Starting a firm with the right support
Although Chad always knew he was going to own his own firm, he couldn’t have guessed he’d be starting it the day he graduated from Penn State. He credits that first win to the incredible luck of finding a boss and mentor who supported his ambition. Chad says, “I had a really blessed situation where I had an advisor who was a CFP®. He showed me the ropes and allowed me to slowly build up my clients.”
Although many young planners are able to find a mentor, few are able to build their own book while working for a firm. But Chad’s boss, Eric Dare, CFP®, was uncommonly supportive. He told Chad that as long as he did Eric’s paraplanning work 9-5, he’d be free to work in his own firm on evenings and weekends.
Although Chad wasn’t wise enough to appreciate it at the time, looking back he recognizes how truly lucky he was. He says, “One thing that gave me security was that I was fully licensed on my first day of work. I had a unique situation where I passed the Series 7 exam while I was still a senior at Penn State. And I passed the Series 66 just two days before I graduated. So any new accounts I opened for my own clients were always linked to just my name.”
It wasn’t all smooth-sailing, though
With a mentor in his corner and a steady paycheck to maintain him, Chad started Wealth Keel. Despite his successful entrance into the profession, he admits that building his business was daunting. At first, he worked with a typical clientele of retirement-aged clients. The same boldness that led him to reach out to Eric back when he was searching for a mentor made him send out cold emails to likely people in his network, thinking, “The worst they can say is no.”
The strategy worked. Chad gained clients and they trusted him with their money. His business grew, but not without a few bumps along the way. He had some serious doubts, especially in the first five years. There was a phase when he thought about leaving the profession entirely — despite the control over his work and the clients he chose.
Today, though, Chad is sure that those years of hardship and stress made him a better advisor in the long run. It’s important to him to talk about the tough things in the industry. He says, “It’s like the social media mentality. You see all the people that are doing great, but they only share their good stuff, they don’t talk about the bad parts.” He calls moments like hearing no or grappling with self-doubt. It’s like “building up calluses,” he shared — and said that getting through the tough spots was an important step toward building his confidence.
His mainstay when things got tough? Remembering that he loved his work, and he knew he was making a difference. “That makes it a lot easier to get back up when you get knocked down.”
Sometimes your niche finds you
Although Chad quickly realized that he made more natural relationships with clients his age, niching down into financial planning for Gen X and Gen Y physicians came as a surprise.
Chad says, “When my wife and I moved to Philadelphia, our first rental was in the Italian Market, and we were surrounded by young doctors. On a Friday or Saturday night, we would hang out in our alleyway, bring out a bottle of wine, and it just started to click. These physicians were telling me that they're at $60,000 of income now, but their base salary was $300,000. They had $500,000 of student loans, were expecting their first child, and wanted to buy a house. Maybe they were in Philly now, but they actually took a contract in LA. It was so complicated that it just drew me in.”
Chad fell in love with all the moving parts in a doctor’s financial life, especially the complicated perspectives on student loans. He started inviting his neighbours out for lunch to pick their brains about their financial needs, and realized — months into it — that he should actually be specializing in this kind of planning. His niche was right in front of him.
Planning the next stage of his business
When Chad’s business grew to the point that he needed a paraplanner, he hired 1099 contractors through simplyparaplanner.com. He says, “We always had good luck there finding individuals that were interested. Last year, we got so busy that we had a bring on an extra paraplanner.”
But now, Wealth Keel has hit that next level where they need a W2 employee. Of course, that level of growth comes with its own concerns. What if this is all just smoke and mirrors? What if all of this falls apart tomorrow? While the growth is exciting, Chad knows he needs to proceed with intention, so that he can continue to take care of himself, his clients, and his team.
Advice to new planners
Although firm ownership was seemingly in Chad’s cards from the start, he recognizes that it’s not for everyone. He says, “I’ve talked with a lot of young advisors who don't want to be the owner. They want to be a lead advisor in a firm that's organized, or they want to be a paraplanner and work more behind the scenes. I think just knowing your personality type and knowing what your longer term goals are will guide you.”
Whether you find yourself in a large firm or a small one, he encourages young planners to learn as much as you can and look for opportunities to stretch yourself. He says, “There’s probably a benefit to starting out in a smaller firm, because you’ll be involved in more processes.” With his mentor, Eric, Chad was sitting in on meetings and doing much of the client-facing work.
He also emphasizes the value in finding a mentor. Not only can they encourage you to keep doing great work, but they can push you to find new opportunities that grow your skillset and confidence. This is how we push the profession forward — by turning around and helping the next person up.
What You’ll Learn:
- How Chad managed to start building his own firm from his first day as a paraplanner
- The emotional rollercoaster of owning your business
- How to niche down — and let your niche find you
- What it looks like to plan for stages of growth in your business
- What all new planners should keep in mind to take control of their careers
In this episode of YAFPNW, Chad Chubb, CFP®, CSLP®, and Matt Fizell, CFP®, talk about:
Interested in following Chad? Follow him on LinkedIn!