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How Dependable Processes Aid Growth with Daniel Hannoush

Daniel Hannoush, CEO of Pandowealth, had a problem. His niche firm was growing so fast they didn’t even need to market their services. At the very top of his high-growth dilemma was the need for a process that could help solve several issues. 

For the first time on the Elementality podcast, Reese interviews an Elements client. You’ll relate to Daniel’s real-world problems as he explains why the solution he chose has helped solve his firm’s plan tracking, client communications, and personnel issues.


Podcast Transcript

Daniel Hannoush:
What is a way that I can systematically fight this whole, “Here’s this complex financial plan with 34 year projections that sits on a shelf.”? What’s the way we can be in a relationship longterm, provide meaningful advice in bite size chunks that leads to effective implementation, and, oh by the way, do it in a scalable way?

Abby Morton:
Welcome to Elementality. I’m Abby Morton, CFP and producer of our podcast here at Elements. I love being a financial planner, but I know it’s a challenging profession as well. That’s why the number one goal of our show is to help you prosper as an advisor as you better connect with your clients. We know your time is very valuable. Plan on a good return when you spend it here with us.

Reese Harper:
Welcome to another episode of Elementality everybody. I am very excited today to be with a friend and a peer. One of our first foray into interviewing fellow wealth managers that have built their own practices. I’d like to welcome Daniel Hannoush to the show. Daniel, welcome.

Daniel Hannoush:
Thanks, Reese, excited to be here.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, man. Did you know that today’s my birthday?

Daniel Hannoush:
No it’s not.

Reese Harper:
Yes. Today’s my birthday. [inaudible 00:01:25], I said, “I want to interview Daniel on my birthday.” [crosstalk 00:01:29].

Daniel Hannoush:
Well, happy birthday, I’m honored.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, it’s a good day. Every time I get to chat with a friend on a birthday it’s a great time. For those of you who don’t know, Daniel, he spent some time in the mountains over the last few years, and now he is down in a place where I just came from. I was just in South Carolina, and you’re in Georgia now. I was enjoying some of the humid…

Daniel Hannoush:
[crosstalk 00:01:56] weather.

Reese Harper:
… Warm temperatures down there. After about a week and my clothes sticking to me I was like, “I got to get back to them mountains. It’s getting a little hot.” I really have appreciated this part about your life though, I think we can talk about this just to jump in. Let’s talk a little bit about your background and what has been an interesting theme for you, of moving, having a remote practice, and feeling what it’s like to run a pretty large organization, but not necessarily having your roots tied down to a physical space. So, let’s just go into your background, and you can touch on that and help bridge the gap between my interest in geography and your actual financial planning story.

Daniel Hannoush:
Thanks, Reese, honored to share the story. We’ve been in a camper for the last six to nine months, taking advantage of social distancing and just enjoying parts of the US. It’s been awesome. We’ve explored coast to coast in a camper, we’re running the firm. We’ve got a team of 12 scattered all across the US serving exclusively Chick-fil-A, operators and corporate staff. We’ve got about 400 households that we’re serving. Just crossed into SCC Regulation, we’re 118 million AUM, but growing quickly.

Reese Harper:
Nice.

Daniel Hannoush:
Started four years ago the current business with my partner Jim. I’ll kind of work backwards from there, but giving you the high-level [inaudible 00:03:29] so people can size me up and our firm. Team of 12, all virtual, started from scratch, no acquisitions, zero, essentially five years ago.

Reese Harper:
Let’s talk about you meeting Jim. So, Jim, for those of you who don’t know, is Daniel’s partner in this niche financial advisor Chick-fil-A-focused thing. How did you first meet him?

Daniel Hannoush:
In order to tell how I met him I think it’s important to know that the financial transition of my career was working in food manufacturing. I went back and got a master’s in Wealth Management.

Reese Harper:
Oh.

Daniel Hannoush:
Ended up starting a firm from scratch back in 2015, [inaudible 00:04:12] CFP. I had no financial planning background, and so I launched as a generalist from scratch at the end of 2015. And, for two years was grinding it. No income. No clients.

Reese Harper:
Totally.

Daniel Hannoush:
Building a business from scratch. I met Jim a year and a half into that. Someone at Ron Blue, which is a firm based [inaudible 00:04:38] here, knew my story, knew Jim’s story. Jim was still at Chick-fil-A Corporate, he had a wonderful 20 year career, very seasoned, decorated career at Chick-fil-A. And, had a passion for serving operators and fellow support staff. And, was doing financial planning, he had a CFP, a CPA, was doing it for free at night after his job. And, knew that he felt called to eventually leave Chick-fil-A Corporate to… He had formed an [inaudible 00:05:10] himself, but was just doing it for free.

Daniel Hannoush:
When we met, this was about 2016, and my experience building businesses, my experience as an engineer, and the master’s in Wealth Management really… In rocket fuel terms, being an integrator, and Jim being a visionary, and myself having a visionary flair, we were a perfect compliment. His network of Chick-fil-A community, my capacity to build and manage a business, we were essentially rocket fuel. Which, has led to explosive growth over the last four years.

Reese Harper:
Did you guys start out and just say, “We’ll just do this and we’ll split the equity, it’s just a 50/50 deal.”? Or, was it a long conversation? How did you arrive at a dynamic? I don’t know the dynamic of your ownership structure, and I think people would be curious about that if that’s something you can share.

Daniel Hannoush:
Absolutely. It’s really simple, painstakingly simple, we’re 50/50 partners. Even to the contrary of the one lawyer that we hired to represent us both, they were like, “Somebody’s got to be 51,” and we just said, “No.” We’re both believers, we share similar faith, and values, and mission. Our number one core value is trust. And so, it’s one of those things that if we’re going to do this… Even he suggested I think in the early stages, “You take 51, I take 51, whatever. In my mind, I don’t want to create tension, or seniority, or anything like that. We’re going to work through our issues together.” And so, against our lawyer’s recommendations we went 50/50, and it’s been awesome. We’ve split income, we’ve split equity right down the middle. I do very different things than he does, and we don’t question the value we bring. Essentially, together we can do more than we could apart. And, it doesn’t look the same, but it’s been very fair and equitable, and there’s complete trust for us.

Reese Harper:
So, when you guys go to lunch and you supersize your meal and he doesn’t, do you dividend out him a couple of bucks to even it out?

Daniel Hannoush:
I’d say the first few months I was trying to think through equal distribution of benefits, because we have different [crosstalk 00:07:47].

Reese Harper:
Lifestyle, probably expenses too, that can be considered business and all that.

Daniel Hannoush:
Yeah. We actually come up with, and this is like tax advice… The way we do it is we have an [inaudible 00:08:00], so our starting salaries are the same, which may not be the case going forward. So, W-2 is the same. Equity distributions have to be the same because of our 50/50. So then, you’re like, “What do you do differently?” I typically have more expenses than Jim, so we provide a bonus W-2 income to offset my additional expenses. So, he gets more W-2 wages, so at the end of the day we still split the 50/50 profit, but he gets more W-2, where I get more expenses.

Reese Harper:
[crosstalk 00:08:40]. Yeah, that’s cool, that’s awesome. Just cool that you guys have been able to navigate through that. The interesting thing here though that I think a lot of… This is a hard call. 50/50 businesses are a very hard decision to make.

Daniel Hannoush:
Sure.

Reese Harper:
Often times, what I see happening when they don’t work… Because, I started out my practice in 2003, in a 50/50 business.

Daniel Hannoush:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Reese Harper:
I don’t know if you knew that. My practice started with a partner in my first year. What I found was that unlike what you and Jim did, we didn’t really both bring enough value independent of one another to make up for the fact that we’re sharing a small pie to begin with. You guys grew really fast in five years. Why? Because, one person brought a network, and momentum, and some sales traction, a warm market. The other person brought expertise, and business acumen, and some ability to orchestrate. And, different ages too, you guys are different ages as well. Which, when you’re in your 30s… I don’t know how old you are, but you’re in your late 20s, early 30s, mid 30s, you bring something that someone doesn’t bring when they’re more senior in their life. And, when I say more senior I mean people in their 40s and 50s. People at that stage, you’re less willing to work a 15 hour day. It’s like, “I already did that, son. I already did that. I can work a solid 8, but don’t make me work a solid 20.”

Reese Harper:
There’s a diversity there in both time, experience, age. There’s a diversity in network versus operations. If you pair two people of a similar cloth together and your only common ground is, “We’re both going to work hard and we’re the same age,” which is what my initial partnership was, “We’re both going to work hard and we’re the same age.” It wasn’t a conscious pairing of two diverse sets of life experience and value. I think that caused a challenge for us because it was a little too early for both of us to partner. So, I ended up having to keep going with the business, and my partner ended up having a really successful career as an executive in financial planning at another organization.

Reese Harper:
But, I just think it’s interesting to highlight that choice, and why it isn’t necessarily the right choice for everybody, but maybe some of the reasons it worked out for you guys, that I think were different than other people.

Daniel Hannoush:
Yeah. It’s probably common for your listeners evaluating, “Should I partner? Is this a good partnership?” I’d recommend a couple of resources that were key. Our business runs on traction, which is by Gino Wickman. That’s the operating system with which we run, and set vision, and get everybody working together. But, Rocket Fuel, helping put language in a framework around the visionary integrator, those key differences. And, you put those two together and boom, that’s the fuel needed for a rocket ship.

Daniel Hannoush:
And then, the other resource I would say is, Ensemble Practice, by… And, I’ll butcher the name, but Philip Palaveev, I think.

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Daniel Hannoush:
He’s been an incredible book he wrote, and I believe coined the phrase, “Ensemble practice.” But, that has been key to why our partnership has [inaudible 00:12:32]. We’re not two siloed firms that are sharing expenses, we have one book of business, we have one P&L, everyone’s [inaudible 00:12:41] the clients are clients of the firm. We win together, we lose together. Jim and I have the same compensation. Employees are paid salary with an eventual path to partnership. So, that I think is symptomatic. You can’t separate why we’ve been successful and why it’s such a healthy culture. People compliment our culture. It’s these key ingredients, I believe.

Reese Harper:
So, let’s jump to another subject here that I think will be valuable to listeners. We started, we’ve now got this partnership, what was the first incremental hire besides you and Jim? There’s a debate there of who to hire, what to do? Do I focus on marketing? Do I focus on operations? Do I duplicate myself and try to create some capacity? What was the decision that you had to make next?

Daniel Hannoush:
I think understanding our story is also understanding when we had the Chick-fil-A network we never really had to focus on growth, which is crazy. Marketing was not the first thought. Because of Jim’s network, as soon as people heard that Jim left after 20 years, they came flocking. And, we’re so thankful for that. Chick-fil-A is such a tight-knit community, we’ve had no shortage of clients and growth. I think we added 100 clients in our first year together. It was nuts. Just the two of us.

Daniel Hannoush:
We ended up making our first hire September of 2017. We started together officially January 1, after Jim left 20 years. And, we really debated CSA versus Associate Advisor. We couldn’t afford anything higher-level than that. We didn’t take on any investors, no debt, we cash flowed it. Prior to that, I went two years without making any income, just totally grinding it. So, we’re doing this organically. And also, to your listeners, our model for hiring has been, “Find people and train them.” We haven’t been successful with experienced hires. All of our team has been career changers from outside of the financial planning industry, including myself and Jim. I was an engineer, Jim came from corporate America at Chick-fil-A.

Daniel Hannoush:
So, our first hire was Laurie, and she was essentially our CSA, was how that went. [inaudible 00:15:26] now, we got a team of 12. We start hiring two by two. In this last round we hired three people, this Q1 of 2021, so it’s sort of a snowball. The first hire is always the hardest, cashflow. You’re not making any money anyway, and now you’re going to carve up a third of the revenue or whatever.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, that’s tricky. I think one thing here that I’m observing that’s I think critical, when I see people say, “Who’s my first hire?” A lot of times they go this CSA Associate Advisor route. In my experience, that works when your marketing somehow is going awesome. Because, you’re like, “I get 100 clients in my first year,” because of essentially the choice to say, “I’m going to have a smaller piece of a bigger pie with Jim, because he brings a network. That’s worth half my equity.” Okay. That’s a great decision if you have that luxury. And, it’s not just a luxury, it’s a conscious… You didn’t just stumble across that either, this is a strategic, thoughtful… You knew enough when you came across the opportunity to say, “This is a good deal.”

Reese Harper:
These kind of deals may be something that listeners have to go pursue. You have to think about that, do you have a professional golfer that’s been in golf for the last 20 years advising people that wants to go and partner with you? Do you have an attorney that works for the Board of California Bar Association that you can partner with? Marketing is the lifeblood. It’s why everyone fails. They just don’t get enough customers. It’s probably important for audience to know that Daniel and I have been working together on how to build the Elements platform, he was one of our first adopters of the Elements Financial Planning System. What I’ve seen in comparing your experience with a lot of the other early advisors that are coming onboard, is you’ve got a growth engine… You’ve got your marketing dialed in. But, you didn’t really have to dial in a really aggressive marketing campaign, you just had to get into a network.

Reese Harper:
And, that is very different from how I had to get Dentist Advisors to where it’s growing at fast rate. And, I didn’t have a dental network. And, knowing and seeing your path, that would have been another viable alternative. Can I find a dentist that’s a nationally renowned speaker in dentistry and just partner with that person and say, “You handle the flow of new business, I’m going to work on the operation.”? Because, alternatively what have you got to do? You have to build a pretty big marketing program.

Daniel Hannoush:
XYPN, I was going to reference them, Al and Michael. I think their first hire was a marketing person. They point to that to their success. And, that was I think the first time I’d heard a first hire should be in that, to feed the growth.

Reese Harper:
I haven’t heard that before. That’s interesting that they shared. That’s my view, but I haven’t really heard anyone publicly double down on that before.

Daniel Hannoush:
I think Maddy might have been hired, and she was in sales and [inaudible 00:19:14]. That was the first time I’d heard feed the growth engine before [inaudible 00:19:18] about service in the client well, which is counterintuitive.

Reese Harper:
I think it is to most advisors. As an engineer, your first focus is, “Improve the product, engineer the product, got to make the product better,” we all go to product.

Daniel Hannoush:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
That’s a very typical… I did that. That’s how Elements was born. My biggest success to date is that I focus so much on product, that it resulted in a whole separate company being born that was bigger than the advisory that I was starting, because I focused so much on product. But, that came at a pretty serious cost to the advisory in the early years. We were doing product before we even thought about marketing. We knew we’re going after dentists, and our first thought was, “Let’s improve the process. Let’s build the product. Let’s improve… It’s going to be the best financial planning process for dentists ever.” We didn’t think, “Let’s go find a bunch of dentists,” we were like, “If we build it, they’ll come.”

Daniel Hannoush:
Yeah, field of dreams.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. And, the truth is, they don’t come, you got to chase them down. They do not come. No one’s going to be knocking down your door organically. You and me are the perfect people to talk about this, because we have such contrasting experiences to getting to client flow. You bought your way into the ethos of a community. You bought your way essentially with… Partnering your way. What I mean bought is you traded equity for ethos. And, I raised capital to market my way into that ethos. Either way, you end up giving up half your company by the time you’re done. And so, it’s just a question of which way are you going to get to market penetration? Are you going to get there through slow growth over 20 years and reinvesting all of your profits back into marketing that finally gets you to scale? Are you going to get there through a partnership, like what Daniel’s done? He trades his equity for that ethos that we’re talking about. Or, do you want to accelerate your growth still, like I did, and say, “I just want to get there faster, so I’ll sell the equity, I’ll market my way to that place, and we’ll build the ethos.”?

Reese Harper:
My way took longer, in terms of you can’t buy your way into knowing the customer. Knowing the customer just takes time. And, Jim, he went there for 20 years getting to know that customer. And, immediately that gets transferred into the firm. I had to go slowly becoming Jim over a long period of time, and that’s a more time consuming process. I think it’s a fascinating contrast. Thanks for being willing to expose some of that to us. Second, and third, and fourth hires kind of fall in, I don’t think it becomes as critical, but that first transition point from partnership to hire, it’s always fascinating to see where that takes people.

Abby Morton:
I know one of your biggest challenges is delivering a consistent financial planning experience to your clients on an ongoing basis. You get off to a good start onboarding a client, and then what? There just doesn’t seem to be a good process for nurturing the new relationship.

Abby Morton:
Elements Financial Planning System can help you easily organize and evaluate client financial data. Then, based on key indicators of their financial health, deliver timely insights to your clients. Using our system gives you the structure you need for ongoing planning. To learn more, schedule a time to talk to us today by going to getelements.com/meet.

Reese Harper:
Let’s go to the next stage of you’re big, you’re fast, you’re moving quick. I’m curious, you and me have never really extracted this, we’ve partnered to some degree for a reason on improving the planning process. Pando is a customer of Elements, and we’re working hard to make our process try to help support and scale your business. What was it about your existing business infrastructure… You grew fast, you’re at this place of 100s of clients, you’ve got 10/12 staff people. When did you start noticing, or what was it about planning process that started coming to mind? “I got to change the way I’m doing this?” What was the challenge when you grew and got to this point? What was the challenge that made you start exploring planning process enhancements or changes?

Daniel Hannoush:
I am not a salesman for Elements or Dentist Advisors, nor am I compensated for any referrals. If you care about financial planning, if you care about a systematic, quality, high-touch, consistent, scalable way to deliver financial planing, look no further than the Elements planning process. I don’t say that lightly. I will say, ever since I existed, I’m the engineer, so process has been my concern. The product quality, financial planning has been on my radar [inaudible 00:25:07]. Before I started and got my first client I went out and paid for e-money, because I was like, “What is the best financial planning experience? What are the tools I need to give my client?” Even before I had income. [inaudible 00:25:23], boom, expense. Valuing technology, valuing process. And, honestly, in a vulnerable way for five years we’ve been pursuing, “What does that process look like?” In our situation, our high growth, we don’t have the luxury of one client a month, handholding them, and thinking through, “Where are they at?”, and keep the process on your head. You have a 100 new clients every year flowing through at different rates of speed, it can be mind-numbing, and balls can be dropped, and quality can suffer.

Daniel Hannoush:
And, when you’re in a tight niche that’s a high risk. One bad experience, that double edge sword of it got you the growth because of the community, it can also be your downfall when you start getting, “Hey, it’s a house of cards,” or, “They’re good getting in the front door, but boy do they suffer delivering.”

Reese Harper:
“On the backend they don’t deliver.” Yeah. We felt the same thing with dentists. It’s a small community. It doesn’t take a lot of bad experiences before your reputation online, Facebook communities, dentists talk a lot, we have to be very careful too, I can relate to that.

Daniel Hannoush:
Yeah. And, for five years I’d been refining, we’ve hired consultants, we’ve had [inaudible 00:26:39] planners that were specialized in operations look at our process. And again; I’m process-oriented; Rich Dad, Poor Dad; E-Myth Revisited. I care about scalable, there’s a book called Scaling Up that Alan Moore recommended to me, from XYPN. I’ve thought about, “How do we build an enterprise business from day one?” So, even as I’m financial advisor trying to deliver good service, I’m thinking about, “How can I 10X this, where I can build a team that can multiply.” I care more about building careers and advancing a culture of people that can go through this financial planning process, like Elements, deliver the best experience to clients, create raving fans, scale up and everybody’s happy. For five years I’ve been pursuing that. For five years I failed.

Daniel Hannoush:
The difficulty of the challenge has been also finding the technology to support the process. You’ve got e-money, you’ve got [inaudible 00:27:42], you’ve got all these things out there. But, half the battle is, “What do I do with this report? How do I marry process and experience with financial planning advice?” And, that’s why I think Element shines, is you started organically with the process. “What is a way that I can systematically fight this whole, “Here’s this complex financial plan with 34 year projections that sits on a shelf.”? What’s the way we can be in a relationship longterm, provide meaningful advice in bite size chunks that leads to effective implementation, and, oh by the way, do it in a scalable way?” So, you started with the process, perfected that over your years, and now you’re at a point where you’re investing in an app that enables the process. That’s where you shine I think that doesn’t exist.

Reese Harper:
Elements really didn’t start to get really standardized until we got a lot of volume of clients and started going fast. When I was small, it was still easier to go, “Custom [inaudible 00:28:56], we can do this, we’re going to make it work.” When you meet advisors that are only at 10 clients, or five clients, or eight clients, they’re getting started, 20 clients, I think it’s hard for them to see what life’s like when there’s 150 or 200. Can you explain a little bit more what it feels like to care so much about all of these people and be at that level of volume? And, what it feels like when you are at that stage of growth, what are the emotions going through your head?

Daniel Hannoush:
Yeah. So, while I am so excited about the P&L, the headcount, the growth of the business, the anxiety that I feel that we have 100s of clients moving through the financial planning process. The way we do it, prior to meeting Elements, was not to deliver a financial plan out front and send them on their merry way. We’d already decided to do the modular approach. We take a topic at a time, implement, provide recommendation, provide insight, schedule homework, and stay parked until the client makes progress. What’s the downsides to that? Well, if the client doesn’t engage or if they don’t book a meeting, you don’t progress. And so, you have 100s of clients moving at different time speeds, both in meeting certain milestones and the speed at which they do it. Right now we have Salesforce, we’ve been investing in that for a year and a half. Prior to that, if you don’t have good systems and processes in place, how do you keep track of that?

Daniel Hannoush:
And so, while I’m excited about the growth, there’s this anxiety that I’m feeling that our ball’s going to get dropped, “Are clients being served? They haven’t booked a meeting. How do we know when the last time they met with them? Are they making process?” There’s only Jim and myself in terms of Lead Advisors, and everyone else is growing in experience and pursing their CFP. So, you have us as the main Lead Advisors servicing 400 households. So, that’s pre-Elements.

Daniel Hannoush:
What has Elements given us? It’s confidence. It’s holding your head high again, knowing with confidence you have a system and a process to ensure, no matter what the volume is, clients are being touched at least monthly. I know that you don’t have to hang your hat on touching clients monthly in order to feel good, but we’re doing proactive planning month in, month out, regardless if the client schedules a meeting. We don’t have to feel anxiety about the last time we met. And then, when we meet, we have to deliver so much value. The pressure in that one hour meeting to catch them up, provide advice, and schedule the next homework, and get them to engage again. You’ve overcome that by, “No, we’ve got a system and you’re going to be touched, there’s going to be value delivered month in, month out, quarter by quarter.” You reserve the time to meet to be catching up. You’re confident, and you get to be relational again. You’re not worried about, “Am I serving the client well?” And, that to me is important.

Reese Harper:
I want to highlight about your personality that I think makes you unique, you care about outcomes. Daniel cares, Pando cares about outcomes. It’s not just selling a plan. It’s not just collecting AUM fees. The reason you feel anxiety is because you want to look back at a 15, 20 year life of working with the client and go, “We meaningfully moved the needle. If we weren’t there, the outcomes would have been different.” A lot of advisors aren’t quite there, the industry’s not quite there, to where advisors care enough deeply about their client to where the outcomes are what matters. I want to see higher average savings rates, I want to see lower average spending, I want to see higher than average charitable giving, I want to see higher than average net worth increase for an income level. These outcomes are the point of why… That’s the evidence, that’s the fruit of why they hired an advisor. And, it’s hard to get to outcomes-based planning when most of the tools and most of the industry has created plan-based interactions, transactional relationships.

Reese Harper:
The idea of a financial plan itself, it came from a time when people were selling plans for five grand, 10 grand. It’s a plan, it’s a binder, it’s something you sell. It wasn’t until the last maybe five years where I feel like advisors are starting to see planning is different than plan. And, it’s beautiful to see how much you care and what that’s doing to move your firm towards outcomes where… If someone gets in the door at Pando and they’re a Chick-fil-A operator, there’s no better place in the world for them to have a chance to optimize their wealth. Because, the machine is going to find the problems, it’s going to identify the gaps in time, it won’t be right away, it won’t be in the first month that they’re a client. But, in time, that rising tide’s going to raise all the boats in the firm. It starts with an advisor that has a deep care about outcomes.

Daniel Hannoush:
I’ve been called an Elements fanboy and I really don’t mind that. When I find something that’s delivering value to me and my clients I want to be an advocate for it, again, without compensation or anything, so when you hear me talk about it… I do want to highlight two other areas about Elements that I think make our experience what it is. First of all, it stems back to… Again, being an engineer, attention to detail, I got a master’s in Wealth Management, I cared about substance beyond just sales, I want to add value to my clients. So, part of my master’s experience was the academic financial plan, which included all these wonderful ratios that were incredible metrics that you could use to analyze a business if you do business valuation. You tell the story of where the business is going, not by looking at a snapshot of the financial statements, but you look at these variables, these metrics, and the P&L, and the balance sheet over a period of time to see where the story is going. So, you quantify, but it’s benchmarking against itself, and against its peers. That’s what we did in master’s of Wealth Management.

Daniel Hannoush:
I felt like I lack that the first couple of years once I launched into practice, those specific metrics. So, I love that Elements gives us quantifiable metrics that can be measured against the client over time, as well against their peers. As an engineer, you can geek out about the substance of the content. I think if you zoom out, the biggest value, and what all of our clients are resonating, regardless of how deep into the weeds they are, are the four questions that you seek to answer. I don’t have them all memorized but it’s, “When can I make work optional? Am I taking the right amount of risk? Am I using my income wisely?”

Reese Harper:
“Do I have the right mix of assets?”

Daniel Hannoush:
So, apart from you good marketing, I remember in describing your process is not geeking out of, “We’re going to do nine months of this and three months of that. You’re going to get this binder.” No, you describe it as, “I’m going to take you on a journey. I’m going to take you through a process where we’re going to take fears and anxieties related to these four questions… You probably have these questions. If I zoom out from the details, you probably want to know, “Am I going to be okay?”” These four questions break down the psychology, the emotional, the spiritual element to how people [inaudible 00:37:31] with money. And, you’re taking them through a process where you’re going to give them confidence, joy, and peace related to these questions. And, to me, when we turn the corner and describe our services in that way… Remember we asked our clients before we launched Elements, “Do these questions resonate? Is there anything else? Our clients said, “Yes, they resonate. No, there’s nothing else.” So, the fact that the metrics, the process, if you zoom out, give peace, joy, and confidence around these four questions, to me, that’s the next level. It’s not just numbers, and apps, and process. You’re adding real value in these areas.

Reese Harper:
It’s been awesome to watch you guys. I just feel like you and me are both uncovering this as we go along with the other partner firms that we’re working with. I think it’s important that it didn’t start with technology. I think that it’s important that it started from a spreadsheet, and a lot of at bats, a lot of repetitions, a lot of questions, like what you’re asking your client.

Reese Harper:
I think it’s critical for people to see that part of the success of running a firm like yours is what has to happen over time to standardize to some level the product that you’re delivering. It’s okay to have a custom interaction with a client when you’re smaller. That’s fine. But, as you continue to grow, what ends up happening is that the same passion that made you do a custom interaction with every client will start to result in every client getting a different level of interaction. The quality won’t be there. It just can’t be there as you scale. Because, your custom interaction starts to become different, now it’s based on how much energy you had in that day, or how much time you had for the appointment, or whether they showed up or not for their February review. The process that I see most advisors struggling with is it’s exacerbated as they get bigger. But, if they can just start when they’re smaller to establish some standards and listen to guys like you who have been at 100s and 100s of clients in onboarding in a year. Onboarding 100+ clients in a year, I know how that feels, and it’s madhouse.

Reese Harper:
At Dentist Advisor I don’t want to make it sound like we’re onboarding 1000s a year right now, we’re not, but we’re onboarding 100s. And, it’s fast. It’s easier to do that when you’re just a founder, but when you’re onboarding 100s of people with people that are new, people that only worked for you for a year or two, your process just gets tested so much at that stage. And, you owe it to your clients to build your process. Whether you use Elements, or whether you use your own financial planning process that you’re going to develop, which I encourage a lot of people to do, because we need more innovators out there and more change.

Reese Harper:
I just think that the lesson of Daniel’s scale, to me, has to do with two really big things. One, what are you going to do to drive clients? Because, no one helps people if you don’t have people come in the door. All of the intentions in the world are not going to change the lack of flow. You got to bring flow in. And, Daniel’s just shared a really creative and powerful way to do that. Second, you have to empower a team to execute a process. It’s beyond Daniel at this point, it’s beyond Jim. I’m interacting as much with Daniel’s team at Elements as I am Daniel, and that’s the beauty of what a good process can do. Whether you’re going to buy a process, or whether you’re going to build a process, these two critical components are, to me, the main two reasons people can scale. What are you going to do about flow and new clients? And then, what are you going to do to service them properly once they get in the door?

Reese Harper:
You’ve done an amazing job of intuitively just finding your way into buying both. And, I think that’s what, to me, has been remarkable about your story that’s very unique. Jim’s not the type of guy that can be bought. He’s the type of guy that will only respond to trust. He’s a caliber person. But, when I say you bought, not built, you didn’t build the marketing, you bought the marketing. You traded equity for access to a market. And then, when you saw how difficult it was to build process, you didn’t build, you bought. And, both of those things result in higher profitability, they result in faster growth, peaceful founders. These are smart decisions, folks. I feel like a lot of advisors are buying marketing, and they’re building marketing, and then they’re building their process. And, I feel like one of those two things has to give. Imagine where you’d be if you had to build your own marketing and then build your own process. You’re just where you’re at now because you made those critical buy decisions. I don’t know if anyone’s ever shared that with you, but that’s a different way of looking at your success. I’m just curious how you’d respond to that. There’s probably more to it that I’m not capturing, but those are big things that I’ve noticed.

Daniel Hannoush:
Yeah, I want to echo and bolster that with just saying, instead of being expense-oriented, which I have to fight, being a do-it-yourselfer engineer, to want to do it yourself, that takes time. I have bought time. Number one, Jim’s 20 year career. I could not do that. Our company’s 25 years old, even though it’s been around for four, [crosstalk 00:43:34].

Reese Harper:
Yeah, it is. Exactly.

Daniel Hannoush:
There’s that. And then, if I think about the financial planning process, why we’re having instant traction here rolling this out, is I have… I’m going off memory here, but you’ve been in business 16, 17, almost 20 years…

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Daniel Hannoush:
… And you’ve been refining your process for that long, and I’m buying your experience. And, now you’re making it into an app where I could go out and… I don’t want to. I don’t want to go out and raise $10 million, and sell parts of my company, and hire developers and get them on staff. So, you’re doing that.

Reese Harper:
Final thoughts here to wrap up the audience. I want to give you the last word, I promised to do that at the beginning even though I know I talk a lot.

Daniel Hannoush:
No, this has been a very enjoyable experience. I even struggle to add to it. I think, for us, starting with, “Why?” We’re making the presumption your audience wants to grow, I think you have to dig there. Maybe you just want to have a lifestyle practice where it’s just you. For us, my passion now, our mission is to grow Wealth to empower purposeful living and giving. Unlocking generosity in people’s lives, which is why we exist and how we differentiate, with a specialized niche for Chick-fil-A operators and support staff. But now, my passion, probably much like yours, is building and growing a team. I care about career paths, I care about building a business that can 10X serve the clients that I could do on my own. If I think about this podcast and your listeners, the key ingredient to sleeping well at night and delivering consistent, quality, repeatable, scalable, financial planning is the Elements planning process.

Daniel Hannoush:
And, while we’re growing, using traction to set vision for the 10 year, and we’re adding Salesforce to scale the business processes, and the workflows, and things like that, and we add a tax planning to increase the one-stop-shop for our clients, Elements is the standalone solution that has given ourselves and our clients peace about managing their finances. Both in answering key decisions today like, “How do I make key financial decisions today? You got this 40 page plan. I need to know am I okay?” and things like that. But also, give us a framework to manage the trajectory and provide real meaningful advice.

Reese Harper:
One thing you said that I want to leave people with that I thought was also insightful, when you want to be a small lifestyle practice, sometimes the assumption is, “All these things don’t really apply to me then. Marketing doesn’t really apply. This whole planning process thing… I don’t want to grow that much.” In my view, if you’re trying to build a lifestyle practice it’s all the more reason. It’s not only the right decision for growing, in my view it’s the right decision for having a simpler lifestyle-focused practice. You can stop at 50 clients and you can just get there sooner by incorporating a good marketing buy-in, like in a way that Daniel has modeled, or other possibilities, and you can incorporate a planning process faster. It’s just a faster way to get to whatever size you want to be at. And, I think that sometimes people struggle their entire careers building what they want to be a lifestyle practice, but it just lacks the process that’s required to stabilize that lifestyle practice. And, it lacks the marketing required to target the perfect customer for those 50 perfect clients that you want.

Reese Harper:
So, I think it still applies, I just think so many people discount it. They’re like, “Well, Daniel’s…” It’s fine for Daniel because he’s got this big fancy giant practice and he’s working with clients all over the country. But, wouldn’t you say the same thing applies for a 50-person firm, to some degree, in a smaller way? Or, do you think it differs a lot?

Daniel Hannoush:
No, I agree. I don’t think the message here is Elements or a good financial planning process is for scale. I think it’s for consistent, quality, value-add financial planning. If you take one client through the process one time, you’re going to add tremendous value. It doesn’t take scale to see the value in it. So, I think that’s the difference.

Reese Harper:
You’ve been great, man. You’ve got so much to offer the world, and we appreciate you spending some time with us. It’s just cool to watch what you and your team are doing. Going to be a sweet next five years as Chick-fil-A generally continues to expand and grow, it’s a great growth market. And, you’re the shop, you got the niche. It’s an awesome way to grow a business, when you’re willing to target a niche and just own it. So, congrats. We’ve got so much more to talk about in future episodes, really appreciate you spending time with us.

Daniel Hannoush:
Thanks for having me, Reese, until next time.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality.

Reese Harper:
We have people that struggle to spend. We have people that struggle to stay consistent and tend to speculate more than others. We have people that tend to sacrifice all of their [inaudible 00:49:18] for their children, their family. These profiles combine with financial data that we collect, is the foundation of advice delivery? And, we do ourselves and our clients a big disservice when we jump into advice prematurely.

Abby Morton:
You can learn more about the Elements Financial Planning System at getelements.com/meet, and schedule a time to speak with one of our friendly financial planning experts. Elementality’s executive creators are Reese Harper and Chad Jardine. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton, and directed by Jordan Haynes. Have a good one.

 

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