Steve Wilkinson is a wealth manager in Oakland, CA who specializes in creating alignment in his client's lives so they can realize their aspirations. Having witnessed his mother pioneer physical therapy with children who suffered from polio in Nashville, Tennessee, he knows the power of putting things in alignment to overcome obstacles. Steve's clients are able to achieve everything that is most important to them as he has a process for alignment. Listening to this interview will reveal how Steve came to identify his target niche of executives and business owners, his value and deliverables, and his process for working with people. You can learn from his story to create your own vision of how to serve your clients.
Richard Boone: 0:00
Welcome to the IDEAL Plans Ideal Advisors podcast. I'm your host, Richard Boone. We named the show after my IDEAL Plan Process because it provides a step by step framework for financial professionals to create their own vision of an ideal advisory practice. IDEAL is an acronym for Identify where you are now and where you'd like to be, Discuss your business model and possible adjustments you could make, Evaluate your proficiencies in the seven critical business elements, Assess your skills and priorities, and Leverage resource is in the proper sequence to serve your clients extremely well while living the lifestyle you desire. In today's episode we'll interview our guest Steve Wilkinson. Steve is a wealth manager in Oakland, California, who primarily works with business owners and executives. I've known Steve for a long time, probably more than 10 years, but we only started working together about six months ago. Since that time, he's made a number of significant improvements that have impacted his clients and his business. Over the next 30 minutes or so we're going to dive into some of those changes he's made to the different critical business elements. Steve, welcome to the show.
Steve Wilkinson: 1:07
Thank you, Richard. Pleasure to be here.
Richard Boone: 1:09
To get the most value out of our time here Let's focus on just a few main areas of your branding, which includes your background, your personal story, if you will, why you're in the business. And second, we will talk about some of your business development, how you are reaching out to the community. Lastly, how you do your work. So let's start with some of your, what we'd call, the branding elements. You have a pretty fascinating background, and I know the story well. But for the benefit of our listeners, I was hoping you could take us through why you're even in the business. So go ahead and dive in.
Steve Wilkinson: 1:43
Well, my mom and actually my father too, were both in the healthcare industry. And I got to see their work and the differences they were making in a community when I was growing up. I've always been passionate about finance. Really developed that passion. In the fifth grade, I switched from the inner city public schools in Nashville, Tennessee, to this private school called Peabody Demonstration School. The lab school for Vanderbilt University and George Peabody College for Teachers - our parents sent us over there to integrate it. But when it happened, I really was interested because a lot of parents had their businesses - Hasbro toys H. I. S. clothing, oh boy, all these businesses and it kind of caught my attention and the finance behind it. When they took us down for a class project out to a regional investment bank. But that really did it. Got me interested in the world of finance. Looking at what my mom did, it was interesting, especially in this time is that she had come to Nashville, the pioneer in the physical therapy space. People take that for granted now. But it wasn't so in the fifties when she came to Nashville and she set up the first physical therapy requirements for the state of Tennessee. But for the initially Marion Harrington Medical College and then Hospital Corporation of America, there were still kids around who have been infected by polio, which was a severe virus that we don't even think about today because
Richard Boone: 3:04
Polio - we don't talk about it anymore. But back then it was still a really, really big deal.
Steve Wilkinson: 3:10
Yeah, primarily it affected children and disabled thousands of them, if not millions, and caused death as well. The ones that were lucky enough to survive were in wheelchairs and on crutches. You saw that Forrest Gump. And they always talked about doctors. But the people who really turned it around was physical therapist, like my mom. And I would see Christmas parties, all these kids in wheelchairs and stuff. You know, the next time I see them, they would be walking from, you know, the service is at my mom and her team will deliver to them. And one of the most famous patients was a little girl that came to my mom at nine years old was in a wheelchair. Her mom had heard about my mom, you know, six years later, she won a bronze medal at the Olympic games in Japan. And four years after that, she won three gold medals and set Olympic records that stood for decades. Oh man! Her name was Wilma Rudolph. So I know a lot of people are familiar with the Wilma Rudolph story, and they always in the books say doctors. There was no doctors. It was a physical therapy department set up by my mom. So, seeing that concept, everything, my mom was talking about alignment. And a lot of people that she worked with - adults too - who were in pain and whatever considered surgery, you know, she was just no saying, no, you're out of alignment and this is what we'll do to get back in alignment and these people would be healed. So that concept of alignment - putting things in their proper place - is what I'm passionate about doing it for people with their finances and their financial assets.
Richard Boone: 4:36
That's amazing. I seem to recall part of the problem that people had back in those days would simply, they almost gave up. Probably never thought they would walk and So to have a treatment, a process to get things back into alignment is really the solution. You had shared with me at one point that the concept of aspiration that the alignment and aspiration were very deeply connected, maybe take a moment for the benefit of our listeners and explain how this ideal of aligning things ultimately could help people achieve some of the things that they aspire to.
Steve Wilkinson: 5:15
Well, the key thing is that alignment means putting things in proper place according to what it's supposed to do, or be, or function. Everybody has financial goals because they're trying to have the funds to accomplish something, do something to be something within your lifestyle. And no one wants to run out of money before they run out of life. Given just the basic goals which a lot of people focus on but in a new process. I want to get people to focus on beyond goals, their aspirations. Aspirations of the highest level of thought that a person can have. Wilma Rudolph didn't just want to walk. She was never won those gold medals, you know, become a legendary track star, she had higher aspirations. Probably that you know what her mother just wanted her child walk again. But Wilma Rudolph saw herself being even greater than that. And I think that most people have these values, these hidden things they would like to do and be that we try to in the process, bring out and have their finances positioned to allow them to achieve.
Richard Boone: 6:22
Well, let me ask you this then. Just on the subject of how you brand yourself, I believe you actually use those phrases right about, you talk about alignment in in the way somebody would ask Steve, what do you do for a living? We know your story, right? We know this inspiration for yourself and you use this to give you the strength to serve your clients. But tell me, if somebody would you just ask you on the street Hey Steve, we met somewhere. What is it that you do? How would you respond to that?
Steve Wilkinson: 6:53
Well, that I align executives and business owners and retirees' financial assets with their aspirations and their goals. And people were asked, Well, how does that look and then I talk a little bit about our process.
Richard Boone: 7:07
You work with a number of these executives and business owners. Why did you choose them? How did you go about? Because obviously a brand of who you are and what you're trying to do for the world has to be clear. And one of the key elements of a brand is your target market. What is it about these, I believe it's business owners and executives that you normally work with. Why did you pick them and how is your way of life, if you will, your aspirations and alignment affect them?
Steve Wilkinson: 7:35
Well, being a Harvard MBA, you know, I understand a lot about executives' demands and unease in the workplace. And being a former executive of IBM and Xerox how their career simply transition. Also, it's, um, I've been interested small business for a long time. I chair a state guarantee fund that facilitates tens of millions and probably will do over $100 million worth of loan guarantees this year. So I understand these small business owners. And then as a trustee of Oakland Police and Fire pension fund, you know I understand the needs of the retirees and understand the things that can impact portfolios. So I think there's a natural fit from whom I being in my daily life in my knowledge and background with the needs of that marketplace.
Richard Boone: 8:25
Well, you spent a lot of years at Xerox. How long did you work at Xerox?
Steve Wilkinson: 8:29
Well I spent 13 years in the information technology world - was planning on having a career, but I realized that they strategically made the wrong decisions, and it wasn't a place for me. I was actually here for five years, they started me in Louisville, Kentucky. It was on the ground and sales there for a couple of years, and then I was employee when I'm with the Harvard Business School and that time that spend time in their corporate headquarters dealing a lot with top management about their transition. They controlled all the technology that later became the Apple Mac and a lot of different other things. They were still focused on marketing, which was called the STAR work station they developed in the seventies. And you could do everything on that workstation that she could do in the Mac today. So they had a tremendous technological leap. Management decided they wanted to focus on copiers, and so they could get their bonuses for next quarter as high as possible versus spending money on trying to figure out this technology. I decided I wouldn't be a part of a sinking ship as, not as, a young person. You know, being out of Harvard, that's what what I wanted to do.
Richard Boone: 9:30
Sounds like it definitely gave you some very deep insights into executives minds and certainly your appreciation, really lifelong appreciation for the business owners seems loud and clear that you have empathy for this group of people. You probably understand a lot of what they're going through.
Steve Wilkinson: 9:46
I want to make a point that's how all those executives decided to align their fiscal assets with some short term goals. The person who started Xerox, he was a long term inspirational person who had a long term vision to develop copiers which took him something like 15 - 18 years to perfect. Because of his vision in alignment, Xerox was the Google of its time.
Richard Boone: 10:08
Not too often that a company becomes a verb. You know what I think about Google is a verb, right? It's a proper noun, but it's also a verb. Xerox was a verb in its day. So let me ask you this, then, when you think about how you're positioning, how does that really compare to your competitors? Having a clear message, I think, is always more powerful than being a generalist. But when you think about what you actually do, take a moment, if you would, and give me a sense of kind of how does that fit into your ecosystem, if you will? How does that make you special? How does that differentiate you?
Steve Wilkinson: 10:43
The key thing is to focus on the person and understanding their values, aspirations that goals, their decision processes, their support systems they had in place, the things they like, don't like. And then understanding them totally has a whole thinking about how you can help them to integrate that, and align it to do everything you want to do. Typically, you know, firms, you see it in ads all the time, they're just focused on just a risk and return. And then they say Well, We can boost up stuff to get greater returns.
Richard Boone: 11:16
So let's change gears a little bit. Let's talk about some of your business development, which, for lack of another word, is just how you're projecting to the world, right? How do you attract new people? Maybe give us a little bit of a rundown of some of the social activities and business networking. You mentioned a couple of things in the beginning of the show. How you use some of these elements, if you will your world to attract new people?
Steve Wilkinson: 11:38
The key thing is about process. So it's helping my clients being for me with the processes were implementing their appreciation, whatever will help them to share with others, and they wanna share about especially people they want to, who might not be enjoying the process they have with their financial (advisor).
Richard Boone: 11:55
So are you referring to more like a referral process where you're, is that what you're doing?
Steve Wilkinson: 11:59
Yeah, so it's involving a referral process, both with clients. developing centers of influence. One unique thing that we're focused on is helping people position assets that have highly appreciated and how can they reposition them to reduce risk and also not have to pay our taxes with that repositioning. To develop centers of influence with business brokers and commercial real estate agents and then also accountants and legal.
Richard Boone: 12:27
You told me privately, of course, that you do a fair amount of things within the real estate space. Maybe expand upon that a little bit because I think there's a lot of folks out there that probably wondering, if you're a financial advisor, how do I be more successful? Is there's something I could work from Steve? So as a client, as a potential client, you know, I know you do a fair amount of work with people that are in real estate, so just expand upon that if you would.
Steve Wilkinson: 12:50
Well, in that situation is just that today a lot of people have appreciated assets even though the economy is at a low right now. Hopefully it will return, and it was the running on all cylinders before it's ah, you know, pandemic. And people have appreciated stocks or they're business owner and they want to retire. And they need to sell it. Or, if they have commercial properties, especially people with managed multi-family properties, they probably want to reduce their management demands on their lives and also the risk. And so with that, we can kinda allow them to position so with the sell it defers the capital gains and they can put the whole amount of the proceeds to work creating a diversified income stream.
Richard Boone: 13:33
What do you call that?
Steve Wilkinson: 13:34
A Deferred Sales Trust. So it's using a trust to defer capital gains and then also, you can diversify your investment. The real estate folks have a choice of doing a 1031. A lot of people though don't want to go back into real estate right now. And you definitely don't want to go back a lot of times into things they have to manage. So we can both help them go into large commercial asset that has a diversified income base.
Richard Boone: 14:00
In general, do real estate agents or realtors, people of that nature, is that part of your network? I think you did a presentation to a group. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about that.
Steve Wilkinson: 14:11
Families that have real estate or any families have appreciated property, they have to think about repositioning that both for the next generations or for retirement. So that's something that I've been able to talk to the East Bay Housing Rental Association, which is various people that are associated with multi-family properties, commercial brokers and also residential. So we focus on how our clients can defer the taxation. We just want to get the word out via social media, we're affiliation with the influences in that marketplace. Also, business brokers with a tax act of 2017 businesses could no longer sell and do 1031s and there is not a great way for a business owner to get out of business. You know, if they're retiring and be able to create a predictably income stream. So we help people with that as well as with an executive that has appreciated stock.
Richard Boone: 15:11
So, Steve, tell me a little bit about your process. I know when you're meeting with a new prospective client or even with a current client, what do you take them through so that you understand how to create the alignment in their financial world so they can achieve some of the things that they aspire to?
Steve Wilkinson: 15:29
First part of a process called discovery because it's both for us and many times with a client, what are their values? What do they really care about? A lot of times people have understanding of some basic goals, but then in discussions some other goals come out. What are aspirations were a second career? We're talking about retirement, what impacts would they like to have? But with all the people important in their lives, how did they make their decisions? What was working in the past was it able work for them in the future? What keeps them up at night? Who have they used are are using, like their legal or tax teams that are very supportive and they want to integrate their financial planning more seamlessly with? So all of these things from discovery perspective, create a client profile that we clearly identify that we develop mind map for, and that we review it with the client to make sure that is how they see themselves and how they want to be going forth.
Richard Boone: 16:26
Do the clients tend to, or prospective clients, do they seem to really enjoy or appreciate the effort that you're going through here?
Steve Wilkinson: 16:33
Yeah, they appreciate it because there's not too many people will take the time to do things at this depth on their own. Like for me, you know, I love yoga and I will do yoga daily. First thing I do when I wake up, I go through the same routine. But you know I won't do it in depth unless with a yoga practitioner. When I, when I get out of misalignment of my workout routine, I make sure I get a trainer because they provide some perspective and they have me do things in depth that I won't do on my own. So I think they appreciate that ability to dive deeply and have a sounding board.
Richard Boone: 17:12
Well it supports your brand anyhow. How could you possibly understand what needs aligning if you don't go deep? If you don't know where they're what they're aspiring to than it undercuts your entire message. I love what you're doing. It makes a ton of sense. Is there anything that you would tell a prospective client? And this is for the benefit of everyone, whether you're a financial advisor, whoever you are listening to this podcast. What really strikes a client as different about what you do?
Steve Wilkinson: 17:43
I think the key thing is the process. I don't think every person has experienced a great process and understanding and really them feeling comfortable that they have every things that they want addressed, having them go through that each time, even initial meetings. But the subsequent meetings makes it easy for them. Just the reason why people go to Starbucks, McDonald's and other places because they know that wherever they go, when they walk in the door, the process is gonna be similar and they can handle it. For instance, when I fly, mostly I fly United. You know, I got that their process down. But when I fly a different airline, I feel like I'm a fish out of water. Still totally different. I gotta show up at the airport earlier. I gotta figure this out, figure that out. I can go catch a United flight - I could think I could be half asleep and I would be able to do and I feel comfortable about the whole process. That's just, you know, how important process is.
Richard Boone: 18:43
That is, that's a big take away. Is there anything you'd like to add as we're wrapping up?
Steve Wilkinson: 18:50
It is important that we are in alignment because a misalignment in any aspects of our lives whether its physical, which I have a witnessed when my mother was, you know, if you ever go to the psycho therapists, that's what they're going to try to do for you. If it's spiritual and that some people go and all people have faith tryingto align themselves spiritually and they're soul. What we're doing financially is understanding all those aspirations for you and all those areas in life. You know, my job was adviser to be aware of over that kind of years and where it's going. And given that, how does that align your finances and your aspirations and goals? And that now only requires adjustments. You go to a chiropractor initially, but it requires constant review and constant minor adjustment, as you go through your life. Cuz things will change in your life, in your world. And also, as you can see, the economy can change in a heartbeat.
Richard Boone: 19:48
That is true, Steve. Well, I appreciate it. Well, let's do this. Can you provide your contact information? Case anybody like to reach out to you? So what's the easiest way to get a hold of you?
Steve Wilkinson: 20:00
Wilkinsonwealthmanagement.com or stevewilkinson.com. By phone, 510-625-1400. The email Steve@stevewilkinson.com.
Richard Boone: 20:21
All right, listeners. Well, that's it for today. So this is your host, Richard Boone. IDEAL Plans Ideal Advisors podcast. I hope you're enjoying what you've been hearing from Steve today and the messages and the takeaways that we've been delivering. If you have any questions about how I work with advisors or how I might be able to help you to build your brand and your processes, please feel free to give me a call. I'm at 800-630-1590. Or you can send me an email at Rich@Idealplancoaching.com. IDEALPlanCoaching.com is of course, the website as well. And there are some resources that are available to you I'd be certainly happy to walk you through them. So just give us a call and reach out. Thank you again. And if you know anybody that could benefit from this podcast, feel free to forward it, or even if you're using Apple podcast if you'd like to leave us a review. That would help, any kind of feedback is positive. Thank you so much.