I spent part of this past week in Washington, D.C., attending the Investment Advisor annual conference. While there, I met some great people and was able to pick their brains a bit. It has been a long-held belief of mine that you can learn something new from everyone you meet. It’s interesting to me to hear of the different ways advisors approach their businesses, specifically, the services they offer, and how they price them.

One advisor I met inherited his practice from his father, who was an engineer. The son, now in charge, offers tax preparation and asset management and bases his fees on the complexity of each case. There’s probably a bit of subjectivity with this approach as it’s sometimes hard to quantify the exact complexity, given the number of nuances that may exist. We spoke about financial planning and shared a common concern about presenting an entire comprehensive plan to a client in one meeting. This is, in reality, probably too much for clients to digest and can easily lead to inactivity in the implementation. Good food for thought.

Another advisor I met has six other partners and offers tax preparation, asset management, financial planning and recently added a personal touch, such as paying a client’s bills. One unique feature of their business model is that they do not charge a fee for assets based on a percentage of assets but rather on the amount and mix of assets. This way, whether the market rises or falls, their fees do not change.

A highlight of the conference for me personally was the panel where I received suggestions from Mark Tibergien, Angie Herbers, and Philip Pavleev. While I love to create and refine, there was a common theme in their comments: spend more time on marketing. So to summarize, though there are many different services one can offer and ways to price them, it’s best to just pick one and go with it. Going forward, I plan to create an executive summary for my financial plan and giving the client a choice between receiving it in lieu of the whole document. I also plan to increase my marketing efforts. Anyway, I’m glad for the experience and I’m excited to get back and implement some of the ideas.