Academy Blog

FPA Annual Conference Recap with Arlene Moss - Part 2

FPA Annual Conference ⇼ Nashville, TN

Women and Finance Session

Another great session from the FPA Annual Conference was entitled the Women and Finance Summit. Despite being geared toward female firm owners, this session applies to everyone! The premise was that each speaker picked up where the previous left off. Then there were discussion questions for the tables to discuss amongst themselves. While the speakers were women and many attendees were as well, everyone can learn from these solid tips.

Riches in the Niches

First up was Jill Addison of FA Client machine ( Her catchy (and near to my heart) intro was “There’s riches in the niches.” Yes, from her first slide I knew we would get along well. Her philosophy come from an outreach and perception perspective. Running a successful niche firm is not about barring the door to all who do not fit, it’s about focusing your specific area of expertise so you can best serve your clients. If you don’t focus, you are a jack of all trades, master of none. This can project an image of being the ameteur not the expert, or worse, lead you to providing an inferior level of service.

 Avoid the Least Common Denominator

Go deep, not shallow -- in service, in content creation, in targeted marketing efforts. You may recall my advice not to use jargon on your website? Don’t be all RMDing and ASCOTing me! On the other hand, using the insider language of your niche shows your expertise. Knowing how your folks talk will add a level of comfort and confidence. (For example if you work with military you best not call it a business trip -- it’s TDY)

 Be the Expert

Best of all, it simply gets easier when you choose a niche. You can provide better service via more specific topics -- again, you are showing expertise. You can really learn the intricacies of what your clients need, which in turn can result in improvements to your systems and processes. Being perceived as an expert makes marketing much easier!

 Remember to always speak to your clients about how your service solves their problems. Do it on your website, blogs, podcasts, everything you create.

Leverage Video Tools in Your Marketing

If you aren’t using video, you should be; It results in better search and feed placement. You can use customized short videos to leverage on all platforms (OK -- red alert -- we are headed into her call to action, but the value is here, so I am keeping it in). Video helps in a variety of ways. You will:

  • Stand out from the crowd -- not everyone is there yet, and besides, not everyone looks, talks, or acts like you, so get out there and be you.
  • Have a referral tool that is easy for your clients to share.
  • Invest minimal time and effort -- video is easier than you think!
  • Be positioned well in your space. Again -- the niche, the expertise.
  • Create a connection -- when you are on the screen people will begin to feel as if they know you already.
  • Have an entertaining message -- whiteboard videos can be funny and very shareable.

Connecting with Clients

Susan Kornegay of Pathfinders Strategic Solutions covered ways you can better connect with your clients. (  One of the ways you can connect with your clients is through stories. This begins with the very first conversation when a prospective client asks what you do. The best way to answer this question is to tell about the clients you serve -- telling about their needs and challenges is a relatable way to present your service. This is your best platform to speak to client needs and concerns.

Consider Voice and Message Delivery

As you craft messages to deliver to your clients, think about questions your clients might ask and questions they should be asking. Answer their questions in narrative so your message connects emotionally and they can envision themselves working with you. Speaking in the present tense about your relationship makes it seem more tangible and concrete. Also consider their voice and perspective as you’re thinking about message delivery. This will increase the chance of making a meaningful connection with potential clients. Using words like “we” and “us” instead of “you” can also help in building a relationship with a potential client.

Once you’ve honed the delivery of your message, be prepared to share what makes you unique. Tell clients about your philosophy, who you are, what you do, and how you do it.  

Client Referrals

Sarah Dale of Know No Bounds ( wrapped up with a focus on getting new clients through referrals. Her position at the end of this session was designed to ensure that the advice from the first two was considered in the implementation of her suggestions.

“Sing Their Song”

Sarah’s advice was to take a tribal mentality regarding client communications. “Sing their song” is the phrase she uses to describe the process of telling your story to the niche.   

Warm introductions are better than a nasty old cold call any day, right? Sara really dug into how to make the most of them! Permission-based connections, that is, warm introductions, come only to you if you are perceived as someone who will add value and be an advocate.  Sarah’s advice is that you should never ask for a referral until you’ve executed 3 IOUs or 3 Acts of Kindness.

 Making sure you delineate your service offerings clearly so others know how you serve and exactly who you serve can also help in the process of building trust with potential clients.  

Create your list of marketing commitments. Share with your accountability partner, write them down and be specific about actions and the numbers! Need help tracking? Click the link below for our marketing outreach tracking spreadsheet: 

 Marketing Outreach Tracking

We wrapped up with questions for the tables in the room to discuss in small groups. I suggest you take some time to think about these questions and how they relate to your business. They would be excellent discussion fodder for your study group!

Describe your favorite client you’ve ever had. What did you like about them? (Your answer to this question will give you direction to hone in on your ideal client/niche so you can get more clients like your best clients.)

What is your niche? This could be your current focus, or something you’re considering making a focus in your practice. (Hint: “Pre-retirees” is not a niche. It’s too broad.)

If your clients were asked what is the one thing that differentiates you from other financial planners/advisers, what would it be?

What is your #1 strategy to develop new business?

In order to gain introductions and referrals you need to be remarkable to your sources for new business.  Share ways/ideas on how you are being remarkable to your clients and centers of influence.

Based on your practice, are you dedicating the right amount of time to growth activities and ... what gets in the way of executing growth activities?  
Women can have a powerful effect on your practice both as clients and associates.

Clients: According to a recent study, about 51% of American personal wealth is now controlled by women.  How are you building relationships with women and attracting new female clients to your practice?

Associates: Women continue to be under-represented as advice providers in the financial services industry. What ideas do you have to attract and retain female advisors and planners in your community? (How do we change the perception of what we do; educate and reposition our business to both attract and retain more women in the industry?)

Creating a Career Path

I seemed to be on a Women Only track from there on out, but again, there was solid value for everyone! In the session entitled Women at the Forefront of Financial Planning they really meant WomAn! You’ve perhaps heard of Cheryl Holland from Abacus ( She did an excellent session on creating a career path in planning. Once again I found myself in a session that was labelled by gender, but applied to anyone wanting to run a business! This woman was remarkable and had made a groupie out of me by the end of the session.

The entire focus here is career path and building the business you want to create. You start by creating the roadmap, knowing that it will evolve, but that you have to start somewhere! Cheryl uses the phrase “live in beta” to show that all things change and improve, and that you must get started in order to get where you are going.  Each generation goes faster because it has been mapped out. Progress up the ladder gets faster and faster. So there’s no reason for a “kids these days” attitude.

Define Skills for Success

Start by defining the skills for success; what do team members need to learn and master? What are the timeframes for mastery and what resources do you have or know of for them to make use of?  

Define expected behaviors for your team. This covers a myriad of items!

  • Core competencies
  • Business skills
  • Technical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Relationship skills
  • Work expectations (this was not presented in the usual millennial bashing manner, but more that these expectations are typically not taught in schools, and while that is not optimal, it is also really a great part of mentoring and improving your team to just teach this stuff!)
  • Attire
  • Write a thank you note
  • Networking - Abacus had little business card sized reminders of how to Prepare, Engage, and Assess afterword to keep growing.
  • Delegating
  • Responding to media

Delegating and Giving Feedback

In addition to expected behavior there are also guidelines you may want to set that run the gamut from how and when to show gratitude (make it a habit!) to when to delegate or consult with team members. She presented wonderful guidelines on giving constructive feedback:  

  • Describe seriousness right off the bat - scale of 1-10 kind of thing
  • What?
  • Why is it a concern?
  • Other person’s perspective?
  • Solutions?
  • Follow up?
  • Consequences! What will happen next time.

They also had a daily checklist form that included gratitude, health and well being goals, work goals etc. You could create your own for  whatever you need to improve your team.  

Empower Your Team

The overriding message was to empower your team to guide their own career. Be transparent. Engage in public praise, but privately reprimand. (I love this so much -- as a person who’s been publicly blasted in the past, this is just huge!)  Cheryl even sets a goal of sending a certain number of written notes to the team.  Thank yous, you were missed notes -- personal stuff.

Build Up Your Team

Cheryl shared more of her methods of building up her team from the youngest members on up, each day. The newest intern leads team meetings -- she starts from the beginning to teach all team members. They don’t create the agenda, just lead the meeting, but it's a start. In each meeting the team follows their 9 Second Rule; they allow 9 seconds of silence at the end of any agenda item for people to collect their thoughts and to think of additional comments.

Each meeting contains a gratitude segment, which is exactly as nice as it sounds!

Team Development and Onboarding

Through daily work you weave the development pipeline into your firm's DNA -- developing your team is then constant and natural. Start with new team member onboarding. Have a 90-day review, perhaps guided by a 90-day onboarding plan. Keep these development plans in mind through additional reviews. Consider a peer 360 review that focuses on culture. For this you may consider bringing in an outside consultant; Cheryl’s team uses a corporate psychologist to facilitate theirs.

Keep this development plan in mind through the career lifecycle of your team. Make sure it permeates team and shareholder activities, how you deliver praise and feedback, your strategic planning, and how you determine when to extend invitations to ownership or leadership.  

Cheryl’s team has a required reading list for each step of career development. I have added items she had that weren’t on XYPN’s list to the Recommended Book List.


Brainstorm Ideas for Success

Now it's your turn. Brain dump your leadership pipeline -- what does it take to succeed at your firm? Think about, and then record the skills, behaviours, and resources you have. Involve the whole team in pipeline creation and be sure to create accountability for “completion.” Practice and keep at it! All of this will evolve and improve. Live in beta.


Next week: Learn about opportunities for creating a positive, inclusive culture for next generation planners.

Arlene Moss is XYPN’s Executive Business Coach. Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.

When not motivating clients and cooking up new ideas to help XYPN member success, you can find Arlene on her road bike, or trying to master the art of tandem cycling without destroying her marriage. In the winter months, she gets to the ski slopes as much as possible, hunting hidden bits of fresh powder amid the trees of Breckenridge.

If you'd like to learn more about Arlene's member-exclusive executive coaching services click here.