Between Now and Success

We interview top financial advisors and visionary voices to bring you the strategies, tips, and tools you need to make a difference in people's lives. So rope up and get "On Belay" as we climb the summit to success with your host and Chief Belayer, Steve Sanduski.
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Oct 7, 2019

If you’re not learning faster than the world is changing, then you are going to fall behind very quickly. And businesses that fall too far behind usually don’t get a second chance to catch up.

A big challenge for financial advisors is, how do you stay on top of everything that’s required to run a successful advisory business?

As Josh Brown put it at the recent Wealth/Stack Conference, “A good advisor is both coach and quarterback, on-demand psychologist and personal friend, historian and futurist.” That’s an awful lot of ground for us to cover in our personal and professional learning. Plus, we have to track technological advances that are impacting our industry, while also adapting to best practices that help our businesses stay ahead of the competition.

If you haven’t made a commitment to learning one of your top responsibilities as a CEO advisor, today’s episode will help you get with the program.

My guest today is financial planner, author, podcast host, and speaker Taylor Schulte. Taylor is the founder of Define Financial, a financial planning firm headquartered in San Diego, CA. He’s also the co-founder of Advisor Growth Community, a place for financial advisors to connect with and learn from each other, and the host of two excellent podcasts, Stay Wealthy and Experiments in Advisor Marketing.

Taylor and I talked about why all financial advisors need to be lifelong learners, our sources for learning, and we share a few marketing ideas too.

Sep 23, 2019

When was the last time you talked to a Netflix employee about your account?

How about an Amazon employee?

I’m guessing for most of you the answer is: never. Netflix automatically charges my credit card every month and uses its algorithms to push content it thinks I’ll enjoy to my home screen.

A shipping problem or return request with Amazon is usually resolved with a couple swipes or clicks. It’s efficient customer service, but it’s all faceless, online, impersonal.

Now, when was the last time you stayed at a Ritz-Carlton or Four Season? How did that experience make you feel? Pretty darn good I bet!

The key to your success as an advisor is to marry the tech efficiency of an Amazon with the deluxe service of a Ritz-Carlton and underpin it with high technical competence. It’s really a three-legged stool—tech efficiency + deluxe service + technical competence.

I sometimes worry that our industry has become so obsessed with the tech efficiency leg of the stool that we are losing sight of what clients are really paying us for—helping them make better financial decisions so they can live their best life possible.

I couldn’t attend this year Wealth/Stack Conference, so I invited two of my favorite past guests who did attend to recap some of the key themes that emerged from the conference.

My guests today are Dennis Morton and Matt Wilson. Dennis is the co-founder of Morton Brown Family Wealth along with his partner, Kathryn Brown. Matt is the Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director of Keen Wealth Advisors along with his partner, Bill Keen.

Here are four major themes from the conference and our thoughts about each.

Sep 9, 2019

Email Marketing is one of the most effective, least expensive, and underutilized marketing strategies available to you right now.

I’m on the record as saying a person’s inbox in the most valuable piece of marketing real estate you can own. When a person gives you permission to show up in their inbox on a regular basis, you can develop a personalized relationship that leads to new business and long-term loyalty.

Now, you might be thinking, "Steve, have you lost your rocker here? Email is so 1990s. Why are you talking about email marketing? Email is dead. We've got Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, texting, Instagram, webinars and much more, so why are you talking about a dinosaur like email?"

Because it works!

Just like I was early to the podcasting space five years ago when I started Between Now and Success, the next big marketing and education platform is a resurrection of an old one—email.

I started using “electronic mail” back in the 1980s when I worked for corporate giants Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard. In those pre-commercial internet days, it was a closed loop and I could send mail only to other employees. I thought it was really cool back then and today, it’s even cooler now that your “email” is as unique and ubiquitous as your thumbprint.

To explore email marketing, I invited one of the country’s leading authorities on email marketing, Dan Oshinsky, to my podcast. Dan is the founder of Inbox Collective, an email consultancy that helps brands grow audiences, build relationships, and get results via email.

Previously, Dan was the Director of Newsletters at The New Yorker, where he helped launch new newsletters, optimize their suite of products, and drive paid subscriber growth through email. Dan was also the Director of Newsletters at BuzzFeed, where he built a team that grew newsletters into one of the biggest referrers of traffic to the site and drove 250 million clicks to BuzzFeed. Dan also wrote more than 200 posts for BuzzFeed, including one that hit 1 million views.

Aug 26, 2019

A top-notch tech stack is table stakes. And you won’t “out tech the tech titans” so you can’t win on technology.

So what can a financial advisor do to remain relevant and thrive in the years ahead?

You can double-down on your ability to humanize the advisor-client relationship, to understand and deliver on exactly what your clients really need, and you should do it in a technologically-enhanced way.

“You're not competing on your toolkit or the software that you deploy in your office,” says podcast guest Lex Sokolin. “You're competing on the core need, which is that most people don't have enough money. They don't know how to retire. They're super anxious. I think the smart financial advisor will shade the constructs of how they work and move towards what the human need is in this evolving world.”

Lex Sokolin is the Global Fintech Co-Head at ConsenSys, a blockchain technology company building the infrastructure, applications, and practices that enable a decentralized world. Lex is also a futurist and entrepreneur whose newsletter, Future of Finance, should be on your must-read list every week if you want to stay ahead of the curve (I read it each week).

In today’s conversation, we discuss the sweeping changes in the fintech landscape and what new skills advisors will need to thrive in an industry that’s getting more digital and more automated every day.

Aug 12, 2019

“You’re either growing or dying.” How many times have you heard that chestnut? Too many!

But what if you decided you didn’t want to grow? What if you decided you’d be happy at the current size of your business and just add new clients when an existing client leaves or passes away?

Does the thought of that idea make you vomit or is it liberating?

If you decide it’s all about growth, what are you willing to sacrifice to scale?

My guest today, Carolyn McClanahan recently decided her practice was “big enough” with 100 families and she has now closed her firm to new clients.

Carolyn is the Director of Financial Planning at Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, FL and she has a fascinating background. She's actually a M.D. who decided to become a CFP® after she and her husband couldn't find a financial planner who provided the kind of life-planning advice that they really wanted. After she opened her own firm in 2004, Carolyn split her time between advising some of her doctor buddies and treating patients as an emergency room doctor.

In our conversation, we discuss how Carolyn replaced the old “big book” financial plans we all remember with a more personal, goals-based narrative approach. She also talks about her unique fee structure of pricing based on complexity, and we discuss how she concluded that 100 families was the optimal size for her practice.

Jul 29, 2019

The classic educational seminar still works if you spend the time, and yes, the money to do it right.

My podcast guest today, Matt Gulbransen, has mastered the science—and art—of delivering seminars that convert. 

Matt is the President of Pine Grove Financial Group, which is an RIA operating in the St. Paul, Minnesota area. In our conversation, Matt discusses what attracted him to seminars, what works for him, a few things that don't, the kinds of events he hosts, the formula he uses to calculate his ROI, and, maybe most importantly, the emphasis that he and his team place on rehearsing your presentations until not even a power outage is going to throw you off your game.

Jul 15, 2019

Today I’m going to share 3 maxims used by Navy SEALs that drive their elite performance.

These maxims have been used by SEALs for decades and have proven their worth in thousands of Special Operations missions in every corner of the world.

The good news is, they’ll work for you too. Apply them to your business and to your personal performance and watch your results soar.

My guest today is Commander David Sears of the United States Navy. David retired after serving for 20 years in the Navy SEALs. He's a decorated veteran who planned, led, and executed hundreds of Special Operations missions in more than 40 countries on five continents.

In our conversation we talk in-depth about three maxims that guide how Navy SEALs operate. Each maxim is so nuanced that once you dig into the surface-level truth, you’ll find deeper levels of insight that can apply to any kind of business – including, of course, financial advisory.

I really love making these kinds of connections. I firmly believe that to be successful in any business, you need to diversify your inputs and learn as much as you can from whomever you can. You might not think that advisors and Navy SEALs have a whole lot in common. But more often than not, I’ve found that strategies that the absolute best of the best use to excel in one field have lessons for folks in other businesses as well.

Jul 1, 2019

Imagine for a moment if you could build a highly profitable practice that served a total of just 10 families and individuals. And through your personalized, indispensable service you could create clients for life, and perhaps even for a generation or two.

That’s exactly what David Dunn is doing at Kingsbridge Wealth Management. David describes Kingsbridge as a family office featuring a “full stack financial infrastructure” that provides high-net-worth families and individuals with everything they need to manage their wealth. That means a thorough understanding of how each client thinks about their money, offering specialized services, and incorporating some outside-the-box thinking on asset allocation (hint: it’s definitely NOT modern portfolio theory).

Even if your typical client’s net worth is in the 7-figures, as opposed to 8, 9 or 10 that David works with, you’ll gain a great appreciation of the psychological and service needs of all investors and how to apply that understanding to better meeting your client’s needs.

Jun 17, 2019

You’re not going to reach the top of this profession without having a competitive streak in you. And when you channel that competitiveness into “winning” for your clients and “winning” in the growth of your business, that’s a dynamite combo.

Today’s guest, Michael Bapis, is a competitor who played golf for the University of Utah, then collegiate-level basketball while studying abroad in Greece for two years. After finishing school, he moved to Phoenix and ran Jim Flick's Golf School at Desert Mountain. Once he decided to follow his father into finance, Michael kept learning and achieving at a very high level, first at Morgan Stanley, then at HighTower. In 2018, he opened Vios Advisors under the umbrella of Rockefeller Capital Management, working with high-net worth individuals, pro athletes, and entertainers.

We connected in person at the 2019 SALT Conference and discussed a wide range of topics including two key lessons he learned from his early mentor Jim Flick. These lessons became foundational cornerstones for how he built his advisory firm to more than $1 billion in AUM.

Jun 3, 2019

I'm convinced that one of the keys to success is to have extreme clarity. But clarity can be difficult to define, and even harder to achieve. In our business, many advisors don’t do a thorough enough job defining themselves to an ever-more-crowded marketplace. “We help you achieve your financial goals” might fit well on your website’s masthead. But does a phrase like that really say anything meaningful about who you are as an advisor, what kind of value you bring to the planning process, and who your ideal clients are?

To help us all achieve some … well, clarity on these important issues, I sat down with the “King of Clarity.” My guest today is Steve Woodruff, who is in the business of helping people discover their fit and then craft the words that become their verbal business card. He's also the author of a great book called “Clarity Wins: Get Heard, Get Referred.” In our conversation, Steve discusses the five questions he believes all business owners need to ask themselves about their branding and messaging, especially when it comes to your website.

And make sure you listen to the whole episode, because at the end we hold some advisor websites up to the King’s clarity standards. Steve’s feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly of clarity will make you look at your own marketing in a whole new way.

(Don’t worry. Names have been disguised to protect the innocent. And the guilty.)

May 20, 2019

If I only knew then what I know now …

As advisors and business owners, we all think about this from time to time. But how often do you actually put what you’ve learned into action?

Right now, you’re probably sitting on a lesson or idea you could use to transform your business. In fact, you might have enough “A-ha!” moments stored up to do something really exciting, like starting your dream RIA from scratch.

My guests today did just that. Dennis Morton and Katie Brown are the co-founders of Morton Brown Family Wealth in Allentown, PA. They used lessons learned during their previous 10-year working relationship at another firm to grow Morton Brown from $0 to over $100 million in AUM in just 12 months.

In today's show, we discuss the specific ways they designed their firm from Day 1 to be an enduring business with no regrets and no more “if onlys.”

May 7, 2019

A master class from Sterling Shea on how to revamp your business and thrive as a world-class financial advisor, taught by someone who literally writes the book on where our industry is going and how the best of the best stay at the top.

Apr 22, 2019

How can financial advisors build an enduring business with sustainable value?

Contrary to what we often hear and read, it's not all about tech. It's about being indispensable in your clients' lives.

Today's guest, Brie Williams, says there are four areas we should focus on to create sustainable value.

  1. Be authentic to what you represent.
  2. Set, manage, and deliver on client expectations.
  3. Remember that perception is reality.
  4. Optimize to realize your long-term vision.

These four areas can form the core of your client-centric approach to business.

Brie is Vice President of State Street Global Advisors and Head of Practice Management for the Global SPDR Business. Before she entered financial services, Brie had a great career in advertising and research where she managed big brands like Frito-Lay, McDonald's, and Target.

In our conversation, we explored some of the key drivers you need to put in place to build a sustainable business in our fast-paced world. In particular, Brie talked about the lessons she learned on Madison Ave. that have translated into helping advisors build better practices, and how you can use technology combined with human empathy and curiosity to help clients understand how to engage with you and your team when their money needs and life needs intersect.

Apr 8, 2019

Capitalism is taking a beating right now. Rising wealth inequality and low social mobility have been festering for decades. The median income of Americans hasn’t budged in 30 years. The overall share of GDP accruing to capital has risen significantly relative to labor. And I could go on.

So is capitalism the problem? No. We don’t need to ditch capitalism, we just need to evolve it so more people can benefit from it.

But how do we do that?

For some answers, I reached out to Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci. You may know him as the short-lived communications director in the White House. But he’s also the founder of a multi-billion dollar alternative fund, organizer of the SALT Forum (BTW, I'll be podcasting from the SALT Forum so register to attend and I'll see you there), and a fun guy to talk to.

In today’s show, we talk about capitalism. We discuss what works, what’s not working, and what would it take for our country to evolve capitalism so it helps all Americans live the American dream.I hope you enjoy today’s show.

Mar 25, 2019

Seminars work. I’ve had multiple advisors on my podcast in recent months who are all killing it with seminars. In fact, today's podcast guest, Bill Keen, raised $90 million in AUM last year from seminars.

Sure, it seems old school in the age of Facebook, YouTube, and Zoom, but people still value human to human live contact. You can only Google, click, and swipe so much before you just want to hear an actual person give you some good, solid information about how to live the best life possible with your money.

If you’re behind the curve on seminars and you aren’t sure how to start, my guest today, Bill Keen, is going to help you catch up. Bill’s firm, Keen Wealth, has almost half a billion dollars in AUM, and seminars have been pivotal to Bill’s success.

On this episode, Bill details the 5-step process he used to perfect his seminar process and it could help you get on track to raise tens of millions in new AUM. Yes, there’s more to it than just slapping together a good PowerPoint. But if you commit to Bill’s process and throw in some personal touches, you’ll be on your way to grabbing an audience and growing your client base.

Mar 18, 2019

A growing financial advisory firm needs lots of top talent. What are you doing to deepen your roster of advisors? Do your brightest employees see a path for themselves from, say, a business or marketing degree to CFP® certification? And if so, what can both the employee and the employer expect during that process?

Well, confession time: it's been a couple years (actually decades) since I got my CFP®, so I don't think I'm the best person to answer those questions. I decided to go to a better-qualified source.

Andrew Jones is a representative in the high-net-worth area at one of the country's leading investment management firms. Andrew recently completed the CFP® program and will soon meet the work requirements to become, officially, a CFP®.

Andrew told me that one of the reasons he decided to pursue his CFP® rather than an MBA is that he saw himself as more of a people person. Your firm needs to attract and cultivate millennials like Andrew who recognize that there's more to advisory than just managing money. Advisors who are skilled communicators and who are empathetic with an ability to connect with your clients as people are vital to the future of your business.

On today's show, Andrew shares his best advice for studying and passing the CFP® exam. He also talks about the resources his company made available to him and how studying with other aspiring CFP®s created a sense of camaraderie and accountability that was critical to his success. We also hear from a special guest who was particularly instrumental in helping Andrew earn his CFP®.

As you're listening to Andrew discuss this process, ask yourself what your firm could be doing to encourage young employees to pursue CFP® certification and how you could foster a workplace culture that would improve their chances of success.

Mar 11, 2019

David Bach is one of the most well-known names in personal finance and the RIA space. In 2018, AE Wealth Management ranked as the second-fastest-growing RIA in America according to Investment News and Financial Advisor Magazine.

David is also an 11-time best-selling author, including 9 New York Times best-selling books that have sold over 7 million copies and been translated into 19 languages. His latest, “The Latte Factor,” is also a huge hit.

And on top of all that, David’s massively popular “Smart Women, Smart Retirement” seminars are currently being taught coast to coast by his licensed advisors.

On today's show, we do a deep dive on marketing, with a focus on seminars and the kind of storytelling David uses to connect with prospects and grow great businesses.

Feb 25, 2019

Rohit Bhargava is the founder and chief trend curator of the Non-Obvious Company, which helps companies and leaders win by learning to see what others miss. He’s also the founder of three successful companies, and advisor to multiple startups, and a bestselling author of five books on a wide variety of topics, including the future of business, how to build a brand with personality, and why leaders always eat left-handed.

We talked about some key trends from the 2019 edition of “Non-Obvious” that financial advisors are going to want to pay special attention to. The rapid advances in technology, media, and marketing have put our business in an “accelerating present” for more than a decade now. Rohit’s observations will help you stay ahead of the curve.

Feb 12, 2019

As technology automates much of the “mechanics” of money, advisors need to evolve to the more emotional aspects of money. After all, simply helping rich people get richer isn’t usually a driving motivator for advisors—or clients.

In my conversation with Doug Lennick, the co-founder of Think2Perform, an author, and former EVP of Advice and Retail Distribution for American Express Financial Advisors (now Ameriprise Financial), he shared four words that he believes underlie the real value financial advisors deliver.

Jan 28, 2019

Today's guest is Brent Kessel. Brent is founder of Abacus Wealth Partners, which has more than 50 employees and more than $2 billion in assets under management.

About ten years ago I was reading a Buddhist magazine and did a double-take when I saw an ad for a financial advisory firm on its back cover. Abacus Wealth has been on my radar ever since.

"I have been a student of different kinds of Eastern traditions, mostly yoga and mindfulness meditation, for over 25 years," Brent says. "As your listeners probably know, the abacus is a Chinese mathematical computational instrument. What I liked about that name is that it felt like it brought in Eastern tradition and history along with computational dexterity, just the ability to really think, figure things out precisely."

Brent's unique path through life and personal passions have had a big influence on how he runs his firm. We discussed how that confluence has helped to make Abacus stand out from the crowd while also offering its clients a mind-opening perspective on what the wealth they're building is really for.

Jan 14, 2019

Today's guest is Dan Moisand. Dan is a Principal and Financial Advisor at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo. He’s also a past national president of the Financial Planning Association and has been featured as one of America's top financial planners by at least 10 financial planning publications. Dan’s perspective on how the industry has changed during his long career led our conversation to some strong insights on steps advisors can take to improve their value in 2019 and beyond.

“I've done a little bit of just about everything that you can imagine,” Dan Moisand told me as he reflected on his 30 years as a financial services industry leader. "I don't know if the next 30 will be more dramatic, but I sure as hell wouldn't bet on it being less. The pace of change generally does seem to be quicker. So, I think that the financial planning profession will continue to evolve." And we discuss how your role as a financial advisor needs to evolve right along with it.

Jan 1, 2019

If you could come up with 3 words for this year, 3 words that would drive your actions and keep you on track to make this your best year ever, what would those 3 words be?

This is the fifth year now where I’ve begun the year by identifying 3 words that will set the course, give me direction, and totally excite me as I move through the year. I write these words at the top of my Daily Focus sheet and look at them daily throughout the year.

Prior Years 3 Words

2018: Spark, Community, Savor 
2017: Discipline, Deliver, Score
2016: Launch, Leverage, Connect
2015: Implement, Energy, Relationships

The premise is simple. Pick 3 words that motivate you, remind you, and guide you on your road to making 2019 your best year ever.

I encourage all my clients to do this and I encourage you to do this same exercise as it will help you stay focused on the most important outcomes for the year.

In today’s podcast, I discuss my 3 words for 2019 as well as review my 3 words for 2018 and discuss how well I executed on them.

Dec 13, 2018

Life-centered planning, improving client behavior, the client experience, positive psychology, marketing, and technology are some of the hot topics I got to discuss with finance industry leaders and thinkers on my Between Now and Success podcast during 2018.

I think some of these topics, like a renewed emphasis on your human touch as an advisor, will continue to have a huge influence on where advisory goes in 2019.

And others, like, say, cryptocurrency ... Hmm ... Maybe not quite so much.

Let's take a look back at some key learnings from my 10 most popular podcasts of 2018.

Nov 20, 2018

What are the top firms doing to outperform the rest?

How are they growing?

What’s the silver bullet that’s going to help my firm hit that 16% five-year growth CAGR I’m seeing from the best of the best?

These were hot topics at last month’s Charles Schwab IMPACT Conference in Washington, D.C. And of course, the very reason that so many of our industry’s best and brightest were gathered there to speak, learn, and network is that there isn’t one “silver bullet” that’s going to transform your practice in 2019.

But some guiding principles for advisors looking to grow did emerge at the conference, which I discussed with Lisa Salvi, Vice President of Business Consulting and Field Experience at Charles Schwab. Lisa and I were joined by Mitch Reiner, Chief Operating Officer, Managing Partner, and Senior Investment Advisor of Capital Investment Advisors, who is a graduate of Schwab’s Executive Leadership Program.

Nov 5, 2018

For advisors who want to grow their audience – and hopefully, their client base – content and distribution is King, Queen, and Jack. But how do you build your audience? What is going to set you apart from the crowd and make your blog post or newsletter a must-read, your video channel a must-watch, your next podcast a must-listen?

Caleb Silver, the editor-in-chief of Investopedia, discussed these hot topics at the recent FPA Annual Conference in Chicago. After his presentation, “Building an Audience: Top Strategies for Exponential Audience Growth,” Caleb sat down with me to discuss the 10 ways he believes advisors can improve their online presence and create content followers won’t swipe past.

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