We’re only halfway through the XY Planning Network (XYPN) conference, and I have already learned several lessons. The backdrop of the conference is Union Station St. Louis, right in my own back yard. The energy level when you step into the building is invigorating. We aren’t just a group of financial planners. We are part of a broader movement: bringing real financial planning to people, regardless of age or asset level. XYPN’s long-term mission is clear; they want to help 10,000 advisors reach 1 million consumers (the 100x multiplier). The professional organization began in 2014 with 30 founding members and is #168 on Inc. 5000’s list of fastest growing private companies in 2018, with roughly 750 current members. Now, onto the lessons I’ve learned so far and reasons you may want to consider attending a conference yourself:
1. Slow & steady often wins the race
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 1 in 5 businesses fail in their first year, while half of small businesses fail by year five. The vast majority of XYPN members are experienced financial advisors who see a need in the marketplace, were part of a failed transition plan, or simply seek the freedom of a lifestyle practice. Many of us do not have training as entrepreneurs, yet we each operate our own, independent Registered Investment Advisory firms.
In the opening keynote, XYPN co-founders Alan Moore and Michael Kitces shared several items of interest to existing and prospective XYPN members. Firm revenues in the first two years are often a far cry from our former salaries. However, by year 3 and 4, the growth rate picks up. On average, member firms in their third year can expect revenue of approximately $70K, and those in their fourth year target $170K of gross revenue.
For the 5% or so of XYPN members who eventually drop out, it is often because they didn’t have enough financial runway to pay their personal bills in the first two years. If you aspire to run a business full-time, give yourself grace. Have enough cash reserves or plan to live on your spouse’s salary for the first three years.
2. Be authentic
Be true to yourself. I was honored to serve on a panel yesterday with two other XYPN members about amazing client experiences. Our firms couldn’t be more different. To my immediate left was David Rae, a very well-spoken planner based in Los Angeles who serves friends of the LGBT community. To David’s left sat Meg Bartelt of Flow Financial Planning. Meg focuses her attention on helping early to mid-stage career women in technology. Prior to becoming a financial planner, Meg spent 10 years as a technical writer primarily in the software-security sector. My firm WorthyNest® serves Christian parents who want to build wealth in a way that aligns with their values.
The common thread among myself, Meg, and David is that we work with people who share a similar set of core values, professional experience, or sexual orientation. We can be our authentic selves around our clients. And that connection is what makes the financial planning process powerful. This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt free to express my religious beliefs around clients and other professionals. I came from an environment where I had to facilitate a client’s charitable contribution to Planned Parenthood, even though it directly opposed my pro-life stance.
I’m passionate about WorthyNest® and the value we bring to clients. And we’re looking to grow! If you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please share this blog post with them and schedule an initial, complementary consultation. Alternatively, call (636) 344-0415 or email Marty Brown throughout the month of October at email@example.com. I will be traveling extensively throughout October and may not be able to respond to emails as quickly.
I’d also encourage you to search XYPN’s Find-an-Advisor Portal if my firm isn’t the answer for your family. There are hundreds of members with niche specialties. You can also search by geographic area or fee arrangements (i.e. hourly, project, fixed fee, etc.). We no longer offer hourly engagements.
3. Iterate again and again
Working at OPO Startups, I am surrounded by tech entrepreneurs. Many of their conversations center around getting the minimum viable product, beta testing it, and rolling out enhanced versions of the software over time.
Another commonality among myself, David Rae, and Meg Bartelt is our willingness to change. We are a lot like tech entrepreneurs in that we did not have a clear vision of every client deliverable when we started the firm. Instead, we put something out there, gathered feedback, and invested in different tools or technology to better the client experience. We are always searching for ways to improve the model. I’ve changed fee structures a few times since starting WorthyNest® in 2016. I also just finished migrating clients from one financial planning system to another.
What area(s) of your life need to improve? What tangible steps can you take today, over the next week, and throughout the next month to make positive change?
Ted speaker and author Keisha Mabry discussed the HASO acronym at our Kolective event last night. We filled a section of Landry’s restaurant with over 80 women in the financial planning profession who want to connect, grow, and serve. Women represent only 23% of CFP® professionals nationally, and a far lower percentage of Registered Investment Advisory firm owners are women. We need to see those statistics change. Kolective offers support and empowerment to women in the financial services industry.
HASO means “help a sister out.” And you don’t have to take that literally. Male or female, we are made for community. God calls us to love all people, regardless of race, gender, religion, political viewpoints, or sexual orientation. He doesn’t say that we need to agree with everyone.
The XYPN conference focused on diversity and inclusion as well. Monday’s keynote speaker Audra Bohannon helped us move from unconscious bias to conscious inclusion. Additionally, the speaker for our continuing education session on special needs financial planning guided our vernacular. Person with disability is the proper way to address someone, not “disabled person.”
What is one tangible way you can include someone who may not look like you or share a similar value system? Is there someone in your profession you can support as a mentor?
5. You can do right by clients and still run a profitable business
Have you ever heard of Certified B Corporations? These companies “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Governments and non-profit organizations alone cannot solve society’s most challenging problems. I plan to make WorthyNest® a Certified B Corp in 2019 and join the community of businesses doing good in the world.
XYPN and NAPFA member firms may not have their eyes on B Corp status but already stand out from other investment advisory and financial planning. We are fee-only fiduciaries. That means we always put our clients’ best interests first. Additionally, we are paid a transparent fee in exchange for offering unbiased advice. We do not collect commissions or receive financial incentives to recommend a particular product. To me, this is the only way to do right by clients. Fee-based advisors at large brokerage firms (i.e. Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley, etc.) may be paid on commission and are only held to the suitability standard. This means they recommend products or services that are suitable, not necessarily in your best interest. Here’s a video comparison between fee-only and fee-based advisors.
When it comes to your money, who would you rather have on your side of the table? A fee-only fiduciary advisor like myself who can provide guidance on a wide range of financial topics or someone who may recommend more expensive products to put more money into their pockets?
6. Be bold
One shared trait among all XYPN members is courage. Several of us didn’t dream of becoming entrepreneurs. We fell in love with holistic financial planning and likely experienced a cultural mismatch in prior roles. We embarked on this adventure to pursue our passions, offer technical expertise, and serve clients in a new way. It took a leap of faith.
Likewise, God doesn’t want to tweak you. He wants to transform you. I just finished reading Kyle Idleman’s book, Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. Idleman asks a series of probing questions to help Christians uncover whether they are true followers or simply fans of Jesus. I highly recommend you read it.
Which aspect of your life requires transformation? There may be more than one area. Identify the most crucial facet and surrender it. Turn over your worry and anxiety to God. And please let me know how things change for you over the next few months.
These are just a few of the lessons learned at XYPN’s conference so far. Later this week, I’ll be heading to FinCon to collaborate with other digital content creators in the personal financial planning and investment space. October will be a busy month for me as well, with a coaching intensive for female leaders and Jeff Goins’ Tribe conference. After that, rest.
I know this blog post is lengthy, but do you like the general format? If the answer is yes, I’ll certainly write about my experiences at these other conferences. Otherwise, I’ll get back to basics and focus on financial planning or investment topics. You decide … please comment below or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deborah L. Meyer, CPA/PFS, CFP®is a fee-only financial planner and investment advisor based in St. Charles, Missouri who works with clients nationally. As the owner of WorthyNest, Deb helps Christian parents build wealth in a way that aligns with their values and is a 2018 recipient of the AICPA’s Standing Ovation award. Find Deb discussing finance on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.