Looking out the window, the sun is rising – the only quiet time in our house with two boys under age 5. In this quiet space, I can reflect on the first year of running my own RIA and the tips I would give to someone standing in the same shoes I was in 12 months ago.
Building Your New Financial Planning Practice Takes Time
Starting your own business needs to be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint. Officially opening your doors to the world doesn'tmean that you need (or will get) a full roster of clients to work with right away. Building great things takes time, and everyone will experience this growth at a different pace. Believe that the pace you experience is for a reason.
There Is No Perfect
I spent the first six months trying to find a CRM system that was perfect. I could not find a system that did everything I wanted at a reasonable price point. I still haven’t found one that is perfect, and I never will.
I tried Redtail, Salesforce, and XLR8 before finally settling on Less Annoying CRM (LACRM). I went from simple to complex, right back to simple again. I tried advisor-specific, but ended up with a product that is generic.
You'll have your own experiences like this as you set up systems and processes within your business. Don't waste time and energy hunting for perfect: it doesn't exist. Find the best option you can and move on.
There Is Compromise
Given my company name (Finance for Teachers), I was adamant that I was only going to work with teachers. My first prospect wasn’t a teacher but someone who was hell-bent on working with me. Not being in the position to turn away a paying client – it was my first – I started working with her.
While my marketing is geared to teachers, I still accept clients that don’t work in teaching, but only when they are referred to me. While working with a niche creates many economies of scale, you need to learn to compromise and work with people who will pay you when you need to put food on the table.
Be Prepared for Hard Times (They Happen to Everyone)
You will want to quit. Money will get tight, the phone will stop ringing, and you’ll wonder why you thought you could do this on your own. Keep breathing and find ways to cope with this.
If you're feeling overwhelmed and negative, try:
- calling someone for support.
- creating space between you and the negativity: get out of the office, and do something you love to do.
- spending time with family, or people who make you smile.
- grabbing a bowl of ice-cream (but stop after the first bowl).
- crying. Seriously. (I’ve done this and it really does help.)
Whatever helps you cope with this rough patch and make it through the day, do it. No one said running a business would be easy, and it sure isn’t. That’s why so many businesses fail.
However, tomorrow is a new day filled with opportunities to be a successful entrepreneur.
Trust Your Gut
This will apply in more situations than you might realize. No matter what advice you get from your support network, you have to live with your decisions.
I have been told many times that my niche is too narrow and I should loosen it up to all teachers in the USA. Other people have told me that a niche won’t work and I should be a generalist. I’ve listened to some of that advice by loosening up on referrals I accept, but the rest of the advice I’ve thrown out.
Aat the end of the day, the only person that has to deal with the decisions I make is me - not other people giving advice, no matter how well-intentioned their words were.
You know why you started your firm, and whether or not you narrowed down your target market to something very specific. Just because it may be slow getting off the ground doesn’t mean it won’t work in the future. Trust your gut.
Success May Come Sooner than You Expect – Be Ready for It
My practice hasn’t grown as thought it would in the first year. (I currently work with six clients on a retainer basis and advise on approximately $4,000,000 of liquid assets. I use a TAMP for asset management, so I’m considered non-discretionary).
My initial goal was to add one client per month, but I don’t have the prospect traffic for that. But other advisors who started around the same time as me (and are current XY Planning Network members) are continually adding clients and are even turning prospective clients away.
Be prepared for success by having processes and systems in place for onboarding, account transitions, meetings with clients, etc. It will make your growth a lot smoother.
Smile and Have Fun
This is the dream, right? It will be a journey, but you have the power to make it what it is.
Smile, stay positive, and help others without expecting anything in return. Try and be present (rather than only focusing on what might be to come). Understand how lucky and courageous you are for starting your own company.
Even if it doesn’t work (totally or how you thought), you are doing it. There are many people who are still only dreaming, but you took action and made the dream into your realitiy. Enjoy the day!
(I really hope that didn’t sound like a Tony Robbins speech!)
As I went through the first year of running my RIA, I blogged extensively at Financial Planning magazine about what I was going through.
At the end of my first year, I had two reflection articles that outlined how I had prepared for my launch and what I had learned after 12 months. I then had over 50 blog posts that provided technical tips about marketing, technology, social media, collaborating with others, getting a “hustle” on, finding and working with an intern, etc.
I further developed that content into an ebook for people in the same situation as me, or those looking to work their way there.
If you want a free sample of the book, you can get it here.
If you’d like to purchase the book, you can get the Amazon Kindle version or PDF version from Kristin Harad’s site “The Mercato”.
About the Author: Dave Grant is a Certified Financial Planner™ who works with teachers and their families on a number of issues that affect their life at Finance for Teachers. He also helps young financial planners to excel in their careers.