Reeling in clients who like to fish — and hunt, too

Jared Reynolds, co-founder and senior wealth adviser at WR Wealth Planners in Columbia, Missouri, built his passion for fishing and hunting into a booming advisory practice, where prospecting for clients can be exhilarating.

In some respects, Jared Reynolds is going against the grain of popular thinking by developing a niche advisory practice in reverse.

Reynold, 42, the co-founder and senior wealth adviser at WR Wealth Planners in Columbia, Missouri, first discovered his niche of providing financial advisory services to professional bass fishermen about 15 years ago.

An avid fisherman, hunter, and general outdoorsman, whose father was a top-level professional bass fisherman, Reynolds described his original niche as “passion prospecting,” which he kind of fell into.

“I had interviewed at an advisory firm in Chicago when I was still in college, and they said I needed to specialize, and I didn’t know what that meant,” Reynolds recalls. “Then, a few years later my dad told me about a bass fisherman who said his financial adviser did him wrong, and a lightbulb went off.”

That was back in 2004, when Reynolds had only been in the financial planning business for a few years. He started showing up at professional bass fishing tournaments where everyone knew him through his dad.

“The second year of showing up at tournaments I was getting more familiar with everyone, and by the third year of being seen repeatedly at the events I think it helped solidify myself in that arena,” he said. “I got a few big-name clients, and everybody talks, so they all knew who I was working with.”

The rest, as they say, would have been history, except for the fact that Reynolds saw a larger and more diverse market beyond just bass fisherman that could be developed through his original niche.

“It went on with just bass fisherman for quite a while, then I got a client who owns a saltwater charter business,” he said. “Now I’m bringing in business owners who love fishing, which are fantastic clients because they have a business that supports their hobby. Then I thought about trying something along the lines of hunting, because most fishermen are hunters as well, and those seasons are usually opposite.”

While most industry consultants advise narrowing a niche as much as possible, Reynolds learned to leverage his very specific niche of professional bass fishermen to make deeper connections within the subculture of avid outdoorsmen.

“The fishing is still fishing, but instead of very specific bass fishing, it’s now saltwater, and bass and ice fishing,” he said.

And as he continued to network within the fishing and hunting communities, Reynolds discovered the “real sweet spot” of wealthy business owners that have company retirement plans that could be managed.

“We started out using fishing to get to the larger clients,” he said.

The client prospecting is where the real fun begins because Reynolds plans and coordinates exotic hunting and fishing trips for clients and potential clients that can amount to once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

“I wanted to plan bigger and more attractive trips,” he said. “Bird hunting in Argentina, fishing in Cuba, peacock bass fishing in Brazil, salmon fishing and bear hunting in Alaska.”

The clients and prospects each pay their own expenses for the adventures that continue to get more elaborate.

“I just organize everything; I guess I’m like a glorified travel agent, but high-net-worth people want it easy,” he said.

Reynolds believes in “making it really easy for them to say yes,” because he fully appreciates the time with potential clients even though he never discusses business unless they bring it up.

The adventures appear to have few limits.

“I had a client who took me helicopter hog hunting in Texas,” Reynolds said. “That trip went from one day, originally, to now we’re doing it for a month next year, and we’re talking about bringing down prospects and clients when they can come. The more memorable the trip, the more life experience it is, the more the bonding experience is.”

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Reynolds launched his firm along with Carroll Wilkerson in 2008 and currently serves 500 clients that combine for more than $300 million in total assets under management.

Wilkerson primarily focuses on the farming community, which is his background. But Reynolds said 75% of his clients are part of the hunting and fishing community, and 90% of his new clients are coming through those hunting and fishing channels.

“Birds of a feather flock together, but my rule is I do not bring up business on the trips,” Reynolds said. “I’m not going to do that, because if people think I’m taking them somewhere to corner them and talk business, they’ll never go with me again. Just be a good person and be kind to people. The conversation always comes up, because when you’re in a boat and just sitting there fishing, there’s nothing left to do but talk, and they can’t get away.”

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