Matthew and Micah are off duty today, and Taylor Schulte is taking over the podcast! After starting his career as a financial advisor at just 22 years old, Taylor now owns his own practice, and he’s here to share how he turned his business around through creating processes, hiring a team, and implementing surge meetings.
Listen in as Taylor talks about why the beginning stages of his practice felt like he was spinning his wheels, as well as what he did to get his business back on track. You’ll learn why he attributes much of the success of his practice to being able to properly plan out his time with clients and implement meetings in an efficient and effective way.
Listen to the Full Episode:
What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode:
- What surge meetings are and why they should be implemented.
- Why you don’t have to know your niche from the beginning.
- The biggest question you need to answer in order to find your ideal client.
- The unexpected results of making a hard transition.
- The benefits of creating a client engagement standard.
- How to introduce new standards to clients.
- The purpose of workflow and processes.
- How to handle client requests between meeting surges.
Ideas Worth Sharing:The way you’re currently doing it is not the way it has to be. - @ThePerfectRIA Click To Tweet It was really important to get clear on who my ideal client was before I started to implement some major changes to my firm and service model. - @DefineFinancial Click To Tweet We’re always asking ourselves after our May meetings: How can we get better? What worked? What didn’t work? What problems did we run into? How can we create a better experience? - @DefineFinancial Click To Tweet
Resources In Today’s Episode:
- Taylor Schulte: Website | Podcast | Twitter | LinkedIn
- Make My Persona
- Client Engagement Standards example by Carolyn McClanahan
- Email Matt and Micah
- The Backstage Pass
- The Perfect RIA LinkedIn Page
- Client Engagement Standards
Enjoy the show? Use the Links Below to Subscribe:
Read the Transcript Below:
Taylor Schulte: Welcome back to the perfect RIA podcast. This is not Matt and Micah, and I don’t know what that intro music was all about. Do they really make you sit through that before every episode?
Hey everyone. My name is Taylor Schulte, and I have hacked into the TPR nation and I’m going to be answering two big questions today. Number one, how can we all help Micah bring his federal retirement website into the 21st century. And two exactly how massive is the value that Matt provides? I’m kidding. I’m kidding. No more bad jokes, I promise. Matt and Micah are much funnier than me and they have kindly allowed me to take over the podcast this week. Now to make things fair, I’ve given them the keys to my podcast where there’ll be talking advisor marketing strategies, and hopefully, fingers crossed, hopefully not getting me kicked off of iTunes.
As mentioned, my name is Taylor Schulte. I’m the founder of a firm out here in sunny San Diego called Define Financial and I host a super fun marketing podcast for financial advisors called Experiments in Advisor Marketing. Just about all of our new clients these days, they find us through our digital marketing efforts. Most of which are purely organic and unpaid and I use my marketing podcast to share exactly what we’re doing and how other advisors can implement the same strategies to reach and help more of their ideal clients. And as much as it pains me to say it, we will not be talking about marketing today. In today’s episode, I’m going to be sharing my three step process for implementing surge meetings. Now, I know. Another advisor talking about surge meetings. They seem to be all the rage these days. But here’s the deal, I started my career as a financial advisor at 22 years old.
It was my very first job out of school. I joined one of the big wirehouses and when I finally escaped and I started my firm about seven years later, maybe six years later, I was staring at a very chaotic practice. And maybe you can relate here, but every client had a different looking investment portfolio, a different investment solution. I was driving to clients’ houses on any day of the week, really at any time to meet with them. I didn’t have a CRM system and not so surprisingly I was hitting a wall. I was hitting this growth barrier. I only had about $160,000 in revenue or so and I remember telling my wife one night, “I don’t know how I can take on another client right now. I’m working around the clock. I’m doing everything myself. I can’t afford to hire a team. I’m reacting to every email and phone call”.
And I had zero control over my business. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I bumped into Matthew Jarvis and I was really impressed with how he ran his practice, like a lot of you guys listening to this podcast. But I thought Matt must be superhuman or something. How does he do all of this? How did he create this practice? And more importantly, how in the world would I ever do this? How would I ever implement this? My clients have been with me for 10 plus years now. They’re used to how we do things and they’re used to the relationship being on their terms. And as I started thinking about how would I ever gain control of my practice and even try to get anything close to where Matt is, I of course started to play out the worst case scenario in my head, which was, if I tried to implement some of these changes, all my clients are going to fire me and I’m going to be out of business and I’m going to be looking for a job again.
So I share all that to say that I was ultimately able to turn my business around and make some giant changes that have allowed me to gain control over my business, implement systems and processes, finally hire a team, and really start to ramp up growth. And one of the biggest turning points through all this was implementing meeting surges. I know meeting surges have been talked about here on the podcast and there’s plenty of articles out there by now. But by meeting surges, I mean blocking out designated times during the year to meet with my clients and, taking it a step further similar to Matt and Micah, I also designate certain times and days of the week to hold meetings. And one of the biggest wins through all this is, I am no longer driving the client’s homes.
So if you’ve ever wondered how in the heck you would be able to implement a lot of what you hear on this podcast or how you would even begin to make some hard but really meaningful changes to your practice, I just want you to know that I was once in your shoes and I wondered the same exact thing. So my hope and my goal today is that today’s episode gives you the motivation that you need to finally take some action. As I mentioned at the top of the show, the way you’re currently doing it is not the way it has to be. I love that quote from Matt. So with all that out of the way, let’s dive into the three step process that I used to gain control of my business and implement meeting surges.
The first step is what I call niche and transition. And as with a lot of things in life, sometimes we have to go backward before we can go forwards. I love golf, I love playing golf. I’ve yet to master the game yet. But if there’s any golfers listening, you all know that when you take lessons from a new instructor, your game usually suffers in the beginning as you adapt and try to learn these new techniques and this new swing. And so you make this short term sacrifice for, hopefully, a long-term benefit. And I think of this very first step in the process the same way. In order for me to get over this hurdle, it feels like I need to do more and more and more and more. But really, in order for me to get over this hurdle, this growth barrier that I’m stuck at and improve my business for the long-term, I had to be willing to take a few steps back.
So let me try to expand on that and share more about what I mean by niche and transition. The first step is obvious here by niche, meaning I had to get crystal clear on who my ideal client was. And this was something that I ignored for way too long thinking that I could serve everyone. I would be just fine serving everyone. But I ultimately learned that that was not going to be possible. Again, trying to go through this process and get my business where it needed to be. So the big question that I started to answer here was who do I do my best work for? Who do I really enjoy working with? And where do those two things intersect?
And if you’ve ever struggled with this exercise and tried to figure out who your ideal client is, which I think most advisors have, you might start with something like HubSpot’s free ‘Make My Persona’ tool, which I’ll be sure to share with Matt and Micah, but you can also just go to Google and type in ‘Make My Persona’ HubSpot, and you’ll see this free tool come up. So if you’re having trouble and you need a starting point, it’s a great little free tool to just get your mind going a little bit. But because I had an existing practice, the starting point for me when trying to get clear about my niche and who I did my best work for was simply to take a look at my current clients. And at that time about one third of our clients were young professionals. Two thirds were retirees in their fifties and sixties. And some of our clients were paying me 200 bucks a year, which sounds crazy to say out loud, and others were paying us tens of thousands of dollars per year.
And in a perfect world I loved all of my clients, including my mother and my grandfather, but I recognized it was really important for me to get crystal clear on who my ideal client was before I started to implement some of these major changes to my firm and our service model, because if I was going to make these changes and have these really hard conversations, I wanted to be damn sure that I’m making them with people I really wanted to work with. And people that compensated me fairly for my time and my expertise. So I ultimately made the decision to zone in on retirees over age 50, and I implemented a minimum annual fee of $7,500 per year. This demographic might sound familiar to you, it’s very similar to Matt’s demographic and it already had represented about two thirds of my clients. And it was a segment that I truly felt like I was able to do my best work for.
We’ve always excelled at the nerdy tax and financial planning side of things, and the complexity of the high net worth retiree really just supported our strengths. Plus, I’ve always been an old soul at heart, and I really enjoy spending time with that age group, and I’ve always been good at it. I’ve always been good at earning their trust, even as a planner in his twenties and thirties. So after going through that exercise and getting really honest with myself about who wasn’t a good fit going forward, I spent time creating a plan to begin transitioning clients that didn’t fit into this niche anymore. Transitioning clients is an entire topic, an entire podcast episode on its own. And I know it’s been addressed here on the podcast, so I’m not going to get into it right now, but I just want to acknowledge that this is not an easy process for me. As much as it might sound like it as I talk through this, transitioning clients is not easy.
Some of these clients had been with me for 10 plus years. Some had just hired me in the last 12 months. And, yes, some of the clients that landed on my transition list included both my mother and my grandfather, and it even included a friend of my mother-in-law’s. So talk about some really tough conversations here. Again, this is a big topic that we don’t really have time to tackle everything today, but in case it’s helpful I just want to mention that some of these clients are high earning young professionals who really had complex situations and really needed ongoing help. I carefully transitioned these to another advisor in town who specialized in serving just that demographic. Other clients like my grandfather, who was splitting his money between two of us advisors, they were transitioned to their other advisors.
And the rest of the clients either found a new advisor with some of the resources I provided, or they just moved their accounts to fidelity retail and just decided to self manage things for the time being. So through all of these difficult conversations, I just want to highlight that not one person took issue with the changes I was making. And I was really surprised by that actually. I really thought people would start to fight back a little bit, but not one person really took issue with the changes I was making. In fact, the majority of them were supportive of my decision to just get more focused and more specialized and really appreciated the hand holding that I provided through that entire process. My grandfather thanked me for being honest with him and just putting him first, and of course my mom she still asks me to this day if she can come back and be a client. But I want to be sure to emphasize that how you approach this process and how you communicate these changes is really, really important.
I didn’t just dream this up one day and start to transition clients. I spent a lot of time developing a plan, and more importantly going about it in a way that really felt true and authentic to me. For example, I chose to have most of these conversations face to face, and I know some advisors might not do that. They might send physical letters and essentially give clients 30 days to find a new home. Some advisors might do it all over email or pick up the phone and do it over the phone. How you approach this will absolutely determine how you’re going to feel going through the process, and also how your client is going to respond to these changes that you’re making.
One last thing here and we’ll move on to step number two. I know firsthand how hard it is to identify and choose a niche. It’s a challenge if you’re just starting out in the business and it’s a challenge if you’ve been in the business for 20, 30 years and you have clients all over the place, in every age group, and every profession. So if drilling down and getting as narrow as me or Matt or Micah, or even someone like my friend Craig, who only works with speech language pathologists. If that just seems completely impossible, you might just start to think about other ways to draw a line in the sand and tackle this first step.
A simple example might be just establishing a minimum fee. Maybe you’re stuck working with all different age groups and you don’t really see a way out of that right now, but you might consider implementing a minimum fee to improve your profitability and free up your time so that you can work with more people who will pay you fairly for the work that you do. I know it’s not a perfect solution, you’re probably still going to run into operational challenges by doing that. But I do think it’s a good step in the right direction.
Okay. So step number one was to niche and transition. With that very difficult process out of the way, I’m now left with a group of clients that I truly do my best work for. I really enjoy working with, and they compensate me fairly for my time and my expertise. These are the people that I want to work with for the next 20, 30, 40 years, however long I’m in the business. These are the people that I want to work with and these are the people that I am willing to have some really hard conversations with, to be sure that I can continue to deliver top notch service and, wait for it, continue to add massive value.
So step number two in my three-step process was to create and deliver client engagement standards. Now I’ll share what client engagement standards are in a minute, but first I just want to share the why behind using them. As mentioned, many of my clients have been with me for a long time, and they’re used to the way that we’re doing things. And so it felt like a really daunting task to all of a sudden, just one day, go to them and say, “Hey, Mr and Mrs. Client, I know this is what we’ve been doing for the last 10 years and that you love when I drive to your house on Friday nights. And you love that I just respond to every email you send me right away. But guess what? I’m not doing that anymore.” That didn’t feel right and it just felt like a really daunting task.
I knew that if I’m going to do this, I knew that I needed to put the client first and I needed to provide a good reason, or multiple reasons, for making these changes. Reasons that truly benefited them. As much as meeting surges might feel like a selfish decision for the advisor, they really do end up benefiting the client even more, in my opinion. Also, even with a good list of reasons that benefit the client, I felt like I needed something to help guide this difficult conversation. Something that gave me a reason to be having this conversation in the first place with my clients. I can get nervous when I have to speak off the cuff or I have to have a hard conversation with someone. I don’t like to let people down and the unknown or uncertainty of how conversation is going to go or how someone might react, it really eats away at me.
So the client engagement standards that I developed really helped in two ways. One, they forced me to prepare ahead of time and organize my thoughts and my approach. And then number two, they gave me a reason to have the conversation and share these updates with my clients. For any of you that have done any cold calling, this would be similar to sending a mailer to someone before you cold call them, which gives you a reason for calling them. Something like, “Hey, Mr. Smith. I sent you an article the other day on why everyone needs whole life insurance and I just wanted to call and see if you had any questions.” That approach, minus the whole life insurance part of course, that approach feels better to me than just calling someone out of the blue. Or in this case, springing some really important changes and updates on a client just completely out of the blue.
So going back to something I said earlier, this approach just worked for me and it just felt really authentic. I wanted to prepare in advance. I wanted to gather my thoughts and I wanted to have something to help me guide this conversation. But I just want to highlight that how I go about things might not work for you. How Matt or Micah go about things might not work with you. And it’s perfectly normal. In fact, I think we have to be really careful about doing something a certain way, just because someone else did it that way. So now that you know the why, why I’m using my client engagement standards, let me share a little bit more about the what and the how. So the client engagement standards were adapted from a version that fellow financial planner Carolyn McClanahan produced several years ago and she has publicly shared it in a number of different places.
I saw it and I thought it was brilliant. And so I want to make sure to give her full credit for this. And just like I just said, I didn’t just take her client engagement standards, copy and paste them and give them to my clients. I used her standards as a starting point and for inspiration and then I made them my own. So my client engagement standards ended up being a seven page document with three main sections. So let me share what those three main sections are. The first section is called ‘Our firm’s guiding principles and beliefs’. So for example, principle number one says, “This is going to take a while. Financial planning is an ongoing process that involves goal setting and cashflow management, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Defined financial aims to provide holistic financial solutions that cover every what if in your life.” That’s principle number one and there’s I think six other principles that go along in that section.
The second section is titled ‘What you can expect from our firm’. For example, one of the bullet points says, “We promise to do the heavy lifting to help your plan become a reality, or to help your plan become better than you’ve ever hoped for blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. If we find anything we can change to achieve a better result, we will take proactive steps to change it.” So that’s one of the bullet points from that section. Another one is, “We will return all phone calls and emails within 24 hours and we promise to never leave you hanging. We will inform you of any short-term deviations from this policy, such as an upcoming vacation.” So that’s the second section, things that clients can expect from us. Most of which is pretty standard stuff and most of which clients are used to up to this point.
The final and most important section, and this is where all these changes come in is what we expect from you, i.e the client, and this section requires the client to initial next to each and every bullet point. If there’s a spouse involved, each spouse has to read and initial next each bullet point. So for example, one of the bullet points is, “I’m willing to be an active participant in the defined financial planning process. I understand that each part of the process requires information or participation from me. I promise to stay engaged because I understand the outcome of my plan hinges on my cooperation and involvement.” So that’s one of the bullet points. Fairly straightforward, but we had a lot of clients in the past that were not active participants. So this is something that’s really important to us to reinforce. Again, that’s a simple one. You probably are all on board with that, but I included others in this section based on the upcoming changes that I was making. And then I use this section to talk through those one at a time.
For example, “I understand that defined financial meets with clients in their office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Exceptions are made for emergencies.” And then I explain the why. “This allows us to spend Mondays and Fridays prepping for client meetings and doing research so that we can be fully present when you are in the office.” So this is the bullet point that prompted me to hit the pause button with the client as I’m going through it and talk more about holding meetings in our office or virtually going forward. I told them that by not driving across town every day and sitting in traffic, I would have more time to prepare for each meeting with my team, run a more effective meeting and overall just deliver better service to them.
Another example in this section, another bullet point is. “I will make myself available for one annual meeting each year at a minimum. Annual review meetings allow us to make sure we are doing the best possible job for you.” And this is the bullet point where I introduce them to our new bi-annual meeting surges and I gave them a reason that benefited them. I said, “We are holding our new bi-annual meetings in the month of May, which is just after tax season, so that we can get a copy of your most recent tax return and start to talk about tax planning for the rest of the year. And then the next set of meetings will be in October, just before the holidays hit and you start to check out and spend time with family.” I also shared that this structure would allow us to be much more prepared. That that scattering meetings all around the year and on different days and times made it really challenging for our team to prepare and organize.
So really quick, if you’re a backstage pass member, which I hope you are, I’ve given Matt and Micah a copy of my client engagement standards that you can grab and make your own if it’s something that you’re interested in. So once I had these client engagement standards created my final step, and this was the hard part, was to share them with clients and have them sign off on them. Since my current clients were not on any sort of set meeting schedule, remember they’re all over the place I’m driving all around town, what I did was I did my best to schedule as many year end review meetings as possible towards the end of 2018. And then I used those review meetings to introduce these client engagement standards.
The client engagement standards were the first thing on the agenda during those meetings to talk to them. And then I leaned on the standards to share the updates and changes that I was making. During the meeting and at the top of the meeting, I said something along the lines of, “Over the past few months, I’ve worked really hard to make some improvements to the firm, to ensure that I continue doing the best possible job for you. I’ve documented everything in what I call our client engagement standards and I’d like to just take 10 minutes to review them with you.” Now you might guess a number of clients when I said this at the top of the meeting, they just said, “Oh, Taylor, that’s not necessary. You’re great. We love you. I’ll just sign them and we can move on.”
To which I had to say, “Look, I really appreciate that. I really appreciate your trust, but I spent a lot of time on this document. It’s really important to me that we just spend a few minutes reviewing it. And in fact, it’s so important that I don’t even want you to sign it today. I’ve actually provided you a paid return envelope, so you don’t have to pay for postage. And after our meeting today, I want you to read through it and if it still aligns with what you’re looking for in a financial planner and why you hired me in the first place, you can sign it and send it back.”
While this process might not have gone as smooth as I imagined in my head or how I just laid it out for you right now, I felt really comfortable and confident in my approach, which was most important to me. I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t anxious about any of it. I just felt really good about these changes and I felt really good about having this physical document in my hands to help guide this conversation. I want to be completely transparent and honest here, in the end I did lose one client through all of this that was paying us really good money to help him. And funny enough that client actually did sign the client engagement standards. He read them, he gave us a thumbs up, he sent them back.
But a couple months later, he tried to challenge me with scheduling a meeting on a random Monday. I wasn’t a complete jerk. I kindly reminded him of the client engagement standards. I mentioned that I’d be happy to make an exception if it was something urgent. But most importantly, I just wanted to make sure that this new meeting structure was something that he was going to be on board with long-term. That didn’t really sit well with him and long story short, things didn’t work out and he bailed. And it really hurt at the time. But in hindsight, he really wasn’t a good fit personality wise to begin with. I think I was lying to myself along the way here. We made a lot of exceptions for him and did just about everything on his terms. He didn’t really look like a lot of other clients.
I think just long-term it was a blessing in disguise, but I’m not going to lie here, it really did hurt at the time to lose a client through all this with some meaningful revenue. Most of our clients signed the client engagement standards in late 2018 and we started May and October meeting surges, the very first round of them, in 2019. Which as you might imagine, evolved a lot of learning experiences. But we learned a lot in 2019 and we just wrapped up our May meeting surge in 2020. And things went really, really smooth.
We’re getting really good feedback from clients and I’m just really happy with how everything was going. Mostly because of step number three, which we’ll talk about here in a minute. But before we go there, the last thing I want to mention is that we now use the client engagement standards as part of our sales process. It’s actually the very first thing that we ask a prospect to sign if they want to move forward with our firm. And it remains to this day the only document that we physically print out and provide them with a paid return envelope to send back to us. Everything else is done through e-signature except for this document. If they’re in our office for that final meeting, we ask them to take it home, read it. And again, we’ve already gone through it with them during the meeting, but after the meeting, they take it home. I ask them to read it again, sign it if they’re still on board, and snail mail it back to us.
If they’re outside of San Diego in another city or another state, we physically mail them a copy. Again, we went through it virtually over Zoom, but after that meeting, we physically overnight them a copy of it for them to review, sign and send back. It’s too important to our process and how we do things here to just send electronically, where I think most people will just skim through it and it to get it off their plate.
Okay. So to recap, step number one was to niche and transition. Step number two was to create and deliver client engagement standards. And our third and final step, now that everyone’s on board with meeting surges and that the new way of doing things, is to develop an internal workflow and processes. So step number three is to develop a workflow and process. Now having a workflow and process does three main things. Number one, it ensures that meeting surges are run the way that I need them to as the lead advisor and the owner of the firm. Number two, it prevents my team from pulling their hair out twice a year, trying to get ready and prepare for these meetings. And then number three, it creates a positive experience for the client and it reinforces why we’re doing it this way in the first place.
As I mentioned at the top of the show, I didn’t even have a CRM when I started my firm in 2014. Even when I adopted one, I didn’t have any workflows. In fact, if I’m being completely honest here, I didn’t even know what a workflow was until a few years ago. I just simply used a CRM for contact management. I’m really not a systems guy and this is something that I’ve really struggled with, but I’ve seen the benefits and I’ve learned firsthand how important it is to have these processes in place, especially if I’m going to have high expectations of me and my team. And so to help I’ve hired CRM and process consultants, and still to this day, I continue to lean on other advisors and peers in my network to share best practices and improve what we’re doing.
So if you’re like me and you’re not good with creating systems, I just don’t want you to feel like you have to go at it alone and figure this out. Hiring consultants really isn’t very costly and I’m willing to bet that there are a few peers in your network who would be willing to help you as well. Really quick, meeting surges on the surface might seem simple and straightforward, and you might be wondering “Why the heck do you need a whole workflow or multiple workflows to guide this process? You just schedule meetings and run those meetings.” But in a world where advisors are being commoditized, I think these are the little areas where we can really shine and go above and beyond to create this world-class experience that can never be replaced by technology.
I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but literally I just receive this email today from a brand new client who was previously a DIYer. Super smart, did all this stuff himself, recently hired us. And this is what he wrote me this morning. He said, “We appreciate how you run your business and recognize the thought and detail it takes to remove friction from all the processes that could otherwise cause customer frustration. Well done.” So as simple as a task might seem, I’m convinced that having dialed in processes and workflows will only continue to create really positive experiences and generate more responses just like that from clients, which is exactly what I want.
I just thought it was really cool that he acknowledged us removing friction and appreciated how I ran my business. Those are things that I’ve never heard before in my career. So I was really happy to see that and I just wanted to share that. So I think you get my point. Our October bi-annual meeting surge is right around the corner here and I just want to share an overview of our workflow that’s actually about to get launched in just a few days. So the first step in the workflow. On August 15th, which is 45 days ahead of our October meeting surge, our CRM is going to prompt our office manager to just kick things off internally, review the entire process as a team, review the collateral, and then make any tweaks or updates that are needed.
On September 1st, one month ahead of our surge, we will physically mail a letter to all of our clients, notifying them of the upcoming bi-annual meeting block and giving them a heads up to expect an email from us in two weeks that we’ll have a link to our online calendar so that they can pick a date and a time. And by now they’re pretty used to this workflow. And they’re used to picking a date and time using our online calendar. If that’s brand new for you, you’re going to have to go through another training process with clients to get them up to speed there.
The next step is two weeks later. So mid-September, we send that email that we told clients would be headed their way so that they can pick a date and a time. One week after that our office manager will pick up the phone and she will call the clients who have not scheduled yet. And then lastly, she’ll make one more round of phone calls a week later, and by then everyone should be on the calendar or at the very least have communicated any reasons why a meeting isn’t going to work. So with bi-annual meetings kicking off on October 1st, each client record in our CRM gets a new workflow attached to them that launches another series of steps for us to prepare for their individual meeting.
And here’s just a quick summary. One week before that client’s meeting, our office manager is prompted to begin the preparation process. Step number two, she’ll kick off the workflow and she’ll send it over to my lead planner who will tackle all the financial planning, prep work, update, e-money, identify key talking points, and generate our meeting materials. Two days before the clients meeting, our office manager will print out internal meeting materials and she’ll put them in a folder for me. These are not for the client. These are for me. I like to have physical copies when I run the meeting. And then finally on the day of the meeting, and this is my favorite part, we have a lot of fun here.
On the day of the meeting, there’s essentially a checklist of things that need to happen in the office before the client comes in. Certain things to be pulled up on the screen in our conference room. We have a lobby TV with scrolling pictures of our family and personal lives. We turn on some nice music, make sure the dishes are put away. We will get drinks ready if we know what they like. We prop the front office door open that leads to the outside so that they know that we’re expecting them. So when they’re walking towards our office, they see that our doors open and it just gives them that feeling that, “Yes. They’re ready for me. They’re prepared.” And the list goes on. We have a lot of cool things that we do from a client experience standpoint so that when they walk through our door, they just have a really, really good experience during that meeting. I won’t go into it today, but as you might imagine, there’s another workflow that is launched after the meeting to guide our team on all the follow-up items.
So I know that probably feels like a lot, and it is a lot. It really is. But just know that it’s taken us years to get here. We started really, really simple. We held meetings, we paid attention to what worked and what didn’t work. We made improvements, we hired consultants, and then we ran through it again. And we continue to make improvements today. We’re always asking ourselves, right after our May meetings that we just had. We asked ourselves how can we get better? What worked? What didn’t work? What problems did we run into? How can we create a better experience?
One final thing here, and I’ll bring this home. I get a lot of questions about how we handle client requests in between these meetings surges. People say, “Okay, you have these meetings in May and October. But what are you doing in between all of that? What if a client calls you in July and wants to meet with you about something?” So first things first. I make it very, very clear to clients that our office doors are always open to them. They pay us a lot of money and I make it really clear that we are here for them when and if they need us. That said, I think that most of the time us advisors wrongly assume that something is urgent and we quickly react and make exceptions to accommodate a client when it’s really not necessary. It’s in our head, not the client’s head.
So here’s how we handle it. When a client reaches out in, let’s say, July and says something like, “Hey Taylor. I was just reading about donor advised funds and I think it’s something that I’m interested in. I’d really like to come in and meet and talk about how this fits into my plan.” So my first response is something like, “Hey Mr. Smith. Thanks so much for reaching out. Yeah, donor advise funds are great. As you know, our next review meeting is around the corner in October, which is actually a really good time of the year to discuss year-end tax planning and charitable giving. Do you want to put this on the agenda for our October meeting? Or is this something that’s really urgent that you want to tackle right now?” And nine times out of 10, I promise if you try this, nine times out of 10, the client will say, “Oh yeah, let’s just add to the October agenda.”
It might feel to us like it’s an urgent request when we first get that email or that phone call. And we think the client just wants to come in right now and open up a donor advised fund, but it’s rarely how they actually feel. I’ve learned that more than anything, the client just wants to know that it’s off of their plate and it’s on our plate to lead that discussion and help them out. So if it’s something that’s truly urgent like, “Hey Taylor. I just lost my job and I really need to come in and talk,” or, “I received an inheritance and I needed to come in and talk about how this is going to fit into my financial plan.” Whatever it might be, if it’s something that’s truly urgent, we will absolutely make time for them. Schedule a phone call, schedule a meeting. Again, anytime during the year, our office doors are open to them. Now this doesn’t happen very often since most of our clients have already reached that work optional stage or they’re retired, but that’s how we handled it.
Also, I’ve realized that the more proactive we are in getting ahead of things and setting future expectations, the less these types of requests come in. In fact, we’re now seeing clients email us with things like, “Hey Taylor, I’d like to discuss X, Y, Z during our next meeting in October.” Which is really awesome to see. It’s a huge win in my book. But the more we can get ahead and set future expectations, such as in our May meeting maybe on the agenda kind of what we do here is, “Hey, in October, we’re going to be talking about these five things. Donor advise funds, Roth conversions, whatever else.” And so if we can get ahead of these things and set those future expectations, then it mitigates these phone calls and these emails in between all these meetings.
Okay. That was a lot. I really hope all of this was helpful. Again, the three-step process. Number one first step is to niche and transition. Number two is to create and deliver client engagement standards. And then number three is to create those internal workflows and processes to drive and support these surge meetings to make sure that you’re running them effectively and adding a ton of value and creating a good experience. If you have any questions for me, head over to TaylorSchulte.com. Send me a message to the contact form or through social media. I read and respond to every single message. I really do enjoy engaging with other advisors and learning from each other. A big thank you to Matt and Micah for letting me take over today.
If you want to help me thank them head over to iTunes and give this podcast a five star review. These guys are incredibly talented and generous. I’ve learned so much for them. It truly is one of the best financial advisor podcasts out there. So go to iTunes, leave them that written five star review, and let’s help them out. Thanks again to everyone and happy planning.
Hold on before we go. Something that you need to know. This isn’t tax, legal, or investment advice. That isn’t our intent. Information designed to change lives. Financial planning can make you thrive. Start today. Don’t think twice. Be a better husband, father, mother, and wife. The Perfect RIA. The Perfect RIA.
Share the love!