifting each other up in media presence. That group then served its purpose. You don’t have to be with these groups forever. I think after a year and a half, two years, we just went our separate ways. I found myself lacking, in terms of I wanted to connect with other people who were more on the technical side who I can talk financial planning strategies with. How are your tackling your investment analysis or your life insurance analysis? I was craving that.
I now have another study group that I’m a part of, who I leverage a lot. There are six of us in that group. Three men, three women. We meet every Tuesday. I learn a lot from them and we bring a lot of ideas together. Obviously I’m the marketing guru, so I’m constantly pushing them to do more marketing. Sometimes you can over focus on processes too, so I always say, “Stop focusing on the processes and just get butts in the seats. Get clients in there first, before you’re worried about doing it all and having it perfect.” I leverage my study group. Kitces’ blog, I read his blog all the time.
One of the things I’ve struggled with locally, there is obviously a big San Diego FPA presence. There’s NAPFA, those sort of things. I found myself pulling away from those A, when I got pregnant, and B, when I realized there wasn’t a lot of educational information for my client base there. There’s not a lot going on. Social security planning and Medicare planning isn’t necessarily relevant to my clients quite yet, so I pulled back from there to be honest. I leverage more online stuff.
I am now getting more involved in NAPFA. I’d say the NAPFA conferences are the ones that I would go to and learn the most from and connect with. That’s the ones that I found are the most relevant probably to me. NAPFA and mostly learning from my peers. Peers who have done it ahead of me. But again, I leverage my study group a lot as well. I’ll pull from other resources that I can find, but I’d say those are some of the main ways that I try, and also reading books and those sort of things, staying relevant.
Hannah: Yeah. What are you reading right now?
Mary Beth: Right now, to be completely honest I am reading nursery rhymes and bedtime stories because I have a three year old at home. I dream of the day that I can read a book again. I have Financial Planning 3.0 on my desk downstairs, that’s sitting there staring at me and I would love to read it. I have gotten halfway through, I think it’s the Big Leap. That’s the one where we get in our own way, I think that one. I’m listening to that one on tape right now. Or not tape, on audio. I don’t have tapes. But I have that one downloaded right now from the library. I try and piece things in when I can, but to be honest it’s literally mostly I read a Minnie Mouse story probably ten times a night. The same one about cupcakes. That’s what I’m reading right now.
Hannah: They say having kids is supposed to increase your creativity, right?
Mary Beth: Yeah. Minnie Mouse is a lot of beautiful colors involved, so we’re talking about cupcakes and popcorn and you can actually get really creative in terms of how you retell a story to a two year old who doesn’t necessarily know that you’re not reading the words. There’s ways to speed it up or slow it down, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish that night.
Hannah: Oh, that’s great. So what’s in store for you for the next five years? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years from now?
Mary Beth: Oh my gosh, five to ten years. Okay, so goals that I really have right now. Ten years hopefully the practice is bringing in probably about one and a half million, is my big picture pie in the sky goal. Having a team probably of about six. That’s probably where we’re gonna end. I don’t necessarily wanna have a huge … I don’t see Workable Wealth going to this ginormous firm, but I wanna have about 1.5 million of revenue coming in, a team in place to support that and the clients there, and then honestly the goal is to build upon the Work Your Wealth brand as well. I always see myself working with clients. I’m very passionate about that.
In the mindset right now of up leveling from just where my fees started to where I am right now, this year is a game changer for me in terms of now I have two kids at home. I am just getting really, really efficient and unfortunately we’ll have to get rid of some of my clients because it’s just not sustainable for me to have all my time divided in these areas. So up leveling fees, up leveling just in terms of processes and systems, refining things, getting that narrowed down so that I can spend time focusing on the Work Your Wealth brand, which is going to be not necessarily revenue focused, but really again, aligned with … I want those goals to be focused on the number of people that I can impact or reach through financial education.
Workable Wealth has a revenue goal, and then once that’s met hopefully by ten years from now Work Your Wealth is happening. Work Your Wealth Entrepreneurs will be out. I have other products and things in mind that I want to do and create. Again, just be able to expand financial education and literacy.
Hannah: You don’t have to answer this, but where are you now in revenue for your firm?
Mary Beth: So revenue, I just hit 200,000 in recurring revenue. And then with that though, let’s say that you bring on 20 new clients a year, $1,500 up front minimum for the fees, and then there’s the media consulting income as well. So 200,000 recurring, and then there’s opportunities. We’re 2018, I might close around 250 to 300 would be my guess for the year.
Hannah: Well, is there any other piece of advice that you would have for new planners who are listening to this podcast?
Mary Beth: I think the best thing that you can do is just reach out to other people. Reach out to other people, definitely don’t launch your firm if you don’t have any experience. I will say that. It’s my one disclaimer. Please get some experience under your belt by working with other people first. That will make you a better financial planner and it will make your clients love you that much more. But take every opportunity you can. When you’re feeling like you’re stuck and in a rut and something isn’t working for you, think about what you can do to benefit you in your long term career.
If you’re in a position right now where you wanna do something else, or you’re feeling a little bit stuck, what can you do as a value add or a side project, or what can you work on and develop to enhance your own education, to enhance your skills as a planner? Don’t necessarily wait for things to be delegated to you. I think that’s the biggest thing, is take control, be creative in that way with your career. Just take whatever opportunities that come your way and see how you can monopolize upon them.