Tom Gau is at the helm of one of the most lucrative financial planning firms in the country. In many ways, the story of how he got there parallels the transformation that is occurring throughout the financial services industry.
Initially an accountant, Tom had branched out into creating financial plans for his clients, but soon realized that many of the plans were not being implemented. Worse yet, if they were implemented, he wasn’t getting any of the action. One day, a client with $10 million came in for a financial plan. Tom created the plan, and then sent the investor to a stockbroker to implement it. A week later, Tom received a nice note from the stockbroker thanking him for the new client–and his new Porsche!
Tom decided the stockbroker’s business model was much better than the accounting model he’d been using, and he decided to become a licensed financial planner who actually implemented investment and insurance recommendations.
When I first met Tom in the early 1990s, he was already a very successful financial planners. Tom had built his business by conducting public seminars throughout California, and had established relationships with HR directors in the top aerospace companies in the state.
Over a six-month period, I helped him develop additional strategies to attract and serve the employees who were receiving rollovers from the aerospace industry. We set up a series of client appreciation breakfasts and encouraged the clients to bring their friends. While sitting at one of the breakfast tables with four clients and three of their friends, I realized that his clients were truly his fans.
Tom had formed a partnership with an estate planning attorney, and together with their associates, they offered securities, insurance, retirement planning, estate planning, comprehensive wealth planning, and tax preparation. They were one of the first financial planning organizations to provide a total solution for their clients’ financial services needs.
Tom was amazingly productive. He was always full of energy and upbeat even though he worked unbelievable hours. In a good week, Tom would have more client meetings than many financial planners have in an entire year. In one week that I know of, he had over 100 such meetings.
Within a few years after I met Tom, he was generating over $3 million a year in commissions and trails. He had become one of the most successful financial planners in the country.
As if that weren’t enough, Tom was starting to do a series of workshops for financial advisors to help them learn his success strategies. Through his “Million-Dollar Producer Boot Camp” and other speaking engagements, he has trained thousands of financial advisors, insurance agents, and registered representatives throughout North America.
Tom also has a quick mind and a quick wit, and he has more designations than anyone I have ever met, including CPA, CFP, MBA, PFS, CFS, and others. In addition, Tom has a photographic memory.
What motivates Tom to work from 7:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night? He is already one of the top producers in the nation and does not have to work anymore. So why does he continue to work? “Because I love helping people. I love people,” he says, simply.
Throughout the 90s, Tom worked extremely hard and built a very, very successful commission-based financial planning firm. But he had a bigger vision. He and his wife had bought a house in Ashland, in southern Oregon. For six or seven years, Tom commuted between Ashland and Southern California. He would spend two weeks in Oregon and then two weeks in California working. His dream had always been to move to Ashland where his family lived full-time. In late 1999, Tom made a transformation in his business that also helped transform his life.
At that point, he had over 2,000 clients and a large advisory firm with 40 employees. But his “success” was starting to control him. He had too many clients and not enough time in the day. His business was booming, but his quality of life was suffering. When I visited Tom one day during that period, he was visibly worn out and stressed. His commission-based business model had taken him as far as it could go. Something had to change.
He spent almost a year researching his options and finally decided to convert his best clients to a fee-based investment advisory model. Once he made up his mind to move, he moved big. Within 90 days, he had transferred 185 clients with about $190 million in assets into a fee-based money management relationship. He sold the balance of his clients and his business to another advisor. Once he had accomplished this, Tom was able to move full time to Ashland where he started a new business, Oregon Pacific Financial Advisors.