[tweet_box design=”box_10″ url=”https://buff.ly/2tQZg5l” float=”none” excerpt=”A lot of (planners) are good humans looking to help other good humans, but they’re running into a lot of road blocks. Patrick Brewer, CFA, CPA on #YAFPNW”]A lot of (planners) are good humans looking to help other good humans, but they’re running into a lot of road blocks. Patrick Brewer, CFA, CPA on #YAFPNW[/tweet_box]
Hannah: Thanks for joining us today, Patrick.
Patrick: Happy to be here, Hannah. Thanks for having me on the show.
Hannah: Yes, absolutely. So, you are the founder of SurePath Wealth, a financial planning firm down in Austin, as well as Brewer Consulting. We’ll dive more into the Brewer Consulting and how your career has transitioned, but what I find so interesting about you is your career path and how you’ve navigated different roles, if you would. So, how did you first get into the area of financial planning?
Patrick: Well, we have to back up a few years if we’re going through the story. So it took me about, I want to say, eight years or so to make it into financial planning. I actually graduated from University of Delaware with a degree in finance and really had no idea what I wanted to do. Frankly, I didn’t really work that hard in school because I just didn’t know what I was working for. I would go to class and I would learn these things and be like, “How does this apply to the real world?” I didn’t really understand exactly how I was going to transition this head knowledge into anything meaningful.
Patrick: So When I graduated, it was 2008, and I learned the hard way that you should probably work hard in school if you want to get a job that you don’t want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork when you get it. I went to work for Vanguard, which is a great company and I learned a ton, and that was the turning point for me. I lived my life in a way that was more lackadaisical. I didn’t really have a strong sense of what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Patrick: And when I started working for Vanguard, the first two to three months were training. They would train you on the Series 65 and the Series 6 so that you could start taking phone calls. I was placed in the institutional services groups, where I would take … I didn’t know this at the time, but I would take about 100 phone calls a day from people that were looking to cash out their retirement accounts and do nothing. They were just scared of the market. And I was 22 years old at the time. I had no idea what I was doing, didn’t understand financial markets. Got probably a C in whatever class they taught that in at the university. The first call I got, it changed my entire life. The reason why is I picked up the phone and my trainer was sitting right next to me and he was supposed to be there to guide me on the calls.
Patrick: I pick up the phone and it was a guy from Mississippi. It was a plumbing and pipe fitter union and he goes, “I want to cash out my OK 401. Can you help me with this?” I just look over at the guy training me, and the only thing that was flashing through my mind is, “This is not my life. There’s no way this is my life right now.” So it flipped a switch in my mind where I realized that this was something that I needed to go through because I hadn’t really applied myself. I didn’t really do any of the hard work on the front end to get a job that I would enjoy doing, and it just changed me.
Patrick: I went nuts. I studied for the CPA after work after taking 100 phone calls a day until 7:00 p.m. because there was mandatory overtime. I would stay until 10:00 and study for the CPA because there was this one out. There was one out that I had and it was applying for this accelerated rotation program that Vanguard offered, and that was all that was on my mind. It was like, “I have to get this because I can’t take 100 phone calls a day. This can’t possibly be my life.” As much as I wanted to help these people, I just didn’t feel like I had the skillset to do it at the time because honestly, people calling in with a million dollars in their account and wanting to cash it out at the time to me felt a little overwhelming with no real knowledge in financial markets or investments outside of what I had kind of remembered from school.
Patrick: I applied for that program while I was taking my CPA and I made it to the final round, then I didn’t get it. That was a tough year, because I then had to prepare for it again because they only offered it once a year, and by the second time, I was able to get through the CPA and had differentiated myself enough in that role that I was accepted into the program. And you would think that I would’ve just stayed at Vanguard and been like, “Oh, I achieved my goal and now I’m in this accelerated rotational program through corporate finance, fund accounting, and audit,” but that fire that was lit in me during that first call could not be extinguished.
Patrick: I was there for two months, did a rotation through corporate finance, a little bit through audit, and realized that I was not supposed to be in the mid office. I was the worst mid office person ever because it was too analytical. There was no interaction with people and the projects were very linear. My mom, who had also worked for Vanguard, I followed her there. Honestly, the only reason I got the job with Vanguard is because my mom worked there. She had moved to Austin, Texas about two and a half years after I started working … Or, sorry, while I started working at Vanguard, she moved to Austin, Texas and she had been there for about two and a half years while I had been working at Vanguard.
Patrick: And she started working for this company, and many of you will probably know that are listening, Dimensional Fund Advisors. She had called me one day and was like, “Hey, I’m working for this company, Dimensional. I think you’d really like it. There’s a lot of people that I think have your personality. They seemed to be wired similarly.” Sorry, guys, if you’re listening to this. I know you’re not a crazy person like me.
Patrick: She said, “You should come down here and interview. I think you’d really enjoy it.” I took her up on it. I flew to Austin, met with pretty much their entire sales team. It was a much smaller company at that time. If anyone is listening who’s familiar with Dimensional, really small, tight knit sales group. And I met with most of the senior leadership and I just loved it. I accepted the job offer as soon as they made it to me or gave it to me. And that was to become an associate in the financial advisor services group.
Patrick: So I flew to Austin, moved down there, and worked my way up over a couple years into a regional director role, got the CFA, because that’s what you needed to be cool at Dimensional. That was pretty brutal for me, because I’m not wired to be a CFA, but I got it. And after about a year and a half of being a front-facing regional director, working with advisors one on one and getting a really good look at the industry from the strategic relationships that they had, like Loring Ward multi-billion dollar firms, through the broker dealer home office to the individual RIAs, I felt like I had a really good understanding of the industry and how to build an advisory firm.
Patrick: That fire was still going, and I’m a pretty competitive person, so I decided that the corporate world wasn’t for me and I needed to do something a little bit more entrepreneurial. An opportunity presented itself. There was a gentlemen out in Sacramento. He was an advisor.
Hannah: So, wait, wait, wait. Before we get there, okay, so you just ran through a bunch of this. I’m like …
Hannah: Let’s talk about, at Vanguard, you’re basically in a call center. And you keep talking about this first phone call that you had that really lit a fire under you. What about that call really lit that fire for you?
Patrick: I think it was just the idea of … I felt like I could do more. Having not really prepared myself in school and then getting on the phone and hearing someone who clearly didn’t understand what they were doing or how to interact with finances and being in their 50s, and this guy was in his mid 50s, to not understand, like he was in a 401(k) and did not understand that he was probably 5-10 years out from retirement, I was like, “How is this happening? How is this a real thing right now that this person doesn’t know that they need to retire in 10 years and they haven’t saved anything?” It was a combination of that, and then just the combination of taking 100 calls. As soon as I was told I needed to take 100 calls a day, that was a little overwhelming.
Hannah: Yes, 100 calls a day, how many is that an hour? That’s 10-15 an hour?
Patrick: It’s the worst thing ever. We were chained to the desk pretty much, and you’re trying to drink coffee to make it through, but they only had nondairy creamer because it’s Vanguard trying to cut costs. You weren’t getting Starbucks anytime soon.
Hannah: And so you moved to Dimensional Funds. How long were you at DFA?
Patrick: I was at DFA for about four years.
Hannah: For about four years.
Patrick: About four years at DFA.
Hannah: I always think it’s really interesting, especially when you start talking to wholesalers, because they get such an inside look at all the advisors that they talk with, all their practices. So you were … I’m using the wrong term, I know … the external wholesaler or relationship manager?
Patrick: Yes. Moved from internal to external. I know that wholesaler is kind of an evil word in Dimensional speak, but yes, that’s pretty much what I was doing.
Hannah: Yes, I know.
Patrick: Too bad.
Hannah: Sorry, guys. So you would just go around to different offices. Were you coaching advisors or just trying to help them integrate DFA into their practice, or what did those conversations with the advisory practices that you went out with, what were those like?
Patrick: It was a variety of conversations. I mean, I had a really good, I guess spread, as far as the types of advisors I was exposed to. When I first started, I was supporting people in the RA space. So it was anyone from $20 million up to let’s say, $300 million in assets and I was working on a team doing portfolio analytics, helping them understand the dimensional investment philosophy and all the things that go into how to build a portfolio that captures market rates and return at the least amount of cost. All the fun stuff that Dimensional talks about. And then I got promoted and started working the broker dealer space, and that was a really cool role, because I got to lead some of the initiatives with LPL’s MWP platform, and worked with one of my mentors, Hunt, on building all of the investment models for MWP on behalf of Dimensional, and just interfacing with the home office. So I got to see how the industry actually worked that supported the advisors on the broker-dealer side.
Patrick: And then I had a brief stay on the strategic side with Loring Ward and a couple of the other larger relationships that Dimensional has. Got to work with them, their advisors, see how they do things. Great firm there, and then transitioned back into a one-to-one advisor, let’s call it wholesaler, where I was flying out, covering the West Coast, and meeting with a lot of the larger advisors that were affiliated with Dimensional that maintained a broker-dealer affiliation. It was a good mix of responsibilities.
Hannah: One of the things that I’ve seen that’s really hard for people to wrap their head around, especially when they’re starting out, is the landscape of the financial services industry, or profession, or whatever you want to call it, and how many options there are to really do work in the RIA space, in the broker-dealer space. So to the people listening who don’t really have a firm idea of that landscape, how can they find out more? How can they learn more about what their options are as an advisor or a planner?
Patrick: When you say what their options are, do you mean how they decide whether they want to be part of a broker-dealer or an RIA or join a larger firm? What type of options do you mean?
Hannah: Yeah, kind of thinking through that … I guess what I’m seeing a lot of, and maybe this is just my biases come through, but I’m seeing people who are in the RIA space only being exposed to the RIA, or in the broker-dealer world only being exposed to the broker-dealer world. And there’s so much more out there. And so how do we break people out of that isolation, if you would?
Patrick: Yeah, it’s tough. A lot of people like to … They’re comfortable with what they know, and they feel like what they know is right, and they’re looking for confirmation bias, and they hang out only with people that know what they know and think of the world in the way that they do. So it’s tough to mix them together. It’s interesting, I have about 140 advisors in my marketing program, some of which are affiliated with a broker-dealer, some of which are fee-only RIAs, and what I’ve noticed is the advisors that are affiliated with a broker-dealer, they hustle, man. These guys, they get it, they understand that this is a marketing and sales game on the front end, and they’re willing to do what it takes to build a real business.
Patrick: And those people definitely exist on the RIA side, don’t get me wrong. Fee-only, fee-based, whatever you are. But I’ve just found that in the broker-dealer space, there’s a lot of even younger advisors who were homegrown in that environment, and they’re just open to the push, I like to call it. Working hard and building the business. And they have the mindset for it.
Patrick: So I think that the broker-dealer model, I’m not big on that. I think that maybe broken dealer can be a better term to describe a lot of the things that are happening right now in the broker-dealer space. But there are some progressive broker-dealers who do a good job for their advisors. It’s just, as with anything, you’re going to find some that are good and some that are bad. But I think the cool thing that I’ve seen with my group of individuals, advisors, is there is that cross-pollination, and when they start to see things from each other’s perspective, it’s kind of neat to watch how they interact and start to share more of a common vision. But yeah, I don’t think there’s any perfect way to break down those walls.
Hannah: Right. And it’s just one of the challenges that we have.
Hannah: Yeah. So you’re at DFA, you’re flying to the West Coast to help basically coach financial planning firms. What were your biggest takeaways from that experience, especially working one-on-one with these firms?
Patrick: In general, it was a very positive experience. There’s a lot of advisors … What annoyed me the most, and the reason why I wanted to get, I think, out of Dimensional and into the advice business in some capacity, was how frustrated the advisors were about how they were really trying to help people, but everyone saw them as being exactly the same, because you’ve got the Northwestern Mutuals of the world and all these big boys that pump sales and marketing super hard and are selling products. And then you’ve got XYZ advisor who’s got $60 million in assets who’s fee-only, who’s an expert planner, he’s been doing it for 20 years.
Patrick: And I’m sitting there talking to him and he’s just super upset because he doesn’t have the ability to uniquely connect with people in a way that he’s comfortable with, that they’re comfortable with, and that was … The biggest takeaway that I really had from it was there’s a lot of good advisors out there that have a story to tell, and they have a message that would resonate with their audience, but they just … They became complacent because the industry just spends so much money and energy making them all look and feel the exact same.
Patrick: So that kind of bothered me, and I didn’t really know how to solve the problem at the time, but that was one of the big takeaways that I had, I think, from serving advisors out on the West Coast. A lot of them were just really good humans and looking to help other humans, but they were running into a lot of roadblocks.
Hannah: That’s interesting. You said that the industry puts a lot of money into making everybody look the same. Can you talk about that more?
Patrick: Oh, yeah. I don’t think there’s going to be anybody … Most people disagree with some of the things I say, but I think this one, this is pretty much a fact. But the goal of the industry is to sell product, for the most part. Most of the industry’s designed to sell product. And by making the good advisors look exactly like the sales people and annoying the consumer with bait-and-switch messaging, like, “Hey, you want a financial plan? Well, it looks like you need more life insurance or disability insurance.” It’s like, no, me and my wife are actually totally all set on that. We just don’t know how to spend and allocate our resources. “Well, let’s talk about this whole life insurance plan. This could be a really good thing for you.”
Patrick: So I just think there’s a lot of money and energy spent. I don’t think it’s the advisor’s fault, I think it’s the system’s fault for knowing that they can make a profit off these things, and then teaching people how to sell product versus becoming experts in advice. But I’m preaching to the choir here on that. I just think that the marketing machine that is the large financial services firms, the only way to stop them will be if they get fully regulated. But we saw what happened with that, so …
Hannah: That’s a whole ‘nother conversation.
Patrick: Oh, yeah. We could go down that rabbit hole for decades, so … skip that one.
Hannah: Oh my gosh, yeah. Okay, so are you the type who … You got the interview at DFA. You took the offer right away. So as you’re thinking about leaving DFA, is this something that you’ve put a lot of thought into, or was it more of an opportunity that arose and you just jumped on it?
Patrick: I was kind of brash, I think, especially in my 20s. I was probably 27 at the time when I decided to leave Dimensional, and I was super cocky, ’cause I had moved up quickly at DFA, and there were a lot of really talented people there. And I just had this weird idea in my mind that I can build this, I don’t need to be in a W2 role, and it was more driven out of pride and ego, I think, than anything else.
Patrick: But I definitely … I don’t think I fully evaluated the situation, and there were definitely some warning signs on the front end from my wife, from my family, saying, “Hey, I think you should slow down. Seems to be moving pretty fast.” So I would say that it was more of a gut-level decision than one that was fully researched, despite the fact that I had the CFA and I should’ve probably researched it a little bit more. But those habits didn’t take place.
Hannah: What was your next step after Dimensional?
Patrick: I ended up partnering with two advisors that I didn’t really know that well. They were good guys, and they were going to put up a substantial amount of capital, and we were going to buy a firm out in Sacramento, California. It was a larger firm, about $200-ish million in assets under their management. Fee-only, DFA, Vanguard. Awesome people that were at that firm. I really enjoyed my time there. The problem was I was a super charged up late 20-year-old who wanted to take over the world, and I entered into a suburban Sacramento firm that had three working typewriters. And it was mostly me just coming in and being a complete tornado. I wanted to redo the entire operating infrastructure, all the technology, all the marketing, the brand, I was just … It was like you could walk into a house, and it’s not your style of home, and you’re like, “I need to rip everything out. We need to refurnish the whole place in 10 seconds.” That’s kind of how I interacted with the opportunity.
Patrick: And it was really a shame, because had I had a little bit more self-awareness and a little bit more experience, I think I would’ve dealt with it differently. But there were some other things that happened throughout the time of me being in Sacramento. I was only there for about a year. Ended up selling my shares back to my partners that had put up the money to acquire the firm, and initially, the goal was to build a larger conglomerate of firms. A roll-up similar to, let’s say, United Capital or BAM or something like that. And in my naïve 27-year-old mind, I thought, “Yeah, I can compete with these guys at 27 with no knowledge outside of Dimensional.” So I needed to learn the hard way to stick my hand on the stove, get burned a few times, and that’s pretty much how that went down after I left DFA.
Hannah: I have so many questions about that experience, but you probably don’t want to-
Patrick: Go for it. It’s fun. Yeah, that could be a two-day … It’s a two-dayer. I do have, I guess whatever that clause is in the contract that says where you can’t say certain things. So I could probably talk a little bit, but …
Hannah: Yeah. Okay, so you’re there. You’re a bit of a bull in a china shop is what I’m hearing.
Patrick: There you go. Why don’t you talk for me? That’s so much faster.
Hannah: So what was the point where you realized that it wasn’t going to work out?
Patrick: I think about four months in. I had been out there for about four months, and the advisor that had sold us the practice, he was really reluctant to introduce me to clients. I think it was because I was changing things inside of the firm, as far as how we were doing things from a technology standpoint, from a workflow process standpoint. About four months in, I started to see the writing on the wall that there was going to be some issues between his personality and my personality, and that’s when everything started to move in the wrong direction, as far as being, I guess, negative versus positive. So it took about four months in, I would say.
Hannah: You work with a lot of advisors. So to the person who’s in that spot, who sees the writing on the wall, is it worth waiting it out?
Patrick: As far as building your own firm, or as far as actually waiting it out and waiting for the succession plan-
Hannah: Trying to make it work.
Patrick: … to fully be realized? Man, that is a tough question. It really depends on the team dynamic and the personalities that are at play. I’d say for me, now I might be able to do it in my early 30s, now that I’ve had some more life experience. Some people, I’ve noticed, are a lot more mild-mannered than me, and they’re more patient, and they’re going to be in a better position to have an effective transition in a succession planning environment. I still think that I’m more of the bull in the china shop. I don’t think, for me, I would ever try that strategy again. But I think for some people, it could be a really great way to enter the industry, especially if they find somebody who can mentor them into the profession, into relationships. It could be a really cool thing, it just never really turned out like that for me.
Hannah: I can’t imagine working for somebody else at this point in my life, and just from hearing so far your story, I can’t imagine that you would want to go work for somebody else at this point either.
Patrick: I can’t. I’m broken at this point. I know too much about a lot of different things, and I just feel like if I had to work for someone in a W-2 role, I would drive them completely insane. And I can definitely work with partners. Actually, I really enjoy working with other people and having partners, but if there’s someone … I can report to someone who moves super fast and is a visionary all day long. But what I’ve had trouble with, every time I get put behind someone, I always want to move faster, and they’re always uncomfortable with it. Not to say I’m always right, but I just have to make mistakes. If I feel like I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to make a mistake, and I just have to move. I just feel like I’m in a constant state of motion with that stuff.
Hannah: Did you know that you wanted to start your own business right away?
Patrick: Honestly, I didn’t. I went through this weird transition. I kind of felt like I was taken advantage of a little bit, I feel like, when I was in Sacramento. In hindsight that’s not true, but I had this chip on my shoulder, so I didn’t really know if I wanted to start my own business, go back to work for Dimensional, go find a job somewhere else. And I took a couple months off and just did some soul searching to figure out what was going to be the next step, and I decided that I was unemployable, like we talked about. There was no going back and working for someone, so I needed to figure out what type of business I wanted to be in.
Patrick: And frankly, I didn’t feel confident at that point that I was ready to start a wealth management firm from ground zero. If I’m completely honest, I think I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to grow the business, because I didn’t really have a sustainable process for getting in front of anyone, and I didn’t really know anybody that I could talk to about wealth management. All of my friends and family worked for Dimensional or Vanguard or some other place in the industry, so I couldn’t just call them and be like, “Hey, you know that Dimensional fund you own? Why don’t you just transfer it over to me and I’ll manage it for you?” That wasn’t going to happen.
Patrick: So I felt, I guess, a little bit hesitant to start my own firm right after that opportunity in Sacramento had fallen through.
Hannah: And so what did that time look like for you?
Patrick: It was a little bit of a dark time, honestly. It was one of those things where I had a six-figure job at Dimensional, I was doing really well, I was moving up the corporate ladder. My wife was super stoked about it. I had a lot of certainty in my life, and I decided to blow up the certainty, move to Sacramento against my family’s, probably, request, and ended up with that partnership blowing up in under 13 months. So I got some money out of the deal for the troubles and everything, but I spent a lot of time and mental and emotional energy in that engagement. I felt like I was working 100 hours a week for the 13 … I probably was. And I was flying every single week from Sacramento to Austin to get back home on the weekends to see my wife, who was still working in Austin.
Patrick: And I was burnt out. I was very emotionally fragile, I think, after that opportunity. So I needed some time to collect myself and really figure out what the next step was going to be. So it was not like a really fun time, I would say, for me in my life.
Hannah: And so what got you out of that? Or maybe you’re still in it, I don’t know. But what was the transition point for you? You obviously started … We’ve already prefaced this whole podcast, that you have your own firm. What led you down that path?
Patrick: It was a couple things. At first, I didn’t start the firm because I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I just didn’t think I had a good marketing strategy. I chatted with the guys over at XY Planning Network. Good folks. They had just started, I think, when I left … I probably would’ve been member number 50 or something, had I joined back then. And I just didn’t feel confident that there was any type of a marketing strategy that I could take up to be able to be successful.
Patrick: So I ended up doing something completely random. I’m not going to go into this in a lot of detail, just because it would sidetrack us, but I started an insurance company. An insurance agency, rather. It was a Medicare insurance agency that was initially designed to help people that were turning 65 find the right Medicare plan. And it was going to be a quoting tool backed by data. So I hired two developers, and we were going to build this tool where we could smart search all the plans, and based on the medications and the doctors that people saw, we’d be able to figure out which plan was going to be most appropriate, and it was going to revolutionize the Medicare industry.
Patrick: So long story short, what I realized after about seven months is I wasn’t in the technology space, I wasn’t in the insurance space. I was in the online marketing space, because healthcare is one of the most competitive lead generation markets in the entire world. So even if I built the best quoting tool ever, which I couldn’t do because there was one company that had a specific exclusive contract with medicare.gov for the price of the drug at the pharmacy level, so we couldn’t even build the tool. But had we been able to build the tool, we would’ve been a marketing company, and not an insurance or technology firm, because we need to drive eyeballs in order to get people to interact with the product.
Patrick: So then I started really getting into online marketing, direct response, lead generation, and that shaped my path for the next three and a half, four years.
Hannah: And so is that what gave you the confidence to start your own firm, that you thought that you had a marketing strategy?
Patrick: Yeah, it did, because I started putting together a marketing strategy for the Medicare company. We basically pivoted off the quoting tool and just started doing lead generation to make money and to try and build something, ’cause frankly, I was running out of money. I was paying developers, I thought I was super cool working out of WeWork in Austin, and every month, the bills just kept coming in, and the revenue was flat-lined right at zero. And I was working probably 90-100 hours a week, trying to figure out, how do I build a client acquisition strategy that’s going to get eyeballs on this fricking website so I can sell a Medicare product?
Patrick: And after spending probably $30-40 grand in researching it and testing things, I was able to put together a sales funnel. Right now compared to what I do, it’s pretty basic, but it was this linear sales funnel on Facebook, basically driving people to a webinar that would drive them to a call center or a workshop, and then we would have them attend a workshop locally in Austin, San Antonio, or Dallas, or we would try and sell them over the phone if they were open to that. And we were able to get the business to about $25,000 in monthly recurring revenue selling mostly Medicare supplements.
Patrick: But I just got tired of Medicare. It’s a really shady industry. There’s just dealing with insurance companies and all the politics and BS that comes with that. I just had to get out, so we stopped doing that after about a year. And I say we, it was mostly me doing that, and I had a couple agents that were working part-time. But I stopped doing that after about a year into it.
Hannah: So, it’s funny. I haven’t … We’ve done over 100 podcast episodes. I’m trying to think back if there was anybody who’s ever done Medicare plans like that. And I think some people may have done them on the side, but nobody went full in on it. So that’s really interesting.
Patrick: I wouldn’t recommend it. I would not recommend going full boar into Medicare, I’ll tell you firsthand.
Hannah: Maybe there’s a reason you’re the only one to do that.
Patrick: Yeah, I’m the only weirdo. I needed to burn myself down before I was ready to get back up, and I feel like that’s what was going on here, so.
Hannah: So as you did that, were you still in touch with the financial planning community, that larger … Did you know that you wanted to go back to financial planning? Because at this point, you could go sell widgets online. What kept you in financial services?
Patrick: It was actually a meeting that I had with a guy who’s now one of my partners in the wealth management firm. His name is Tim Power. Awesome guy, we met through my stepdad. Tim and my stepdad were doing prison ministry at the same prison. They weren’t in prison, they were doing ministry there. And they met, and Tim had overheard my stepdad talk about how we were doing the stuff in Medicare. And Tim approached him and said, “Hey, you’re doing some stuff in Medicare. I’m a financial advisor.”
Patrick: So they started talking and my stepdad decided that it would make sense for me and Tim to meet up, so we met up about a week later at a Whole Foods north of Austin, and we just started talking. And within 30 minutes, Tim could … Based on my background, the CFA and everything, he’s like, “Dude, why are you selling Medicare? This makes no sense. It’s like death from a thousand paper cuts. Why are you doing this to yourself?” And I didn’t really have a good answer for him, and it caused me to really just step back and reflect on it. I’m like, “Why am I building a marketing agency selling Medicare? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Patrick: And Tim just hung around and we just kept talking, and his background … He worked at New York Life, Eagle Strategies, was definitely more on the insurance side, wanted to transition into more of a fee-based or fee-only role, but just didn’t have a good running mate because he’s more wired to connect with people emotionally. He’s a great sales guy, but just doesn’t have a strong interest in the complex aspect of financial planning and doing all the detailed work.
Patrick: And we just decided one night, we’re like, “You know what? Let’s just fricking start a wealth management firm and see where it goes. And I think for me … For Tim, that was awesome. He was like, “I just want to start a wealth management firm, it’s the best thing ever.” For me, I was still like, “I kind of want to see if I can build it. I don’t know if I necessarily want to be a financial advisor, I don’t know if I necessarily have a really strong interest in financial planning. But I really like the industry, and I’m almost more curious to see if I could do it.” It was like a test in a weird way. I know I’m a weird person.
Hannah: A challenge.
Patrick: Yeah, because I just saw a lot of people honestly struggling. I was looking at a lot of the advisors that I think are super talented. They’re phenomenal planners. A lot of them are now in my program on the marketing side, and they were struggling to acquire clients. And I’m like, I want to see if this is possible. I’m going to give it my best go for 12-13 months, and I’m going to see what happens and see if I can do it or not. And that’s pretty much what we set out to do.
Hannah: And is this the SurePath Wealth Management?
Patrick: This is SurePath Wealth Management, that’s what we created about two years ago now.
Hannah: And so you and Tim, were you 50/50 business partners on this, or …
Patrick: No, so I ended up funding the entire business. So right now, well, basically where we’re at now is I still own 100% of the firm, but I’m probably going to be diversifying the equity structure, ’cause I’m focused a lot more on market strategy and consulting and things now, and we need some other people to step in and carry some of the weight. So right now, I’m 100% owner.
Hannah: Oh, I just love that you say that knowing that you want to give up some of the ownership of it. It’s like, yes! You get how it works.
Patrick: Of course.
Hannah: Or how it should work.
Patrick: Oh, that’s my biggest point of frustration in the industry right now, is all these old cats hanging onto their equity for dear life, and making talented young people that could be empowered to be in a role of greater responsibility do it on their own from scratch. It pisses me off, frankly. And that’s part of my mission, if anyone listens to my message on the marketing side … For better or for worse, it’s kind of an against brand. I’m training the next generation of advisor to take market share aggressively so that when the tidal wave comes in 7-10 years and assets start to transition … Let’s just say my right capital software has $30-40 million in inheritances already modeled out, and that’s coming from somewhere.
Hannah: Absolutely. So you start this wealth management practice. So what was that experience, what was the first month of that like?
Patrick: It was all in the registration, honestly. I registered the firm in basically three weeks. I just went completely insane, registered it. I was driving down to the Texas State Securities Board every day and harassing them. I brought donuts and tacos in one day, like, “Hey, maybe push this file up to the top here?” ‘Cause we had some people that were ready to roll over some money that we had got from the Medicare webinars, so that’s initially what started getting us going, was we were running the webinars, and instead of just selling Medicare, we were upselling wealth management and financial planning and things like that.
Hannah: So you had already started building out that marketing pipeline through your Medicare business. Was the timing so that you shut down your Medicare business as soon as the wealth management got up and running?
Patrick: Pretty much. There was a little bit of a transition there. I would say two to three months where I basically transitioned all of the Medicare business over to my stepdad. So he runs the Medicare agency now. He’s got about 500 clients that he serves, and we helped him build that and we still are helping him build that out. But I’m not affiliated with it in any way anymore, ’cause I don’t have time or any interest in it. So, yeah, we pretty much rolled that up as soon as we started making progress with the RIA.
Hannah: Yeah. So you’re very much that serial entrepreneur, it sounds like.
Patrick: Yeah. It sucks. I wish I was normal, that’d be great. Being normal would be awesome.
Hannah: So you were able to … You’ve learned all this about marketing. Were you able to see results from that at SurePath right away?
Patrick: Yeah. Everything takes time, and every strategy’s a little bit different, depending on the goal of the campaign. Initially, I need to eat tomorrow. We needed to do hardcore lead generation, because if I wasn’t talking to people, then we weren’t going to be in business. And we took a multi-pronged approach. We expanded on the funnel for Medicare for the first couple months and were driving a lot of people to in-person workshops, mostly so that we could close and get some AUM on the books as fast as possible. And then we pivoted our strategy to basically focus a little bit more on doctors, and we were using LinkedIn, email, retargeting, and sales funnels to help people illuminate problems in their life.
Patrick: The way I think about marketing is you’ve got two types of individuals. And let’s say you had 100 people in a room. Two of those people are going to be open, to some degree, about what you have to say right now. Maybe they’re in pain about financial planning or tax or something like that. They’re going to be open, and you need to give that person a very quick and clear path to solve that problem, ’cause they’re in pain. It’s like if I was up on stage talking about how to reset people’s broken arms, and somebody in the audience has a broken arm, they’re not going to Google me, look up reviews, and read a bunch of stuff. They’re going to come up on stage and I’m going to reset their broken arm.
Patrick: Most of the audience is not open right now. So there needs to be a separate and distinct process for warming up the people that aren’t ready to work with an advisor right now. And the way that I’ve done that is a lot heavier on the video marketing, content retargeting, funnels, and I’m just trying to stay in front of people as much as possible, with the least amount of effort and energy, and for the least amount of money, because if you do this the wrong way you could potentially go broke.
Patrick: But the goal is instead of when that person comes across something in their life where they’re like, “Oh, I need help with taxes,” or they’re like, “Oh, I need help with financial planning,” what we don’t want them to do is go to Google and type in “financial planner fee-only”, “financial planner NAPFA”. I want them to say SurePath or Patrick Brewer or Tim Power, whoever it is, because I’ve spent the time and energy helping them illuminate and solve problems in their life, so that they’re now going to look to me as an authority instead of just going to Google and just finding whoever’s top of the list.
Hannah: And so that’s really … You hear a lot of people talk about paid market versus organic marketing. And I really heard you make that distinction there. Would you agree that that’s the distinction you were making?
Patrick: To a degree. I think lead generation is definitely paid marketing, but I think awareness and building an audience also requires some ad spend in today’s environment. The challenge that a lot of advisors face right now is they do need to focus and clarify their market. So they need to pick a “niche”. I call it an affiliation because I think it’s a better term based on how people affiliate with certain things, activities, companies. But they need to clarify their market.
Patrick: Once you’ve clarified your market, there’s a paid component and there’s an organic component. The challenge with organic is on Facebook, organic’s pretty much dead, based on the changes in the Facebook algorithm. On LinkedIn, the news feed works pretty well, but it takes some time to season out, because people aren’t as active on LinkedIn. And then Twitter is just a bunch of noise. Nobody’s building with relationships with 100-whatever characters.
Patrick: So I find that there is a very, very good organic strategy that you can leverage, using the combination of LinkedIn, Facebook, and email, but you have to do it in a very specific way. I’ve also found paid advertising to be incredibly effective with video marketing, because you have a lot more ability to control the psychological journey and the indoctrination of the person, of the prospect, once they’ve raise their hand and said, “Hey, I’m in a little bit of pain,” you can create a very specific sequence of events to get them to view you as someone who can help.
Hannah: So, I love this stuff, and I think I could talk to you for hours about this. But for the listeners-
Hannah: When you say … No, I love it. So when you say raise your hand, they raise their hand and let you know that they’re in some sort of pain. What does that mean from your strategy standpoint? What does that actually look like? Who would raise their hand?
Patrick: Yeah, there’s a couple different ways. We use a multi-platform approach. So instead of just saying we do SEO, or we do content, or we do LinkedIn, it’s not enough. And the reason why it’s not enough is there’s too much noise in the world right now to where if you just focus on a singular service or strategy, you’re not going to be able to build the attention and relationship that’s required to get people to actually take action.
Patrick: And the challenge with our industry as it relates to marketing is it’s a non-linear cycle in order to build a relationship. I can’t just walk up to someone and say, “Let’s be friends.” They’re going to be like, “I don’t know who you are, and we’re not friends.” Whereas if I’m selling a product or a service, it’s a lot easier. Maybe I need a T-shirt. I’m going to go buy a T-shirt, I don’t need to build a relationship with the T-shirt maker. I just need to buy the T-shirt.
Patrick: So for our industry, it’s really specific in the way that you need to serve up content and get people to interact in order to build that connection and that human connection and get the trust part of it established because you introduce the solution. As far as how it works for illuminating problems, this is my content creation process. I’m going to share this right now, congratulations if you’re on the call. It’s pretty awesome. And it’s simple, it’s super simple. This is how I create content.
Patrick: So I figure out first, who is my market? I clarify my market. Who am I speaking to directly? What are their characteristics? Once I’ve figured that out, I write down the 10 mistakes that they’re making in their life, their business, and their finances right now. What are the 10 mistakes that they’re making that either they don’t know about, or maybe they do know about and they just don’t want to address yet? Then I write down the 10 desired results that they want financially, in their business, in their personal life, et cetera.
Patrick: So I’ve got 20 pieces. 20 things that are important to my ideal prospect. And then what I do is I fractionalize that content through the lens of what I call the seven pillars of content. And what that is is stories and experiences … Imagine if instead of just saying, “Here’s an article on the restricted application strategy for Social Security,” what if I had a market of people, let’s say 5,000 people, that were watching a video and I served it up to them, and instead of serving them up a piece of content on a very complex topic, I just said, “I had a client in my office the other day. Her name’s Mrs. Jones, and this is what we were talking about, these reservations around Social Security.” So you tell this story from the perspective of your life and the client’s life, and obviously you don’t share private information. But it allows the other person to insert themselves into the story and figure out what you do.
Patrick: And on top of that, you’ve got a couple others. You’ve got personal philosophy, which is why you do what you do, why it’s important. What do you stand for, what do you not stand for, what’s equally as important as what you do stand for, which is huge for advisors that are principled, fee-only DFA people. The community needs to hear about this. And you’ve got educational content, you’ve got other forms of content, like promotional, win-share. There’s seven different ways that I create content that allows me to build the human connection on the front end with the person, so I can get them to say, “Oh, that’s what Patrick does.” Or, “Oh, I’m in pain right now, and it’s interesting how they see the world.”
Patrick: So that’s a little bit about how we do it. But we use LinkedIn, we use Facebook, we use email marketing, we use YouTube, we use retargeting, we use Google. Everything. It’s gotta be an integrated approach or it really just doesn’t work.
Hannah: And so you’re talking about spending money on advertising for this. One of the things … I’ve said that I really enjoy this. One of the things that I’ve learned about marketing is that everything is trackable if you do it right. And so you spend $10, you can see, hey, what results did I get for that $10, or however much money you spend. What are you seeing with the advisors that you’re working for? What’s the ad spend that they’re spending each month?
Patrick: Yeah. Right now, we have two ways that we help advisors. The first way is for the people that, let’s say, I have a place in my heart for. It’s the entrepreneur, and where I was at three or four years ago. They don’t really know what they’re up against. They know they need a marketing and sales system, but they don’t know where to turn. And everybody’s telling them to blog and pick a niche, and it’s like, cool, I just put out my 40th blog and now I’m ready to drive my car into a lake. I’m over it.
Patrick: So my main product is to help those people and give them a path to the solution, which is getting clients sustainability for the least amount of money possible. And all of the clients that I’ve helped in that product, not one person has spent a dollar on advertising, because I have a very specific strategy that leverages LinkedIn, email, and some light funnels and the news feed to be able to create enough interaction to where you don’t have to get to paid advertising. And I’ve perfected that over the course of two and a half years. We’ve changed it, we’re still iterating, but that’s really where people start if they don’t have the money to go into paid ads, which is most people. They just can’t afford Facebook advertising and they can’t afford the content production and distribution process and everything else.
Patrick: And the cool thing about the product that we have right now is it allows people to test their offer or test their funnel. I don’t want to get too complicated, but they can test it without spending money. So they can see what the click through rates are, they can see how many people are opting in, and based on that, they can see what the strength of their offer is to their niche or clarified market. And once they do that and they have data, like you were talking about, the analytics around it, then it’s just a game of putting money in the slot machine. That’s when you go to paid advertising and you start boosting that to an audience on Facebook, on YouTube, on Google, and you drive as many people as you possibly can to it that are in that market. Then it’s all about distribution.
Patrick: So what I really focus on for most people is they come in and they have no idea who their target market is. They’re like, “I like helping people. I’m a financial advisor, and I think that I like young people and that’s what I want to do.” Okay, cool. So let’s start there, and let’s build a real target profile as far as who you’re going to serve. Let’s figure out the exact systems that you’re going to use to build an audience of those people. Let’s figure out the message that’s going to get them to raise their hand and say, “I’m in pain right now. I’d like to become a client.” But more importantly, let’s figure out the long-term communication strategy that gets people to opt in and say, “Yes, I’d like to learn a little bit more about this particular topic,” and then nurture them. Once we finish the nurture sequence, we know we have a sustainable offer. We’ve got a good market. Boost it. Go to paid traffic. Go nuts.
Hannah: So, okay. So I got a bit ahead of myself.
Patrick: Oh, you’re good.
Hannah: I’m just so excited to talk about marketing. So at SurePath, this is where you really started … You tested out a lot of this through your Medicare business that you did. But with SurePath, you’re really able to test this out for a wealth management practice. I guess the biggest question is, was that successful?
Patrick: Yeah. And one of the questions that I get that I think we should probably address, ’cause I get it all the time, it’s like, if this is so successful, why are you just scaling up a massive wealth management firm and doing this all on your own? Why are you giving this information away, because clearly people need this information. And I’ll answer your question first, and then I’ll answer that one.
Patrick: But to answer your question, it was successful. I had to actually stop marketing in my wealth management firm about six months ago because we were working on two things. One was creating leverage in Brewer Consulting, because we were getting too many people, and I could keep up. So I needed to divert time and attention and hire staff to be able to scale that business so that I could keep doing it. So we literally had to stop marketing to be able to make sure that business stayed on the rails.
Patrick: And in addition to that, I wanted to invest in the future of SurePath, so I created a tax and account division that’s going to be a carve out here probably within the next few months. We’re working on the brand right now, and that’s going to be called SurePath CPA group. So we brought on a tax partner, we’ve got two contractors doing books and tax returns, and we brought on about $50,000 in revenue the first tax season, which is not terrible. But that was really where my attention went about six to seven months ago, was maintaining Brewer Consulting, building out the CPA firm, and now we’re finally turning our energy back to the marketing side for the wealth management firm. But we have grown from zero to about $20 million in assets, $8 million in assets under advisement, a good amount of retainers with younger clients, plus the revenue coming in from tax and account services that’s ramping up.
Patrick: So I would say that we’ve definitely been successful. It’s just, unfortunately, there’s only so much time in a day, and I think the only way to know what you’re uniquely positioned to is to have competing interests for your time and for whatever reason, every time I have time to work on anything, I’m always like, I want to work on the marketing company. I just enjoy it more. So that’s just where I’ve been drawn.
Hannah: Yeah. That serial entrepreneur side.
Hannah: So one of the things you talked about was the importance of building out a niche market, or, I’m sorry, affiliations.
Patrick: All good. You can use niche.
Hannah: So with your SurePath Wealth Management, what was the group you were really focusing your marketing on?
Patrick: So we started with doctors. I still have the site out there. It’s surepathmd.com, and we have a number of doctors and dentists that work with our firm. And we’re using the strategies without paid advertising to perfect that particular marketing campaign. We attracted about, I want to say 12-15 doctors, and that’s when you hit the wall. And we’re like, we gotta scale this business, we don’t have any more time to market.
Patrick: So we turned our attention to the marketing company, and over the past three months, I’d been building a marketing funnel that is focused on the retirement income space. So it’s mostly going to be leveraging Social Security as the pain point to drive people through a very automated experience, multi-platform, and we’re going to be running about $4,000-7,000 a month in advertising spend through that marketing funnel in Austin, because the way I think you could … Niche, to me, it doesn’t have to be doctor/dentist/lawyer. That’s what I’ve realized. It could be somebody who’s affiliated with a particular company, it could be a cultural affiliation, it could be an industry. It doesn’t have to be those three. It could be craft breweries, it could be e-commerce, it could be something that’s not as highly pursued. And it could also be a local focus.
Patrick: People affiliate very strongly with the problems or the results that they want in their life, so if you turn yourself into an expert for solving a particular problem, like Social Security or Medicare or taxes in retirement or whatever. You can take over the market with a very integrated approach if you know how, and that’s pretty much what we’re going to do, is take over the market in that space over the next couple of months. That’s the goal.
Hannah: Very interesting. Well, it’ll be really fun to watch and stay in touch and see what happens.
Patrick: Yeah. Well, we’ve gotta staff up too, that’s the issue. It’s like, if you’re constantly juggling resources, you’re like, okay. Three months, or three weeks, we’ll be done. Oh, wait, this thing just exploded, so we need to get this person to do that. So you know how it is being a business owner. But that’s the goal, that’s on the strategic plan.
Hannah: It’s funny, I was just talking to somebody else about how sometimes business problems, you feel like you’re back in business school, being like, okay, here’s the facts of your case and what do you do now? And it’s like, oh, this is real life. This isn’t just a case that I get a grade on.
Patrick: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny.
Hannah: So where can people find you?
Patrick: I pretty much stalk people all over the place, I think. I’ve got my videos that go out all the time, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, YouTube. So you can pretty much find me on any social platform. As far as the way that we’ve structured our ability to work with folks, if you want to learn more, the website is a good place to schedule a call. You can opt into our funnel there. There’s a guide that we’ll walk you through, and once you opt into that, I’ll stalk you around the internet until you eventually die a cold death. So be careful about hitting my pages.
Patrick: But there’s a button on the site that says Talk To Us, you can book a time. We ask you to fill out a brief application, just so that we can get a sense if you’re going to be a fit. We only work with fiduciary advisors, we don’t work with anyone who’s not a fiduciary. That’s important to us. And most of the firms that we have had success helping … Just to be fully transparent, because I feel like a lot of people are like, who doesn’t have success with your program? So I’m going to mention that.
Patrick: The people that we haven’t been able to help are advisors that are over … And not to say that it’s an age thing, but for whatever reasons, advisors that are over 55, under $100 million in assets, we’ve had a really hard time helping those folks. I think it’s just a combination of technology, a change in strategy, a shift in mindset. Those are the folks that we’ve seen to really not be able to have that great of success for. Anyone who is building their business, who’s under $100 million, who wants to grow a business online, we can definitely help. Anyone who’s over $100 million, regardless of age, practice, it’s going to cost you more, but we basically have a marketing agency where we build out all the funnels, all the integrations and everything that you would need in order to take over whatever client profile you want.
Patrick: So I would say website’s definitely the best, and then fill out the application, and we just have a quick chat about the practice.
Hannah: That’s awesome. And we’ll have all the links for that in the show notes. Well, anything else, Patrick, before we jump off?
Patrick: No, I think we’re good, Hannah. Thank you so much for having me on here. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, I really appreciate what you’ve been doing for the industry. It’s much needed. I know that this is maybe a little bit of a thankless thing here, running this podcast, but hopefully it doesn’t go unnoticed. So thanks again for your contribution and your time.
Hannah: Absolutely. Thanks, Patrick.