On Starting A Free-Only Independent Financial Advisory Firm

Published: October 8th, 2020
Adam Van Wie
Van Wie Financial
from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, USA
started April 2015
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Hi everyone! My name is Adam Van Wie, and just over 5 years ago my Dad and I founded Van Wie Financial.

We are a fee-only, independent financial advisory firm that helps individuals and couples of all ages who are ready to plan for their retirement.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My Dad owned several companies when I was young, and when I graduated from college, I planned on getting started in corporate America and then eventually starting my own business.

One of the keys to survival is to not get too discouraged by the bad days, no matter how bad it might seem at the time.

In 2001, my Dad went to work with a financial planning firm, and then in 2014, I joined him. We quickly realized that we wanted to run things a different way, so in November of 2014 we set out on our own and Van Wie Financial was born.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

Opening the business was a little trickier than we thought. Dealing with State Regulatory Agencies can be difficult. We were having such a hard time getting our business license approved that I emailed the Governor to get things moving. We then got approval the next day! We were fortunate to have a good base of clients from the start, but we did lose business in the transition. We had enough to keep the lights on at the start, but we were a long way from where we were at the old firm.

One bit of good luck that we had at the beginning was landing our time slot for our radio show. At our previous firm, their marketing plan involved a 2-hour radio show every Saturday morning from 10 AM to noon. We were able to secure the 10 AM slot at a competing radio station every Saturday morning to market ourselves. With my Dad’s experience in radio, this was a perfect fit for our business. We also turn this radio show into a podcast, The Van Wie Financial Hour, that is available on every podcast platform.

The radio show was a big step, but I knew that in the crowded field of financial planning, marketing was going to be key to our growth. My goal was to get to the first page of all relevant search topics for financial planning in Jacksonville. I have a technical background, but this was my first time dealing with SEO and internet marketing. I read every article I could find, listened to webinars from industry experts, changed website hosting companies, and did everything I could to get our website noticed. Today, our website traffic is far ahead of many competitors, and we are on the first page for many relevant search topics.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

All of that work has paid off. Our business has more than doubled in size in the last five years. We are profitable, and our client retention rate is extremely high. We have been actively marketing to younger professionals to lower the average age of our clients, and this strategy has been paying off.

Of course, with this success, we have not stopped striving to get better. We recently added a new team member who is in the process of getting her CFP® certificate. We are constantly striving to improve our radio show, our investment strategy, and our planning techniques. We also continue to work on our digital marketing strategy to reach out to potential clients in our target demographic.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Through the experience of starting this business, I have learned that entrepreneurship is not for people who get easily discouraged. When you own your own business, the tough days are much tougher than when you work for someone else.

On the other side of that, the good days are so much more rewarding than when you work for someone else. One of the keys to survival is to not get too discouraged by the bad days, no matter how bad it might seem at the time.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Buzzsprout to host our podcast and find that their service is excellent. For scheduling appointments online, we have used Acuity Scheduling from the beginning and I am very happy with that product. TD Ameritrade is our custodian, and that has also been an excellent relationship.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I am a self-proclaimed finance and economics nerd, so I love financial podcasts including Freakonomics, Planet Money, and the Indicator. I follow almost everything that Michael Kitces does, as he is one of the more famous and influential people in my industry.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

It is always 100 percent up to you. If you are depending on someone else to create your success, it will never happen.

Where can we go to learn more?