You Can't Get Along with Everybody, and You Shouldn't Try
This time we hear from Michael Brady, president of Generosity Wealth Management in Boulder, Colo. Brady recalls learning that compatibility with clients is a must-have.
I started my own practice seven years ago, after working as an advisor for nearly two decades. As many in my business who go independent learn, it takes a little while to get your momentum going — and for your cash flow to be positive on a monthly basis.
A couple was referred to me in those early months. Our initial meeting went fine. But at the second meeting, I started to get some indication the chemistry between us wasn’t right. We didn’t seem to be clicking on a fundamental, personal level.
In general, while I have a lot of enthusiasm for this business, I am a very calm individual. I don’t tend to get emotional, and I definitely try to avoid working myself into a frenzy when it comes to investing. It quickly became clear that this couple felt very emotional about their money.
This was in part because it was a brand new situation to them. They had recently come into money from an inheritance, and had never invested before. They seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the whole situation, and that translated into an apparent mistrust of whatever suggestion I made or strategy I proposed. They tended to talk in abstract, idealistic terms and had a hard time focusing on concrete decisions or taking action to manage their money.
In other words, we just weren’t on the same page.
During those first couple of meetings, I tried hard to connect with them. Even though I had a nagging sense that there was a personality mismatch, I was also very aware they would be great for my bottom line. I was still negotiating those tough early months, and their account helped push my practice to solid ground. So I decided I would fight through the discomfort and find a way to make them work as clients.
They had told me one of their first priorities was life insurance, so I focused on that at first. I came up with what I thought was a great solution for them — although it was somewhat complicated. I usually wait until I have a basis of trust with clients before I propose something complex. Based on their situation, however, I really thought this was the best solution. They seemed uncertain, and we ended up having five or six meetings over the course of three months to talk it through.
They finally seemed to be on board.
But then, just 20 days after paying the premium, they decided to back out of the contract without discussing it with me.
That was a very painful moment. I’d already factored the commission money into my plans, and then I had to return it. The clients and I had a cordial meeting where we both decided it was best to not go forward with our relationship. It wasn’t a happy conversation — but now, when I see them around town, they’re always very warm and friendly.
We just didn’t have chemistry for a professional relationship.
In retrospect, it was clearly my fault that things ended the way they did. I’ve had hundreds of client meetings. I knew in my heart that we just weren’t clicking, and I should’ve said so.
Since then, I’ve made it a priority to make sure someone is a good personality-and-values fit before I agree to take that person on as a client, no matter the size of his or her account.
Conversely, I’ve taken on young clients without any assets to speak of, when we’ve clicked really well. It’s always paid off in spades, whether in terms of referrals or more business down the road when they become more established.
If there’s a client on your list whom you really dread calling, whom you always procrastinate on and save for last, then that’s a strong indication you’re not a good match personality-wise. When that happens, you have to consider whether it would be better for everyone if that client moved on to a different advisor.
You deserve better, and so do they.