Financial Planning Throughout the Years
No matter if you are fresh out of college or a 40-year veteran, a career in financial services can be an intimidating journey. To better help aspiring planners navigate this journey, we decided to sit down with a few Skylight associates to gain some insight on this profession at various stages.
Starting Fresh: Shane Edwards
For most people, the hardest part of the journey can be the start, and no one knows this better than Toledo’s Shane Edwards. The Wittenberg University graduate is now approaching his third year as a full-time financial planner, check out his interview below:
How did you start off in the financial services industry?
I started out as a summer intern in 2015. I was shadowing Skylight senior planner Chris Heerdegen to see if I could see myself working as a financial professional. I enjoyed my time so much that once I graduated college, I came on full time to work with Chris and his team. Over time, I also started to build and grow my own practice.
How should recent college graduates and aspiring financial professionals set themselves up for success in this industry?
I think aspiring planners coming out of college and starting fresh need to hit the ground running by meeting as many people as possible. The connections you make now may end up becoming your most valued clients down the road. Attending networking events and getting involved with your local community is an effective way to accomplish this. For example, I started volunteering as a basketball coach at my old high school. This was the perfect opportunity to meet new people while also giving back to the area that raised me.
I would also tell newcomers to conquer any fear they have of the word “no.” At the beginning you are going to hear “no” countless times, but that is nothing to get discouraged about. This industry is all about the long game, so you must go into it every day thinking that “yes” is right around the corner.
What are some of the biggest barriers you faced at the beginning? How did you overcome them?
When it comes to trying to make it in this industry, the biggest barrier is definitely the person in the mirror. In the beginning, it is easy to lose yourself to “head trash” or negative, destructive beliefs you have about yourself. I remember constantly thinking, “I don’t have decades of experience, so why would this person want to sit down and talk to me?” All these thoughts do is get in the way of your own growth. I realized that no matter how many people said they didn’t want to meet with me, there were an equal amount of people that needed my help.
What other elements have attributed to your early successes?
I was extremely fortunate to have Chris Heerdegen in my corner. As an intern he taught me everything I know about creating connections and building relationships. Even today, I am always reaching out to him as a resource, leveraging his knowledge to better support my clients. Anyone looking to jump into this business needs a guide, I am very fortunate to have Chris as mine.
After the Ten-Year Mark: Ryan Puckett
Ryan Puckett’s comes from a dynamic background, but with over a decade of experience as financial planner he continues to find ways to better himself and his practice. Here’s what Ryan had to say:
How did you end up becoming a Financial Planner?
Well, many years ago I was in the Air Force for eight years of active duty. During the last 4 years of my enlistment I was also an Air Force recruiter. I would sit down and meet with young folks and offer them the opportunity to make big decisions that change their lives. The job was extremely rewarding, but over time I decided that I wanted to explore a career in financial services. Jumping from recruiting to what I do now doesn’t seem all that comparable, but conceptually they share a lot of similarities. Both roles involve asking tough questions and being there for people on a very personal level, which is an aspect of my job that I I continue to enjoy.
What kind of barriers did you face when transitioning into a new career?
When you are making a serious move at coming into this industry your limited knowledge base can be your worst enemy. When I first started I lost a lot of potential clients simply because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I also wasn’t from the Columbus area, so I didn’t initially have a huge network of connections to start off with. It was quite the uphill battle, but luckily these are issues I have remedied with years of effort and focus.
If someone coming from a different career asked you for advice on succeeding in this industry, what would you say?
I would tell them to know your “why?” A person needs to understand the real reason they are coming into the financial services industry. Being a planner is so much more than a job, it’s a business that never sleeps. The hours you put in will not make a difference unless they are backed up with genuine effort. This industry is certainly difficult for that reason but having that “why” can give you something to fall back on during tough days.
Another tip I would share is that a successful planner is a long-term thinker. Those that succeed in this industry are those that can see the big picture and know the payoff for their efforts does not come right away. If you can master this way of thinking, then you are well on your way to becoming a great financial planner.
What would you say has attributed to your own personal success the most?
I would contribute a lot of my success to being part of an organization like Skylight Financial Group. Skylight attracts a lot of great planners across the state of Ohio, which has given me the opportunity to learn from them and model my own practice after theirs. I think working for a larger firm like Skylight has given me a lot of perspective as well, it’s easy to stay motivated when you are surrounded by people who have been there before!
An Established Career: Bernard Garrah
Cleveland’s Bernie Garrrah has been in the industry ever since he graduated from Virginia Tech in 1996. Although he is far off from the struggles of a novice, this financial planner is constantly looking for ways to improve on a personal and professional level. Check out the interview below:
How many years have you been in the financial services industry? How did you come across SFG?
I have been in this industry now for 23 years now. I was introduced to Skylight around 2000 thanks to my close relationship with Managing Partner Paul Fox. Paul always had a passion for financial planning and I knew I wanted to assist with the growth and vision of his firm. 18 years later, I am still working with Skylight to grow my own practice.
In your opinion, what should established financial planners be focusing on?
I think the mistake that some established financial planners make is they become content with where they are at. I would encourage people to constantly spend time reading and learning all they can about the industry, remaining open to new ideas. Planners need to also make sure they are using all resources at their disposal, whether that be CRMs or team collaboration platforms. Anything that will make you more knowledgeable or help your business run more efficiently should be a top priority for financial planners.
What things have you learned over the past few decades that have set you up for success?
I have learned that every day is different when you are a financial planner. You cannot get hung up on the highs and lows of the past if you want to continue being successful, so always push yourself to carry on. In addition, it’s important to always keep your client’s best interest at the forefront of everything you do. Sure, these aspects of the job sound simple, but they are absolutely vital to building a practice that you can be proud of.
Seasoned Veteran: Michael Kessling Sr.
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who knows the industry as well as Michael Kessling Sr. Michael entered the industry in 1972. By 1983, he started his own practice that is still going strong today. We
asked Michael a few questions about his lifelong role as a financial planner.
Given your vast experience, what advice would you give to aspiring planners looking to follow in your footsteps?
I believe any young professional that comes into this business needs to latch onto a mentor. They aren’t always easy to find, but if you can find someone who truly cares about your success it makes all the difference in the world. The perfect example of this is my son, who came to work for my practice in 2007. He would be the first to tell you that if he didn’t have me as a mentor early on, he probably still wouldn’t be in the industry today. If you are planning on becoming a lifelong member of this industry, finding a proper mentor is half the battle.
Besides mentorship, it is also very important to be a real student of the business. Planners need to spend one to two hours a day reading up on our business and the needs of customers.
Over the course of your career there has been a lot of dynamic change in the industry, but what has remained vital to your success?
From my first day in this industry to right now, there is nothing more important than truly listening to your clients. One of my favorite phrases is, “God gave us two ears and one mouth that are used accordingly.” I have seen a lot of young planners struggle with this idea, dominating conversations whether they are trying to or not. My other favorite phrase is, “when you speak, make it an improvement over the silence.” The fact is when you are the one talking you are not learning anything. Those who listen first and speak thoughtfully will be the ones that see success in this industry.
Looking back on it all, what is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
That’s simple—the wonderful relationships that I have built with my friends and clients. Being a financial planner is tough, but on the other side of my efforts is the freedom to be my own boss. Being able to succeed at work also having time to be with my family has given me a life that is full, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks to Shane, Ryan, Bernie, and Michael for their contributions!