Welcome back to the 175th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today's podcast is Dr. Travis Parry. Travis is the founder of Make Time Institute, which helps business owners, including financial advisors, to regain control of their time and achieve better work-life balance. What's unique about Travis, though, is that he spent nearly a decade working as a financial advisor as well and living firsthand the challenges of balancing the demands of an advisory firm with the needs of his family and home life before going back to school to earn a Ph.D. in family relations and human development and to study what it really takes to achieve a better work-life balance.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about Travis' "Make Time" approach to creating better work-life balance by overcoming what he calls the three myths of time management. The first myth is that there isn't actually such a thing as achieving balance but instead, it's better to identify your goals and values and to ensure that your time is prioritized to align with them. Second, that the key to regaining control of time isn't about being more productive in the work that you do, but again, about learning to prioritize what is really the most important and impactful work you should be doing with your time every day and letting go of the rest. And third, why, in the long-term, the key as a business owner isn't about just investing in your own personal development as a leader in the business, but in what Travis calls couples’ development. Because the reality is that for any advisor with a spouse and children, personal development and habit change can only occur if your spouse is on board with the change and you can develop together as a couple.
We also talk about Travis's own journey through the advisory business. How he started out in a major life insurance firm to leverage the training and resources in working with small business owners, why he decided to transition to the independent channel in order to focus more of his work on helping small business owners with their time and broader businesses than just the traditional financial services products, how a combination of family tragedy and the financial crisis derailed his advisory firm, and the way those disruptions ultimately led him to find what has become his life's work.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Travis shares why an inability to evolve an advisor's own time management systems is often one of the biggest blocking points that prevent a firm from growing and scaling, why he thinks Maslow's hierarchy of working towards self-actualization is wrong and how family plays a crucial role, and how the recent disruptions of the coronavirus may, for many advisors, end out reinforcing the exact kind of restructuring of time and priorities that Travis advocates in the first place.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- Travis’ Own Journey Through The Advisory Business [00:05:34]
- How A Combination Of A Family Tragedy And The Financial Crisis Derailed His Firm And Why He Decided To Go Independent [00:22:20]
- How The Importance Of Family Helped Travis Decide To Pursue A PhD In Family Science To Help ‘Couplepreneurs’ [00:42:07]
- The Three Myths Of Time Management And The Importance Of Prioritizing Your Time To Align With Your Goals [01:09:05]
- How Travis Coaches His Clients To Cultivate Balance In Their Lives [01:37:25]
- Travis’ Low Point In His Journey And What He Would Tell Advisors New To The Profession [01:45:28]
- What Success Means To Travis [01:51:01]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
Michael: Welcome, Travis Parry, to the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Dr. Parry: Hey, thanks, Michael. Appreciate you having me on.
Michael: I'm looking forward to today's discussion about work-life balance, which I think in the advisor world has long been a challenge for a lot of us as advisors. We are kind of a helping profession. So it's hard for a lot of people to turn that off, right? If you're helping people and you're good at it, it feels good to help more people, but then you can drive yourself unwillingly to burnout.
We tend to build these businesses that sometimes build up to the point where the business tends to consume your life and take over. And I think we're in a whole other realm of how to manage work-life balance and the lines between the two when so many people are now in a forced to work from home environment while their school systems are closed and their children are home as well. Getting like a close and intensive version of work from home work-life balance that we did not even anticipate, which I think for any of us who's struggled with work-life balance challenges already just kind of amplifies all of the issues and makes it even more acute.
So I know you have a lot of expertise around this. Having done a lot of work on this area having kind of crossed over from advisor realm to coaching, consulting with advisors around this. And so I'm excited for a conversation today about how we figure out some of this, taming the beast of work-life balance.
Dr. Parry: Yeah, I like that. It is a beast, isn't it? And actually, I was listening to some of the news reports this morning, I was catching my news, and that's what everybody is calling the COVID-19 thing is the beast.
But I think you're right, this beast of work-life balance, and whatever you call it, if it's work-life harmony, we'll get into some of the nuances. But the truth is, what you just mentioned earlier, is there's fact behind it. FPA in 2014 did some research on financial advisors and found that they are three times more likely than the average American to be a workaholic. And we kind of wear that badge as a badge of honor to think, "All right, we're working hard, we're important, we're productive." But it does take a toll.
And there are lots of things we can talk about there of how this affects ourselves, our relationships at home, even our own personal finances as we're trying to help others.
Travis’ Own Journey Through The Advisory Business [00:05:34]
Michael: So as we kick off, give us a little bit of context for your background overall. Because I know you wear this kind of interesting, I was going to say dual hat role but I guess they were sequential hats of having been in advisor world and then shifted to saying, "I'm going to be a coach and consultant that works back with advisors on all this work-life balance stuff that I struggled with and dealt with as an advisor." So share with us just some of your journey of what brings you to this conversation in the first place.
Dr. Parry: Yeah, I love it. Everybody has a different story of how they get into financial planning, right? For me, it was, I always wanted to understand money. I saw my parents, they were loving, they were kind, we had great family life growing up, and the only thing that they really argued about was money. And that was the consistent thing. And it was a scarcity. We have a big family. And my father was a business owner. And so he struggled with work-life balance and managing money. And I just thought, "Gee." I think I was one of those Klontz, Kahler, Klontz ideas of money worship as far as what my money history might have been. So I kind of was like, "Yeah, if I could figure out money, I could help and solve all these problems." That was my teenage mind.
And as I grew up, on a paper route, Michael, I was throwing papers, and I was like 14 collecting at the door, asking people to give me money. And this guy came to the door and he's like...in the middle of the day, I'm like, "Whoa, I was just out here collecting. I didn't realize you might be around." And he's like, "Yeah, I work from home." Like, "Well, tell me what you do." He's like, "I'm a stockbroker. I'm a day trader. I make money on the internet trading stocks and such." And I thought, "What in the world? Who does that? What is that all about?" And so that kind of got my fascination starting, "How could I become an advisor?"
Fast forward, I made it to college, and I thought this was something...you become a financial planner, stockbroker, something later in life when you've got gray hair, right, when people can come to you for advice. But a friend of mine got me involved in the insurance industry, started at like a State Firm agency there and I was doing well, and moved into Northwestern Mutual because I wanted to be more comprehensive. And I liked what I was starting to do but found out very quickly that, like most other life insurance-based companies, that the product push of life insurance as the core product just really wasn't my personality. At the same time I saw a lot of my clients, they were struggling with time management, work-life balance. They were business owners. They also struggled with relationship problems. And I've presented on these topics now at several conferences. But I started to try to figure out, "Well, how can I help my clients with more? Helping them with their finances is good. Helping them with some products and services is also good." So I kind of had this two-directional pull, Michael, where I was like, "I want to help them with more," to be more of a fee-based financial advisor, but I also wanted to help them do more life coaching and life planning. Does that kind of make sense?
Michael: It certainly makes sense, but just help me understand a little more of this journey. How do we get to, "I'm in a major life insurance company and we're doing some life insurance sales, and oh, by the way, I'm seeing all of these work-life balance and relationship problems with my small business owner clients?" That's kind of a big jump. A lot of us don't necessarily get further than like, "How do I find the next client that I can try to do business with?" How were you finding these kinds of small business owner clients that you're even seeing these issues and getting in front of them as, I'm assuming by then you're like a 20-something agent with Northwestern Mutual? What was going on there that you were I guess having some early traction with trying to work in an insurance company and so much so that you saw all these problems beyond even just the stuff that you were doing and selling at the time?
Dr. Parry: Great question. As I look back on it, there was a lot of struggle at the beginning. I was away at college. I didn't really have much of a warm market. And you and I both know the insurance company markets is basically, hit up everybody you know, all your family and friends, and then referrals come from there.
Michael: Yep, bring your natural market list of 50 to 100 friends and family that you can call in your first 30 to 60 to 90 days that you're on board. Yep.
Dr. Parry: That's it. And I didn't take that route. I actually just sat down and I bought lists of business owners. And instead of trying to make that happen long distance, because they're all in California and kind of scattered, I bought lists and I went out and basically cold-called to try to find some traction. And as I did that, put a lot of miles on the car, but I got in to all these business owners at their places of work, business, and I was doing planning with them there or what I could. And I started to realize they didn't really care about financial planning until their business problems were solved. And I'm sitting here scratching my head going, "Wait a minute, they told me I was going to be an advisor, I'm going to be a planner. People are going to come to me." And I realized it had more to do about the marketing, had more to do with, "What is my ideal client and what are they facing?"
So as I did the research on this, I was a sociology major, so I'm looking at behavior. And I started diving deep into psychology and social psychology. And it just fascinated me, fascinated me to the point that I later want to do a master's in psychology. But at the end of my bachelor's degree, I'm doing a lot of research on my ideal client, and I realized that yes, financial planning is a part of it, but they really want help with how to decrease liability at work. How do they get their people motivated? So I kind of was trying to decide how to attract clients and help them see that financial planning was a big part of this.
So I actually put together my own mastermind. And in that mastermind, I had a business consultant. I had a real estate agent. I had a lot of those who I would normally be referring to as my financial planning team. And it was a great Rolodex of people to have. And as I got working with that, the business consultant that I was working with said, "Hey, Travis, why don't you get trained in what I'm doing and then you would better understand what I'm doing when you send people my way." Because I recognized that time management was a huge problem. And I said, "Sure." And as he trained me, he's like, "You're kind of a natural at this. Maybe figure out how to do this in your own practice." And so I kind of incorporated that. So it was one thing at a time, Michael, it wasn't all at once, but it was kind of sort of piecing it together.
Michael: Well, and I live a version of this just as a small business owner, as kind of a serial entrepreneur. It's so true. When you are talking to small business owners, if you want to ask them how they're doing, ask how their business is doing. Our whole lives revolve around our business and how the business is doing, right? It both consumes our time and it consumes just literally our balance sheet, right, our financial net worth. And it's almost entirely tied up in the business until there's a liquidity event or some transition to the point that talking to them about how their portfolio is doing is usually an asterisk or a side note after they've figured out what's going on with their businesses because that's overwhelmingly often the dominant asset on their balance sheet until they actually have a financial transition event.
Dr. Parry: Yeah, so true.
Michael: I am wondering though, you still kind of jumped through like, "I bought some lists of business owners and cold called, and then I got in the door and I'm talking to them about their business needs." So how did that work?
Dr. Parry: Oh, man, not very well.
Michael: Cold calling and you're still here and standing is kind of a big deal unto itself, much less calling on busy small business owners. So what were you doing that just...what was the script or the approach or the...how did you actually get your foot in the door?
Dr. Parry: Yeah, back then, what is this, almost 18 years ago or so, I was literally 22 and I was doing this. And so I had every reason to think, "No one's going to trust me. I don't have gray hair or whatnot." And so I kind of found a natural market with professionals who made a lot of money selling during the summertime. And I kind of transitioned into business owners. And if I would call on the lists and leads that I would get, it was a long-term nurture. It was, "Hey, let me show you how this can fit inside what you're already doing." And that just created a natural warm market. I would do all sorts of things like send them cards. I would send them a gift, find out what they like, follow up on their birthday. Just doing all of the natural life insurancey type of reaching out. Does that make sense?
Michael: Yep. As much as there is sometimes knocks against the life insurance industry and some of the sales tactics that are out there of drip marketing people and keeping in front of them and doing the birthday cards and the like, stuff actually kind of works. Human beings are human beings. We warm to others over time. You kind of have to drip over time to get familiarity with someone so they get comfortable with you. And that stuff works. It takes a while, but it works.
Dr. Parry: It took a while. And I was two years away from graduating my bachelor's degree when I started this. And so I really always worked through school, talk about work-life balance. It was a struggle. One day I was a student and I just was campus all day long, and that's where my mind was. After class, I would go to the library, do everything I needed for those courses for that week, and I wouldn't come home until I was done. The next day, I'd kiss my wife goodbye and go to work. So that's how I had to do it. I had to literally psychologically say, "Today is school, tomorrow is work, today is school." And I actually think that really helped me to keep better balance when I became full-time advisor on my own business because I can say, "Okay, this day I'm doing mainly marketing. Tomorrow I'm doing business development." And so it really did help me, I think, to start as a student, but it also allowed me to try to think outside the box and connect with young entrepreneurs, even on-campus entrepreneur groups. I joined all sorts of networking, the chamber, some local networking groups that were really a catalyst to helping me get a step-up leg in to those who were business owners making actual decisions at their companies.
The other thing that I found that they were really concerned about, these business owners, as I was getting in line to chat with them is the cost of health insurance. And so I would always come in and talk about group benefits and then use that as a way to say, "Hey, let's save you some money here, and then let's use it to do some planning." And that was a spoke in this wheel.
Michael: But I guess, right, it's not necessarily rocket science but just doing the steps and executing. It was finding out about the stuff that they actually care about that was a pain point or concern for them and then figuring out, "What can I actually do to connect to that?" Because they'll open the door and listen to me about that. And then that's what established the relationship, and then I'll try to expand it from there.
Dr. Parry: Exactly. And that's what really worked. And I was really pressured even to say, "Okay who's your ideal client?" Figuring them out. So I did the research on that. And I really liked working with business owners because I come from a family of...I would have been the third generation, and I'm going to talk about this at XY Planning, but essentially, that third generation, getting the business to transfer to the next generation is tough. But that third generation is only like one in three that ever make it. And it's pretty tough. And I get it. Because you grew up with it, I grew up with it. I've seen the mentality. I know how hard it is. And I didn't want to do that kind of work. It was plumbing. And I did that all my life. And I thought, "This is not for me." But I went off to school to try to figure out, "Well, what's my path? Where do I want to go?" But I did still learn so much from my father and my grandfather about running a business, being true to your customers, finding out what they need, and it just kind of became second nature.
Michael: So what did you find traction with early on that kind of kept you around? Because I know you were in with Northwestern for a number of years. What ultimately got some traction going for you to be able to survive and start to thrive?
Dr. Parry: Yeah, we were definitely starving students at first. And I think what I finally figured out, at least what worked for me when I was hitting my sweet spot was business owners who had basically...they're putting so much into their business. That is essentially their investment portfolio, right? That's it. And even my father was like, "Trav, this is great, but my business. It's my baby. I don't really care to do outside...I've got some tiny investments." So I figured out those who really were already doing successful...being successful in their business had maxed out everything they could in other investments. And so they became a good client for a life insurance type of product. I would actually do a full plan. And I would run through and do a whole needs analysis. And that really sparked me and I thought, "This is awesome. I don't want to just be a life insurance salesperson."
However, there were several clients who, because of what we did, they went on disability. And one lost his leg to cancer. The other had a major illness and she couldn't work as a real estate agent. But because we had done a really good job and we placed disability policies, they actually called me years later and are like, "Do you realize what you did for me?" And it was one of those moments like, "Oh, wait, I actually did something good. I wasn't just a salesperson. This is real life." And they told me about how now their life insurance is able to be convertible and it can become an asset. And the company has a disability waiver that pays the rest of their life. And that sound like a commercial for Northwestern. But I've toted that line for a long time and I realized, "Hey, this actually...this is a good thing. It totally worked for them."
But my taste for doing comprehensive planning really came down to I loved, loved, loved sitting down with business owners because they're so creative. They have all these goals, all these ambitions. And I loved listening to their life goals. I wanted to know about what they plan to do with their kids and their family and their future. And that's when the life planning aspect started opening to me. And I realized the only way for me to do this outside of like a Northwestern or like a MassMutual or something is to become independent so I could do these other consulting things in conjunction with my business. And that kind of propelled me.
Michael: Because particularly back in, I don't know, we're in the 2000s now, so hybrid movement had not taken hold yet the way that it was today. Like if you were BD and insurance-registered, you generally did not have an RIA affiliation. You did not have a way to charge planning fees. The companies just didn't even have a platform or offering for it in many cases. And so just you either did product stuff or you left and went to that other side thing. If you were going to be a rogue that just charged advice fees.
Dr. Parry: Precisely. And I went to some trainings. And there's Bill Bachrach. You know Bill Bachrach, I'm sure. He's been out there...
Michael: Absolutely. Values-based selling for a long, long time.
How A Combination Of A Family Tragedy And The Financial Crisis Derailed His Firm And Why He Decided To Go Independent [00:22:20]
Dr. Parry: That's right. And he...I went to several of his events and it just really hit home that I needed to be focused on how people achieve goals in all areas of their life and that money is a part of the picture. I'm like, "Yes, yes, yes." This is totally, in fact, my tagline, "live life on purpose" came from working with Bill at his conferences because he's always talking about things on purpose, like, that is totally...that's my motto. That's what I do is every email I have, live life on purpose, every video, live life on purpose. That's my goal is to help clients to live their lives on purpose.
And as I was going through his trainings and doing some other things on the side, I remember him from stage saying, "Hey, you go out and you be the best financial planner ever, unless you want to be me. If you want to be me, then stop being a financial planner and go learn how to speak and how to consult and all these other things." And that's when I kind of took that second pivot going, "This is exactly why I needed to be here." I needed to realize that financial planning got me to be able to work with all these clients, understand their needs, see what they're really struggling with, and see how finances are a part of the picture. But really when we talk money with people, we talk in every aspect of their life, just about, right? So that really sat with me of, "Travis, as you're looking deep here and you're helping others, you really need to do more."
And right about that same time, my father was 49 years old, great health, physically active guy, was on a mountain bike ride with his EMT-trained buddy and he died. He passed out on the trail, and he got life-flighted but it didn't help. He was pronounced dead really on arrival.
Michael: Oh my God.
Dr. Parry: And it totally floored me. Totally floored me. I was living in Utah, they were in California. I was the oldest son and now I had all this guilt of not being there, not helping out with the business. Maybe if I was there I could have helped with these things. Was it the stress that killed him? And on and on it goes. Okay. But then I saw financial planning from the backside. For the very first time, I did a life insurance claim, and it was on my dad.
Michael: Because you'd actually written life insurance on him when you were at Northwestern?
Dr. Parry: Yeah. The funny part was, it wasn't even my policy, it was some other policy. I was trying to get him to do something else. But he had the foresight to have great coverage. It was already good. And I looked at it, I was like, "That's great, Dad, keep it." And his whole thing when we talked life insurance was the best type of life insurance is what's in place when you die. And it was in place. And thankfully, it was. And so I helped my mom unravel everything, paid off her home with insurance proceeds. Got her set up to where she was in a good position to transfer to the next part of her life. But that was a rollercoaster ride and up and down emotions. And I came back to work and I couldn't work. I didn't know what to do. And it was too emotional. Here I am selling life insurance to people and you think, yeah, you have all this, I don't know, gumption now to go tell people that this is what they need to get. But it was so emotional for me to even talk about it. I was crying in front of potential clients, like, "Yeah, this isn't working."
Michael: It's good to sell with passion. There is a point where, unfortunately, it's just a little bit awkward from a sales process.
Dr. Parry: Yeah. And I thought, "Gee, this has got to get better soon." So I made the decision at that point, now going to Bill Bachrach stuff, having this major event in my life, talking with my wife, trying to figure out what do we do, to, the only way to get out of this life insurance selling business and being more holistic in your planning and being able to charge fees and be able to get on that path was to leave. And when I left, it was...honestly, it felt...I don't know what this feels like, but it felt like I was leaving a church that I had been a member of my entire life. It felt horrible. I felt like I was leaving a family because I was so invested in them. And I know others left broker-dealers or other things that maybe felt similar, but it was just like I was leaving this entire culture. But I knew I was doing that so that I could provide more. I could provide the consulting. I could help them with so many other things. And I started to...I opened up my practice 2007. A beautiful time. Wonderful time...
Michael: That's a great time to launch a business. Yeah, absolutely. Right there in the fall of 2007, right when the market is at a perfect high. Absolutely. It is only going down from the moment you create your business.
Dr. Parry: Literally started the business September 1st, 2007. I kid you not.
Dr. Parry: And so did a couple of my friends. We all left at the same time. We stopped drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak, and we jumped out. And we were getting started with our own clients and things were rolling well, then as we know, the recession came. And as I was doing Bachrach and I was going to other coaching, I actually hired the coach and got trained in time management. And that's when we started to trade referrals and I started to make that a certification for me so I could do that in-house. And I actually used that piece as, "Let's help you with your time. Let's increase your business profits. Let's help you to fine-tune the things that you need in your own business structure. And then we'll take the additional revenues that you're bringing in and we'll reinvest in here. We'll create a financial plan for you." So the issue there was most of my clients were in real estate, developers, real estate agents, etc., etc. And you know the story. It was tough. Because in 2008, we made the decision to close up the physical location and we went...I went back home and I started working from home, with my office there, for the very first time during the recession.
Michael: Wow. All right, so I've got a bunch of questions in there of just that journey. So when you launched in 2007, you made the transition away from the insurance company when...I'm presuming this is an independent RIA at this point.
Dr. Parry: True.
Michael: So you chose to be standalone and charge fees?
Dr. Parry: Yep.
Michael: So what was the vision of the business at that point? Who were you going to serve? What were you going to do for them? And what was the business model going to be at the time?
Dr. Parry: So at the time, we called it Parry Wealth management, and the whole idea was to just charge a fee. I didn't even care about assets under management. I didn't even care about insurance commission. I came up with the whole model of, "I just want to charge a fee for the planning. We'll create a plan for them. It'll be the most comprehensive thing ever." Right? This is all Bill Bachrach approach. "And then I will just charge a fee ongoing." If you guys had been around, if XY Planning, I'm saying you guys, if XY Planning had been around in 2007, I probably would have been your very first client.
Michael: Oh, sorry about that. Well, and AdvicePay so you could actually automate the payments didn't come until a few years after that. Yeah, that would have been hard at the time. That's not a traditional business model at the time and a very manual like, go get a check from a client or have them mail it to you every quarter or year. Well, what did you actually go out charging? Was this a quarterly fee? Was this like an annual retainer-style fee?
Dr. Parry: Yeah, it was like $2,000 or something for the plan. And then we'd have an annual kind of retainer fee that hey, we'd sit down with you every quarter, and here's all of our deliverables. It was intense. It was very, very thorough and thought-out. And really, all I wanted to be, Michael, at that point is I realized my real good skillset was just talking to people. I just love to interview them, and I love to hear about their life and what their goals are. So I just created from all of my contacts, from my colleagues I had in the real estate world, in the insurance world, and if they needed a certain product, I would just say, "Here's their financial plan. You're part of my team. You're on my team here at Parry Wealth Management. So tell me what insurance they should get. Tell me where we should put their money." And so I started doing all these partnerships. I just wanted to literally be the quarterback and let everybody else be on the team behind the scenes so I could just interface with the clients. And so that was the entire model as we were getting started. And it was starting to really take off. People really liked it.
Michael: So a few questions about this. One just, so you're referring out all implementation? Like insurance implementation, even investment implementation, just everything was going out to partners?
Dr. Parry: Yes, exactly right.
Michael: And so you didn't have any pause of like, "That is a lot of revenue I'm sending out the door. I could do some of that. I have some experience around doing some of that." Or you just...
Dr. Parry: Oh, yeah. To be clear, to be clear, I was still licensed life insurance. I was still licensed investments. So I was still getting some of that. Does that make sense? I wasn't 100%. I wasn't 100% pure fee-only. No.
Michael: So your service was charging fees but then essentially you were doing split casework...
Dr. Parry: Precisely.
Michael: ...for implementation but let them actually do the work.
Dr. Parry: Exactly.
Michael: Right. It's sort of the old...I don't know if they did this the same way at Northwestern Mutual. I started at New England Life and the model there was the finders, minders, binders, and grinders. So 25% of the case was for being the finder, bringing in the prospect, 25% was for being the binder, so the one that got them to close, 25% was for being the grinder, so doing all the paperwork to get it done, and the 25% was for being the minder, so whoever would support the client on an ongoing basis for servicing. And so everything was case splitting based on who was the finder, minder, binder, and grinder.
Dr. Parry: That's so cool. Yeah, it's very similar at the Northwestern mindset. My thought was, "Hey, just I'm going to be your captain. I'm going to be this quarterback of the team." And I would introduce them to everybody on my team. "Here's the insurance guy. Here's the real estate agent." And I just say, "Hey, we're all going to take a look at this, but I'm going to come back with the comprehensive plan." And it was very in-depth. And when they chose to take the recommendations, then yeah, I'd have the CPA draw this up. I'd have the attorney do the estate plans. And I loved that. I loved that model. And I honestly just wanted to get out of the weeds and kind of get out of the way. I was still at that time going through my CFP certification. So I wasn't truly...I couldn't come out and say, "Hey, I'm a Certified Financial Planner." So I was kind of balancing between leaving sure commission base, starting to get the feel of, "Hey, here's some...I can do some fee work." And there's some commission splits with the desire to go completely 100% fee-only.
Michael: So talk to me a little bit more again just the fee structure. So it was $2,000 upfront and then what were you charging ongoing?
Dr. Parry: I believe...there were different levels of...I'm trying to rack my brain. It's been a while.
Michael: Different tiers by how many meetings kind of thing?
Dr. Parry: Yeah, it was depending on how much support that they really desired. But it was like $2,000 to $4,000 a year at that time, which was...that was still pretty good. That was a good fee.
Michael: Yeah, that's a hefty number. Well, and that's similar more for the ongoing than it actually was for the upfront.
Dr. Parry: Precisely. Precisely.
Michael: Which I find is different for a lot of firms even today. We tend to charge a larger thing upfront and then a very small ongoing. Yours the bigger was the ongoing. So I guess the expectation was, "No, you're a small business owner, I'm working with you on an ongoing basis. You're going to have a lot of stuff on an ongoing basis."
Dr. Parry: Exactly. And so it was...because I set it up this way, I was the guy, and I was going to come in and do more of the consulting and the coaching with them and help them along be proactive instead of be the reactive, but then set it up so that others can help me with all the other pieces. So at least that was the design then. And I really loved that. There's still a part of me. When I saw several people at other conferences and I talked to them about my past and some people are like, "Hey, you should just become an RIA again and get back involved." I'm like, "Oh, a part of me really, really likes that and really enjoys it."
But I think now the direction that I was going is once the recession really hit, it was full swing and people canceling with me, and I was going, "Gee, there went my revenue, there goes my model. It's just, pow! It's done. What do I do?" That's when I went and said, "Okay, I've got to pivot again." Like, "I guess I did this too early." Right? Just time, as we know now, the timing was terrible. But I decided to go and hide out in academia for a while. And I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it really wasn't hiding out. It was, "I've got to figure out to make myself much...better to work with than just somebody who has a bachelor's degree and some experience in financial planning. How can I be a phenomenal business consultant?" And so I went back. And I was going to do my MBA. That was always the direction, and that was the direction. My wife and I, we looked at three different schools. We had some plans. We were going to pull the trigger.
And then as I was sitting down with the school counselor, she kind of looked at me, she's like, "Based on your background, everything that you've told me you want to accomplish, I actually don't think you should do an MBA. I think you should do a master's in psychology." And I kind of looked at her and did a double-take like, "Nah, that's okay." I've done the social psychology thing. I enjoyed it. I really liked people. But she said, "No, based on what you're telling me, I really think you've got to look into this" and kind of pushed me the pamphlets and was like, "You really ought to go down this path. This is going to be much more serving for you, for your clients, for your future."
And after weighing the pros and cons, I realized there's so many people who were getting MBAs, and so many people I knew were graduating with MBAs and still didn't have work. And I'm like, "Well, maybe there's something to this." And I have a strong faith. And so we prayed about it. My wife and I discussed about it and we decided that I would do the psychology degree, which it's not clinical counseling, it's not setting up a therapeutic practice, it was general psych. And anybody who's listening to this who's in the psych world would think, "What are you doing? That's not a terminal degree. That's not going to do anything for you." I knew that. And I knew that it meant that I'd have to do my Ph.D. as well. But I really wanted to understand stress. With my father passing away and with all the business owners I had researched and talked to and interviewed now for seven, eight years, the number one thing that they truly were complaining about is stress. My father ate well. He exercised. So it wasn't that. I'm pretty sure that it was the stress built up in his arteries that led to one of his 4 arteries being 90% clogged and having a massive heart attack on the hill. I know that's what it was. And so I started to really want to dive in. And I decided then I'm leaving financial planning. Thank you very much. I really tried. I've been destroyed. I'm done.
Michael: And it sounds like what knocked you out wasn't necessarily that the model wasn't working and the consulting with business owners wasn't working and the charging fees part wasn't working. It just at the end of the day was, "I'm doing this in an industry that time management is not a problem for a real estate developer when all real estate implodes in the financial crisis."
Dr. Parry: That's it.
Michael: I guess, sadly, in this environment we're going through would sort of be like, there are a lot of people out there right now that need financial planning advice, but if your specialty was consulting with restaurant owners, they're probably just not going to be hiring you right now. They're kind of in conservation mode. There's a level of pain where you need advice and there's a level of pain where you just hunker down and try to hold on to any dollar you possibly can. And once you cross that point, if that was your clientele, this doesn't go well anymore.
Dr. Parry: Exactly. And there were other personal things that were happening a couple years into this, after the business. My wife, her parents divorced. And there was...truly, we never saw that coming. And that just blew us out of the water. And then my wife suffered a huge health setback and we were scrambling. We could not figure out where this was coming from. And because of all this with the financial crisis, with a health crisis, with me suffering, I'm pretty sure a bout of depression for a while and trying to figure it out on my own, right? Being that manly man that doesn't try to get the help, right? But my wife's got health issues, but we'll find every doctor to look at her. But I'm going to tough through this. I'm going to tough through my dad passing away and my business imploding, and then our very first home being caught in all this mortgage business that got us upside down.
And it was such a stressful struggle that I think that is where, Michael, that is where brilliant things happen, when you're so stressed, when you're so like...no, I'm not talking about stress beyond belief that you're dead. I'm talking like you just have everything going against you. You're like, "Well, what the heck? What else could go wrong?" And you don't ever ask that, but what else could go wrong? Why not do something totally different? And I think this thought of understanding mental health psychology and dive deep into something that would allow me to explore why I love helping people with all of their goals in every aspect of their life was so refreshing. And it was like, "Okay, I tried. Not that I couldn't keep up, not that I couldn't keep going, but this is a great opportunity. It's an opportunity to say, 'Okay, I'm going to do something different. And when I come out of this cocoon, I'm going to have something that is so different and unique to offer the world. I'm the only one that is truly offering this.'"
And at the end of my psychology degree, my last paper, and here I am working from home, still working some of the business, starting to change into more of a life coach, my very last paper set the tone for what I would actually be doing. And that is, you're familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory, right?
How The Importance Of Family Helped Travis Decide To Pursue A PhD In Family Science To Help ‘Couplepreneurs’ [00:42:07]
Dr. Parry: The needs at the bottom, the relational staff. And at the very top, this thing that he called self-actualization. Well, not trying to get too deep into psychology, but most of us who've ever had anything to do with human development psychology, we know Maslow and it'll sound familiar. It was interesting because as I was reading this and trying to come up with this final paper for this degree, I came up with a...found an article online. It was a scholarly journal, peer-reviewed article, that actually said "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory is Outdated." I thought, "Okay. Yeah, it's from the 1950s."
As I read through, these are evolutionary psychologists, school psychologists, these are not family people, Michael, but the people who did the research on it went out, did surveys, contacted the right...did the research, good research and found that self-actualization really does not exist the way that Maslow put it on his pyramid. And they came up with a new pyramid. And they say, at the very top of the pyramid, instead of this individualistic idea of what it is our life journey or goal is, the very top of it was actually parenting, being a parent. The number one thing that every American at least, average American wants to become is a parent and propagate species. The second thing was mate retention. So actually, having and keeping a mate, a spouse, partner, whatever you want to call him or her, that person to be with you throughout your life. And then everything below that was pretty similar to Maslow's original idea of you need to have your needs met and everything else.
But that really struck me. And that had me thinking, "Wow, in all of this deep diving I've been doing in psychology and trying to find and understand stress and everything else, it really all stems from the family." And that's when I made further decision to say, "Well, I am doing the Ph.D. and I'm going to do a Ph.D. in family science, family relations, and human development." And so we packed up and we moved to do my graduate studies at Utah State where I took these ideas of family systems and couples that work together and how you get through crisis together and struggles with finances and everything my wife and I had been through, and we kind of put it together in this model and I was able to test it on real-life human beings through my Ph.D. experience, my graduate experience here at Utah State.
Michael: And so was this still in a vision of tracking back to financial planning and advising and this world that you had been in or at the time, at least, were you past all that and just off in your academia world and later would come back and try to figure out, "What am I going to do with all this stuff that I just learned?"
Dr. Parry: Good question. Anybody that's done a Ph.D. will know most brick-and-mortar universities, and my master's was the University of Phoenix, I was doing this at home online, but the brick-and-mortar institutions really want you to have somebody you connect with who can be your mentor, who can get you through the process. Because you can go and take all the courses but if you don't get that dissertation done, it doesn't matter. And some of them give you seven years to do it. And I thought, "That's crazy. Who would do that for seven years?"
So when I was looking around for where to go, I actually kept this still very much in mind about the financial stresses and everything that has to do with it that's related to couples and financial stress. And I found Jeff Dew. Jeff Dew was at Utah State at the time. And I went up there for interviews. I interviewed him, Brian Higginbotham, a couple of others who were then active participators there and researchers at Utah State. And Jeff Dew, you're probably familiar with him, you've probably seen some of his research, but he's done so much research on couples and financial stress and during the recession and everything that I thought, "That's the guy. That's the guy that's going to help me." Because we're going to talk about goals, but we're going to talk about how goals are related to financial everything, right? Because that was my beginning. But we're going to talk about it in a family structure, in a family way. And as I interviewed him, I was like, "Yep, he's the guy I need to be working with." And so I'm so grateful for Jeff because he really did. He helped me graduate. So I wasn't there for seven-plus years.
Michael: Got through. Check.
Dr. Parry: Check. Exactly. But he's a phenomenal researcher. And he has done some extensive work with couples and money and arguments and everything that goes along with it. I learned a ton from him.
And what I was able to do from that experience was take my coaching model of couples that are working together, instead of this individualistic, what everybody is calling life coaching right now, it's kind of this old hat now. And unfortunately, I think it's because it's so individualistic. It's so 1950s Maslow. We need to go forward and realize no, what really needs to happen in order for anyone to change, change behavior to get to goals, it happens in a family structure. Whatever that family unit looks like, it still happens in that kind of a model and a structure. And I was able to test it there in academia and now come out from this long cocoon that we've been talking about over the last 45 minutes and be able to say, "Okay, here's the research on it. This is what actually works with couples. Now let's go back and talk work-life balance and input the spouse into this picture." Because most consultants, let's be honest, they come out to a company, they run their analysis, and then you're working with the consultant or the coach, and honestly, for sometimes years. And it's because people need that accountability. Business owners need that accountability. They need someone to hold their hand.
So I came up with this model that if I could coach the couple, then I can teach the spouse the same coaching techniques that I'm using. I can empower them, the partner, the spouse, to then keep each other accountable. It's not couples coaching. It's not just, "Here's some communication skills and have a better relationship." No, this is much higher level. It's, honestly, teaching each other the techniques and skills that I've learned through my psychology and through my family relations degrees, and then testing this out with real-life humans. Does that kind of solidify it a little bit better?
Michael: And so this is sort of I guess building towards a business coaching model but a business coaching model that says, "If you're a business owner, I can't just coach you about the business. I need to coach the family unit." So this is going to be...is this like a couples coaching for business? Business coaching for couples? Business coaching for the founder's family unit I guess is essentially what it sort of boils down to? And just those intersections of, I guess...it sounds like not necessarily couples therapy per se, but couples coaching as the family unit pertains to the business unit because you can't separate these things out when you run your own business.
Dr. Parry: You nailed it. Yeah. I refer to them as couplepreneurs, married business owners, whether the spouse or partner is involved 100% of the business or part-time or just they're a silent partner because the other...the spouse is running the business with maybe other business partners. The reality is we tend to separate our lives too much. And we tend to come up with this, well, this is me at work and this is me at home and this is me in the community. And we have these different avatars that we run around with. But if we can be true to ourselves and authentic to who we are all the time, yeah, we might have different responsibilities in different areas of life, but we're so connected.
And if I'm dealing with workaholics, let's just talk about this for a moment. Let's take it from a different angle, Michael. Let's take it from more of an addiction model. If you're going to help somebody to quit smoking, somebody to quit drinking alcohol and they've been doing this for decades or whatnot, most research I've ever seen is nobody does this cold turkey on their own. It just doesn't happen. They go to support groups, they go to AA, they have a buddy, they've got someone that looks in on them. They have family and friends or they maybe need to get rid of some of their influences that are smoking around them or having them invite them out to the bars. So I've found that if you can involve the spouse, not only will it create boundaries because that's what business owners need, boundaries, and they don't have them, to begin with, financial advisors, we struggle with this. But now that we're all working from home, what are...
Michael: Yeah, boundaries.
Dr. Parry: It's worse than ever, unless you figure some of these things out, unless you figure out how to create these boundaries at home. Or when you do go out and work from your office, executive office, wherever that's at, you need to create those boundaries. What better person to help you than the one that's committed the most to you at home, your spouse or partner or family members who can be there to help you truly with workaholism. Now, the problem is most Americans don't want to admit that they're workaholics because, again, it's a badge of honor. I'm a business owner. This is what I do. This is my cause and sole purpose in life. However, most people when I really dig deep, they know that's not true. They know that the reason that they're out there providing for their family is just an aspect of their entire life.
Michael: Well, I love this framing of couplepreneurs, and even and including the reflection that the spouse doesn't have to work in the business to be a party to the couplepreneur dynamic. It resonates for me. I live in a world where we have three young children, now three young children home full-time as they're not going back to school for five months, which just blows my mind. But I'm immersed in a working world of all the different businesses that I'm involved with. And that's feasible in part because my wife is home full-time with the kids and supporting the family. And that was by design. She wanted to do that and we were able to make it work.
And that has sort of evolved as...I have to recognize, as part of the family structure that makes the business feasible because the amount of work that I do and focus that I have to give to the businesses just to make the businesses work as they do, I couldn't do if she wasn't doing what she does to support the family as well. It is a sort of conscious division of labor because otherwise just it wouldn't work. It wouldn't be feasible. If we decided to rearrange the duties at home, I would have to change the scope of the business as well. Speaking to your point, you can't separate the two. Even to the extent that I travel very extensively for speaking in our conference world as well, which I can do in part because we have both sets of grandparents and sibling-in-laws all in town within a mile or a few of the house as well. So there's extended family support. That just I'm struck by the framework of what you're talking about. It certainly rings true for my experience of what it's taken to actually build businesses that it is inseparable from the family dynamics that have to balance in to support that.
Dr. Parry: Yeah. Yeah, with managing as many businesses and productions that you have, you see that firsthand. And I think there...we can look at this from a 5,000-foot view. Look at society in general, as I studied my sociology degree, looking at society and how we've changed so much. Granted, there's good change. I'm not trying to be political here at all. But there is so much that has changed to our modern society before all this COVID-19 business happened. That so many people that I've talked to in these last couple of weeks as I've been doing a lot of interviews for the book that I'm writing, and so many people have been telling me, the business owners, of, "Hey, you know what, I was really struggling at first, but we really loved having me home and having the kids home all the time. It's been rough. It's been difficult. We've had to set some new boundaries," like what I was just talking about, "But I can't believe how busy we were and how super structured and how we were never together and how we weren't having family dinners." And I'm sure you're hearing this from a lot of other people, too.
But it's just ironic to me that through all this, and this is horrible, I'm not downplaying this at all. This pandemic is beyond apocalyptic, but it is something that I think, at least some of the silver linings that are coming from this, is a pendulum swing back from, let's get both parents out into the workforce and our children are going to be at their school and daycares and everything throughout the day and we never see each other, to, hey, what's really important? What's really important is our family structure, back to the number one motivator of that revised Maslow's hierarchy of needs, parenting, and being with your spouse. Those are the two. In all of my years of interviewing business owners, that's the thing that they will always put one or two as their priority list is their own health and then their family relationships.
Michael: Well, and it's so true. Just the, I was going to say double-edged sword but that sounds harshly violent. It's a sword. But there's all the challenges of work from home and kind of forced work from home and clashing together. I need to work from home and my spouse needs to work from home. And my kids are home because school is not happening. I'm somehow supposed to get stuff done, right? And all the bundle of stress that a lot of us are carrying for that. And the flip side that I certainly recognize and feeling within our family of just, we finally are not constantly shuttling from one activity to another because they're all shut down. We can't take the kids anywhere. So we have no choice but to all be home, spending a lot more family time together. We're not out at a zillion activities in the weekends. The kids are not out at a bunch of weekday activities because all that is shut down right now. And I can even see it with our kids, they're just literally playing more together. And I think actually playing better together, although more times together still means more clashes because they are young children. But by and large, they're actually playing better together. I feel like I'm actually seeing them bond as siblings more.
Dr. Parry: That's cool.
Michael: Because of all that time that comes when we get forced home to spend the time together because we can't go do all the other scheduled things that we've been doing for so long.
Dr. Parry: And this totally proves my Make Time method. The whole Make Time method is really, you know what, we can do time management and we can be productive. But just like a client of mine who was a mortgage officer, he was working 80 hours a week. And I taught him how to be more productive, but he's like, "Travis, this is great, but I'm really tempted. Even though I have family, I want to be home with them, I'm tempted to keep working now that you taught me how to be more productive those 80 hours." And it comes down to, now that we're able to make time for those things first, the most important people in our life, we're all realizing how much we have put in it that's non-essential. And I know that after all this goes away that people might forget, but I think we won't forget what we felt when our family was this close. And time really is that number one component. For any relationship, if you like each other, the more time you spend together, the better your relationship is. That only works when, like when you're talking about your kids, when there's conflict is if they get at each other's throat, right? So the time together isn't necessarily good. But it can be. It can be because then you've got to learn how to work together, get along, play games together.
Now, we homeschool our kids, and that's been by design. After we made all of our huge changes and I went back to graduate school, one of the main things that my wife decided and we decided together is to homeschool. And so we were sort of prepared for all this. But even then, we were still taking our kids to extra stuff that we can't do because they wouldn't have that opportunity at school. And there was still sports stuff in the evening. So it was designed that we'd spend more time together. But now we really have 24/7 together. It's a very different experiment for sure.
Michael: So you go through this studying master's in psychology, Ph.D. in family science with sort of this model around couplepreneurs and the intersection of the business and the family unit where the business owner is the shared gear that impacts both and that you can't really turn one without impacting the other. So you get your Ph.D. in this, in this kind of new model of how to look at business owners who are, I guess specifically who are married. Obviously, some are single or don't have kids. I'll come back to ask you more about what that model looks like if we're not married or with kids. But just this kind of emerging model around businesses with couplepreneurs and family dynamics. Like, congratulations, you have your Ph.D. now. So what comes next in this journey, right? The beautiful thing about hiding in academia is at some point it's like...
Dr. Parry: Time to get out.
Michael: ...oh, they graduated me. I have to do something now. It's like the baby bird getting kicked out of the nest again.
Dr. Parry: Yeah. And I will tell you, while I was "hiding," I was very much working with clients all the way through. And I was taking what I was doing in business and applying it to my studies. I was coming back to school. So I was the older kid in the class. I wasn't the oldest, but I wasn't the kid straight out of a bachelor's degree with no life experience and still just looking at everything ethereal, right? I had some real-life work experience that I was working on. And I made that very clear to my professors coming straight in, like, "This is what I want to test. This is my model. This is what I created." And I honed it. It definitely helped me to hone it. And I was able to use more of their training to get the Make Time method to really get honed in on for couplepreneurs. And part of that was because I was able to coach people through this process while I was doing my dissertation, while I was working and doing school study.
Michael: So I didn't realize this. So you're...the business actually continued on the side? The original RIA that you'd made in the fall of 2007 before the world almost ended?
Dr. Parry: Right. Yeah.
Michael: That entity and business was actually still out there and still running in parallel?
Dr. Parry: Yeah. So it was...it became vital principles, which was my life coaching business. And then it's kind of morphed into what it is now. It's changed names a couple of times and now it's the Make Time Institute. And along that path, that entity has still existed. Whether I had one client or a half a dozen, it depended on my workload at school and who I could take on. But it really gave me this ability to not be completely detached from the world and still help people. So I added the...from the financial stuff, I added the life coaching kind of component, the individual health stuff. And then from the family dynamics, I added relational components. And then with my certification in time management, I added all of these together to create a much...essentially, a much better model than I had if I had just stayed doing one or the other.
Michael: And I'm presuming just the business family economics dynamics makes it a little easier to go back to school when the business is still running in parallel, generating at least some revenue to help cover the cost of schooling and such?
Dr. Parry: Oh, precisely. They give you a little bit of a stipend. And essentially, all my tuition is paid for in graduate school. Still, we had four children, four children when we went off to graduate school. And here I am, I was what, how old was I? I was 32. And so here's this 32-year-old guy married with 4 kids going back to school, right? And it's much more that I can handle this with having a job on the outside. I still was teaching on campus. I was doing a lot. But I've always found if I'm doing too little, it doesn't force me to really be good. I know when I'm doing too much, it's just overload. But if I'm not doing enough, it doesn't force me to really be careful of my time and to really plan things out really well.
So that was exactly...I wanted my kids, when we moved to Logan, Utah, to not even realize Daddy was going to school. I wanted them to like, "Hey, Daddy is working. School is just part of what he's doing. It's a part of the tool." And I explained that to them as we were going, like, "This has a plan. This is all part of the brain here, all the brainchild, the project that's happening." And my wife is super supportive. There's no way in the world I would have been able to do this, obviously physically without her, but emotionally and supportive. It got to the very end of the Ph.D., and most people that have been through this, you get to those comprehensive exams, and I probably had nothing more stressful in my life than those comprehensive exams. And literally, she was a lifesaver because we would go running together. And we would talk and I would be able to talk out all of these concepts to her. She helped me study for those exams and get through the dissertation phase.
So truly what I'm teaching people is not just something abstract, it happened to me. And my wife and I are beneficiaries of being so tight and so closely aligned with our values and goals that we can coach each other. We're that open. That book on either side is so open that we can help stretch each other. Nothing is out of bounds. Nothing is off-limits. And we've created this, essentially, she's helped me create it. She's a genius. She deserves as much of the Ph.D. than I do. When I'm telling her stuff and she already knows, like, "I knew that." She's a mom, and she's experienced this firsthand in the trenches. And so I often refer to her as Dr. Parry. And so it's kind of fun that way.
Michael: Yeah, I find the same dynamic. My wife doesn't get seen in what we do for the Kitces platform, the various businesses. It wouldn't be here without her. All the stuff I do wouldn't be here without her and what she does to make it all work. She just doesn't happen to be the visible one. And I didn't get a Ph.D. So I can't call her Dr. Kitces. But maybe we'll work on that at some point.
Dr. Parry: You'll get an honorary someday, right?
Michael: We'll share in the honorary.
Dr. Parry: There you go, man. There you go. Just have her up on stage with you.
Dr. Parry: And I think this is what...truly going through this with her, I've benefited, right, she's benefited. We've helped each other. But we've kind of come out of this cocoon together and our family together. We've changed our diet completely. We changed how we school our kids. We've changed our lifestyle. And not that that's the goal for everyone that I coach, but if they want to, it's here, the pieces are here. We look at work-life balance, that's really the tip of the iceberg, Michael. That's the tip of the iceberg. And as you dive deeper into that model, that iceberg model, this is really where I find most of the problems. When people are overworking, they're oftentimes hiding. They're hiding from stuff at home. They are hiding from the world a lot of times because they find so much enjoyment just working. And it sometimes can be so bad that they're working 90, 100-hour weeks, like some attorneys I know. And what do they have outside of that? What happens to those relationships that are back at home? Some people can make it happen, some can, but it takes a terrible toll on the family to be able to not ratchet that down.
So that is the thing that I tackle. That is why I came up with the Make Time method. And essentially what that involves is figuring out, "How can you be more productive at work but not stay there 80 hours? How can you create those boundaries?" So be productive but create the boundaries. And then having that spousal support so that you keep in those boundaries allows you to let go of workaholism and experience life outside of work. As cool as that is, this is where you know your heart truly is.
The Three Myths Of Time Management And The Importance Of Prioritizing Your Time To Align With Your Goals [01:09:05]
Michael: So talk to us about just the method, the model that you've created, that's emerged from this. You'd called it earlier the Make Time method for couplepreneurs. So talk to us about just what you, I guess coach or consult or advise. How does this work now?
Dr. Parry: So now that it's evolved to where it's at, now you've kind of seen all the gory details behind the scenes, right? Stepping out on stage and how I present this is essentially, there's three myths. There's the myth of balance, the myth of productivity, and the myth of personal development. And we contrast these with three truths. The myth of balance is trying to do everything at once all times and trying to be equal in every area. There's just no way possible. There's no such thing. And so we kind of kick that traditional view of work-life balance and teach people in the very first step as they come into the program what their priorities, values, and goals really are. Once they have their values and goals identified in all 10 areas of life that I've identified and they prioritize that, it gives them a clear vision. It's clarity. And a lot of times just doing that, those few steps, that very first foundation of prioritizing their life allows them to fix a lot of the things that are off in their work-life balance.
Michael: So can you give me an example? What does this look like in practice or a misalignment?
Dr. Parry: Yeah. So I had a financial advisor who'd been in the business for 30 years. And his name was Michael. Loved the guy. He was one of my first clients when I got this model identified and started to use it. And he actually loved his job, loved his career. He was trying to get a five-year out, "Hey, I'm going to retire in five years. I'm going to find a junior partner to take this over." He just never really could make that happen. And I asked him about how much time he's working. And he wasn't crazy in the 80, 90 hours a week working, he was more like 55, 60. But I was always told that at the very beginning you work crazy hours and then after five years things slow down. And that's what he's been told, but it's 30 years now, 30 years in the business. And he's like, "Travis, if you could help me figure this out." And so we did after we were able to dive really deep with values and understand what his statements are, what his true values in life are and get that clarity on paper. And then we helped him prioritize what those goals that he created from those values. I'm a very big believer in values-based goals, right? The whole Bill Bachrach model.
But once we were able to prioritize that, he said that alone allowed him to say, "That's it. I'm done working today. I'm going home. There are things that I should be doing that I haven't been doing that have essentially been causing stress for decades." That just the light bulb came on. And we could have been done with the training at that point and he would have been a different man. Because he started saying people at his office, at his firm are like, "Dude, you're so happy. You get here earlier, you're leaving earlier. You're more..." Not that he was grumpy, but he was nicer to be around. He was happier at work. And his wife was happier because he was home more, and they were able to do other things. And his adult children were getting more time with him. And he started to see this shift, started to see that change. And that's been a phenomenal case.
Michael: And because in essence, it's, once he sat down and said, "What are your priorities?" And it sounds like something around family or home life was a fairly high priority. And then he sat down and said like, "Okay, I just said it was a high priority. And then I look at where I spend my time and my time is not a reflection of that. So that probably needs to change."
Dr. Parry: That's it. It was exactly what happened. And I just call the internal motivators. We can go to Tony Robbins or whoever and we can get that external motivator, and we can turn that on every day, right? We can listen to the "Rocky" theme song and come driving into work.
Michael: I love that. That song gets me fired just the moment you hear that first drumbeat. That does get me fired up.
Dr. Parry: It does, man, but how long does it last?
Michael: Till the song ends.
Dr. Parry: Till it's over, right?
Michael: Till the song ends. Like maybe two minutes afterwards and my heartbeat's still elevated then I will move on to something else. Yeah.
Dr. Parry: Yeah, we run up the steps, scream "Adrian" and then we've got to open the door. But the reality is those internal motivators never go away. Once you've identified them, once you have it clarified and you've got that prioritized, then time management is easy, easy. The next stage is really tackling this myth of productivity. And I give a talk called the Myth of Productivity, and we just talk specifically about how if we're not careful, and it's back to that previous case, my mortgage friend who he was doing phenomenal, he was killing it, but once we taught him how to be productive, it was, well, without boundaries, he's going to be workaholic. He's just going to be a better, more productive workaholic.
And there's a lot of great, great, great, great people out there teaching, like Getting Things Done, David Allen, Myth of Multitasking guy, Dave Crenshaw. There's a ton of people, "The 4-Hour Workweek" even kind of hits on this. But until we can create those boundaries, it doesn't work. So how do we create the boundaries? Well, we do the exact same thing with the business. We look at where your most important tasks, assignments, the things that you do on a daily basis. And I help, actually, and I do this in a strategy call with everybody I work with at very first is I help them go through. And with this same mode, now they are clued in on what's really important in their life, we look at their career and say, "Okay, should you really be doing policy paperwork? Should you be cleaning your office?" Right? If you're worth $200, $300 per hour, why are you doing some of these little things? Why are you doing that?
And I try to help them come up with the top three or five tasks, assignments, things that they do from their work as a business owner, as a financial planner, and create systems or delegate or get rid of altogether everything else. And it's a process. It does not happen overnight. But when they do that, then they're free to be that person who just wants to sit in front of clients, who just wants to do the marketing, who just wants to do speaking or just wants to write books. Whatever it is that they're wanting to truly do, when they get to that sweet spot, that's how you then get to the next level and the next level and the next level. And then you have business systems that you put in place so that you can scale that growth. You know this, Michael, you've done this. This is true principles.
Michael: Yeah. That sort of framing shift of productivity isn't about how do you literally get more stuff done in the same amount of time, like be productive in the sort of truest sense, that it drives much more off of what are the things that you do, you uniquely do, you uniquely should be doing in your business that create the most impact, that add the most value to it? And prioritizing those and pushing everything else aside because it's, in the truest sense, not a priority. And when you spend all your time doing the things that are the highest priority, you end out moving the business forward a whole lot faster, and then figure out what to do with the rest, right? There's sort of the, I think it's Getting Things Done, you can stop doing it or delegate it or resolve it quickly. I forget what the whole framework is, but right? Just how do you quickly dismiss all the things that aren't priorities and spend as much time as possible on the things that are priorities? Because that's...prioritizing is what moves the needle, not productivity itself.
Dr. Parry: Exactly. Exactly. And the thing is, to recount, is that we do this in the framework of career fits where? Where is it on your priority list? Where is it in what you're doing? And if we can then shave down the hours that truly involve time-wasting, social media, TV, whatever, just doing things that you shouldn't be doing, period, if we can cut that down, I've found on average business owners are wasting 15% to 20%, 15% to 20% of their daily time. And some, obviously that's the average, but some are worse, some are better. They're really honed in on what they should be doing.
Michael: Basically, 15% to 20% of the time is going to non-essential tasks that they don't really need to be doing?
Dr. Parry: Yeah. Or they're multitasking their ways. Even if they're working on their essential tasks, they're not present. Like for me to do this podcast, I have to shut down every window. I turn off my phone. I do everything so I can be present. If I'm not, then my brain, it naturally like, what's going on with the news? We talk about COVID-19, I'm like, "Oh, I wonder how many in my county have it right now." Our brains are constantly working at such a higher level than we're able to even converse. So it's a natural phenomenon to take us out of the moment. But once we do, we're less productive, and the quality of our work goes way down.
So if we can hone in and be productive in those highest priority tasks at work, we're not only more productive, we're more fulfilled. And we can leave work feeling like, "Yeah, today was awesome. I did this and this." And even if it's just one or two things. If that's all you did, who cares? Who cares if you didn't get a laundry list of 300 things done that weren't high on your list? You can delegate those. Get somebody else to take care of them. That's what it truly means to be a business owner. And I know that financial advisors, especially those who are kind of in the newbie realm of getting started, you are doing everything at first, right? Unless you come in with money to be able to start on partners. And that's why I think partnership is great. And actually, when I did interview Alan for my podcast, Michael, he totally plugged you. We were talking about this and his big thing was, "Without Michael, it wouldn't have happened. We were a good fit, and we work well together." And his scope of business and your connection, Michael, just he really, really plugged you because you guys work well together.
Michael: Yeah. Well, we joke about it all the way back to our original and I think technically still our official job titles at XY Planning Network. Like, he's the director of speeding things up and I'm the director of slowing things down.
Dr. Parry: I love it.
Michael: And that's truly part of our balance. One of his great gifts in StrengthsFinder, he's an activator. Activators are people that just, they just go out there and get things started, right? There's a huge challenge in entrepreneurship that one of the biggest blocking points for entrepreneurs is just they never actually quite take the first step and the first leap, and then none of the good stuff and the compounding comes afterwards because of that hesitation. We have to take the leap and make the first step. Alan is super good at taking first steps. His challenge, though, is he sees so many ideas and opportunities, he'll take a zillion steps. So at some point, someone has to make sure he stays pointed at the biggest, highest purpose step. And so yeah, there's sort of this phenomenon like, he's fantastic at getting things off the ground and going, I end out being a filter that helps prioritize what's most strategically important for the business, right, the slowing down filtering function. And that's actually become part of our balancing dynamic that's worked incredibly well for the business.
Dr. Parry: Yeah. And that's great. And I applaud you guys for doing that. That you recognize that and it's worked and you're successful at it. We were talking originally about couples, but in the business, you have business partnerships, and you need boundaries there. You need work-life balance boundaries as you would with your spouse outside of work because you guys help each other. But also, you can keep each other accountable. I think that's what you're kind of talking about. You're able to play off each other and really work well together.
So back to this idea then, once you're able to really be working in those hours, we create what I call a Business Ideal Calendar. And in that Business Ideal Calendar, you then plug in where work goes in your 168 hours you've got in a week. And that's the equalizer. We all have 168. It's equal across the board. And in that 168 then you decide, "What does an ideal week look like?" And that ideal week hopefully will have time blocked in certain areas so that you're not switching back and forth. Time blocks work great for two or three hours at a time. I highly, highly recommend it for advisors, like, choose half a day to be doing marketing and then half a day to be doing service, half a day to be doing...working on a book or whatever it is, split up your day into half-day segments so that you can have enough time to get started, get really into what you're doing, and have enough time to kind of wind down and then take a break and then get into the next part of your day. It works really well.
Michael: So myth number one is this work-life balance idea. There's no such thing really as balance. Instead, it's around figuring out what your priorities, values, and goals are and then making sure your time actually aligns to that. The second myth is around productivity. You can't really actually cram any more stuff into your day. We all have the same 168 hours in a week. It's really more an exercise of prioritizing, and are you prioritizing the things that actually really truly are most impactful and drive the business?
Dr. Parry: Yes.
Michael: And then what's the third?
Dr. Parry: The third was what we talked about earlier with how couples and families really change and develop. And that is this myth of personal development. Now, I'm going to offend a lot of people because whenever I bring this up it's like, "Well, wait a minute." I was...
Michael: Yeah, we're kind of a personal development platform at kitces.com. So let's see how this goes.
Dr. Parry: Yeah, here we go. Here we go. This is...it's my secret sauce, but it's also...it also goes against all these other norms. And it comes back to Maslow's idea. Again, Maslow thought we can self-actualize, but it's all about the self. It's all about the individual. But the reality is I was helping so many people alone. And when I was helping them and coaching them alone, it would work really well when they were being coached by me. And when we were done with that coaching process, I'd follow up, and they'd end up a lot of times back into the same ruts, the same bad habits. The same things that they had already known that they shouldn't be doing, they're back at doing those same things.
And so as I was scratching my head and then doing my Ph.D. at the same time trying to figure this out, that's when I realized it's because my wife and I went through all these crazy things together. We developed systems together. We developed how we can work together and how to keep each other accountable. So I wrote an e-book called "Couple Development." And it's essentially this idea that couples develop as well. Yes, you develop personally, but truly, the only way that one, not you, Michael, but one truly can change for a long period of time is because other people are allowing you to change or helping you to change. And so if we look at the unit as a family, if that's two-parent household and children, great, if that's one-parent household and adult children, it doesn't matter. Everybody has some type of family. And in that family structure, we have rules and boundaries and goals as a family. Some are written, some are not. Some are just kind of these ideas, unspoken rules that the family has, like don't wear your shoes inside, right? And don't talk with your mouth full, all these different things. And so when someone steps outside of those rules, outside of those family boundaries that the family has set, then a lot of times family members try to pull them back in. And they don't really truly allow that individual to develop.
So every theory that I explored in my Ph.D., and my Ph.D. was family relations and human development. So it's not like I said goodbye to psychology. I just looked at how people are changing over time or developing. And yes, we do develop personally. But if we're going to change from being a workaholic into someone that's truly balanced, truly balanced, then we have to include our family. We have to develop as a couple. And it's not just nice to become a coach for your spouse, but it's almost an element of survival. And I think this is where a lot of theories, and I'm kind of going deep on this, Michael, so stop me from getting too esoteric, but the idea for the theories, of family systems theory is that one truly does not adapt or change without the entire family adapting or changing.
And one example is when we changed our health because my wife, we couldn't find a solution to her health challenges and struggles and why we were struggling with everything else. I took her to a chiropractor, took her to specialists. I took her to everybody that we could think of and nobody could figure out what was going on. And then finally, a friend who had also been through some autoimmune challenges, and this was an autoimmune thing, we kind of got narrowed down to was like, "Have you changed your diet?" It's like, "Yeah, yeah, we don't eat fats. We don't eat red meat." She's like, "No, did you totally change your diet?" I'm just like, "No." And she explained to us this crazy way. When I first heard about it, I was like, "No, there's no way in the world I'm going to do this." But essentially, it was resetting our entire bodies by going raw and eating only raw foods, not eating anything cooked, anything processed out of a jar, out of a box, out of a can, from a package. Everything had to be from the ground.
And when my wife told me this, she knows, I was like, "No, this is not going to happen." But I was a supportive husband. And I was like, "Yeah, honey, I will support you. You go. You go, girl." But she had like half of the fridge with her food and then half of fridge with my food, and she was making meals for me and for the rest of the family and her and I was like, "Ugh." If I was a truly supportive husband, I would say, "Honey, I'm on board. Let's do this together." Right? It took me three weeks, Michael. It took me three weeks.
Michael: Well, old habits do do die hard, understood.
Dr. Parry: I was a stubborn male who enjoyed cooked food and meat and other things. And I thought, "That's crazy." But as we studied it and as we looked at it, we started to see her change. She got off medication that she was on. She had started to lose weight and feel better. And essentially, the rheumatoid arthritis symptoms that she had were starting to disappear. And that's when I was like, "Okay, fine. This is too hard for you to do on your own. For me to be a stubborn guy that make two meals for us. I'm in." And once I jumped in, obviously, it helped our relationship a whole bunch. My wife was so patient. She would have done this without me anyway. But man, did that change our dynamic, and did that help and change our entire family? It totally did. We did that for three months and it totally reset her system. And now we're plant-based. People might call us vegan, but we're not vegan. We're plant-based. We don't have all the other stereotypes that come with it. But we do enjoy this type of lifestyle. We've done it for 10-plus years. Our kids don't know the difference. They've had to change with us. And can they go out and sneak food where they're at friends' houses or church function? Yeah, of course, they can, of course. And will they? Yeah, they're children. Will they always stay with this diet the rest of their life? I have no idea.
But the point is that in a family, when we make a change, everybody truly has to be on board or else we're going to be constantly pulling each other to where we think we should be. So when we align and we have same values and goals, everything makes sense. And that's what I did my dissertation piece on. I looked at couples who had similar values and we...actually, Jeff Dew and I, Dr. Dew and I, we looked at how similar their values were when their values were significantly similar than dissimilar. So we kind of had the same values, shared values, and ones who didn't have shared values. There was a difference. We found the ones with shared values actually had individual psychological better health, mental health. They had a better relationship as a married couple. And we found that this was related to when couples set and keep shared financial goals, then that leads to better financial stability.
Michael: So this framework becomes, so our three myths. It's not about balance. It's about values and goals and whether you're actually prioritizing your time to align to them. It's not about productivity. It's about what actually impacts the business the most. And are you prioritizing those tasks, those activities? And recognizing that you can't do any of the changes in number one and number two until it's not just you ready to change, the family has to be ready to change. The couple has to be ready to change. Whatever change you want to do, that is also reflective of some change that your spouse or the rest of the family has to absorb for you to go that path. They have to be on board as part of the couple development process as well or you're not actually going to change and get there.
Dr. Parry: That's it. Yeah.
Michael: It makes sense to me in the last sentence. I feel like we tend to see this in the big areas. I'm going to work so you go back to school then you work so I can start my firm, right? We see lots of those sorts of couples dynamics. I think, particularly in advisor world, right, it's so brutal to start an advisory business and income is so low for a while. "I'm going to start my advisory firm, we'll live off of your stable salary" is a very common couple strategy for starting an advisory business. But I am struck by just the framing of what you're giving of all the other habits we might try to change around what we do in the business, what we do in our work lives. And if the home life doesn't make the associated or aligning adjustment on the other end, it doesn't work. And if you want the home life and the family life to make the aligning adjustment, kind of need your spouse on board.
Dr. Parry: That's it. That's it.
Michael: So now we're back in couples development and not necessarily personal development.
Dr. Parry: Exactly. And as a couple, you can help each other individually develop. That continues. So yeah, it's kind of like personal development will always be there. It's kind of like those Russian dolls where they have three or four kind of stuffed inside. Personal development is down in there, but then it's the couple, then it's the family, then it's society. And as we go further and further out and all of these different effects and really trying to help the individual to reach its goal, and the best place, the thing that ties us all together is the family. The family ties society to the individual. It ties church to a couple. It is the unit.
Michael: And so it's like, what happens if I'm listening to this and I'm single? Then I just get to be my big bad self and change myself when I'm ready to change because I'm not attached to a family unit where I've got to bring them along with me on this? Do we just sort of revolve back to a, if you're on your own, look, individual life coaching works fine, but if you are a couple, if you are in a family unit, you don't get to change you, you've got to change in a couples development context or recognize it won't work?
Dr. Parry: Yeah, absolutely. Because you still...well, one thing, you still have a family unit. Most people still came from someplace, right? They still had a family they came from. Whether that family is intact or not is a whole different story. Family dynamics is messy. And financial planners, we don't want to know about that. We get enough mess. It's the stock market, right? We get enough to worry about. But that dynamic is really important because that helps us set the stage. And as an advisor, if you're starting a firm and you're single, it doesn't mean that you're going to be that forever. Most people do get married. Most people who are divorced end up remarrying again. And that's just the statistics. And that's because that is the number two and three most motivating factor in life is having a mate and keeping that mate. And then being a parent. So that's part of that.
So you're exactly right. If you're single, a life coaching model would work for you for a period of time. A lot of people that come in who come into this model and they like the model, they still want to stay, I just have them find a friend, a good close family member who they feel comfortable keeping them accountable for the time being. Because I know it's not going to stay like that forever. It just won't. And when they're ready, they can incorporate the spouse into furthering their development because it's part of the couple development, the family development. So really good question.
No one is singled out here at all. And I think a lot of times when people say well, a family, the first thing they think of is well, what is a family? Social science doesn't even define family. I have a Ph.D. in something that nobody has a definition of. Unreal. But it's because of, and I'm trying to keep politics out of this as much as possible, Michael, but there's so much politics in this, that it's difficult to unravel it. But most people that I talk to, when we say family, they have their definition of what family is. So you take that definition, and if that's your extended family and they can help you then all systems go forward. If that's a friend who's a buddy or a pal or can help you, a mentor, whatever you want to call them, do it. Use them. Ask them to help you.
Michael: And so then what is your business at this point? Because it sounded like you did this in the general context of small business owners for a long time. I know now you're doing more work back to the advisor community. So what is your business at this point in applying this model and doing this work?
How Travis Coaches His Clients To Cultivate Balance In Their Lives [01:37:25]
Dr. Parry: Yeah. So my business truly is helping business owners and executives even to get a hold of their true balance in life so they can be productive at work, but then also help the culture in their businesses that they're working in. Yes, I did come from the small business mode. And That doesn't mean I always work with small business, but I do the consulting for bigger businesses and for family-owned businesses. I work with a lot of family-owned businesses who see that their culture really is because of their family. And they're all working with each other. So I do a lot of consulting around that and actually will be presenting on that topic at XY Planning Live. And so I will be talking more about that topic, so I won't spoil it. But there's a big issue there with generations continuing as we've talked about.
Dr. Parry: So we do the coaching here at Make Time Institute, and we do the consulting at a very personal level as well as the high level. And a lot of my speaking, what I used to do before all this happened.
Michael: Yes, speaking back in the era when we had conferences, understood.
Dr. Parry: When we used to do conferences, that's going to evolve. But that was really just a way to find folks. And this is my speaking. I've been on three podcasts this week. I'm just out there killing it on the podcast because this is what we do now. This is our virtual platform, our virtual stage. And it allows me to get these ideas out. But normally what I'll do is I will do a discovery call with someone who knows that hey, they really need to get a time management system, that that system would help them to be better in all areas of their life. And we will go through. And I look at kind of where they're at and what things are stopping them from putting this in place.
And then I'll do a strategy session to help them really fine-tune on the business side of things where their priorities need to be. And once I do that, then I can find out usually if they're a really good fit for long-term coaching, which could be 6 to 12 months or more on the business side as they need me and help long-term get their position or their business position to have a liquidity event and turn this business over to the next generation.
Michael: And so that...from sort of the advisor's perspective, that might be a scenario where I bring you in to work with one of my small business owner clients or that could be because I actually bring you in to work with me as a financial advisor who happens to be a small business owner that has a couplepreneur dynamic.
Dr. Parry: That's right. Yeah. And I had a speaking engagement here in a couple of weeks for a broker RIA actually who has a bunch of clients, and I was going to give them that same presentation about their firms, their family-owned businesses. So, yeah, I do that a lot. I consult a lot with financial advisors because I know the world. I've been in there. I've seen it. I stay very much in touch with what's happening in FPA, NAPFA, and everyone else that's out there, and you guys. And by the way, just to plug so that you know, when I bring people in, Michael, and they're not financial advisors, when we get to the personal financial aspects, when we talk about their budget and everything else, then the last step is, "Find an XY Planning advisor." And they go on...
Michael: Well, I appreciate that.
Dr. Parry: And this is where they go. Because so many people ask me, "Okay, now that you've been in the industry for so long, who do you recommend?" And honestly, it's too difficult now to have a thumb on every single person. I've got my guy, but if I don't know anybody, I just point them to the website. I'm like, "Here's your group, go do your research." But just love the work you guys are doing. As I mentioned before, if I was back in it, I'd be one of your first clients, man.
Michael: Sorry, we weren't there to help you out with the...
Dr. Parry: It's all good. It's all good.
Michael: ...2007 crisis.
Dr. Parry: It was probably better. It helped me.
Michael: So as you look forward from here, what comes next for you?
Dr. Parry: So I'm working on a book right now, as I mentioned, it's called "Balanced." At least that's the working title, right? And I just kind of want to take that traditional view of what work-life balance is and hit those three myths we talked about, include some stories and some real-life case studies of people and some great content so people can actually do it from the book. I love the books. There are stories in there and you kind of have to piece it out. But this is sort of a...this is how to really achieve work-life balance in that sense. And that I just announced last week is going to be published. I've found a publisher who's picking us up here and we're working with them.
Michael: Very cool.
Dr. Parry: And really excited. This has essentially been in the works for 10 years. It's one of those things I started to write, stopped, started to write, stopped. And I announced that on my 40th birthday. So I was like, "All right, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this right." And then everything with coronavirus happened. But I've been so busy with that project. I've been busier now with nothing to do than ever before.
Michael: Funny how those gifts of time don't actually produce time.
Dr. Parry: It is such a gift of time right now. And that's exactly right. I think I've been given this gift of time. I'm in a position where I can take it and I can roll with it because of how my business has been scaling. And for your listeners, by the way, Michael, I want to give them the book for free. So I would love to have them on the list. If they go to travisparry.com/podcastgiveaway, that's Travis Parry with an A. And I know you'll throw that link down there. But there's an article that I wrote on work-life balance back in 2009 for FPA. There's a 45-minute training on what we were just talking about, how to prioritize their work tasks and priorities there so they can make more time. And then if they drop us an email address, we'll put them on the booklist to get that for free when that gets published. So I want to give that to your listeners.
Michael: I appreciate that. So for folks that are listening, this is episode 175. So if you go to kitces.com/175, we'll have a link out if you want to get a copy of Travis's book and figure out how to get more balanced. I think that's certainly a timely pain point for all of us these days.
So having been through all the work and research that you've done and lived the advisor side as well, I'm curious, as you think of this specifically in the advisor lens, what do most advisors not understand about what it takes to actually successfully build a business?
Dr. Parry: I think it comes down to the scaling of what they actually do to build, when to scale. Not to scale too soon, but to scale when it's right. And I think there's some great tips here that Alan and I actually even talked about in the podcast recording I did. And that is when you're starting to feel that should I be doing it? It's probably time. It's probably time to hire that person. It's probably time to give your plan preparation to a paraplanner. And there's so many tools now that I did not have, that just was not available. There are virtual paraplanners. There's so much technology out there that can be utilized. But the one thing that I have found across the board is probably the reason why they don't know when to scale or when to do things is because they still don't have a time management system in place. They've kind of hodge-podged, hacked, they've looked it up on the internet and found this might work, this work. But until they truly have a system in place that actually works all together, they're going to continue to make these mistakes and waste time and not get after it so that they can scale and build their business.
Michael: And that's why you have your Ideal Calendar framework, right? Just all about how are you actually going to create this time structure for yourself?
Dr. Parry: Precisely. Yep. That's it.
Travis’ Low Point In His Journey And What He Would Tell Advisors New To The Profession [01:45:28]
Michael: What was the low point for you on your journey through all this?
Dr. Parry: I think that low point was what I'd mentioned before with Dad when he passed away. And I honestly, looking back on everything, I blew it. I tried to help. I tried to step in and be the strong guy. I was the stereotypical male of like, "I'm going to be tough. I'm going to make it through." And there were times where I really did just break down and cry. And as part of the grieving process, you do that. And still, it's 14 years later and I still talk about him like he's there. But I think to take a look at life and take career out of life is the mistake. Life happens. People are going to die. You're going to suffer from unexpected setbacks. This pandemic has just destroyed so many people's view of what was going to happen. I was supposed to travel the world for my 40th birthday almost coast to coast. I celebrated it with my family at home and I just was thinking like, "What the most important people in my life, it's these guys, how appropriate, who cares? Experiences are great, but my family is more important."
And I think when we really come down to brass tacks, really what makes sense is that. It's about our family. It's about having this legacy. And we talk about legacy in financial planning. Well, legacy is just so that our family can continue, our own legacy of our family continues. And to take that in stride of knowing that life, career is part of it, financial planning is part of that. It's not the whole picture. And that really has shaped me. So while I hated that experience, and I look back to life before Dad and life after Dad, it's shaped me into the person that I am today. And so in a really weird way, Michael, I hate saying this, but I say it now is I'm a better person for my father passing away when he did. And it's too bad that it took that for me. But I really changed and I really had to figure out my own life balance so that I didn't destroy myself. And in a way, my father's passing saved my life.
Michael: So given all this that you've learned, this kind of journey over 15-plus years, what would you tell younger, newer advisors coming in today? What do you wish you could go back and tell you from 15 years ago when you were getting underway at Northwestern Mutual?
Dr. Parry: Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I think when I left Northwestern is realizing the support. And so if you're starting out there CFP and you've got your IRA and you're doing your own business, have support. So if that means coaching up or having continued support with XY Planning, have people, have mentors that can help you through who have been there and done that. There's one guy that I'll give a shout out to. His name is Jason Payne. Phenomenal advisor, phenomenal life coach. He would give me advice. He was that open book. And when he knew I was struggling with Dad and everything, a friend of mine who also left Northwestern at the same time I did was like, "You need to go talk to Jason." I'm like, "Who's Jason?" He's like, "He's just a good guy. You need to go talk to him."
Michael: Everybody needs that good guy to call sometimes.
Dr. Parry: That's it. That's it. Gal or guy, or whoever, and just sit down and...he's 20 years my senior going through this process. And he just helped me kind of get on my feet in everything that I changed. Now, I've told him, "Hey, Jason, I'm doing my master's. I'm doing my Ph.D. Guess what? I started my consulting. I'm doing my speaking." He's the guy that I've just kept in touch with. And ironically, he's a financial advisor. My wife passed or if I passed away today, my wife knows she's going to call Jason.
And so I think to understand, have these mentors, have these people there for you, but then also, like Jason, understand behavior. Understand that in order to differentiate yourself from every other advisor out in the market, we can talk tools, we can talk understanding and knowledge and credentials, but if you really want to understand individuals, get trained in understanding individuals. And that's why I'm back in the industry at least...I don't do all my speaking gigs with financial advisors, but I'm here because I feel like that's my way of giving back. It's my way of saying thank you to Jason. It's my way of saying thank you to the industry that helped to get me on this path. And I try to give what I can. My life is an open book. I've been very open here. And I appreciate this opportunity to do that. But when I'm on stage, I'm trying to give as much as I can about families, about relationships, about individual psychological methodologies and stress and everything so that when you're in front of the client, when advisors are in front of the client, they can really understand the person. And the reason why advisors are not CPAs is because we like people.
Michael: We like people and we like forward-looking future.
Dr. Parry: That's right. That's right. We like people and looking forward. So those of you that are in this industry, in the seat that I was in years ago, keep looking forward, keep trying to help individuals by understanding them and their relationships. And they will follow you for your life. They'll be attached to you.
What Success Means To Travis [01:51:01]
Michael: So as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success. And one of the themes always is just even the word "success" means different things to different people. So you've now built this fascinating model around building and driving towards success under the couplepreneurs dynamic. But how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Dr. Parry: Thanks for that question. Great question. I decided a long time ago that success wasn't just about career. It was about every aspect of life. And I think that's why this whole idea of balance got me started. But in short, my definition of success is what my tagline is. And that's living life on purpose. So often we make success about reaching the summit of wherever that's at, whatever goal it is. And goals are phenomenal. I help people reach their goals business, personal-wise, relationship, etc. And financial advisors you're helping them to reach their financial goals, which are related to everything in their life, too. But it's that journey is if we're not doing these things on purpose, it creates, ultimately, the distress that will just tug at us every single day. So if I can just show up each day and give it my all as far as my purpose, my direction, my goals, if I'm living those, everything else is just details. It'll figure themselves out.
And when my father passed away, there was 1,000 people standing-room-only in the church that we had the service at. And I remember looking back and thinking, "Yeah, he only lived to 49. He wanted to do all of these other things." And I know what those are and he knows what those are. But if I look back on Dad's life, and this isn't just me painting his life in rosy colored glasses, it's he accomplished, he became the person that he was supposed to become. And for me, I am successful at the end of my life when my kids, my family, my friends can be like, "That guy, Travis, he was a good dude. He lived his life on purpose all the time. Did he have setbacks? Did he suffer? Yes, yes, and yes. Was he not perfect? Of course, he was not. But that guy truly tried to become something great in all aspects of life."
Michael: I love it. I love the message and the...I think appreciating the journey and living the journey with purpose probably is just even more resonant for all of us right now in the whatever journeys we had planned for 2020. Probably not the way it's playing out, but that you can still live with purpose around where you spend your time and what you prioritize, particularly when all of our habits and world are getting disrupted and changed anyways. It's an opportunity, I think, for some people to reset around that focus and purpose.
Dr. Parry: Totally.
Michael: Well, thank you so much, Travis, for joining us on the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Dr. Parry: Thank you, Michael, for having me. Honestly, this was...the long-form really was cathartic for me. It was great to be able to talk this out with you. And I hope that some things here resonated with folks and it helps them, because this really is my way of giving back. And I appreciate the platform.
Michael: Well, thank you. I think it will help.
Bonnie Sewell says
Happy Mother Day, Ms. Kitces! Michael, thank you for presenting Dr. Parry. While I thoroughly enjoyed his words of wisdom, it’s your tribute to your deeply connected and supportive wife (starts at 52:35 on the recording) that illustrates how the wind beneath a spouse’s wings can truly give flight to a fabulous career that supports the family goals. It is also often a missing piece for a woman advisor who does not have a wife (or any supportive spouse) to fill such a critical to success role. Just getting the guys in our industry to recognize this would be one step toward making life a bit easier for women advisors who lack that support, that spouse, access to capital, lower pay, harassment, etc. It’s no cake walk for any small business owner but we are inundated with success stories that do not give air to this factor. It does not diminish anyone’s success to include those who manage so many aspects of a family’s life so the successful business owner or advisor can build a client base and serve them.