As everyone knows, it is a popular and easy decision to overhaul long-established processes after you’ve been doing the same thing for decades. “Change is simple!” goes the expression.
No. People don’t say that, especially after you’ve been in a particular field for more than 30 years. But that’s exactly what Kathy Kueider, CLU, ChFC, saw herself faced with after ending a 23-year working relationship with her business partner.
Now two years removed from the separation, the 26-year MDRT member from High Point, North Carolina, has elevated her efficiency, improved her sense of work-life balance and found herself running a totally different, modernized practice.
“It wasn’t entirely a pleasant process,” she said, “but the outcome was certainly worth all the changes I went through.”
So what happened, and how did Kueider, who handles retirement and financial planning for 135 affluent households, come out stronger on the other side?
In a word: innovation. Kueider embraced it as part of her business model in places where her partner was unwilling to go. So when she utilized programs like Riskalyze (which helps with risk assessment and recommendations to balance risk tolerance with coverage) and RetireUp (which helps with retirement planning), her partner instead preferred to simply continue doing things as they’d always been done.
“A good bit of difference between two people is good. But when one principal is presenting innovative ideas to improve the business model and getting only no in response from the other principal, you become hampered by these restrictions and frustrated when not getting full cooperation from the team,” Kueider said. “The result of the conflict was that we were running two completely different practices but were still presenting ourselves as partners.”
The differences ultimately led to the two partners separating, and Kueider starting her own business.
The new business
Recognizing that she did not prefer to handle transactional paperwork, employee management and running the financial side of the business, Kueider hired a virtual assistant to handle paperwork and a virtual CFO to handle profitability. She also brought on her husband as her sole in-house employee, to fill the role of office manager and handle compliance.
Kueider meets with her virtual CFO twice a month to talk about strategy, profitability and accountability and she communicates with her virtual assistant on a daily basis.
She also made sure her clients understood that these virtual employees, while not housed in the High Point office, are highly trained and experienced in their job duties just like regular in-house employees. The clients interact with the virtual assistant just as they would an in-house employee and are thrilled that they can always speak to a real person instead of a recording.
On the list for phase two for her new business model is selecting a marketing partner to handle bringing in new business. Also part of phase two is a client-meeting app, which clients can use to schedule appointments with Kueider without even communicating with her team.
Another crucial part of the business transition was moving from a traditional advisor office space to an outsourced office space (called Office Evolution) where all key elements — from phone and furniture to greeting and receiving clients — are included in the package.
In November 2018, Kueider began the development of her new business website with a targeted rollout date of January 2019. This was complicated by content issues at the broker-dealer and then having to change the website vendor midstream to resolve the issues. As a result, the website didn’t launch until March 2019.
After going through this debacle, Kueider recommends that advisors communicate with other advisors within their company as much as possible to find out what vendor has provided a good, hassle-free experience before jumping in and then having to start over.
The only other hiccup in the transition was that Kueider’s first virtual assistant was a great fit from a personality perspective but wasn’t detail oriented enough for the work that needed to be done. Fortunately, Kueider was able to find a replacement virtual assistant who has been well received by the clients and has the necessary organizational skills for servicing the clients’ needs. Kueider and the new assistant interact constantly via email to conduct business and meet weekly to review current projects and catch up on what’s happening in their personal lives.
By delegating functions of the business to an outsourced staff and re-evaluating her priorities as a business owner, Kueider was able to focus her energies on client-facing and investment strategies, her favorite aspects of the business.
She also placed limits on bringing on new clients, realizing that quality of service is vastly more satisfying than quantity of business. Kueider now works at a less frantic pace and can spend more time away from work doing the things she enjoys outdoors and hobbies like music and dance.
“This business can be consuming, and we can let elements that make us a whole person fall by the wayside. I’ve been able to reconnect with things I enjoy doing, and people I enjoy doing them with,” she said. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my career for mental health and happiness.”