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Finding the Right Candidate for Your Firm With Caleb Brown

As advisory firms grow, successfully attracting and hiring the right talent is essential to unlocking efficiencies and, more importantly, a positive client experience.

Attracting the right candidate starts by defining firm goals and establishing the right responsibilities that contribute to those goals. And only after this can an advisor seek candidates that are not only technically competent but also contribute in ways that enhance the client experience.

On this episode of Elementality, Reese interviews Caleb Brown, CFP©, co-founder of New Planner Recruiting, and well-known industry recruiter and matchmaker. Caleb has mentored, hired, managed, and coached many career changers and college students seeking positions in financial planning as well as the firm owners who hire them. He knows what will make a good relationship tick, and during this episode shares with Reese what he looks for in ideal candidates—and in the firms he recruits for.

 


Podcast Transcript

Caleb Brown:
The way we look at the candidate side is, have they demonstrated passion for the profession? Okay. Is someone getting on the phone with me saying, “Caleb, I have been looking at financial planning for the last couple of years. I’m born to do this. I love to work with you. I love to get placed with one of your firms, but if you can’t help me, no one’s going to stop me. I’m getting in financial planning.” Hey, I’m going to get my Series 65. I’m not waiting around for someone to tell me. I’m going to go get multiple internships. I’m going to go learn multiple software programs. That way, when I show up at Reese Harper’s firm, I know how to use at least at a basic level, all the four or five major financial planning programs. So I’m versatile.

Abby Morton:
Welcome to Elementality. I am 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:
I wanted to start by asking you a question that I’m sure you get asked a lot, which is number one, if you have to look across to all the firms that you talk to, what’s the number one reason people call you for? What stage are they at in the process? At what stage do they reach out, proactive and advance, really thinking about this, having beat their head against the wall for a while, and then reaching out because they’re stuck or just being really frustrated on the other side of this. What do you generally see people reaching out the most often?

Caleb Brown:
Probably a lot when your clients reach out to you, there’s some sort of pain point. They’re feeling some pressure and some pain. I wish I could say, Hey, everybody calls me and they’re trying to plan their hires out five years in advance and finances. At least in the market that I serve, which is the registered investment advisory firms. And again, we could be working with a sole practitioner all the way up to a firm with a hundred people that’s managing $10 billion. And even at that size, they’re not planning their hires out the way like a Vanguard or Fidelity, one of these other companies would. So a lot of times it’s a little bit reactive. Hey, someone left, someone’s going on maternity leave. We’re going to have to get rid of this person. Hey, we just got a big client or a bunch of new clients and we need some help.

Caleb Brown:
And most of the people that call me are pretty reasonable. Because, Hey, it’s going to take a couple months probably take you through our process, get the right… A lot like financial planning. I mean, how many times have you had a prospect that called and said, “Reese, I don’t want to go through all this planning process stuff. Just tell me what stock to buy.” I mean, that’s probably not a good fit for you and just likewise, that firm’s not a good fit for me.

Reese Harper:
They’re in some kind of pain, they’re in some kind of a moment. And what are those life events? You said maternity might come up, you said that someone just transitions out of their career. What’s the main pain, how would you summarize it?

Caleb Brown:
Well, sometimes people get recruited away, with the inception of XYPN, that’s opened up a lot of opportunities for us because you have not only newer planners going over there and starting their own firms. So I’m able to replenish those. But what I’m seeing also too, is some more experienced, like partner level type departures, which is very interesting. And I’m sure Michael and Alan really loved that. But so you see some of that. Also just geography. And even some people that I’ve placed, I placed a young person in a firm and Hey, I’ve met someone in the military and they got PCS to Salt Lake City, and now they’re moving and we have to backfill that because the remote situation doesn’t work. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad firm, there’s just lots of stuff that happens and it’s one more of a transient environment now. And there’s a lot of people trying to go for the same sort of small talent pool.

Reese Harper:
What’s your general view about the scarcity or abundance of talent? What is the landscape of the industry?

Caleb Brown:
There’s lots of people that want to get into the industry and there’s lots of candidates out there. But again, the firms that I represent, you can go to my website and look and see I’m, let’s just call it the top 10%, they’re not really interested in any of those people. They’re only interested in a very small number of people. And again, if any of your listeners or sports fans is they want first round draft picks. Ideally they want number one, overall draft picks. And that’s very difficult, especially if they want to see multiple candidates. So again, there’s lots of people that want to get in this industry, but I talk about this all the time when I’m talking to candidates is just looking at sort of a normal distribution curve, the majority of candidates that contact me and firms are what I’m going to call average.

Caleb Brown:
And that really frustrates a lot of people, but it’s true. If you look at it, I mean that kind of first standard deviation and there’s nothing wrong with that. Like, “Hey, I’m going to provide a good opportunity. I’m going to pay a salary. I’m fee-only, we’re going to put somebody over here. We’re going to get them two monitors. They’re going to get to come in at eight and leave at five.” I mean, that’s fine. But when they come to me and they say, they want the Serena Williams of the talent pool, it’s like, “Ah, that doesn’t work.” It’s like the dating game. You put this fake picture of yourself on there and it’s like, “No, that’s not going to work.” But I also do it on the other side too. I let the candidates know, look, you’re trying to go play center field for the New York Yankees. You’re a junior in high school. You got to go play college and probably play Minor League Ball for a few years.

Reese Harper:
So if we were to further this analogy a little bit more, I’m sure every candidate wants to be the number one candidate or the number one draft pick, but the firms, they also want to be the firm that is the home for that number one pick. What makes the number one firm and what makes the number one candidate is the focus of some of our conversation today. Let’s start with the candidate side. What makes the best candidate for most of the firms, what should they be looking for and what are they looking for and how are you coaching these candidates?

Caleb Brown:
Just so we’re clear. I mean, we don’t really do a whole lot of coaching on the candidate side.

Reese Harper:
You guys produce some content and you’re starting to build your audience. I figured you’d just have some like insights into that, but let’s make sure the audience knows. That’s not the engagement you’re involved in.

Caleb Brown:
I want the firm owners listening to this know that we’re not calling up the candidates saying, “Hey, Reese is about to ask you this. This is how you need to answer it.” There is none of that going on, none. Because what you said at the top of this call, we’re looking for authentic people. And so the way we look at the candidate side is a couple things. So have they demonstrated passion for the profession? Is someone getting on the phone with me saying, “Caleb, I have been looking at financial planning for the last couple of years. I’m born to do this. I’d love to work with you. I love to get placed with one of your firms, but if you can’t help me, no one’s going to stop me. I’m getting in financial planning.” So the commitment to their career. Hey, I’m going to get my Series 65.

Caleb Brown:
I’m not waiting around for someone to tell me. I’m going to go get multiple internships. I’m going to go learn multiple software programs. That way when I show up at Reece Harper’s firm, I know how to use at least at a basic level, all the four or five major financial planning programs. So I’m versatile. And I can also go in there and add value immediately say, “Hey guys, you’re using MoneyGuidePro, we should look at this software. We should look at RightCapital.” Those types of things. So it’s really a mentality. A lot of firms make mistakes on, I want an Ivy League person and I want a 4.0 GPA. And some firms in some locations have had some success recruiting those people. But again, most of the people, especially my clients in San Francisco, New York, most of those types of people coming out of those programs are not interested in the RIA field.

Reese Harper:
Field, yeah.

Caleb Brown:
They’re going to go Goldman Sachs, investment banking.

Reese Harper:
Investment banking.

Caleb Brown:
Hedge funds. And then once they made a bunch of money and they realize that they’re still very empty inside, because I get these calls all the time, then they call me and say, “Look, it’s great at Google. It’s great at XYZ hedge fund, but I just don’t really want to go to work anymore. Here’s what I’m making.”

Reese Harper:
I feel empty. How is it?

Caleb Brown:
Yeah.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. I’m not making an impact out there. The first thing you listed was passion for the profession, commitment to career. And I was going to follow up with that and say, is that the reason you highlight that as a thing you’re looking for is because you’ve probably seen the alternative to that, right? Which is… I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I want to give you a chance to explore that. But when someone doesn’t have passion or commitment for the career path, what is the cost to the firm?

Caleb Brown:
When the going gets tough, they’re going to bail. They are going to bail. And these smaller RIAs…

Reese Harper:
Can’t afford that turnover, man. Right? I mean, you can’t afford that.

Caleb Brown:
Again, if you’re a Fidelity and you’ve got 45,000 employees or whatever it is, if someone doesn’t work out, it doesn’t really matter.

Reese Harper:
The numbers games.

Caleb Brown:
Well, if you’ve got a seven person firm and you’ve introduced them to half of your client base and they bail because they had to work, tax time was coming in, at the end of year RMDs or whatever it was, or Hey, somebody got sick or whatever it is. Or they were asked to work two jobs because someone had to go home. I mean and they bail out, it’s just not good. Whereas the determination and just the tenacity of these people who are just fighters and scrappers and saying, “Well, that’s fine, Reese, Hey, you want me to get those six plans done by Friday? I’ll get it done. I’ll unload the dishwasher too. Because I know we have someone coming out Monday.” That’s the type of person that succeeds.

Reese Harper:
What else makes a great candidate?

Caleb Brown:
Yeah. Commitment to their career. I talked about that one. The other two are kind of really close, sense of urgency and then initiative. So the sense of urgency and the way I described that with candidates is the mindset. And most people aren’t wired this way. And I had to learn this when I was younger, [inaudible 00:11:25] like, “Okay, if we don’t get this done right now for the Smiths, we’re going to lose the client.” Okay. And that thing right now could have been just like an address change for them. So something that, are you really going to lose the client? No. But that’s the mindset that you want people in.

Reese Harper:
How do you gauge that as an interviewer?

Caleb Brown:
I’m glad you asked. Not maybe as much in the interview questions, but if you take them through a process where you have them do some things and you can set up some exercises or you can just, how long does it take for them to respond?

Reese Harper:
You’re looking at response time.

Caleb Brown:
Response times, when do they get the work in? Are they asking sort of what’s next [inaudible 00:12:14].

Reese Harper:
Next. That’s such a skill. I don’t know how… So, I mean, I don’t want to rip on anybody who doesn’t have that skill because a big part of the population does not have that skill. I think of just it’s yes. It’s sense of urgency. I think what you’re also describing there is just a proactiveness, right? A sense of I’m going to make it happen, regardless of whether Caleb is being slow or not, I’m going to micromanage this, I’m going to get it through. I’m going to make stuff happen. That’s a really important quality, I think, because… Well, before I say, why do you think it’s an important quality for an advisor to have that quality?

Caleb Brown:
I mean, you’re in a people business, you’re in a client service business. I mean, this is, a lot of this stuff in financial planning is getting commoditized. I mean, that’s all you have.

Reese Harper:
That’s all got left. Right? That’s all I got left is the service man. Right?

Caleb Brown:
I mean, so Oxley and Russ Alan Prince they do all those surveys on wealthy, affluent people. They want to hear back from their advisor the same day-

Reese Harper:
Same day.

Caleb Brown:
-A couple hours. Really?

Reese Harper:
Yeah.

Caleb Brown:
There’s four of them, four main pillars of what I try to operate on passion for the profession, commitment to their career, sense of urgency and then initiative. Now sense of urgency and initiative are pretty close. And so are the first two. You could see those. But what I’m saying there is, the person who joins Dennis Advisors and they’ve been there just a couple of weeks and they’re not sure what’s going on there. They’re new stuffs, their hair’s on fire or whatever, but they look at the calendar and they noticed that Jordan Haynes has five client meetings coming up on Friday. So instead of waiting around for Jordan Haynes to come say, “Hey, I need some help with this.” They look at the calender and say, “Look, you got the Wilsons, the Smiths, the Browns, the whoever else are coming in and what can I do to help get you ready for this? Can I create an agenda? Can I help you with an asset allocation?” And most people aren’t wired to do that.

Caleb Brown:
They’re going to wait for Reese or Jordan or someone to say, “Hey, we need help on this.” So when you see the candidates doing that, and a lot of them feel like, “Well, Caleb, I’m in a tough spot here, man. I don’t know what to do.” Maybe they don’t just go ask and…

Reese Harper:
Go for it, man. Yeah.

Caleb Brown:
You sit at your desk and stare at your computer and don’t [inaudible 00:14:57].

Reese Harper:
Yeah, dude. I mean, I think people don’t realize that’s like probably one of the top reasons we end up feeling like a higher can go. Like if we can let go of someone that is always being asked to do something but we can’t let go of people who seem to create solutions and find areas to contribute in. That’s a really hard person to let go of. Because there’s just too many moments every day or every week where that person’s coming to you going, “What next, what next? How can I help? What can I do?” And that’s just so important. How do you find that? How do you identify that though in the interview process?

Caleb Brown:
Well, again, back to our… We’re a little different because we have them. I mean, this is what we do. So most RIA firms don’t have the infrastructure, the bandwidth to take finalists candidates through an exhaustive exercise processing. We have a multi-stage screening process that we take people through and we can see their initiative. Again, the sense of urgency, constantly following up, but the initiative. Okay. So we give them a little exercise they have to do in a financial planning software program. Mostly MoneyGuidePro and are you calling the tech support because a lot of times they’ve never used it before. And how many days is it taking for you to get it done? So you can see sort of, “Hey, Caleb, I want to get in front of these two or three firms that you told me about, what do I have to do to get in front of them.”

Caleb Brown:
And also this is really cool because I get to showcase my skills and I got confidence. And I think I can do really well versus the mindset of, “Oh man, why don’t I have to go through just to get an interview. I mean, this really sucks. I can go talk to someone for 15 minutes and get an offer.” And you got to weed that mindset out. So I know you’re going to ask me about the firms in a minute, but it’s really the same. It’s the mindset of these people. Because if someone has that sense of urgency, that initiative, that passion, the commitment, and even if Jordan or Reese assigns them a task and they completely just swing and miss, at least that’s something for you, you can work with them on that.

Caleb Brown:
Okay. It’s like, “Hey, you put way too much in emerging markets, okay. That’s that client is not…” I mean, that stuff that you guys can work on and fix and that’s trainable and coachable, but sort of the internal stuff. And a lot of times you have to point these lessons out because a lot of people coming out of school, just frankly, they’ve been spoonfed a lot of stuff and they’re just not used to sort of getting thrown right in. And having that resiliency and then kind of also that emotional intelligence kicking like, “Oh man, I’m in the big leagues now, I’ve got to get it together.”

Reese Harper:
Let’s jump and pivot just a little bit to… Well, before we go to firms, I want to ask a couple more questions about these. Not every candidate is going to be optimal on passion and commitment and urgency and initiative, as a ranking system, how are you ranking candidates? How are you ranking people?

Caleb Brown:
How are we ranking people in terms of, okay, [crosstalk 00:18:16].

Reese Harper:
So like if I got two people and I got somebody that’s really high on some areas and a little bit low on others, I’m not seeing on here, let’s say, and I know you do a thorough job of assessing professional competency and education. You’re just skimming over that like it’s a given almost, right? You’re not going to recommend somebody that’s an academic.

Caleb Brown:
They have to be able to do the job. They have to be able to do the job and we make them prove that. So there’s really communication, the client relationship piece, there’s the technical piece. And then there’s those other four things that I’m talking about. Now we have, just call it sort of an internal sort of algorithm, but it’s most of the clients that we deal with place more emphasis on sort of the sense of urgency, that type of stuff. And in their relationship side especially [crosstalk 00:19:12].

Reese Harper:
When you’re talking about the communication, that’s what you’re talking about there.

Caleb Brown:
The communication piece, the written communication, are they professional? Can they handle themselves on the phone? Are they going to represent the firm well? Because again, we give these technical assessments and if someone blows up on retirement planning, back to what I said earlier, that’s something that most… You put them in the CFP program or you put them in some of the kids.com training or whatever it is, and they can beef up on that stuff. Okay. That’s fortunately what we do. It’s not super technical. You can learn this. It’s not like advanced calculus or Trig or chemistry where, I mean, it’s just like, “Man, this is lot of complicated stuff.” Now. Sure. It gets complicated as the net worth and the more complicated situations. But this is not rocket science stuff that we’re dealing with.

Caleb Brown:
So someone who’s got average above average IQ, they’ve been through college, they’ve got some natural curiosity. They can do this job. They can pass the CFP exam. Okay. So that’s not really who we’re looking for. But it’s the people part, the presence, the awareness, the, “Oh man, okay, the Smith’s just came in. I’m in my first client meeting.” They’re looking a little nervous right now. What could I say or do, or how can I signal the senior planner to kind of diffuse that? That’s the stuff that my clients want in candidates, not the 4.0 or not the, hey, I know how to calculate the standard deviation of a three security portfolio.

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. The 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:
So you’re saying, I mean, if we broke this into groupings, we’ve got the technical competency. It’s important not to discount that too heavily. When do you say it’s too much of a miss here? Like this person, just… I mean, how would you be able to identify an academic dud? How do you identify that?

Caleb Brown:
If they don’t know the basics, for example, we get a lot of finance people that sometimes don’t know how to do basic time value of money. Even some MBA type stuff and realize, I mean, we’re dealing with sort of newer, a lot of times newer plans.

Reese Harper:
Is there a GPA level though, where you’d be like, “No, I’m not going to recommend that person, regardless of their urgency and initiative, regardless of their communication skills, like they’ve really struggled academically. And I’m…”

Caleb Brown:
Not a hard and fast rule because again one of my best… So I teach at UGA as well, University of Georgia in their financial planning program. And one of my best students had a solid 2.5 GPA. And it would have just very solid and I talked to him and basically what the deal was he was working from midnight to 7:00 AM at like Walmart stocking shelves or doing something. And then was taking classes during the day. And I think, I’m pretty sure he was a single dad while he was doing this. And taking my class at eight o’clock in the morning. Would a firm rather have that person or someone who’s got a 4.0, who has no job, who, again, parents are paying for everything, they pay for tutors. They can go take naps before they take their exams.

Caleb Brown:
I’m not saying who’s right or who’s wrong. It depends on what the client’s looking for, but you can see the difference there on the spectrum. We’re very hard on the candidates. And some people don’t like that because we tell them if they’re not ready to play center field for the New York Yankees, and they may have to go play Minor League Ball. And some people do not want to hear that. And it is what it is, but no, I mean, I’m not picking it. There’s 80 million millennials. Are there some people who do stupid things in that 80 million. Absolutely. There’s 80 million baby boomers. Are there people…

Reese Harper:
Do you think there’s a difference in generational social skills or social interaction. Do you think it’s generational at all? Or do you think it’s just been gradual? Like what?

Caleb Brown:
I do. I mean, I certainly think… I’m just looking at my kids. I’ve got 11 and five-year-old, and just their knowledge of computers and iPads and apps and games and all. I mean, I just can’t hardly believe it.

Reese Harper:
I keep up with it hardly.

Caleb Brown:
More, I mean, the firm owners want to get on the phone. They want to get on the phone, the phone call, pick up the phone and very important tool in our business. And that’s something that I tell the new job seekers, you need to develop better phone skills. Because you’ve been texting all your life, not necessarily having these phone conversations and sending these lengthy emails and that doesn’t work with certain people, even in the millennial generation. That does not work with certain people. So you just need to be aware that various people want to be communicated with different ways.

Reese Harper:
Yeah. And I mean, just like the candidates are different, the customers are also different. So it’s not an indictment, but it has been hard for me to kind of see how many people struggle with communication skills when they haven’t had as many at-bats on the phone. Just the normal social circle that a lot of people grew up in that if you’re in your forties or even late thirties today, you’re still on the phone a lot. You’re calling your boyfriend on the phone. You’re calling your girlfriend on the phone. You’re calling your grandparents, you’re calling your parents. There wasn’t a written medium that allowed for shorthand as much as there is now, with texting and even email lands itself to shorthand communication. The average person just responds quickly to a volume of emails and you probably see that and moving your candidates through.

Reese Harper:
And I just think that their at bats are just not as… The mediums for communication that we are being presented with are efficient, but they’re not as instructive. And so I feel like a lot of candidates end up not developing those communication skills as much as they may have in the past, just because the people weren’t on the phone as much. But when you become a financial advisor, guess what? That’s where the rubber meets the road right there. You can’t persuade people in email the same way you can persuade in a phone call. And what I mean by persuade is education and overcoming their biases and overcoming their behavioral finance challenges or getting them to set goals that are a little bit more difficult or telling them a hard message. Telling a client something a little difficult to hear.

Reese Harper:
it’s hard to do that in email in the same way, people can’t read tone, they can’t read voice, it’s harder to interpret. And so I think it is critical to get people on the phone and see how they react, because that’s often the only way that a client will be sizing up someone over the phone, is in their mind imagining who they are, listening to the way they talk and then deciding if they trust that person. And what makes a good firm for your candidates, which firms, what kind of firms do you want to get listings for? Right. That’s what I’m interested in.

Caleb Brown:
Yeah, usually, there’s some hard and fast metrics and there’s some intangibles. But usually the firms that are growing it, whatever revenue, AUM, whatever metric you use, either 20% a year. So there’s some pretty significant growth rates that hire people, that want to invest in people. So when a firm owner gets on the phone with me and says, “Here’s our story, here’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to hire these people and we’re trying to pour ourselves into them so we can get them to up as quickly as we can, up to our level, hopefully surpassing me. And so I can go do something else, or I can work with fewer clients, or I can turn this business over to them.” So again, it goes back to the mentality of the firm owner and what their vision is.

Caleb Brown:
Do they have reasonable expectations? Someone that gets on the phone and says, “Look, I want a 4.0 BYU grad, the counting per program. And I want to hire them at $36,000 a year. It’s not going to happen, not going to happen. One, if we could even get, I’m interested in your firm, which is highly unlikely. You’re probably looking at [inaudible 00:28:27] like six figures for someone like that. So it’s whoa. And then so I invest in training to mentoring ship. We want to get them involved in all aspects of our business. We want their ideas. Hey, they did an internship. That’s great. Come sit down and just do a data dump. And what did you do at this firm? We want to send you to FPA. We want to send you to Napa. We want to send you to these…

Caleb Brown:
We want you to learn these different software programs. We want to put you on a project that says, “Hey, we’ve been using this software, the CRM for the last 10 years, go find us something new. See what else is out there.” Kind of turning them loose and powering them, but also giving them constructive criticism. “Hey, we brought you in the Smith meeting, and you did this well, but you kind of fumbled this. When I asked about their expenses, you messed that up. So here’s the way I would have answered that. And this is what I want you to do next time. So think that through.” So not Pollyanna, not kowtowing but just sort of that real, sort of that grit. Like, “We want to build you into an awesome advisor. And if you stay here and you help us get to where we want to go, we’re going to help you get to where you want to go.”

Caleb Brown:
And then, so there’s that, a lot of it’s entail. But I mean, an entrepreneur just getting in front of them saying, “I am going to teach you everything.” That’s not the mentality of all firm owners, a lot of… And that’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. You don’t have to, but those people tend to attract other very high achieving people versus the firm that says, “Look, I’ve got a successful business. I’m making whatever I’m making and I’ve worked hard for the last 20, 30 years or 10 years or whatever it is. And I just want someone to come here and do the work.” Yeah? That’s fine, but you may not be able to get Serena Williams. And that’s a message that I have to deliver sometimes.

Reese Harper:
So I’m going over some of these, we talked about a firm, that’s got some growth. Why does growth matter to the candidate?

Caleb Brown:
The candidate wants to know… Every single candidate, that somebody that my clients want to hire asked me the same question, is the firm growing. And the number one overall job will say how much, because they understand top line revenue. They understand what assets under management are. They understand what net new client growth is. They understand what profitability margin ratios are. And I mean, it’s really impressive for people that don’t have a lot of exposure, a lot of experience for them to be trying to find that out about firms. Again, they may not be an expert in retirement planning, but they’re going to kill it wherever we place them. Because they want to know, “Hey, can I move up? I don’t want to join Reese Harper’s firm and have to sit in a financial planning associate position for five, six years, seven years. I want to know that if I deliver, the firm grows, I can move up in terms of [inaudible 00:31:26], responsibility, autonomy, whatever, maybe.”

Reese Harper:
Because our financial planning process is high. And the element system that we use it’s very attractive to people who are in maybe an older business model where they’re not doing planning in quite of high quality way. They’re willing to take less current income. If they know they’ll grow past where they are now because of the growth rate. They can just look at it and they go, “Okay, well, I know I’m stepping into a growth rate that’s going to help me move in the right direction.” So I feel like that’s a pretty big one. You also said invest in people. The firm owner have a tolerance or a willingness to invest in human capital and interest in investing in human capital. You mentioned realism, like you’ve got to… It’s difficult to… Everyone wants the best candidates, but sometimes people have unrealistic expectations around, the example you gave around the BYU grad that they want to hire for 36,000.

Reese Harper:
I was just thinking if you could figure out a way to make that happen and get the accounting students at BYU, would be all over that. Yeah. You want someone who wants to incorporate ideas from other. There’s a book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, that I really like by Patrick Lencioni. He talks about one of the biggest dysfunctions as the fear of conflict that employees have with their management team. They don’t feel like their ideas are valued and they don’t feel like their feedback loop is warranted or needed. And I think it’s really important to the next generation that you also said, you want firms that give feedback in that same vein, that fear of conflict goes both ways. You want firm owners that are willing to be candid and direct and share with people where they feel like the gaps are instead of hiding where those gaps are at. Anything else that kind of comes to mind. Is that giving you that reflection? I’m sure there’s a few other things. I just wanted to reflect them back to you.

Caleb Brown:
Yeah, one other one that the client is clear on what they’re looking for. And this is a big one because we get a lot of people who are feeling some pain and they’re not sure, just send me some people. I mean or, “Hey, here’s what I want.” And then we get it form now, that’s not really an… And let me just give you an example, a practical example. Hey Caleb, we’re growing, that this great firm, we’re doing all this. And I want you to find me a new person. Can they do business development? I need them to bring in a bunch of clients. I’m like, “Wait a minute. You just said you were growing and you’ve got tons of clients. Why are you wanting to bring…” Well, it’s just, Oh, okay. One that’s contradictory. That’s not going to work. And two, these A type player, these number one overall draft pick candidates, they’re going to see right through that and say, “This person just flailing all over the place.”

Reese Harper:
I don’t know what they want me to do.

Caleb Brown:
They don’t know what’s my path here. They not even clear what they want me to do. I mean, it’s where do I fit in? Why am I even being hired? I mean, it’s just a huge mess. And it’s not really from size specific. I mean, there’s lots of big well-known, well-established firms that kind of are fuzzy on this stuff. I’m like, “No, I’m over here telling the client and the candidate, you need to be crystal clear on your value proposition when you join one of these firms in the big leagues.” Well, to be in the big leagues, you need to be clear on who you’re trying to bring onto the team.

Reese Harper:
We just cut down, saying there’s 15 to 20 things you want to look at. Communication skills and urgency and initiative and technical skills, all this stuff. Plus all these proficiency scores that you track in your… I’ve seen your candidate disclosures and everything. They’re really impressive and really organized. But if you had to pick one thing, you’re like, “Okay, I don’t have the time or the budget to do any of that, but I’m going to go off of one thing.” What would the thing be, the shortest list possible? Is it a survey that you would take? Is it a proficiency exam of some kind? Is it a qualitative exam? Is it a phone call? Is it an interview? Is it a piece of writing? Is it talk to a client? What would you say if I only got one or two things, maybe would give you two, but how would you narrow that down to the most effective ways for you to screen?

Caleb Brown:
So if you’re looking at someone that you eventually want to be client facing, I would have them do some sort of role play or give them… Like what we do is we give them a client email, one of my clients emailed me something. They have to respond to that, to see how they digest it, how they come up with the recommendations, respond back. But on the phone, if you’re interviewing with someone and they say… Because we do a lot of new college grad stuff too. It’s like, “Hey, I was a… Probably, one of my jobs at UGA was to call alumni and try to get them to donate to the athletic program or whatever it is.” I said, “Okay, well hit me. I’m the alumni.” Oh, I haven’t done that in like three years. Nope. You’re on the spot, bud. Because being able to think on your feet, that stuff. Because again, the stakes are high.

Reese Harper:
[inaudible 00:36:44].

Caleb Brown:
But again, like we said earlier, you can teach a lot of this stuff, the technical stuff. So that’s kind of the assessments, but what I really think you’re asking for in the interview, or even they can have a written questionnaire, especially if you’re dealing with newer people. If you’re dealing with experienced advisors, it might be something else. But who has the most genuine story on why financial planning is the correct career for them? It’s almost like their little elevator pitch and you don’t have to be a good interviewer to know a good one versus a bad one, who is really genuine versus, well, I’m just doing this because whatever, they’re just not committed. They haven’t, like I said earlier, they haven’t looked at the firm, they haven’t done their research. So maybe a combination of that question with hitting them-

Reese Harper:
[inaudible 00:37:32].

Caleb Brown:
-A role play on the phone or giving them some sort of mini case study where they have to look at the situation because you can get a good sense on how they’re going to think it through and then how they communicate it. And again, if they completely missed and say, “Oh, that person should have done a grad or this or whatever, and they got it wrong, that’s not really what we’re looking for as much. Because we want to make sure that the building blocks are there.

Reese Harper:
Well, Caleb has been super insightful, man. We’ve covered a lot of good ground on attributes for candidates, attributes for firms, a vision for the future. I’ve really enjoyed it. And I know our audience will too. And we’ll let you leave them with any parting words that you might have.

Caleb Brown:
Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of good ground, but I would just say if you’re a farm owner listening just, before you approach his hiring thing, you need to spend a lot of time figuring out where you want to be business wise. And if you look at it, an entrepreneur, that’s kind of the hardest part about being an entrepreneur is sitting at home, thinking about your business and working on it instead of in it. And you’re going to hear that a lot of consultants, but you can’t hire people, you can’t build what you want, if you’re not clear where you want to go, which is the exact same advice you give to your clients.

Reese Harper:
Well, thanks so much Caleb. I appreciate you summarizing your thoughts there. And we’ll look forward to having you back on soon as soon as the industry has made some more shifts and get your perspective again, man, make sure you get all your predictions, right?

Caleb Brown:
Thanks Reese.

Abby Morton:
Next time on Elementality…

Reese Harper:
It’s important to be able to have a real clear and easy way to describe that value. Through clear deliverables, a clear client experience, a comprehensive and holistic set of subjects that you’re discussing and good measurements and good data that you’re collecting. So that they know, Hey, when my advisor says I’m doing okay, that’s because they actually know that I’m doing great.

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 executive creators are Reese Harper and Chad Jardine. Elementality is produced by Abby Morton and directed by Jordan Hanes. Have a good one.

 

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