Kathy Longo, CFP®, is the founder of Flourish Wealth Management in Edina, MN. Over the past few years, she has grown her team to five active members. Today we’re joined by Kathy, and Michele Lenz, CFP®, who is a wealth manager on her team.

In this conversation, Kathy and Michele each bring a unique perspective to #YAFPNW listeners. This year, Kathy is celebrating her 5th anniversary of founding and growing Flourish Wealth Management. As she looks back, she’s able to reflect on the lessons she’s learned as a business owner, pitfalls she ran into when scaling her firm, and how her vision for her business has changed with time. Kathy discusses, with host Matt Fizell and Michele Lenz, what it’s like to create a hiring process, how she has navigated hiring team members who weren’t a fit, and why she’s still excited and passionate about building out career paths within her firm.

Michele brings an equally helpful perspective to the table. She is in the shoes of many #YAFPNW listeners, having graduated from college with a focus in financial planning, she met Kathy early in her career as a new planner. She and Kathy discussed her career goals, as well as her strengths and weaknesses, and Michele quickly realized she was being interviewed! Kathy knew she was a fantastic fit for the team, and was excited to have her come on board.

Together, they’ve worked to build a career path program within Flourish Wealth Management. Michele feels supported in her growth, and Kathy is always learning and seeking feedback from her team – who may become partners in the future.

This is a fantastic episode for anyone interested in building a career path, who wants to scale a firm, or who is interested in growing their career as a planner into a future firm partner.

 

What You’ll Learn:

  • What a hiring process looks like in a scaling firm
  • How a business owner and a newer planner who is being hired relates to the hiring process
  • The importance of hiring for fit, from a business owner’s perspective
  • How creating career paths can shape a firm
  • How to encourage growth in new team members
  • What to expect when working for a small practice as a new planner
  • The importance of transparency in conversation, and being open to feedback

 

Money Quotient

Certified Financial Transitionist – Sudden Money

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

Financial Planning Association

CFP Board Mentor Program

 

Show Transcript

Episode Transcript


Matt: Kathy and Michele, thank you for joining us today. I’m so happy to have you guys here.

Kathy: Thank you. We’re excited to be here.

Matt: Kathy, let’s start with you obviously is the firm owner. Why don’t you just give us a quick background into why you started your firm, where you’re at, and where you see the firm going?

Kathy: Well, it’s actually a good time to talk about the farm because we are about to celebrate our fifth birthday, is what I like to say. Next Tuesday is the fifth anniversary of Flourish. I’m really excited and just even in reflection of that, I can’t believe it’s been five years since I started Flourish. But I’ve been in the financial planning profession for about 25 years in different sized firms and I even majored in financial planning. I like to say back when there were just … I think it was about a dozen schools that had the major for financial planning.

Kathy: I feel so lucky to have started really early but worked up small, fee-only planning firms to public accounting firms to my most recent position before I started Flourish was a partner at a large RIA. A large advisory firm in town, then I just had the vision that I wanted to really have that true entrepreneurial experience and start Flourish Wealth Management and build a firm that would create opportunities for my clients and for the team that I would build. It’s been a really exciting five years.

Matt: I bet those five years have just flown by?

Kathy: It’s just hard to believe. It’s fun right now because I’m getting the little Linkedin, “Hey happy anniversary.” I just can’t believe all that we’ve accomplished and just all that we’re looking forward to and I feel so thankful to have created Flourish.

Matt: Awesome. Just to give our listeners a little bit of insight, you said that you were working in a wide variety of firms before you went and started your own. What was really that catalyst that said, “Hey, I want to go do this myself.”

Kathy: It was really just thinking about the firm that I wanted to create an experience that I wanted to give to my clients and to be more hands on and create something where I could set the strategic direction for the firm and really put my influence in the firm. And so, that was the motivation and then it was also surrounding myself with, I like to say my tribe that would … It was a group of women business owners that as I talked about where I was at and what I was looking for from the future, they said, “Hey, you need to start your own firm.” They really encouraged and pushed me a little bit and I took the leap and I’m been thankful from day one.

Matt: That’s so awesome. It’s great to have a support system around you when you’re first starting, right?

Kathy: It is so true and so much to learn. I’ve always appreciated, I’ve always been involved in study groups either through planning association or through other business owner groups where I learn from others and have that all peer network where we’re pushing and challenging and growing together.

Matt: Obviously we have one of your team members here on the podcast with us today, but how big is the team at Flourish and what has that process been like of going from a firm of one to a firm with multiple planers?

Kathy: Right now we have five individuals. Five members… number five I guess. There’s five of us and I have Michele who you’ll get an opportunity to talk to in a little bit. Michele Lens, she is a wealth manager in our firm and then we have another individual also from the Wisconsin financial planning program. Nicole Swanson, she’s also a wealth manager and so I work with the two of them and we share clients and teams.

Kathy: Michele will work with half of our clients and Nicole works with the other half and then I work as the relationship manager with the clients and they work with more on the day to day operations. I’m involved with all the meeting and working on the planning recommendations right alongside me. Then in addition, we have another Michele, Michele White, who is client services manager. She does a lot of our account opening paperwork and creating our clients. She also has a background in compliance. So she helps me a little bit on the compliance side too. Then we have another individual, Jay who leads the day to day investment research and managing of the operations on our investment side.

Matt: You know Michele, why don’t you tell me a little bit more about your path to Flourish and some of the experiences you had along your career path and ultimately how you ended up finding this role.

Michele: Yes, sure. I’d love to talk about that. Like Kathy had mentioned, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison in their personal finance program in 2015 and that was also a part of the CFP certification program. Then immediately after college I moved to Minneapolis, just took a leap and I started at a really small firm in a client services role.

Michele: I was there for about a year and then ended up moving into a really big firm in downtown doing specifically estate planning and trust administration. But I really innately, I didn’t notice at the time, but I missed that comprehensive financial planning and actually randomly connected to Kathy because she was in Denver doing a financial planning boot camp and one of my friends was there and thought we needed to connect.

Michele: When Kathy and I met, we were just talking and she randomly asked me, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” I thought that’s such an interesting question to ask someone in normal conversation. Then I thought that was a really great opportunity to get to know the firm and like you asked her, I saw her vision, I saw how it was so relationship focused. It was all about the clients and being a true fiduciary.

Michele: I remember calling my mom and thinking, okay, I might not be ready right now for this opportunity to get back into financial planning completely, but will this type of opportunity be there? To work with someone like Kathy who is an extremely talented planner but also has been on so many nonprofit boards as a published author et cetera, and can really turn into a mentor for me.

Michele: I’ve been here about a year and a half and I’ve really been able to dig into financial planning, client management and also additional types of entrepreneurial strategic initiatives that I want … that I’m interested in.

Matt: That’s quite the icebreaker there, Kathy, what are your strengths and weaknesses?

Kathy: I guess there’s something lost in the introduction. I was definitely interviewing her and she didn’t know that. She blames this other individual who didn’t quite give her all of the facts that I was looking to hire. But Michele is so great on this spot and she … I just felt an attraction to her right away in terms of she would be the right fit for Flourish. I was just really excited and … but, yes, she didn’t know she was interviewing and so that’s where that question came out of the blue.

Michele: I did make her buy me margarita’s.

Matt: That’s great. Michele, you said in your intro there that you didn’t know if you were quite ready. What were some of those concerns that you had when you were thinking about taking this role and what didn’t you feel ready for?

Michele: Honestly, I think it was starting in my first position outside of college, it was a really small firm with financial planning, but it was very investment focused. Also, I didn’t feel like my opinion was heard. A lot of times just being a new planner especially it was like sit in your seat but Kathy really provided me a seat at the table and that’s what I was looking for. A place where I can take initiative and also someone who will support my own growth.

Michele: Kathy has supported me through the CFP. Getting that and then also building me up and building my network where in a real, that small firm and a big firm, there was so much bureaucracy and also not enough attention on the client service piece of financial planning and the planning piece too.

Matt: Very true. I think that is unfortunately too common in our profession. Sometimes we just don’t know quite how to integrate newer planners into the firm. Just to be clear, are you currently in a producing role where you’re not obviously selling insurance or anything like that, but are you expected to develop new client relationships? Is that what you were getting at with the networking?

Michele: I think what I was getting at was more allowing me to network and really encouraging me to join these different types of groups, like the financial planning association and not so much to find the clients, but to really develop yourself professionally and personally.

Matt: Kathy, I guess just to follow up with what you said in your introduction story there about Michele, you said that there was this connection that you just felt an attraction to Michele is a good fit for your firm. Obviously you’ve hired a couple of planners at this point. What are those qualities in Michele, in Nicole that really have stood out to you in offering them a position versus some of the other people you’ve come across?

Kathy: We have had some turnover as a firm and one of the things I’ve learned is being in a small firm, we’re nimble enough and so people that embrace change are really good for us. Not that we want to change every day. We really do operate off of a strategic plan, but we want to create and look for opportunities to improve the firm. For our core values, we’re really looking for … I’ll just list out our core values and then talk a little bit more about what we look for in financial planners, are really just team members in general, but individuals that bring excellent and heart and everything, they do. People that are willing to make a difference, grow and share our experience and insights, take initiative and be resourceful and appreciate and celebrate.

Kathy: Things that I look for in a planner is curiosity. Individuals that are really wanting to learn and grow and improve upon themselves and the lives of others. People that are resourceful, people who have … Obviously the financial planning background, but I think it’s that right mix of technical skills but also the really interpersonal skills. People that really want to connect and understand more of the deeper meaning with money. As we think about Michele’s had… has passed her CFP and she is now … we’re working on developing other skills for her. She’s going to go to money quotient, which is an organization out in Portland that focuses on tools for financial planners to help understand the personal side of money.

Kathy: Thinking about how can we help her to continue to grow as a planner is really important. I guess I’ve had some hiring … Some of it I think is just as we grow and evolve as firm, a small firm is not for everybody. Some people do much better in a larger firm with a lot more structure for them. I think that we have that balance, but we’re always growing and looking to improve.

Matt: How do you address those concerns or those obstacles going forward now that you’ve been through that experience before? Not only in searching for a candidate, but also in the onboarding process with a new planner such as Michele.

Kathy: Some of it, it has been evolution of us being really clear what our values are and really looking to hire to our values. Some of it’s in testing and doing our additional testing for individuals. Then as we think about our team today, we even continue to invest in how do we … Because I mean we’re still a small team of five individuals, so most recently, Nicole joined our farm in the fall as we really wanted to figure out how do we work together better as a team, how do we understand each other’s strengths.

Kathy: We all went through strength finders and everybody had their own individual coaching session and then we had a couple of sessions as a team so we could really look to bond together. As I think about adding new people to the team, I’ll continue to do more testing, really understanding who they are, so we can be fully informed to that team member because I think it’s so important to preserve the team and the culture that we’re trying to create here.

Matt: Obviously CFP programs are phenomenal at getting the technical side of financial planning down to a science. I guess on top of the strength finders and some of those development things, what else do you think a new planner needs to be successful that they may not necessarily obtain from the CFP certification?

Kathy: Well, I believe networking. I think a new planner that can demonstrate that’s willing to reach out to ask for an informational interview that shows initiative that learn something about the firm and tries to make that connection. That always strikes me as somebody that I want to talk to. They’ve done some of their homework on the firm. They’re reading about the industry, they’re looking and they’re paying attention to publications, they’ve got thoughts on how they want to improve themselves and what their direction is and what they want to add to their skillset. Those are all things that I look for when I’m meeting younger planners.

Matt: That’s really great to hear and Michele, just to get your side of the equation here, as you were being interviewed for the firm and learning more about the position, what were the expectations set for you as you transitioned into the team?

Michele: When I had met with Kathy, I think the first thing I noticed was her transparency because she was just going through all of these internal documents with our values and who we are and really set that precedence of okay we really care about our client and we’re going to do whatever it takes because we have all of these resources that we’ve created. When I first started, I spent most of my time with Kathy directly being trained. That’s really where I learned how to prep, how to work with clients and was immediately put into client meetings and immediately given the opportunity to communicate with clients and take on these technical followup items.

Michele: I think that’s where we started was just one on one time with Kathy where I learned everything. Then from there it was knowing, okay we’re going to grow upon this. In the future, you tell me what you’re interested in, but really keep that open line of communication and I’ll support you to get to that level.

Matt: That’s really important when you’re first starting out at a firm as, “Okay, here’s how you do it.” But at some point what you’re telling me basically is you were expected to go further educate yourself and further take on more responsibility. Am I understanding that correctly?

Michele: It was more of you communicate with me rather than I’m going to tell you what to do. It was let’s work together, let’s collaborate, let’s make Flourish the best firm it can be. I remember Kathy saying, “I’m not married to anything, so if you have any ideas, if you have any criticism for me,” because she would ask for it, which is new from a business owner. She really wanted that open line of communication with her employees to become the best firm.

Matt: I guess you would say she gave you a clear path into this is how to be successful and it’s up to you to execute it after you have some baseline knowledge of what you’re expected to do.

Michele: Yes, knowing that she’s always going to be there for support and we’ll always make time to help develop me into the best planner I can be because that’s what the world needs, right? We’re really create planners.

Matt: Yes, and even more great planners who are also great teachers.

Michele: Exactly.

Matt: Kathy, you’ve talked a couple of times now about the personal side of money and that is something that takes quite a bit of time to learn. How are you structuring this in a manner that is easy to replicate, easy to teach and how are you showing planners like Michele and Nicole, how they can be successful with the personal side of money?

Kathy: This is where I’ve felt that like I’ve had that skill innately growing up in the profession is to really bring that personal side and this is that curiosity really understanding why are people making that decision or how can I successfully navigate them to a decision that they see that answer and move there themselves. Some of it’s from my coaching. I’ve gone through a coaching program to and able to play upon those skills. But as I was looking and thinking about how to develop financial planners, I really wanted to come up with or use tools that would enhance that experience. That’s where we reached out to and we’re part of the money quotient programs where they have a lot of tools to help us uncover our client’s money story. Their history with change and how they’ve been successful at change in the past so we can draw upon that experience going forward.

Kathy: Many more tools there and then right now I’m going through the financial transitionist training with Susan Bradley with the idea that once I go through that, then it we’ll start … and we are already starting to incorporate tools like communication preferences, which is a really simple document, but really asking how people want to receive information and work together. We uncover new information every time we talk to a client about their preferences.

Kathy: These tools help us then be able to work in that personal space and have a common language and share tools to work together as a team. That’s where Michele is going to head out to many quotient training this summer because I want them to learn these tools and experience that training firsthand.

Matt: You as the firm owner, you’re beta testing some of these new tools and then implementing with your team after you’ve decided if it fits the vision and is easily teachable.

Kathy: Sometimes it’s like, oh, there’s a tool that I’m being exposed to and it’s like, hold on a minute, let me go get that and bring it back and I maybe take them off guard a little bit as I say, “Oh yes we haven’t talked about this yet but let’s just try this out.” They’re flexible enough with me. I think too in the evolutions of the firm where I … Michele is very gracious in saying I’m willing to let her take on areas. As an owner, I’ve also had to learn that I’m not tied to any specific outcome and that other team members can make things better.

Kathy: Even when I’ve created processes and procedures, which I really try to create and use our CRM to document all of these things early on. But now what I’ve been excited about is Michele actually took our whole client onboarding and paperwork process and brought it to the next level and I wasn’t even involved with it. That’s what I’m excited for and seeing them start to lead areas of the firm and move the firm forward.

Matt: Processes are one of those things. Once you add another person to the equation, they almost immediately break. As you look at some of those initial systems that you put in place, do you have any type of feedback system in place at the firm to ensure that both you, the employer and Michele, the employee are both getting what you need to get out of the working relationship and career growth?

Kathy: For each team member I do monthly check-ins as far as their own personal development, growth and feedback that’s on their mind. Of course I have an open door policy and if there’s something on their mind, they will bring it in at other times. But it’s just an opportunity for us to think about their growth plans. It’s also an opportunity because we do a strategic planning process called traction and I have everybody involved in this where we have four quarterly strategic days where we set what we’re going to work on for … The strategic plan starts with your big vision, breaking it down to three year plan to one year plan and then quarterly we set what we call our rocks, what do we need to work on for this next quarter?

Kathy: Everybody has a specific rock that they’re working on for that quarter. For me right now I’m working on for the team is really defining that career path for the team members. Using some of the leadership pipeline where Abicus their firm has done a nice job laying that out. So really trying to play off of that concept and build out our current path but every team member has that.

Kathy: We use that as a check-in for our monthly check-ins. I think even … I know and I can speak to think about managing up. I really want to create an opportunity where they come in, bring information to me that … Because sometimes I might not be dealing with something that I should be doing and I think back to an experience where Michele … we had a couple of people that we’re onboarding right when Michele was coming on board and it wasn’t all the right fit as I talk about turnover. Michele called me out on it and said, “Hey, I’m just curious. I feel like I’m doing this other person’s job. What are your thoughts about this?” She did it in such a polite way, but it was true. I had to deal with that situation and give that hard feedback and move the firm forward.

Matt: Michele, how has your experience with having that ability to be a contributor, not only to Kathy but to the firm as a whole? Has that at all altered what you view your potential career path as and how has Kathy helped you integrate those changes of your potential career paths into the training she’s giving you?

Michele: Yes, I think it’s been really empowering actually, especially when I look at just being here a year and a half and seeing just how much impact that I’ve had on the firm and how much I’m able to have on the firm. I think the difference is why it works for me and Kathy is that we have the same intentions. By putting in this work with the strengths finders and these other development tools, we’ve really realized how aligned we are with each other and with our goals and then with the firm and our clients.

Michele: Those have really helped us to identify these tough types of part of the business that need to be worked on. For me, it’s really exciting to be able to take initiative. It has allowed me to see that maybe one day I do want to be in a bigger role where there is planning but also the business aspect. For example, right now we’re expanding our office and Kathy’s asking us for direct feedback of our vision for the firm.

Michele: That’s just been a really great experience and opportunity that I don’t think is given at all small firms but with it does come a lot of responsibility. Kathy, how she’s helped me is by just being really transparent, that open door policy and really create an environment where we can be honest with her and like she said, call her out but in a polite way of course.

Matt: Kathy and Michele, you’ve both said the same thing where you’re having that exposure to the business side of things is a great thing for the right person, but it might not be for everyone and that might be why small firms aren’t for everyone. But Kathy, obviously you seem compelled with Michele and Nicole. What is your roadmap for them? Has there been any discussion about partnership or anything like that and how have you framed that conversation? Not to put you on the spot?

Kathy: Oh no. When I first started Flourish I’m like, oh no, I don’t want to do partnership, but coming out of a partnership, it just wasn’t in my vision at that point in time. But now I cannot wait to create a partnership opportunity for both of them. I think that that would be so rewarding. I really want them to benefit from the firm as much as they could. That is definitely my intention and really I’m looking forward to having them as partners and having future partners.

Matt: That’s great to hear. We hear so many nightmare stories about failed succession plans and again, I don’t mean to pry too much, but how will that conversation start or has that conversation started and how are you going to shape the expectations on both sides?

Kathy: That’s part of the preliminary work as I’m really defining clear career paths and how somebody would develop in that planning role. Thinking through first developing their own, how they perform their own job. Then developing into how will they manage others. I’m really excited that Michele likes to manage others and I could see future opportunities there. Then to having them have aspects of maybe running certain aspects of the firm.

Kathy: Laying out the progression and then building in that set experience so when Michele was talking about networking. I really encourage get involved in a nonprofit that you like. It’s not that she has to develop business, but be out there meeting people so that you have planted these seeds that may come to life 10 years from now, or eight years from now. It’s really thinking about the skills and the development path for them that leads them into that partnership path.

Matt: Great.

Kathy: Hopefully they’ll say yes.

Matt: That’s always the ticker, right?

Kathy: Yes.

Michele: We’ve already had the partnership conversation where Kathy shows me how it works on the tax return.

Matt: And you’re like, “Oh no tax season.” Right?

Michele: Too soon.

Matt: That’s great, and Michele, as you’ve progressed in the firm, you said at one point you would be open to taking on a bigger role within the firm. Is Partnership something that you’re interested in or I guess how have you mentally processed that possibility as the planner?

Michele: After being here a year and a half, I finally accepted that Flourish is the real deal and it’s the exact way that I envisioned myself doing planning in college. If I were to think of anywhere where I want to Flourish and be a partner, it would be here. I think since Kathy and I already had these conversations and we have a clear path of what type of development I need to get to that level, I’m definitely open to making this my home and seeing how much more involvement I can have besides just what I’m doing now.

Matt: What were some of those experiences at the previous employers outside of just being investment focused? What were some of those experiences that made you realize this isn’t the right fit?

Michele: One big part of it was the lack of community development that was encouraged because there was so much to do that we didn’t really take time to sit down and strategically plan everything and think about, okay, this is our firm, but what else can we do outside of this firm to develop ourselves and also make the community better? Because I’m really interested in financial education and financial literacy.

Michele: I also liked working on the business, but also thinking about what’s outside of that and having a really good balance, which Kathy clearly encourages because her involvement is so extensive. Another piece, like I mentioned before, was just lack of support to help me reach my goals and have those conversations of where do I want to be? Even in this podcast, we’ve already talked about partnership, but I don’t think that word would have ever been said at my prior firm.

Michele: Then also the approach to how we plan. At Flourish we use a lot of, like Kathy said, money quotient tools where we’re learning about the client and their money story. We’re really trying to build a deep relationship with them. A lot of times we’re giving the technical piece of finance like what an insurance policy is and what type of credit cards and you what a stock and a bond is, but we’re doing it in a really soft type of way and using the financial coaching counseling skills where before at the firm it was like, okay, here’s the PE ratio, here’s the Sharpe ratio, which isn’t always obvious to clients what that is and isn’t really conducive to having any sort of impact on their financial planning. I think those were really the biggest pieces for me.

Matt: It can’t be all great, right. There has to have been some hurdles along the way. What were some major hurdles that you guys did have to overcome when you first started your working relationship together?

Kathy: Well that was when … when I talk about turnover, I lost two individuals right before Michele joined. We were already looking at that time to expand to a third for our client service person. Michele came on board with two other individuals that were just not the right fit and it was me trying to make them be the right fit. It was three all together trying to instill the why and get the team up to speed. Yet all of this institutional client knowledge was all in my head and trying to get that all out.

Kathy: It was chaotic first. Maybe chaotic for six months or so. Maybe Michele would say longer but until we really got the right team in place, that was aligned on the way that they approach clients and their vision and then at the same time, Michele is taking her CFP exam and so is coming up with creative ways so she could focus at the right time where she did so well in studying and be flexible in how we work.

Kathy: I think it was a hard time. It was, I appreciate Michele for being so patient during that time and I think that we’ve come a long way and now we’re back in … The last six months or so we’re back in and rebuilding some of the procedure foundation and moving … enhancing the firm versus just keeping maintaining and at a time where we’ve had some good amount of growth and I had the book that was in the process of being finished and so a little crazy start.

Matt: Sounds like a lot of pieces in the air there. Michele, how did that feel to you as the new employee at the firm?

Michele: It’s so long ago now. I think I’ve repressed the first six months. Well first it was chaotic, but there was a sense that we’re all in it together. We all have the same goal. We all have the same amount of dedication. We all have the same purpose for being here. I think because I connected so much with our core values and I saw them played out every day. I knew these also were not the right fit for Flourish because they didn’t sit with any of our culture in how we practice financial planning.

Michele: For me it was about just being there for Kathy and being that support system and her just knowing I’m here through it all the good, the bad, the ugly. It was also just a great learning experience because I got to do a ton of different things that I probably won’t have just starting out as an intro wealth manager.

Michele: I just think it really actually strengthened our relationship to know that we can work together through the really hard times and get through it. I don’t think anyone … I know our clients didn’t even notice that there may have been some chaos. That was fun to celebrate with Kathy and then also finding the right people for the roles has been really encouraging. I don’t even think about that time except as a learning experience together.

Matt: Well I think it’s fascinating that both of you realize that those two individuals were not a good fit. Kathy, how important has it been for you? Not only since that was resolved, but also from the beginning of when Michele came on board. How important has it been to you to have an employee or a member of the team? I don’t really like to use the employee word too much. As someone to lean on, how important has that been in your success personally?

Kathy: I have definitely leaned on Michele and I really … I don’t like that word employee either. I really think we’re all a team together and I have been … I am so thankful for during that hard time that I could bounce ideas off of her or get her perspective. Michele’s really strategic in her thinking and she’s a learner too so even if we talk about something, afterwards she’s going to go do some research and come back and give me some additional perspective too.

Kathy: I’m very thankful that she was with me and was patient during that journey of figuring out how we build the right team here.

Matt: Just to finish that up, what advice would you give firm owners or other veteran planners who are trying to bring new talent into the firm, whether it’s their first time, their second time or their fifth time?

Kathy: For me, what’s really been helpful is to hire based on values and really defining, we talk about those five values, but laying it into a deeper cultural snapshot of what really works and what doesn’t. We have this one page document that we use to really talk through. One example is curiosity and passion, pay attention to the clients, the firm team members and broader community.

Kathy: We talk about those core values, but we have to lay out what does that mean culturally and what are the examples of how it plays out in our firm. That document and being very deliberate on how I think about our culture and our values has been really helpful in defining the team and then doing more research and testing so that we’re really clear that we have the right match because hiring is not a scientific formula.

Kathy: There’s a little bit of art and you can test so much and you try to do as much as you can in terms of finding that right candidate and then thinking about your environment because some of it’s been a learning process because the culture of Flourish being smaller is very different from even my prior firm that was much larger established firm with lots of defined roles.

Kathy: Not everybody fits in. Some people do much better in larger firms with really defined job focus and some people really have that entrepreneurial spirit and we can’t have it all day long because we’ll never get anything done. But it’s a balance of finding that right mix. I keep learning and continue to grow. I’m not to say that I’ve figured it out yet because I think there’s still so much more to learn on that hiring side.

Matt: Hire for fit first and then focus on experience, certifications, et cetera.

Kathy: I think that there is a lot in terms of what we as a firm can do to train them on some of the other skills, but they have to have that core fit to begin with.

Matt: Michele, as a newer planner in the profession, do you have any tips out there, whether it’s from interviewing or from searching for firms or just working with inner from? Do you have any tips for those who may find themselves joining a firm as a less experienced financial planner?

Michele: Oh, definitely. I think first it’s really important to find a mentor who truly supports you. Luckily mine is right next door my office, because Kathy, just her impact on my growth has been substantial. She’s honestly the best financial planner I’ve ever met. She’s mentioned her book Flourish Financially, which is all about starting these conversations about money with anyone, friends, family, et cetera.

Michele: She’s a woman business owner, she’s on these nonprofit boards and she’s an incredible mother. Even with that, she makes the time for me and that to me has been so valuable for me. I think another piece, especially for young planners is just to be open minded because this field is changing so much and you really need to take advantage of organizations like the financial planning association or even alumni events, CFP mentoring because they are holding these meetings and conferences where they allow you to meet with other professionals in the industry, but then also stay up to date on what’s occurring and give yourself a voice.

Michele: I think that’s my final point is just know your value and your worth. We’re going to be the future planners, even if we don’t have that experience piece. We do have a lot to offer and I think that’s something that we need to voice to employers a lot more than we actually do.

Matt: From your other past experiences, would you feel like exploring different avenues of the profession? You were at the larger firm, at the smaller firm, and now you’re back at a smaller firm. Do you think exploring those different corners of the profession has helped you understand what you enjoy about financial planning?

Michele: Absolutely. I think that’s the hardest part is where do you land. To me that’s really firm specific. Even though my experiences weren’t as meaningful at a large firm, small firm, what really came out to be the differentiating factor is who I’m working with. I think that’s really allowed me to see that there’s so much more than just being a wealth manager.

Michele: You can be a paraplanner, you can do client services, maybe you want to work more in the technology that’s going to continue to develop in this industry. But what I’ve learned is this might not be the size of the firm, it might be more about who’s willing to listen to you and really take your advice and actually do something with it. That’s how Kathy and I have been able to work with each other so much as we both value each other and have the same values too.

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