IFG: What sparked your interest in financial services?
Brian Lockett: In 11th grade at Kentwood High School, a guy named Wade Cook came and spoke to our class about investments and I was mesmerized by what he had to say. I remember walking out of there, standing by my locker and saying, "Wow. Today's one of those days where I think I know what I want to do for a living..." and I had never felt that - up to this point in my life.
IFG: How did your college experience influence your career?
Brian Lockett: I received my degree in Management Information Systems (Computer Networking) from Washington State University. I also met Shilo (my wife), during my sophomore year in college and I didn't know it then, but it was that relationship that really launched me into financial services. I never got the internship from Chevron that I had applied for, and at the time, Shilo's dad was working in the industry and I began working as an intern with his company. Fourteen years later, here I am. I literally started, basically as a grunt, doing every kind of job. I worked from about 8am until 8 or 9pm, five days a week at least, and often on weekends. I did every job I was asked, never complained, was always working, staying late.
Shilo Lockett: I t was funny... he lived with my parents for a short period of time and there weren't extra bedrooms in the house, so they converted this little room under the stairs. He was like a little troll in this little room - he worked all the time then he went and slept under the stairs.
Brian Lockett: Yeah, while all my friends are living it up and having a good time driving nice cars, living in hip areas, downtown Seattle. I'm paying $300 a month and I live under the stairs at my in-laws' house.
IFG: How is your office set up?
Brian Lockett: We have eleven people on staff. Me, the lead advisor, a junior or service advisor... depending on which lingo you follow... and then a very large supporting cast. We do all of our own trading in house. We do all of our own marketing in house, and so forth.
IFG: Your wife Shilo is heavily involved in the business and the operations of the office. How are you able to balance the work and life responsibilities?
Brian Lockett: Shilo really runs the team, she's the "CEO" and the "COO".
Shilo Lockett: Brian and I work so well together because our strengths complement each other, they're completely different. I think if we had the same role in the office, it would not be as congenial because we're both very strong-willed and we both have a lot of ideas. Our biggest challenge is actually turning it off when we get into the space to be husband and wife. We have just learned that we have to start turning it off when we get home. It can be challenging from time to time, but I feel like we do a pretty good job of it... like having date nights. For everyone in the office... we work really hard to identify everyone's individual strengths and then place them in roles that require those strengths. We do quite a bit of profile testing and team building exercises and all that, to develop talent.
IFG: What's the value proposition you offer that sets you apart?
Brian Lockett: When we onboard a new client, the biggest value we bring to them is the housekeeping on the front-end, to pick up or fix all the issues they had from the Edward Jones or wherever they came from. Our industry is incredibly guilty of charging a fee and doing nothing for it. We are the opposite, we "overearn" our fee - but we operate under a "service first" model. We believe in great client service as your number one marketing plan. If you take care of your clients, they will take care of you. They want to tell their friends and family about how great their advisor is. Instead of me being in a seminar pitching for clients, what I need to be is in front of a client, taking good care of them and reminding them what we're doing for them so they can pass on that message. It's about turning clients into advocates. If you put that kind of effort towards your clients, I guarantee that they are going to want to go out and tell their friends about you.
Shilo Lockett: You have to be able to differentiate from a robo, you have to be able to prove your value and you have to be able to differentiate your service. We really strive for the red carpet service and that takes more people than just the advisor. Like a general manager of a high-end hotel, it takes the people at the front desk, it takes the house cleaning staff, it takes the folks running the restaurant and the chef, you name it. We've really worked to develop all of those different team members in-house so that we can deliver that red carpet service to our clients.
Brian Lockett: We also take a consultive approach. I don't go into any meeting saying "what can I sell this person?" - that's not our goal. We're farmers here, we're planting seeds. We're tending our fields. We focus on building recurring revenue. That seed-based model is where the value in our company is, we focus on that, and as a younger ownership team here, we believe that's really the value from our standpoint in the long-term.
IFG: Who's your "ideal client", if there is such a thing for you?
Brian Lockett: I find we have the most value in clients, who perceive the value we're adding in addition to just investment management, are the clients who are basically, in or near the "red zone". If you're familiar with the football term - you're right there, the end zone is within sight but you have to play it just right in order to get there, those people. The people who are a long shot, or who are never going to get there, they're terrible savers. Then the other people who have more money than they're ever going to need, they have a tendency to just think, "Well, what did you do for me lately?" The people in the middle are the ones that really seem to perceive the value that we bring, a comprehensive financial planning process.
IFG: What does it mean, to have a comprehensive financial planning process?
Brian Lockett: We believe that planning is an ongoing thing - the only constant in a financial plan is change. The only way for that to actually be effective is to update that plan regularly. What we do, or what I do, with clients at least once a year, is update their plan - and it's a process we do together so they're part of it - they have buy-in. I explain why we're doing certain things, I explain why we're building in the various buffers, why we're assuming a certain inflation level and so forth. By the time we get to the end, they understand why I'm recommending what I'm recommending.
IFG: How do you do it, what is your secret?
Brian Lockett: It's not just one thing, there's a number of things that we're always working on or developing. First, this is the story of a family-owned financial planning practice that was able to successfully transition from the first generation to the second. Our client retention right now from this transition is 96%. We also get clients to bring their kids to events. They get to know us and ultimately say, "We've seen what you did for Mom and Dad, and they really spoke highly of you, would you be willing to take me on?"
IFG: What is your office team dynamic like?
Brian Lockett: Personable and approachable. Our industry can be so "starchy" and there is a perception that those of us in the industry aren't approachable. We don't want to be perceived that way. I wear a suit and tie to work every day, but I don't look down my nose at clients at all. That's the discipline in the whole office, it's amazing the relationships that the staff has with our clients. It's incredible and they feel like they're family when they come here, that's literally the comment that we get, a lot.
Shilo Lockett: We have team members who are in their 50s and 60s and then we have team members who are in their early 20s. I think that's important for a business, not only from the perspective that different generations bring through discussions and decisions on how the business is run; but also in terms of making the place approachable to clients of all ages. We have a pretty amazing team.
We also invest heavily in technology. Our systems, from our CRM to performance reporting to our client portal are fully integrated. In fact, we recently rolled out a project that overlays on top of our financial planning process. There's zero out of pocket costs for that, apart from the labor that we're going to pay in house to make it happen, and it helps keep client's goals top of mind and show them that we're paying attention.
IFG: What motivates you to come in to work every day?
Brian Lockett: Money doesn't motivate me. I'm an engineer at heart, like my grandfather who invented the cursor... you know, the little blinky thing on your screen. I am a systems guy. I want to get everything up and going so that it rolls downhill with very little maintenance. Of course, easier said than done but - what's motivating to me is the light at the end of the tunnel that sooner or later we're going to have this beautiful business that's going to provide a very valuable service to our clients. Hopefully, it won't be as hard to maintain as it is today. I'm also very motivated by satisfying other people.
I'm on the Washington State University Foundation Board. Shilo and I have set up our own endowment at the University to fund the cost of guest speakers, primarily in the financial services industry, that will come and speak to students, really with a goal of promoting financial literacy. While I respect teachers, for this series the speakers cannot be from academia. They have to be from the industry and practicing, it's a requirement. In college - you're going to class and you're learning all this theory about various topics but rarely along the way do you ever get a touch of reality. We'll see how that goes; it's probably going to be one of a kind. I love educating people, I love seeing that light bulb moment when they "get it".
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