Hefren-Tillotson’s mission statement, “We want to remain your most trusted advisor,” helped solidify my own sense of commitment to my clients and reinforced my personal drive to be the best I can be. I don’t take that lightly and neither do my colleagues.
There Are Givers and There Are Takers
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a giver. I am the one who fills your glass and makes sure you have enough to eat and have a good time when you come to my house. It is just natural for me. I embrace my clients like family too.
Hefren-Tillotson set a good example by how they treat us, as employees, and we carry that forward to our clients. Sure, I focus on the finances because that’s what we do as a firm, but I also feel it is important to understand the family dynamic, who is important to them in their lives and who their close friends are.
I like to learn what’s new with the family, what hobbies or interests my clients have, what they’ve done in the past, what university or college they attended and if they are passionate about being part of the alumni. We’ll do our personalized plans and get familiar with their financial situation, but it is also about taking that extra step to get to know them better.
Ultimately, all of this goes back to being a good listener, allowing them to get to know me and open up to me, knowing they can ask for more information, or for me to clarify what they didn’t understand and not be judged or uncomfortable in doing so.
Being Ready to Adapt and Remain Flexible
I once worked with an engineer whom I thought I had provided a lot of information to. When he went home, he entered everything into his spreadsheet to determine the calculations we’ve used behind the scenes because that was a given to him; to make sure we were doing it correctly. Normally, that doesn’t happen … that we know about.
And then there is the widow who needs a little more education. So, that conversation is more about why we do it this way and with more explanation. It takes a little more time to explain the big picture to someone, as opposed to digging into the nuts and bolts of the calculations, but it is perfectly fine with me. We’ll take all the time we need.
I feel it is about breaking down those barriers to make sure my clients are comfortable. That’s probably why some people have said I am a very ‘patient’ person. When they do, my usual response is, “Children had something to do with that.”
Before I begin my meeting with a client I review my notes to see what’s outstanding and what has transpired since our last meeting. Continually revisiting where things stand helps solidify the relationship and ensures that nothing falls through the cracks inadvertently. We must be on the same page when we meet. My approach to paying attention to detail has made it easier for clients to refer me to people whom they know would appreciate my style of not skipping a beat. I work hard at that. When some clients reach a certain age, they tend to look at me like their daughter or a granddaughter whom they trust will take care of them. I make the extra effort to be able to present as clearly and concisely as I humanly can.
When it Feels Like Family, it Must Be Right
One evening I dropped by a client’s house. They are both in their nineties and lovely people. I arrived near dinnertime to surprise them with a delicious pie for dessert, and to thank them for their patience. We had been trying to facilitate an account transfer for them and the outgoing firm wasn’t making it easy for us.
I was going to my parents’ house for dinner after meeting with them. So when I told them I had to leave, they said, “Oh, can’t you stay and join us?” They didn’t want to let me go. Had I not made previous plans I would have stayed and enjoyed dessert with them.
The next day I go to a meeting and, afterward, I’m standing in the parking lot talking with clients for the next hour and a half. It is not unusual because I give my clients my time and my best.
It all goes back, I think, to that family feeling. You always make time for family and you can’t give special treatment to one and not to the other.
Even if I know on the first meeting there is no potential for us to do business together, I feel they still deserve my time and they need my help as much as my client would need help.
It Goes Back to My Upbringing
It was probably more my Mom than my Dad that always wanted to make sure everyone felt special, included and important. Like her, every now and again, I would put a handwritten card in the mail, or something personalized and unexpected to send to a client. Mom taught how these little things go a long way and how it only takes a few seconds to let someone know I not only care about them, I appreciate them.
Even after the first meeting, when they are not yet clients and they start coming to us, or when we first present the plan, if they want to think it over, we remind them there is no pressure, and we thank them for the time they’ve spent with us thus far. We never ignore the fact that their time is valuable too. I try to look at things from their perspective.
We are not all the same and I want to be someone who doesn’t overlook the small stuff, pays attention to the details, and is considered a trusted contact, confidant, good listener, and problem solver that I know I am.
My clients deserve the best that I can give them. And in my book, that’s not too much to ask.