The secrets to successful client-advisor relationshipsArticle added by International Association of Registered Financial Consultants on February 12, 2016
Ranked: #247 (311 pts)
From a company employee to franchise business owner, Craig A. Sutherland, RFC, of Sutherland Wealth Partners in Columbus, Ohio, has a passion to help individuals, businesses and families obtain a bigger future. He understands the transformational journey needed to reach personal financial goals and provides his clients with a “financial road map.” Clearly, his own life transformations have been a learning foundation in helping others find their own vision. Here Craig discusses how he started in the industry and the meaning behind multiple business tactics to his practice with IARFC.
IARFC: Craig, first tell us about your personal background – what was your family background growing up in the heart of Ohio? What about your education and early work experience in the financial world?
Craig A. Sutherland: I was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1967. In the summer of 1972, my dad was transferred to Akron where he worked for AT&T and handled national accounts. Upon graduating high school in Akron, I came back to Columbus to attend Otterbein University. My brother also attended Otterbein and was a year ahead of me. My parents raised us to be very focused and principled. Many of the things they taught us I continue to apply today. My education at Otterbein prepared me to begin the journey of helping others financially. As I went through the licensing process; my first job out of college ws collecting on defaulted student loans. It certainly was challenging and eye-opening speaking to individuals who did not want to hear from a bill collector. To say the least, it gave me thick skin and an initial look at how people mismanage their finances. I have always been in a position where I wanted to help people. And I felt that teaching people how to create, maintain and sustain a comfortable lifestyle would be the best use of my talents. Upon completion of my licensing, I was hired by Lehman Brothers and placed into the Shearson Lehman Brothers brokerage division. At this level, I learned what it was like and how a wall-street firm operated. As much as the experience taught me, the most important lesson I learned is that I wanted to own a business of my own.
IARFC: What fueled your passion to journey from working for an elite firm to developing your own business?
CS: I have always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you have the ability to generate systems and processes that align with the individual’s thoughts and ideas. In most cases, larger firms have their own agenda and identity, which often times do not align with the representative. For me, the opportunity to develop my own business model fit better for me both from a philosophical and ideological point of view.
IARFC:How does that experience — making a life/career transformation — help you when engaging a new client?
CS: (pictured right) It helps because I can sit down with anybody without a particular bias to any product or service. Engaging clients on a professional level must include a personal aspect as well. Having the ability, without bias, allows a more free communication and structure for both parties to decide if their relationship is a good fit for them. This is one of the most important pillars of beginning our process.
IARFC: Your mantra to clients is “It’s about you … now and in the future.” How do you get to know your client’s dreams and values?
CS: Unlike most advisors in our industry, who focus solely on how much a person has to invest, we take a different approach. In my initial discovery meeting, finances and investment strategy are rarely discussed. They already understand that we are qualified as an investment professional group. We utilize the initial meeting to determine three things — first, do our personalities and
philosophies align. Second, are they willing to commit seriously to a planning process? And third, are they willing to create their
bigger future with our help? I have actually had people go to our white board when asked to draw what their bigger future looks like. It may seem odd to ask such a question in the first meeting, but our business is beyond just being professional so why would it be awkward to ask for personal involvement as well. This is one example of how we not only differentiate ourselves but it also reinforces our personal commitment to help them realize a bigger future.
IARFC: You talk about developing a personalized road map for success. What does that look like to a client, and how do you get them to buy into your vision?
CS: As mentioned previously, we advocate a team approach. Nobody can be alone on their journey. I never have them buy in to my vision but rather allow them to create their own vision. Acting in the role of an advocate gives us a unique perspective to
support, enhance and deliver within their specified goals. Nothing within our process is a stand-alone. It is uniquely tied and
integrated based on that holistic vision.
IARFC: As a wealth advisor, you rely on time tested principals to develop a core investment strategy. Explain in layman’s terms what that means. To develop a core investment strategy in its simplest terms you need to identify a few key components. First of all, what is their goal?
CS: This might be the most difficult in developing an investment strategy. Often times, the investor knows they need something but have a hard time identifying what that something is. The second is direction. Once you identify what it is that needs to be achieved, you need to find the appropriate path that complements that goal. Lastly is movement. Taking the first step and activating a plan is typically the hardest step of all. By delineating these three aspects and putting them in to motion, it serves well as any core investment strategy.
IARFC: What makes your advice unique and not a cookie-cutter formula?
CS: I have been a professional student of our industry for 25 years. Over that time period you realize you cannot do the same things you did last year, let alone two decades ago, the same way. My advice is unique for the mere fact that I have developed distinct processes and tools internally that complement my personal thoughts and actions. Any successful company or product is uniquely identified because of the value it has created in a person’s life. Nobody adds value to anything in the world and never has. You must first create value. We have created our value proposition for clients by our approach, our processes and tools that clearly impact the way a person views us. We also hold ourselves accountable to our clients through our service model and unique team approach.
IARFC: Define as you would to a client — a journey of proper planning and a disciplined approach?
CS: The very first component of a disciplined approach and proper planning is to realize you have to evolve with the times. It is very rare that anybody in our industry conducts business the same way they did ten years ago. Proper planning involves proper adjustments and evaluation as an ongoing concern. To put it another way, real growth is the product of the things you learn and the changes that you make as you move forward toward your bigger future. This definition is articulated in our discovery meeting and is the basis for the starting point with us.
IARFC: How do you utilize partners when crafting a financial plan?
CS: Sutherland Wealth Partners is known for the care and attention we give to our clients. In order to facilitate the personal side of the relationship we align ourselves with proven strategic partners that do the heavy lifting from the financial side. In today’s market, our industry is very labor and time intensive. You need to focus on what is most unique to yourself and your process. To understand this you need to be a good connector and implementer with partners who complement your strengths. We are able to create an amazing client experience due to the fact our partners free up that time for us.
IARFC: What is your concept of “seamless service"? What does that mean to a client?
CS: We have a defined process and it is uniquely named. Our industry focuses almost extensively on how to obtain a client. The real value that is created is how you service those clients as an ongoing concern. We provide our clients with a host of technology and information platforms that give the clients access to many of their most important questions. In addition, we have a client delight platform that is fully automated and helps to support their initial vision and bigger future.
IARFC: As Sutherland Wealth Partners is a Money Concepts franchise, how has that relationship strengthened your business?
CS: Money Concepts is one of the most highly regarded broker-dealers in the industry. I have now owned a franchise for over 21 years with them. That longevity with one broker-dealer speaks volumes about their fairness, credibility, integrity and commitment. It also allowed me to brand my franchise to my name so that my legacy I am creating will be identified for many years to come. To be with a world class broker-dealer yet still have my name tied to my franchise is a wonderful opportunity and gift that I try to honor each day.
IARFC: Tell us about the Money Concepts Classic — a charity golf tournament that benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
CS: Twenty years ago I had a very disturbing dream that recurred in the same night. For me it was a calling to step up unselfishly and impact the world. Twenty years later, this tournament is the longest running event in the state of Ohio for St. Jude. Through its efforts, we have helped join in the fight to end childhood cancer. Over the last 20 years, the relationships and experiences I have witnessed allow me to be a better wealth coach. It gives you perspective, clarity, intention, direction and motivation. These five aspects are also what we advocate in helping people financially.
IARFC: And lastly, what keeps your passion and commitment going — to yourself, your business and your clients?
CS: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be in this business but still own my own business. That dream was realized two decades ago. I am passionate about people and the engagement I have with them. My passion is driven by the mere fact I am blessed with the opportunity to create a powerful life experience for myself and others. That commitment is unwavering and my focus is to honor that daily. It’s the greatest business you could ever be in.
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