009: How to collaborate your way to starting and growing your fee-for-service financial planning firm

May 16, 2018

In today’s episode, I’ll talk to two financial planners who merged their individual businesses to create a new practice together.

Julia Chung is a partner and senior financial planner at Spring Financial Planning. Julia has been working in financial services since 1997. In 2011, she left traditional financial services to form a fee-for-service financial planning firm in partnership with an accounting firm. She made JYC Financial entirely independent a few years later, eventually merging with Spring Personal Finance to become Spring Financial Planning.  

Julia is also co-founder of Admin Slayer Services and a charter member of Lead Family Enterprise Advisors. She has co-authored several e-books, including “Women & Money,” “Art of Delegation,” and “The Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide.”

Sandi Martin is a partner and financial planner at Spring Financial Planning. After joining the industry, Sandi quickly realized that she could either help clients or get good performance reviews… but not both. Sandi founded Spring Personal Finance, an independent, advice-only financial planning practice, to help ordinary Canadians make the best financial choices with the best information possible. Sandi built a virtual practice so she could serve clients from across the country, and five years later Spring Personal Finance merged with JYC Financial to become Spring Financial Planning.

Sandi is the co-host of the Because Money podcast and co-founder of Autoinvest (now sold), which helps investors compare the services of Canadian robo-advisors. She also co-authored the ebook “Women & Money.”

Topics Discussed in This Episode:

  •     Spring Financial Planning: what they do and who they serve
  •     Why fee-for-service planning is important
  •     The building blocks of the process at Spring Financial Planning
  •     How clients find Julia and Sandi’s services
  •     The approach Julia and Sandi took to merge their practices
  •     How Julia and Sandi integrate working with other professionals
  •     The pros and cons of working with robo-advisors
  •     How the financial advice market is changing in Canada
  •     The technology, tools, and software that Julia and Sandi use in their practice
  •     The features that Julia and Sandi want in financial planning software
  •     The Spring Financial Planning Forum and how Julia and Sandi are using it to help                     financial planners who are new to the field
  •     What new financial planners should be paying attention to
  •     How financial planners should think about setting prices
  •     How financial planners can demonstrate their value to their clients
  •     How to help clients implement their financial plans
  •     Julia and Sandi’s advice for financial planners to grow their practice

Links:

Julia Chung

Sandi Martin

Spring Financial Planning

Spring Financial Planning Forum

Admin Slayer Services

Lead Family Enterprise Advisors

Because Money

Autoinvest

Quotes:

“The first thing we do is listen.” – Sandi Martin

“I think it’s really important to think about it as a collaborative team, and I think that’s one of the places where people kind of fall off.” – Julia Chung

“We want to find a way to not just have those one-on-one conversations – those are great – but for us to learn from them, to learn from that guy over there and that woman up there.” – Sandi Martin

While we’re sure you want to hear everything Julia and Sandi have to say, here we’re sharing a quick take on three key ideas you won’t want to miss:

  • How Julia and Sandi came to merge their practices
  • Individualizing your services by collaborating with other professionals
  • 5 tips for starting and growing your fee-for-service business

For more on the pains of data-gathering, the perils of imposter syndrome, and more, listen to the full episode through the link above or find it on iTunes or Stitcher.

How Julia and Sandi came to merge their practices

Julia says she always had the vision to grow her business and was on the lookout for potential business partners ‒  someone whose values aligned with hers.

She and Sandi met in a LinkedIn group, and when Sandi had the idea to start an informal chat group for fee-for-service planners, Julia joined in.

They found that their communication styles and values lined up, so for about a year before actually merging, they worked together closely, learning about one another's processes and strengths. They got to know each other very well, which was crucial for understanding and mitigating challenges that could come up in their partnership.

Finally, they met in person with their other partner, Krysten Merriman, and prepared to officially launch their new business.

Hint: Sandi insists that their partnership has been successful because of what she calls Julia’s “incredible human business brain.” In other words, she thoughtfully leverages each person’s strengths to make the business thrive. It’s all about optimizing for everyone’s best qualities and skills.

Individualizing your services by collaborating with other professionals

Julia and Sandi are skilled financial planners, and that’s where they want to keep their focus. In fact, they’re not looking to bring on any asset managers any time soon (or ever, really).

Why?

They want to ensure every client gets the best service for their situation. If they hired someone specifically, that person would be fantastically suited for a subset of their clients, but they like the flexibility of being able to refer out to the professional they think is best for each individual.

This means connecting with a lot of professionals in adjacent fields. And as Julia puts it, “it’s really important to think about it as a collaborative team, and I think that’s one of the places where people kind of fall off.” Just giving your client a list of names to contact can be easy, but it’s not necessarily effective.

Hint: Have discussions with the professionals you want to work with and who can benefit your clients. Learn about one another’s businesses so you become part of one another’s processes. That way, you can be sure you’re sending clients to the right person at the right time, based on their expertise and process.

And yes, sometimes this means Julia and Sandi work with robo-advisors ‒ but again, that depends on the client’s situation.

5 tips for starting and growing your own fee-for-service business

Are you interested in moving from a traditional business to a fee-for-service model? Julia and Sandi share their top 5 things to keep in mind:

  1. Be patient. This is a slow-growing industry in a fairly conservative country. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a couple of years to take off ‒ if you’re putting clients’ best interests first, you will be successful.
  2. Get comfortable raising your prices. When you’re starting out, you’ll probably charge less than what the service is worth. That might be because you’re just trying to pick up clients, or maybe you’re not confident in your abilities yet. However, keep in mind that eventually, you should raise your prices. Which brings us to…
  3. Price your services based on value. You don’t want to be charging just to break even or based on how much time you take to provide the service. Your price should account for your skills, knowledge, experience, and most importantly, the value you provide to your clients ‒ not just the plan itself, but also equally important things like checking in with clients and keeping them accountable to the plan.

Hint: For more on pricing your services, Julia and Sandi have a lot to say about that in this episode. And if you haven’t already, listen back to the third episode of our podcast: Pricing and structuring your service offering to make it irresistible to prospects.

4. Understand that you can’t deliver value to everyone. If a prospect doesn’t see value in  your service, that just means you’re not a great fit for one another. And that’s ok! You are a great fit for tons of people out there, so don’t sweat it (easier said than done, of course).

Hint: In your proposal to clients, make sure you mirror back to them what they’ve told you about their goals and challenges. This makes it easier and more likely for them to see the value in your service as it relates to their lives.

5. Most importantly, develop a process. Do this early on, so as you grow, you’re not reinventing the wheel with every client or scrambling to automate when you should be focusing on your clients. Write your process down, evolve it, and let it give you the freedom to grow.

For more of our conversation with Julia and Sandi, have a listen to the episode. To make sure you never miss a single one, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also sign up below to get new episode notifications straight to your inbox.

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