Stephen Brody of Greenville, North Carolina, has always been a coach and an educator at heart. In fact, his first career was in teaching. About 17 years ago, however, he decided that being a financial advisor would allow him to create a more dramatic difference in people’s lives more quickly.
As Stephen moved into the financial planning field, he often found himself teaching and mentoring other financial advisors. Ironically, over the years, he found that many of the things he was teaching other people to do he was not able to do for himself.
By most people’s standards, Stephen was highly successful, but he wanted more out of life. “I was ready for a major transformation, but I knew I couldn’t do it on my own,” he says. “The markets had changed substantially, and so had my thinking about my business. I had many pieces of the puzzle, but didn’t have a way to put them all together effectively.” Stephen realized that he needed somebody to help him identify what he wanted, and help him create a systematic way to do it. And so he hired a professional coach.
During one of the first sessions, the coach worked with Stephen to identify his strengths. Stephen told the coach a story about a natural disaster where he’d helped the Red Cross, and as he told the story, the coach identified the types of things that Stephen did easily and well. “These were qualities that I was never consciously aware of. I took them for granted,” says Stephen. As a result of that exercise, Stephen realized that he had great leadership skills, and that one of the things that he enjoyed most in life was helping people, particularly when they were going through major life transitions.
After that, Stephen says, he was ready to look at his entire life and business–ready to take the pieces apart and put them back together in a way that would integrate all of his strengths, interests, and values into a new life and refined business model. With the coach’s help, he put together, on paper, a clear definition of “Who I am, what I do, who I do it for, how I do it, and what the ultimate benefits are,” says Stephen. “I didn’t have that in writing before. I was doing it in a haphazard way, but the entire coaching process has given me a much higher level of clarity and integration. Now I know exactly what type of business I want to build and who are the people that can benefit the most from my services. I clearly know where I want to go.”
Stephen’s business had evolved over the years to provide more and more services. Through the coaching process, he documented what those services were, what levels of service would be appropriate for each type of client, and what fees he would charge his clients to receive his services. Seeing the vast array of services on paper gave him the confidence to decide to raise his fees.
After completing some calculations, Stephen realized, to his surprise, that he only needs 40 great client relationships to achieve his goals. “Once I did the numbers and realized I only needed to work with 40 great clients and didn’t have to bring in everybody, it completely took the pressure off,” he says. “Now, instead of trying to be all things to all people, I’m very selective. My best clients know that I have limited capacity so they are more active in introducing me to their friends before I close my doors to new clients.”
To his amazement, his existing best clients were very receptive to his revamped practice, even the increased fees. He’d been planning to raise fees gradually over a one- or two-year period, but many of his clients said, “No, that’s fine. Whatever you think is fair to charge us is fine, and if you want to raise your fee today, that’s fine, too.”
It’s All in the Family
Stephen felt even better about his new business model when new clients started coming through the door of their own accord. One of the clients was a financially independent woman in her late 50s. When he explained his new business model and how he helped people with comprehensive wealth management and vision coaching, she ended up consolidating 16 different brokerage accounts that she had accumulated over a 25-year investment period. She had well over $1 million in her portfolio and now has it all consolidated into two accounts.
“In the past, she always made all her own financial decisions. She’d invested a lot of time in this over the years. But after we started working together and we had everything consolidated and simplified, she immediately gave all of that up,” says Stephen. “She simply doesn’t follow the markets anymore. She knows that she pays me a retainer. I am her trusted financial advisor, and if there’s anything going on in her life that has to do with money, she calls me. I believe that she’d always wanted to find someone she could trust over those 25 years, and I was the first financial advisor that treated her the way that she wanted to be treated.”
Soon afterward, Stephen got a call from the woman’s sister. “I just want you to do for me what you did for my sister,” she told Stephen. “My sister always had all the financial answers, but now when I ask her anything about her money, she simply says, ‘I don’t know, ask Stephen.’ And that’s exactly what I want to do and the kind of relationship I want to have with you.”
To Stephen’s delight, this lady had slightly more than her sister, about $1.3 million, and she again consolidated more than a dozen different brokerage accounts with his firm.