Episode #7 – What is your origin story… how did you get here?
Advisors often ask how they can build their trust, credibility, and authority online and a frequent answer I give is to make sure you “story” is very clear in your marketing.
Why are you in this market? What was the reason or force that pulled you to choose the complex world of ERISA. Why do you want to help plan sponsors and participants.
We all have a story.
In this episode you’ll hear my story.
But that’s not enough. Don’t stop there. I encourage you to think about your own origin story…
“Your origin story helps people decide whether or not to trust you.”
In this article, To Quickly Build Trust, Tell Your Origin Story – Andy Raskin outlines 5 script prompts (with examples) to help you craft your story that include:
- “Once upon a time…”
- “Then one day…”
- “Because of that…”
- “Until finally…”
- “So now…”
I’d encourage you to read the full article, then sit down and write out your own story. Then start using parts of it in your marketing:
- Add a condensed version to your summary on LinkedIn.
- Include it in the “About” section of your website.
- Make it part of your story when people ask you what you do (a shorter vision of course).
Mentioned in this episode:
- “Wealth Without Risk” by Charles Givens
Okay, so today I’m going to do something a little bit different…
I want to talk to you about what is your story? Why are you in the 401k market? Why do you want to serve as 401k plans? That story is an important part of your marketing. It should be an important part of your story that you tell when you’re out there talking to plan sponsors.
So I thought I’d start by sharing my story. A lot of people don’t know much about me and that’s okay. But to give you a little background, when I was 24 years old, I was in the Army and I was stationed over in Kuwait with a lot of extra time on my hands. And one of the books that I was reading, it just made me pause. It made me stop dead in my tracks. And the name of that book that really changed the course of my life was called, “Wealth Without Risk” by Charles Givens.
The book had so many concepts in it that as a 24 year old I had never heard before in my life – about how to save money, about how to make money, about how to invest money. And when I read that book, a light bulb just went off in my head and I said, “If more people knew these concepts, more people would have more money. And when I get out of the Army, I want to help people with their finances. I want to educate people on concepts such as this.” And I did…
As soon as my four years of active duty was up, I opened an Edward Jones office right outside of Pittsburgh and became an Edward Jones Rep and… I’m married – I got married just after getting out of the Army. I met my husband in the Army. And so we were starting this new life together and I was on this path to become an Edward Jones Investment Representative.
And all I had known about being an investment advisor prior to being an investment advisor was that I thought they made a lot of money ;-). And I wanted to be an investment advisor to really make an impact and make a difference in the lives of other individuals.
And it wasn’t easy though. I wanted to make money, I wanted to change the world. And yeah, when you first start out in any career, but most, especially as a financial advisor, you put in a lot of hours, you put a lot of work. I was knocking on a lot of doors, shaking a lot of hands, joining a lot of organizations. I was president of the Rotary Club. It was a struggle, but at some point I got up to $60 million in assets under management, with a couple of hundred clients.
But I had this conflict internally because I realized that I didn’t like selling and selling wasn’t necessarily educating or providing advice. I wasn’t doing what I originally set out to do. I was… I was selling, I was pushing product. There was a product of the month, there was a preferred fund family and it just, it just didn’t settle well with me.
So after about seven years, I left Edward Jones and found a certified financial planning office in the South Hills of Pittsburgh where the advisor there was giving investment advice. He was educating and he had this amazing process and something that was new to me was… Half of his book of business was all 401k plans and it occurred to me, a light bulb went off right there, that you can help more people if you have a 401k plan client than you can if you help out one individual client, two individual clients, three individual clients. Having a 401k plan allows you access to a hundred individual potential clients, potentially a thousand individual clients.
And so I wanted to become a 401k expert. I wanted to become a 401k advisor. And the first thing that I think anyone should do when you say, “This is the market I want to go to, “is start to research, start to look at what are the regulations, what is the training out there? What should I know and do in order to be able to actually service this market effectively and in the best interest of the clients? And I quickly realized that whoa! – it is not the same as working with individual clients. The retirement market has regulations. The 401K market has this huge 500 plus page regulation called ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. And that hit me like a ton of bricks. I had tried to compete for 401k business when I was a Jones broker and thank goodness I never actually closed that business because I was not qualified to be a 401k advisor without the proper training and education.
And the more I started going through the education necessary to become a qualified 401k advisor, the more I realized that a lot of the education out there was missing a critical component. It was missing the practical side of, well, if these are the regulations, how do you actually implement? How do you demonstrate? How does the plan sponsor meet the regulations? Where’s the process for doing that? And so I created a program called the 401k Service Training Program that culminated in a new designation at the time called Professional Plan Consultant. And that was kind of my way of saying, “If you’re going to be an advisor in this industry, you need to know what you’re doing and you need to have a process to be able to help plan sponsors demonstrate that they’re meeting regulation.”
And that training program, we had it accredited through Robert Morris University. It was initially a classroom training program and eventually we took it online and eventually we sold it to fi360 because they had a much bigger reach. They were another local Pittsburgh company with a much wider audience and wider reach because really I wanted to make sure advisors were educated if they were going to be helping plan sponsors. Kind of the same thing with that Charles Givens book. It was one of those Aha moments where, “Man, individuals need to know this stuff!” After going through the training, I said, “Man, advisors need to know this stuff and they need to be able to demonstrate that they’re doing this, they need to help plan sponsors with this because plan sponsors don’t know what they don’t know!”
And so after creating that training program, I kind of hit another wall where I said, there’s this challenge that once you know what to do, how do you actually do it? A process is one thing, but what does that process look like? If an auditor comes in and says, show me your process, what are they going to show them?
And so then I created the 401k Service Solution, which was a complete set of documents from A to Z, selling to educating, to servicing, to managing a 401k business. And that document pack won an award by the Profit Sharing Council of America for actually helping plan sponsors to understand and demonstrate that they were meeting their fiduciary responsibilities. I’m very proud of that. And we sold that to fi360 as well.
And so fast forward six years… Today I still run a 401k blog. It’s really kind of more of my passion hobby. Whenever I get an email from an advisor that says, “How do I do this or where do I begin?” Or it’s usually most often advisors just getting started looking to grow their 401k practice, looking to get into the 401k business, looking to make a bigger impact, how to sell or service, how to manage… I always evaluate the question and see if I can’t provide a solution.
It might be training or it might be a blog post or it might be a set of documents that could help them. That initial set of documents that we sold to fi360 oh so many years ago – some of those documents have been made available in their designee portal, but not all of them. And there’s a lot that never actually got pushed out and made available. So I’m going to be revitalizing that because I continue to get inquiries about how do I do this? What does that process look like? Can you help me with creating these documents? So look for that to come.
But that’s my story. That’s how I went from being in the Army to being a 401k specialist and I would love to know your story, and your plan sponsor clients, your prospects, would like to know your story. Why are you in this industry? Why are you looking to help clients in this industry? What is your story? What is your why? And what challenges or obstacles have you seen as you are on this journey to make a difference in the lives of your plan sponsor clients and ultimately in the lives of the participants in those plans. I’d love to hear from you.
So that’s today’s episode and I look forward to talking to you again soon.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in these videos is for professional use only and not for use with plan sponsors or plan participants. The information provided, ideas, opinions and commentary are meant to be educational and general in nature and any reference to ERISA or retirement plan regulations is not meant to be legal or financial advice or an interpretation of the laws, but rather a general discussion. Check with your ERISA attorney and compliance department for the applicability of any matters discussed to your specific situation.