Have you ever thought about your life as constantly in “beta”?

This phrase, originally spoken by Stephanie Bogan, is one that Jonathan Cameron and Glenn Downing of Cameron-Downing live by.  They believe this phrase means always being willing to grow, improve, and learn –  never the “final” version of themselves as business owners or financial planners.

These two have grown an exceptionally unique financial planning practice. After conducting a recent focus group, they’ve determined that building a subscription financial planning model is the best way to continually serve their clients in a scalable way – and the way they’re structuring their practice as a result is fascinating.

Their practice is rooted in serving their clients and delivering an exceptional, custom experience to everyone who works with them. This shines through in everything they do from the ways they discuss client pain points (and the ways they solve them), and the experience they provide beyond “just” the financial planning work they do.

Even more interesting is the way that Jonathan and Glenn view their practice. They work to make their marketing fun and authentic, and they tag-team projects so that they’re equally represented as thought leaders in their areas of expertise. They also pride themselves in their age difference, believing firmly that their “baked in” succession plan is yet another added benefit for clients working with their firm.

Hannah's signature

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • How and why focus groups are critical to the growth and success if financial planning practices
  • How to build a financial planning practice with a built-in succession plan
  • Why embracing change and always improving is important
  • What a subscription model financial planning practice looks like – and how the numbers add up to a scalable business model
  • How to develop an ideal client experience
  • How to identify pain points and grow as a result

 

Show Transcript

Ep124 Transcript


Hannah: Well thank you guys for joining us today.

Jonathan: Yeah, thanks for having us! Appreciate it.

Hannah: Yeah.

Glenn: Yeah, glad to be here.

Hannah: Well I first, I think, met you … Jonathan, I met you online through the FPA Activate group, and saw a bunch of the videos and things that you guys were doing on Facebook, and I became so interested in, like, “What are these guys doing down in Florida?” And then I was at the FPA conference and got to meet both of you guys, and it’s like, “Oh, we have to have them on the podcast.” So I’m so glad that you guys are here with us today.

Glenn: Oh, great, thanks.

Jonathan: We’re excited, we’re excited.

Hannah: Jonathan, let me start with you. So how long have you been working with Glenn? And give us, not just how long have you been working together, but you guys are very unique in that there is a bit of an age difference, so can you talk about that difference, and then how long … How did you guys meet?

Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely.

Jonathan: Well, back into it, so I’d been in the business about 12 years, and then about six years ago … well actually, even further back, probably more like seven or eight years ago … Glenn and I met … we actually met in church originally. I was working at Morgan Keegan, which is now Raymond James, and he was working at his broker dealer, and also teaching the CFP curriculum he was teaching, and continues to do so for Zahn, all seven courses.

Jonathan: So of course, I knew about the CFP, and he convinced me to join him in classes, and then subsequently convinced me to join him at his firm at that time, so did that, and joined Glenn. We had our separate practices, and so we were building it up, and then at some point, we decided, “You know, we could do this better.” So we built into it, and about four and a half years ago or so, we launched CameronDowning, our RAA.

Jonathan: It’s been a fun ride, and we’re 50/50 partners in the firm.

Hannah: So Glenn, so you are more seasoned, is that the right way to say it?

Glenn: You can say it, Hannah: older.

Hannah: Okay, so you’re older. So you see this young up-and-comer outside of your daily work, at church … did you ever think that you were gonna be partners with him? I mean, was that ever in your mind?

Glenn: Way back, yeah, it sure was. You know, I had been with an insurance company broker dealer. I kind of came into financial planning, it was a mid-life transition, and that’s just kind of where I landed, and I was always a fish out of water there, because I wanted to always do the right thing for my clients and not just sell policies. So yeah, I had always been looking for just the right person to, with whom to partner, and when I invited Jonathan into the CFP courses, I didn’t know where it was gonna go. Initially, my thought there was just … he was working as a broker’s assistant, “Let’s help you build your own business,” and then we began to both see the opportunity to work together from there.

Glenn: So initially, it was that I was gonna help Jonathan build up his own work, but … little story here, I had been interviewed by a prospective client, and I had met her from here and there, and she told me, “I’m interviewing around, I’m looking for the best fit,” and so we met, we talked, and we got on very well.

Glenn: But a little while later, I got a call from her saying, “You know, Glenn, I’m not gonna work with you, and the reason being is you and I are the same age. What happens to me when you retire?” And that’s kind of when the penny dropped, and I said to Jonathan, “We’re looking at this the exact wrong way. The difference in ages is a selling point, it’s a plus. It’s not a work-around.”

Glenn: So from that point on, we kind of really began laying the groundwork for CameronDowning.

Hannah: And so Jonathan, what was it like to get that call from Glenn? Or that conversation with Glenn?

Jonathan: Sure.

Jonathan: Well, it’s really a process over time, so of course, we got to know each other, and then of course, going through the CFP courses … also having the mindset, “There’s gotta be a better way to serve clients,” and so learning, really, with him, and working together with him after that, really became a natural relationship. So it was really natural, it was a natural thing.

Jonathan: It wasn’t something that was overnight, and of course, another thing that was natural was, not only are we business partners, but we’re also good friends, and we both believe that that’s really important. If you’re gonna grow any business, it’s kind of important to like who you’re working with, right?

Jonathan: So we kind of think in similar ways, we’ve both taken the Myers-Briggs, we’re both ENTJs, so I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but what it does tell us is, in the future, we probably need to hire into different personalities. But we think of things certain ways, so we kind of drive in the same direction, and we finish each other’s thoughts in client meetings, so it’s just been a really natural progression as business has grown, and we’ve grown, not just in the company, but in our friendship, and I think that comes out with clients when we meet with people. It’s just a very natural conversation, because we’re all on the same page and thinking of things in similar ways.

Hannah: You know, one thing that’s interesting when you see people of different generations with an age difference like this, you usually think of succession planning as being the primary driver, but that’s really not the driver … I mean, I’m sure that is … I’m sure, Glenn, you don’t want to work forever in the field, but this isn’t really about succession planning. This is about running a business well together.

Jonathan: Right.

Glenn: Yeah. That’s right. Succession planning really doesn’t have much to do with it, Hannah. We’re just having a blast. I mean, this is fun. This is fun, building a business. We look and we see CameronDowning and see it succeeding and serving its clients well, where it wasn’t there four years ago. So this is just tremendous fun to us.

Glenn: I told Jonathan many times, my succession … you know, I certainly am, at some point, I’ll slow down and sell, maybe tranches of the business to other reps, but I keep telling Jonathan he’s gonna come in one morning and find me dead at my desk.

Jonathan: That’s the succession plan.

Jonathan: Yeah, and we’re both … I mean, of course, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t love financial planning, but we also really love the process of building a company. So I think that also really drives us to … kind of what Glenn touched on is, this is something that did not exist a little over four years ago, and we’ve built this. We’ve built this, and we’ve done it together, and it’s just been a fun process.

Jonathan: So we keep coming back to that, and it spills over into the quality of our work. If we’re enjoying what we’re doing, we’re enjoying building something, it extends to our values and mission, and part of that is building a firm, and of course, ultimately, when we grow and add employees, building up the employees, and building up our community. And so that’s sort of a three-pronged building up, if you will.

Jonathan: In terms of the community, what we’re doing right now is we’re giving 5% of our gross revenue … not profit, revenue of CameronDowning to homeless assistance in Miami, Florida, which is where we’re based. So we feel like that’s an important part of who we are, so it’s part of an expression of that, and in time, that’s gonna be something that’s gonna attract people to work with us, and of course, clients appreciate that, ’cause they see the value.

Jonathan: ‘Cause, by and large, when you really get down to it, we’re doing financial planning. It’s gonna be for someone or a family or a couple that has at least some means, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have come to see us in the first place. That’s just what it is. So this is sort of our way of giving back to the community for those who don’t have, and we believe it’s important. It’s part of our culture.

Glenn: Absolutely.

Hannah: I love that. And yeah, it seems like you’re gonna attract the clients and future employees that that’s important to, as well.

Jonathan: That’s right.

Hannah: So, on the logistics of partnerships, ’cause I’m always interested in that … Did you guys start from zero, or were you guys bringing past client relationships in? How does that … I hate to use these terms, ’cause I think there’s a lot wrong with it … but who owns the clients?

Jonathan: Yeah, that’s a good question. So to answer the first part of the question, we had a little bit. We had some clients that … this was a broker dealer of an insurance company, work there focusing on planning, and it didn’t exactly mesh with the culture of the company, which is why we left. But yeah, we had a little bit to start with. We started at zero, of course, when we were approved by the state, but everyone we asked to come with us came with us, which was great. So we had a small base. Not enough to pay ourselves, but it was something, just to pay for some of the software that we needed, and that’s where it’s kind of come from.

Jonathan: So the clients were clients of the broker dealer where we were, and then we moved over to the custodian that we selected at the time to have the assets, so we don’t custody any assets. CameronDowning doesn’t have assets in that way, and that’s something we don’t want at all anyway.

Jonathan: But yeah, so we started from scratch, but there were a few relationships that we did have to start us off.

Hannah: Are you guys managing assets, or is that not at all what you do?

Glenn: Oh yeah.

Hannah: Okay.

Glenn: Sure. We lead with financial planning. Our promise to the client is, “Here is your financial plan, these are our recommendations. Go implement them wherever you want. If you have already a trusted advisor who’s managing your money, fine, bring him our findings and have a conversation. But if not, we’d love to do it for you.”

Jonathan: Right. We’ve actually received quite a few referrals from other advisors that they know we’re all good friends here, especially in the FPA of Miami, so they’ll send us clients that they manage the money for, but they know that we’ll do the planning, we’ll do maybe cashflow planning, so forth, so maybe they don’t do that.

Jonathan: So really our approach really is just like Glenn said. It’s fee for planning, we always start with a plan. We do charge for that. And then if recommendations entail investments then we could do that, but we set the stage early on to … and we have an idea of whether that’s something they even want, so we may not go there if it’s not the right fit for that particular client.

Glenn: Right. We’re really keen to fulfill our promise on unbiased financial advise. So that’s why we just always lead with fee-based financial planning, and if the relationship goes into something later, all well and good, but meanwhile, we have given our clients unconflicted advice that’s in their best interest … as much as we can, with no conflicts of interest.

Jonathan: Right, and just, if I may, I’ll jump in.

Jonathan: So what we’ve been doing that’s been very well received is offering these financial planning packages. So what does that mean? So we make it very clear on our website, we put the pricing up front there so people will self-select, and so it makes initial meetings that much easier, because nine out of 10 times, not 10 out of 10 times, they will have seen how much we charge for a plan, and we make it pretty straightforward on our website.

Jonathan: If you go to cameron-downing.com, we have three packages for young professionals, and three packages for those nearing retirement. So we make it very simple. Bronze, silver, gold for young pros.

Jonathan: Bronze … it’s more than this, but bottom line, you are getting into debt payoff and cash flow budgeting questions, and some review for just reviewing policies if they have it.

Jonathan: For the silver plan, we’ll actually talk about investments, whether it’s through your 401(k), 403(b), or if you needed to start wealth-building.

Jonathan: And then for the gold plan, is we’re actually getting you into your first home. So that’s getting into credit score, your credit report, and helping build up your down payment.

Jonathan: So those are the three places we’re seeing the biggest need for young professionals, is wealth-building as opposed to wealth preservation, getting into that first home, just getting financially organized, and then for a few, it’ll be their first experience … I think a big tax hit, and they don’t want that to happen again, and so they wanna plan ahead for that to be able to mitigate that, pay for it early, and that’s, again, it comes back to cashflow planning there.

Jonathan: And then for the retirees, we have similar packages. Bronze, silver, or gold. Of course, the needs are different. Different stage of life. We’re getting into …

Jonathan: For bronze, just general kind of complete tune-up, if you will.

Jonathan: For silver, we’re actually gonna plan your retirement income, and answering the question, “Will I have enough to live on?”

Jonathan: And then gold, we actually get into estate-planning reviews and so forth.

Jonathan: So I mean, the big difference between the young pros and those nearing retirement is, those nearing retirement, if you’re … unless if you’re a high net worth individual, it’s, generally speaking, not ultra complex. We have to answer their questions of making sure that you have enough in retirement. So of course, there’s a lot to talk about. Absolutely. Which is why there are so many in our business who focus there.

Jonathan: For the young pros, I would argue that it’s just a very dynamic stage of life. So maybe not in the traditional sense is it complex, but it’s very dynamic, meaning you’re getting married, you’re getting divorced, you’re having kids, you have a new job, you get fired from that job, you have to get a new job, new benefits, so there’s a lot of changes happening very quickly.

Jonathan: Of course, getting into your first home. Trying to pay off that student loan. So those are big, big areas where a lot of things, in terms of money, happen very quickly in a certain period of life, so that’s sort of how we’ve structured our firm to address that dynamism, as opposed to just thinking of it in the same way of, “Let’s plan your retirement,” if you’re 30 years old. It’s not the same conversation. That’s actually a secondary goal.

Hannah: I know I can say, as a young 30-something, I can’t even really wrap my head around retirement. So looking at a retirement plan for me, I’m like, “That doesn’t make sense.” I mean, it does, but it doesn’t feel real. Even though it is.

Glenn: Right.

Jonathan: Right.

Hannah: And so what are the price points? Just to give listeners an idea of how much these packages are.

Glenn: Sure. It’s all subject to change, and it is going to be changing very shortly. We’ll tell you all about it in a second.

Glenn: For the bulk of it, for the young professionals … and by that market, we mean people who are couple of years out of graduate school, they’re working, they’re doing well … but their concerns, largely, are student loan debt, and then, “How do I do everything? How do I get in my first house? How do I pay off these loans? How do I start saving? What initial insurance do I need?” All that kind of thing. Bulk of the business we do, our two plans in there, are $1500 and $2000.

Glenn: And then for the retirees, the bulk of the work there is either at $2500 or $3500, just depending on the complexity of the work.

Hannah: And then, are you both working on all of these?

Glenn: Together? Yes.

Hannah: So you’re meeting with clients together, and—

Glenn: Always. There are many, many times when after a client meeting, I’ll say to Jonathan, “Did you notice this?” or he’ll say to me, “Did you pick up on that?” So two sets of eyes and ears always works to the client’s benefit.

Hannah: I wanna talk about your partnership. I know there are some interesting things going on. We had a brief conversation FPA about this, so I’m curious to dive in more to that.

Glenn: Sure.

Hannah: But on your partnership, so are there pieces … Do you guys both kinda do everything, or is there one person who … like, how do you guys divide up the responsibilities of client work, but also just running your practice?

Glenn: Yeah, well, Jonathan’s the Chief Executive Officer and I’m the Chief Compliance Officer, so I handle all the compliance tasks, for the most part, which of course included delegating some stuff to Jonathan. One person can’t do all that. Then, in terms of client meetings and the client relationships, we both … whoever has that natural market is the one who sort of takes point with the relationship. So for me, that’s the retirees, and for the young professionals, that’s largely Jonathan.

Glenn: What’s worked, Hannah, is with the young professionals, in a client meeting, having somebody experienced with some gray hair works, and with the retirees, having somebody younger, who will be there after I am gone, it also works. So we are very aware that the age difference is a big selling point. So we’re sure to use it.

Hannah: Yeah. I know I’m a younger planner, and I have prospects come, and they’re like, “Well why should I use you?” and I’m like, “Because I am young.”

Glenn: Yeah.

Jonathan: That’s right.

Glenn: And it’s great that you can see it that way, too, but really and truly, I think the entry is your CFP marks, and once you’ve got those, you’ll kinda need to stand on them and make your case to the client that, “I have more training here than most people out there. So yeah, I really do know my stuff, so let’s give it a whirl and see if we’re gonna be a good fit.”

Hannah: I know when I talked to you guys at FPA, there was a talk of going back to your clients and possibly looking at charging a different way and seeing what your clients thought about that, and you guys had … I don’t know if it was a shareholder meeting in October?

Jonathan: A focus group.

Glenn: A focus group.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Hannah: Focus group.

Jonathan: Yeah. It was great.

Glenn: That was such fun.

Jonathan: It was a blast.

Hannah: So can you guys set the stage for that?

Jonathan: Yeah, so we set up a focus group with a handful of clients. It was mostly clients, and a few centers of influence, I guess you could say, some attorneys we know, and bank trust officers. So there were about 10 of … well, including Glenn and I, there were 12 of us in the room, and this was great.

Jonathan: So what this was is we were thinking of some big changes in our offerings at CameronDowning, but we also know that we are … you know, if we have an idea, we like our own ideas, right? But they may not be the best ideas. So we wanted to take it to our clients and some friends that we trusted, to run it by them, pay for some dinner, and let’s talk about this.

Jonathan: So Glenn had the brilliant idea, he was introduced to the software called Mentimeter, which we highly recommend, and what it is is it’s an interactive software that syncs with your slideshow presentation, where the audience … or in this case, the dozen people in the room … can, in real time, engage with the presenter. So we can go through our slides, and of course, I’m up there and I’m talking about, “We’re thinking of doing XYZ, what do you think?” Rather than just say, “What do you think?” we actually had a slide with pre-thought questions up on the slide, and people could vote on which one they liked best: A, B, C.

Jonathan: We tried to make them as open-ended as possible to facilitate discussion afterwards, or after the people vote. So you could see, if we set it up for example, like a pie chart, depending on whether you answer A, B, C, you could see the pie chart moving in real time, depending on how quickly people voted.

Jonathan: So it was such a blast that one of our clients, who’s an attorney, owns his own practice, stops me as I was talking and says, “This is awesome.” You know you’re doing something right when someone’s just sitting there listening to you talk, but then makes a point to tell you that.

Jonathan: So some of the things we wanted to run by them was, we mentioned the packages, and that’s been successful. People have liked that, and everyone who isn’t a client in that room purchased one of those and did a planning engagement with us, but what we’re also … we wanted to run by them a couple other things, which was one, a subscription model, and what that looked like, and just in a nutshell, we wanted to be able to tell them, “Yes, we did this financial planning engagement with you in, for most of you, it was about three meetings from beginning to end.” We would have a followup, if there were investments to manage, that’d be kind of our ongoing relationship there, because we put a percentage of assets under management.

Jonathan: But if you didn’t do investments with us, beyond just setting up a new planning engagement, what was our formalized engagement, four years, two, three, four, and so forth.

Jonathan: So this was, in our eyes, this was something we needed to address, but we wanted to run in by them. So this is where the idea of subscription model really, to us, made sense, but we wanted to talk to them about it and just kinda throw around some numbers and see what they were comfortable with. Especially since they were some of the target market.

Jonathan: So that was one thing, and for that particular, for the subscription model, this would be getting even deeper than we had with most of them in the room, so we incorporate a lot of technology, whether it’s through mobile apps, or just different software that we’ve purchased to have a greater experience, financial planning real-time experience, because as we mentioned, this is a dynamic, very fluid season of life, so it’s not just a one-shot plan and, “See you later.”

Jonathan: So we threw some of that by them, and one of the things we threw out there was we wanted to go deeper into niche marketing, so one of the things we realized is a lot of the natural market for the young professionals have been younger attorneys and younger entrepreneurs. So that was what we were running by them as well, to going deeper into the niche area of having a niche practice for this group, not just simply young professionals, but specifically young attorneys and young entrepreneurs. So that was that piece of it.

Jonathan: The other piece of it was adding what actually they ended up calling “a la carte.” We didn’t’ even use that term, but they started using it, and they all started using that term when we had our discussion, but the idea being, “Okay, not everyone’s ready,” or maybe not everybody can afford a comprehensive plan, and you just want help with debt payoff. You just want help with someone to look at your 401(k) at work. You just want help with whatever, so we would essentially have something on our website, which would be a la carte.

Jonathan: You’d say, “Okay, here’s one goal. This would entail one meeting, and then a followup email recommendation, so it wouldn’t be a long-term engagement, but it would be a way to engage us without having a complete plan, but it addresses your primary pain point,” whatever it is at that point. So the reaction we got for that was, “This would make it easier to refer to you, because maybe you’re not gonna pay $2000 for the plan, but it’ll be something less than that for one goal or one concern you want addressed,” so they liked that, too.

Jonathan: So whether it’s that, overall, whether it’s a subscription or the … for lack of a better term, the a la carte model, these two things were well received. Like Glenn said, it was a lot of fun to have that.

Jonathan: And it was a good sign that at the end of the meeting, people just didn’t take off. It was late at night, and we kept emphasizing throughout the night, “We know you’re busy, we know you’re busy, this is the market we wanna serve, these busy professionals. You’re very, very occupied. A lot of computing priorities,” and so, but even though we know that’s the market and that’s the group that we invited there that night, they stuck around and we hung around and we talked for a long time afterwards. A lot of them didn’t wanna leave immediately.

Jonathan: So that’s another good sign that we were doing the right thing there by getting their opinions on some of these new offerings.

Hannah: So having this meeting, what surprised you?

Glenn: I’ll give you one.

Glenn: We got a lot of great direction from the people, but one surprise, it was just a blessing more than anything else … as we were breaking up, a wife who was there, was part of a couple, said, “You know, I have something I’d like to tell everybody,” and so, you know, “Okay, good, go ahead,” and she started speaking and said, “You know, we both just finished our masters degrees, and because we went to CameronDowning to these guys first, while all of our colleagues were complaining at graduation about the student loan debt that they had, we finished our masters degrees, paid for them in cash, and went to Europe afterwards to celebrate.”

Glenn: And that was, oh my gosh, that was just like, the best thing anybody could’ve ever told us. And we didn’t know it. We didn’t’ know it until then and there, in that meeting. We knew they were planning a trip, of course, but the extent to which we had been able to help them … oh, that was just wonderful. There’s no price you can put to that.

Hannah: You know, we talked about the power of financial planning a lot, and that is such a great example of the direct role that financial planning had in making somebody’s lives better.

Glenn: But in terms of concrete feedback, let me give you some.

Glenn: Mind you, you’ve gotta picture this. We’re in Marriott downtown, Biscayne Bay hotel, and they have a private dining room, really nice space that overlooks Biscayne Bay. Oddly enough, of all the places we looked at to host this meeting, this is by far the nicest, and by far the most affordable, which doesn’t often happen.

Glenn: But one of the questions we were getting at here was, “To what extent are you willing to provide us information, even before the first meeting?” You know, because in any financial planning engagement, the bottleneck of time occurs at the onboarding.

Glenn: And whereas on the one hand, we would love to have all kinds of information about you before we meet you, on the other hand, you may not wanna give it, because we’re both kind of feeling each other out to see if we’re even gonna be a good fit to work together.

Glenn: So what the response came back, loudly and clearly was, “We’re willing to give you some information. We’re not willing to give you concrete numbers, but we are willing to give you ranges.”

Jonathan: Right.

Glenn: So ask the question in terms of ranges. “What is your income? Is it between $100 and $150?” You know, “Is it between $100 and $200? How much are your total liabilities?” Again, give a range, and everyone would feel very comfortable answering that before they even came into a meeting, because then they were giving us somewhat of a picture of who they are, but they weren’t divulging personal details. And that was something that, quite honestly, we hadn’t even thought of beforehand.

Hannah: Oh, that’s fascinating.

Glenn: Yeah! We thought so, too!

Hannah: Yeah, I mean, that’s something I can go put on my website right now! Or make a change.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Glenn: By all means, and listen, you know, Hannah, that was another great thing that came out of the meeting, was so many … the target market here … I know we talk about that a little more … is attorneys and business owners and entrepreneurs, family income, household income of $150 and up. That’s the target market that we defined in this meeting. So that’s the people who were invited to be there.

Glenn: And they all said, to an individual, “This has been so useful. I’m gonna take this, this, or that back into my own practice.”

Glenn: So again, that’s part of our ethos of building up, and we’re very pleased that the work that we did that evening for our own benefit is also gonna be of great benefit to everyone else who was in the room.

Hannah: So you guys had mentioned the subscription model. What was this group’s feedback on implementing more of that subscription model versus the one-time fees with asset management on the … not on the side, but in addition to that?

Glenn: Two of them told us, “As soon as you have it ready, we’ll sign up.” Believe it or not.

Glenn: The target market for that is as I just described, in terms of income, but it’s young professionals who are used to paying a subscription for things they want. For Prime, for Amazon Music, for whatever. And they have more money than time, so they’re perfectly happy to outsource their financial lives to know that it’s being done well, so that they can, in turn, focus on their own businesses.

Jonathan: Right.

Glenn: If you’ve got an attorney who’s billing at $400 an hour, why not just pay us to take care of your financial life, and you go earn your $400 an hour, and you’ll come out ahead.

Jonathan: Right. The bottom line is, this demographic, this target market is, they’re busy, and we know that. So of course, the onus is on us to deliver an experience that not only meets their expectations, but hopefully exceeds them. So that’s why we’ve invested in some technology there.

Jonathan: And one thing, and I think it was Stephanie Bogan at the FPA conference, I don’t know if this was an original from her, but we thought it was brilliant, of living in beta.

Glenn: Yeah.

Jonathan: Ever since she said that, that’s just been something that has stuck with both of us, because that’s what we’ve been doing these last four plus years, and we plan to continue to do, you always have to.

Jonathan: This is more than just thinking of technology. Of course, that’s part of it. What’s the right piece of technology that adds to the client experience, or our firm operations, but just in terms of our approach, whether it’s on the behavioral side, the questions we ask, how we incorporate that into these meetings, because as we all know as planners, this is more behavioral than even the numbers part of it. So they tell us what the goal is and the concern is, and then it’s our job to not say, “Oh, you’re spending too much here, too much there,” but, “How can we, together, get you to that goal,” and, “Let’s look at it. Let’s just get organized and start there.”

Jonathan: So living in beta, we love that, ’cause that’s what we’ve been doing, and we plan to continue to do. And we’ll probably have more of these focus groups. We actually … it’s not on the calendar yet, but we plan to have another focus group with those nearing retirement, with that focus group, so we’re gonna gather some of our clients in that phase of life to be able to go over different questions, but to be able to see how can we improve or add to how we’re serving you.

Jonathan: So yeah, this is something we’re gonna be doing consistently, and comes down to, “How can we build you up, as a client?” And this is when you don’t necessarily need to ask for referrals, because you create such a great experience that they want to refer to you. But, gotta give them the opportunity to want to refer you by having meetings like this, and so forth, and sort of it speaks for itself.

Hannah: Yeah. I love that term, “living in beta.” I’ve written that down, and like, “Ooh, that’s really good.”

Glenn: Isn’t it good?

Hannah: Yeah.

Glenn: Isn’t it good. Especially when—

Jonathan: We like it.

Glenn: The software changes out from under you week by week.

Jonathan: Right.

Hannah: Yeah, well, it’s this idea of embracing change, embracing, always improving. That’s—

Glenn: Yeah.

Hannah: So good.

Hannah: So on that subscription model, are you guys gonna be charging a similar dollar amount per year, or were you looking at possibly raising your fees? What were the price points that your clients felt comfortable with?

Jonathan: Yeah, the fees are going to go up. We’re trying to nail down the exact number, but they’re gonna be more than they are now, at least for the subscription portion of it. So … I don’t know, how soon are we ready to talk about that, Glenn? We’re almost there, so … you know, it’s gonna be somewhere between, for the monthly portion of it, $150 and $200, somewhere in that range, and then we’re gonna have an up-front component as well, where it’s just kind of getting close to that or nailing that down, but what was helpful mainly was just the feedback we got, just to see how comfortable are they and how close are we to thinking about this before we execute, and start announcing it.

Hannah: You know, one of the other things that you said, Jonathan, was you guys are looking to deliver an experience. So I’d love to hear more of your thoughts, because I’ve been seeing this in other fields of … you know, that’s really the key is, what is your client experience like? It’s not just about giving them a list of recommendations. What do they go through?

Jonathan: The bottom line why people come to any financial planner is because there’s a pain point, and when talking about, specifically, the younger professional market, those pain points … that first home purchase, the student loan debts usually are the biggest ones, whether they should be or not … credit card, wealth-building as opposed to wealth preservation, just getting financially organized, ’cause now you’re making some money and need to make some good decisions, and maybe it’s especially pertinent because you have a young family now, so tax questions, those are oftentimes fairly new, ’cause now you’re making some money.

Jonathan: So starting with the pain points, their experience before meeting with us is, “Alright, there’s a problem,” or, “There’s something I know that needs to be addressed,” or, “I’ve been putting this off for a little, but now it’s time.” So it’s taking that and acknowledging that, and saying, “Yes, alright,” and making sure that … and it sounds very simple, but I think it’s very important … of repeating it back to them when they tell us, so to ask specifically, “Why are we here?”

Jonathan: One of our most recent clients that came onboard is, he and his wife joined us, and I asked them to tell me, “What were your primary goals and concerns?” So I wrote down, they were like … actually, it was more than most people. It was five, six, or seven different points there that he kind of rattled off to me, and I wrote them down, but then I … though we incorporate all the tech, as much tech as possible in meetings, in this case it seemed appropriate to just rip off a piece of paper from my notepad and say, “Here, I’ve written those …” whatever it was, “six things down. Would you …” talking to both spouses, “Would you prioritize them for me? And just write down, one, two, three, four, what’s most important?”

Jonathan: So getting them to just … we’re all silent for a minute or two. They’re kind of talking low and sort of figuring out, “Okay, what is this? Is this a one or is this a two?” and sort of figuring that out, I think that moment, that experience, not only of me writing down what those goals were, or even asking the question, but putting the paper in front of them and saying, “Would you prioritize this for me?” rather than me writing it down, it kind of let them engage in that experience, and then they handed it back to me, and then it opened the discussion further.

Jonathan: So I think that’s sort of the starting point there, in terms of the experience of, “We’re listening to you, we know this is important, this is why we’re here, and let’s start with what’s most important.”

Jonathan: So I think that’s just the beginning point. Beyond that, there’s a sort of an expectation of, “I’m hoping that it’s gonna get better, my financial life is gonna get better.” Most people will come to you, not with, “These are my five goals.” That very, very rarely happens. It’s, they come to you with a vague sense of unease … and this is the same with young professionals as with those nearing retirement … so they come with that, so our job, as we see it, “Let’s put it down together, let’s write them down and verbalize out loud what they are, and prioritize them.”

Jonathan: And I think that, at least as a beginning point, is a great experience for anyone, because in what other professional capacity will someone actually talk about these very personal things with you? In very, very few places. People will talk to us about all kinds of things because we’ve gotten them to open up about these very personal goals they have, which may or may not necessarily be money goals, but they may need money to actually address those goals, so it’s someone listening to you, and it gets pretty personal.

Jonathan: And so I think when you do that, and build on it from there, people, the trust just comes, because you were quiet and you let them tell you what’s most important to them in life.

Hannah: Well, and keeping it client-focused.

Jonathan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah: I mean, that’s what I kept hearing when you were talking, is it’s all about them and their experience. It’s not about, “I have this great software, let me show you what I can do,” you know?

Jonathan: Right.

Glenn: Let me give you an example, if I might, please. Hannah, do you ever gone to the doctor, and you know you’re going to a doctor with just a stellar reputation, he’s the best guy in town for what you need, but your experience in the office with the staff is horrible? They just don’t even look up, “Name. Date of birth.” This type thing.

Glenn: And so the work might be brilliant, but the experience is awful. What are you gonna go back and tell your friends, if anything? That’s the point. We want our clients to become our advocates, that they come out from the meeting with us saying, “They listened. They really listened. They got me. They get it. They know what I need, and I’ve never felt like this before, so I trust these guys, and I’m looking forward to working with them for long-term basis.” That’s the goal.

Jonathan: Right. Right.

Glenn: And that means lots of open-ended questions, and just going for it. They’ve hired us, as Jonathan said, initially vague sense of unease. So in terms of asking deep and probing questions, it becomes, not difficult, from the client’s point of view, but almost a refreshment, ’cause they get to unload. And where else in life … put it this way, where else in life does somebody actually sit down and ask you what you think and feel about something, and really want to know the answer? Very few places.

Hannah: Oh, and you know, I love this idea. We talked a little bit at the beginning about contrasting working in a place where it’s just all about sales versus a focus on financial planning. I mean, just even how you’re describing your relationship with your client is so, so different, and it’s like, that’s what financial planning’s about.

Glenn: Yes.

Jonathan: Right.

Glenn: Yes. Isn’t it odd that most financial planners … in fact, most CFP professionals don’t do financial planning? Mostly over on the, strictly on the investment management side.

Jonathan: Yeah. And it’s an interesting phenomenon when we’re going through a cashflow exercise, a budgeting exercise, with a client, it’s the phenomena of, “Let’s just write it all down. No judgment here, we’re not telling you you should do this or not, let’s just write it down. What is?” So we have our template, where we can start writing their spending habits down, but that exercise and the way we do that, of just non-judgment, “Let’s just write it all down. Now let’s get into any income, and the formulas are plugged in, so spread it out across 12 months, let’s see how it lays out, and Mr. or Mrs., or Mr., or just simply Mrs. Client, does this please you?”

Jonathan: And just the approach … and this is going back to that experience … we’ve had comments where they will use terms, in terms of budgeting, just the budgeting, of, “This is awesome. This is extremely helpful.” We’ve had more positive comments from the cashflow exercises … and they’re really not complicated. It’s really just putting it down, and then seeing where their money is going, now that they know it, and as we’ve taken them through that, they see the value in it, because they didn’t know before. They didn’t know where the money was going.

Jonathan: So we’ve had more positive comments from budgeting than from our investment management. However, wonderful job we do, that hasn’t been the primary source of value for most of these … especially young professional clients.

Hannah: Again, it’s, “What do the clients want?”

Glenn: Yep.

Hannah: And it’s focusing on that. I love it.

Glenn: You know, interestingly enough, we settled on those target markets for the young professionals simply because that’s who was coming to us. Just, as it happened, that’s who was hiring us, was a lot of attorneys and a lot of business owners. And the attorneys, again, people with absolutely no time, but just feel like something is off and needs somebody to come and look at it for them, and then entrepreneurs who are very successful, and now that they can breathe a little bit, are able to sit back, take a look at their business, look and put the proper financial and legal underpinnings to it, and that’s where we add a lot of value there.

Hannah: So I wanna talk about something else with the two of you, because I’ve been following you guys on social media, and other places for the last bit—

Glenn: Oh!

Jonathan: Great!

Hannah: And y’all are really fun to follow. You can tell that you’re having fun.

Glenn: Oh, good!

Hannah: Yeah. You have a lot of personality, you’re doing a lot of videos and things like that, so can you talk about … I just don’t see many planners doing that. What’s kind of motivated you to do that? Are you seeing results, or kinda, what does that look like for you guys?

Jonathan: Let’s just kinda put some round numbers.

Jonathan: Back in 2000, that’s when websites, you have to have a website, right? You have to have a website, and so of course, that remains today, but I think we’re well beyond that. The storefront window, if you will, is social media. So social media will get people to your website.

Jonathan: Yeah, they could Google you, and that’s certainly part of that, and you’ll come up there, but getting people interested and kind of perking their interest, I think the advice that we took, and we would give this to anyone else who’s even considering starting their firm or growing their firm, is position yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise, whatever that may be in financial planning, and put it out there, ’cause you could throw the greatest party in the world, and no one knows about it, then it’s not so great.

Jonathan: So people do need to know about it, so social media is the new storefront window, so kind of our approach is a little more on the aspirational side there. The idea is, hopefully people will be interested enough to, at some point, they’ll develop enough trust that by the time they come to our office or they set up a meeting virtually, they’ve already built that trust, because they’ve seen our work on social media, they’ve seen how we’ve posted, how we’ve positioned ourselves on our website, so it sort of breaks those barriers down before you even meet the person.

Jonathan: We did set up, a couple years back, our YouTube channel as well, so on here, I’ll tell you how we just started by … kind of started doing this. We’ve all seen videos out there where it’s clear that someone’s reading something, and you can see their eyes move back and forth, so it’s not … you know, “Okay, I’m gonna stop watching now.”

Jonathan: So if you want to have an exact script, you’d want something like a teleprompter, but when we first started, we had hardly anything. Our budget didn’t allow for buying this really nice teleprompter, so I went on YouTube and I Googled “how to make your own teleprompter,” so I figured out how you could do that. So for $10, I got a cardboard box, I bought a picture frame at Office Depot, took out the picture where it has reflective glass, downloaded a free app which mirrors your text. So I already knew what I wanted to say and I knew exactly how I wanted to say it as well, so bottom line, built our own homemade teleprompter, and we made about 30 videos on different financial topics that were relevant to our target market, and it’s only really been recent months where we started pushing it out on social extensively.

Jonathan: So it’s taken a while. It’s taken a while to figure out what we’re able to do, and the time that it needs to be done in, so we’ve been trying to position ourselves as expert leaders in certain areas, and so I think if anyone does that, they build trust over time, and then hopefully some of them will want to meet us and we can address their personal goals.

Hannah: Oh, I love that. So you guys have just this bank of 30 videos that you’re just slowly releasing?

Jonathan: Yeah. 30 right now, and we’ll probably need to refresh some of those. We have actually another one that we made recently that hasn’t gone out there yet, so we need to refresh some of those. They’re a couple years old, some of them. But yeah, we’ll be adding to those, certainly.

Hannah: So as we wrap up, what advice would you give to new planners who are entering the financial planning profession?

Glenn: CFP marks, without a doubt. CFP marks first and foremost.

Glenn: Age doesn’t matter if you’re leading the discussion with, “I use a fiduciary standard of care, Mr. and Mrs. Prospect. The advice I give is, to the most extent I can do so, always going to be in your best interest, and without conflicts of interest.” That’s powerful. So that would be the first thing I’d say. Go for CFP marks.

Glenn: Now of course, full disclosure here, I’m a CFP instructor. So that advice is a little bit conflicted. But I’ve certainly lived it out myself.

Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. I would add to that, also, as a president elect of the FPA Miami chapter, join FPA, the Financial Planning Association. There’s just some tremendous resources there. Having returned from the chapter leaders’ conference and seeing what’s in the works and what’s really available for anyone who’s part of that organization, if you’re not already … and even if you are part of the organization, leverage the resources that you have there.

Jonathan: There’s so much there, whether it’s on the business coaches corner, or Ben Lewis from media, getting your name out there, it’s just a host of resources at FPA, and then there’s the next gen group, of course. So leverage that. Leverage the little bit of investment that it is, just to join the association, even if you have to pay out of pocket, totally worth it.

Jonathan: So CFP, of course, first, and after you join CFP, sign up for FPA, and if you’re already a part of it, leverage the resources there.

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