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5 lessons learned after one year running a financial planning firm

A whirlwind of lessons, wins and losses to reflect on in an independent planner's first-year anniversary

Aug 28, 2014 @ 11:12 am

By Mary Beth Storjohann

It's hard to believe it, but my financial planning firm, Workable Wealth, officially turns 1 this week! Just 12 months ago, the website went live after months of prep work and paperwork, and the (virtual) doors opened as I welcomed my first clients to the Workable Wealth family.

What a journey it's been. Twelve months in business is just one step in the grand scheme, but it's a step that I'm incredibly proud of. As with many birthdays, it's a time of celebration and a time of reflection. Since launching last year, I've been contacted by other business owners, financial planners, college students and reporters asking about how I went about building this business, and the lessons I've learned along the way.

Did I feel ready to launch Workable Wealth? Heck no. It wasn't until I received this text message from one of my best friends in February of last year that I knew it was time:

“I'm not sure if you'll ever be truly happy until you're on your own. It's what you want and where you want to be. Everything will suck in some way until you get there.”

I snapped a picture of the message and have saved it over the past year and a half as motivation and inspiration.

It's been a whirlwind of lessons, wins, losses and an overall humbling and educational experience since launching, but if I have any takeaways, the following are the five biggest lessons I've learned in my first year of business:

1. Walk through whatever doors open

In business and in life, you never know what opportunities are going to pop up. One of the exciting things about putting yourself out there is that you get to meet new people and sometimes experience new things. Opportunities arise that can be out of our comfort zone or deemed “not worth our time,” prompting us to pass on the experiences altogether. What happens, though, is that we could be missing out on some really great stuff.

I made it a policy this year to try to walk through whatever doors opened. Phone calls, interviews, consultations, media, writing, masterminds, speaking and more. I tried to say yes, or at least explore the option of making something happen. I walked through the doors with the knowledge that if it wasn't a fit, I could walk right back out. This lead to my meeting some amazing people and expanding my brand that much further because I didn't say “no” to the unknown.

2. It's okay to be a Jane (or Jack) of all trades — for a bit

When launching a business, one typically has X amount of dollars to make about 1 million things happen. It's hard to dole out cash when you feel like you should be counting pennies, which results in taking on tasks you wouldn't normally do. When I launched, I tried to handle all of the state registration and legal forms on my own. For a regular business, this may be easy. For a state registered investment advisor in California, I'm surprised I didn't need to submit to a physical health examination. It was a lot of paperwork, legal jargon, and back and forth.

However, I felt it was sensible to save the money and figure it out myself. Long story short? It wasn't. I learned fast what the value of my time was. Halfway through, I hired a consultant to finish up the registration process and what was taking me months was finished in two weeks! It's okay to try to do it all at first, but eventually you need to know when and what makes sense to delegate to free up your time for more productive (and income-generating) things.

3. It's a choose-your-own-adventure life

Part of running your own business means you have the freedom of lifestyle design. Each day you can choose to focus first on sorting through the hundreds of e-mails you likely have, or you can grab a cup of coffee, sit down and knock out a blog post, project or even get in a workout. Your life is what you make of it and if you don't put yourself and the meaningful items first, you'll get sucked in by the minute day-to-day tasks which result in you working “in” things instead of “on” things.

4. Provide value. And then provide more value.

People think it's crazy to provide a lot of information and content for free. “But then you'll never get clients,” they say. While there is a limit to what you should and shouldn't do gratis, the No. 1 way to build trust and credibility with an audience (employer, friend, client, etc) is to be of service.

I've shaped Workable Wealth with the goal of providing all types of resources and financial education for young families, entrepreneurs and Gen Y as a whole in the form of blogs, checklists, guides and newsletters. This helps my readers think through things on their own, and if they're ever ready to work with a financial planner, hopefully they feel comfortable enough to reach out and connect about working together.

5. Perfect, shmerfect: There's no such thing

As mentioned previously, it's highly unlikely that things will ever be perfect. While you shouldn't be sloppy about putting your work out there, it's okay if it's not just right. Our fear of what others will think is typically what keeps us from making progress in our personal and professional lives.

In reality, simply taking action is what will lead you down a path of gaining insight and learning where you can make improvements. If you keep all of your great ideas secret and remain closed off about sharing, the world will likely be missing out on all of the amazing contributions you can make. Just get started. It's okay if it's not perfect. This is real life after all, and we're on Version 6 of the iPhone. Proof it's okay to learn as you go.

Mary Beth Storjohann is founder of Workable Wealth, a firm that specializes in financial planning for Gen Y.

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