“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
– Maya Angelou
I think it’s fair to say that anyone who really knows me can attest to the fact that I am not a salesperson…I think most would say that’s an understatement! And, I have no idea about the “can’t take your eyes off me” part of that quote in the lead-in to this post. But I think I may have found work I truly love; that has the impact on others that I have craved. And I found it in a place I never thought to look.
Starting out skeptical
I’d always thought of the wealth management and financial planning industry as, essentially, sales. The idea of “getting” clients or “winning” accounts feels very uncomfortable to me. I’ve never been able to reconcile it with actually helping people; it just feels counterintuitive to base a trusting relationship off of profit. For the most part, I believe the criticism and negative stereotypes of the financial advisory industry are legitimate. I could not imagine myself as a financial advisor.
Then, a little over a year ago, my career in the hedge fund world came to a sudden halt. I knew I wanted to do something fulfilling with my time, my experience, my talents. I wanted to positively impact people’s lives. My career in institutional finance hadn’t been centered on genuinely helping people, and it didn’t foster deep human connection. I started earnestly exploring these issues with my old college roommate, Brian Lloyd. I was intrigued by the vision behind his new company, Painted Porch Advisors. Yet I still worried that my work would be reduced to that common metric: assets under management (AUM), or, in other words, how wealthy my clients were, or how many I could bring in. I didn’t want to feel pressured to fatten the client list, or be evaluated based on the amount of money attracted to the firm.
Sitting in the client seat
Since I was at a professional crossroads, it was a good time to reevaluate my own financial situation. I decided to test the Painted Porch approach by going through the Help First process from the client side of the table. I thought it would build my confidence in my financial plans and illuminate what might be missing. My wife, Tracy, and I were blown away by the experience. The sheer time they spent with us, truly focusing on us as human beings… wow! Multiple meetings, no sales pitch, providing us all the advice and tools we needed to DIY the plan they’d developed. Where one would typically encounter persuasion, I found humility, sincerity, gratitude, and empowerment. I thought, there is something special going on here.
Painted Porch helped us, spent significant time with us, and asked for nothing in return. Why didn’t they try to “close” us!? For the first time, I felt excited about the profession. Further conversations with Brian led me to envision myself working at his new company, where I dreamed of having deeper client relationships and a meaningful influence over others’ wellbeing.
A view from the inside
So, I joined Painted Porch and started on the path to becoming a financial advisor. I was relieved to find that we’re not incentivized to work with people based on how much money they have, because that is not how our compensation is determined. The firm just doesn’t focus on that. It’s not the center of our conversations about what we do. I continue to look over my shoulder wondering when I will be asked to sell, to call all my friends and family, but I am too busy to worry about that because people keep telling people about the work we’re doing! No Selling, Closing, Marketing! I love not having to worry about any of that. I get to focus on the work, on helping people. The rest takes care of itself.
Enjoying the path
Now, here I am, a little over a year into my Painted Porch journey. I made the decision to join an industry and role I thought would never be a fit for me. I discovered that financial planning doesn’t have to be equated with sales. We think differently about what money means and how it relates to a life well lived. Painted Porch talks so much about happiness, joy, living our best life. We think about living well in a sustainable way, now—not just in some far-off future. This work I get to do every day has become a huge part of what my “best life” means for me. I love the reward of client breakthroughs and “aha!” moments of heartfelt joy, relief, contentment, and peace. Helping others achieve those feelings and enjoying the ride – that’s what drives me now.