Hannah: Well thanks for joining us today, Bryan.
Bryan: Happy to be here.
Hannah: So you have seen a lot of success in your financial planning career, and we are going to dive into all of that, but how did you first get into financial planning?
Bryan: Yeah, so I was one of the lucky people who stumbled into this whole industry which turns out to be, at least if you’re in your early 20s, it seems to be a pretty common path. Because what happens … I was eighteen years old and I went to college, then I was supposed to pick a major. And I don’t know what I’m supposed to major in, maybe like accounting or something, and maybe some economics classes. And I take those and they don’t really work out. And I sort of dance around to the point where I happened to go to a college that actually formally taught financial planning. So I ended up getting recommended over there and I take it, and it starts to resonate with me.
Bryan: So I was basically years into college before I even found it. So I just kind of fumbled around until I found financial planning and then once you find it, it’s like, “What’s important is why you stick around.” I realize like, “Wait a second. I’ve seen some of this stuff before.” And it was kind of some of the stuff I was helping my own family with.
Bryan: So my parents went through a divorce, a few years prior to my first financial planning class. So I was basically helping some of my family out, mainly my mom, with financial planning topics, I guess you could say. In a divorce, money gets moved around, new accounts need to get opened, and you learn what a QDRO is for the first time. So just all that stuff, I had seen some of that stuff in my classes, in real life. And I was like, “I think this is … I think this is it.”
Bryan: So I ended up getting lucky into sort of stumbling into it, but no eighteen year old really goes into college wanting to be a financial planner because they don’t know what it is.
Hannah: Hopefully we’re going to change that in our lifetime…
Hannah: So you find this Financial Planning degree, and you’ve seen some of this in your own family, was that kind of the moment you were like, “This is what I’m gonna do”? Or was it kind of more gradual?
Bryan: Yeah, it was. That’s a really good question, so it was pretty gradual. When you’re in college and you’re just taking classes, and you’re trying to find your identity … like, “What am I doing? I found these classes, but am I going to do this? I don’t really know.” But I was familiar with some of the topics, and I was kind of good at it, so I was like, “Okay, I’ll just stick around here for a while and see what happens.”
Bryan: So it didn’t happen immediately, but I was interested enough to stick around. And then I stuck around and I ended up hanging around the program and all their fun groups and clubs and things, and I started getting really, really involved with those people. So the best thing I did was decide to be really, really involved with the program. It was kind of a small boutique program. It wasn’t even in the Business College, it was in the Human Sciences College because that was the only school that would take ’em. This really boutique feel to it. We had our own corner of the building. We had our own computer lab. And the teachers, there wasn’t that many of ’em, but because there’s not that many of ’em, you can talk to and make relationships with them.
Bryan: So I just started hanging around more. I ended up becoming an ambassador to the program, so I would give people tours or just be a face for the program. You just get to do a lot of things when you’re in a small program. I got to go to competitions and compete, and represent the school. I got to go to conferences and wear our red shirts, ’cause at Texas Tech you have to wear a blindingly red shirt when you go to a conference, so I got to be one of those people which was a ton of fun.
Bryan: So the smartest thing I did though was just allow myself to get involved with those people, and make those people my friends. I think a lot of people that were … a lot of my classmates, they went to class and then they checked out, and they went to go hangout with their other friends. Me, I decided to really commit and make these financial planning people my friends. So a lot of them are still my best friends to this day.
Bryan: We had this little community going on and you could be as involved or not as you wanted. So what ended up happening is that I basically, I don’t know, I just found a little tribe and we just nerded out on financial planning stuff all day long. And if you’re a financial planner, you know that you have little inside jokes that only other financial planners get. So I can make those jokes with these people and we can vent about classes together, and you spend every waking moment together. That’s when it clicked on, I was like, “This is my people. They get me, we get each other, and this is who I want to be a part of.”
Hannah: Yep. Oh I love that and this idea of finding your people, like how important that is to a career, especially in the early stages of it.
Bryan: Yeah, ’cause I wasn’t … I wouldn’t consider myself a naturally, overly gifted student. So if I joined a community where it was very normal to do your homework and do really good on your projects, and present really cool stuff, like that was the normal. I joined that tribe. And so invariably, I just started being a little bit more impressive when I was on my own, probably not that impressive.
Hannah: I love this, I don’t even know who said it, but somebody somewhere says, “Look at the five people you’re around the most, or the five types of people you would be around, and that’s who you are.” And it’s like, if you want to get better, surround yourself with people who are better than you or who are where you wanna be.
Bryan: Yeah. I definitely learned how that was important, I think, in those college years and I even more recently have expanded on that five closest people to you definition. I just bought this book, I haven’t read it yet, I’m like a chapter in. But I just got this book by this author named James Clear. He writes this really cool newsletter once or twice a week and he just writes about habits. The book is literally called “Atomic Habits”. ‘Atomic’ meaning like really, really small, like the smallest possible thing compounded over time results in really cool stuff.
Bryan: And if you want to make a habit, really, really easy and a part of you, the easiest thing to do is just join a group of people who are doing something and working towards a common goal that you are. But the more important part isn’t the common goal. The more important part is the behavior that is looked down upon in that little tribe, in that little culture.
Bryan: So like … what’s an example? I’ve joined a running club before ’cause I wanted to run more and exercise more. So I joined that little club and that was my tribe at the time. And yeah, we were all running far, but you didn’t need to be a fast runner. You just need to run. So the behavior that was accepted was you have to at least be trying. And the behavior that was looked down upon was somebody being lazy. So by definition, you didn’t want to be lazy or else you would be essentially shunned from the group. You didn’t have to be an amazing athlete or anything, you just need to try.
Bryan: So that’s a really simple example of what all these different tribes are doing. I think XY Planning Network, it’s a huge tribe and everybody moves at different speeds. Some people’s businesses are taking off. Some people’s businesses are forming way slower, and they’re kind of confused. But as long as they’re still trying, they’re in. And if they get lazy and stop being involved, that’s kind of looked down upon and nobody wants to be looked down upon.
Hannah: So you’re in college, you graduate, what was it like looking for your first job? What were your thought processes in finding and accepting a job?
Bryan: When you go to an actual program, that actually teaches this new age, fee-only financial planning, it gets you on the track to CFP ASAP, there’s a lot of acronyms there … When you go through these programs, you start to realize like, “Whoa. I think I’m gonna have a job after college and I think I’m gonna have more than one offer.” At least that’s what they plague your mind with, they basically … You walk into a class and they tell you that you’re going to have a job. So that’s a really cool feeling.
Bryan: And so I realized, “Well, I’m in my twenties.” People in my family are not accustomed to the ‘go build a career’ life. This is not something we did, but I really wanted that. I really wanted to put my best foot forward and be a career person, and really get good at this and really just go all in. And I knew that if I wanted to do that, I had to create a little bit of separation from my home base and just get away from it all, and just go all in.
Bryan: So I’m from Texas. I’m from Dallas. There’s a ton of jobs in Dallas, honestly. There’s a lot of people who recruited from our school and all those firms were in Dallas, and that’s where most of the students go. And there’s some really great firms that are there. So there were options there, but I knew that if I took a job in Dallas or Fort Worth that I was gonna be around … like who’s there? My high school buddies. I have a lot of family around, but I don’t need to see my family to be close to my family. I’m actually closer with my family when I don’t live next to them. ‘Cause we just like … phone calls are so much more efficient for whatever reason.
Bryan: So I knew I didn’t need to be near and dear to my family just to be close with them. And my high school buddies, I don’t need to be close to them. We’re playing different ball games now. So I needed to … I basically wanted to go out of state at least for a little bit.
Bryan: So I started thinking about places I wanted to work and I really just started with geography. I asked myself, “Where do I want to go?” I ended up deciding that my criteria was, “I want to work in a cool, call it ‘metropolitan’ area, with a lot of like, call it ‘commerce’, a lot of business activity. Maybe a big city.” So I want that just because I knew there would be a lot of job opportunity there. But I also wanted to work for, preferably, with nice people.
Bryan: And I ended up landing on the Bay Area. I think I landed on … I don’t know where else I landed. Like maybe Southern California, like San Diego. I’m not sure what it was, but maybe … oh D.C. was up there. But then I talked to a recruiter guy and he was like, “You don’t want to work in D.C. They’re mean there.” So I ended up landing on the Bay Area.
Bryan: And I was like, “Well, where do I find these jobs at?” I didn’t have any luck when I was talking with people at conferences, ’cause that’s just like hit or miss. But I did happen to know the main recruiter in our industry, which is Caleb Brown, because he also went to Texas Tech and he was kind of a name that we all knew. And he had a couple jobs in the Bay Area.
Bryan: So I contacted him and I said, “Hey, I want to apply to this firm in San Francisco.” And he calls me thirty minutes later and was like, “Are you serious about this, Bryan? San Francisco? You’re from Dallas, be real with me.” I was like, “Caleb, I’m being serious. I want to do this.”
Bryan: So we did the full, formal process and he kind of vetted me, presented me to a few firms, ended up connecting with my current boss eventually, and I had a couple other offers at the time so I had to choose. Like, “Well, what do I choose?” I ended up choosing my current opportunity even though it was the opportunity with by far the greatest risk and the lowest amount of track record of success. ‘Cause the firm was three years old at the time. I think on the AUM scale, I think we managed 30 million at that point, and my boss had never hired anybody before. It was his three year old business and I was the first hire.
Bryan: So that was inherently risky for sure, but I still ended up choosing it. And I chose it because number one, I wanted to be on the ground floor of something. ‘Cause I wanted to be like … If I really went all in, I wanted to feel like I was important to the operation. So I was like, “Well, if I’m number two then I have to be important. So I’m gonna get a lot of work that way. So I want that.” But also, when I was in the interview, I got the sense that my current boss was a very experienced manager. And his former career was basically a manager of multiple levels at a corporation where his main job was to just oversee people and grow them, and make sure he was putting them in a great place to be happy, make good money, and just have work satisfaction. I could sense that. I could tell that was the kind of person he was, where he gave a lot of energy to the people he managed.
Bryan: So I could feel that. He made it very clear to me that this job would be highly tailored towards me and whatever I was wanting. And I had to take that opportunity.
Hannah: So … so many questions. Okay.
Hannah: Number one, no, no, no. It’s so good. It’s so interesting. I think back to when I took my first job and the thought of the risk that was associated with accepting the jobs that I did accept, that didn’t even cross my radar of “Was this a risky place to go work?”
Hannah: And so it’s really interesting to kind of hear that, from your perspective, of that’s how you evaluated your job offers.
Bryan: Well you did the same sort of leap, right?
Bryan: Like in your early twenties, right?
Hannah: Yep, absolutely. And for me, I mean I’d love to say I had as much thought as you did, but it was really, “Oh, it’s a job. Sure, I’ll take it.” And so yeah, I love this kind of different lens in which to view these job offers through.
Bryan: It was definitely a risk. And my boss, I mean, my boss knew that. I mean, he knew that I was taking a risk. The other risk was I was moving from Texas to California. So there’s a flip right there already, from a culture standpoint. And I don’t have any … I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have any family, I had nothing. So huge risk for me on that standpoint. And a huge risk for my boss at the same time because if somebody doesn’t have any support network, they don’t have any roots, they can up and leave you just as quickly as they joined you. So we both kind of have this calculated risk that we were taking on each other, but we did it.
Hannah: What was next for you? So you’re working for this company, what did that look like or what was your next kind of progression in your career at that point?
Bryan: So immediately upon getting started, of course you’re learning the job and you’re getting introduced to some clients, maybe, maybe not, but then comes the question of licensing. So actually before I’d even started my first day, I decided to try and be that person who could knock out the CFP Exam before. So I said, “Hey, let me take” … I told my boss like, “Hey, thanks for the job offer. I accept. Also, I’d like to not start immediately. I’d like to study for the CFP Exam over the summer before I start. I’ll have plenty of free time.”
Bryan: So that’s what I did. So I studied, I took the CFP Exam, I moved to California like a week or two later, and then I got my results … ’cause this was the day were you had to wait for your results. I think it was like the last paper exam. So I’m two weeks into my new job, and I get an email from the CFP and they’re like, “Congratulations, Bryan. You failed the CFP Exam.”
Bryan: I was like, “No! I just moved across the country for this and I’m already failing.” So that sucked. Basically the boss told me, “This is bad, but just sign up. Give yourself a day to mope, sure, but sign up again and let’s do this.” So I signed up again, here I am. I spent the first three months of me living in sunshine in California, basically in the office studying for the CFP Exam. So that was kind of a bummer also while trying to learn the new job. So that was kind of a bummer, but then I took the exam again and I passed that time. That was way better.
Bryan: But then, even so passing, I didn’t have the designation yet because, as basically everyone knows, you have to have years of work experience to get the credentials. So I didn’t have that yet, right? I didn’t have enough. I had some, I didn’t have enough. But remember, I was hire number one, and we were getting a bunch of clients coming in and so I needed to be licensed to speak with them about financial stuff. So I ended up having to start studying again for this other exam called the ‘Series 65’. Series 65 is the one that allows you to give investment advice for a fee. Most people get this one if they don’t have the CFP yet. If you have the CFP and you actually have the designation, you don’t need to take the 65. But me, I needed to.
Bryan: So what happens there? I study for another month, I’m kind of trapped in, trapped in the office. But also, I just passed the CFP Exam and I’m pretty cocky about it. So I didn’t study that much and then I classically failed that exam, and that was terrible. That was terrible. This was all within a few months of moving here, so I’m just failing all over the place. And then I signed up again and I took that one and I passed it again, but that was the first several months and I think that’s probably the first several months for lots of new hires.
Hannah: Yeah. It’s funny, some of the best planners I know have failed their CFP Exam. I do not think that’s an indicator, whatsoever, of whether or not you’re going to have a successful career. I mean, you do need to pass.
Hannah: It is good to pass your CFP!
Bryan: Please do.
Hannah: But it’s encouraging to know that if people are failing their CFP Exam and in the middle of that, there will be a day where you can look back … I don’t know if maybe laugh at it, or laugh about it, but it’ll get better.
Bryan: Yeah, at first it was embarrassing. It’s just like, “Crap. I told all these people I was taking this thing, so now I have social shame.” But also there’s the internal failure like, “Crap. This is what I devoted my life to and I can’t pass this exam. Who am I?” Have this identity crisis. And then you just sign up again and you learn how to master these exams. I mean, they’re kind of strange. Exams are not real life. You just have to accept that as a part of life. It’s just not … it has nothing to do with the job, your ability to answer A, B, C, D. But it’s just a part of it. So it’s something we have to do.
Hannah: As you’re doing this, the first time I knew about you I was online and I stumbled across this blog, the ‘Millennial Planners’ blog. Can you tell me what is this? And how did this get started?
Bryan: Yeah, Millennial Planners. So that started … I think it started right after all this exam stuff that I just described, ’cause finally I had free time. When you get done with your exam, you’re like, “Wow. What am I going to do with all of my free time?” You finally learn, “Wow, this is what time management looks like. This is amazing.” When before you thought you had no time.
Bryan: So I had free time and also what I had done is I had tried to replicate that tribe mentality, from back in college. I needed a new sort of tribe and I didn’t know who my people were yet. I wasn’t sure who was trying to get good at this job, in this industry, like I was. And I ended up finding a couple people and we made a study group. Our study group, we basically met up via video chat like once a month. One guy was down the street from me, but the other guy was in Connecticut. So we just did our video chat once a month where we sort of dove in, like, “What’s going on? How you feeling about work?” And it was kind of like a venting session, really. Not so much technical, just like, “How you feeling about work?” And “How’d you get over this?” And hard times and happy times.
Bryan: So that’s kind of what the study group was and we all ended up realizing that we liked to write. I think they actually had a blog together years prior, just for fun. So we wanted to write about this very specific financial planning industry stuff, so we started writing. One of the guys, he reads so much and he did like, “I read this book and here’s how it relates to financial planning.” And all this stuff. And me, I think my first post was basically speaking to college Bryan of how to get a job. If I was talking to former Bryan, trying to help him out, trying to help him give all the cheat codes basically. Like how could I help him find a job?
Bryan: So I wrote like “How to Find a Job in Financial Planning” and it was basically … what was the punchline of the article? It was like … Here’s how you interview. Here’s how you identify a firm. Here’s what a form ADD is and where you can find it. Here is why you don’t get the job offer sometimes even though you thought you were perfect. And all sorts of stuff.
Bryan: So just speaking to people who were just behind me, the cohort that’s just behind me who’s about the live the life I’m living right now. What advice could I give them? So I think the next article I wrote was “How to Pass the CFP Exam” and it was like a twelve week study guide. And I wrote that three or four years ago, and I still get people from across the country all the time that find it. ‘Cause I guess no one else is writing these things, so I’m just getting hits all the time from it. And people saying, “Thank you so much for writing this.”
Bryan: And yeah. You might have even saw that one from a long time ago. That was a pretty popular one.
Hannah: Yeah. Well, I just … I mean, this is a lot of work that you guys are putting into this blog. What’s your motivation for it? Why were you guys doing this?
Bryan: I think we all had different motivations. One guy, Joe, he just likes to document his thoughts. He’s a very introspective person. He’s the one that reads and does book reports. He’s very introspective, he likes to think on paper basically. He’s a really big journaler. So it’s basically like, it was like his journal.
Bryan: Me, my thing was like, “I want to give advice to the people who are just behind me because I’m a big brother at heart. I have a little brother and I want to make his life as easy as possible with everything that I just went through. And interpreting all that and just making that life a little bit easier. And I want to do the same for people in this industry. It’s so similar to what this podcast is about.
Bryan: “Ah, great. I got a job. So what do I do now?” And “How is this supposed to feel? Is this normal?”
Bryan: And so it’s really just trying to let you know, “Hey, it’s normal. And by the way, here’s a couple tips on how you can get over that hump because I know it sucks.”
Hannah: You have this blog and you’re working on this, and you became an enrolled agent as well. Is that right?
Bryan: Yeah, so I ended up pursuing the IRS Enrolled Agent, which is basically like the CPAs little tax cousin, basically. And I did that because number one, I had that free time again. Like, “What do I do? I need to sign up for another exam.” ‘Cause once you take the CFP exam, by the way, everything else … nothing is intimidating anymore. So I was like, “Nothing’s intimidating and I have all this free time.”
Bryan: And I kept noticing in client meetings and stuff … Stuff about tax came up every meeting and we didn’t know what to say sometimes. The most regurgitated response from a financial planner is like, “Oh, you should ask your task advisor about that” or “You should ask your tax preparer about that.” And I got really tired of saying that. I got really tired of hearing it.
Bryan: So I was like, “Well, I’d like to learn about tax so that in meetings we can just ask me.” Hopefully, that was at least the goal. Whether that ended up happening, that was at least my initial goal. So I was like, “Well, what is the most efficient way that I can learn about taxes? And be forced to learn it because I know I’m not going to learn this stuff on my own.”
Bryan: So there’s this designation called the IRS Enrolled Agent. You’ll see ‘EA’. Most tax preparers are either CPAs or EAs. The CPA is kind of inefficient because it actually covers four main areas, only one of them is tax. So most CPAs, they have all this knowledge that they never use and they only study tax a quarter of the time when they study for their exams. The EA is basically just the tax part stripped out. And in fact, it’s probably expanded upon a bit more than the CPA is, at least from the tax side.
Bryan: So it’s three exams. The first exam is individuals, the second exam is businesses, and the third exam is other regulatory stuff. The first exam most people can pass I’d say because we see it all the time at work. If you’ve done your own tax return, you’ve seen this stuff before. The business side was super hard because we never see it basically, not as common of stuff. So that was pretty hard. And then the third exam is hard, but passable.
Bryan: So I did the EA just to be the tax person here in-house. What did that really mean though? That means that whenever there’s some random tax question that a client has, my boss just says, “Well, oh. Well Bryan’s a tax guy, we’ll just have him look into it.” So that’s essentially all that happens now. And then just by simply wearing the tax hat, I now all of a sudden have all of these opportunities that are given to me to work through these things, when before I probably wouldn’t have these opportunities.
Hannah: We were talking a little bit beforehand about finding where the firm’s interest lies and the employee’s interest lies. And so it seems like there’s a clear overlap there with what you wanted and what was good for your firm as well.
Bryan: I think the EA was just something that I proposed, something that I could sense that the firm needed. And I was like, “Well, this is my opportunity to sort of step up and have a deeper footprint into the firm and what it needs.” With when it comes to the firm’s interest and the employee’s interest, sometimes they are totally off though. I think when I first started though, I wanted to do this kind of random designation, which was a charitable planning degree, like a graduate certificate. And I only knew about it because Texas Tech did it and I had already taken a couple of graduate courses in it, so I was kind of halfway there.
Bryan: So I wanted to do it further, but then I would get the knowledge and it would have nothing to do with our clients. So I had to find like, “Okay, is this worth it? Is this totally a waste of time?” Just figuring that out. Sometimes it’s hard to make the case for the firm, but if the general consensus is like, “Okay, you can study for this designation and if 50 percent of it will help the firm, then it’s probably a good decision.”
Hannah: Well let’s talk about this idea of management, ’cause I know this is something that you definitely care about a lot. Of what does it look like to be a good manager? And what does that mean for new planners?
Bryan: Yeah so management is like this thing, this idea in our industry that just isn’t talked about. It is, but it’s not like this deep science that it should be. If we look at other disciplines, like the legal field or the accounting field or basically any other field, it’s a thing. Management is a thing and it’s totally normal. Accounting firms have been in existence and you’ve got the monster big four now and they have all these partners, and they are continually cycling through next gen employees and building them up. And it’s like this full cycle thing, it’s very normal. Law firms are doing it too. And for some reason in the fee-only RA world, we’re having a hard time just letting go and accepting the fact that management is needed. And good management is needed. And it’s really just, “Well, okay. What is that?”
Bryan: Management to me is identifying a … You’ve got a new hire, great. What are we gonna do with them? And really figuring out who this person is, what is their personality, what are they excited about about this job, what are they good at, what are they bad at, and finding a place for them in the firm so that this new person that you hired and you placed is happy. Because you’re giving them projects that are exciting to them, they’re sticking around, you’re listening to them, and you’re finding a very thoughtful place in the firm for them. I say that because the more common path is an entrepreneur builds his business up … Yeah, they’ll build their business up. They will reach a point where they’re like, “Oh shoot. I have a need. I don’t like doing paperwork. I need to find somebody to do my paperwork.” And the job outline is already there for them. It is already predetermined. They just need to fill the spot, basically.
Bryan: And that’s kind of it. And I see it a lot. I see it with people who are just learning how to delegate for the first time what a solo advisors, which is a majority of our industry there … They’re trying to delegate because that’s what they’re told. Like, “If I want to be the next Tim Ferriss of our industry, I need to learn how to delegate and delegate everything.” That’s great because you’re giving somebody a job, which is cool, ’cause now you’re paying an employee. But are you developing that person? Is this person happy with that job that you gave them? Are they busy enough? And are you slowly stretching them out to become the best professional that they want to be?
Bryan: And it’s this wholly different mindset. Are you a delegator or are you a manager who’s truly developing somebody?
Hannah: Well and just that experience for the employee, like are you just expected to get a list of tasks done? Or we talk about diversity and do you as a manager view the person that you hired as somebody who’s gonna make your team … they’re not just going to complete that task, but they’re going to make your team better, especially if you manage them well.
Bryan: Right, yeah. The ultimate hire, I’d say, is you wanna find somebody who … let’s say me. It’s me, who I’m a manager for the first time and I hire a new person. And they come in and they’re like, “All right. I’ll do whatever, what do you want me to do?” And then you give them a bunch of tasks and stuff, but the optimal hire for me is somebody that I can sit, I can close the door with, and I can say, “All right, I just gave you a bunch of tasks. What do you like and what do you not like?” And then they’ll tell me like, “I like this and I don’t like this.” And then I’ll say, “Well, okay. What do you want to do more of? Is there anything that we can be doing better?”
Bryan: And the optimal person has thought about it and will tell me a really open and vulnerable, honest answer. And every time I can get a vulnerable and honest answer from that person, then I can adapt and I can morph their experience and listen to what they’re saying, and basically make their experience better based on what they’ve just told me. And when somebody’s new, you want to be doing that like every couple weeks or every month because there’s so much raw data there that they can give you. All you have to do is listen. But then after you listen, you have to actually do what they’re requesting, which is a whole other thing. But the first step is just listening a lot to these new people because they will tell you, they will tell you what they want.
Hannah: Yeah, so okay. So as a manager, when you’re saying all of this, how do you balance like what does the firm need? ‘Cause you need somebody to fill out the paperwork and get the client to sign it. That’s a need of it, you need somebody to … The classic example of like take out the trash, things like that.
Hannah: How do you balance between what the firm needs and then what does the employee want to do?
Bryan: That’s a good question. So I went to Texas Tech, again, and in that program they preach a couple things. Number one, you’re going to get a job and it’s gonna be awesome. Number two, when you’re interviewing for jobs, make sure you’re going to be doing real planning work. You don’t get coffee, you don’t do the grunt work, you don’t do that. You’re trained to be a financial planner. You want a job to where you’re doing that.
Bryan: And I heard that and I was like, “Well that’s just baloney. Somebody’s got to take out the trash. Like if I don’t have a trash person, somebody’s gotta do those things.” And I knew full and well that if I’m being hired as the only employee of the entire business, I’m probably going to be doing those things. It’s probably going to be me. For years, I’d just be talking to other advisors, and they say, “Oh, how many people in your firm?” I was like, “Oh, there’s two of us.” They say, “Oh, there’s two of you? That’s it?” I was like, “Yep, I’m the first hire.” And they say, “Well you have like an admin person right?” And I was like, “Well, I’m pretty admin-y. I’m pretty good with that. I answer the phones, that’s me.” You should see me around holiday time. We’ll do Christmas presents, or holiday presents, and I literally drive in my car to clients houses and I drop it off like Santa’s Little Helper. I do all that stuff, but I fully knew that I was getting into that stuff.
Bryan: So the perfect hire comes in and knows that they’re going to be doing some of that stuff. In fact, they want to do that stuff because it’s just a task. Let’s just get it done. So the perfect person wants to do the dirty work, but they ask for the glamorous work. So I’ll say it again, I guess, ’cause that’s very tweet worthy. It’s like they will do the dirty work, but they’ll ask for the glamorous work. Which is kind of … I mean, I say this because it’s what I did, so it’s the only thing that I can speak to. But I knew that there was just so much stuff that needed to get done. Like somebody had to do the scans and the shredding, and somebody had to do the scheduling of meetings, and calling back people, and calling Schwab all day long. Somebody’s gotta do that and I figured it was gonna be me, but I want it to be me because now I know how a firm really works and I can do it all.
Hannah: I very much had the same experience. And talking to some of my peers, it was a very … I had a different perspective because I knew the inner workings, where they didn’t know their paperwork process because they always had somebody else do it.
Bryan: Oh my gosh, yeah. It’s huge. I think … They’re like, “You’re not going to be a paperwork person.” And it’s like, “Well then I don’t know how to do paperwork. So why would I want to do that?”
Bryan: There’s a lot of value to knowing how to do paperwork.
Hannah: Tons of value. I still fall back on that skill, yeah. So you wrote an article, on your Millennial Planners blog, about managing people. A lot of people have read that article, I assume. I hope, I should say that. But you talk about expectations on that. So for new planners coming into this profession, into some of these smaller RAs, what are fair expectations for them to have?
Bryan: In that article, in that little section about expectations, I think the sub-bullet of that section is called ‘Fair Expectations’, that’s the first thing that needs to happen. The expectations need to be fair for the new hire that’s coming in. I gave a little story in that, it was a real story of one of my friends. Ironically, you’ve interviewed this person. I’m not gonna say who it is, but you’ve actually interviewed this person before. And she’s one of my friends. She’s a super … It’s a girl because I said ‘she’ already. But she’s a super smart cookie and she could have had so many jobs. And she had multiple job offers, I’m pretty sure. And so she had to choose, “Well okay, which job do I want?” And she chose the job that basically sold her on the biggest dream. It was like a … I want to say a national brand. It’s a firm you’ve probably heard of. They were opening a new office somewhere, I think they just acquired an office. So they needed her to go in and be the associate there. So that was probably a pretty exciting opportunity because it’s kind of like me. I’ll be a number two in the office and get to run this thing.
Bryan: That was the expectation, which was a lot different from reality. ‘Cause what happened when she got there … She got there and moved away from her family. She didn’t know anybody, no support system, kind of like me when I moved out here. Like totally on your own. She was basically like a … I don’t want to say like a glorified secretary. I think she just was treated as the secretary. That’s too far on the dirty work side, that’s a little too far. And she was just promised something that she didn’t get.
Bryan: In that case, her expectations weren’t met and she quit, and rightfully so. So that’s like the biggest lesson for me, just watching her, and she called me after and told me about it. And I just like … It’s not fair because she’s so good. I didn’t like what happened to her so it was just a big lesson for me. What I took from that is when we get people in here, I don’t want to oversell them on how glamorous this place is. When I talk to a new person, I want to tell them everything that would make them not want to take this job. And if they still want it then they’re the best person.
Bryan: I think we’ve got a lot of good things going on here, but there are some downsides. There’s downsides to every job. You’re going to come in here and you’re not going to have an office. And we share office space with an ad agency right now, so they are a lot of fun to share office space with, but sometimes they’re loud. Can you handle that? You’re going to be doing the paperwork and you’re going to be doing the scans. You’re doing the dirty work. Is that okay with you?
Bryan: Not so much underselling, but just letting it be real. This is what it’s really gonna be like and not this pie in the sky, please work for me desperately sort of … I don’t know. I don’t want to say lie, but that’s kind of what happened to my friend.
Hannah: Yeah, well and I think there’s so many … Gosh. That’s far too common of a story and when you have those realistic expectations set out for you, or whatever your expectations are going into the job, if those aren’t being met then you have a decision point. Do you want to stay there or do you need to be looking for another job?
Bryan: It is common and it’s sad.
Hannah: Yeah. And one of the things that … I mean, I have friends who they will say that they stayed at their job too long, not knowing when to move or when to do that. You really, I hate to be cynical about this, but you’re the person who’s going to care about your career the most and you kind of have to take ownership of that.
Bryan: Agree. At the same time, job hunting sucks. It is such a drag. So of course you can feel some dissonance there, when somebody doesn’t want to do it, I can feel for them too. It’s tough.
Hannah: Absolutely, yep. You had mentioned that you hired somebody now. So how has your perspective changed, when you now have somebody who you’re managing?
Bryan: That is a great question. So when I first became a manager for the first time, we have this internship program that we’ve been doing for a couple years now. And my first year running the intern program, after like two weeks, like some really small amount of time, I just wanted to write my boss the longest handwritten letter and just say, “Dude, I am sorry.” Gosh, I’m just thinking about that time ’cause I just wanted to commend him for how much patience he had with me. And I know I was slow and I know I messed up, and I know I did all those things, and he never made me feel the way that I wanted to make this intern feel. Which was like, “What are you doing? I just told you this.” I never got chewed out like that when I totally could have and probably should have.
Bryan: So immediately what happened, becoming a manager for like two weeks, is I felt this immediate amount of empathy towards my current manager and just thankfulness. And I appreciated the patience that they have ’cause it’s a totally different perspective. I totally … Being a manager for the first time made me a better employee, which is mind blowing, but I finally got it. I finally understood why we would plan so many days in advance for x, y, z. I would understand why he wanted me to present things in a certain way as opposed to the other way. Just how to manage my time, how to manage my own calendar, and someone else’s calendar. It took an insanely short amount of time to appreciate what had been happening to me for like two or three years, all when I became a manager for the first time.
Bryan: So it was like, that perspective shift was huge. So I totally recommend, if you are in your first couple years of doing this job, and you’re finally getting your stride down, and you think, “I’m a good associate” and “I’m good at meeting preps and all”, I highly recommend that you make the case to your manager to like, “Can we do an internship program? And can I be the supervisor of that?” ‘Cause it will change your perspective on everything.
Hannah: It’s like this natural progression of a career, right? You do the work and then you start managing people doing the work, and that’s a different perspective.
Bryan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Hannah: Are you on partner track right now?
Bryan: Yeah, so let’s see. What happened in our firm? I think when I first got hired on, we were both thinking that calculated risk on each other. We kind of didn’t know what was about to happen or at least I didn’t know what was about to happen, but I had high hopes. I was going to make a leap for something long term or at least semi long term just to make it all worth it. And I don’t know what my boss’ plans were for me, but I know he’s a good manager. And when I say ‘good manager’, he put a lot of time and energy into developing me. So a lot of time making sure I understood things, giving me opportunities to run meetings, giving me opportunities to those first times when I were running meetings without him in there, all those things that I needed the opportunity to do so. He was giving me these opportunities to so do. So my career jumped way quicker than it probably should have.
Bryan: And he was doing it on purpose ’cause he had a high degree of faith in me, which was great. What eventually he kind of developed me into was this person who could invariably be a junior partner, basically at this point now and we’re four and a half years in. So I’m four and a half years in and I think even starting about six months ago, we just had our first conversations around potentially buying into this business, which is another word for partnership or equity ownership, if you will. So we just started those conversations like half a year ago and we’re pushing the envelope … we’re pushing forward on that right now. So it’s all kind of happening.
Hannah: Well, it will be so interesting. You talked about the difference of being a manager, how that made you be a better employee, I’m wondering how the business owner will change your perspective yet again.
Bryan: Yeah, I’m sure that’s a conversation you’ve had a couple times with people here on this podcast. Oh yeah, with another Yeske Buie person, with Lauren. She’s probably pushing forward on that, on her partnership track, which she’s been on since she basically started. Yeah, she was hired on the ‘partnership track’ that they have there at Yeske Buie and I think a couple others are on there as well. But I think now that, especially with Yusuf and stuff, I think now it’s becoming more real, that partnership is happening.
Bryan: I talked to Yusuf right after that announcement and he said immediately there was this shift in his mind to where like, “Okay, this is my thing. This is my business.” I think we were on our way to something. We were managing or getting around near a conference. And I think they took an Uber and he was like, “It’s on the business.” And he was like, “Oh wait, it’s on me. Maybe we shouldn’t take this Uber.” Just like little things like that, it was immediate. It wasn’t even real yet. He hadn’t signed any papers yet, but it was immediate.
Bryan: So I’m looking forward to seeing how it happens too.
Hannah: You talked a lot about finding your people and finding your tribe. So what are the other places you’ve gone to really find your people as you’ve continued in your career?
Bryan: The study group has been great. That was great, but study groups are kind of like bands. They form, they have a great run, and then they kind of fizzle out for whatever reason. It is what it is, that’s what study groups- So I was kind of looking for a new band, basically, and fortunately I’ve been around the FPA community for a while. And so FPA NextGen, this group has really been core for me, but there’s a few different ways you can go within the NextGen community. It’s grown that much.
Bryan: I first got exposed to the NextGen sort of movement like three or four years ago. I ended up winning a scholarship to the NextGen Gathering. And I’m so glad I did, ’cause if I didn’t get the scholarship I probably wouldn’t have gone. It wasn’t a cost I felt comfortable asking for, for me, because I didn’t really understand what it was. Like what is this? Is this a conference? Is this a pow wow? What is this?
Bryan: So I’m glad I won the scholarship ’cause then I got to go. It was in Dallas at the time, which is my hometown, so I got to see my dad around Father’s Day so that was perfect. So I got to go and when I was there, I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is my people. This is it. This is where everybody is who is just like me, trying to get the same things I’m trying to do. And this is where they all meet and just talk.” So NextGen Gathering kind of set it off for me.
Bryan: So if you’re on the cusp and you think you’ve got a great story, I recommend applying for that scholarship. And if you don’t get the scholarship, you can still go for super cheap, ’cause it’s a low budget thing. It’s totally tangible, honestly. So that was huge and there’s other FPA things that sort of happened for me.
Bryan: I ended up running the FPA in San Francisco next gen community for a couple years and I’m finally phased out now. But running that and being the face of that little group has been huge for me because I ended up being a person that people called on. I got to be a board member and go to those meetings. And just we would throw events and people would be thanking me for the event when really, I wasn’t the one putting it on, it was like our crew. And just being a person that people would ask, “How does this next gen thing work? What is it?” And just spreading the word on that. So being involved with that group was like a whole other tribe. And then I could meet other people who were on the partnership track and talk to them and just be fully immersed in this industry, and the best people who are doing it.
Hannah: What I found, at that NextGen Community, it really is some of the best of the best. And again who do you surround yourself with? Who do you wanna be like?
Hannah: Well, so as we wrap up, are there any other pieces of advice or things that you’d want new planners to know?
Bryan: Yeah, so I think when you’re new, and I can see it with our new hire here and I can see what he’s most interested in doing. It goes back to what are you trained for out of college? If you go to one of these financial planning programs, what have they been preaching to you this whole time? What do they say your job’s gonna be? What are you most looking forward to in the job?
Bryan: And what I’ve found is most people are taking these jobs and they want to be in client meetings and they want to be talking to clients, that’s the job title. It’s, “I want to be a financial advisor. I want to give advice to people.” So if you are a newbie and you just some face time with clients, you want to be seen, you don’t want to be in the background anymore running MoneyGuidePro data input. You want to be in the meeting. A couple of things.
Bryan: Number one, you need to learn how to run a meeting. This is like another blog post, I should have written like three years ago. You need to know how to run a meeting ’cause there’s an art form to it. It’s kind of like writing an email. There’s a format to running a meeting and it’s kind of the same format, you kind of just fill in the blanks in different ways.
Bryan: So here’s the advice. Here’s the format to running a meeting. It’s like the client walks in … Let’s say it’s an in-person meeting, just ’cause that’s what I’m more experienced with. So like in-person meeting … Client walks in, you greet ’em, you show them where they sit, you ask them if they want some water, and you sit down. And number one, step number one is ‘Catch Everybody Up’. So step one of the format is just get everybody caught up. Like, “Hey, what’s new? It’s been a few months since we’ve gotten together, what’s new?” And then you shut up and then you let the client talk. And they’ll tell you, “Oh, we’ve been doing this.” Or they say nothing. Say, “Oh, we haven’t done anything.” And you say, “Oh, okay.” And then you catch everybody up and you say, “Last time we got together, we touched on this and talked about this, and I remember you said that funny thing, ha ha. And everybody worked on this when we were done. And today, we’re gonna cover x, y, z. Is there anything else that you thought we were gonna cover today or would like to talk about?” And then you shut up, and then they’ll tell you, and that’s step one. It’s just setting the tone, getting everybody on the same page so that we can take the next step forward together.
Bryan: And then you should have … And then step two is just going through the body, so x, y, and z. What were those topics? Just segue into them and then go. And that’s kind of it. If you can run the meeting, if you can run the intro to it and then know what your body paragraphs are, that’s running a meeting. So that’s what I’m currently working on with my new guy, the new hire, just to get him … I want him to be able to run a meeting, him set the tone, and he’ll just have that much more face time and he’ll be like ‘the person’. So that’s a big one, running a meeting.
Bryan: The other thing is learning how to write an email. I think it’s the same thing. There’s a format and most of the conversation we do with the clients is over email. So how do you do that? So some people are better at it than others and right now, I find myself teaching how to write emails, ’cause I realize it’s not innate to everyone. So just going over that art form and how to do it. So I should write a … I need to write a blog post over that too. How does it go? Here’s how to write an email, I guess.
Bryan: So most of the time, whenever we’re talking with clients, we are rebounding. Most people have questions for us and we have to answer them, and just sort of rebound them. But every time they do that, a lot of times there’s some personal thing that they say just happened. Say, “Hey, we just did this.” Or “This just happened to me. What do you say about that?”
Bryan: So when you respond, you have to do a couple things. Just like when you’re writing a paper, there’s an intro, there’s a body, and there’s a third paragraph. The first line of any rebounding email is to do just that. The first line is the rebound, it’s the … I call it ‘catching the egg’. When I was in elementary school, we used to have field day, and we used to have to practice … We used to get a partner and you’d stand across from them, and you’d throw the egg back and forth, and try and see how far apart you could get. And if you’re really, really far, you throw the egg … when you catch it, you have to … you can’t just firmly, abrasively catch the egg. You have to let it come to you and softly catch it, and then nurture it or else the egg will break.
Bryan: So I call it ‘catching the egg’. And so like if someone says, “Hey. My car just broke down, sorry I can’t do this. This insurance guy said this. Do you know anything about this insurance thing?” So in the rebound, you have to catch the egg first. You have to say like, “Oh my gosh. That’s terrible about your car.” And you have to seem interested, you’re talking to a person. And then the next paragraph is addressing the technical stuff and giving them the punchline of what they need to do.
Bryan: I think when you’re a newbie, you’re so nervous about giving the right answer, that you could receive an email like that and jump right into the technical stuff. And just right into, “Yeah, I know this and I know this.” And really showing that you know stuff, when really they already know what you know stuff, that’s why they hired you. Focus on talking to the person and really just making a connection with that person, and then get into the technical stuff. So that’s the writing an email piece, I’d say.
Hannah: Those are the simple things that … those are the foundation. If you have the solid foundation going into any professional job, it’s going to help you so much, build off of that.
Bryan: I agree.