XY Planning Network is excited to announce that we have five of our members launching their own firms in the month of January. We wanted to celebrate these advisors and help promote their brand-new firms by spotlighting their experiences, thoughts, and lessons learned on the XYPN blog this month.
This week, we're thrilled to hear from Brandon Marcott of Edify Financial Planning as he talks about how he went out on his own and launched his financial planning firm -- to serve his ideal clients, his way.
Brandon Marcott, financial planner and founder of Edify Financial Planning, is passionate about serving young individuals and families who desire to do more with their money. He specializes in helping others align their finances with what they value most so they may achieve truly abundant living.
Here's what he had to say about his experience in getting his own firm off the ground -- and a few valuable pieces of advice for any other financial professional looking to do the same.
In June of 2014, while sitting at my desk at my previous job, I saw an email from LinkedIn sharing that my friend (and fellow XYPNer) Ben Wacek started his own financial planning firm. I was in my fourth year as an advisor at a large international insurance company and that single email suddenly got my brain working hyperspeed.
Could I step out on my own as well? It truly didn’t seem possible at the time.
Creating a Financial Planning Firm to Serve My Ideal Market
I’d always been drawn the idea of doing genuinely holistic planning. But when you're at a company where your only compensation is from commissions, it's pretty difficult to be holistic in all circumstances!
I had a decent thing going at my other firm. I did primarily all wrap fee business and had pretty good trails, but I wasn’t motivated to stay there and write new business. And I didn’t feel right bringing people on as clients who I knew could do it better elsewhere.
For me to stay in the industry and do things the way I knew was best was going to mean starting my own firm. I ultimately decided I wanted to create a planning firm for Gen X and Gen Y clients who viewed their money not just as a means to an end, but as a fulfilling responsibility to improve the lives of those near to them.
Finding the Right Resources to Work With
With the help of Ben pointing me in so many valuable directions -- including XYPN and guest posts on kitces.com to name a few) and a business plan template I found that Mary Beth Storjohann had put together, I started working...and working...and working.
For the first time, however, this work was fun! It was fun because I was creating a business of myself -- who gets to do that?
While being a financial advisor at my previous job gave me a certain leg up in some areas, by no means did I know how to figure all this stuff out. For six months I planned everything...and by planned I mean stole everyone elses ideas. We're not re-inventing the wheel here.
While my niche needed to be my own, forming my business plan was completed by studying other XYPNers websites, their design, their content, their blogs, their twitter, their free stuff, all of it (which probably skewed the analytics for some websites...sorry about that!) and shaping it around what I was trying to do.
Discovering -- and Owning -- My Brand
Having industry resources at my disposal for was great for much of the technical information, but what about my brand? I couldn’t steal that, and I’m not creative enough to design a brand myself.
I was very fortunate to have some very creative friends who helped with my graphic design and website. Being able to have someone you know work on what is the most important part of your brand as a virtual based advisor was huge. (You all have creative friends. Find them...and harass them.)
I feel my branding and website is very strong because of that. Additionally, my wife is a wordsmith (I am not) and helped me write and edit my content.
Even though starting a virtual planning business doesn’t cost as much as you would think, that doesn’t mean you should pay extra for things you can do yourself (Or that you can make your friends and spouse do! Just be sure you ask nicely.)
Joining a Supportive Network of Fellow Advisors and Experts
Fast forward a couple months to this past December when I joined XY Planning Network. The decision to join was a fairly easy one. I figured that if these people were this willing to help someone who wasn’t a member, how much more will I gain from them by joining?
The end of 2014 was a whirlwind of making sure I was already to go when the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. Amazingly, it happened, but wouldn’t have without the support of the XYPN members and the resources that were available to me through the network.
Lessons Learned and Advice for Others Looking to Start a Financial Planning Firm
As I reflect on the past months and how Edify Financial Planning went from nothing to something, there are a few tips I suggest you follow:
- Make checklists. A lot of them. There is much to be done when forming your firm, and constantly updated checklists are a crucial way to make sure you are staying on track to meet your timetable for launch.
- Have a vision of what your niche will be, and create an informal board of people you know that fit that niche. This was huge for me. I selected about 8-10 people I trust that fit my target client. As I formed Edify, I had them review everything I did. I got important feedback that let me know where I was on the right track, and where I needed to change or clarify things.
- Don’t get caught up in all of your technology choices. There are so many out there that will help you run your business, it is easy to feel numb searching through them all. Just do this: look at your checklist to see what you need, sort options by price (lowest first) and pick the first one that will work. You’ll be amazed how many free things there are out there that are awesome! You’ll have time to upgrade later if need be.
Lastly, reach out to those that have walked the path you are about to walk. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even ones you think may be “stupid.” Trust me, I asked a lot of those!
Forming your firm is hard work, but be strategic by networking with others!