If you’re not learning faster than the world is changing, then you are going to fall behind very quickly. And businesses that fall too far behind usually don’t get a second chance to catch up.
A big challenge for financial advisors is, how do you stay on top of everything that’s required to run a successful advisory business?
As Josh Brown put it at the recent Wealth/Stack Conference, “A good advisor is both coach and quarterback, on-demand psychologist and personal friend, historian and futurist.” That’s an awful lot of ground for us to cover in our personal and professional learning. Plus, we have to track technological advances that are impacting our industry, while also adapting to best practices that help our businesses stay ahead of the competition.
If you haven’t made a commitment to learning one of your top responsibilities as a CEO advisor, today’s episode will help you get with the program.
My guest today is financial planner, author, podcast host, and speaker Taylor Schulte. Taylor is the founder of Define Financial, a financial planning firm headquartered in San Diego, CA. He’s also the co-founder of Advisor Growth Community, a place for financial advisors to connect with and learn from each other, and the host of two excellent podcasts, Stay Wealthy and Experiments in Advisor Marketing.
Taylor and I talked about why all financial advisors need to be lifelong learners, our sources for learning, and we share a few marketing ideas too.
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I think one of the most positive developments in our industry is that advisors are opening up more than ever before. Today it’s possible to learn from the absolute best of the best just by subscribing to some good podcasts, following the right folks on social media, and cracking the latest issue of Financial Advisor Magazine.
“Number one, just from a technical standpoint and staying up to speed with being a CFP and being a financial planner, is Michael Kitces and kitces.com,” Taylor says. “I wouldn't have survived without him and all of the content that he puts out there for free, which is crazy.”
Taylor also recommends checking out Matthew Jarvis, a Seattle-based advisor and coach. “I grew this practice from scratch 12 years ago and it was kind of a chaotic business,” Taylor recalls. “I had clients all over the place, portfolios all over the place, and Matt really helped me dial in these processes and procedures by setting expectations and taking extreme ownership over things and just really cleaning things up. I really appreciated him as a resource.”
Those are both good suggestions, but I think the important thing here isn’t just syncing your playlist to Taylor’s, or mine, or anyone else’s. The key is that you take advantage of the learnings that top advisors are putting out there and adapt them to your practice’s unique needs and goals. If all you do is try and copy what other people doing, then, at best, you'll just be a second-rate version of someone else. You've really got to figure out what it is that you love to do, what it is that you're really good at, and focus on those things.
But here’s one caveat. Make sure you have a plan for your learning. If you have too many input sources, you’ll just get distracted and not move forward with a coordinated plan of action.
Every year I try to go to one conference that has nothing to do with finance. Hearing top pros from other fields speak about the latest in art, science, technology, and other big picture issues rewires my thinking about my own life and business.
That’s also one of the reasons that I’ve made an effort to diversify the guest list on my own Between Now and Success podcast. When I started the podcast five years ago, there were few, if any, podcasts for financial advisors. Now, there are a bunch. Stepping outside of our arena helps to differentiate me, my podcast, and my brand.
But I also find that strategies that are effective in other fields can make our businesses better as well. I’ve talked to a Navy test pilot about stress management. A top sports psychology coach discussed achieving peak performance. Scientists and psychologists have helped me rethink my approaches to goal setting and how to help clients improve their habits.
“One retreat that I attended this year was Capital Camp hosted by Brent Beshore and Patrick O'Shaughnessy,” Taylor says. “I wanted to attend to get outside of my bubble, get outside of my comfort zone. This retreat was just packed full of VCs and entrepreneurs and people in the real estate field. People just doing really neat, interesting stuff and I think there were five or less of us financial advisors in attendance there, and so that was really impactful.”
One suggestion I have would be to follow the things you’re passionate about outside your business. My interests in exercise and mountain climbing are what got me thinking about how top athletes train to perform at their best. Visiting museums and attending music concerts has influenced my thinking on my writing and also how I run my businesses.
Whatever your “thing” is, run with it. Your passions might lead you to a new way to set yourself apart and craft a more effective message to your target audience. Yes, folks are coming to you primarily for financial advice and Life-Centered Planning strategies. But that’s not ALL your audience wants to talk about.
“Creating engagement with people is where it's at going forward here,” Taylor says. “It's not just putting a post up on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter and then walking away from it, but finding a way to engage people in a conversation.”
Networking isn’t just something that happens casually at industry conferences and happy hours. Making a conscious effort to connect with your peers is a great way to learn from other advisors about how we all approach challenges in our lives and practices.
Taylor says, “Several years ago a few advisors and I developed this Mastermind group. There's five of us now in this group. It's just been really helpful to bounce ideas off of each other and talk about some of our limiting beliefs and some of the challenges that we're going through or ideas that we have to grow. It's not always about business. Sometimes it's, ‘Hey, I'm really struggling right now with finding balance between my work life and my family life.’”
Taylor’s group is spread out across the country, so they connect with each other via video conferences. You might be able to organize regular face-to-face meetups with advisors in your own area. Or you could join a group like YPO or Taylor’s Advisor Growth Community.
I’ve seen firsthand how powerful a commitment to regular networking can be. My ROL Advisor platform offers members monthly live video Learning Hours. We set a topic in advance and I co-host a presentation with my partner, Mitch Anthony. Sometimes we invite guests to add their expertise to our discussion. And then at the end of the hour we open up the floor to all attendees for some different perspectives, success stories, challenges, and solutions. Our community is the strongest asset we have for improving our platform and for helping our member advisors improve their businesses.
Taylor advises, “Anybody who is considering starting a Mastermind, I think it's really important to have some sort of process and structure in place for this and not just show up on a Zoom call and just start talking. We have a Google Form that everybody fills out ahead of that phone call and then the answers funnel into a spreadsheet, and so when we jump on our call we can see that spreadsheet and see everybody's answers.
There's questions like:
Then, conversations start to spur from that. Other people will ask questions and sometimes we go on these tangents that become really impactful. But having that form and that spreadsheet serves as a really good structure for making sure that we're making good use of our time.”
Our interests and our lives often lead us down unexpected paths. Some are worth following as we try to become better advisors and people. Others are just distractions. You can’t chase after every shiny new thing. Take in as much as you can from a variety of sources, but then funnel down that input into some essential learnings that are going to help you hit your goals your way.
“I go back to five years ago when I launched,” Taylor remembers, “and there was a lot of talk about fee schedules changing and the monthly fee schedule and retainers. I learned a lot by experimenting and trying different things in that arena, but I also think it was a distraction at the time. I think it just comes back to doing really, really good work for your clients and doing the right thing, and your practice will grow. Are you doing really good work for your clients? Are you doing the right thing? Does the value you provide outweigh the fee? If yes, then I think you're going to grow a wildly successful practice.”
Blog, Video, and Podcast Your Way to More Clients An article by Taylor Schulte with some great tips on marketing strategy.
Social Media Marketing World Taylor Schulte recommends this conference if you're looking to step outside the finance bubble.
Capital Camp Another recommendation from Taylor Schulte, this conference is primarily aimed at venture capitalists.
Michael Kitces kitces.com A wealth of valuable information for financial advisors.
Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.
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