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Elementality Podcast

The Building Blocks to Firm Success With Dasarte Yarnway

There’s a lot to consider when starting and then growing a planning firm—branding, demand generation, your vision for the future, and of course how your values fit into what you want to accomplish. You have a vision of what your firm can become. So what are the right steps to get your firm to what you believe it can be?

On this Elementality, Dasarte Yarnway, Zach Ashburn, Emlen Miles-Mattingly, and Becky Walsh join Reese and Carl in a roundtable discussion addressing many of the common concerns advisors face. And what order you put the essential building blocks to starting and growing a firm was high on their list. There’s so much that needs to be done, how do you get the sequencing correct?

 


Podcast Transcript

Reese Harper:
When I hear the word “sequencing,” I’m thinking in what order am I gonna take those systems? And I’m thinking… You guys are probably seeing the same thing, right? In what order? Is there an order in your mind for that?

Dasarte Yarnway:
So that’s the thing that I want to hear from you, but in my mind, it starts with getting a certain number of your ideal clients. Right now… I had 88 households last year, had new advisors that were just doing great work. I cut that number in half because there’s a certain type of person, a certain mission I’m on that I need to find those clients to add to my client partner list. Because I feel like that’s gonna be my most fulfilling work. So in the sequence of things, the first thing that I have to do is find…

Reese Harper:
Find the ideal…

Dasarte Yarnway:
X amount, at least, let’s say 25 more of those clients that are going to be business essential clients.

Abby Morton:
Hey, everyone, it’s Abby. Reece, Carl and I recently had the chance to get together with several colleagues at a small gathering at Reece’s cabin. The snow was lightly falling, and in the quiet of that intimate mountain setting, we were able to share ideas and openly talk about some of the challenges advisors typically face. The discussion was profoundly rewarding and we wanted to share the conversation with others here on Elementality. We hope you enjoy.

Dasarte Yarnway:
My question for you, since you were talking about the phone ringing off the hook, was just scalability sequence, right?

Reese Harper:
E-sequencing. Yeah.

Dasarte Yarnway:
That’s what I call it. So I have, in my mind, a sequence for how I want to scale my firm, to then bring in more advisors, to then remove myself from the firm so it can live by itself.

Reese Harper:
Self, yeah.

Dasarte Yarnway:
That’s something that’s gonna live longer than me, past me, that’s gonna be able to be here for a long time. What do you think, if you had to do like a five-step process for scaling? At one, where do you start, and five, where should you be? So walk me through… Maybe that’s Dentist Advisors, scaling that practice, or for the modern advisor scaling today, what are the five steps that they should be doing? Number one sounds like, get people on the phone, right? But talk to us about…

Reese Harper:
Prior to that, it’s all about brand. It’s positioning. And it’s defining that customer perfectly. You could tell, as I described back to Zach his niche, I’m not quite nailing it. That’s because it wasn’t described to me yet in a clear way. I think there’s some work to do on brand for… It’s easier in some niches than others. Like, to say, “resource with dentists” is a lot easier than what you’re trying to describe. I think that’s an excellent niche. It’s a much bigger market than dentists, and I like that market. You just gotta find a way to describe it that’s so clear, so simple, that it’s easy to repeat. Zach works with who? Well, if it’s like a couple of sentences, that’s not as great as a few words.

Dasarte Yarnway:
Career changing consultants.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. And I don’t know… And then my question in my mind… Anyway, there’s a lot we can talk about that. I have questions about career changing, like, am I career changing, am I not career changing?

Dasarte Yarnway:
You were a consultant who left the corporate world to become a consultant, and you read that you wouldn’t have a question about it.

Reese Harper:
Maybe…

Dasarte Yarnway:
You’re not one.

Reese Harper:
Maybe, maybe. I don’t… That actually might be perfect. But brand, stage one. And it’s not like, don’t get…

Dasarte Yarnway:
Who is it for?

Reese Harper:
Yeah. And I wouldn’t get overly focused on the visuals yet, and the imagery. And it’s like, we don’t need to actually do the aesthetic. That’s design.

Dasarte Yarnway:
No one cares…

Reese Harper:
Design’s a subset of brand. But start, brand. Second, demand generation. Once you have a customer in mind and you know it’s about money, then it’s all about demand generation. You don’t even… The product is you. The product is the answers you already have to their questions. You could have no deliverable. I mean, LCSWs do it all the time. Coaches do it all the time. I could give you a hundred industries that do not have deliverables except for the human being that sits in the room, and they make 10 times as much as financial advisors. [laughter] We don’t actually have to have a deliverable. The fact that we have tools is awesome, but you could do financial advice without having all of the person’s information. But it’s a little inefficient. Little inefficient. And it’s not as impactful. That’s why we have tools. You can’t make these really massive life-changing differences without it. But I’ll just say those are the first two sequencing. I’ve never thought of a five-step plan, but Carl, I’ll give a couple more from the hips. Carl and I are working on this thing right now of how do we actually solve that question? How do we give an advisor a five-step growth plan? The name we’re throwing around for Elements is just Growth Foundry, like, how do we actually keep growth and sequence growth properly? I loved that way you framed it, ’cause sequencing growth is the… It’s the reason all startups fail. Just they mis-sequence it.

Becky Walsh:
They hire seven people.

Dasarte Yarnway:
I wrote a five-step process for myself…

Reese Harper:
I’d love to hear ’em, and then I’ll think if there’s anything I could add to it. Those were the first two, but what was your five step?

Dasarte Yarnway:
So I actually… So I switched my niche…

Carl Richards:
By the way, Zach, your time is up. [chuckle]

Reese Harper:
So I guess mine starts.

Carl Richards:
And go!

Dasarte Yarnway:
So, I switched my niche earlier this year from people that work in the equity compensation space or get paid in equity, to small business owners. Our firm has three kind of service options that you can choose from; the solopreneur, flat fee plus assets, a small asset fee, and then something that we call business essentials. That’s like a full white-glove service with outsourced professionals to help them with certain things, like taxes, bookkeeping, which is a big pain point for growing businesses. And obviously, financial planning and investment management. Now, when I was writing this five-step process, I was like, “Any business can use this, not just my business.” So I packaged it up and I called it Five Hacks To Grow Your Business in 12 Months. On a website, tons of traffic.

Reese Harper:
Beautiful.

Dasarte Yarnway:
And the five steps were; start with your compass in mind, or set your compass. So essentially, businesses have to identify what they want this business to do. And [0:06:33.9] ____ talks about driving your business. Like, where do you want this to go? We put in the GPS, we know where our destination is. You have to know that same thing for your business. Processes were super important for me. I was like, “I wanna be able to spend time with the people, places, things that I love the most. So I have to have efficient processes and an automation that allows me to be able to do more with less.”

Reese Harper:
So we have processes, we have essentially…

Dasarte Yarnway:
Goal setting.

Reese Harper:
Goal setting your values.

Dasarte Yarnway:
Goal setting process. Rigorously tracking your activity is important for me, because like I said, if I worked four and a half, five hours a day, outreaching, doing the gym, I’m going to fill the calendar up. So, how am I optimizing my time? Because it doesn’t… I think there’s being at work and there’s working hours. A lot of people are at work, but they’re not working. So I’m really big on, if I’m sitting here, I’m gonna be working. So, four hours is probably worth nine hours of work, because I’m being so efficient and I’m tracking this activity.

Reese Harper:
So, tracking.

Dasarte Yarnway:
Tracking activity, outsourcing and hiring. Because you get to a point where you just don’t wanna do something or that isn’t producing the kind of bottom line revenue and things that you need. So tracking, outsourcing, hiring, that’s something that I did early this time around because I knew that I couldn’t be all things to all people. And there are gonna be subject matter experts that are just better at certain things like bookkeeping, like taxes. I’m not gonna be the one to do that, but there’s a person on my team that would be able to do that for your business and really show you the roadmap for what you can do. And then, number five was really patience, because businesses need time to grow. So, giving yourself patience and grace to watch what I call a seed grow into a tree. It takes time for that to happen. And people often don’t give themselves time. So, that’s five steps that I’ve outlined for myself. And if you use this, I think that any business that kinda… Have just a general roadmap on how to grow.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, beautiful, beautiful.

Dasarte Yarnway:
But I’ve been working on that for a while.

Reese Harper:
So I think that’s awesome and I commend you for that. And I think that’s probably been… You’re thinking around, that’s probably the reason you’ve been so successful, is you’re thinking about the business as a business. I’m gonna do more of an and to that. When I hear the word “sequencing,” I’m thinking, “In what order am I gonna take those systems?” And I’m thinking… You guys are probably seeing the same thing, right? In what order? Is there an order in your mind for that?

Dasarte Yarnway:
0:09:06.7 S2: So that’s the thing that I want to hear from you, but in my mind, it starts with getting a certain number of your ideal clients. Right now… I had 88 households last year, had new advisors that were just doing great work. I cut that number in half. Because there’s a certain type of person, a certain mission I’m on that I need to find those clients to add to my client partner list, because I feel like that’s gonna be my most fulfilling work. So in the sequence of things, the first thing that I have to do is find…

Reese Harper:
Find the ideal…

Dasarte Yarnway:
0:09:36.8 S2: X amount, at least, let’s say 25 more of those clients that are going to be business essential clients, that can allow me the revenue, the bandwidth to go out and hire, to go out and provide benefits, resources, to put on events that do client nurturing for some of our folks, to create this community of folks that is gonna compound over time. So, that’s step one. Step one, get the ideal client, because there’s a compound effect and fulfillment, funded [0:10:07.1] ____ contentment and just impact when you get these people in the seats.

Reese Harper:
So what I’m hearing in that thing you just said was… What I was calling demand generation is getting those ideal clients. I would sequence that ahead of brand, and I think you would too. You’re saying defining who you’re gonna work with, who is this ideal person? I’m calling that brand, but I think you would have called it… What would you have called what I’m calling brand? Defining your customer, something?

Dasarte Yarnway:
Purpose or vision.

Reese Harper:
Purpose or…

Becky Walsh:
0:10:44.2 Abby: Set your compass.

Reese Harper:
Oh, oh, set your compass.

Carl Richards:
So, your compass is like…

Reese Harper:
So you made me think of it. This is real-time. You made me think of something prior to… I’m big into personal values and we… At Elements, I just posted yesterday, we created this card deck of 65, 70 values, and I like to do an exercise with my clients where they take that 70 values, taken down to 10, and I make them build a pyramid, 4, 3, 2, 1. And then I like to know that before I ever would do a business strategy with somebody and outsourcing and hiring. Before I ever hire that first advisor, I’ve got to know their values and make sure that there’s an alignment there around what the values of the organization are, ’cause my personal values and the organization’s values might be a little bit different. ‘Cause to support the customer might be a little bit different than what supports Reece’s life. My number one value might not be as relevant to the business.

Reese Harper:
I like my value… Adventure as my number one value. But that may not actually be important for the business to thrive, ’cause the customer is a dentist and they want something different from us, they want integrity, they want trust or… So this value stuff to me is critical as stage one, that you were calling it vision, purpose, or… I think we’re in the same vein. I think that’s before brand, to me. Brand is next. After I know who I am, what my values are, what do I wanna accomplish, what I want the values of my organization to be, then I move on to brand. Brand is who we’re gonna serve, who the customer is, how I’m gonna define that, what I’m gonna call it, all that, how my position… Then, third was demand gen. How I’m gonna get people coming in the door. I haven’t even hit product yet, right?

Reese Harper:
And I think that’s the struggle here, is product is next. It’s after. ‘Cause the product is really squishy in wealth management and financial services. That’s the reason I created Elements, ’cause I was like, “I just need a simple way to hook someone to say yes to me.” And all I’m gonna show them is… All I’m gonna say is, “I monitor people’s finances and have conversations with them. And I have these scores in a scorecard that I track. And if you’re out of whack, I’ll call you, or if you have a question, you call me and we’ll reference the scorecard. And then it costs this.” And at one price. Again, it costs this. I don’t like to talk about AUM fees right then, and I don’t like… Make them make that choice. I’ll just say, “This is my annual retainer, this is my amount I need.

Reese Harper: So you have a choice, you have a product and it’s just… I’m gonna talk to you and I’m gonna monitor your finances over time. And then you have a price. Do you want that or not? ‘Cause if you say, “Here’s the six-step process and here’s what we’re gonna do, and here’s the things I’m gonna accomplish for you,” then they start going, “Well, I don’t know if I need that. I don’t know if I need that. I don’t know how you that. I don’t know if you need that.” But if you just say, “Do you want me? This is what it costs. I’m gonna monitor your finances and answer all your questions over time. Yes or no?” And you just let them be there, you’ll find out, do they want you or not? And if they say, “No, I don’t think I’m ready to move forward.” “Okay, what is it that would stop you from moving forward today?” And then you can find out, is it price or is it the product? ‘Cause if they’re like, “Well, it just costs too much.” Okay. Well, you know then it doesn’t matter what process you put in front of them, that’s not gonna change their perception of your value ’cause they’re just focused on price, so you re-address price. I guess in sequencing of growth, if you’re asking me that question, I’ll just say product would be my fourth thing after values, after brand, after demand generation activity, then it’s time for product, then it’s the one that you mentioned, it’s…

Reese Harper:
I would’ve called it “people.” People is next. And unpacking each of those… Once you get product right, once you get demand generation right… And this is tricky ’cause we all use different language to mean different things. But layering the people on then becomes just easier, way easier. If you try to layer on the people before you’ve got all the other stuff right, then you end up wondering if it’s people fit problem or if it’s a product problem, is it a demand gen problem? Is it a brand problem, a customer problem? I don’t know if that helps answer your question. That’s how I think about it. I think about it in that general order. But obviously, each of those categories is so deep.

Dasarte Yarnway:
Yeah, I’m thinking about going from solopreneur to multi-member firm. And essentially, I think there’s a place…

Reese Harper:
From where you’re at or where he’s at?

Dasarte Yarnway:
To get that. From where he’s at. For me, I’ve hired a couple people.

Reese Harper:
You’re kind of further along.

Dasarte Yarnway:
[0:15:32.1] ____ further along. I’ve been eight years almost, doing my own thing.

Reese Harper:
Do you have any other person that’s…

Dasarte Yarnway:
I have an assistant that just actually had a baby, so she’s out for a while.

Reese Harper:
But no second advisor yet?

Dasarte Yarnway:
No second advisor yet. And that’s what I wanna get to.

Reese Harper:
That’s critical, that’s critical.

Dasarte Yarnway:
You know what I mean?

Reese Harper:
Yes.

Dasarte Yarnway:
And organizing that structure. But I think…

Reese Harper:
That’s the most important moment.

Dasarte Yarnway:
One of the things that I feel like I do well is planning. It’s like I played sports for so many years, so you go through your weeks planning to execute on game day. So just laying out the, “Okay, step one, get the 25 new clients…

Reese Harper:
The clients.

Dasarte Yarnway:
Paying this average cost. Step two, expand or rebrand the firm so people know that they can work with people, members other than you, because you’re not… Are you really building something successful if you have to be there for it to run right? I don’t know. You know what I mean? I don’t want that to be my case. So…

Reese Harper:
Are you thinking of rebranding from Yarnway to something that…

Dasarte Yarnway:
No, the name can stay, but I mean just having people that…

Reese Harper:
Position.

Dasarte Yarnway:
Recently did.

Reese Harper:
Are able to throw that jersey on and be able to say like, “Hey, I work for Yarnway Wealth, this is what we do. This is how much it costs.” And they can be…

Reese Harper:
How old is Yarnway?

Dasarte Yarnway:
I just [0:16:43.8] ____.

Reese Harper:
Yeah, so it’s just…

Dasarte Yarnway:
[0:16:46.6] ____.

Reese Harper:
I don’t know how… I don’t wanna be… I don’t actually… I called mine Dentist Advisors, but I actually don’t know that I think that’s actually that critical. Like, Yarnway could have serviced dentists just as easily as Dentist Advisors do, but…

Dasarte Yarnway:
It’s about storytelling, right?

Reese Harper:
Yeah. It’s just about storytelling.

Dasarte Yarnway:
So, whatever the name is doesn’t matter.

Reese Harper:
Exactly. It doesn’t matter.

Dasarte Yarnway:
The first five years was Berknell, ’cause I went to Berkeley, my partner went to Cornell. And it didn’t matter, you know?

Reese Harper:
I got a question for you in this, [0:17:11.9] ____ Nathan. You’ve got a choice. You can hire an advisor right now, your second advisor, or there’s another option. How do you… The other option I think is, I’m curious what’s the alternative to hiring another advisor right now?

Dasarte Yarnway:
Technology.

Reese Harper:
What?

Dasarte Yarnway:
Because of technology. There’s so much you can do now with technology and automation that saves you time and expense, really. So you can be Lean, Mean and grow. So I know advisors that have scaled to $200 million in asset management with like two, three people. And for that first $150 million, it was like two people. So technology, we’re blessed with that.

Reese Harper:
Yes, that’s amazing.

Dasarte Yarnway:
To be able to scale without the hands on deck and the cost that comes with it, because growth can’t… You know how it is with growth in this industry. It takes time.

Reese Harper:
That’s a demand generation thing. My thought, my reaction there is, man, the demand generation is… If there were… Let’s say you had two new people this month that were like, “I wanna work with you.” And you’re like… This might be happening right now, I don’t know. And you’re like, “I can’t. I already… ” My suggestion would be, get to half capacity. Whatever half capacity is, you gotta be done. You don’t go to full capacity ’cause that full capacity, what’s gonna suffer is the demand generation. ‘Cause you’re the demand generation. So you either gotta… Or you gotta hire a marketer that does demand generation, you gotta trust them and then you can go to full capacity. But the marketing can’t suffer.

Dasarte Yarnway:
Yeah, for sure.

Reese Harper:
The marketing has to keep flowing. And usually in my Substack, the second article I wrote like a year and a half ago was called, ‘Don’t Hire an Advisor.’ That’s just the title. And everyone’s like, “What the… ” I’m not actually against hiring advisors, but that’s usually our first reaction, is, “Alright, I’m buried. Can I hire an advisor?” And then, demand generation dies. And then the advisor is sitting there like, “What do you want me to do?” And so I think the key for me was always keeping that demand gen, like brand, demand gen…

Dasarte Yarnway:
How do you do it? Like, how do you keep demand gen?

Reese Harper:
You’re the face of the brand. You’ve got the podcast. That podcast just keeps evolving, getting more dialed, stronger calls to action, better penetration. You’ve got events, you’ve got written copy content, you’ve got a book, you’ve got PDFs, you’ve got downloads. You’re just constantly trying to drive demand through all those channels. And in my opinion, that should be half of some… If you want to go past a solopreneur, if the goal was to get to a full book and be solo…

Dasarte Yarnway:
Full what?

Reese Harper:
A full…

Becky Walsh:
Book of business.

Reese Harper:
A full business, a full firm. [laughter]

Becky Walsh:
Is that a taboo word?

Dasarte Yarnway:
We’re working it out…

Reese Harper:
If the goal is to get your firm to capacity for yourself, then you can stop demand generation at some point and be done. Like, at some point, you don’t really need to. Referrals will just be plenty. You get 80 clients, you’re gonna get 10 referrals a year and you don’t have to market. But if your goal is to get to 500 households or 200, or 300 or 400, the only thing that will make people join your firm is new clients. That’s what I found, is that if I was able to just keep the demand generation gas pedaled down, advisors were just like… I’d have 50 people that wanted to work for us, ’cause I’m like, “You won’t have to go find clients.” You have an aspiration [0:20:47.3] ____, to build a firm, and I think everyone here does, I can feel that energy. My experience is that this general trend of advisors tend to feel like imposters, so they create this process and make it all complex so that the client feels like it’s valuable enough to write a check. And I’m like, “Dude, you’re valuable enough for them. Just make their decision simple. ‘I work with this type of person. Do you want to work with me? I cost this much every year. Yes or no? I’m gonna monitor your finances and answer all your questions over time. Yes or no?'”

Dasarte Yarnway:
After the pleasantries of the introduction.

Reese Harper:
After that, [laughter] you guys are a little more socially comfortable than I am. I’m like a little bit more of a robot. Just kidding. I do, I struggled with that. I’m left brained. I’m not as… Socially, I have a lot of close friends, but I have a small group of close friends. And the thing that worked for me was just really knowing the dentists super well and being very precise about the jobs, the questions…

Dasarte Yarnway:
And direct.

Reese Harper:
And direct, not beating around the bush, like jumping to the point. And they’re like, “Oh yeah, this person’s gonna take me there.” And maybe it worked for me just ’cause that was a crowd that I related to, even though I could never be a dentist. Like, the idea of that was really hard, but…

Dasarte Yarnway:
One thing that’s really, I think, important to highlight the framing there is taking the emphasis away from, the deliverable is not the plan. Nobody ever, ever, in 25 years, I have not been asked one time for a financial plan. Never. I said that and somebody challenged me. Really went back to look, I’ve never been asked for a financial plan. I’ve been asked lots of financial questions. So, the deliverable is, “I will be here to answer your questions.” Now, the tool for me to help answer those questions may be called a plan. The plan is really largely for me to be able to answer the client’s questions. The client doesn’t care about the plan. I can do whatever I want in the backend, but the deliverable is, you have questions, I answer them. I’m here. And I have a buddy who built a huge business. He didn’t do any of these things, all these things we talk about. And I was like, “Kevin, how did you build this business?” He’s like, “Rapid response to questions, end of story. I don’t send out anniversary gifts, I don’t send out birthday gifts. I don’t send… I don’t talk about investments.” Rapid response to questions.

Reese Harper:
It’s crazy to me, but that same principle, the confused mind says no. If plans were something the consumer wanted, Walmart would have them on the shelf. Like, they would be having a plan, sales, something. But they don’t sell. It’s what we choose to sell to justify our insecurity around brand and ourselves.

Dasarte Yarnway:
So, what do you think would be a successful demand gen? [0:23:51.4] ____.

Reese Harper:
Successful demand gen would be…

Dasarte Yarnway:
The gold star clients. What’s successful to you? If I have…

Carl Richards:
Did he use all his time? Are we done with…

Reese Harper:
This is applicable… I think it’s applying to me. I’m learning from this. I had to use my time learning from you.

Carl Harper:
This has been [0:24:07.7] ____ okay.

Reese Harper:
I won’t use my 20.

Carl Richards:
Keep going. Use her 20. [laughter] It’s hard to do the times when [0:24:14.2] ____ everybody’s so interested, you know what I mean?

Reese Harper:
I know, I’ve been trying to…

Carl Richards:
So is it easier to…

Reese Harper:
You were to use 4 minutes.

Carl Richards:
Is it easy…

Dasarte Yarnway:
Oh, three, I thought.

Reese Harper:
I wanna be generating enough revenue from new customers in one year to pay for the total compensation of my employee in one year.

[overlapping conversation]

Reese Harper:
My one person. So, let’s say I’m paying someone $75,000 as an advisor, I gotta generate $75,000 in 12 months. I break even in 12 months. That’s successful demand gen.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality.

Dasarte Yarnway:
You identified something that was so crucial, which is that you’re scared to do the legion stuff. You have fear surrounding content and legion stuff and you just gotta sit with that for a little bit. You know what I mean? ‘Cause I don’t think you get the answer immediately. It’s more so like, “You know what?” It’s that process of acceptance, you know what I mean? Like, “I have this fear. Why do I have this fear?” And if none of those fears… I could probably bet that none of those fears are… Won’t stick once you get in tune with them and then you start to build your confidence in little baby steps, to accept that, “Hey, I accept this fear, I have this fear. It does not have to stay. And this is my plan to defeat the fear.”

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

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