Charles Adi is a financial advisor who owns and operates his own firm, Blueprint 360, in Houston, TX. Charles holds the Series 7 and Series 66 FINRA securities registrations along with a Texas Life, Accident and Health Insurance license. And here at the FPA, he’s also the head of our FPA Diversity Committee. He has a successful firm with about 80 clients but, as we talk about in this episode, it wasn’t always that way. In this conversation, Charles opens up about his background, the path that brought him to financial planning, and how he’s built a firm from the ground up.
Cautionary Advice Turned to Fuel
Charles originally sought a degree in accounting when he went to college as Louisiana State University. But after attending a guest lecture by a financial planner, Charles knew he was on to something. So he emailed the planner and was told to come to the planner’s office to talk. The financial planner told Charles he was impressed by his email and his enthusiasm but, the planner told him, there was one problem: Charles wanted to serve low-income communities. The financial planner admitted that he didn’t know a way for Charles to do that and make money, so he couldn’t help Charles.
Instead of getting discouraged like many students would, this sparked curiosity in Charles. Why? Because the planner didn’t say there was no way to make money in that niche, just that he didn’t have advice for Charles. So Charles left with a spark, one that followed him throughout his college career. Despite his interest and passion for these underserved communities, though Charles admits his confidence wasn’t there yet, and he was afraid to take the leap given the other planner’s cautionary advice.
He ended up going the “safe route,” he says, just to make sure that he could pursue work after graduation. He graduated with a degree in accounting and worked in that field for 3.5 years. But as things in his accounting firm fizzled, he put energy into his initial interest — financial planning. He contacted another accountant who was working with a minority firm in 2010 and the rest, he says, is history.
Struggling to Get Started
Charles, when he decided to pivot into financial planning, was not an overnight success. In this episode, he gets very real about the struggles he faced, including lowered income compared to his accounting days and how his parents questioned his decision to make the switch. He admits that the only thing that kept him going somedays was the promise he made to his first few clients — that he’d stick it out and help them. Today, he still has those clients and a much healthier book.
How did he get there? He kept working, he kept saying “Yes” to clients, and he kept helping other people in his firm. This eventually led to a mentorship that helped Charles learn the “financial planning ropes” — and eventually led to a partnership that was his tipping point. This partnership, which started with Charles’ “can do attitude,” led to a client who referred Charles out to everyone in her address book. From there, his firm grew.
Over the last 5 or so years, he’s managed to grow his practice by word of mouth alone, but it took a few years to get that started as you’ll hear in our interview. Throughout it all, though, Charles was focused on doing the work and helping people.
After growing his firm — which now onboards about 2 clients a month — Charles really harnessed his process for working with clients. He says they don’t talk about investments or portfolio balances during every meeting; they talk about what’s important to the clients and then work together to translate that into how their money can help them. Charles even shares his onboarding process and how, in the first few meetings, he lays the groundwork for understanding his clients.
This process, he says, builds trust and allows him to continue to advise them in the future, regardless of their pain points. He also often works with people who are just starting out, and by building that relationship, ensures an even more mutually beneficial relationship down the road. But it all starts with that initial relationship building, Charles reminds us. From there, it’s about creating a plan and supporting his clients as they implement the plan. We know that’s a big pain point for financial planners and Charles has some great tips — so make sure to listen in on the episode!
During our chat, Charles also talks about his firm belief that the financial planning profession changes lives. He also calls all us, as professionals, to do what we can for our clients and for those who maybe can’t afford our services. “I truly believe that what we do as advisors is so empowering,” he shared. “Because we can truly change the trajectory of someone's lives just by making them aware of the possibilities.” And we can all agree on that, right?
What You’ll Learn:
- Charles’ path from college to accounting to financial planning
- The role that research and a constant focus on learning play in our career path
- The difficulties related to building a name and a practice in the profession
- The importance of cultivating relationships with peers and partners
- How much of a difference a great mentor can make in your career path
- Why we should all think about how this work changes lives
- How to empower clients by simply showing them their options
- How to solve problems today to build trust tomorrow
- The different types of meetings Charles’ hosts to onboard new clients
- How to actually help clients implement their plan (tactical tips you can use!!)
- Why asking clients to save is better than asking them to stop spending
- Why you need time, patience, and a commitment to doing good work to succeed
- Ideas for structuring your services, including financial planning, AUM, and insurance
- Sliding fee scales and how to charge clients as their income increases
- Why it’s important to think about the people who can’t afford our advice
In this episode with Charles Adi, we reference:
- His firm, Blueprint 360: https://www.theblueprint360.com/
- The tool he uses with his clients: Lumoney
If you want to see more of Charles, you can follow him on: