Don’t Be Like Me – Aim Higher

By Garrett

Sep 22, 2015

I was on a call last week with a recruiter who works with financial planners, when she asked me:

“Why aren’t you asking for what you really want?”

I’d just finished detailing how I plan to eventually start my own financial planning/coaching firm where I help entrepreneurial-minded millennials achieve financial freedom and build a kickass life. Yet she noted that when I’d reached out to her, my email mentioned none of that. It was more like “Hey, I’m looking to connect with people in the industry as I’m getting my foot in the door, and would just like to pick your brain.” No specific details, no reason why I needed to talk to her specifically, no mention of where my passions lay, nada.

She was nice enough to talk with me regardless, and took the time to ask ME questions and dig into what I am really interested in. But that’s only because she was going above and beyond, especially based on how I’d reached out to her.

For reference, here’s how my outreaches usually played out:

  • By not being specific about my real interests, I ended up talking to people whose business models weren’t relevant to what I’m looking to build My generic and broad questions weren’t resonating with the type of people I actually wanted to talk to.
  • When I reached out to firm founders, they’d funnel me to their associates. My general questions didn’t HAVE to be answered by a firm owner, so they sent me to someone else.
  • I was subconsciously setting my goals lower by asking ‘easy’ questions, making it a longer process to get the info I really wanted to progress.

Since I felt embarrassed telling firm owners that I wanted to start my own firm (because of having zero experience in the industry) that fear made me lower my sights to what was ‘more reasonable’. It led me to shy away from connecting directly with firm owners, not ask them about how they started their business, and not getting questions about their approach/processes/systems answered.

Also, because most of the people I talked to weren’t entrepreneurial, they actually recommended that I DON’T go out on my own, don’t try new business models, don’t go after a younger demographic that “is just not worth the time because they can’t be profitable” (real quote). My broad questions had found me people who had never done what I want to do, who gave answers that weren’t relevant, had outlooks that weren’t in line with mine, all of which lowered my expectations of what I thought I could accomplish.

So how do you avoid falling into the trap above like I did? I asked the recruiter, as well as some life coaches I hung out with recently at a retreat on a private island in Bermuda (not-so-humble-brag alert), and here are their tips:

  1. Identify your goals and the questions you need answered to help you progress.Write them down – even the ones that make you uneasy because they’re embarrassingly large and you have no idea how to accomplish them.
  2. List any fears you have that come along with these goals.It could be the fear of sounding stupid, fear of people telling you no, fear of being judged by others (my big bugaboo), etc. Seeing these on paper will help you see where you’re subconsciously allowing yourself to fall short.
  3. Find the people who can answer your questions and reach out.And don’t rule out anyone, no matter how important or busy they may seem. A friend from high school got a meeting with the founder of Craigslist simply because she said “I love what you have done, this is what I’m looking to do, can I take you out to coffee and learn from you?”
  4. Figure out how to help the person on the other side of the table/phone/interwebs. It can be as little as forwarding them an article you think they would like. Don’t just ask for help without providing value in return.
  5. Show gratitude.If someone helps you, thank them immediately. And follow up down the road to let them know how their input has tangibly helped. I find setting reminders months out (I use a CRM, but Apple’s Reminders works great too) is a great way to remember to double back and acknowledge people long after that initial touch point.

In order to hold myself accountable to you all, I’m now reaching out specifically to people who have started their own financial planning firms working with millennials, and asking them how they set-up their business, the technology they use and the systems/processes they’ve put into place. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!

Now something for you guys: Think about a goal (either personal or career wise) that you have, but maybe haven’t taken as many steps towards achieving them as you’d like. Then write/text/call and let me know how setting your sights higher, finding the right people and asking the questions that can help you progress towards that goal.

Trust me, it helps to have a sounding board and accountability buddy, and I’d love to be that somebody.

Garrison Ford

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