Welcome back to the 115th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Hilary Hendershott. Hilary is the founder of Hendershott Wealth Management, an independent RIA based in San Jose, California that oversees nearly $75 million of assets under management.
What’s unique about Hilary, though, is the way she’s crafted a niche of not just serving, but trying to empower women clients, with a combination of both her traditional financial planning offering, a coaching program for women trying to accumulate wealth, and a very successful podcast focused on empowering women to take control of their finances.
In this episode, we talk in depth about how Hilary has been able to bring in an average of nearly $20 million of assets per year for the past 3 years through her podcast and website. What she talks about on the podcast to connect with her listeners and who it is she tries to attract, how she set up and launched her podcast, even though she’s not a techie herself, and how she overcame her impostor syndrome fears to launch the podcast in the first place.
We also talk about the initiatives that Hilary has launched to try to further scale her services to clients. From a series of one-to-many online courses to teach wealth building skills, to a service called Ignite Investing that heavily leveraged technology to support working with smaller client accounts, to her current coaching program called the $50K Wealth Multiplier Experience, where Hilary does deep-dive coaching with women building wealth and is successfully charging $10,000 per year for her financial coaching services, entirely outside of her traditional financial planning offering.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Hilary shares how her own role as a business owner has evolved over the years. How she built her own self-confidence as a financial planning professional, why Hilary no longer works with a business coach herself and what she’s doing instead, and why she continues to stay rooted in her financial planning practice, even as she continues to try to build more courses and grow her coaching clients as well.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- What made her decide to start a podcast. [4:00]
- What Hilary talks about on Profit Boss Radio [15:25]
- How Hilary launched her podcast [24:03]
- How her podcast listeners come to do business with her. [40:11]
- How Hilary got started in the industry. [49:04]
- What it was like transitioning from her father’s firm to starting her own practice. [57:54]
- How her own role as a business owner has evolved over the years. [1:03:09]
- Why she’s staying rooted in her financial planning practice even as she continues to build her other businesses. [1:21:20]
- What surprised her the most about starting a business. [1:33:57]
- What she wishes she had done differently. [1:42:46]
- Advice for women coming into the financial planning industry. [1:46:38]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Hilary Hendershott
- Hendershott Wealth Management
- Profit Boss Radio
- $50K Wealth Multiplier Experience
- John Lee Dumas on How To Start A Podcast
- Podcaster’s Paradise
- Cashflow Podcasting
- Yeti Microphone
- Camtasia Editor
- Don’t Worry About A Thing, Dear
- EO Accelerator
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
- Fem Fee-Only Financial Advisors on Facebook
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Michael: Welcome, Hilary Hendershott, to the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.
Hilary: Thanks, Michael. I’m super happy to be here.
Michael: I’m looking forward to this episode. You know, we had a gentleman named Roger Whitney on a couple of weeks ago talking about how he had built this niche practice going really deep into retirement planning and had built a podcast around it as a way to get clients and is now getting like $10 million and $20 million a year of new clients off of this podcast. And you, I think, have actually been podcasting longer than he has. I know you have a podcast called “Profit Boss” going back to 2016. I think you’ve been doing this longer than at least any advisor I found that has launched a podcast and stuck with it.
And I know you’re having tremendous success with it as well in a completely different direction. You know, he was focused on…was or is focused on retirees. I know your podcast is focused primarily at speaking to women and empowering women around their finances. And so I’m excited to talk about what that looks like. Like, this intersection of building a practice towards a niche, building a podcast to reach them, how all of that comes together to the point where you’re actually growing an advisory firm in a niche with the podcast. Like, what does this look like?
What Made Her Decide To Start A Podcast [4:00]
Hilary: Well, I think that Roger and I came upon it in a different order. I think from what I recall, he was already fairly successful both in life, like financially and as an advisor, and he just sort of decided to start the podcast, whereas my effort with the podcast was more to put a stake in the ground at the time, in 2016, to put a stake in the ground as being different. I wanted to be the advisor who was empowering. I wanted to speak to people with emotional language and be supportive and provide ways for them to impact their money mindset, which is something I think most advisors either can’t or won’t do.
And I was also building my practice. I had just gone out on my own in 2014 and I was trying all kinds of different things. So when I launched “Profit Boss Radio,” it really was about building my practice. But at the time I was kind of fiddling around with a bunch of other stuff: coaching and an online course and stuff like that. So I was kind of throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck. And similar to what Roger said, I found that speaking is really something I love doing. I felt a form of self-expression. There were so many things I wanted to say to people about money and what I see people say in the media about money and all the things that we think are true about money that really are not true. So it actually was a little bit of therapy for me, I discovered, and that I love having a microphone. And it’s pretty cool that there are people out there who tune in to hear me whenever I drop an episode in their podcast player. So it really has evolved into something I did not expect.
Michael: Yeah, there is an interesting effect that I find, that, for advisors I guess do podcasting or just really any kind of content marketing, I mean, this is true in blogging and people that do video and such as well, that just, I don’t know, there’s a subset of us who say like, “I have something to say that is different than what other people are saying and I don’t feel like people are hearing what they need to hear, so I’m just going to get up on this soapbox and say my two words and find some platform that lets me do it,” right? Like, you can podcast that out. You can blog that out. You can write that out, whatever your style is. But it just starts with this, “Dagnabit, the world is wrong and I need to say something to correct it.” It seems to be, like, the starting point for a lot of advisors who go down these paths.
Hilary: Yeah. And the cool thing about low barriers to entry and massive, massive distribution on blogs and podcasts is that you can find someone in the tail if you are in the tail. That it’s a niche interest. And, I mean, you know, there’s a podcast on every topic under the sun, and people listen to them because everyone isn’t mass market. And I think that that’s beautiful. It gives people an opportunity to do things that really weren’t possible before when you had Big Brother saying what got to get printed this week.
Michael: Yeah. And there is…like, you make a powerful point there that there’s this combination of low barriers to entry, right? Pretty much anybody can spin up a podcast. If you maybe want a little bit of professional assistance to get it set up you might spend a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s still not an overly burdensome expense for most advisory firms. And you may not compete against whatever the biggest podcasts are out there, the Dave Ramseys and Suze Ormans of the world, but you don’t have to. You can find someone out in that very long tail of whatever people don’t like those podcasts and are just looking for something a little bit different. And if you’re the different thing that scratches the itch for them then they’re going to tune in to listen to you.
And most of us, like, we don’t have to reach millions of people to build a good client base. Like, you usually just need a couple dozen clients and you’ve got a pretty good client base. We have, like, this combination of low barriers to entry, and we don’t need a zillion people, we just need a few that connect with what we’re saying, to me is why it’s so fascinating these platforms, from blogging to podcasting, as a way to develop business and get clients. It really is kind of like just, you can set up your own soapbox and shout your own message, and you may not resonate with everyone, but you only have to resonate with a few to have a successful business.
Hilary: That’s right. I mean, I have two responses to that. And the first is it’s funny that you mentioned Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey because I used to have so much insecurity and fear that I would spend hours critiquing the things that those two people would say. And I was just flustered and furious that they had so much credibility and such a big platform in the world. Because you can easily poke holes at a lot of the things that…I don’t mean Suze Orman is easier to poke holes at, but I don’t do that anymore.
Michael: But help me understand this fear. So like this fear of, they have this giant platform and I can poke holes at them, so if I make a platform, someone is going to poke holes at me? Like, that kind of fear?
Hilary: No, no, no. I had a lot of, and I guess the typical phrase for it is…what is it called when you’re a fraud? You’re afraid people are going to think you’re a fraud.
Hilary: Impostor syndrome.
Michael: …impostor syndrome. Yes.
Hilary: Right. And when I was cutting my teeth in this industry, I mean, I looked around me and I saw a bunch of old white men in suits, and I look at myself and I see someone who’s the wrong age and the wrong gender, and I can’t figure out why anybody would hire me. And that was my predominant thought. And so when I started as a podcaster, of course, I’m comparing myself to all the biggest people out there. And what I’ve discovered is that that’s, first of all, an inappropriate comparison. Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey both started at zero. Their podcast is at the top of the things that they’ve done, the books that they’ve published. They’re media moguls.
And this isn’t maybe even necessarily related to financial advisors per se, but I think there’s a lot of fear and security around there when you start a blog or a podcast or a financial planning firm, you automatically compare yourself to the top 10 list at “Barron’s.” And it’s a mistake. You should compare yourself to someone who’s one or two steps ahead of you. And so now when I see Suze Orman success and Dave Ramsey success and a host of other people, right, it’s like, “Good for her.” You know, she’s doing that. Of course, she gets 100,000 downloads a week. She’s been on television for years, right? Anyway, it’s nice to have come out the other side of it and not have so much fear, worry, concern, and insecurity anymore.
Michael: So kind of two things here that’s coming to mind on this. One, I love this point of, when you’re starting your journey, don’t go and compare yourself to someone who’s already 10 or 20 or 30 years into their journey. That’s only going to freak you out. If they’re doing a job at all, 10, 20, 30 years of compounding means they’re probably going to be way ahead of you. So don’t compare yourself to where they are. At best, compare yourself to where they were. Or if you don’t know where they were, just find someone else who’s merely one or two steps, one or two years, one or two somethings ahead of you and compare to that so you understand where you’re trying to go?
Hilary: I think so. I think so. I think that comparing yourself to Oprah or Suze Orman or anyone of that caliber is just a setup for suffering. I mean, I know that. I don’t just think that. I know that. That those people are in the stratosphere right now, and they won’t be forever, for whatever reason. But that doesn’t matter. That has nothing to do with me or you. I’m not trying to build a media empire. I’m building a profitable financial planning firm where I serve my clients with expertise and skills. That’s it.
I don’t need to be a famous podcaster. And I couldn’t really grapple with that. I think the whole status of the…the personality brand is the thing right now, right? Everyone’s myname.com, and so there’s a lot of marketing out there that makes you think you need to look like a celebrity. And I think that it just…I think you have to really get clear who you are as a marketer. It took me many years of floundering, trying to look famous, trying to look a particular way when I finally figured out, “Oh my God, all I have to do is talk to these people who are already listening to me.”
Michael: So what was it that changed? You talk about this as, you had impostor syndrome, you don’t now. You’ve come out on the other side. So, what changed to get you from the fear you had to where you are now where you’re comfortable and confident about this?
Hilary: I think that running a business puts you through the wringer. And I have had great success and great experience and it’s been a good run. So I’m not saying that it’s been bad. I think that some days I feel like my job, I’m a professional problem solver. Like I call myself a financial advisor, but really all I do is resolve problems. And that comes in every aspect of the business: the marketing, the operations, the prospecting, the sales, every bit of it. And so some of that just distracts you from the mind talk that when you start and you have no business, no clients, you sit in an empty room with no carpet, nothing on the walls, you’re just sitting there waiting for people to come, your mind talk is loud. I think about the experience of being an entrepreneur and hiring people and having to fire them and figuring out how much to pay yourself and having to resolve client concerns and market dips, and it’s just, I’m too busy for that.
And I have a functioning prospecting system, right? We have an opportunities dashboard. I have qualified prospects coming into my business on a regular basis now. So I’m not in scarcity. I’m not in insufficiency. But I think everyone who starts in this business probably is unless you’re the airline pilot or the engineer who starts when you’re 55 with all of your friends from the Air Force or Lockheed.
Michael: You know, it’s an interesting point that you made. That just that, being the doer, once your business gets going, you get to a point where, “I just don’t have the time to sit down and freak out about this stuff because I’m too busy to take the time to think about it.” Which in retrospect is probably good because then it just kind of works the way the fear because you don’t have time to sit down and be fearful.
Hilary: Yeah. Yeah. Or you get to where your calendar is so full and you finally have the realization, “I either have to go on a waitlist or I have to raise my prices.” And that’s physics. It’s not like I’m trying to elevate my revenue. I mean, that’s great, but physics says I’m overbooked, right? And then that’s a confidence builder, and that’s real for me. That was real for me. So, yeah, it’s just nice to not be in some of the “I’m comparing myself to you” places I’ve been, you know, you were talking about four or five years ago.
What Hilary Talks About On Profit Boss Radio [15:25]
Michael: So tell us a little bit more about “Profit Boss Radio” itself. What do you do on this podcast? What do you do on a podcast?
Hilary: So it has evolved. And in the beginning, I had so much I wanted to say. It was like I couldn’t stop thinking of ideas for episodes. And I wanted to bring in experts who could talk about little fringe topics about money, so, you know, ways to save for college or how to maximize your kids’ chances of getting into the college that they want or how to make sure that you pay your taxes appropriately as a business owner. I would bring in experts.
So a lot of the people who want to come on podcasts are business owners. And I had to be pretty clear in the beginning, if you’re going to come on the show and you’re a business owner, we’re going to talk about your business finances. So I do think that that’s not a traditional financial planning topic, and I don’t often hear people talk about, “You’re a business owner, how do you figure out how much to pay yourself? How do you determine how much money to take out of your business accounts and putting your personal accounts?” That’s a big decision, and I don’t hear people talking about very often. So I would get folks to talk about things like that.
I have brought in celebrities like David Bach and his daughter. I have brought in women, some of whom were anonymous, some of whom were not as anonymous, to talk about their own financial missteps and subsequent recoveries, which I think is really empowering for people to hear. Like no matter where you are, it doesn’t mean that you’re stupid or irresponsible. And that was my thing in the beginning is I had had my own financial troubles and I recovered from them by figuring out kind of how to rewire my brain, sort of I did in my own little neuroplasticity thing, and then I said, “Well, look, I’ve done this for myself, I’d like to do this for other people. I’m already a Certified Financial Planner, so why don’t I combine the both of them?”
And one other cool thing that I get to do on my podcast is react to current events. So I can kind of do commentary on what’s being said in the media about the new tax code or the most recent market dip or what’s happening with Facebook stock or Bitcoin, right? It’s not a variety show, it’s very thematic, but the entire design is around empowering women to take charge of their money. I’m all about women having large amounts of money and accounts that are titled to their name only in some cases, right? Because women are reticent to do that. Not all women, but many. And so those are my people. I want to be the woman who says, “No, no, no, we need to make sure that your assets are yours and protected. And it’s okay for you not to give it to the kids or your mom or…” And that’s not to say you shouldn’t share with your family, right? But I want to be the voice of, “You need to have enough, and here’s how to do it.”
Michael: So you bring up sort of an interesting item there, of, I think you said, “I believe women should have large dollar amounts set aside in their own name.” And I feel like that in and of itself is a little bit of a controversial statement, right? Yeah, on the one hand, I think there are some folks out there who would just say, “Look, hey, you know, you’re in California anyway, they’re legally…they’re community property assets anyways, they’re marital assets anyways,” or even just as a set of folks out there who I think would take a well-intentioned but just opposite view of, “No, no, no, you’re a couple, you’re working together towards joint goals, like, you need to join your finances to pursue your joint goals as a couple. Like, that’s how couples should work.”
So, I mean, how do you…I don’t know… how do you get comfortable with the fact that, as you said earlier, part of the challenge of folks like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey, they put themselves out there and people are going to take shots at them, do you worry that you’re putting out a statement like that? That, not even to say it’s right or wrong, but at the least it’s something that not everyone will agree with. That is a somewhat controversial statement I think, at least.
Hilary: So certainly, I’m a financial planner in California, which is a community property state. As we all know, any assets earned or saved during the marriage are property of the community and that nothing I said contradicts that. This is what I mean. When I say things like that, I mean it to be a clarion call, that women historically have let their husbands save in his 401(k). Now, it’s only recently that people have to save in trust or brokerage accounts, after-tax accounts to achieve financial success. You know, how I got brought into the business 20 years ago, the vast majority of clients were managing IRAs that are in his name. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Yeah, sure, the IRA becomes hers when he dies, as long as she’s the beneficiary. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a particular relationship that the woman has to money and her money and her household finances, right?
And so I’m really attacking this energetic problem or relational problem. I in no way advise people to try to amass sole and separate property during a marriage or anything like that. In fact, I think that when married couples keep their finances separate, it’s kind of silly. It’s kind of artificial because they’re both on a team working toward one goal. They’re just using two different buckets and two different methodologies. It doesn’t really make sense. I’m more looking at empowering women to think differently about themselves as equal partners. Or sometimes not equal, sometimes the bigger breadwinner, right? And that it’s okay. It’s okay. She should max out her 401(k). I’ve literally met people who aren’t putting money in their 401(k) but are putting money in the brokerage account.
Michael: Because she feels guilty about putting too much money in her name?
Hilary: Yeah. Yeah. Literally. So I’m not defying community property laws. Nothing like that.
Michael: No, no, I understand, but just, I don’t know, I mean, do you worry about people who are going to take shots at coming at it from the other direction?
Hilary: I think that would be great. That would be fantastic.
Michael: So you want to have the debate with whoever wants to come at you on it.
Hilary: I mean, publish it in the biggest platform you can find and let’s do it.
Michael: I think it’s interesting that that’s your mentality around it, right? Again, like, there’s this, as you said, fear and impostor syndrome. And I think a lot of advisors struggle within their practices, and then certainly when they…if they’re going to think about something like podcasting where it’s like, “Oh my God, like, I’m going to get up on a soapbox and say something. That’s really scary… am I a fraud? Are people going to think I’m a fraud? Do I know as much as I need to know in order to stand up on this soapbox?” And that you are now so at the other end of that that you’re like, “I know my stuff and anybody who wants to disagree, just come at me.”
Hilary: Well, I mean, I think when you start…so studying for the CFP is one thing, but when you start to interact with real human clients, you get that everyone is not an econ, and we don’t all do it by the book, and that really wealthy people are sometimes really freaking miserable. And it’s, like, fascinating. Sometimes it’s like being a zookeeper, you know. So I think you begin to build a repertoire of… I mean, just as an example, I had a guy in my office the other day who has about $5.5 million of net worth. He got rich because he worked for Apple and now he’s petrified to sell his Apple stock. And so at the same time, all he’s thinking about is the risk of giving up the potential to hit it out of the park. In reality, he’s actually at massive, massive risk in the other direction, and he can’t conceptualize it. And I think that is fascinating. And so to be able to just pull up a microphone and talk to people about that so that maybe 15 people won’t suffer the fate he’s suffering now, it’s pretty cool.
How Hilary Launched Her Podcast [24:03]
Michael: How did you get this launched? Just pulled out a mic and started talking into it? I mean, how does this come about?
Hilary: No, I wanted to do it right. I have a bunch of media training, and so I wanted to have a big launch. And so I hired a team that gave me a launch package and they did, you know, the musical intro and they did all the technical bits, all the Libsyn bits and the iTunes bits that I know nothing about and wrote the show description for me. And then, you know, I created a launch team, basically begged, borrowed, and stole from anyone I’ve ever met and said, “Please, please, please post about my podcast on this day.” I’m like, “Subscribe to it so that I get some downloads.” I recorded three episodes so that they all dropped on the launch day. And we just did as much media hype as we could.
Michael: Okay. And how do you find someone that, like, gets you launched to do this in the first place?
Hilary: You mean the team I hired to do production?
Michael: Yeah. Just setting up Libsyn and iTunes and all these pieces. I think for a lot of advisors, That’s just, “All right, I know my financial stuff, but I don’t know anything about podcasting stuff or what the heck Libsyn is.” Maybe we know iTunes because a lot of people have iPhones, but wouldn’t even know all the technical podcasting terms you just threw around, like Libsyn and show descriptions.
Hilary: Oh. That’s a good point because I think it’s not very technical. But of course, if you don’t know it then you wouldn’t know it. So, I was on a road trip and I listened to John Lee Dumas’ free How to Podcast Podcast Course It’s an evergreen…I don’t even know if it’s still on iTunes, but it’s like 21 episodes or something. And he goes through every aspect of podcasting, from equipment to production to sales and marketing to how to sell advertisements on your show to how to be a podcaster who uses your podcast to build a business, which is my example. So by the end of that road trip, I was pretty excited about… I mean, public speaking has always been something that I love doing. I’m one of those just crazy people who if you say, “Will you come speak at my thing?” I’m like, “Give me a microphone, I run up on that stage.” And that’s just always been me. So I don’t necessarily suffer the fear of public speaking that other people do. Although podcasting is kind of cool because you can edit out the stuff that you wish you didn’t say, which you can’t do at a live event. So that was a plus.
Michael: Right. That little editing bit is helpful. Although I have to admit, from the other end of it, like having gone through this doing the podcast myself, that I just found like I still can’t listen to myself do the podcast. It drives me nuts. Like, all I can hear is, “Oh, I wish I asked that question differently. Oh, I wish I did that part differently.” So, true story, like, I listened to the first three episodes just to make sure that it was coming out the way I expected and our editors are doing the right stuff and all that, and I’ve not listened to one of my podcast episodes since. Someone on our team does always listen just to make sure like there wasn’t an editing problem gone haywire or anything.
But I found like, I can’t listen to my own podcast. I’m still too self-critical of it. Like, I would go back to the editors and have them hack it to pieces with all the things like, “Oh, I wish I’d done that a little differently. I wish I’d done that a little bit differently.” And like, you know, if you’re just speaking it, as you said, like at a public speaking context, like, whatever you said, you said, you can’t really take back. So it is what it is. And I found I basically have to treat the podcast that way, because if I give myself the chance to edit myself, I never stop trying to do it.
Hilary: Yeah, I think I’ve been like that on certain episodes and I’ve cut them up so bad that my editors couldn’t…they said to me, “You’ve got to stop. Just stop with the Camtasia editor. You’ve got to knock it off.” But I do often force myself to listen to my podcast episodes. And I think it makes me a better podcaster.
Michael: I listen to other podcasts to try to be a better podcaster. Got to take input in somewhere. But, yeah. Or, you know, the kind readers or listeners that are still gentle enough to send us something through the website like, “Hey, you know, really like your podcast, but I really wish you would do this differently.” So happy to see that constructive criticism.
Hilary: And, you know, with your audience and knowing who you are, I’m not surprised. I don’t have anyone, anyone send me stuff like that. Nobody. And that’s not to say my show is perfect, right? It’s just a different audience.
Michael: I try to be very open to it. I’m like, “You know, I mean, you can send me the criticism, like, nicely and constructively. You don’t have to bash me for it.” But, like, you know, only way I’m going to get better is with some feedback. And I just found like I… And, I mean, I think this is true in a broader sense as well, that just what we hear on ourselves and try to self-edit is frankly not always the stuff that the other side hears anyways. Like, there were parts that I would freak out about and I would ask someone about it, even the first few episodes, like, “Did that whole part sound weird?” They’re like, “I didn’t even notice what you were asking about.” And then the stuff that people point out or raise questions about is not at all the things that I was even focusing on anyways. I mean, part of it was just this, I don’t know, humbling experience like, I am not the best judge of my own self-editing. Like, not only are we self-critical, but we’re self-critical about the wrong areas. And I found I just had to let it go and let other people that I trust give me feedback.
Hilary: But it’s good that it works for you that way. My experience is that if I’m curiously engaged in an interview, if I’m interested in what I’m talking about, that the episode is going to be good, and there are times…I mean, there are definitely interviews I’ve recorded that I haven’t aired, and I just put my forehead on the desk when I click “stop recording” and I said…
Michael: Are there actually ones where you did, like, the whole interview and then didn’t air it?
Hilary: Mm-hmm. It’s about 30% of the time I would say I stop the guest and I say, “Listen, I just need you to stop saying um. You’re really putting my editor on extra work, and I don’t pay her enough to justify what it’s going to take. Like, it doesn’t make you sound good.” Yeah. Or I’ve stopped an interview to say, “Can you please turn off the noise from your computer and your phone?”
Michael: Well, I get that. I get the like, “Can you, yeah, you know, turn off the background noise?” But, I don’t know, like, just it’s…I mean, it is what it is. You’ve got to deal with these situations. But saying to someone outright, “You don’t speak well, you need to stop doing that,” it’s like…all right, you said it a little bit nicer than that, but, like, what do you say…?
Hilary: It’s my show and it’s my business and it’s my audience, right? And when I’m doing a show on how to increase your confidence or how to negotiate for more and the guest is saying um every other word, it just doesn’t jive. It just doesn’t jive
Michael: Right, you’re not really conveying the empowered, confident woman image you’re trying to convey when they can’t confidently talk about being a more confident woman?
Hilary: Exactly. Thank you for getting that.
Michael: I see that gap. Yeah, I see that gap.
Hilary: Yeah. So do you want me to rewind and talk about the actual steps I took to launch the podcast? I can go through it pretty quickly.
Michael: Yeah. I want to rewind, like, power forward. I love the discussion. But yeah, like, so, just, how do you get launched? Or I guess, how did you find the people to get you launched since you said you did this with a team around you?
Hilary: So the “How to Podcast” podcast is essentially a big commercial for Podcasters’ Paradise, which is a community that’s hosted by the host of that show, who’s also the host of “Entrepreneur on Fire,” which I believe is the most profitable podcast ever. So I joined Podcasters’ Paradise, and then in there, they pay a referral fee, or at the time in 2016 were paying a referral fee. They had this do-it-yourself launch package. And if you wanted more help, then you can hire this group. And I think they shared fees or something like that. So I just went with their group. And I think it was called Cashflow Podcasting. And they did a great job. Do you know Ben?
Michael: Yes. Ben’s team produces this podcast.
Hilary: There you go.
Michael: I did not know that. Small world. Okay. So we actually use the same team. So I guess that’s going to be a really good, like, reference for Ben and his team since we’re now running successful podcasts talking about this. So for anyone who’s curious, we’ll put this in the show notes since this, unwittingly, turned out to be a very nice plug for their services. Yeah, we started working with their team in, well, I guess, when did we start? 2017, in the same way, and just had them help us do the whole set up. I can’t remember what we paid, a couple thousand dollars to do the launch originally.
Hilary: Yeah, I did a different package. I think I did the $7,000 package.
Michael: I think I might have been a $5,000.
Hilary: And I just justify it under the whole concept of delegation, it’s like, look, I’ve got to run my business, and, you know, it’s paid off. I’m not a DIYer. I’m a delegator who works for delegators.
And then I really tried to have big names on the show in the beginning and people who were leaders of communities so that their community members would listen to hear their leader and hopefully subscribe to my show. I just try to be really careful about episode titles. I try to keep it really, I mean, not clickbaity, but interesting and short because, unfortunately, you can’t see very much of the episode title in iTunes. I mean, I do think that once people are subscribed to their show, they’re going to give your episode a shot when it drops. Having people subscribe is really a great thing, but you still have to kind of follow the rules of marketing.
Michael: So, like, we keep setting up for this and then I keep distracting us, but just, like, can you talk to us a little bit more of just the setup process, right? Because, again, I think for a lot of advisors, like, even if they want to go down this road, the starting point is like, “I literally know nothing about how all this technology stuff works.” Like, what do you do if you want to make a podcast thing happen?
Hilary: So I just did whatever they told me to do in Podcasters’ Paradise. I literally bought the Yeti microphone. I bought Camtasia software so that I could edit stuff. I have a different setup now. One of the coolest things I’ve done is buy myself a desktop stand mic boom arm. So my thing doesn’t have to clamp onto my desk, it just sits on my desk. And I can’t figure out why more people don’t use that. But as far as technical, that’s really it. I mean, I record on Skype. Used to be that I would convert that, I guess it’s a .MOV file to a dot something else in Camtasia and send it over to my production team. But they just take the raw files now. So it’s pretty darn simple.
Michael: And I think you make a powerful point, I think, in all of this. That, like, you don’t have to be a technical sound person to do a podcast or to run a podcast. Like, you’ve got to bring the you part to have conversations with people and find your guests and talk through whatever themes you want to talk through and make whatever points you want to make, but you don’t have to be a technical person to do the rest of it. It’s still in the grand scheme of things, like, not that expensive, you know, a couple thousand dollars to get set up and get going and, you know, some ongoing dollars for editing. And you can get it down to the point where, Hilary, it sounds like you do it essentially the way that I do it. Like, I set up my guests, because they’re people I’m connected to, and I record the podcast, because you’ve kind of got to be there for that, I don’t anything else. I mean, other things have to be done, but, like, other people do that who are really good at it, and I give them some dollars to get it done because that’s a business expense. But I don’t do the sound things because that’s not my expertise.
Hilary: That’s right. I have people who find copyright-free music for me and edit it in to stuff that I say. And if I don’t like the way the promo sounds, I say, “No, I need different music,” or, “Layer it in differently here,” and they do it, and it works. I mean, I know that you go back, Michael. You probably listen to the show because I know you do a recap, but a synopsis at the beginning in your intro. And I even sometimes try not to do that because it takes so long for me to script it and record it.
Michael: Just from a practical perspective, I actually got into the habit of just jotting notes to myself as we do recordings. So like, I’ve got a little Evernote screen. So I’ve got like an Evernote notebook of all of our podcast episodes and each podcast episode as a note, and in each podcast episode, I just jot some notes as we go, of like, “This was a cool theme to mention. This was a cool theme to mention.” So I end out with like a page or so of just really shorthand notes, you know, small snippets. Because, of course, I’m trying to stay engaged in the conversations. I can’t, like, write a book as I’m going, but just, you know, jot reminder notes of like key phrases, key sentences, key themes that came up so that when I get to the end, I can turn those notes relatively quickly into that little two-minute intro that I record at the end and we put it onto the beginning.
Hilary: I might steal that tip, Michael. That’s pretty good.
Michael: Go for it. It works well. Just keep it open. Jot a little note every now and then.
Hilary: Very good. Yeah. And I find any time…I mean, scripting stuff takes a while, so I try to minimize the amount that I have to script. I did an episode that I now consider an anchor episode. And that’s one of the cool things. If you become a podcaster, by the way, and you have a content-based podcast, you can record anchor episodes that are especially well produced or contain a lot of data, a lot of detail, and you can refer back to them, which is super cool because it creates your podcast, your show as a body of reliable information. But I spent 30 hours scripting episode 77 of “Profit Boss Radio.” And once I started, I couldn’t stop because I…it was like I was giving birth to something, you know. And after that was recorded, I said, “I’m never doing that again ever.”
Michael: So, like, what was magical episode 77? Like, my goodness.
Hilary: Episode 77 is called 7 Steps to Wealth, and it was my framework. I want to put forth the key conceptual things and skills that people need in order to build wealth. Because anytime you see someone who’s trying and failing to be rich, one of these things is missing, right? And it’s like, decide, plan, ask, speak, protect, invest. And as I’m saying these things, Michael, you, I know you know someone who’s failed to do one of those things. And it’s difficult to describe to them what they’re doing wrong unless you have an articulated framework. So now that I have this episode, now I have a coaching program about it, and I refer back to it on my podcast. And I have groups of women around the country who are working the 7 Steps on their own without me, right? Yeah. And it lives forever. It’s a forever resource.
How Her Podcast Listeners Come To Do Business With Her [40:11]
Michael: So how does this turn into business for you?
Hilary: So it’s a lot of trial and error, okay? You’ve got to figure out what works. And in 2016 and 2017, I believe I brought in $20 million to $25 million of assets. I launched mid-2016, so that’s not accurate. But it was a $20 million a year trajectory. Okay, so it was probably $10 million in 2016. And basically filled…
Michael: Wait, it’s like $20 million per year or $20 million, like, cumulatively across 2 years or a year and a half?
Hilary: Of course, you would ask that. So I believe it was $30 million in half of 2016 and all of 2017, okay? And also basically filled the 7 Steps…the coaching program that’s around the 7 Steps to Wealth framework is called the $50K Wealth Multiplier Experience. That was a 11-person mastermind, and that was $66,000 in revenue to my business, to my company, and filled that from the podcast. So that gives you a sense of kind of what it brought in the first 18 months.
Michael: Yeah, that’s a big number in and of itself. Like just, $66,000 in a class and $30 million of assets. I mean, there are a lot of advisors who spend 20 years trying to get to $30 million of assets. It’s like their cumulative accumulation of clients over a career. That’s a lot of assets coming in.
Hilary: Yeah, I was really happy.
Michael: Yeah. So, like, I mean, how does someone go from being a podcast listener to becoming a client and having you generate millions of dollars of inflows? I mean, is it just like, you just record your messages and be your awesome self and people are like, “I want that woman to be my financial advisor” and contact you or is there more to how you actually get them to do business with you?
Hilary: So I think it’s interesting because I did listen to the Roger Whitney episode and I think that his call to action is probably better than mine ever has been. And that harkens back to what I said at the beginning of the conversation, which is that the podcast was my stake in the ground about being different. I wasn’t going to talk about retirement. Notice that the name of my show is “Profit Boss Radio.” His show is the “Retirement Answers Man,” right? He did a much better job of titling his show to get traditional financial planning clients. I was trying to figure out if I could or wanted to do something very different, so I never made direct calls to action. I have a contact form on my website and people reached out on the website. And, you know, not only that, but it takes on a life of its own.
So I’ve had multi-multimillionaires in my office who call me a radio show host. “You host a radio show. I saw that. That’s so great. I told my kids to listen to it.” They’ve never listened to an episode, but it elevates my credibility in their eyes, okay? So I would call that a benefit or a profit, an ROI from the podcast. That it was one of the 7 or 12 touches that it took for that person to hire me. And that happens quite often. I mean, I’ve actually run into people in public who say, “I listen to your podcast,” which is really weird. I’m a micro-micro-celeb. So it’s always nice when I feel like I do get that leg-up in terms of credibility.
So kind of rolling forward to 2018, in 2018, my new assets under management from the website exceeded assets under management from the podcast. But they can’t be separated, right? Because every week I publish a blog article and show notes from a podcast episode. So that’s all SEO juice that goes into how people find me on the web. And then the fact that I’m also a podcaster, which some people think is a radio show host, is right there front and center on the website.
Michael: And so from your end, it’s sort of this blend, like, “Some people find me from the podcast, some people find my website, but my podcast adds to my credibility, so they still decide to do business with me,” and it just becomes this part of like the aggregate Hilary brand that gets people to sign up?
Hilary: Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, I’m not dumb, right? When I see leads coming from the web, I think, “Oh, I need to put more resources into my web marketing.” I mean, to be totally honest with you, my website has been an afterthought for many, many years. I mean, it looks good and whatnot, but learning SEO, it seemed out of reach for me. And so I never paid attention to it. Well, as soon as the leads start coming in, it’s like, “Well, I’d be a fool to turn away from this.” So there’s new skill sets to be learned. So I actually brought in an SEO consultant for the first time this year, and we’re now doubling down on being smart on the website.
Michael: So from that perspective, so how are you…well, I guess, do you know, like, how are people finding you from the website then if it’s not they listen to the podcast and they go to your website? Like, how are they finding your website? How are you getting people to your website to do business?
Hilary: Well, I currently come up on the first page of results for financial planner San Jose, fee-only financial advisor, I think it’s Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay area, something like that. So it’s organic search.
Michael: Yeah, just good old-fashioned search engine optimization for local search.
Hilary: Right. And I had a good friend who is an SEO expert, and she did a bunch of research for me, and she showed me just like, and again, harkening back to that conversation we had about paying attention to the person who’s one or two steps ahead of you, you search for the terms you want to come up with in your area, look at the people who come up first, second and third, go figure out what they’re doing. Literally, copy them. And I did. And it works.
Michael: Yeah. Like literally just, you know, I don’t know, if you’re a local advisor in Boise, like, just type “financial advisor Boise,” see who comes up ahead of you and go look at their website and figure out how they’re beating you.
Hilary: Right, right. They’re probably on three or four different organization websites. Maybe it’s the Rotary, maybe it’s Kiwanis. They’ve maybe got themselves on some newspaper website where they maybe write a column or just they promoted themselves and got themselves on some top 10 list, but it’s a big link back. That website that they’re on has linkback juice. So now you need to go make friends with that journalist and get on that website.
Michael: So how much did the firm grow overall last year then from all of this digital marketing, blogging, SEO, podcasting stuff?
Hilary: Let’s see. So I knew that you would ask something like that. So I’m looking at quarterly revenue. First quarter of 2018 was right around $150,000 then $160,000 then $170,000and then $185,000, $190,000. So we have about…
Michael: That’s total assets under management?
Hilary: That’s quarterly revenue.
Michael: Oh, that’s quarterly revenue. Okay.
Hilary: So I’m looking at about between 11 and…oh, I’m sorry. I only have year-over-year quarterly increases. I don’t have the percentages, but that sounds like about 10% a quarter.
Michael: Yeah. Wow.
Hilary: Yeah, it’s massive growth. It’s a lot to manage.
Michael: Ten percent a quarter, yeah, that’s a lot to manage.
Michael: And so, that’s all business that just…so I guess, so those are quarterly numbers. I mean, that’s $60 million or $70 million cumulatively of asset flows from all these different sources?
Hilary: No, my current AUM is $75 million. Yeah. So I probably started the year at $50 million and went to $75 million, and then I had the $66k of revenue from the coaching business. Yeah. And as you know, our revenues are trailing. So my $75 million means I’m already at $750,000 for this year.
Michael: That’s the joy of the assets under management model. The trailing revenue always just lags quite significantly in the growth world.
How Hilary Got Started In The Industry [49:04]
So as you look at the business here, so you’re now, you said you went out on your own in 2014, so you’re, like, 5 years into the business and $75 million. So when you started, like, were you starting from cold in 2014 or where were you previously?
Hilary: So I spent many years working in my parents’ firm, which is also based here in San Jose. My dad was probably one of…well, he was first to enter the fee-only fiduciary model, okay? So I remember sitting on his office floor when I was six or seven years old. And I tell people until I was about 17, I literally thought my dad had a best friend that I had never met named Ira. So this was my childhood. And I thought I wanted to do something a lot sexier. I thought I wanted to do something corporate. I went out, kind of bloodied my nose on the brick wall, and he brought me in to his firm. My first year in the business was 1999, and so it was like, bam, welcome to the business, because that, of course, was the year of the dot-bomb. But going through a time period like that really has you earn your stripes.
And so to really kind of fast forward, I had, in the beginning, waning interest in the industry. I thought it was very technical and very boring. And it wasn’t until I got enough prowess with the actual skillset that I figured out it’s actually about people and that I could bring my self-expression to it and that it could be about relationships. And that’s when it really got interesting and fulfilling and exciting for me.
Michael: So how did that transition happen? Like, you went into your father’s business, your father dragged you into the business and you dealt with the other quant stuff for a while until eventually, you’d done it enough that you were like, “Oh wait, this actually isn’t so bad after all?”
Hilary: Yeah. In the beginning, because I had worked in high-tech marketing, so he brought me in and I said, “Okay, I’m your marketing manager.” You know, kind of like the epitome of nepotism. He kind of let me do whatever I wanted. And I think that that was both because he wanted to empower me, but also because he really had no clue what to have me do. I mean, I was completely green. I was a 24-year-old female, and, you know, this was 1999. And his client base was his age, 30 years older than me.
So I spent many years doing that, redid the website, you know, made marketing collateral. But the key was I sat in on client meetings. So I started to get to know these clients. And of course, I wasn’t allowed to talk in the meetings, but I got to know their stories and their narratives. And I saw them come for meetings quarter after quarter or year after year. And I started seeing nuances in their storylines, their families. You know, we went through a couple of deaths. We had a client who was a victim of fraud and literally my dad chased her around town trying to find her because she was withdrawing $50,000 from bank after bank after bank paying somebody who had knocked on her front door, right? So, I mean, it was just really interesting stuff. I got that people are really interesting, right? I’m really people first, and, you know, I read blogs and resources like yours so that I could stay up on the technical stuff, but it’s not my core interest.
Michael: So what was the path in your father’s firm? So you started out on the marketing side and being the silent observer in client meetings.
Hilary: Right. So one day, so there is a woman who…it was a woman who wanted financial advisors to hire her to speak to them and their clients about a book that she had written called “Don’t Worry About a Thing, Dear.” And she was a woman who had been widowed. And she had a woman who was an assistant. This woman just came to this meeting, and I didn’t think much of it. We hired this woman. The author’s name is Helga Hayse. She came and spoke to our clients about what it is for women to take part in the family finances. And again, this assistant person was there, her name is Kathy. And about a year later, Kathy called me up, and she left a message on my phone, and she said, “I need a new financial advisor, for various reasons, and I remember meeting with you and how great your firm was and your family, and I’d like you to be my financial advisor.”
And so I, of course, think this person is going to have, you know, a couple of small annuities and $40,000 in a checking account. Because all I knew about her was that she was this person’s assistant. So I called her back and I say, “Great, so how much money do you think we’re talking about?” And she said, “Well, it’s $2 million.” I couldn’t even speak.
Michael: So your first client out of the gate. It’s not a bad way to start.
Hilary: Right. I vividly remember, she came into the office, and my parents had said, “Well, she called you, so she’s your client.”
Michael: “I guess you’re going to have to deal with this now.”
Hilary: I put the contract in front of her and I gave her the pen, and I said to myself, “Hilary, shut up. Just don’t say anything. Just let her sign the…” Because everything in me is going, “Why are you signing this contract with me? I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Michael: So just impostor syndrome in full force for you there.
Hilary: In full force. Right. She’s still a client. She’s still a client. So it turns out she retired early. She made a lot of money in a local tech company, and so she retired at the age of 50. And why she was acting as this woman’s assistant is it was just a passion project for her. So, you know, assumptions be damned.
Michael: So was that…like, was this essentially your transitional moment from, “I guess I’m not solely doing dad’s marketing now, I guess I’m an advisor now since I just got my first client because she came and said she wanted to work with me?”
Hilary: Yeah. And then the interesting thing…the next thing was Facebook. Now, I started talking about what I was doing on Facebook, and I had a handful, maybe six or eight people that I used to work with. And mind you, I don’t have a long working history. I’m 26, 27 years old, but people who I used to work with reach out to me. And I remember them saying, “Well, you know, essentially, we used to work with you. I know you’re smart. So whatever you’re doing now, you must be good. I now need a financial advisor, let’s do this,” right? One of those people had come out of a divorce with $10 million. Another one had inherited $4 million, right. So my personal Facebook page is a very profitable place for me. And I wasn’t doing marketing on Facebook. I literally was just talking. I was posting. I wasn’t strategic about Facebook at that time. So I was able to build up…you know, I had about $20 million under management, and that was kind of, I don’t know, it just came to me, and I started doing… Go ahead
Michael: How long were you going before these, like, former…well, not former friends, but friends from your pre-advisor days started reaching out to you?
Hilary: Reached out without me marketing to them?
Hilary: I think it was, I’m guessing now, about three or four years. I probably spent two and a half years really fully being marketing manager person, sitting in on meetings. You know, I was, like, filling out forms and opening accounts. And then my practice started to build, my confidence started to grow. I think I passed the CFP exam around that time. So at that point, it was kind of like, “Oh okay, I can actually manage my own career at this point.”
Michael: So was there like a formal, I don’t know, transition in the practice that like, “Okay, Hilary, you’re no longer the marketing manager, like, you’re now officially an advisor with the firm?”
Hilary: Oh, I mean, I’m sure that I went through and went down to Kinko’s and reprinted my business cards 18 times. Lead advisor, I don’t even know all the dumb titles I went through. And I stopped calling myself marketing manager, definitely, and I started paying a percentage of the clients’…the revenue, the fee revenue that I was earning to the house. So I was paying my part of the office space, and there was an admin, like that. So I was transitioning out of a base salary and into an entrepreneurial income.
Michael: And found that’s what you like to do.
What It Was Like Transitioning From Her Father’s Firm To Starting Her Own Practice [57:54]
Hilary: I started to have a lot of passion about what I could do. Yeah. And I didn’t want to be my dad’s marketing manager anymore. And, you know, just to give you a sense of how that transition phase went, you know, I came in as the business succession plan in 1999, it’s 2019, my dad is still working full-time, seven days a week sometimes. So it’s that age-old story, right, of, “I’m bringing you in to take over my business, except, ha, ha, ha, I’m not going home.”
Michael: And is that ultimately, I mean, I can’t help but notice now, you started in your father’s firm, you are now on your own. So was that ultimately what drove a transition? Just you were like, “So I came in to be your succession plan, we’ve been doing this 10-plus years, like, are you leaving anytime soon?” And he said, “No,” then you said, “Well, then I will?” Like, how does that come about?
Hilary: Yes, with nuance though. It was more like, I really wanted to go out on my…I really had all these ideas about being a female financial advisor for women. And again, I wanted to do… I mean, one of my MBA program colleagues reached out to me and said, “Are you a financial advisor or are you like Tony Robbins?” And I realized when he said that…
Michael: That’s a good question.
Hilary: …yeah, yeah, the kind of impression I was leaving people with. But I was kind of trying a bunch of different voices, messages, right? And my father’s firm’s brand was pretty traditional, pretty stodgy, pretty formal. And, you know, he said…
Michael: Because that’s his retiree clients that he goes after.
Hilary: Yeah. Yeah. He’s got his own thing and his clients are attracted to him and his conversation and dialogue. And, you know, he said, “Well, you can do that under this umbrella,” and I said, “You know, I really need to be self-determined. I really want to do this. And by the way, I’m perfectly positioned to buy your business in the future. This doesn’t mean that I can’t be your continuation plan. I’m just not coming to this office anymore.”
Michael: How hard is it to get to that conversation? Right? I feel like for a lot of firms…
Michael: Yeah. Like, for a lot of firms, like, it’s hard enough trying to figure out how to be the child that’s the successor to a parents’ practice. I feel like the only thing that’s harder than that is explaining that you’re not going to be the successor in your parents’ practice because you want to go out on your own after you came in to do that originally. How does that conversation go?
Hilary: Well, I’ll be honest. Let’s see, 2014, I got married in 2013, so my husband at the time, and I was…so you can tell I have a big personality, right? I’m no wallflower. And I got it from my daddy. And he and I are like two big dogs in a room. And so we were at loggerheads. I was wrestling the bull to the ground on a daily basis. And I would come home and I would be sad or unhappy or unfulfilled or complaining. And finally, my husband said to me, “This is impacting our relationship. You know, you’re constantly unhappy, and I love you, but what do you want to do?” And it was him saying that, and I knew in my heart I had to go. It was like, “Okay, that’s a cost I’m not willing to incur.” I was willing to incur any, I guess, emotional cost on myself, but when it became a group conversation, that was it for me.
So it was within a couple of weeks I went in to have a conversation with my dad and his wife, and I just let them know that I would be leaving and that I would be going out on my own and that I was eternally grateful to them for giving me what they gave me and that they should stop paying my salary. And I agreed, by the way, to take…I took my clients with me. Obviously, I took my book of business, but I also agreed to keep paying the revenue share. And so to this day I pay the house, I pay his house. And I share that on the podcast…
Michael: So you pay the rev share on new clients or just the portion that came with you?
Hilary: That’s correct. And that’s my way of making it right. Because they put a lot of resources and time and effort and energy into me, and that’s what I felt was the right thing to do.
Michael: And I guess from a practical perspective just makes it a little bit less financially challenging for the business on their end as you’re breaking out to not have to literally watch their revenue top line and bottom line go backwards as well because you’re breaking out.
Hilary: Yeah. I mean, they got to stop paying my base salary. They got to stop paying on my MBA loan and then got to keep earning the revenue share. So hopefully, we’re all better off. And again, if he wants to sell me his business later, he will, but it’s not critical.
How Her Own Role As A Business Owner Has Evolved Over The Years [1:03:09]
Michael: So were there…you know, if you were making this transition and, like, you’re movingaway from some salary you were getting, you know, they were covering costs that you will now have to cover on your own and you’re still paying a rev share back to them and, you know, appreciation for building you up, like, what does that transition look like financially? Just, like, how much assets and revenue came with you? Is that a blocking point or part of a challenge of going out on your own?
Hilary: So I’m blessed in that, you know, my husband was able to financially support that transition time. So let’s say I came out with $180,000 in recurring revenue, like, I’m just guesstimating, that’s approximately right, and then a quarter of that is going back to my parents. And in the beginning, I hired an intern, a “intern” from the MBA program at my alma mater, which is Santa Clara University. I brought in a woman that I used to work with in a previous career, and we…I mean, to describe it, Michael, we just made as much noise as I knew how to make. I did every speaking gig I could do. I paid for…I didn’t pay for television, I paid for television training. And then I flew my rear end around the country and did local news segments. And you can see those local news segments on my website because that’s how you leverage media. Like, people love television. If you’re on television, you’re a celebrity, which equals credibility.
And I realized that that’s not how financial advisors always do it. And in retrospect, I’m not sure I would do it that way again, but I’m saying we all have startup capital. We all need startup capital. And my startup capital was my own energy. I mean, I just…I ran as fast and as hard as I could. And those people, my intern and the girl that I worked with at a previous company, they didn’t get compensated fairly. I gave them a revenue share, but there wasn’t much profit. It was net revenue, right? I was like, “No, I’m not going to pay you if I have promotional cost to cover, so we’re going to go sell this thing.” By the way, I wasn’t selling, I wasn’t giving them a revenue share on financial planning clients, I was trying to sell a course. I was selling a financial course called Your Rich Retirement Academy. No longer in existence, by the way.
Michael: So tell me about this. Like, what was Your Rich Retirement Category?
Michael: Academy, and why were you selling that and not, like, the assets under management thing you were already doing with the recurring revenue you broke out with?
Hilary: I’m telling you, I spun my wheels for a while. And the net of it is I wanted to sell something that scaled. I wanted to sell it for 400 bucks a pop to 10,000 people, right? Like, that was my thing. I wanted something that scaled. I didn’t want to have to raise my minimums. I wanted to have an educational product and essentially be, I guess it’s Dave Ramsey Financial Freedom…what’s it called? Financial Freedom University? That thing,
Michael: So, like, why? Having been in a firm with recurring revenue and, you know, seen at least presumably some reasonable profitable growth for your father’s firm, like, what led you to break out and not want to keep doing the financial…I’ll call like the traditional financial advisor model?
Hilary: I thought, and it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a traditional financial advisor, I love that, it’s just that, as you know, we’re basically in a qualified prospect acquisition business. This business is so saturated and the competition is so fierce for every client that I wanted to create something different. I just wanted to be different. So I figured if I could get famous selling a course that scaled and made me $4 million a year, and I just made that number up from nothing, by the way, that people would know me and then I could really dig in and start advertising or promoting myself as a financial advisor. I mean, not then, like, I would wait. I didn’t mean I stopped being a financial advisor. I never did.
Michael: I just like this past, like, “I figured first I’d make like a $4 million highly scaled course and then I’d go and ask them if they wanted me to be their advisor.”
Hilary: I know. Isn’t it funny? I mean, look at…I’m in Silicon Valley, everything scales. If you don’t have scale and you’re not disruptive, you ain’t nothing, okay? And so, I mean, I really worked hard to do that. So after Your Rich Retirement Academy, which I think maybe I made $6,500 total on, I built a course for business owners, so how business owners can handle their finances. Well, that made me $35,000. So I’m getting somewhere, okay? And then at one point…so then I launched Ignite Investing, which was for investors with $499,000 or less down to $25,000, so between $25k and $499k. And I launched that program, and again, I thought that would scale.
Michael: Is this, like, another e-course kind of program?
Hilary: No. Ignite Investing is literally comprehensive traditional fiduciary financial planning. I offer…the investment solution is just DFA’s Balanced Fund, DGEIX, and so everyone has only DGEIX unless we’re pulling assets off because they know they’re going to spend them this year or next year and then they’re in, like, the Schwab Money Market Fund that pays 2%. So it’s very simple on the investment side. We’re very clear with people. There’s an age cap, right? Obviously, you can’t be 55 and in DGEIX.
Michael: So what are the requirements then? Like, there’s an asset cap and an age cap?
Hilary: There’s an asset minimum.
Hilary: I mean, I’m sure if you have more than $500,000 then you’re just a traditional…I mean, my minimum is $1 million now, but at the time it was if you’re $500,000 we just roll you. We celebrate you, we write about you in the newsletter, and then we roll you into being a comprehensive…a more diversified portfolio. You get nine tickers instead of one.
Michael: You graduate.
Michael: And what was the age cap?
Hilary: It was nuanced and had to do with your…I can’t really remember in detail and I don’t want to say it on the air. Let’s say between 40 and 45.
Michael: Okay. Okay. And this was, again, meant to be another version of more scaled because it was a very simple, straightforward investment thing and just you do the planning work up front, but then once you get through the upfront planning work, it’s much more efficient on an ongoing basis.
Hilary: Yeah. And we leveraged a bunch of technology to make the delivery of that comprehensive financial planning easier on us. Each client gets a financial action checklist that sits in this portal that we and they have access to. So we can go back to it and review it and update it rather than just sending an email follow-up is what you would normally do with kind of a high-end client.
Michael: And what technology are you using to track all these financial action items?
Hilary: I can’t think of the name of it right now. It’s the one that’s secure and designed for financial advisors.
Hilary: PreciseFP. Yeah.
Michael: Absolutely. Right? That tagline works huh? Secure and designed for financial advisors. Oh, it’s PreciseFP. Okay.
Hilary: There you go. That’s the one. Yeah. And so we offloaded to technology lots of the discovery and data gathering. We didn’t offer them an in-person conversation as a part of the sales process. There is literally a video on the website of me talking about the program. Why I created it and why there’s only one ticker and what you can expect. And so it’s a sales conversation. And we would invite them to go watch this video. And if they wanted to be a part, they had to pay $299 to get started, and then we would just open their accounts.
Michael: And did you find traction for that? That kind of, you know, purely digital onboard-yourself experience?
Hilary: So it was very fulfilling, and a lot of clients came in in the beginning because there was probably a backload of clients from the podcast, subscribers who wanted to work with me, and the people who get it really get it. I mean, we’ve got a couple of people who are just passionate marketers for the program. They’ve referred us to 15 friends, right? And they just really get that it’s cool, that someone at their asset level can work with someone who’s not going to sell them insurance.
So then I got to be part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s incubator program, which is called Accelerator. And they asked me to calculate profit per client, which I did. And within a month, I closed the Ignite program.
Michael: It was not as efficiently scaled as you thought?
Hilary: It was just, like, when you look at profit per client and I look at the value of…I have a junior…she’s not a junior advisor, but I have a financial planner who works for me, associate advisor is her title, and she is so hugely valuable to me. I absolutely cannot run my business without her. And the thought that 100 clients who have $50,000 each would take up her time choked me, right? I was like, “I can’t. I can’t do it.”
Michael: But it was? Like, that was the problem? Just it wasn’t unprofitable for your time because it wasn’t your time they were taking, but it was enough staff time that it still wasn’t profitable in the end?
Hilary: That’s right. That’s right. So we closed the program. So there are no more new clients coming into Ignite. However, when people fall off or fail to transfer their assets, we “open” up a new spot. So we just opened up two spots this week at our team…we just had our team meeting this morning, and Jen’s going to reach out to two more people who are on the waitlist. I do have a waitlist for the Ignite Investing program.
And it’s something I get to talk about. I went to speak to a group of women, and I talk a lot about the Ignite program and why I do that and what it means to me. And I had a woman come up to me and she said, “I just really want to work with you. I love that you support women.” And she’s got $7 million, you know. So it’s a thing that stretches across socio-economic status. It’s a universal interest. If you’re a feminist, you’re a feminist. Whether you react to that word, I don’t know. But if you’re…it softens people’s hearts. It’s my giveback, right? And it feels good to be able to provide that service to the people we’re providing it to.
Michael: Okay. And in the meantime, eventually, you found this podcasting and now website stuff that’s grown the heck out of the core practice anyways.
Hilary: Yep. So this year, after my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in October of last year, I looked at my calendar, and as you can tell from everything you and I have talked about so far in this conversation, I have been all over the place. I have done media courses, technologically-empowered financial advising, traditional financial advising. I’ve done video. I’ve done podcasts. I’ve done public speaking. And all of a sudden, my calendar doesn’t belong to me anymore, right? Because she has…we’re at Stanford Children’s hospital twice a week. And so I was like, “Okay, world, what do I do now?” And the answer is you have to focus on that which is most profitable and that you enjoy the most. So I am not doing anything other than traditional high-touch comprehensive financial advising. We raised our minimums this year. I say no to prospects, not often, but I’m willing to say no to prospects without a second thought. Because all of a sudden, the thing that’s more valuable to me than money is time. So it’s just very interesting.
So I’m focused on the web. I mean, the podcast is happening in the background. I love it, but I’m focused on developing my website and marketing the coaching program, which is going to get me out of the singularity, right? So if financial advisors get digitized, at least I have this program where I can take people and give them skills, advice, and consultation and improve their net worth. The program was tremendously successful last year. I’ve commissioned a white paper to talk about the actual results from the program. So this year I’ll have a better marketing leverage point, and I just have really high hopes for it.
Michael: And that’s your, you called it $50K Wealth Multiplier Experience?
Hilary: That’s right. Yep.
Michael: And so what is that course? Like, what are you doing there?
Hilary: So it’s a combination, really three prongs. They get monthly coaching calls with me, which are about their money mindsets and their beliefs and specific things that they’re doing to increase their income. They get coaching calls with Jen. And she is all about automating their finances. So we dig into their cash flow. We look at what’s their overhead expenses and we set up a separate account. I mean, just like the Profit First method, except we apply it to personal finances, okay? So we automate their savings and then we give them a checking account where they can spend for disposable spending. I call it Today’s Fun. So she does that with them. And then we get together three times over the….physically together in my office, and we have a mastermind. And they literally go around the circle and they say where they are and what they’re struggling with. And the other women in the group support them, give them feedback, offer suggestions.
And so it hits them at every level. We’re literally digging into their bank accounts. And there’s no investment advice, okay? But we’re literally digging into their bank accounts. But many of them became financial planning clients, okay? I mean, I had one woman who when she applied to the program, she told me she had $750,000. It turns out she had $2 million. She just didn’t know. It was all over the place, right? It was just overwhelming for her. So it’s emotional, it’s practical. So the promise of the program is to raise their net worth by $50,000 over a 24-month trajectory. So if I can alter your savings and spending so that you’re saving more and spending less, or especially debting less, then you have an increase in your net worth. And so we call that your multiplier number. And so the multiplier from last year’s program was almost $1.6 million. So we made a $1.6 million difference in 11 women’s net worth without investing their money. It’s pretty cool.
Michael: And this is designed to be sort of small group format? Like, how many women are you looking to put into the program this year?
Hilary: Ten. Only 10 spots.
Michael: Okay. And you’re charging $5,000-plus just to get to the…
Hilary: It’s $10,000 this year.
Michael: Ten thousand dollars. So that’s a…it’s an interesting thing unto itself. Like, a lot of advisors are trying to figure out how to sell a, you know, $10,000 financial planning fee or a $5,000 or $2,000 financial planning fee, you’re selling a $10,000, I guess you call it…
Hilary: Coaching program.
Michael: …coaching program? Is that what you call it?
Hilary: Well, I mean it’s called an experience, right? The $50K Wealth Multiplier Experience, but essentially, it’s a mastermind and a coaching program. That’s it. Because it’s a separate contract from the…it’s not a financial planning contract, right? So I don’t manage any of their assets until and if they hire me at some point during the program.
Michael: So where do you find…like, where do you find 10 women who will pay you $10,000 for this? Like, is this also part of the aggregate marketing umbrella that just comes from the podcast and the website and the rest or do you have a whole separate process about how you market and offer this?
Hilary: It’s all one effort, and, you know, I’m going to put some dollars behind a Facebook ad campaign to promote a couple landing pages that are talking about the program. And I will do…I have a couple large speaking events booked. I love to speak to groups of women. So you get in a room with 250 women and you talk a little bit about this program. I’ll tell you right now, people come up to me at the back of the room. They wait till their friends aren’t looking and then they come back to me and they say, “I need your card.”
Michael: Because they don’t want everybody else to know that they’ve got financial…
Hilary: Yeah, that they’re struggling.
Michael: …challenges or that they’re willing to drop $10,000 on a course?
Hilary: But no, that they’ve got financial challenges. So, women, both wealthy, wealthy women don’t want their friends to know that they’re wealthy, and women who have financial struggles don’t want their friends to know that they have financial struggles. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. I mean, you know, we had somebody in the program last year who had $400,000 in combined marital income and over $220,000 in credit card debt, and she just couldn’t figure it out. She’s like, “I’m an engineer. What is happening? Every month I try to pay the credit card bills off but the balances keep going up.” And, you know, she has a skill set that she’s good at. She earns high income, so we handled it for her.
Why She’s Staying Rooted In Her Financial Planning Practice Even As She Continues To Build Her Other Businesses [1:21:20]
Michael: And so where does this go from here for you? Like, does this become the thing that you want to ultimately build? Like, you’re going to have 100 women going through this coaching program at some point instead of 100 financial planning clients?
Hilary: I have no idea. I don’t know. And I love financial planning. It is just in me to figure this thing out. I have a big soft spot for people who want to achieve results, who don’t have the resources to attain the skill set to get there. And you know as well as I that earning money is a separate skill set from preserving it. That there’s lots of people out there earning lots of money who make a huge mess with it. And it’s just my thing, you know. I mean, I know my purpose on this planet. And it may not be to be a financial advisor. I would say it more like, that people live free, and this is how I’m manifesting that right now.
And sidecar, you know, I’ve got a couple clients who work for Google. And of course, Google is all about automating everything. And this client said to me the last time I met with him, he said, “I want you to know, I see what you’re doing online, and this coaching program you’re doing,” he’s like, “You’ve got it right.” He said, “In 10 years, your industry is going to look massively, massively different, but no computer is ever going to be a wealth coach.” And I said, “Okay, well, then I’ll keep doing it for a while.” And I love it. I love doing it. It’s fun, so why not?
Michael: Well, eventually you’ll have to hire a set of associate advisors. You have to hire associate coaches just to handle the number of people.
Hilary: I know. And that’s if I want to expand. I mean, I’m only opening 10 spots, and that’s all of 2019. Nothing else will happen in this program until 2020. So it kind of remains to be seen what happens. I mean, my life is in flux, and in 2019, I designed my life to fit around my daughter. And this works. Because I can take those calls from anywhere, right? And I wanted to capitalize on the momentum that I think got created in 2018. And, you know, I’ve severely limited the amount of time I’m available for client appointments on my calendar. You know, all of March is blocked off right now. I’m not at top processing speed, to use a computer metaphor. My daughter is at the end of a chemo protocol, and it’s tough. It’s tough.
But, you know, it’s nice to have built a business that I will probably take, you know, more than…I mean, certainly more than a quarter million dollars in personal compensation and benefits from. Because a lot of the expenses that we incur actually benefit us as people, right? So it’s like somewhere between $250,000 and $350,000. And it’s like, I’m so glad this chemo diagnosis didn’t come when it was, you know, nothing. It’s interesting what it’s teaching me about how I can design my life and my business to work for both me and my clients. And it does mean saying no to some people. And I’ve got that. I’ve internalized that.
Michael: And how is your daughter? Just what’s her prognosis at this point as you’re going through chemo?
Hilary: Yeah. So she has acute lymphoblastic…well, it’s called B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It is the most treatable, the most curable form of childhood leukemia. She is at the end of…so the initial super intense chemo phase is about 7 months, and we’re, like, at the end of month 5, so 30, 40 more days. It has been brutal. But I can’t imagine, Michael, the other way. Like, her disease is 95% curable. What if it was 5% curable or 15% curable? I don’t want to live in that world, right? So, I mean, I feel upset about it, and it takes my mental capacity, but it’s like, “Wow, I don’t know how other parents do this thing.”
So she’s going to be completely fine. Her test results and…like every time we go see the doctor, they call her their shining star, you know. So thank God for that. God bless those doctors at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and modern medicine and all the researchers and medical professionals who came before me, because if it were up to me, she’d be gone, right? Like, I didn’t even know what leukemia was. And by the way, she completely prefers her dad. Do you have this in your household?
Michael: Well, ours are split. So I have three. Yeah, some want to come to me when they’re upset or struggling, some prefer mom. We’ve even watched one of them has kind of flipped back and forth, you know, as siblings came. Like my oldest was mommy’s girl, then her little sister came and she couldn’t have mommy anymore because mommy was, you know, breastfeeding and dealing with the newborn, so then she swung to me. Then she kind of swung back again. Yeah, they definitely show their preferences. Although I have found their preferences change over time.
Hilary: I have a complete reverse Oedipal complex thing happening in my house. I said, “Robert…” I was trying to change her diaper and she said, “It’s daddy’s job to take care of me.” And I looked, yeah, I looked at him and I said, “Would you contradict this, please?” He goes, “What? I didn’t hear it.” I said, “Uh-huh, I know. Of course.”
Michael: It’s like, “Yeah.”
Hilary: Exactly. So no rest for the weary. Parenting truly is a thankless job.
Michael: It’s a guy thing. Like even if I’m winning because the toddler just said, “I want daddy to change my diaper,” it’s like, “Ah, she picked me.”
Michael: Now I got to do a poopy diaper. All right, here we go.
So as you look back over, like, this evolution, I don’t know, I guess I’m just wondering like, you have these series of courses that you built, most of which didn’t get much traction for you, at least the early ones. You did the traditional advising business. It is getting traction, but you’re still determined to get going on the coaching program, which is now starting to get its own traction. Like, I don’t know, like, I’m struck that just you’re still trying to do both in parallel or you haven’t gone all in to one or the other yet?
Hilary: Well, first of all, I’m not going to break the golden goose. I mean, there’s no way.
Michael: Ten thousand dollars each for 10 women ain’t a bad goose either if you want to scale that.
Hilary: But it’s not recurring, right? I like waking up on January 1st and knowing, pending some major economic event, I’ve got at least $750,000 a year in income this year. That’s nice. You know, my business mentor through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization says the same thing. I guess I’m just…it’s hard for me to say no or stop or let go or…I just have all these passions and things I want to explore. And I think no one is doing this wealth coaching in a documented, systematized way. I mean, not no one, but it’s not being done widely. And it serves a market that’s in the middle. It serves women. You know, just to give you example. This woman who discovered she had $2 million, she one time…there was a financial advisor who came into her office to talk about the 401(k), or maybe…it was a 401(k), and she asked him a question and he laughed at her. She went home and put all of her money in, like, CDs and left it there for like eight years
Michael: Because she felt embarrassed, she asked a question, she got laughed at, so she just said, “Screw it. I’m not going to deal with what I don’t understand. I’m just going to stuff it in CDs?”
Hilary: She had lost trust in the financial services industry. I got a hold of her on my podcast. And I share authentically and vulnerably my own weaknesses and falters and mistakes. So I’m a human, right? To her, I’m not that guy. I’m very different than that guy. I’m something different. And so she comes to me and she says, “I need you to get me out of this funk. There’s something I think is true about money that isn’t true or myself in relationship to money.” And we were able to work that out for her. But this is a woman who deserves to work with a high-quality fiduciary financial advisor, and she’s not because the industry isn’t serving people who aren’t yet empowered.
You’ve got to to be pretty empowered to walk your tax returns, your estate documents, your investment return, your statements into someone’s office, plunk them on their desk, and then have a clear conversation about your goals, values, and priorities. Not everyone is like that, right? So what if you’re two or three steps away from that? Well, that’s where this coaching program comes in. And, I don’t know, maybe I have a thing for the underdog, or maybe I just like the idea of meeting people where they’re at. It’s obviously…you can tell it’s a self-expression of mine. But you said the same thing my business coach said, “What are you doing? Why aren’t you focusing?” I don’t know. I don’t know. Let’s just see what comes of it.
Michael: Well, just, it strikes me, like, we try a lot of things early on when we’re starting businesses. You know, you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, particularly when you’re just trying to get revenue going. But, you know, most advisors I find, I mean, at some point, like, we find a thing that works then we just go all in on that thing. And it seems like you’ve found your thing. You’ve got this rapidly growing podcast and website presence now. You’re bringing in $10 million, $20-plus million a year. It’s continuing to happen each year. It’s starting to compound, but you’re still on, like, course coaching attempt number four or five here. And, like, all excited because you’re doing, like, a new one now that’s getting going. Like, I don’t know, I’ve got a pretty good guess on where you really want to end out deep down.
Hilary: Did you want me to cry while we’re on the air together or…? There’s a deep psychotherapy.
Michael: It’s your choice.
Hilary: Makes for better podcasting.
Michael: Authenticity always makes for good podcasting.
Hilary: Yes, yes. I’ll grab a tissue. Yeah. I mean, look, I’m on this planet to make a difference. And being a financial advisor is part of how I do that. And I know I made a difference with those women in the last program. And I’ll tell you, Michael, I mean, I’ve got a lot of mind talk. And my brain is not always my friend, but we got on the last call with those ladies, by the way, there’s also a monthly Zoom call, okay? So they all get on the call. And it was their last one, and I said, “All right, wrap it up. Let’s start from where you were at the beginning. And what did you get out of the program? What were your expectations? What are you proud of?” And it was probably one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
And I’m sitting in a hotel room in, I don’t know, Phoenix, Arizona or whatever, and these women are sharing, they’re crying, they’re saying, “I got everything I wanted. I’m empowered. I’m clear. I’ve altered my wardrobe. I’ve got a raise. I’ve got new career prospects,” right? It was just like, “Whoa, we did something here,” you know. And if it weren’t for that call, to be totally honest with you, I don’t know if I would be doing the program again this year, because I’ve got a lot going on. But how could you not? How could you not want to repeat that?
Michael: So is that more rewarding than the financial planning side of things? Just psychically, like…
Hilary: Well, how often do you get on the call with a high-net-worth client and say, “Can you please emotionally describe to me the value you’ve gotten from our relationship?” Right? It’s not often that a financial planning client really opens up and gets soft and vulnerable and tries to quantify the value you’ve provided for them. Now, I know we provide value, and I’m confident in that, but I’m also called to do this more interpersonal thing. I’m just trying to figure it out.
What Surprised Her The Most About Starting A Business [1:33:57]
Michael: What surprised you overall about just the path of building the business? Like now that you’ve been out on your own five years, has this gone at all the way you expected when you went in your father and said, “I just have to go do my own thing for a while?”
Hilary: I don’t know.
Michael: Of course, they had some expectation of what was going to happen when you went in.
Hilary: Well, yeah, I thought I was going to sell a $500 course to 40,000 people.
Michael: Okay. Right, right, right. So after the multimillion-dollar course didn’t work out in the first year.
Hilary: What has surprised me the most is how darn profitable traditional financial planning for high-net-worth clients is. I mean, man, it’s a great business model. And if you can become a good marketer and a good salesperson, you can write your ticket. And that really is what this business is about. It’s not about being good practitioner, because there’s good practitioners sitting behind stacks of books in every city in America. This is about being in sales and making a lot of noise so that the right people hear you, and then getting them to say yes, getting them to trust you. So I think that really is…I think it was really shocking to me. I thought I had to differentiate because financial planning was dying, becoming digitized, being taken over, and that I’ve been able to find a self-expression. I mean, my company values are my values. Hilary’s values, right? And I’ve got three people who now tout my values. It’s like I get to kind of write the book.
Michael: So I guess ironically, like, you’re differentiating in yourself and how you’re marketing, and that brings in business, but you’re not actually finding a need to differentiate as much in the process part of what you do because people still value good old-fashioned traditional financial planning and it’s really profitable?
Hilary: Yeah. It was about focus, being willing to set a minimum, creating an onboarding process, a system that brings people, qualified prospects into my office, and then once they’re here, designing and perfecting a conversation that has me both learn about them and has them hear enough stories from me and learn and experience me as a trustworthy person that has them then come back and be in a conversation with me about what I would do with their portfolio and then has them say yes. I mean, that’s…I am a student of words, okay? When I hear good financial planning words, I write them down. I have scripts that I practice. And my team says to me, “You’re so good with words.” Like, well, I didn’t make them up, I heard them, they were good, I wrote them down, and I memorize them. And I use them in conversations, right?
And that’s not to say that I’m a copier on everything I say, but there are things that work in conversations with potential clients, right? And I just make sure that when I hear them, I don’t lose them. I mean, I get transcripts of other people’s podcast episodes all the time. I send it to my assistant and I say, “Transcribe this.” And I go in there and I take the two minutes that I liked and I cut it and I put it in my script library. I’m a student of words.
Michael: So you actually have, like, a script library.
Hilary: Mm-hmm. By the way, I don’t have notebooks in my Evernote, Michael. That’s a symptom of just one of the differences between you and me. I use keyword searches for everything.
Michael: Oh, see, like, I compulsively collect and keep so many things, I can’t just do keyword searches. There’s too many notes.
Hilary: But I have ways that when I send the note to Evernote, I put the keywords in it that I want.
Michael: You tag them all. Okay.
Hilary: Yeah. But no, I don’t tag. I don’t use tags, I just put words in the note, okay? So I type in scripts in Evernote, you know, I come up with 50 documents, and there are times when I print those scripts and I read them and I read over them.
Michael: You mean as though you had like a notebook called scripts?
Hilary: Correctamundo. I just don’t over-organize. I love Evernote, by the way.
Michael: Yes, Evernote is a glorious thing. And glorious in part because everybody uses Evernote in their own way that seems to be different than how others use Evernote. It’s part of what makes it a cool program.
Hilary: It’s just, I can’t imagine my life without it, Trello and Evernote.
Michael: How has the role changed for you then over the past couple of years?
Hilary: I think I growed myself up. I went from hiring interns who weren’t in the industry for very low compensation to paying legitimate people who have a career track a market wage. And that takes something. It changes you as a human being. It’s like, “I’m going to pay you $90,000 and those are my dollars.” It’s like you have to know yourself in a particular way to agree to that.
I think that hiring the right people is obviously critical because the team dynamic is important. I put $40,000 into an office last year, so my husband and I share a 2,200 square foot office near the San Jose Airport. His is locked off. He runs a hedge fund on the other side, so there’s a door in the middle because obviously, it has to be secure. So I got a private executive suite and a conference room and a kitchen and a big living room area, which is where we do the mastermind. And I threw a bunch of money at making this office look amazing. And it’s a place that every time some people come in, they stop, they look around, they go, “This place is amazing.” I said, “I know. I love coming to work.”
So I don’t know if that answers the question about what’s changed for me. But a willingness to spend on the things that I think are important to me and my clients, willingness to say no to people who are not my clients. Keeping the team focused around first, company values, and then the projects that they’re working on. So we’re just a super-efficient team. We’ve all read “The E-Myth.” Well-oiled machine is one of my company values. And we’re all very clear what we’re up to on a weekly basis. I don’t know on a daily basis. I mean, they can manage their own schedules, but we meet every week and we have specific measurable things that we have to have done, including me.
Michael: Is that a Traction EOS kind of system that brings you to weekly meetings with, like, weekly things they have to report on?
Hilary: Yeah. Someone in my Entrepreneurs’ Organization recommended that book “Traction.” I haven’t read it, but I do think it’s the same thing. Yes. Verne Harnish something.
Michael: Yes, “Scaling Up.”
Hilary: “Scaling Up.”
Michael: So the team has like…so you do a weekly team meeting and then they all have some key thing that they’re supposed to report on or share about how it is doing for the week?
Hilary: Yeah. We have quarterly rocks that we created at the company off-site all-hands meeting last year. We do a planning meeting for 2019 in the third quarter of 2018, and they talk about what they want to create professionally and what they want to create personally. That’s all in alignment…I mean, the professional goals are in alignment with the company goals. And so that’s how you get buy-in, right? And then you just work really hard. I have a company policy that nobody in my company is allowed to post TGIF on Facebook. That if you don’t love your life, that we either…
Michael: Right. If you’re that thankful for Friday, something else is wrong?
Hilary: TGIF means I hate my job, doesn’t it?
Michael: Yeah, it does kind of have that implication. Well, if you’re too relieved. I feel like there’s a little bit of, you know, “Hey, I’ve got a special weekend come up, TGIF.”. But yeah, if it happens every week, like, something is not good in the job.
Hilary: Right, right. It’s like we either need to shift some things around or maybe this isn’t the right spot on the bus for you. And I’ve never have had to go there, by the way.
So then we create weekly promises that are in alignment with their rocks and goals and priorities. I don’t tell them what their weekly goals should be, but if they don’t fulfill on them, we have a conversation. “Okay, well, are you missing resources? Are you missing planning? Are you missing…? What’s going on? Because we want you…” Running a business is about fulfilling on things. So what do we need to put in? And I think that that’s…really keeps things clean and keeps people motivated, and we really get to look at why if we’re not fulfilling on a particular goal, why not? That’s the best way I know how to keep things moving effectively.
What She Wishes She Had Done Differently [1:42:46]
Michael: So as you look back, anything you wish you’d done differently in, like, launching the firm and the journey from there to here?
Hilary: I wish I had gone to work for some massive website in their SEO department and just worked for free for like 30 or 45 days and figured it out and started with an eye toward building a website that’s a good resource. Very frustrating to do it now with my calendar and… So I do wish I had focused more on that. I think I was a little bit all over the place in the beginning, but I learned lessons from everything. For a couple of years, I paid a business coach $20,000 a year. I think that was a pretty big mistake.
Michael: That was a mistake. Most people I hear are, like…
Hilary: I think that was a mistake.
Michael: …very appreciative of their coaches. Like, why was business coaching mistake?
Hilary: I don’t think business coaching was. I don’t think that was necessarily the right coach for me. I’ve mentioned the Accelerator group, and I think if I’m not mistaken, that group cost me $3,500 a year, and the quality of coaching that I get for me, for me as a human being, what resonates with me is just light years so clarifying, so empowering, so action-oriented from this group that I look back at paying $20k for something I was more dissatisfied with and I think, “Wow, okay, well, lesson learned.”
Michael: You know, for folks that are curious, like, we’ll put a link out for Entrepreneurs’ Organization and the EO Accelerator program. So this is episode 115, so if you go to kitces.com/115, we’ll have a link out for that for, I guess no offense to any coaches but any advisors who are not entirely satisfied with their coach and are curious what a $3,500 a year program would do instead of the higher dollar amount they may be paying their coach.
So what was the low point for you?
Hilary: One of those first women I brought in when I first went out on my own was someone who was a mentor to me in the past. So she mentored me into my first corporate role, and then she had a low point in her life. She had a bunch of stuff happen, including a divorce. She moved out of a 10,000 square foot house into a sailboat, that kind of stuff, okay? So I brought her into my business and it exploded.
Michael: You brought her in as a client or brought her in as a team member?
Hilary: No, no, no, no, I brought her in as a teammate. I bought her in on a revenue share with a super low base, and we weren’t making profit with the course, so she kept expecting to get paid and kept not getting paid. And it was…it absolutely destroyed any personal relationship that we had. I had to fire her. I fired her. I didn’t have to. I fired her. It was devastating. It was devastating. I just will never hire a friend again.
Michael: Yeah, I was going to say like, what was the lesson learned for you? Like, wrong thing to hire someone on low base and rev share for an experimental program or just don’t hire someone you’re that close to?
Hilary: So two things that you get to as a manager, as a CEO, if you hire someone, you’re the CEO, you’re the boss, you get to be very explicit in your speaking about what you expect. These are your accountabilities and here’s what I expect. And because she had been a mentor to me in the past, I was reticent to say, “Here’s what I expect.” In fact, I was…absolute refusal to say, “Here’s what I expect.” It seemed like she had always been above me. How could I tell her I expect this? And then she would do crazy things. Crazy, crazy. So it was very clear that that had to end. That was another thing I let go too far where my husband finally said, “Okay, enough, you need to take action.” I was so sad. So yeah, definitely a low point.
Advice For Women Coming Into The Financial Planning Industry [1:46:38]
Michael: So for others who are coming into the business, and frankly, I’m thinking about other women coming into the business in particular. You know, as you know, we have appallingly low percentage of female CFPs and a number that basically hasn’t moved for 15 odd years, like, what advice would you give to young women looking to come in to be a financial planner or start a firm today?
Hilary: Gosh, maybe you’re in a better position to give advice about that.
Michael: Well, I mean, as you said, like, you started out as the wrong age and the wrong gender. Those are your words. I’m not judging you. Those were your words. But, you know, you’re still here and you survived and now you’re crushing it.
Hilary: Well, I would say go find a female-oriented firm. If I could paint my career, you know, if I could paint it the way I would rewind and do it, go find a female-oriented firm that’s fee-only fiduciary, get yourself in some kind of apprenticeship or junior position in that firm and just work it. Do your best, get your education, and, you know, you’ll either be offered some kind of partnership track or you’ll get kicked out of that firm and go to another firm where your career will elevate. And at some point, you’ll naturally start taking on your own clients. I mean, it’s really hard to get started as a fee-only fiduciary, right?
Michael: It’s hard I think even to find female-oriented firms that are fee-only fiduciaries.
Hilary: Yeah. And I finally found in a Facebook group where there’s, like, seven of us, and we’re looking for more. So if you’re listening, we’re Fem Fee-Only Financial Advisors on Facebook.
Michael: Fem Fee-Only Financial Advisors.
Hilary: Yeah. I’ll send you the link.
Michael: Okay, we’ll get that added to the…
Hilary: Thank you.
Michael: …list as well. Well, I guess for either female fee-only advisors who want to join the group or I guess if you’re willing, women who are seeking to work with one of those folks who hopefully you will let into the group so that they can try to find a job. You can decide whether you want to let them in or not.
Hilary: Maybe. Yeah, that’s not the design of the group right now, but I’ll talk to the other six women in the group and see what we can do. And, you know, again, I mean, in a perfect world, it’s female-oriented. You know, I know at Yeske Buie, you know, one half of Yeske Buie is a woman, and she’s probably the queen of the industry right now. And most of you know who I’m talking about, Elissa Buie. And they’ve got a very robust mentorship junior advisor program. So hopefully, that spreads. And I’m pleased to be able to employ one female advisor now and possibly more in the future. But yeah, it’s hard to find…so you’ve got to network and you’ve got to build relationships and stay in touch and beat the bushes. I mean, but that’s what it’s like to be a financial advisor. So welcome to my world.
Michael: Yeah. You know, I had a advisor ask me the other day, like, he wants to get a job at a particular firm, but, like, he’s not sure how to reach out or like if it would be weird if he reaches out cold. And I told him like, “Look, if they’re really not interested in hiring and they just aren’t interested, like, they’ll blow you off or they won’t take it well. But if they’re at all thinking about hiring, the mere fact that you’re willing to proactively put yourself out there and take the risk of reaching out to a stranger to try to find a job opportunity, for most advisors who’ve ever done business development, they kind of respect you more for it because they know how hard it is and how hard it is to find people who are willing to do that.”
Hilary: It shows gumption, courage.
Michael: So, you know, for anyone who’s listening, like, don’t be afraid to do that outreach. It may not work out well but nor will every prospect you try to get turn into a client.
Hilary: Here’s an idea, try for 100 no’s. If your goal is to get 100 no’s, I can almost promise you, by the time you get that 100th no, you’ll have a job.
Michael: That’s a goal. I like that. That’s a goal.
So as we wrap up, you know, this is a podcast about success, and one of the things we always talk about is just that word “success” means different things to different people. And so, you know, you’re now on track with this incredibly successful firm that’s growing and compounding, but I’m wondering, how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Hilary: If I can spend more of my life engaged in infinite concerns, concerns that can never be fulfilled on versus finite concerns, I think I will consider that success. And what I mean is I really want to put myself to work for humanity. That I’m not motivated to go to work on climate change. And more power to the people who are. That I’m deeply engaged, like, as you can tell, I’ve got my fingers in the dirt about how to enable and empower people to live free abundant lives. So I’m on mission, I’m on purpose, and I’m blessed that I feel like I’m plugged into that. I think a lot of people are looking for their “purpose.” And by the way, it’s not to be a photographer. You get what I’m saying? Like, people want their lives to be about a big thing. And people are searching for what that is. Well, I think I’ve just been given this gift, like, I know what it is. I don’t necessarily know how it manifests, but if I can spend more of my life engaged in that spiritual, meaningful inquiry and producing real results, then I’m a success.
Michael: But I am struck, though, just as you say that, that, like, you’re doing that in the career you’re in now, but you didn’t come into this to do it, right? I mean, like, you landed in your dad’s firm, he pulled you in or it sounded like a good opportunity, but it sounds like the whole framing around the purpose you just articulated came, like, years later.
Hilary: That’s true. That’s true. I have a very blessed life. And, you know, I’ve become very introspective. I live an examined life. And, I mean, we haven’t talked about my whole life, but I’ve been through a lot of stuff. And I do think that the people who get beat up by life the most maybe come out the most spiritual, okay? And you’re right, there are a lot of interweaving threads. I mean, it’s like that speech that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford about how you can’t explain or map out your life until you look back at it. You look back at everything that you did and experience and got good at and then you put it all together and you make magic. And I don’t know that I’m making magic. I mean, I’m making some magic. I’m not making iPod magic, but I’m pleased to be able to pull from my past and to weave what I’m currently doing into new inquiries and new opportunities to live a more meaningful life. So I hope that answers your question.
Michael: I think it’s amazing. It is a good point, though, that just you can’t often explain how it mapped out until after the fact. It’s part of why even for me I’ve become, like, less focused on setting long-term goals, because frankly, I’m not really sure where the heck this stuff is going. I just know, like, good habits of helping people seem to turn out pretty good in the long run. So we’re going to stick with that.
Hilary: I think we’re saying the same thing, Michael.
Michael: Well, thank you, Hilary, for joining us and sharing your story on the “Financial Advisor Success” podcast.
Hilary: Thank you for having me. It’s a great show. Thanks for doing it, Michael. It makes a huge difference.
Michael: My pleasure. Thank you.