XY Planning Network is thrilled to continue promoting our group of members who launched new financial planning firms at the beginning of 2015. We wanted to celebrate these advisors by spotlighting their experiences, thoughts, and lessons learned.
Today, Aaron Hatch shares his story and the journey that lead him to launch Woven Capital.
Aaron Hatch, CFP® is a fee-only financial planner who loves helping creatives, entrepreneurs, and professionals make sense of their money. Based in Northern California, Aaron works virtually with clients all over the the US, but especially in San Francisco, Portland, Minneapolis, and in Iowa. He aims to help those he serves prototype their financial futures, today.
The Journey to Launching Woven Capital
One of the things that most captivates me about the profession of financial planning is the stories. I often feel like I am a professional story-listener. And more often than not, I have the privilege of helping clients create new chapters in their own stories.
Here is a little about my story of creating and launching my own financial planning firm, Woven Capital.
My mom likes to tell the tale of a time when I was about two or three years old and I came up to her one day and earnestly asked, “If I can pay the taxes and the bills, can I be the boss?” It is hard for me to pinpoint if this was the moment I decided I was going to start my own business one day or not, but suffice to say, this moment has probably been in the works for about 30 years.
While I’ve known I wanted to start my own business, my journey to becoming a financial planner, and subsequently starting my own financial planning firm was somewhat like a the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
My Introduction to Financial Services
The summer after graduating from college, I landed an internship at an investment bank where it didn’t take me very long to discover that I found very little meaning in helping large institutional investors maximize their profits.
Surely, I thought, there must be some way to humanize finance. Enter financial planning.
A little more than a year later, after a planned year-long hiatus teaching English in Poland, I was accepted into a training program with a large financial services company that sold financial plans.
Great, finally a way to make finance personal, I thought!
Great, until I discovered on day-two of the training program that all of the financial plans had one thing in common -- variable universal life insurance. It didn’t matter if the client was 25, 65, or 95. The solution was to sell one kind of product.
So, before making a real mistake I took a detour away from being a financial planner.
Fast-forward to 2008. I haven’t given up on humanized personal financial planning that doesn’t involve masquerading as a financial planner only to sell life insurance to everyone who walks through the door.
Time Spent Building Experience and Education
At this point, I’ve learned quite a bit about financial planning on my own while working for a large health insurance provider. I’ve read books, done research, and luckily I find a position in the back-office of a small financial planning and investment management shop in Berkeley, CA.
I learn the ropes of my position and start taking classes toward earning my Certified Financial Planner designation-- all the while craving client interaction and the stories that come along with it.
While the economic crisis of 2008-2009 proved to be a great learning environment,I felt completely under utilized in my role doing things that a piece of software could honestly do better. Color-coding Excel spreadsheets and running reports was mind-numbing on a daily-basis.
During performance reviews I asked about the career trajectory of my position and I was told that a client facing role was 10 years out. This, to me, was an obvious signal to find another opportunity.
Searching for the Right Fit
The last stop on my journey before striking out on my own was with an investment management shop in far Northern California affiliated with a large independent broker dealer. I was hired in a client-facing role and began taking on my own clients after about a year.
On the surface everything seemed great, but as I spent more time at the firm, it became clear that it was not a great culture-fit. The writing on the wall said the eventual succession plan for the firm’s owner would fall only along bloodlines.
For those who are blessed or cursed (depending on how you look at it) with the entrepreneurial itch, the urge to start ventures is virtually impossible to contain for very long. So the launch of a business really comes down to timing.
Striking Out on My Own
In the first half of 2014 a couple things happened and the stars began to align. My wife returned to work after maternity leave which created the need for more flexibility in my schedule (PS: we have an amazing 14 month old son).
In addition, XY Planning Network launched. This promised to make the process of venturing off on my own so much less intimidating. Plus, I knew I wanted to be a part of a group who was looking push the financial planning profession to evolve.
Before jumping in head first, I signed up for Kristin Harad’s group coaching program to help me determine my niche and to learn some of the fundamentals of marketing. Her program was fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to start their own firm -- even for folks who have been in the business for a while and are looking to level-up.
Caught by Surprise
The State of California is notorious for approving RIAs slowly and being a black hole of information, or so I was told. I began working with Jim Cullen, XY Planning Network’s compliance consultant, who set my expectations that the process of being approved would most likely take 30 to 90 days. Expecting the worst, I was shocked and caught a little flat-footed when I was approved in exactly 30 days.
Because of the speedy turnaround from the State of California, it took a couple months to get Woven Capital off the ground and fully operational.
About Woven Capital
Woven Capital serves the next generation of creatives, professionals, and entrepreneurs who deserve a better system for managing their finances and investments. We are based in Northern California (Redding, CA), though we work virtually with clients all over the country.
In addition to working with clients in far Northern California our goal is to work with clients in our four hubs: the San Francisco Bay Area; Portland, OR; Minneapolis, MN; and the Creative Corridor in Iowa.
Rather than defining Woven’s niche around a specific demographic or professional affiliation, we chose to build Woven Capital around what we like to call the three business card life.
The notion of the three business card life was first coined by a journalist, Nathan Heller, in an article in the New Yorker in October 2013. In his piece he describes the evolving nature of work and how more and more people are weaving together business ventures, creative pursuits, side hustles, and micro-entrepreneurship into a portfolio projects and a portfolio of incomes.
We take the idea of the three business card life one step further because people are creating value in new ways. Some are renting out their homes on AirBnB while others are driving for Uber or Lyft and in some cases renting their cars out through RelayRide.
Additionally, people are turning their creative pursuits into side income by selling their wares on Etsy or designs on Betabrand. While people are innovating their financial lives, our financial planning tools have not co-evolved.
Woven Capital is here to help change that.
My Advice to Others
For those ambitious individuals who are contemplating striking out on their own, here are a few things I would recommend to other planners who are looking to make the leap:
- Take the time to create a strategic plan for your business. Having a strategic plan helps you focus your efforts and ensures you are always working toward achieving a specific plan.
- Perfect is the enemy of good. Trying to aim for perfection is a losing strategy, so it is better to prototype and recalibrate as you go.
- Reduce distractions and find an accountability partner. Launching a firm takes concentration and resources (time, money, and mental clarity) so try to set yourself up for success by reducing or eliminating competing resource-sinks.
- Don’t get too caught up in having to decide what your niche is. You can always change it if it doesn’t feel right or if it doesn’t work for you.
- Validate your ideas with people who are your ideal clients. Ask them about your packages and pricing, your onboarding process, your materials etc. Get good at taking feedback and learning from it. But keep in mind that not all people understand the context surrounding your business.
The Next Chapter
During the first week of 2015, my wife Rachel (who works at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto) and I created a three-year strategic plan for Woven Capital. The process of creating a strategic plan, much like creating a financial plan for our clients, helped us prioritize our resources and efforts.
Our strategic plan is the outline for the next chapter in the journey of business ownership. Here’s to the journey!
Then see how XY Planning Network can help you launch a financial planning firm that allows you to get your advice and guidance to your ideal clients.