IDEAL Plans Ideal Advisors

Ep. 8 Build your Practice around your Ideal Clients - an Interview with Lee Tarbet

March 29, 2020 Richard E. Boone Season 1 Episode 8
IDEAL Plans Ideal Advisors
Ep. 8 Build your Practice around your Ideal Clients - an Interview with Lee Tarbet
Show Notes Transcript

Ever wonder how to become the "go-to" advisor for a certain group of potential clients?  It starts by researching your market and then building your business around that knowledge.  In this episode we'll interview Lee Tarbet, a wealth manager in Ventura County, CA.  Lee had successfully operated a construction company before making the decision to change careers and become a wealth manager.  Using his knowledge of how construction firm owners think and behave gives him enormous insight on how best to serve that market.  During the interview we will discuss how he continued researching that target market to create a brand and a service model that serves his ideal clients.  Some of the critical business elements we will discuss in this show include branding, marketing, business development, sales processes, and practice management.  

Richard Boone:   0:00
Welcome to the IDEAL Plans Ideal Advisors podcast. The purpose of the podcast is to provide financial advisors the steps for creating their own vision of an ideal advisory practice. One where you can serve your clients extremely well while living the lifestyle you desire. In each episode, your host, Richard Boone, will use his ideal plan process as a framework to help you understand why, how and when to make specific improvements in your business. We call it the ideal plan process because Ideal is an acronym for identify where you are now and where you want to go with your business. Discuss your business model and possible adjustments to be made. Evaluate your proficiency ease in the seven critical business elements. Assess your skills and priorities and leverage Resources in the proper sequence to achieve your goals to help inspire you to create your ideal plan for success. On occasion, we will invite guest speakers to share their insights into one or more of the seven critical business elements. Branding, marketing, business development, sales process, practice management, client relationship management and business optimization. In today's episode, we will interview our guest Lee Tarbet. Lee is a wealth manager in Ventura County, California, who primarily works with owners of construction companies. Lee and I began working together over a year ago, and since then he has made some significant improvements that have yielded some amazing results. Over the next 30 minutes or so, we'll dive into those changes that he's made in some of the critical business elements. Hi Lee. Welcome to the show.

Lee Tarbet:   1:36
Hi, Rich. Thanks for having me. This is exciting.

Richard Boone:   1:39
Great. Well, I'm very happy to have you here. For those of my steady listeners, this is the first time I've actually interviewed somebody for this podcast. So I really appreciate you being here, Lee. It's definitely a pleasure.  For those of you who know Lee already, you probably realize how methodical he is. And that makes him a very easy advisor to work with from both ends of the perspective. So what I want to ask you about Lee today is some of the main areas of your branding, your marketing and your business development. Those are three of what I call those seven critical business elements. So let's talk about first your overall brand. Perhaps you could just start by describing really what your brand is kind of. How did you get here? I know you did a major career change and that's affected your brand. So maybe you could talk about that a little bit first. And then we'll talk about some of the steps you went through to create that brand and what that means to your clients.

Lee Tarbet:   2:38
Okay, I'll start off saying my brand from the beginning was no brand or if you really pressed me, I would say my brand was friends and family brand. I came from the construction world. Before I became an adviser. I was involved in landscape and swimming pool construction. I was working with subcontractors in that world.  When I shifted over to a whole new career of providing financial advice and wealth management. As I said, I started off with family and friends as a brand, which really was not a brand. I did not have a clear message. I went to a networking group, and even then I would have a hard time explaining who my client was or who I wanted to do business with.

Richard Boone:   3:42
You wouldn't be alone in that I'm imagining. Those financial advisors have that exact same problem. But you chose to overcome that. So how did you get to that point where you actually knew what you wanted to tell about you?

Lee Tarbet:   3:55
Well, I would say step number one was that I hired a coach. Of course, that happened to be you Rich.

Richard Boone:   4:03
Thank you, by the way!

Lee Tarbet:   4:05
And one of the first tasks that you had me work on was to do a number of interviews with people that I already had good relationships with. And it wasn't just within the construction world, but I interviewed a number of different people and going through the steps of interviewing, asking the same questions. One of the key questions being What are the challenges that you face in your business and in your life? Where do you wish you had better help or could have had help in the past? In going through that interview process, it helped me to recognize that one there was not. Anybody is servicing the construction world specifically, and two, most of them - I like to say they'd get a big check into the job, and their first thought was, what new toy can I buy to put into my garage? So I saw a opportunity to work with this group that perhaps has been underserved from there. I started a position myself and learn exactly what is a brand. And how'd I would now create that brand?

Richard Boone:   5:24
That's fantastic. Let me ask you this. When you were interviewing some of these clients of yours and other centers of influence, I seem to recall you had expressed that these people were very appreciative of even just being asked to talk to you about your brand. Is that true? And maybe you could expand on that a little bit. How did these people even today? How did they think about you now?

Lee Tarbet:   5:50
And I would say anyone, as I would interview them would say, This is great that you're asking me what is my opinion? What is my challenge? Where do I need help? I think the typical advisor that would come forward is going to ask them How much money do you have to invest? And if you don't hit a threshold, well, I'm gonna move on to the next person to ask that question. As I would interview these people, they were happy to share their challenges, their successes, their failures.  They were happy that I would actually ask those kind of questions. I wanted to know the big picture. Not just do you hit my minimum threshold. And now, a year into this process, I have those that I've interviewed. Some have been become clients, not all of them. And even those that are not clients will still contact me to say, Hey, I was thinking about this problem, and I thought I would share it with you. But you may run into that problem with other clients. And if you've got a great solution, I want you to talk to me again.

Richard Boone:   7:05
That's a perfect what I would call a talking point anyway, for your clients is having the skill not only to understand what their problems could be, but you've already lived it. You've already been in that trade for many, many years. So let me ask you this. How do you actually solve these problems? You know what they are. Now you've lived it. You've been in the construction trade and you've spent a lot of time working on your positioning, understand what these problems are. But how does that translate to a solution?

Lee Tarbet:   7:39
I would say Number one that as I've developed my brand of working with the owners of construction companies that I speak their language, I understand some of the problems and the challenges that they face. It's easy for me to engage with them, discuss those issues. Not everything has a solution. And in fact, many of the issues that they may bring to me won't have anything to do with wealth management. But I have connections, and maybe I can point them to another source. I can connect them with another contractor that's working through those issues so that they see me as not just the guy that's taking care of their money but are you know, a lot of things that are going on in the industry, and I may be ableto help them find. The resource is that they need in whatever current challenge they're facing.

Richard Boone:   8:49
So essentially, you are far more connected than the average financial advisor simply because of this branding process that you've gone through with it.  Would that be fair to say?

Lee Tarbet:   8:59
Yes because I'm gonna be connected not only with, say, a subcontractor that does electrical work, but I'm gonna know the insurance agent that specializes in worker's compensation insurance, which is a big issue in the construction world. I know CPAs who specialized in the construction world, and I know those payroll companies that can handle prevailing wage employees. There are specific issues and processes that need to take place in the construction world that someone outside of this world's not gonna understand them.

Richard Boone:   9:42
So what you're really saying is your brand is not just some fancy marketing. What it really is, is it's a reflection of what you can actually do for people. You've gone beyond just talking about yourself in a clever way, it's more descriptive of what you actually do. How do you feel your brand compares to of many of your competitors? I mean, where you live? There's plenty of financial advisors. There's no lack of choice. But there is an issue of how if I was a prospective client, if I was in the construction trade, any kind of level of construction trade, why would I really pick you? What stands out? Obviously you know the trade, you know, the business having been in it. But compare that to what they might be hearing from another financial advisor.

Lee Tarbet:   10:30
Number one I believe that most financial advisors are generalists. They don't specialize, you know, in a particular trade. And so that's going to set me apart, that I understand. I've walked in their shoes. I should say I have walked in their boots. That's not propaganda. And I've used a tape measure. The other guy may have, you know, a fancy brochure. I'm gonna be able to relate not only to his business and his issues. If his employees have questions, I'm gonna be able to handle that.

Richard Boone:   11:14
Well,  you have had plenty of employees in your career. I would imagine you understand how to talk with people - in their mind it is very important question, but to a lot of advisors, they might look at it as it's fairly simple.  But because of your experience, because of your depth of knowledge, and I would argue your empathy, having been there, done that, walked many miles in their boots, as you say, you are in a different position. So let's change gears a little bit. Let's talk about it from a standpoint of your marketing. I know we spent a fair amount of time building out your website. Maybe you could talk about that a little bit. How your website reflects what you actually do for people, because when you think about marketing, what it really is is a mobilization and a reinforcement of your brand. So if your brand is a message, it still needs to get out there for people to hear it and to see it. If they seek you out, they need to be reinforced that this is what you do. So let's talk a little bit about marketing.

Lee Tarbet:   12:07
Sure, I'll start off by saying that initially I was reluctant to have a website. One of my fears was that it would be too hard to create, too hard to maintain. Was there really gonna be any value it there? I got past that, and I actually found that there's a lot of companies that have website builders that are pretty straightforward to use.  With that and using some templates that you provided Rich, I had the whole thing put together in I'd say four hours. It was not that big of a deal, and I tried to reflect my brand. And so the pictures, the images, the background, it's all construction related.  When you bring up the website, you see a blueprint in the background.

Richard Boone:   13:08
What is your website for those our listeners, that could check it out?

Lee Tarbet:   13:12

Richard Boone:   13:30
I love the pictures on that website. I've remember when you were putting it together and you have done your homework very well. You found images that speak your language right.  Speak the language of your clients, the image of blueprints, equipment, even even just pictures of a hard hat and gloves. I mean, clearly, anybody in construction should see that and go This guy knows us. He's been one of us and in a lot of ways He's still one of us. This is the kind of person that we need to work with. So let me ask you this - Overall in your marketing, how do you essentially mobilize this message? How are you reaching potential clients that you could serve now that you have these essential pieces in place?

Lee Tarbet:   14:18
Sure, I'll say the only true marketing that I was doing before I began this coaching program was a monthly email. I still do that monthly email, and it's as I meet people quite often, as I get a new client and I tell them about the the monthly email, they'll give me a list of of their family members or others that they want to receive the information so that list grows. I now am a little more specific in making sure that I have a consistent look and sort of feel to that email each month. That email, after it's been approved by compliance, also becomes an article on my blog from my website. As I continue this mobilization, I made sure that obviously that my website was now in the footer of all of my emails, I have it on my stationery. So whenever I'm doing the agendas or writing letters, any communication, that website is listed. I want that consistent look to be there. Another thing that I'm doing that again have this listed as an agenda item for every meeting is what I call my second measurement service.  And again in a construction world, we've always been taught measure twice so that you only have to cut once. I take that as as a marketing tool. Essentially, it's asking my clients and the people I'm working with if they know somebody who could take advantage of a second measurement of what's going on in their financial world. So my second measurement service allows me to take my process and my brand into not just the clients I'm on working but to someone that they may know that could use another look.

Richard Boone:   16:32
That makes a lot of sense. You know, it's interesting, the whole idea of measure twice cut once that I seem to recall back sometimes.  I'll be dating myself here. But sometime in the mid-seventies, when I was in junior high and taking wood shop.  There was that sign was above the door when you walked in. So every student, you know, a bunch of 13 year olds or whatever we were at the time walking in the door, that said, Measure twice Cut once!  I suppose they were trying to save money on all the messed up wood we practiced with!  But it makes a lot of sense. In the financial advisory standpoint, there's a lot of clients out there and I don't know if this is specific just to the situation that we're in today with the Covid 19 and all the lock down and sequestering, if you will, the quarantine.  But this is a really good time for people out there in the public to really think before they leap, right before they do anything.  This is a great time to be taking this evaluation, if you will, where they are today. So your message, I think, is possibly even more impactful today than it might have been even a month ago when the stock market, with an all time high.  I wanted to just get your thoughts on that.

Lee Tarbet:   17:53
Yes, and I would say that this second measurement, if my brand was in the medical world, we call that a second opinion. You always go on, get a second opinion when the first doctor tells you that that you have cancer. Well, today with our interesting, I'll use that word, markets that are taking place, that the same thing applies. And in my brand, that means let's get a second measurement before you make any rash decisions. Another area where I am marketing my brand, and again, with this time of year it's not as heavy and emphasis because of tax season, but I have done research to find CPAs who specialize in the construction world.

Richard Boone:   18:52
That's a really good topic I was gonna ask you about. So you took the words right out of my mouth. I know you've reached out to some of these folks. Give me a rundown. You know, I know there's financial advisors I'm sure who will be very curious about this. How do you actually approach these CPAs? I know you said you did some research, but that was kind of more private between you and I. So maybe just for the benefit of our listening audience, how did you actually even find these folks? And then what did you do? What were some of the steps that you went through? This is all perfect business development. You might argue right now, with tax season kind of in flux it may actually not be such a bad idea to reach out to some CPAs.  Last I heard, they may push back the tax deadline 90 days, which I don't know if I was a CPA I don't know if I look at that as good or bad. Maybe we need ask one in to see how they feel about it. But getting back to the point I was asking, What did you go through, What were the steps on your business development to reach out to these other professionals?

Lee Tarbet:   19:55
Number one I did the basics. That's a piece of paper and a pencil, and I started writing down the names of anybody that I personally knew. That was a CPA my construction business used for many years. So it was the easiest one.

Richard Boone:   20:16
Start with the ones you know. Yes.

Lee Tarbet:   20:19
In addition to the CPA that I had been using with business I had my own personal CPA whose been doing my tax returns for years. So there were two immediately that already had a business relationship with me.

Richard Boone:   20:38
The easy ones, you may say the low hanging fruit.

Lee Tarbet:   20:41
That was the low hanging fruit exactly - from there it wasn't too hard. Just with Google search to find a few CPA firms right here in my own hometown who had somewhere in their website the word construction industry. The 1st  one that I started to research so happened as I was looking through their list of the partners in the firm. I realized that I knew one of the partners through a service organization that I'm a member of.  So I contacted her, told her what I doing and that I wanted to meet one of her partners who specializes in construction. She arranged the meeting, scheduled their conference room, and when I walked in, she was there to introduce me to her partner, who specializes in the construction. She left and went back to do her thing. And then I had a great meeting with him for the next hour.  Using the discovery process that I use with clients, I did the same thing with him.  He ended up doing the majority of the talking once that he realized that I understood construction and could have value and benefit to his clients.

Richard Boone:   22:13
Isn't that amazing? I think that's the biggest takeaway that any adviser could probably get from this podcast.  It is simply if you're gonna try to reach out to other professionals, you need to be more than just another investment advisor. You need to bring some level of knowledge about the kinds of clients that you can serve best because the CPA doesn't need to listen to another sales pitch. Would you agree that Lee?

Lee Tarbet:   22:43
Yes, and with some coaching from you, I specifically went in and tried to get right down to business. I didn't look at their wall with their certificates and their plaques and their awards, there accolades, and try to establish rapport based on what was hanging on the wall. Instead, I came in and said, Here's what I do. These are the people I work with, and I think you and I could bring additional value to our potential clients that we share together.

Richard Boone:   23:17
Let me ask you this now. You mentioned to me that he did most of the talking after that because you had asked questions. But it's almost as if he took over the meeting. Is that accurate?

Lee Tarbet:   23:28
Yes, but I was still able to direct the conversation. I used a mind map process to help me better understand their values, their goals, their relationships. And so I had a  sample that I had showed him of a potential client on what I do. I then brought out essentially a blank template. Using those same bullet points, he proceeded to tell me all about his family, his relationships, his hobbies, his goals, what he wants to do with his business, how maybe one day he hopes to retire.

Richard Boone:   24:13
So he didn't run the meeting. He just enjoyed it very much with sharing the information that makes all the difference to him - wanting to possibly work with you. And I would argue that's probably the same kind of process that you would use with prospective client. The questions would be obviously a little different, but the way you work with people is almost the same right?  Whether it's a CPA or even an attorney or some other kind of professional, it's almost the same with them as it would be with a prospective client. Is that fair to think?

Lee Tarbet:   24:47
Absolutely it's the same process. And of course I'd love to have them become a client if they're interested. But more important, I want them to see and experience the process that I take a client through now that they understand. And when they're going to be meeting with their construction clients this tax season, back of their mind they're gonna go Hey, I know a guy that's gonna take you through a process to help you better understand where you want to go and how your money can help you reach that place.

Richard Boone:   25:26
There's another point I think to be made too when you're working with other professionals. And you alluded to it earlier. A lot of advisers what you might call the generalist. They're very much investment driven in terms of their advice. So they often do not really incorporate this extensive discovery process right?  They're mainly looking for a way to kind of place an investment - which has its merits right there. It does have a value, and, you know, somebody's gonna need it. They need to get advice or they could do it on their own. But ideally, they get advice. Your model is different. You were coordinating with other professionals. So who else comes to mind beyond the CPA? Obviously, if you're a business owner in the construction trade, you probably have a CPA. Maybe you could talk about some of these other complementary services, if you will, these other professionals you mentioned earlier in the interview something about the TPA - the third party administrator talking about payroll issues.  Probably some others too.  So just take a couple of minutes and just talk about who else is in the world, if you will, that affects the kinds of clients that you'd like to serve best.

Lee Tarbet:   26:40
After the CPA the next important professional would be an attorney.  Some construction companies have a strong relationship with an attorney because they're dealing with lien and other legal documents.  Whereas a pool contractor would not have to have an ongoing relationship with an attorney. But there's always gonna be a time in their career, in life, when they need an attorney and certainly is a financial advisor. I'm always tell them, especially here in California, that you need to have a living trust. I'm not an attorney. I'm gonna know attorneys that work with contractors so it's similar to reaching out to CPAs. I have also reached out two attorneys again, starting with those that I already knew. We meet for lunch and just like I did with the CPA I go through the discovery process with them. What are their goals? What are their ambitions? Who were the people that are important in their life? Once again, they see my process.  Now, who could potentially be of help for their clients that are in the construction world?

Richard Boone:   28:04
And they can, by working with you, can actually create a better overall experience for the client. You could argue the advice creation done in conjunction with other parties is really the essence or backbone of what we might call the wealth management model. General Advisors tends to do a lot of stuff just on their own. It's not that they never talked to a CPA or an attorney, of course not. But they don't necessarily need them to create the advice because most of what they're talking about his investment related. So they're not gonna talk to anybody else. Financial planners, on the other hand, they start to involve other professionals. At a minimum, they're probably reviewing tax returns. How do you do a plan without it? They also maybe bring in an insurance expert if they themselves are not already insurance licensed. But to become a wealth manager especially where the target is specific as yours, tell me if you agree, but I think it's not only beholden on you to leverage - to work with these other people, but the experience, the advice itself could be more impactful by working with these other people for the benefit of your client. So let me ask you this. First of all, I'm assuming you agree with that. The second side of it is maybe take a specific case - without getting, you know, names and phone numbers and things like that - but how is it really made a difference for particular client?

Lee Tarbet:   29:29
Well, I'm thinking specifically of one of my clients who won the wrong lottery. It was not the lottery where you get a lot of money. It's the lottery where he received a letter from the IRS saying that they were going to audit him. Now he was entering into a world where he knows nothing about.  So certainly I was able to connect him with a CPA that could guide him through that process and to connect him with an attorney to provide some potential advice in knowing what he should and should not be sharing in those meetings. When he first received the letter, he could hardly sleep. He was a nervous wreck. We went to lunch, and I think he had two bites of food during lunch. He was just a wreck.

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Lee Tarbet:   30:25
And now that he has a team working with him and moving forward, he still doesn't necessarily know what the final outcome is going to be. But he's sleeping again. He's eating again and he knows long term things he's gonna be fine.

Richard Boone:   30:44
There's a big takeaway here, and it's simply your team approach is very impactful. It's not that every single client or prospective client you'll ever talk to is gonna ever get audited and need that kind of support. But any number of things can happen in a person's life.  The more prepared you are as the wealth manager to serve their needs, the more depth you have, the more relationships you have, the more connected you are, the better off you can serve your clients. So as we start to wrap up in our interview here, I want to get a sense of what your biggest takeaways might be if you're a financial advisor listening to this.  You've heard a number of things that you shared about your brand, and you're really playing to your strengths. I think that's one of the easy takeaways because you were already in the construction trade, so you knew it anyway. But the reality is that as a financial adviser, you are now teaming up with other people. Think about it. If you're John Q. Public, right, you are a financial advisor, maybe you don't have the benefit of having had a 20 year plus career in a specific trade. How do you help that person? How do you help that advisor to take away something that they could really use based on what you shared today?

Lee Tarbet:   32:01
Number one. You need to have a brand that you and your client can understand so that they could be an advocate for you in your business. And then number two, you need to have a team.  That doesn't mean that they're your employees or your partners.  You need to have a team that can provide the bigger picture advice that makes you the hero.  I'm not the guy that is going to solve the IRS audit issues. But I'm the first guy that he (the client) had lunch with when he couldn't eat, and he sees me as the hero that brought in the team to solve his problem.

Richard Boone:   32:49
So the same question if you're a prospective client.  Think about it in their terms. If they were thinking about hiring a financial advisor, or perhaps they already have one, what are they hearing from that? What's the biggest takeaway from it in their mind?

Lee Tarbet:   33:06
The big picture of your life is really what's most important to me. The assets that you have, that's just a small piece of the picture. What are your dreams? What are your goals? What do you want to do for your family? What's your legacy gonna be? Let's  answer those questions together. Now I'm gonna help you manage your assets to achieve those goals. The goal is not to get one million or $10 million. The goal is what is your whole purpose in life, and how do we make that rich and full?

Richard Boone:   33:49
That's amazingly.  Well, I wanted to thank you once again for participating today in this podcast. The IDEAL Plans Ideal Advisors Podcast. I'm your host, Richard Boone. If you have any questions for Lee - let's take a moment to provide his contact information.

Lee Tarbet:   34:08
Sure. My email is

Richard Boone:   34:34
Perfect. And for you advisors out there, if you have a question about how Lee's doing the work that he's doing with his clients, how he created his brand, his marketing, if you have any questions at all about the templates and things that we use, I'd be happy to discuss these tactics with you. If you have any questions at all, you can contact me at 800-630-1590.  Or you could send me an email at That's it for today. Thank you very much, Lee, one more time for participating and thank you to all the listeners.  Hope you all are managing to get through this Covid 19 nightmare and we'll talk to you soon. Thank you!

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