On this edition of The Elite Advisor Blueprint Podcast, I am joined by our special guest, Alan Moore (@xyplanning), co-founder of the XY Planning Network and the host of #XYPNRadio. XY Planning Network is a platform for financial advisors that want to start and run their fee-only financial planning firm to serve X and Y generation clients largely ignored by traditional firms. XY Planning Network currently has over 250 advisory firms in their network.
Alan started his first practice in Wisconsin but quickly realized that traditional financial planning business was not for him. Following his heart and his passion for the outdoors, he leaped over to Bozeman, MT, so he could hit the slopes over lunchtime, and was able to maintain the same client base and work with them virtually. Based on that experience, Alan proceeded to build a highly-successful virtual advisory practice and ultimately co-founded XY Planning Network with Michael Kitces.
I invited Alan to the show to share his inspiring story and break down the exact steps that advisors can take to transition their traditional financial planning firm to a virtual one that supports the life they want to live. We also take a deep dive into the must-have tools for virtual advisors and discuss why it’s incredibly important to define your ideal life as a financial advisor.
Grab a pen and some paper, turn up the volume and get ready to take some notes. You definitely won’t want to miss this value-packed episode!
Already heard it once or twice? Please leave a short review here, and tell me which guests I should have on!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- What XY Planning Network is all about and how it came to be despite naysaying from his peers. [3:56]
- How Alan was able to transition his traditional advisory firm to a virtual practice while maintaining his entire client base. [8:53]
- How Alan developed his marketing strategy that brought him clients from across the US. [15:20]
- How advisors can begin integrating virtual appointments into their business. [17:16 ]
- The technology that Alan used for his virtual advisory business. [19:33]
- The must-have tools for virtual advisors. [24:24]
- How using those virtual tools can improve your customer acquisition rates. [31:09]
- The importance of staying current with today’s technology and tools. [38:22]
- Other must-have tools for virtual advisors. [43:51]
- Alan’s favorite book that helped him get to where he is today. [59:44]
- Alan’s example of a successful advisor. [1:01:13]
- Three questions Alan uses with clients to help them identify their ideal life. [1:03:32]
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Episode: Scott McKain on Creating the Ultimate Client Experience and What Made Zig Ziglar Unforgettable
- 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- The Tim Ferriss Show podcast
- George Kinder: Three Questions about Life Planning
- Download our Doing Business Through The Mail Guidelines
- Connect with Alan: Website |Podcast | Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook
- XY Planning Network on Twitter
- Tools for virtual advisors:
- Zoom – virtual meeting software
- Skype – free voice-over-IP calls and video
- Join.me – scheduling software
- ScheduleOnce – scheduling software
- Calendly – scheduling software
- DocuSign – digital signature for documents
- SweetProcess – web-based process creation software
- LastPass – password management software
- Meldium – Team Password Manager
- Dropbox – file sharing tool
- Boxcryptor – encryption software to secure files in the cloud
- Box – Enterprise Level Data and Information Security
- Red Tail – Customer relationship management tool
- Junxure Cloud – Customer relationship management tool
- Wealth Box – Customer relationship management tool
- SalesForce – Customer relationship management tool
- Orion – cloud services
- Google Apps
- Verizon Jetpack
PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODERead More
[0:00:36] Brad: On this episode, I’m joined by special guest, Alan Moore. He is the Co-founder of the XY Planning Network along with the name many of you may recognize, Michael Kitces. Just a quick aside for those of you listening on the audio and not watching along via video, Alan references putting Michael on his shoulder early in the interview. No worries, it’s just a bobble head. They aren’t doing acroyoga or anything like that. So I just thought I’d cover that real quick.
So what is XYPN? It’s a platform for financial advisers that want to start and run their fee-only financial planning firm to serve X and Y generation clients, largely ignored by traditional firms. They currently have over 250 advisory firms in their network. Alan is also the host of a popular podcast XYPN Radio, which along with this podcast, is one of the few out there specifically designed for independent financial advisors.
In this conversation, we discuss how Alan transitioned from a brick and mortar office to a practice that runs almost 100% virtual appointments. Originally, this was so Alan could relocate to Bozeman, Montana so he could, as he says, “hit the slopes over lunch, if you wanted.” We do a deep dive into exactly how he was able to move multiple states away from his existing client base and continue to have a thriving firm. We cover the conversations he had with clients to successfully set up the transition, the must have apps and other software he uses to conduct business virtually, and the reaction he received from many of his clients when doing virtual appointments that absolutely surprised him.
Besides the virtual practice conversation, we discuss how Alan developed marketing strategies that brought him clients from across the US, how using virtual tools can improve your customer acquisition rates, Alan’s favorite book that helped him where he is today. And, lastly, we wrap up with one of my favorite parts of the interview, the three questions Alan uses with clients to help them identify their ideal life. This part’s pure gold so make sure you have a pen and paper ready for it. You’ll want to write them down.
Lastly, in the spirit of helping you transition to virtual appointments, our team helped to create an awesome tool, a guide for doing annuity business virtually. It’s available to download free at www.bradleyjohnson.com/Alan, “A-L-A-N”. As always, show notes that include links to all the resources, books mentioned, everything else we cover are available there as well. Thanks for listening. And without further delay, my conversation with Alan Moore.
[0:02:57] Brad: Welcome, everyone, to this edition of The Elite Advisor Blueprint podcast. I have special guest, Alan Moore here with us today, Co-Founder of the XY Planning Network. So for those of you out there that follow twitter, any social media, these guys are absolutely out there crushing it, have a fairly large podcast at this point. It hasn’t been ran that long, Alan, but you already have a fairly massive following. So welcome to the show. We’re excited to have you.
[0:03:23] Alan: Thanks so much. I’m excited to be here.
[0:03:26] Brad: And your partner in crime over there, also another Twitter guy, a guy named Michael Kitces. I got that right?
[0:03:31] Alan: Yes, I could put him on my shoulder for all the viewers for the guardian angel sitting back there.
[0:03:38] Brad: Well, so I’m just going to hop in and dig in because I know you’ve got a ton of very cool ideas. With your guy’s expertise, just so everybody that’s not familiar with XY Planning Network or maybe not you or Michael,can you just share, number one, what XY is, and number two, how it all came to be?
[0:03:56] Alan: Yeah. So XYPN is basically a platform for financial advisors that want to start or run their own kind of financial planning firm, just served Gen X and Gen Y clients. And we didn’t mean to pick a lot of fights to the industry. But we ended up taking on the industry, got a head on because so many of us that are younger, kind of started own firms. And so, we wanted to do things differently. We don’t want to be stuck in kind of being told this is the way things have always been done. We don’t want to be forced to do face-to-face meetings. We don’t want to be forced to only work with older wealthy clients. What if I want to serve 30-year-olds? What if I want to be seen only? What if I want to be able to be around the country and not have to worry about having space?
And we just were being told that every turn, we can’t do it. Can’t be done. People will never work with you. And the best way to ensure my success is to tell me something can’t be done. I love a good fight. But what I’ve come to realize is that many young advisors were discouraged by, it’s kind of the establishment telling you constantly you can’t do it. You can’t do it. And so we established a network as a way to basically take those fights and let Michael Kitces and myself kind of take those on and build a community of advisors that wanted to do things a little differently, wanted to do things the wrong way.
And so we honestly got started because I got tired of answering the phone from young planners asking me how I started my own firm. It was kind of a market need that after literally 100 phone calls in a matter of 12 months, that I spent an hour on the phone with 100 different associate advisors talking about how to do compliance, how to select a CRM, how to work virtually, how to market yourself, that we decided, “Hey, let’s just pool together the group of young advisors out there that own their own firm and kind of put on in a community together, makes us as bulk buyer so we can provide discounts on services and technology and all this. And it kind of got started from there back in April of 2014. So just over two years ago now.
[0:05:46] Brad: Wow. And from our conversation prior to going live here, it sounds like it’s taken fairly quickly for you guys.
[0:05:52] Alan: Yeah, you know, we like to joke we have no idea how big the market size is which, for anyone that’s starting a business, you know it’s a really bad thing to say. Everyone wants to know, how big is the market? And you don’t know because what we know is that there’s a lot of advisors out there that I think, burn out on the industry, because they’re just in the wrong fit in terms of a position or a firm, or the way that the firm is set up. And I think we’re losing a lot of talent that gets churned out by various companies. And that stands from the commission side all the way to the fee-only side, where I think there are a lot of older advisers selling also their goods on succession planning and how, you know, “Come in and I’ll sell you my firm in five to ten years.” But they don’t put in that contract so it never actually happens. And so we just kind of see this huge swarm of young planners that are looking to try things a little different.
And so to your point, we’ve got about just over 250 advisory firms now in our network and growing. So we’re thrilled to see the market place that’s out there and to be able to serve as the best as we can.
[0:06:49] Brad: Cool. So with that in mind, I would love to pick your brain on because I know you’re very tech-savvy. You take, I guess, the spectrum. And you guys were on the leading edge. And not everybody in the financial services space is. And so, we were chatting. And I’d love to hear a little bit of the story. But I’ll give the Cliffs Notes version for the viewers and listeners today. You were in Atlanta, Georgia, which I think where your practice was primarily based, your financial planning practice?
[0:07:18] Alan: That’s actually where I was born and raised. But I started my practice in Wisconsin.
[0:07:22] Brad: Oh, Wisconsin. OK. So you make the jump to Wisconsin and then there’s this outdoor side of you that wants to ski over lunch time, if I’m getting that right. This is during the week, not during the weekend?
[0:07:35] Alan: Exactly.
[0:07:37] Brad: OK. So you find Bozeman, Montana as the most ideal place to do this from the “ski over lunch” standpoint. And then you transitioned a financial firm. And for everybody here that’s obviously financial advisors listening in, most of us think of an appointment as face-to-face, instead of across the conference room table with my clients or prospects. And you went ahead and left the practice that was doing well in Wisconsin, right? Leap over to Bozeman where you somehow were able to maintain that client base, work with them virtually in Wisconsin, but also start up a new practice in Bozeman. And some of those people you met with face to face, but some also you met virtually. Is that right?
[0:08:18] Alan: Yeah. That’s a great summary.
[0:08:20] Brad: OK. So how did you do that? I’m sure it was easy, right?
[0:08:23] Alan: When you put it that way. You know, it’s kind of funny when you’re in the middle of doing things like that. You don’t think anything other than you just think of. You just do what you have to do. And whenever you come out on the other end of it, you realize that the stakes you’ve made and the good points. But I’ll say that the reason for the move – and I think that that’s the most important key because I think there are a lot of advisors out there that say, “Well, do I have to work virtually? I want to meet with all my clients in person and network locally and all that.” I’m like, “That’s fine.” Don’t “should” on yourself. There’s no should in working virtually. What I did was I looked at my life and I said, “Am I living my great life?” My job and my opinion was to help my clients live their great lives, figure out what that great life is and then move to chase it and use money to support that life.
And I realized, I myself, was not actually living my great life. And so, I said, “Well, it’s going to require me to make a move. I didn’t want to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin because I really had no ties there. It was a great city, it just wasn’t home for me. And so, I picked Bozeman and made the leap. And so, I will say I didn’t do it overnight. I kind of made the decision overnight that I was going to do it. But it was about an 18-month transition. And so, what I did was, one, I was just honest with my clients. And I sat down and I met with every client at our next kind of quarterly review meeting. And I said, “Hey, this is something I’m going to be doing. I’d like to move out there. I think that this is I’m really passionate about and something that I really enjoy. And I hope you understand. I’m still going to be providing great service, still going to be working with you. My service model isn’t going to change. You’re still going to get great service. You have access to me by e-mail and phone just like you always have. And I’m just going to be living a few states over.”
And honestly, I got no pushback. I think that was the most surprising thing for advisors is clients were like, “OK.” And truth be told though, I work with younger clients. Most of my clients are in their 30s and 40s. I had a couple that were in their 60s. But one, Gen X/Gen Y, we’re the most mobile generations in history. Gen Y is the most mobile generation in history. They tend to change jobs every three to four years. They move quickly. They move across state lines more so than the baby boomers did. So they were probably going to move away from me at some point anyway. So it wasn’t like everyone’s going to stay in Milwaukee and Alan, the advisor, is going to just bail.
Most of my clients were going to move anyway. The ones that were already virtual were virtual. They didn’t care. But my local ones, some for the most part were leaving. And so, they said, “OK. The advisor leaves earlier than I do.” And so, in order to get them used to it, what I tried was I traveled. I spent every other month in Montana. So I spent January and March. And so what I would do is just schedule my meetings with my Wisconsin clients when I was in Montana. So I would say, “Hey, the next meeting, we’re going to do virtually. And there are two meetings that we’re going to do face-to-face.” And what I found was, one, they were totally understanding. They want to get used to it, get the technology set up. But after that first virtual meeting, I never got them back in my office in Wisconsin because they’re like, “This is great. I can just be at home. I don’t have to deal with parking and traffic and childcare and take a half-day off work.” And they loved it. And so I gave myself kind of 18 months to make the transition which is probably longer than I actually needed before I made the move. And clients stayed with me. I didn’t lose a single client over the transition.
[0:11:24] Brad: Wow. Didn’t lose one. That’s incredible. So what’s interesting is, I mean, you say XY generation. But I look most of our clients, most of our advisors are serving the retirees, so more of your baby boomer generation on up. And I think what’s interesting is you’re hiring net worth retirees. They want to travel. And a lot of them actually have second homes, Florida, Arizona, places like that.
So if you look at this, if you have a process, if your quarterly review process or whatever that looks like in your world today, it’s actually helping you engage with any of your clients at a higher level, but it’s more convenient for them. So it’s interesting. I know your client base is a little younger than what ours here. But I don’t think it makes it any less valuable to be able to have a virtual appointment.
[0:12:11] Alan: Agreed. And I think when I look at clients in their 60s, they’ve been talking to the grandkids on Skype for five or six years now. They’ve all got smartphones. They’re all on Facebook. This is not as crazy as it was five years ago for working with retired clients. Now, we’ll say, the one thing that retired clients have that younger clients, young professionals don’t have, is time. Retired clients are Tuesday afternoon, come at the advisor’s office. It’s the highlight of a week. I mean, they’re excited to see us a lot of times. Young professionals don’t have the time.
And so, I think they were just thrilled to have the option to meet virtually just because it was just so much more efficient for them. But even with the retired clients, they’re used to the technology. They generally already have it set up. And to your point, they’re not local either. I mean, my retired clients travel all the time because if they’re working with me,they may probably set themselves up financially. And like I said, they may be spending six months in Arizona or Florida. And so, you can just open up and say, “Hey, when you’re in Arizona, we’ll meet with you virtually and see how it goes. You don’t have to make this. It doesn’t have to be this huge ‘one day I’m in person and the next day I’m virtual’.” You can really just open it up and push down and say, “Hey, this is a new option that we’re offering to be more convenient for you,” and see how it goes.
What you’ll find is that you may start getting more and more meetings virtually to the point that you may not actually get folks in to your office anymore.
[0:13:30] Brad: So what was the biggest surprise you found when you’re making this transition from in-face to virtual?
[0:13:35] Alan: You know, one of the surprises was when I ended up having basically two offices. So I’m showing on my website I have an office in Bozeman, I have an office in Milwaukee, was my new prospects and the clients here were coming to me didn’t live in either state, which was odd to me. It was not something I expected. But once I showed that I worked virtually because I worked in multiple locations, suddenly, I started getting clients in California, in Nebraska, in Georgia. I ended up with clients with something like 12 or 15 states before when I ultimately ended up selling my practice. They were all over because suddenly I almost established a niche which is ridiculous, that working virtually could imply a niche. But it was offering up service that my target market was looking for and having multiple offices kind of screamed, “Hey, I work virtually.” And so my surprise was that, ultimately, one, I didn’t lose any clients. That was a big shock. And then, two, the new clients started coming in. They came from all over. And they didn’t know any better. It didn’t really care. They were looking for someone that specialized in their particular needs, and not just the advisor that lived closest to them. And that allowed me to kind of showcase that for myself.
[0:14:41] Brad: It’s interesting. Well, first off, if you’ve got some XY Planning that worked, that was two niches that I just counted. So I know you’ve got a fun little game on your latest podcast. We can bring that over. I’m cool with that too. So there’s two of them. So as I think about that, I never thought about that. But just the fact that it shows that you can work virtually, that became a new marketing avenue for you. How do that come about? Were they referrals from your clients, where they just happened to have friends in other states and they were like, “Yeah, we can do these virtual appointments, so he could work with you.”?
[0:15:14] Alan: I did get a couple that way, like a sister of a client that was looking for an advisor that lived in Kansas, that sort of thing. But for the most part, my marketing was all done, tech content marketing version anyway. I did a lot of YouTube videos, blogging, social media. I had a newsletter that went out to several thousand prospects. I built my newsletter list over time. And being listed on various association websites like NAPFA, FPA, CFP Board, kind of all these various places. And so, folks are finding me online, honestly. And so they weren’t looking. And I found out that my prospects weren’t looking for a financial advisor in Bozeman. They were looking for a financial advisor that specializes in start-up business owners, which is kind of the niche that I kind of developed into and was helping clients that were also starting a business because I love those conversations around personal finance and the business finance and integrating them and talking marketing on the business, as well as retirement planning on the personal.
And so, they were just kind of finding me that way. The other way that I got a lot of business – and honestly, I built my background on the referrals from other financial advisors – and so what I found was there was a lot of advisors out there that just say, “Hey, look, I’m happy with my billion dollar and up clients focused on local practice” and that sort of thing. But whenever they’ve built this brand and they get a lot of client referrals, and they were turning away all these prospects. And so they would send them to me. And they’d say, “You know, we don’t really work virtually.”, or “We will only work with people with a billion dollars or more. We don’t have an expertise in student loans.” So I was just the name that came to mind because I had kind of an established brand within the advisory community. And that worked great too. So it’s the shotgun effect of marketing. I’m a big fan of kind of throwing a lot against the wall and see what sits. And you may find that a lot of various things work well. And you can kind of build out that sales funnel over time.
[0:17:01] Brad: All right. So if I’m an advisor, and you’ve already kind of done some of this with your planning network, but I say, “Alan, all right, I want to go be a ski bum and I wanna work half the year in Colorado or wherever that place is.” If I was going to say, “These are the four-five steps to jumping to virtual appointments.”, can you walk through what those are and also some of the technology that you utilize to be able to make that happen?
[0:17:27] Alan: Good question. So I think step one is you’ve got to have a story to tell. And I think it’s about being honest with your clients. I don’t think you need to hide this. I think you need to try to mask it as, “Oh, I have to do this.” I think you can just tell your clients, “Look, this is something I really wanna do. And I want to live.” I just got an e-mail from an advisor who wants to spend six months a year in Alaska. Well, I’ve gotten e-mails from other advisors who say, “I want to take six months a year off. How do I do that? How do I work every other month?” And that’s just a lifestyle that they want. So I would actually say, “Maybe even step one is define your ideal life. Stop living this “I have to work 9:00 to 5:00 because I’ve been told that’s the way it’s always been done and will make as much money as I can.” And that 9:00 to 5:00 which ends up being 8:00 to 8:00 for a lot of entrepreneurs, six days a week.” And so, really define what’s the ideal lifestyle for you.
And that could be meaning being a ski bum. You can go live somewhere else six months a year. It maybe you just want to volunteer in your kid’s school on Tuesdays. And you want to be classroom mom or dad. It may be that you just want to spend more time with family. It doesn’t have to be this eccentric, nomadic traveling lifestyle. But really just define what’s your ideal life and look at how do you design the business to support that lifestyle. And I would argue that most people, whenever they really go through and are really clear of themselves or their partner about what’s an ideal life, being able to meet virtually with clients fits in there somewhere. It just tends to happen. And so, once you’ve kind of make that decision, you can make the decision if you want to be all virtual or just partial-virtual. I don’t think there’s a right answer again. It just kind of depends on your life. And, I guess, what excites you and so you may decide you want to do half your meetings virtually, half of them in person. It doesn’t really matter just kind of figure that out for yourself. And then communicate it to clients and explain why that you want to do those things. I think they’re understanding.
In my experience is that we become friends with our clients. They’re not just another customer that’s in and out. And so we have these great relationships with our clients. And I think they want us to be happy as much as we want to help them be happy. And so, it’s OK to say, “Hey, this is kind of what I’m doing.” And then the next step is, I would say, just kind of phase it in around technology. For this podcast recording, we’re using Zoom. This is a wonderful software for virtual meetings. You can use Skype just because it’s something that clients pretty much have all used at some point in the past. It’s free. Just go, you know, sign up for it. If you have older clients and you need to create a little screenshot tutorial of how they can log into Skype and call you, you totally can do that. But you just show it to them and make it an offering and just kind of see what happens.
I think advisors will be surprised to how easy it is. I think somehow we can make it harder on ourselves because we look for excuses on why everything won’t work. But once you just say, “Hey, we can meet on Skype and here’s the option. See what happens.” And every meeting that you schedule for the next month, say, “Hey, would you rather meet in person or do you just wanna meet on Skype? You just call me on video.” And I bet over half the folks will say video.
[0:20:21] Brad: Along those lines, because I’ve been doing virtual appointments like this for years, just from financial advising/coaching standpoint. And five years ago, some of that technology was, I mean, you had to download, another plugin. All types of stuff. Join.me is another one that I found, it’s incredibly easy. It’s free. You send them a link. They click it. And now, they can see your screen. And then, they have a paid version where you can do video as well. So it’s an awesome software that get much more intuitive.
So let’s take a step back there, the defining of ideal life. And I just think about, I think everybody gets to a point where they become friends with their clients, right? If they’re running a great business and it’s a mutually-beneficial relationship. And I just think about if I’m sitting there on a cell phone or on a video like this, and I happen to be at a pool, how much more of a personal connection that is with my clients? because they see the real me. I’m a real person just like them. I have kids running around. So if you can speak to maybe how that has changed the relationship on some of these clients, and also, I know you’ve got a really interesting calendar software that allows them to either book virtual or in the office. And they can actually choose and how you integrated that? Two questions in there.
[0:21:35] Alan: Yeah. I love the question about changing the relationship with clients. So if we remember back in the day, you know, not too long ago, a lot of advisors actually went to clients’ homes because they realize, one, it was more convenient for the client; and, two, it was much more intimate to be in a client’s space than have the client in the advisor’s kind of sterile, cumbersome environment. And I think video is actually the best of both worlds that allows us to get into a client’s home and allows them to kind of maybe see the real us, if we’re not in the office. But it also allows that efficiency. It just makes it easier on the client, again, to avoid them having to come down to the office.
And I can’t tell you how many babies I have met, new cats and dogs. Cats would inevitably walk across the laptop when you’re meeting. You get to meet the pets. You get to meet the kids. I work a lot of young professionals that are having babies. And it’s not comfortable for the mom to bring in a newborn and breastfeed in front of a baby. Well, if they’re in my office now. She’s got to go and she wants to go in another room and interrupts the meeting. With a web cam, I can just turn it. I can’t see her now and she’s still part of the meeting. It’s great. And so it’s just little things like that that you realize it’s just, it’s so much more convenient and comfortable for the client and just makes it easier. And again, it all depends on your target market, kind of who you specialize in working with. But especially younger folks that are in these various situations, I think it’s great. And to your point, working with older clients, they can see you next to a pool. That’s OK. I don’t think we need to be the “suit and tie across the mahogany table” anymore. I don’t think that that’s what clients expect of us.
We don’t need to show how rich we are because we’re going to make our clients rich. I think the relationship that financial advisors have with our clients is changing so dramatically and so fast, honestly, just last five or ten years that you can show up to work in a t-shirt and jeans, if you want. I show up and I speak at industry conferences in a t-shirt and jeans and I have a beard. And it makes me look very awkward in financial planning. But, you know what, I’m comfortable. It’s who I am. It’s me. If I show up in a suit, I’m not going to be myself. So if you’re the person that wants to show up in a t-shirt and jeans, that’s fine.
I was talking to a young planner recently that is getting into financial planning. He’s a rocker. I mean, he’s got a Mohawk and purple hair. He’s got piercings. And we look at this guy, we say like, “Well, he’s not a financial advisor. He doesn’t wear a suit.” He’s saying, “Do I need to shave my hair, take out all the piercings?” I’m like, “Heck no, dude. There are so many rocker-type prospects out there that want an advisor that speaks their language. Be yourself. And if somebody shows up and goes, “Oh my gosh, you’re not professional enough for me.”, excellent, you’ve already weeded that client out from coming in and being your client. You wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.” They say good marketing should repel more clients than it attracts. And so, that’s a great way to do this. Just be yourself, be comfortable. And again, if you wanna be virtual, you wanna show up in a t-shirt, that’s fine.
The second part of your question, in terms of calendar software, one of my kind of must-have technologies, even if you’re still doing all the personal meetings, is get scheduling software. It’s like 19 bucks a month. So it is practically free for the amount of time that it saves you. I have been a big fan of ScheduleOnce for financial advisors. There are a lot of options out there. I also use Calendly, which is another one. I prefer Calendly but ScheduleOnce has a little more flexibility for advisors. So I generally push in that direction. But, yeah, you can set it up with different services with introductory call, with the advisor discovery meeting, presentation meeting, quarterly review, whatever your meeting structure is, and given the options, is it going to be in person? Is it going to be phone call or video? And let the clients just choose and then the follow-up e-mails that are coming out the system are all automated. And it says if it’s a video meeting, here are the Skype instructions on how to log in. You can set up reminders and that sort of thing. It will save you so much time, if nothing else, to just be able to e-mail your 100 clients for the quarterly review meeting with a link that says “hey, click here to schedule”, and it goes right into your calendar.
The reason I like ScheduleOnce is you could approve meetings instead of some of the other ones are just automated. They put themselves on a calendar in ScheduleOnce. You can force them to choose two or three different times. You say, “OK, I like this one better than this one.” And it just goes on a calendar and you’ll never double book it. Just puts it right there and makes it super easy for clients. So that is definitely one of my must-have technologies for any advisor, but specifically if you’re going to be working virtually. And the kind of caveat to that, especially if you’re traveling, time zones become a nightmare just in managing time zones. And so, having electronic scheduling where the clients choose their time zone, it puts it on your calendar and your time zone, which makes it so much easier. You don’t have to deal with, “Oh, did you need Eastern or Central? I’m going to be in a mountain, so what’s the conversion?” kind of thing.
[0:26:10] Brad: For the old school advisors that are sitting there thinking, “Sounds great. My clients don’t check e-mail.” Or what percentage – and I know you’re dealing with the younger clientele – but let’s say you blast out that e-mail, and let’s say 50% book through there, what’s your backup plan for those that don’t?
[0:26:28.4] Alan: Well, whatever you normally do. You know, if you normally call all of your clients. Let’s say, you have a hundred clients and you normally make a hundred phone calls, well, now, you only have to make 50. So you just saved 50 phone calls, make the phone calls. And if you say, “Hey, just to let you know in the future, you’re going to be getting an e-mail from me every quarter, so be sure you’re checking your e-mail around the first of the quarter because we’re going to be e-mailing you the schedule.” And maybe you don’t capture 100% of your clients, but if it just saves you 50% of those phone calls – because you’ve made those phone calls. You have to call a hundred people – And guess what? They’re all out and you have a hundred voice mails and they all call you back after you’re not in the office to schedule the meeting. And it’s just back and forth, back and forth. Essentially it’s a nightmare. So just making that available is fantastic.
And the other thing too is you have two sets of clients, in my opinion. You have existing clients and your future clients. Existing clients are always a little more of a challenge to change however they’ve been operating with you. They just tend to kind of do the same thing. So you have to make some tweaks and kind of push it a few times. New clients, I don’t know the difference. You’ve never called them to schedule client meetings. So they’re just used to getting the calendar invites. So over time, within a year or two, you’ll probably find a much higher percentage of your clients are adopting.
[0:27:38] Brad: What’s interesting, I was just thinking about this, is most dentists have better scheduling processes than financial advisors.
[0:27:45] Alan: Yes, they do.
[0:27:48] Brad: And if you think about it, you get the e-mail. A lot of them have the little robot voice mails, texts, some of them. So on these calendaring services, are they all e-mail-based or do they have spots in their LinkedIn or cellphones and they’ll text reminders for meetings? What does that look like on the back-end?
[0:28:04] Alan: Oh, that’s a great question. I don’t know that we have any – I don’t know if I’ve ever tested this system that has SMS or text messaging built in quite that cleanly. But it’s a great thing that I’d probably look into because I think you make a great point that I have looked for dentists before, an older couple, and they don’t pick up and don’t read the voice mail. And then I find them they’re the one scheduling. I book with them immediately. But, yes, I know compliance is a concern. But fortunately, we’re finally getting some companies that can archive text messages and that sort of thing. But voice mails should be fine.
So I’ve not seen it. But it’ll definitely be something to look into because that would be really cool. And I agree, that would definitely increase the number of people booking, if you could hit them with an e-mail and a text and a phone call within a 72-hour period until they book basically.
[0:28:48] Brad: Well, if you find one, Alan, pass one to me because it will be really useful.
[0:28:51] Alan: Will do.
[0:28:53] Brad: All right. So let’s keep going. Let’s stay on the tech front. OK, so we talked about some calendaring softwares. What other tools, apps, obviously you work with a client virtually. You’ve got to do paperwork virtually, can we start to segue into what’s, I guess, the back office tools that you’ve had to find to be able to make that happen?
[0:29:13] Alan: Great question. I would say, it kind of depends on, again, we have virtual local and virtual travel, we’ll just say. So virtual local, meaning you wanna run a local business. You’re still going to go into an office and you’re going to work from a desk because you don’t want to work from home. But you’re going to meet virtually with a lot of clients. It’s not quite as critical to have all the technology in place. I’d still encourage it. But if you’re going to travel, you need to be able to travel with basically nothing but a laptop or you’re going to be in a world of hurt. So, for instance, if you still have the server sitting in your office, please get rid of it immediately no matter what, even if you think the rest of this a crock and you’ll never meet virtually. Please get rid of your server.
[0:29:49] Brad: What if you still have a bunch of file cabinets with papers in them?
[0:29:53] Alan: Oh, burn them. Just burn them because when was the last time you ever actually read any of them? Please hire some $15-an-hour folks to come in and scan all of your paperwork. It’ll take them a summer and it would be done. I did not say unpaid internships. Let me be very clear. Hire someone, pay them to come in. Have them scan all those filing cabinets and then burn them. Don’t even give yourself the option to have physical paper. Mainly because, I mean, one, it’s just so easy to lose. It’s so easy for in-house servers to get hacked, to go down. I had worked in situations where we had servers crash. And even with the best backups in place, we were at about 50% capacity for almost six months as we tried to recoup everything that was going on. So if I came in and literally burned your office down tomorrow, how would you operate? If it would cause an issue, fix it is really my recommendation.
So you can do, there’s so much. We can talk for days on data encryption, the data security and things like that. That’s a topic for another day. But go cloud-based. Put everything in the cloud as you can. The cloud is safer than a server in your office. I’ve never heard a bad argument otherwise. And it does allow you to work virtually, honestly. I mean, it allows you to work from a coffee shop or work from Alaska or work from home or whatever it is that you want to do. You need to be able to just work from your laptop.
In terms of kind of back office things like paper, you know, getting all electronic signatures is huge. Pretty much all of the custodians now integrate with some form of document signing. While most of the big three, Schwab, Fidelity and TD, already have their DocuSign. And so, they’ll get it. I think it’s free through all three of those custodians.
[0:31:28] Brad: What was that? DocuSign was the tool?
[0:31:31] Alan: DocuSign, yep.
[0:31:31] Brad: And for everybody that’s listening and watching, by the way, all this will be in show-notes. So if you’re scribbling like crazy, just go to the show-notes for the show. We’ll link everything. OK, go ahead. Sorry to interrupt.
[0:31:40] Alan: Yeah, so contact your rep at the custodian and just say, “Hey, what do you have available for electronic signatures?” They have something in this day and age. So, just for instance, I had a client one time. We’ve all been in the situation. They were opening three or four accounts. It’s not big deal but we had TOD, we had a couple of beneficiary designations, we had transfer category for each of them. And when I printed it all from a custodian, it was almost – there was something like 350 pages of paperwork. We’ve all had that stacked. Now, if you’re in person, you can sit there, have your assistant go through with the and have them everything. Well, what if that client lives up somewhere else and you have to mail it to them? You’re going to mail it with those little sticky notes that say “sign here”, “initial here”. It’s different colors for husband and wife.
It does not work, I can tell you that. Because if one of those little stickies have been folded in and they won’t sign it, well, now the custodian won’t take any of your paperwork as one signature didn’t get put in there. With DocuSign, what you do is you print all of that information to PDF just like you normally do. So if you print it to a printer, print to PDF, you upload it DocuSign, and you go through and you put a signature blocks. So, you know, husband here, wife here, advisor here, signatures, names, initials, check boxes, everything. And literally, it e-mails it to the client and the client. So you send it to the client, wife goes through, she signs where she’s supposed to sign. When she hits done, if she hasn’t signed anywhere, it goes back and makes her signs somewhere. If she missed a spot, it goes to the husband. He goes through and signs everything, helps the adviser. You sign everything and it’s done.
[0:33:14] Brad: So for those who are listening that aren’t familiar, when you say “sign”, they’re typing their name in a PDF or how does the actual signature happening?
[0:33:14] Alan: So there’s a couple of different ways. It used to be that the we always recommended what we call “biometric signature”, which is literally where you take the mouse and sign it. Most of the custodians actually aren’t even going to require that these days. They’ll just allow you to basically type your name and it creates a signature. The technology is just so good now. And those signatures have been upheld pretty much every state now that it’s the same legal signature as a wet signature that they sign, you know, sign with pen and paper. And so, sometimes, they can just type it. Sometimes they’ll literally sign it with a mouse. But there’s no actual pen. It’s all done on the computer. And you could do it on your smartphone, iPad. It’s all really easy.
But I will say that whenever I send that 350 page document to my clients, I got it back in ten minutes. And it was all signed correctly. The only issue is if I had made a mistake in where to put a signature. If I did, I could send it back and ask for one more signature. It’s just so, so easy. So that’s another cheap or even free depending on your custodian. They may make it free for you that we just haven’t done, for whatever reason. We haven’t felt a need to adopt that kind of technology. But once you do, I promise you will never go back to getting clients sign everything in person.
[0:34:33] Brad: Alan, I’m going to hit pause right there because, first of all, I’m thinking on this one two fronts. Number one, you’re bringing back nightmares. I was opening a Fidelity account. And I’m not going to sell this short. The paperwork sat on my desk for six months because I looked at it and it was a massive homework assignment for me. And because of that, that account didn’t get open for six months. So I know we’re on this and we’re talking about what seems like a very operations, new business, very un-salesy topic. But for actually, I look a lot at these start-ups, the apps, you know. They’re creating apps. The biggest thing they look at is what is the ease of use for the client? You look at companies like Betterment. I’ve opened an account on Betterment. It was less than five minutes. And so, I would challenge every advisor that looks at this as monotonous paperwork conversation we’re having right now. This is actually an incredible client acquisition conversation, if you make this easy and seamless for your clients.
[0:35:34] Alan: I totally agree. Yeah, I actually was giving a presentation one time where I was talking about how easy Betterment. How easy it is to open it that account at Betterment or Schwab and tells your portfolios, any of those services. And I literally had an advisor open an IRA before I got to the next slide in my presentation because it is that quick. And I will say, the custodians are coming slowly. We are getting some better technology. But, yeah, if you look at the data metrics, just some things like if it, let’s say we’ve all seen websites would ask for your e-mail address to get their newsletter, if you ask for their name and e-mail address, your conversation rate drops tremendously that you’ll only ask for e-mail. If you ask for first name, last name, e-mail, it drops even more tremendously.
The easier you can make things for your clients, the better. And so signing paperwork just a few clicks could be the difference between signing a client on today versus six months from now, or getting accounts moved. And, you know, if you will leave account paperworks in there for six months, the information gets stale, you’re having a repo bank account statements. You’re having to update all the paperwork. It’s kind of a mess. So, yeah, the easier you can make it for your clients. So I would encourage your advisors, that sit in your client’s seat and think about it from their perspective. Do they really want to play phone tag with you to schedule their next meeting.
Do they really wanna have to swing by the office to sign a bunch of paperwork with their significant other because they’re opening joint accounts? No, probably not. They probably wanna make it easier. And it will also benefit your back office and operations.
[0:37:03] Brad: All right. So, Alan, what’s your background. What did you go to school for? Was it IT-based?
[0:37:08] Alan: It’s financial planning. So I have an undergrad and masters in family financial planning.
[0:37:12] Brad: OK. So the IT side was just something that you’ve been interested in?
[0:37:17] Alan: You know, I’m not. I’m really not that much of a techie. It is kind of amusing that in the financial planning world, I’m kind of held up as this like tech-forward advisor. Because truth be told, I have no background in it. I’m sitting on my iPad right now because my PC crashed. I can’t figure out how to fix it. And so, I’m going to be ordering a Mac because I’m going to call Apple support every time I have a problem now.
I do enjoy tinkering and so I like to get in and just kind of play around with things. But I am really good at one thing when it comes to technology, that is Google. If you have a question about how technology works, somebody else has had that problem and just google it. So if you’re saying like, “what’s the best scheduling system for this?” Type into Google and the answer will pop up. If you’re having a problem with your Google apps account or anything, honestly, just ask Google and it probably has the answer. So, no, I mean, I grew up with tech. I’m a little old. I’m old enough to remember getting our first computer, but not too much before then. So I guess I just grew up with it. But, honestly, I’m no programmer. I don’t code. I don’t do any of that. I’m just a financial advisor that likes to be efficient, honestly.
[0:38:21] Brad: That’s a great answer because I think some people, financial advisors, it’s just, it’s daunting, it’s overwhelming. And so, they just don’t do it. And I think if you take one thing from this call, as a listener, if you’re watching the video here, if you’re not doing it, you’re going to become extinct because technology is advancing. And if you’re sitting here and you can’t help a client open up an account in less than five minutes and everybody else on the block or online, now can. It’s a serious issue for your business down the road.
[0:38:53] Alan: You bring up a great point. And that is financial planning, I would say, we’re one of the most stuck, behind-the-times industry that we have out there. And we have been stuck for so long. I mean, we are literally doing things. I went to the firm. We had pay-per-trade tickets in 2012 that we were still submitting ETF trades on a piece of paper. If we were still doing that, the problem is we’ve been set for so long. Now, all of a sudden, financial planning is catching up with other industries. Instead of taking a decade to do it, we’re going to take about two years to get there. We will catch up and we’re going to do it really, really fast. So instead of having ten years to make the move, we just kind of, we’re lackadaisical, didn’t make any changes. And now, all of a sudden, we’re going to have to change everything at once.
I will warn advisors out there. If you’re running a practice and you plan to be running this practice another five to ten years, I would argue every single step of the process, every piece of technology, every internal process, work flow, everything will change in the next several years. Every piece of technology you’re using would either get updated or you’re going to have to change CRMs, change performance reporters, adopt scheduling software. And if your firm looks the same in a few years as it does today, you’re probably going to be extinct. It’s just a reality.
[0:40:04] Brad: Well, everybody just probably hit pause right now because you just pressed-
[0:40:08] Alan: And we’re done.
[0:40:09] Brad: Just you and me. But along the process, I’ll share a tool that’s been incredibly helpful for our team. Actually, I got it from Michael Hyatt originally. It’s web-based. It’s called Sweet Process. Have you heard of it?
[0:40:23] Alan: I have not.
[0:40:24] Brad: OK. So going back to the systems and the processes you just talked about. So let’s say on-boarding a new client, and here’s the 15 steps that it takes, whether it’s virtual or in person, well, what happens is the ultra-frustrating thing for advisors, because I’ve had these conversations many times, is such and such on the team messed up his paperwork, lost a client, or it took an extra month, client was unhappy. Sweet Process is you take any thing you do more than once in your office. It’s web-based. And it creates like it says, a “sweet process”, step-by-step. What’s really unique about the software is you can put screen shots in. You can diagram links. I think it’s $50 a month, maybe it’s less that. I don’t know. I know it’s worth ten times what we pay for what it’s done for our team.
So for those of you out there that are just starting to get into those processes, we’ll put in the show-notes, but www.sweetprocess.com is incredibly helpful.
[0:41:17] Alan: Definitely need to check that out. And it’s the issue in financial planning, our technology is way behind the times too. There has not been a big investment in advisor-facing tech in a long time. And now, we’re finally starting to get some investments after, one of the best sells for $350 million and eMoney sells for how many hundreds of billions to Fidelity. Now, people/developers are realizing, “Oh, the advisor space is actually ripe for the picking and we can make money doing it.” Which means our systems will become more open over time. We’ll be able to integrate them better. Our processes will get cleaner.
But, yeah, if you’re looking at your on-boarding process and hasn’t been updated in the last 12 months, much less the last five or ten years, take a look at it because if nothing else, clients may not be comparing you to other financial advisors, but they are comparing you to other industries. And when they can buy, they get a home mortgage online now, they’re looking to their financial advisor trying to figure out, “Why can’t I open an account online? Why do I have to come into your office?” And even if they’re not articulating that to you, they’re asking those questions.
[0:42:15] Brad: That’s a great point you make. Actually, I did a flashback right there. Scott McCain was a guest two or three-only the second or third show we ever did. And that was the point he made business in general. Because everything is now mobile, everything’s on the web, your client experience is compared to everyone, so including Apple’s, including best-in-class, Rich Carlton-type of client experiences. So if you’re not somewhere stacking up remotely near, then it’s an issue for your business. Or it’s an opportunity that you’re not taking advantage of that you could.
[0:42:48] Alan: Yeah, in Montana, we like to say, you don’t need to be faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than your hiking buddy. And you’re getting compared to other financial advisors and it’s not hard to be faster than your buddy. Financial advisors are so behind. But we are going to get to a point in the next few years. I really believe that if you’re not, you better be really fast. You better be on top of it because there will come a day in two, three, five, maybe it’s ten years, I don’t know, but you’re going to be sitting there and you’re going to be thinking, “Wow, I really wish I had listened to Alan and Brad when they were talking about this because it’s not working for me anymore.”
[0:43:18] Brad: So let’s keep going down the path of tools you use because I think there’s a lot of uncovered gems we haven’t gotten to yet. So going back to your transition from face-to-face appointments – well, I say “face-to-face”, this feels face-to-face. But it does, doesn’t it? So on that front, we talked about calendaring. We talked about the DocuSign. What other tools did you need in place, technology tools to make that happen?
[0:43:44] Alan: You know, and again, these are the kinds of questions that I ask myself. And I think somebody else must have come up with this, right? Somebody has solved this problem. So one is password management. This is another area that I think advisors really struggle in. If you have a document saved on your desktop called “Passwords”, I don’t care if it’s a locked cell document, I’m bringing a middle school kid that can hack that very, very quickly. Don’t store your passwords on your computer or in your in-house server or anywhere else. Use a password management tool that has 256 data encryption, that’s military-grade. If they can crack that, then I wouldn’t be just trusted by anything else because they’re probably robbing banks and not you. But you can store your passwords.
I personally use LastPass. It’s actually free. And they do have an enterprise version. I don’t use it. But I think last time I looked I had over 450 usernames and passwords stored inside of my LastPass because every company, you know, every website has a different password requirements, x number of characters. It’s got to have a number. It’s got to have a dash or, you know, it can accept these five characters or not, these other special characters. So you end up with all these various passwords. So load those into the system. So the two ways you get hacked, one, it’s called brute force, where they literally, people just go in and start typing a bunch of random passwords until they get it right. The second one is actually through your security questions. So whenever you have the world’s best password, but you use my mother’s maiden name and my pet’s name, Fluffy, all that information is on Facebook. It’s on social media. It’s all out there. So that’s the second way that you get hacked. So using a password management tool. You can actually create randomized answers. So what’s my mother’s maiden name is a bunch of random characters and digits that’s stored of LastPass. So if I screw something up with my password, I can basically block people from using security questions as a way to get access. And you just have a very, very secure pass phrase, not password, that you rotate once a month, once a quarter, something like that.
And it is amazing how much time that saves from not having to just constantly, one, either use the same password over and over which is incredibly dangerous, or two, keep forgetting your passwords and having to deal with all that. So that’s another one. I highly recommend taking up some sort of password management tool.
[0:45:53] Brad: We use LastPass here as well and I finally threw in a towel a couple of years ago. I’ve got a pretty good memory. But in this day and age, you can’t even keep up. And especially the bank websites, you need to change your password every month, right? So LastPass, I’ll just kind of agree with you there. Because it will actually prompt a quick change, saves it, and you don’t even have to think twice about it.
[0:46:20] Alan: Yeah, whenever you change a password, it will say, “Do you wanna update your password in LastPass?” And if you say, “yes”, then it pulls it, good to go.
[0:46:26] Brad: One other thing that I’ll share, and I’m sure you use it for this as well, working virtually. We’ve got somebody that maintains my website. Now, I can share passwords with developers and then they just have access to be able to use it and I can revoke that access if we use somebody else down the road. So that’s another way to use this as well.
[0:46:43] Alan: Yeah, remind me. Can they see the password inside of LastPass if you share it with them?
[0:46:48] Brad: You have settings inside LastPass. So you can set if they don’t actually see them. So the only way they can log on is if they click the “log on” and it just autologs them in.
[0:46:56] Alan: Gotcha. Because we actually use a program called Meldium which does that basically. And it’s our way of sharing access to websites without actually sharing the passwords. So to your point, when you fire your web developer, you don’t wanna have to go in and figure out what passwords do they have, what do they not have. You got to change them all. You can just revoke access. And it’s so kind of similar to that. So we’re using both and they have to look more into LastPass to adopt some more of the enterprise features. And when you get in there, it’s a little clunky. Yeah, well, it’s going to save you an immense amount of time and energy.
[0:47:28] Brad: On the virtual appointment, going back here, how do you swap files? What file sharing software are you guys using?
If you wanna go one level further, you can look at Box, “B-O-X”, is another option. And I believe Box actually goes ahead and encrypts. It’s more of a HIPAA-certified type program. And HIPAA is my go-to that if something’s HIPAA-certified for privacy, it’s probably OK for financial advisors. Just to be sure, even things like tax returns, it does have pretty much on that you need to someone’s identity. So maybe encrypt that. I think actually just DropBox, Google Drive, some of those basics are actually fine. We don’t have anymore guidance from regulators to know otherwise. But if you wanna add an extra layer of encryption, of course, you can.
[0:49:04] Brad: Makes sense. The second one was just Box, “B-O-X”? All right. So what technology tools do you use that we haven’t talked about? Just going back to the theme of “I’m an advisor. Every single one of my appointments today is face-to-face. I want to go virtual.” Any other tools we haven’t discussed that are must-haves?
[0:49:23] Alan: Yeah. I guess in a conversation of dropping your server, you may have to reevaluate some of your core technology. Now, if you’re in a big firm, you can’t just go in and change the CRM. But if you are solo kind of doing your own thing, you have some options. If you’re still using GoldMine or Juncture sitting on a server, go make an update. You may have to move to a Redtail or Juncture Cloud or Weathbox or Salesforce or whatever it is. Same with Performance Reporters, if you’re using Black Time and still sitting on a server, take a look at some of the-you know, Orion or some of these other programs just to be sure you move things off of your in-house server which is the biggest pain point.
I mean, I know moving Performance Reporters makes me wanna quit. So I understand it is a nightmare. But it has to be done from time to time, especially if they’re not going to offer something that’s cloud-based. I would be looking for different systems. So I would say that’s the biggest one. The other one is I am – and I know there’s a lot of advisors out there who are going to throw something at me. I am not a fan of Outlook mainly because you do have to, if you wanna move it off of your system, you got to run an exchange server. It’s expensive. It’s clunky. They break. I’m a big fan of Google apps.
And so, Google, we all know Google and you have Gmail, e-mail addresses, but if you e-mail email@example.com, that is actually a Google e-mail address. It’s $5 a month. I can make as many e-mail addresses each for $5 a month that I want. It gives you a professional look. But it lets you use Google calendar, e-mail and everything integrates with Google. Not everything integrates with Outlook anymore. So all the calendaring systems overlay Google Calendar, all of your document-signing, you can hook it with your Google account, it syncs your contacts around. So that’s the other one. If you’re still using Outlook as much a blasphemy as I know it is, you may wanna take a look at Google apps for business because I think it’s worth the move.
[0:51:11] Brad: I’ll second that one. I’m just over here hyping up your recommendation though.
[0:51:16] Alan: We’re using the same tech bag. I love it.
[0:51:18] Brad: What’s funny is a lot of our office still uses Outlook. But the back-end of it is Gmail. And probably within the last year, I gave up Outlook. Once again, it was just clunky. It took forever to load e-mails. And, well, actually, here’s another thing too. When I switched to Google, I know a lot of people have folders for different e-mails. Now, just like you were saying earlier, Alan, if you have a problem, you just Google it. If I’m looking for an e-mail I sent, I just google it inside the inbox. And you don’t have to take all that time where you feel like you’re micromanaging your inbox anymore. You can throw tags, different things like that on there. But it’s a ton of time. And I can get it anywhere. I can log in because it just have to be my laptop or Outlook loaded on it.
And being an Apple guy, I mean, I’m more of an iPhone/Mac guy, all of it integrates beautifully with Apple. I hadn’t had any issues, contacts, calendaring, e-mail, all of that.
[0:52:01] Alan: Totally agree. Yeah, and I use PC for one more hour but I’m also on iPhone now. I moved over from that recently. And I do know one common question that advisors ask though whenever we say, “Use Google. You can have it on your phone.”, is about Internet connection, which actually I think is a very fair concern that people have. If you go to your local Starbucks and you just use the Starbucks WiFi, I have a Jetpack sitting around here somewhere that it’s about this big, and it’s basically a hotspot it turns cellphone signal into WiFi. I can name that whatever I want. So I could name it something like “Starbucks Guest”. And then anyone that uses Starbucks Guest thinking they’re using the actual Starbucks WiFi, I can see all of their data running across my hotspot, if I search those. It is very, very easy to grab data, especially with public WiFi. So one thing is just go ahead, if you’re getting a laptop nowadays, or if you have an iPad, go ahead and pay the extra money to have it connected to 4G and cellular, so that you can just use Verizon or AT&T’s data network. Those are not going to get hacked. They’re not going to be grabbing your data.
Or if nothing else, grab a Jetpack. They’re free on a two-year contract now. That allows you to instead of using Starbucks, you just cut it on and grab cell signal, turns it into WiFi, you can run everything off of that. And they’ll allow you to work securely because if you’re virtual and you want to go work from a coffee shop, that’s great. You should be able to do that. But you don’t wanna expose all your client’s information just because you wanna go work from a coffee shop. So you do need to be able to be more cognizant of keeping your computer locked and having passwords where they need to be, and backing up your hard drive, and things like that. So you do need to be a little more cognizant. So get up to speed on a few little things. But I don’t wanna overwhelm advisors. I know there’s a lot to think about. But it is baby steps and you can just kind of implement as you go.
[0:53:59] Brad: Well, since we’re on video here, I’ll show you what my hotspot’s turned into. Right here on my phone, if you can see it. It’s that personal hotspot. And I used to be the guy, I’d go to conferences and they try to upcharge it $200 for a WiFi login. And so, now, I just pull out my phone, personal hotspot, so it really can be that easy. And like you said, you’re at least on a secure network, or at least hope you are.
[0:54:29] Alan: If Verizon or Google get hacked, I’m not all that concerned because they have the best data security in the world. Google literally has armed guards with machine guns guarding their data servers. I am much more comfortable with those folks trying to protect the data than I am trying to protect it myself. So don’t be concerned about Verizon getting hacked. It may happen. But they have the best technology in the world to protect your data. So I wouldn’t be as stressed about it.
[0:54:52] Brad: You actually just gave me a marketing idea. As an advisor, if you wanna stay on the server side, you just hire a machine gun guard and you tell them how secure your server system is.
[0:55:04] Alan: That’s it.
[0:55:07] Brad: All right. So as we move off of that topic, any other tools or comments you wanna throw out on the face-to-face to virtual?
[0:55:15] Alan: You know, it’s just a transition. And I think, ultimately, it’s in our heads more than it’s in our client’s heads. Like many things that we do, we’re so concerned about client’s perception of it or what they’re going to do. Are they going to leave? Are they going to, you know, what if I don’t have the right technology? You’ll figure it out. Don’t stress about it. Ultimately, we have incredibly strong relationships with our clients as financial advisors. My belief is that people don’t wake up in the morning excited to talk to a stranger about money. They did that with you. They came in. They hired you. They exposed themselves financially. They showed you things that their spouse doesn’t know. They told you about their hopes and their goals and their dreams and their demons. They showed you how they spend their money which is basically what they value, which is something, again, that we don’t share with people. Don’t be concerned that they’re going to just pop and leave you for another advisor simply because you ask to start doing some virtual meetings. Your relationships are stronger than that. And if they’re not, I’d be willing to bet that moving to virtual meetings isn’t what’s going to cost you to that client relationship anyway.
So trust the fact that we have great relationships with our clients, that you can continue to provide great service, maybe even better. And I think that’s really what it takes. So all these tech tools can be overwhelming. Again, I like to tinker so I like to get in and play with a lot of different stuff. But it doesn’t have to be that hard and join some community of like-minded advisors, with groups like yours that they can get in and interact with other advisors. They’ll ask questions. We’ll just say, “Hey, this is what I’m doing. What are you doing?” Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. There are enough advisors out there doing this type of work. But you don’t have to figure out his other forms, the LastPass is the best. Just go ask a few advisors that are using it. And if they all say LastPass, go pick up LastPass.
[0:56:55] Brad: Great advice. Really, my takeaway from this whole conversation is virtual does not have to mean you offer less of a service to your clients. Most times, I would say it’s more convenient. Hey, you didn’t have to drive across town to come and meet me when you didn’t really want to in the first place, right? You made it easy.
[0:57:11] Alan: I totally agree. Yes, especially because I work with young professionals. They got kids. They got spouses. They got jobs. They can’t take a half-day in the middle of the day. And you don’t wanna work on the evenings and weekends and meet with them. It’s just so much more convenient to say, “Hey, let’s get on Skype.” Now, they don’t actually make every meeting instead of skipping half of them because they don’t wanna get a babysitter. So, yeah, I totally agree. It’s same service, if not better. And just give it a shot. See how it works for you.
[0:57:37] Brad: All right. You’ve done the easy part of the interview. Now, I wonder, are you ready for the thought part?
[0:57:41] Alan: All right. I’m looking for you to stump me. My dad always used to say, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS.” So we’ll see if that holds true here.
[0:57:53] Brad: It won’t’ be too bad. All right. So for this last part of the interview, I like to do a fun little kind of a rapid fire question, really some of the best answers I’ve ever gotten have come off this section. So I’m just going to throw a few at you. If it gets too hot in the kitchen, just hang up and we’ll say it was the connection.
[0:58:11] Alan: Gotcha.
[0:58:13] Brad: All right. So first one I wanna start with, we’ll start easy for you. You’re a CrossFitter, right? I’ve crossfitted, it’s kind of a love-hate relationship. That is the way I explain CrossFit. But what is your favorite or least favorite CrossFit workout you’ve ever done?
[0:58:31] Alan: Annie, double unders and sit-ups. It is the only one I can just absolutely own and actually beat my older brother at. So I have in any time, he will never match. So that is where it’s at.
[0:58:44] Brad: Do you wanna share with the listeners what your time is so if they wanna challenge you?
[0:58:48] Alan: I would have to go on. I’d have to go back and look. I’ll tell you. It has been a little while. I think it’s 4 minutes and 15 seconds or something like that. Don’t hold me to that, listeners. I can double check.
[0:59:00] Brad: And, by the way, for those of you that are listening that have never done CrossFit, who are like, “A four-minute workout? That doesn’t even count as a workout.” Say that and then go do Fran and then come back to me. CrossFit is just a high-level of intensity. It really doesn’t have to take that long.
[0:59:15] Alan: Agreed.
[0:59:16] Brad: Awesome. All right. So now, your brother has a challenge that you can get that.
[0:59:19] Alan: That’s it.
[0:59:21] Brad: All right. Second question, this is going to be a two-part question. What is your favorite book that you’ve ever read and why? Second part of that is what is your most gifted book that you’ve bought and handed out to friends or clients or relatives or whoever and what was that book and why did you gift it?
[0:59:41] Alan: Oh, I love it because it’s actually the same book. So you mentioned the name earlier, Tim Ferriss’ “4-Hour Workweek”. That was actually the book that changed my perception of what it means to be an entrepreneur. And so, if you haven’t read “The 4-Hour Workweek”, it’s basically a play on the old 80-20-90-10 rule. That we get 90% of our work done in 10% of the time. And it was then that I realized just how much time I was losing to just being inefficient and not being all that good at managing my own time and to outsource the 10% of the stuff that was taking 90% of my time. And so that book is the reason why I made the move to Montana because I read book and realized like, “I can do this. I dunno why I’m not.” So that was huge. I highly recommend it. And honestly, that is my most gifted book. That’s the one that I send people especially to budding entrepreneurs that are looking to get into running their own business because we get so stuck the way things used to be and the way they’ve always been done. It’s just the good way, I think, to kind of open your eyes to there could be other ways we could be more creative than, I guess, than historically.
[1:00:44] Brad: I love Ferriss. His podcast, just a segue, that’s one of the reasons I’m doing this. His podcast is one of my favorites. And so, if you’re looking to get a lot of that same mindset stuff that you’re talking about, Alan, I’m sure you’re a Ferriss podcast listener, aren’t you?
[1:01:00] Alan: Yeah, I do from time to time. I don’t listen to every episode. But, yeah, I definitely send folks that way if they’re podcast listeners.
[1:01:06] Brad: Cool. All right. Next question, when you hear the word “success”, who’s the first person you think of and why?
[1:01:14] Alan: Oh man. Sunit Bhalla. He is a financial advisor in Colorado. Sunit is a friend of mine. He runs a financial advisory practice. He has 30 clients, works 20 to 30 hours a week, has many assets under management as he wants. And I say success because he’s one of the advisors that I know, one of the few advisors, to be honest, that has identified their ideal life and built a business to support that ideal life. So I actually mentioned him earlier without saying his name. He’s the classic dad, with his kid’s school. That’s what he wants to do one or two days a week. He goes on every field trip with his kids. He works as many hours as it takes to make the amount of money that he wants. And that’s it.
And he does the things that he wants to do. And so, I would say he is just a prime example of someone you probably don’t know. If you don’t show up to a NAFA conference, you wouldn’t know him. But his success to me is not money, it’s not ego, it’s not brand, it’s all about are you living your great life, and somebody who I actually believe is.
[1:02:11] Brad: What’s interesting about the financial services industry, there’s a lot of very, very successful people on paper. And then when you look at their family life and their work-life balance, it’s not so much when you look the other way around. My term is you want to build a business that serves you, not you serving the business, right?
[1:02:31] Alan: Totally agree. And it’s hard.
[1:02:32] Brad: Prime example that you laid out there.
[1:02:34] Alan: Yeah, it’s’ hard to do that. I know as an entrepreneur, you always have to new ideas. You always wanna, you know, do something more. You always wanna grow because that’s our natural inclination. But, yeah, if things are not right at home. It will ultimately ruin your business. And so, you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself while taking care of your clients in your business.
[1:02:50] Brad: As an aside, you’ve mentioned the term “ideal life” a few times. Is there a system or a tool that you’ve used to lay that out for you?
[1:02:59] Alan: You know what, I have. And one of the things too is it’s kind of funny. I’m actually making, we’ve been talking about Montana. I’m actually making a move down to Nashville here in a couple of weeks actually because my ideal life is changing. I still love to ski but my business has changed. My personal life has changed. And so, what I consider my ideal life three years ago is no longer where it is now. And so, I think it’s a constantly iterative process. It’s basically doing financial planning for yourself. It’s really sitting down and identifying what’s most important to you, what do you wanna be doing on a day-to-day basis. And so, I don’t know that I have. I’m a big fan of the clients, of using Kinder’s three questions with the Life Planning Institute. I think that’s a great way for advisors today to gain their clients and maybe have somebody that’s skilled with that. They’ll ask you those questions.
But I think it’s about having this honest conversations with your spouse or significant other or just yourself, if not, just to say look at what actually it is that makes you happy. Do you get excited to go to work in the morning? If not, make a change. Are you excited with how things are going? If not, make a change.
[1:04:00] Brad: Yeah. Do you mind sharing a question or two of Kinder’s?
[1:04:03] Alan: Yes. So Kinder’s Three Questions are, so if you were the client, I would ask you. I just want you to assume that you just won the lottery. You have $350 million, more money than you’ve ever seen in your life. What would change about your life if I gave you unlimited money? And usually, people say, “I’ll travel more. I’d quit my job. I’ll start this business. I’d give to charity.” And you start to see it opens people outside of their bubble and allows them to break through that and see what is reality outside of this kind of bubble that we’ve constrained ourselves to. And not to be too philosophical or anything, but we do get into a rut. We do get into kind of doing things the way we’ve always done them. And so, give people unlimited time and money, and suddenly, the world is their oyster. And they’re listing up all of these things that they could do.
And then, the second question is, you go to the doctor and he gives you the bad news with a silver lining. Bad news is you have a terminal illness. You have five to seven years to live. The silver lining is you won’t be in pain. So you’re not going to be in hospitals. You can do whatever you want. But in five to seven years, it’s over. What would you do differently? And that makes it a little more real because we all have an end date. But we don’t want to talk about it. So if I give you an end date, suddenly, it’s no longer like, “Oh in ten years, I’d like to go to Europe.” Now, it’s like, “No, I think I wanna go to Europe now.” I really want to spend more time with family. I don’t wanna be in my deathbed saying, “Hey, I worked hard.” Yeah, you and me. It allows you to start digging in a little bit more.
And the third question is if the doctor instead says the diagnosis is you have 24 hours to live. What would you regret and what are you proud of to look at your past and just say are your values and the way you’ve been living really lining up with your future and what you hope to accomplish going forward? So I don’t recommend just throwing those three questions out. If you go through Kinder’s training you actually get a little more in-depth training on that because you will, as what Richard likes to say, he always tells his prospective clients, somebody’s going to end up crying in this meeting and it ain’t going to be me. That has been my experience as well when you ask those questions. Somebody will cry. So be sure you’re ready to deal with it. But it’s just a great way to, again, break out of the norm, break out of kind of your bubble and see. I guess, what does life look like if your artificial constraints are no longer there?
[1:06:07] Brad: Those are great. Thanks for sharing those. That’s the first time I’ve heard this surprisingly. The first one reminds me, I had Dan Sullivan on. The first one reminds me of his 10 times question. What would your business have to look like for your revenue if you took it 10 times what it is today? What would it have to look like to get there? And then, once again, not these incremental improvements. It’s these, when you open up big picture, make sure your mind work differently.
[1:06:31] Alan: It does. I love it. We had an advisor, or we had a workshop being led by a guy at Schwab Impact last year, the conference I was attending. And they did WarGames. So if you’ve ever seen the movie WarGames, but they literally do war game planning of the government comes in and bans all commissions. And you’re a hybrid advisor that sells annuities. What do you do? And it just goes like, “OK. Everything changes.” And suddenly, what you do is you build a business that’s ideal for this situation. And that’s all I did was I looked at the situation. I said, “I wanna serve younger clients.” And no one seems to have a mind to do it. So I just said, “Well, whatever we’ve been doing won’t work. So I’m just going to build a business for this to serve younger clients.” And I wanted to charge on a monthly retainer basis instead of commissions or whatever, whatnot. You just kind of build it. And whenever you get down with it. You realize, “Oh, you know, I actually built something that allows me to, again, lift my great life, serve clients, and you end up on podcasts talking about it because it’s so different from the industry norm which is great.” And I’m glad to have this conversations. It’s plenty to me that we’re still talking about virtual meetings. Like, do we still have to have this conversation?
You know, I kind of wanna be talking like A/B split-testing about the conversions on your website because that’s really fun. But we got to get people marketing online first. You got to get a website that’s actually half decent, like drop the lighthouse in the compass kind of thing. You got to actually start meeting with your clients virtually. So it’s fun but it is the funny part of our industry.
[1:07:56] Brad: Baby steps, Alan, baby steps.
[1:07:57] Alan: Baby steps.
[1:08:00] Brad: It’s interesting. This did happen in England. In England, they banned all commissions and actually going back to the Dan Sullivan conversation, he said these are the only advisors that are still around. The ones that sold their process, not product. And you look at the world, the health world. Now, I guess some of them sell supplements maybe and make some money there. But in reality, you’re paying for their coaching services. And this person says, “Hey, you’re overweight. I’m going to get you skinny. Follow my process.” And I really don’t view the financial advising world much different. It’s “here’s how to manage your assets to live the dream life that you wanna live, either while you’re doing it or during retirement or whenever.” And the advisors that I see winning that, I don’t wanna call it a game. It’s not a game. But winning that battle are the ones that have a process that they’re providing a high level of value and it’s not about individual products that are being sold.
[1:08:56] Alan: I could not agree more. I love it. And in this, relating to this business, we do a lot more managing of behavior than we deal with money. And managing investments is easy, come on. If you have a Vanguard account, you probably going to be the most financial advisor job that you are actively managing anyway. If that’s your value-add, that you have a secret sauce in the investment side, that’s going to be tough as the world changes. But you manage behavior and you help your client make great financial decisions. You help them experience their great life. They’ll never leave you. And they will tell all of their friends about you because, as they say, people remember how we made them feel, not necessarily what we said to them.
[1:09:31] Brad: Well, you’ve been crushing these. I’ve got to come up with harder questions apparently. All right. Last one, if you could leave our listeners and viewers here today with some advice that’s led to your success, what would it be?
[1:09:46] Alan: You know, it really is about breaking those constraints. I remember there is a little post that went around LinkedIn. And it was, “If you could go back to your 21-year-old self and say two words, what would it be?” And actually, I spent a lot of time thinking about that which is funny that this little post captured me. And what I came up with was ignore them. And for the advisors out there, I encourage you, ignore everyone else. Ignore me. Ignore you. Ignore everybody else that’s telling you the way things are supposed to be done and they should be done, what will work, what won’t work. Build what’s going to work for you because what works for me may not work for you. You may think skiing sounds awful, I wanna be sipping Mai Tais in Costa Rica six months a year. Great. You may say, “I never wanna travel outside of my hometown.” Great, that’s OK. Again, don’t “should” on yourself. Ignore everything that everyone is telling you other than figure out what you want and then build it, because the beauty, especially as far as in financial planning, we have the unique ability to build businesses that truly support our life.
And, as you said, the business that supports us instead of us supporting the business our entire lives, we have that ability. We’re not a bakery that has to be open for 12 hours a day. We have some really unique abilities in our business. And in addition to that, we have pretty awesome jobs. To be able to say we help clients live great lives. And really, that is amazing, so own that and build the business that allows you to live your great life.
[1:11:07] Brad: Alan, I just wanna say thank you. This has been an incredible interview. I had a blast down my side. So hopefully, it was same with you.
[1:11:13] Alan: Thank you so much. This was fun.
[1:11:14] Brad: And you’re welcome back anytime, buddy. So, that’s it for now. Thanks for the time and we’ll catch up with you. I’m sure we’ll be staying in touch.
[1:11:21] Alan: Thanks so much.
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