Bringing Balance Back to Business—One 401k Advisor’s Time Management Tightrope

Hire a coach, it's well worth it

401k, 3(38), 3(21), fiduciary, retirementHow to stay on the straight and narrow?

A guy named Tony Powers has gotta be an elite advisor—his name just screams success, like Richie Rich or Todd Awesomeness.

The 36-year-old Powers manages more than 90 plans with KerberRose Wealth Management, and acts as a small business owner’s “401k HR manager,” an area of competitive differentiation that’s working very well.

“I focus on businesses with 25 to 50 employees with $1 to $3 million in assets,” he explains. “We do all one-on-one enrollment meetings with either myself or my partner. My clients are so busy running their businesses that they don’t have time to even inquire about what they need to know to run a plan, let alone run the plan prudently.”

Interestingly, he offers both 3(21) and 3(38), and clients must choose one. He doesn’t charge more for 3(38) services because it saves him time and helps him be more efficient.

“We serve as 3(21) or 3(38) on 99 percent of our plans, and we provide fiduciary education, training and (along with my CFP partner) financial planning. We don’t charge separately for education and financial planning, as we’re hoping to get rollovers down the road, and some revenue generation from outside assets, insurance products, etc.”

His passion for helping comes from his background, one that’s hardscrabble at that.

“I come from a divorced family so the single biggest impact was coming downstairs one night to find my mom crying because the washer broke down,” he relates. “She wasn’t sure where she would come up with the money to fix it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, it’s a big reason why I do what I do today.”

Which is why spending time with his four daughters is so important; but like many 401k advisors, it’s an area in which he could do better.

Powers typically spends a minimum of 10 hours in the office Monday through Friday, and he works most weekends “in some capacity.” Blocking out days from the office to do more with family is a 2018 goal, and he realized he needed help, so he recently hired Chuck Hammond of The 401k Study Group as a coach.

“So far it’s been an eye-opening experience to see how he goes about analyzing the numbers and the different metrics he uses. It is also a little humbling to have someone go through your practice and point out all the things you could improve, implement or eliminate, but it’s something I would recommend to any advisor.”

In January 2016, he merged with KerberRose, an independent RIA, and took over as president. The firm is partially owned by a CPA firm, so he spends his networking time with the CPAs, attending the events they host with attorneys, bankers and other centers of influence.

He’s also part owner of a golf course (!), so he meets business owners at events that take place on the course.

So, if he had to do anything over again, what would it be?

“I don’t think there is a lot I could have done differently,” he notes. “I came into the business right out of college, so the retirement plan space was the one area I could show competence in DOL and IRS regulations and get employers’ trust. There weren’t a whole lot of 50-somethings lining up to give a 22-year-old kid their retirement savings on the individual side.”

That said, until recently he didn’t realize the impact he could make by delivering employee education and financial wellness.

“When I first started in this business, I would bring pizza into the breakroom and do a 30-minute presentation on the market and where the experts thought it was going. I always suspected people were there just for the free pizza. We now do topics like college planning, debt management, budgeting, how to take out a mortgage, and the engagement is up and employees seem much more satisfied.”

As for the leadership qualities and skillsets he feels are essential for advisors?

“I think it all boils down to competence and trustworthiness. If people know you are competent, they trust you, and from there they will work with you.”

Ross Marino, CFP, CPFA, CeFT is the founder and CEO of 401(k) Rekon | Excel 401(k).

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