How financial advisors can help clients tend their financial gardens

By Rodney Ballance

The Financial Leadership Academy


As financial professionals, we have to offer that finished product for others to see. We can’t just tell them a story and hope they can visualize what we say. We have to provide a tangible example for them to touch and feel.

As most of you know, we recently moved to the Ozark Mountains, where we are blessed to live on a rather large piece of property. Coming from an area near the East Coast, I’m not accustomed to the rocky soil here in the Midwest. The ground is much sandier and softer where I come from, making it easier to work.

To make gardening even worse, I got a late start in preparing the field this year.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been plowing, tilling and disking an area of land about half an acre in size, preparing it for planting. It seems that every time we pick up a bucket full of rocks in the front of our tractor, the next rain shows us a new crop of rocks larger than the one we just picked up. Some days, I just want to throw in the towel and say it’s just too much trouble.

Sometimes, I want to just admit defeat and give up, because I can’t see how the little bit I have can ever produce enough to provide for my family. Besides, it’s hard work.

Do you ever hear people say similar things about their financial situation? Have you ever heard someone say, "I don’t have enough money to ever be able to start a retirement plan?"

Have you ever heard them say, "It’s too late for me to start a plan, or ask, "Is it really possible to accomplish a successful financial plan?"

Fortunately, my father-in-law lives just down the road from us, and he has a fantastic garden. He’s worked that land for years with tremendous success. I’m grateful to him for coming over and showing me some things I can do to make sure all my efforts are well placed for the best rate of return. I can also go to his place to touch and feel exactly what my garden will one day produce.

He even came over this past Saturday and helped pick up rocks and re-plow the field. Because of his encouragement, his ability to show me a successful example and his willingness to actively help me reach my goals, I believe we can actually get this job done. The seemingly impossible task is now real because someone walked along beside me every step of the way, and served because he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

We need to show people actual success and connect them with others who have followed our strategies to accomplish their financial goals. By doing this, we can encourage those who may be discouraged or uncertain. When we can introduce them to others who once had nothing but rocks in their financial garden but now harvest productive financial crops, we do more than encourage them; we offer hope and confidence that their dreams can be realized.
When we take the time to help them plow or pick up the rocks, we are more than financial advisors, we’re their friendly partners in success. We strengthen relationships by going beyond the occasional office visit; by going to their home for a review of their plan.

When you’re considered a friend or partner, you become much more than an agent or an advisor. People won’t replace a friend or a partner nearly as fast as they will the agent they see at an office once a year.

I know that whenever I get discouraged or feel this task is hopeless, I can walk down the road and see what my garden will one day look like. As financial professionals, we have to offer that finished product for others to see. We can’t just tell them a story and hope they can visualize what we say. We have to provide a tangible example for them to touch and feel.

Have you put together a compilation of testimonials from clients? Have you taken time to connect existing clients to new or potential clients?

Here’s an idea. Host an inexpensive breakfast one Saturday per quarter. You can often rent space from local churches or other non-profit organizations where you can serve up a pancake breakfast. Have some colleagues or relatives help cook up the feast, leaving you free to wait on your clients and prospects that come for the food.

As you walk around with a pitcher of water in one hand and a pot of hot coffee in the other, you are approachable, and people will ask you questions. This is a perfect opportunity for you to schedule appointments, or ask them to call your office on Monday. Encourage your clients to bring guests or relatives. This is a great prospecting tool.

By serving people in this way, you do more than give away less than $30 worth of food. You build relationships. You strengthen the ones you have with your existing clients, and forge new ones between the people who depend on your professional advice and those you want to depend on your guidance. You also demonstrate that you are their servant as well, allowing them to see that you want to take care of them.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with allowing people to see you in jeans and an apron on a few Saturdays per year. They feel they’re getting to know the “real you”, not just the “office you." People will trust someone they know they can see every few months for breakfast faster than someone they have to make an appointment to speak with on the phone through their office.

When people understand that everyone starts with a few rocks, and that you’ll be there to help them every step of the way, they will follow your guidance and produce successful financial gardens. Then when others ask how they did it, maybe they’ll say, "I did it with a little help from my friend, (your name here). You should call him/her to help prepare your financial garden."