Eddie Kramer, CFP®, works with Abacus Planning Group to build out their team and encourage everyone to bring their best self to work. He firmly believes that large financial planning firms aren’t dependent on a few rainmakers, or a handful of heroes who bring in business. Instead, he focuses on celebrating every member of the team who each contributes their own unique skill set to their firm’s growth. To Eddie, each team member holds equal importance and weight – and he wants to help encourage all of them to build their own personal marketing plan and grow into their career paths.

Abacus Planning Group has been featured on #YAFPNW before, and for good reason. Their firm’s individualized approach to how they interact with clients, and how they grow each of their team members. They believe in developing career paths, managing up, and managing themselves on an individual level to ensure that everyone is always showing up in new and exciting ways to contribute to the Abacus team.

This episode is full of incredible advice from Eddie both on how to manage client relationships and how to manage both yourself and your colleagues to achieve optimal growth and success.

Hannah's signature

[tweet_box design=”box_10″ url=”https://buff.ly/2BRIl6u” float=”none” excerpt=”We don’t need any heroes… we need a team. – @eddiewkramer on #YAFPNW e131″]We don’t need any heroes… we need a team. – @eddiewkramer on #YAFPNW[/tweet_box]


What You’ll Learn:

  • How to manage yourself to achieve your full potential
  • How to lead people in your team to encourage growth
  • How to manage up to grow your team’s leadership
  • How to manage client relationships effectively
  • What a personal marketing plan is, and why you need one
  • The best way to develop a personal marketing plan
  • The importance of relationships and bonds – both with your colleagues and with your clients
  • How to build long-range marketing and relationship plans for your career


[show_more more=”Show Transcript” less=”Hide Transcript”]

Episode Transcript

Hannah: Well, thanks for joining us today, Eddie.

Eddie: Hannah, it’s great to be on the podcast. I really appreciate the invite.

Hannah: Yes, absolutely. I don’t know where I heard this. It was possibly in the interview that I had with Cheryl Holland who works with you earlier this year, but she had talked about individual marketing plans that you helped create for everybody in your team. I’m just curious. Can you tell us more? Was this always something that you did or like what was the evolution of having individual marketing plans?

Eddie: Well, that’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. It takes up a good portion of my time at Abacus and it’s something that I really enjoy doing. We’ve had personal marketing plans at Abacus as long as I know. When Cheryl started Abacus, a lady named Barbara Griffin was her first employee and she became both the Director of First Impressions and then also led the Business Development Team. I remember when I first started Abacus back I guess in 2004, she asked me to turn in my personal marketing plan and I didn’t really know what that meant.

Eddie: Quite frankly, it really scared me. One of the reasons that I wanted to work at a larger RA was so that I didn’t have to bring in business, so I didn’t really know what that meant. She began to pave the way for me as far as understanding what a personal marketing plan looked like and then over the years, we fine-tuned that more to something that I don’t think is intimidating for anybody on our team now and the reason for that is that the personal marketing plan has nothing to do with an end result being that they personally are bringing in new clients.

Eddie: It’s the idea at Abacus now we have 26 employees, and if I can have each of those 26 employees know our message from Abacus for who serve, we serve closely-held family businesses and clients who have shared assets, if they can tell that story in their own words within the circles of influence that they have, we’re going to have our story permeate throughout our community of Columbia, South Carolina and then we have a number of remote employees now as well, but permeate throughout the national news for those people who like to write, permeate throughout friend circles and have everybody take some ownership and that we have a culture of business development.

Eddie: What I mean about culture of business development is that it takes a whole team to put together any type of marketing event. For instance, let’s say we have a CPA Group over to our office for lunch. There are many roles that a brand-new advisor can play and that they could sit in the lunch and just listen and watch a more senior advisor tell our story and maybe more importantly listen to the CPA group and get to know them well. We have people that are not advisors at all who we want them to set up for the lunch, so we want them to send out the invitation. We want them to actually gift the food and bring it in.

Eddie: If that’s on your personal marketing plan, you’re the younger person and you know that while you might not be in the meeting, you might not be in that lunch, but you’re helping to prepare for it, all of a sudden you have an ownership in this business development activity that could bring great fruit to our office. I’ll pause for a moment. I’ve been going on and on, but it’s the idea that I just want people within their circle of influence, within their own role and responsibility within the office put on that business development hat and wear it proudly without the idea that they have to bring in clients in order to be an effective and efficient person within business development.

Hannah: For people who you hire in your firm, is this communicated to them like before they get the job that they’re going to be expected to have like a personal marketing plan?

Eddie: We do. We bring that up during the hiring process. I usually leave them alone for those first 90 days. Sometimes, we have somebody come in and they’re chomping up a bit. They want right away to get involved. Then I kind of push them off for a little bit for some people that are just really eager to shine right away, but usually I wait those first 90 days and then it starts with a one-on-one conversation with me where I’m really trying to find out what is their unique value that they bring. I’ve got some work that I can share with you. Give a little sheet that I have them complete to better understand what is their unique value and I can talk more about that if you’re interested.

Hannah: When I hear you talk about it, it doesn’t seem intimidating, but when I look at the title on the page, it does seem intimidating.

Eddie: Well, we have to have a fancy name for it or it wouldn’t hold any weight. Personal marketing plan, it starts with that unique value proposition that somebody brings in. I could take you through this. “What’s something within your work when you do it, it really puts a smile to your face and you just thoroughly enjoy doing it?” That’s the first question. Then I like to find out, “Within the last 90 days or within the last year during your last performance review, what feedback have you received that was really a positive feedback that you consistently do something well?” and then I’ll ask it in reverse, “What are those things that you like to do but you’re not consistent with?”

Eddie: Then the last piece of it, “What are those things that give you a lot of energy and you get great feedback from and I want you think about that both in your personal life as well as your business life?” Because that intersection between personal and business is where we want to have our team members create their personal marketing plan.

Hannah: Yeah, diversity is this huge conversation and it’s really an important one and I love this because it’s really asking each person like, “What makes you unique?” and then elevating that and saying, “How can we build around that?” That’s really exciting to hear firms just doing that.

Eddie: I’ll give an example. I was asked to be on the board for the local museum of art, The Columbian Museum of Art and I said yes because I wanted Abacus to further our access both in the arts and specifically with The Columbian Museum of Art. While I appreciate art, I’m far from an art connoisseur and I’m not passionate about art. I found myself sitting on the board of the contemporary, The Columbian Museum of Art, and initially, I had a high energy toward it because I was on the board and I wanted to make good influence and network with other people on the board.

Eddie: As I heard what they’re building all of our activity over the next three years was going to be focused on buying this one piece of art that would go into the museum, I started thinking, “I’m going to work for three years on something I’m not really passionate about just to get one piece of art that I don’t really understand and I’m not really driven toward.” While I spent time getting know people on the board, I went to the meetings, I did what I said I was going to do when I said I was going to do it, I used good manners on the board, I never really enjoyed it and I think because of that the board members never really got to experience me with what I bring to a group because I wasn’t passionate about it.

Eddie: I did it because it seemed like the right thing to do, but not because of something that I was really driven toward and really passionate about. Does that make sense?

Hannah: Absolutely.

Eddie: It wasn’t a waste of time. It just maybe wasn’t the best use of my time.

Hannah: The more further you get in your career with family in life, time is very valuable commodity.

Eddie: Absolutely, yes. We ask a lot of our teammates as do all the other firms out there, you ask a lot of teammates during working hours, and in some senses, business development is a bit of an extracurricular activity. If you’re going to do business development and we want all of our team members to do that, I want them to do that in the areas where they’re already naturally inclined and they can take their circles or different areas that they spend their life in and begin to overlay those a little more where it’s not just a random offshoot. For me, The Columbian Museum of Art was a random offshoot.

Eddie: It was a wonderful organization. There’s nothing wrong with what they do or how they do it, but I didn’t live downtown where the museum was located. Even from a geographic perspective, it was a lot of extra work in order to be a part of that board and it’s never something that I really intuit that much.

Hannah: What are other examples that people find in their natural market and kind of operating in those spaces?

Eddie: I find that some of our team members while they are not as comfortable public speaking they’re great writers. They write really well, cogent with their writing. They have a nice voice with their writing, and once they recognize that, those are the team members that I want to get them to write more. I want to get them to be quoted more often to write articles. That’s one area. Other team members are great at impromptu speaking and so I can send them to a marketing event and they are very comfortable just moving throughout the room, getting to know people or spending time with a variety of people, bringing back business cards, following up with those people that they meet and building relationship in that way.

Eddie: For those people, I don’t really care how much they write necessarily, but I want to get them out there because they’re great at telling our story. Some team members, they’re much more gifted on the organization side and much more gifted behind the scenes. For those team members, we use sales force for our CRM. I’ll use those team members to build us robust reports, so that we can use those to reach out to different centers of influence, reach out to strategic partners, follow up with inquiries. Maybe that doesn’t seem like business development, but it is because I need to leverage those people who are going to be that tip-of-the-spear-type doing business development in person.

Hannah: You gave the phrase you wanted to have a company where there’s a culture of business development and just hearing you talk about this, it’s far from the “write a list of a hundred closest friends and family and give them a call.”

Eddie: No, not at all. I’ve learned over time that our new clients come to us because there are multiple hooks that brought them to Abacus. It’s very rare that we have a new client that comes to us because they saw our website and they thought it was great and that was their only hook to Abacus. That almost never happens. We get our new clients because they were on a board with one of our team members or they went to school with one of our team members or their child went to school with one of our team members. One of our other clients happens to be their next-door neighbor or their CPA mentioned Abacus.

Eddie: All of these influences in that person’s life coalesce and that’s what brought them to Abacus. I don’t need one rainmaker who’s going to bring in all our business. What I need is a team of people who tell our story, who represent well and live their life in a way that people know them, like them and trust them and want to be a part of that organization, and for us, that’s Abacus.

Hannah: Your team members really buy into the vision of Abacus?

Eddie: I think we do. We have a really strong culture at Abacus. I’d say it’s probably a magnetic culture. You’re either really in to it or you’re not, but absolutely, I mean we recognize that we are on this thing together that our expenses will continue to increase as our all RAs out there. Expenses are going to increase, and if we don’t have increasing revenues, we’re going to meet our personal and business goals. There’s a real excitement about bringing in new clients, about doing that marketing plan activity, being able to track it. We celebrate this a bunch. Every marketing plan activity that a team member does, they track that in our sales force.

Eddie: They’ll add the personal marketing plan activity there and then we have a report that we receive every month of activities along with notes of what people did, who they met and so forth. As a business development team, we pick business development rock star, someone who we want to celebrate on the team who has really excelled in this area. We’ll tell their story during the staff meeting, what they’ve done. Sometimes, we’re celebrating Charles Flowers who leads our Investment Team and sits in a number of the inquiry meetings and tells our story beautifully on the investment side.

Eddie: Sometimes we’re celebrating Patty Watson who is in her 70s who works from home, but she does impeccable data entry into our system and she keeps us moving forward behind the scene. I want to celebrate Patty as much as I celebrate Charles.

Hannah: That’s so important. It’s everything contributes to your firm’s success.

Eddie: It does. We don’t need any heroes at Abacus. We need to be a team and be in this together. We all have a role and responsibility, but we’re a pretty flat organization. We’re not interested in just one or five people’s names being the face of Abacus and that’s all that’s ever talked about. I feel like there’s a real appreciation throughout the organization regardless of title or rank or however you want to think about it.

Hannah: We’ve been talking a lot about this personal marketing plan just because I’m fascinated about this idea when I heard about it a while ago. How does this fit in with your larger career paths? I know you guys are very intentional about building out career paths.

Eddie: Everything that we do when I started in Abacus in 2004, we still do the same thing. It’s just evolved a bit over time. We’ve always had this what we call a Leadership Pipeline though it’s taken different shape over time and now it’s pretty crisp though it’s a living document and is always updated. Every team member regardless of title or time in seat has a Leadership Pipeline. They’re given that during the interview process. Day one, they’re given the Leadership Pipeline, your 90-day review, annual review, review this whenever they meet with their shareholder for a shareholder check in. They review the Leadership Pipeline, so it’s very near to everybody’s thought process across the firm.

Eddie: We’ve talked about the Leadership Pipeline at a few conferences. I don’t want to bore too many people, but let me give you a brief overview. There’s four levels to the Leadership Pipeline. Level one is managing yourself. In the first one to five years, it’s hard to manage other people if you’re not managing yourself well. You want to just have your basic work habits, work on building relationships, not necessarily business development relationships, but relationships internally. We all that within any organization regardless of size, it’s hard to get things done if you don’t have a good strong network, a good strong rapport with your colleagues, but also with your clients and other allied professionals just to get things done.

Eddie: You want to work on your communication skills, so your written communication, your verbal communication, that the part where the business development plan or the personal marketing plan comes in to place is on the business acumen side. On business acumen, you’re beginning to build your business network. You’re going to networking functions. You might not be speaking at that networking function, but you’re just going, you’re showing up, you’re getting out there. Then the last piece of the competencies is technical competencies. You’re gathering your certifications, your designations. You’re becoming … We use Schwab and TD Ameritrade, so you’re understanding their systems really well, all of our internal process and so forth. That’s level one.

Eddie: Level two is the same competencies. We just switch gears a little bit. You go from managing yourself to managing people. That’s in the typically five to 10-year range of your career. You begin managing people. Now, we’re still talking about basic work habits, relationships, communication, business acumen. Since we’re talking now more on the business development side, now I want these team members in level two. I don’t want them simply to go to the networking event or help prepare slides for the speaking engagement. I want them to take level one members to the networking events and begin to teach them how to work a room, how to get to know people, take someone along with you.

Eddie: It’s not just about you anymore and you doing well, it’s you taking someone along with you. This is where the team really comes into play. At that level, you’re sort of our financial planner or CFA by that point on the professional track. I want you interacting with the media, both print, radio, TV and be willing to engage with the media. Level three, at this point, you’re focused more on managing the enterprise. These are typically partners at Abacus or those that are very soon-to-be partners at Abacus. By this point on the business acumen side, I do want these people to be able to bring clients to the firm. By this point, you’re 10 years plus within the industry.

Eddie: I want you to be able to coach other team members in business development. I’d like to see you at this point on a community board. By this time, you’ve joined in an organization, you’ve gone to their events, you’ve probably sat on a community at this point to help out. Now, you’re 10 years plus. It’s probably time for you to be a board member somewhere. We’ve seen tremendous fruit over the years with board member activities that they we’ve seen Cheryl do with her time on the Bryn Mawr Board and The Clemson University Foundation, TIAA-CREF and then Schwab. Sitting on these boards has been tremendously helpful for Abacus and so we want to do that same thing. I want these team members to have some centers of influence by that time.

Eddie: When I say centers of influence, we’re talking more about estate planning attorneys or CPAs, maybe somebody in the real estate or something along that line, but other professionals who they have not just a social relationship with that they see at any event and they know each other’s name, but they’ve gone to coffee together. Maybe they work out together. They do business creation together. That’s what I’m looking for at level three. I want to pause for a moment and say that I believe that when many people hear business development, they go directly to level three and it freaks them out because everything I just said is scary if you haven’t done level one and level two.

Eddie: That’s why every person on our team has a personal marketing plan because they have to build up to that point. You don’t just do those things at level three. You grow into those things at level three.

Hannah: Yeah, that is such a good point. Gosh, this is one of our problems with our profession is why we have to build out these career paths and why that’s so important is because we’re expecting people, maybe we’re not expecting but in some places they do, expect levels through performance when you’re early in your career and that’s not just reasonable.

Eddie: I don’t think it is. In the same way that we see with our clients who are going to pass a significant wealth to your children to pass a million dollars to a child but not give them the skills, the relationships, the network, the decision making to be successful in that area. You’re setting them up for failure. Is it not the same way in our profession that if you want this next generation or your younger team members to be at a point where they’re bringing in that type of business, you have to teach them? You have to teach them how to represent themselves well when they go to a marketing activity. It might sound silly, but I mean we go as basic as shaking hands, making eye contact, not eating too much at the marketing event.

Eddie: You’re not there to eat. You’re not there to eat or drink or there to spend time with people. How to turn the conversation to talking about you to talking about them because we know that people like … I think you’re brilliant right now, Hannah, because I spent however much time we’ve been together. On your end, all I’ve done is talk and like my endorphins are so high because you just have me talking about myself and so I think Hannah is great and you probably said a hundred words on this whole podcast.

Hannah: We can’t be giving people my secrets here.

Eddie: But we can do that with other people in the community. All of a sudden, they think that we’re brilliant too, but you have to learn how to do that and a lot of that is learning by teaching, but some of it is just learning by watching.

Hannah: For the people listening to this who were like, “Yes, this makes so much sense,” and they’re at a firm where this is not the case, we talk about managing people, but so often, we’re managing up for our bosses especially if you don’t have career paths lined out like you guys do at Abacus. What would be your advice to that person? How would they help bring that culture to their firm?

Eddie: I think that managing up is done really well but just acting into it. What I mean about that is everything I just mentioned on the level one as far as business acumen goes, just start doing that type of activity. Get out there and build your network. Join an organization that you’re already passionate about that if you’re passionate about it and has people who would make good clients for your firm, go be a part of that organization and get to know people. When you go to your local estate planning council meeting or tax planning council meeting. I know those are all over the country, maybe spend a little less time with the people that are in there in their 50s and 60s if you’re in your 20s and spend a little more time with your peer group beginning to network.

Eddie: Cheryl tells a story all the time that the people who are our primary referral sources now when she was in a building in downtown Columbia, what she would do is like once a month she would bake cookies at her house and have these other young attorneys and young CPAs come to her office and they would just eat cookies together after work or they would have a bottle of wine together just at the office after work and it sounds so simple and you’re thinking, “These people can’t bring me any business.” Well, they’re probably not going to be bring you the business that you’re looking for right now, but they have influence with the older people in their office and you’re building relationships and bonds that in your 20s you don’t understand how powerful they’re going to be 15 years from now.

Eddie: It does require a long-range plan, but that’s why I want people to only do these marketing activities in areas where they’re already uniquely gifted, where they already have a passion or a joy or something that they’re already good at because I don’t think you’re going to see immediate fruit from it. You’re just spending time with people that you like and it goes from there.

Hannah: Hopefully, you find a great firm like Abacus that you want to stay long term, but we’re advocating for new planners, that goes with you. Your network goes with you. If you go to another firm or if you do other things like this is about your career building your long-term plan, hopefully it synchs up with firm, but if it doesn’t it still benefits you at the end.

Eddie: I think that’s a great comment, absolutely. When I can get team members to understand that they’re representing Abacus but they’re also representing themselves, they’re building their own personal brand, how much more valuable it makes them as a planner to have their own network, they’re not going to find themselves stuck later in their career because they don’t have a network and they’re beholden to somebody else providing for them all the time. Whether you stay at your firm for two decades or whether you bounce somewhere every five years, you’re professional network doesn’t change.

Eddie: Even if you move to a different city, I mean with technology now, I mean the world is a lot smaller than it was before, you can live in a different city or different state and still keep close connections with the people that you got to know in your earlier life. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s just fun to be in community. It’s fun to be a professional. Get out, tell your story, get to know people, to write to be quoted, to volunteer. It’s just a better way of living rather just going to work every day and I don’t think any of us got into financial planning because we just want to punch a clock and go in and get out especially if you’re listening to this podcast.

Eddie: You’re not here just to pull a paycheck. You’re here to be a professional and build a network and this how you do it. These are the small building blocks that get you there.

Hannah: I love your comment about it being fun, like you’re just operating at such a better level when things are fun. I don’t know a better way of saying that.

Eddie: Well, you do. If I’m not having fun … I’ll go back to that Columbian Museum of Art. I didn’t have a lot of fun there and so the people on that board, they are all great people, but they didn’t get to see the best part of me. I wasn’t having fun, whereas if I was on a board of something that I was passionate, driving forward, something that I wanted to spend my time with, I think they would have got the best of me. Here you go, I’m leading with my vulnerability and my failures, but I want the people listening to this podcast to be conscious about where they spend their time to make sure it’s the best use of their time. There’s so many opportunities to volunteer and get out there. Don’t just pick the first one that comes calling.

Hannah: There’s so many opportunities, isn’t there? Yes.

Eddie: I had a coach one time, a professional coach, that we’re talking about this and he said, “You think back to high school, and if a girl likes you and you dated her just because she liked you, just because she asked and then the girl that you really wanted to be with became available or at that point you couldn’t be with her, but you’re stuck in this other relationship, that’s not where you want to be.” You want to spend your time with the people that you really like. Don’t just go because someone comes knocking, because someone comes calling.

Hannah: That whole power of saying no.

Eddie: Exactly.

Hannah: You’ve managed a lot of people or I presumed you’ve been in that position where you’re managing a lot of people and you’re the one who’s leading the business development, I assume that’s part of your role. What have you seen? Like new planners who are coming into the jobs, what have new planners done that have just wowed you that you think, “Wow! Like that was something special” and specifically, like I want our listeners to be able to say, “This is what I can do in my current position to wow my employer”?

Eddie: One of our team members Anne Marie, she lives in Greenville and she commutes to Columbia a few times a week and then works at our Greenville office a couple days a week. She came to us from Virginia Tech. She and her husband live in Greenville. We’re trying to build this Greenville market. Everything I’m talking about I say these same things to all of our team members, but when they do it, I guess I’m always a little bit wowed, when they do it or what they come up. For her, she was in the band at Virginia Tech so she’s very musically inclined. She and her husband were both in the band. They really appreciate music and so on their own accord, they joined the Symphony League in Greenville and I didn’t tell them to do that.

Eddie: I didn’t tell them which organization to be a part of, but she went ahead and took that step and moved in that direction. When something like that happens … She didn’t just join but now she’s volunteering for them. She’s doing work for them. She will end up being on the board as time goes on. It’s just a natural progression. That wowed me. I really appreciated that. On the other end of the spectrum, Scottie Scott, he’s not going to want to go to those marketing events. It’s not just something that gets him excited, but he is a wizard of our sales force and he’s come to me and said, “We have this business development tab on sales force, I would love to help you build this tab out so that you do less and excel in tracking inquiries and tracking activity and have everything flow through sales force and have reports that supports you.”

Eddie: That wows me because it helps me. It helps me do my job better. It helps manage better. It helps me think strategically. That wows me. Another team member, Aaron Graham, he’s just good with his words as far as the written media is concerned and he’s quoted quite regularly and I’m really pleased to see that. It’s something he does well. I could go through each team member and say something great about them, but when you come in and you do your personal marketing plan, you show up to our one-on-one meeting with the plan already laid out and then we can talk about it, I’m impressed with that. I appreciate that and I’m impressed with that.

Eddie: For those of you listening to the podcast, if you don’t have a personal marketing plan ingrained within your culture, what would it be like during your performance review you showed up with a personal marketing plan of what you want to do and you say, “I ask that you hold me accountable to this. This is what I want to do. Do you have any advice? Would you add anything to this? Would you recommend that I spend time with a different organization?” Who’s doing that? I doubt that hardly any of your teammates are doing that if that’s not part of your organization, but there probably aren’t many planners even in your town who are doing that. If you show up, you’re showing an eagerness to grow.

Eddie: I just say that the closer your activity is to the top revenue line on the balance sheet, the more valuable you’re going to be to your firm. Even if you’re day-to-day activity is more on portfolio administration, but you’re showing desire to help on business development, you will be looked upon in high favor by your employer.

Hannah: I don’t want to say it’s a business reality like we want to always want to say, “You don’t have to bring in revenue-driving activities,” but the reality is that firm needs new clients. They need that marketing piece as well.

Eddie: In business, you grow or you die and to have some of your activity be a part of that growth piece makes you invaluable to your company.

Hannah: Well, is there any other pieces of advice or any other thoughts that you have for new planners as they’re entering this profession?

Eddie: I’ve noticed all of our most successful planners out there, they are veracious readers. They’re constantly learning. I encourage you to read a lot. We’re not a baby industry or a baby profession anymore. We’re getting bigger and more time has gone past. Within our Leadership Pipeline, we have a number of resources and many of those resources are books to read. I’m happy to share our Leadership Pipeline if your listeners would be interested, but read, read, read, read. Make that a habit. Second thing, I went to Texas Tech University and I thoroughly enjoyed the program there one thing and I’ve given this feedback now and gosh, I graduated almost 15 years ago now, but I didn’t come out with great writing skills.

Eddie: I ended up writing a lot between internal emails and client communications and articles. We really are a writing profession. Work on those skills. If you’re not a great writer, if you don’t have a good voice and through writing, take some time to work on that, get a coach on that area, be a great writer. I think that’s something we really value from team members who do write well and it’s increasingly harder and harder to find people who write well.

Hannah: Okay, so I have to ask, you work with a writing coach? Somebody who’s hearing this like, “Okay, I need to improve my writing,” how do you do that?

Eddie: I’d say I’m still a work in progress. I went to grad school and did an MBA in financial planning at California Lutheran University. I didn’t do that to increase my writing skills, but as it turns out, when you get a graduate degree, you end up writing a bunch. That helped me a lot. I had to write a number of papers through that. We have every team member, every professional team member that writes a least one 600 to 800-word article every year and then we have a lady who edits the writing and works with each of the team members on their writing. Believe it or not, typing meeting notes increased my writing skills quite a bit because our meeting notes turn out to be rather narrative in form.

Eddie: If you’re making your meeting notes a bit less archaic and more written in prose, I think that increases your writing. As far as finding your voice, I think journaling is tremendous activity on your personal development side and just free flow your writing with journaling. It goes a long way. If you’re married, maybe even write a letter to your spouse or I’ve really gotten into writing your personal notes to people on personal stationery within the last year and a half or so and that’s helped a lot too. It’s just the more you do it, the better you get at it, but I think when you’re not good at something, if you’re not really good at catching a ball when you’re young, then you end up not catching the ball very often or not playing ball sports and then you don’t grow that skill so it just never grows.

Eddie: I think it’s just kind of a same thing with writing. If you weren’t told you were a good writer early on, then you kind of shy away from it, so just committing to it on a weekly basis or a daily basis.

Hannah: I have to dive in a little bit deeper whenever anybody tells me about reading. What were the most impactful books for you throughout your career?

Eddie: Of late, I’ve really enjoyed reading Palaveev’s G2 Book. That was really helpful for me. I like it removed a lot of the black box of becoming a partner and what takes place behind the scenes with the financials of a firm. I believe that book should be mandatory reading for all people entering the profession, and if they aren’t entering but have been in the profession for the last 10 years and haven’t read, I think it’s really important to read that. It takes you out of your own little box of what you do on a day to day and helps you see what is really required to run a business, anyone who wants to be a partner in a firm or on their own business. I think they should actually read that.

Eddie: The precursor to it, Practice Made Perfect, is a great book to read as well for many of the same reasons. G2 is written more directly to you as that newer team member. Practice Made Perfect is probably written more for the owners of your firm now, but many owners of RAs from what I’ve seen they’ve made Practice Made Perfect kind of their Bible of sorts for running their business and so if you can read what has been transformational for them, it would be very helpful. To that end, I encourage you to ask that very question that you just asked me to your employer to find out which books have been transformational and creating the culture of the firm that you’re in, especially if you’re wanting to be a partner of that firm.

Eddie: I think whenever you can go to the root where ideas originated for a person, it helps you to understand them a lot better, and if you want to be a partner with them as some point, you’re looking to get married to them, so you kind of want to know what they think the way they think and where it came from.

Hannah: My last question, what are you currently reading right now?

Eddie: I went old school. I’ve been reading Democracy in America by Alexis Tocqueville. He wrote it in 1840. He’s a Frenchman. He came over here. He was commissioned by the French Government to come over to this newly formed emerging market country called The United States of America and see how they were doing so well. I’ve been reading this and it’s been truly fascinating. It requires a bit of patience, but it has been great. Then I’ve been reading The Federalist Papers that kind of go hand in hand a little bit, so The Federalist Papers were written a couple of decades after The Constitution was written and published in New York newspapers.

Eddie: It’s really helpful to understand where our founding fathers came from and what they created here in this great experiment we call The United States, so I’ve gone a little old school. I’ll do that. I kind of go in and out and them I’m reading some excerpts from G2 right now just to remind myself of the few things on the business development front. That’s where my time is right now.

Hannah: Oh, that’s great! Well, thanks for joining us, Eddie.

Eddie: All right. Thank you, Hannah.