My guest on today's podcast is Melody Townsend. Melody is the president of Townsend Financial Planning, an RIA based in Lexington, KY, that oversees $112 million in assets under management for 160 client households.
What's unique about Melody, though, is how after her first decade in practice, she quadrupled her revenue in the subsequent 2 years by restructuring her business model from standalone hourly engagements and project planning fees to a more holistic wealth management offering that combined investment management and financial planning for a single AUM fee… which both better reflected the full value she was providing clients, and enabled her to truly scale her firm and hire up so it was no longer solely dependent on her alone.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about how although Melody initially built an hourly, fee-only firm for its ability to serve the middle market in Kentucky where she was based, she found that while it provided a lot of flexibility, there were limitations to the growth and scalability the model offered when you're also responsible for all of the back-office tasks in addition to trying to generate enough billable hours, how Melody also realized that the hourly model had led her to undercharge by not billing for all the time she was spending servicing clients and decided to take a big leap to right-size her prices by wrapping them into an AUM fee for those clients she was helping with implementation, and how Melody found despite her fears about losing clients in the face of a fee change that would on average double her client fees, in practice even her clients knew that she was undercharging, to the point that almost every single one stayed and many even consolidated more assets with Melody once she was actually able to manage (and bill on) them.
We also talk about how Melody invested early, at least relative to her revenue and profits, in business coaches and her own employees in order to sustain the service model that would meet her own standards, why Melody decided to hire with a focus on character over technical skills, reasoning that while she could teach paraplanning work, she couldn't teach integrity and work ethic, and now has several house-trained CFPs working in her firm, and how Melody leveraged the lack of Certified Financial Planner professionals available in Kentucky as a method of her own branding and let organizations like NAPFA and FeeOnlyNetwork send prospective clients to her door, rather than spending time in sales that she didn't enjoy anyway.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Melody shares how she struggled initially with delegating because it was hard for her to articulate in words what he just 'knew' in her own brain about how clients should be served, how as Melody has grown her revenue and hired more people, the book "Lead From Any Seat" which advocates that teams treat the boss as a 'customer' of the employees both transformed how she shaped her communication with her team for the better, and empowered her employees to take full accountability for their work, and how Melody's career and business decisions came not as a steady path of growth but a series of epiphanies about her own worth and value led her down new avenues that she had never envisioned when first embarking on entrepreneurship as a 20-something advisor nearly two decades ago.
So whether you're interested in hearing about how Melody calculated her project-based work to make it 1 size fits all (and shortened her onboarding process in the meantime), how Melody remained relentlessly centered on finding her ideal clients, even in the early years, and how Melody uses her firm's core values to filter through both her strategic business and team-building decisions, then we hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast.