As someone who comes up with a lot of ideas, I have found that giving them the space to breathe and grow is very important. When an idea develops in my head, I try to be both non-judgmental and non-emotional (however possible) about them. By refraining from self-judgement of the idea, it can organically grow, unconstrained.

 

Frank T. Corrado, is the co-founder of Blue Blaze Financial Advisors.

Recently appointed to the Board of Directors for the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, Corrado’s work organizing the annual conference for the most recent two events quickly distinguished him among his peers. His passion and his fearless confrontation of what’s not working well in his industry — and his determination to do things better — have inspired seasoned professionals and young colleagues alike to get excited about change in their traditional business model.

In 2018, Frank is helping to lead his firm, Blue Blaze (founded with his father in 2014), to develop a new business model for financial planners that does more than give lip service to client-focused financial services. This new model is guaranteed to disrupt the industry and push every serious professional to re-evaluate their value-added to clients and assess their own goals and practices.

Here’s a short list of the things that has already distinguished Frank among his peers:
* He has hiked the Appalachian Trail in its entirety
* He completed the Boston marathon
* He is one of the youngest professionals to be recruited to the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners Board of Trustees
* He leveraged a film minor in college and held an internship with the Boston Red Sox
* Frank is leading an initiative to revamp the Red Bank, NJ downtown traffic pattern

Where did the idea for Blue Blaze come from?

Interestingly, Blue Blaze is just the company that carries out the “big idea”, Financial Life Guidance. Financial Life Guidance evolved from traditional financial planning to a very client-focused experience where the ultimate goal is the delivery of an optimal life for the client. This is done through introspection, understanding, and action around the balance between money and your heart’s core.

Before developing Financial Life Guidance, Blue Blaze was providing solid and unbiased advice when it came to pretty much all financial matters an individual or family might face. We practiced our financial planning in a fee-only, comprehensive, and retainer-based fashion. Our clients paid us a flat fee per year for specified services. Because of this way of charging fees, we eliminated the conflict of interests that normally exist in financial service relationships. The beauty was that our recommendations did not impact how the client paid us, so they could trust our opinion was not based in any self-interest.

We operated this way for a while and our clients prospered, financially. While we did cover goals, they were generally focused on more financially related achievements, such as building your nest egg, reaching retirement or paying for college. And through a mutually beneficial, honest, supportive partnership, our clients were hitting these goals.

And we learned something interesting (although not terribly surprising). Even though our clients were adding more zeroes to their personal balance sheets, they weren’t feeling any more fulfilled, happy, or satisfied. By most of society’s definitions, our clients have been wildly successful. But we were still hearing that something was missing. Was the mantra true? “Money can’t buy happiness.” We started to realize that some of our clients, while growing their wealth, were not living what we have come to call their “optimal life”. Optimal life is defined as understanding what is at your heart’s core and manifesting a best-case vision into your actual life. Certainly, money plays an important and nuanced role, which is why our previous background in client-centric, technical financial planning comes in handy. But there is a deeper emphasis on getting to the core of a person, understanding what they truly need to build their best life, and taking the necessary action to go out and achieve it all.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day usually starts with an intensive early morning workout. Incorporating this into my daily routine was at first challenging because I love sleep, but since starting, has proved very rewarding. I am often drawn to things that are challenging. Getting up consistently in the cold, dark morning of February, sometimes at 4:30 a.m., to go and workout was a challenge, but it built my internal discipline.

I’m definitely a better person for it and now my weekend backpacking trips in the mountains don’t kick my butt so hard. During a typical workday I am working both IN my business (in a capacity supporting my clients) and ON my business (strategic growth planning, marketing, compliance, operational procedure, etc). I will say that it is challenging to effectively go back and forth from one to another. Because of that, I try to schedule out my time in half day blocks – perhaps 3-5 hour block of time working only on client-related matters and then a 3-5 hour block working on the Blue Blaze business and its growth. This allows me to maintain focus and reduce the distraction of hopping back and forth.

How do you bring ideas to life?

As someone who comes up with a lot of ideas, I have found that giving them the space to breathe and grow is very important. When an idea develops in my head, I try to be both non-judgmental and non-emotional (however possible) about them. By refraining from self-judgement of the idea, it can organically grow, unconstrained.

At the same time, I have found it’s important to recognize that not every idea is a winner, of course. I like to bring positive energy to the ideas, but I don’t want to waste time on the ones that aren’t going to work. After formulating an idea, I try and write it down and give it 24 hours to stew. This usually allows the excitement I feel about new ideas — good and bad — to come back down to Earth a bit. If the idea is worth pursuing, I will still feel the positive energy and enthusiasm after 24 hours. If most of that energy is lost, I usually archive it, throw it away, or hold it in a “for future consideration” pile.

For the ideas I end up pursuing, I try to envision what the idea would look like in an ideal, completed form, without real regard for the obstacles that are inevitably present. This helps me work backwards and not only address the obstacles as part of the thought process, but also what my path to bring the idea to the real world looks like and what the next steps entail.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Honestly, I am pretty excited by a trend that I am seeing regarding this deeper financial life guidance that we are offering and how it is resonating with the millennial generation.

Who knew that a trusted guide whose sole purpose is to help you visualize your optimal life AND provide you with unbiased, sound financial advice and planning was a good thing?! It’s interesting because so far, it seems to have taken hold more so with millennials than with older generations. It might just be that older generations are wary of financial services because they have lived through the industry’s shady, self-interested past and tend not to trust it.

Millennials on the other hand have not lived as much through that and I think they are a little more trusting of a concept that is truly different from most other options out there. “Oh, you don’t sell products, take referral fees, or earn commissions? And you provide comprehensive financial advice? AND you are going to help me visualize and live my best life? And you are transparent with your fees? Sign me up!” I like that the Millennial generation is willing to invest in themselves and us on this. They have a long time horizon and I think financial life guidance will be a boon in their lives.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Email filters and email review habits. I have so much on my plate every day that I can’t leave my email open and be distracted with every one that comes in. I really try hard to check my email in 30 minute bursts a few times a day. And by utilizing email filters, I have been able to separate high priority emails from low priority. These email habits have freed up a lot of my time to be there for my clients and to continue developing financial life guidance.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to take more risks. Don’t feel like you need to take the same road as everyone else. But if that’s the road you want to be on, that’s ok too.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

You really, truly do have the power to do just about anything you want. The phrase “you can do it if you put your mind to it”, is not a cliché. It is a fundamental truth, distilled into one line.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I’d probably say that whatever journey your entrepreneurship takes you on, you need to love it. You need to be able to live it. If you don’t love that journey, it’s going to be one hell of a slog and the lows that come with it are going to inevitably break you.

There is no shame in walking away from something that isn’t bringing you fulfillment or joy. Don’t let your ego or your pride run the show. If you are already entrepreneurially spirited, take that energy and invest it in something you love. Then, you can get up every day and do that thing that you love over and over and get good at it and be truly successful.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

An inherent strategy at Blue Blaze is to put the client’s interest first at all costs. To be there for them when they need us. To provide dedicated support. To listen to their needs and provide options and recommendations. The client knows that we “have their back” and this has led to a tremendous retention and an excellent referral rate.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I really like to think that failures are positives in disguise because if handled properly, they can be tremendous tools for growth. One failure I can think of that ties into an earlier question was providing too much attention and resources into an idea that was probably three to five years out at the earliest. It was almost liked we tried to skip a few steps, making an investment into a technology (largely around automation and entry level artificial intelligence) and we just assumed that through our dollars and hard work that it would naturally work.

No. While this would have been a great tool to have, we were still too raw in our development to get there. When we realized that we had bitten off more than we could chew, we had the sense to admit it, change direction and focus on the fundamentals. This eventually lead us to a deeper development of financial life guidance.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’m getting married in June this year and had to fill out a wedding gift registry. I have been wondering, why hasn’t anyone popularized a platform for people to build a gift registry for events OTHER than a wedding. Like Christmas, birthdays, etc. Too often people feel obligated to get you something so they get you some “thing” that you either already have or maybe don’t even want. But if you identify a gift registry where they could choose from or even have some method to allow family/friends to crowd source the cost of a valued, higher priced item that maybe would be unaffordable otherwise. Just seems logical. Maybe its out there, but I haven’t seen it yet.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I’m beginning to get into rock climbing and have a gym near my house. I recently purchased a Black Diamond harness for a little under $100 and it has been a crucial tool for me to get more involved in the sport. I’m enjoying the challenge and experience rock climbing provides and the harness serves as a critical device to ensure my safety. I love a good tool.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Since we prepare our clients’ tax returns, February, March and April are usually a really busy time for us. This year we started using a SaaS platform called SurePrep, which uses OCR technology to read and automatically populate tax returns. By having this automated population of the tax returns, it largely removed the preparation step from our plate and allowed our team to focus more on the review and finalization side.

Removing roughly one third of the process with a more accurate solution was a huge win to get us more productive – both in the tax prep and the rest of our business strategy.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Into Thin Air” – Jon Krakauer. Not only is it a riveting story about a mountain climbing expedition, it represents so many life values in the story. Everything from risk/reward to planning, to decision making and the consequences of them all. Plus, its good to take a break from the self-help section from time to time.

What is your favorite quote?

The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The next best time is now. It’s never too late to start.

Key learnings:

• Find something important to you, something you want to do every day, wake up early, and do it first thing.
• Taking deliberate risks is really a no-lose situation, so you should err on the side of taking them. If the risk works out, you get a payoff. If you fail, you have valuable lesson and growth opportunity.
• The journey is a long one – if you want to be successful, you have to enjoy it. If you’re not enjoying it, switch trails and get to one you like!
• If you find yourself falling victim to distraction or the email-monster, set aside dedicated time for yourself, — away from the distractions — so that you can get to the work you have identified as a priority.
• While you have the power to control your destiny, it’s by no means guaranteed. Your best shot of getting to your optimal life is by thinking ahead, planning around, and being prepared to adjust when you fail.

Connect:

Blue Blaze Financial Advisors on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blueblazefa/
Frank Corrado on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/frankcorrado/
Frank Corrado on Twitter: @frank_corrado
Frank Corrado on Instagram: @redbankfrank

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