Efficiency is important to achieving success.
Thomas Batterman is a Fiduciary Advisor and founder of Financial Fiduciaries, LLC in Wausau, Wisconsin. The company he has established was cleverly thought out and has been uniquely positioned in terms of business ideas. Unlike most who call themselves financial “advisors”, Financial Fiduciaries does not sell investment products. They provide financial guidance without compromise, while striving to minimize conflicts of interest as much as possible. He has been providing fiduciary management services to clients for 3 decades.
Mr. Batterman is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the UW-Madison Law School in Madison Wisconsin. Upon graduation, he spent 3 years working for a private law practice where his focus was on retirement planning, estate planning, tax, real estate, and corporate organizations. It was at that time, Thomas decided that this was not the profession that he would pursue long-term. He decided to join a local trust company and began his career as a fiduciary. He really enjoyed the business and remained with the local trust company until it was sold. In 1988 he opened his own trust company which, after a few iterations, became the investment advisor that is now, Financial Fiduciaries LLC., where he continues to provide fiduciary management and guidance to clients informed by decades of training and experience.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
After many years of operating as a trust company, we found that many of our clients were just wanting the fiduciary approach to helping them with their financial affairs, rather than requiring a trustee. We decided to rethink the structure for providing trustee services where necessary/desired, while also providing fiduciary guidance to those who did not require us to be their trustee.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day involves dealing with client issues that they are bringing to me or issues that I am aware of that should be addressed. For example, today I am addressing the needs of a client who is looking for a distribution on their account. I am dealing with the mechanics in preparation for distribution. As I was addressing that client’s issue, another client called and wanted a distribution on his account in a certain way. However, the avenue he wanted to take would not provide the tax advantages I would like to see. We will have to discuss the alternatives we may be able to provide to obtain the best tax advantages. Today’s schedule also includes a couple who are both in their second marriage with children from the previous marriages. We received information presented to them by the estate planning attorney. We have dealt with this attorney in the past, now it is time to see what he has put together and what has changed based upon past conversations. Another gentleman that we will be assisting today is a forty-year-old who would like to retire at fifty-five. We will be reviewing his options to see if that is a realistic goal for him and if it is, how we can help him do that. These examples are a typical day at Financial Fiduciaries.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by passing it by my colleagues. We research everything that we can. If it is a viable idea, we make plans to bring it to fruition. If it is an idea that requires client participation, I use analogies to clarify the idea so that they can understand in a way that relates to something with which they are more familiar in other areas of their lives.
What’s one trend that excites you?
What excites me and frightens me at the same time, is the impact that technology has on our world. There is enormous information for planning, investing, and advising. The thing that makes it scary is that you have to make sure that you have a complete understanding of that knowledge. You have to understand the impact that your research will have for each client.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that I have is I develop a to-do list daily. It helps to keep me organized, while also knowing what I wish to accomplish from day to
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to defer opening a business until you have assembled adequate capital. When I was just starting out with my own company, I needed to raise the capital for what we had put together. I didn’t feel like I raised enough money to open my business, but I took the leap anyway. I felt strapped for a while with inadequate resources. We made it through, but I think that I should have waited on the opening. I spent a considerable amount of time addressing inadequate capital issues rather than the time we should have been spent developing the business. If I would advise myself, I would tell myself to defer the open for two years.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
One of the things that few financial advisors agree with me on is that people should claim your social security benefits sooner rather than later. Other professional advisors take the opposite point of view.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would tell any entrepreneur to believe in what you’re doing and stick with it. It is not easy sometimes. There are times that things will get you down but go back to the principles that got you started in the business in the first place. In our case we make people’s financial lives better by zealously representing and safeguarding their best interest in their financial dealings at every turn.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I think “magnet marketing” is one of the things that has helped us grow our business. To us this means that we are not in the business of promoting ourselves, but rather we are here to educate people. In all our advertising and marketing, we might provide examples as to different situations that people may find themselves in. We want to let them know that there are solutions to their potential problems and that we can resolve the issue. I think magnet marketing has helped our business to grow very well. Our website financialfiduciariesllc.com has also helped to spread the word.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of the failures that I had was not spending enough time fully comprehending the very ever-changing, complex, immensely-regulated environment that we work in. I learned you can’t possibly stay moreover in addition to doing everything else that needs to be addressed. In the end, like our clients hire us to handle matters they don’t fully understand or have the time to learn about, we have had to hire people who know what they are doing in order to guide us in these areas.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Develop a system for advisors to pick up on behavioral “tells” by clients that indicate that they are unhappy with the work you are doing and are thinking about leaving. This would be something that would assess normal interactions between advisor and client, not special things requiring special work such as a survey.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best hundred dollars I spent was on a hand-held steamer to break-up ice. I was able to use the steamer to release my grill from the captivity it endured throughout the winter so I could grill out!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The software that we rely on quite heavily is our CMR software. It is used to email with clients, their info at our fingertips. All legal aspects are readily accessible. It is extremely helpful in managing our clients.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One book I would recommend everyone take the time to read would be “Unshakeable” By Tony Robbins. It is good information for the investing public and brought me a lot of motivation both personally and professionally to know I was doing the work advocated in the book!
What is your favorite quote?
It would have to be “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.”
• Always listen to your instincts
• Do your homework before starting your own business
• Efficiency is important to achieving success