Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Conor Delaney, CEO of Good Life Companies. I am the founder of a multi-faceted organization consisting of mostly financial service-related entities focused on both health and wealth.
The business first launched in 2012 after serving five years as a financial advisor. Since our infancy, the firm has branched into many areas including a registered investment advisor, a service organization supporting independent financial advisors, an outsourced compliance firm, a fixed insurance agency, a property and casualty insurance agency, a fitness center, and an organic juice bar which is currently being franchised. Each of these entities was created to fill a current need in the marketplace.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was a financial advisor for seven years alongside my partner, Courtnie Nein, who was in the financial planning business with me for five years at the time.
We had a burning desire to leave the firm we were with and subsequently launched an organization with the goal of creating our own mission “to provide financial services to advisors and clients in the Middle American market.” This new mission fit our business and our values, which were of paramount importance to us moving forward.
Once we went through the process of transitioning our clients to the new custodian, we realized we had an opportunity to capitalize on a niche in the marketplace, and a personal desire to pay it forward to other advisors. My partner, Courtnie, who has a supply chain management background, built out the policies and procedures for our firm which originally included all processes to move an advisor from one firm to another.
As we began recruiting financial advisors into our organization at a local level, we realized quickly if we wanted to scale the business nationwide, our ultimate goal, we needed to incorporate real estate into our core offering in addition to the transition services we offered.
We built our first satellite office in Pittsburgh. From there, we invested a significant amount of our resources in building out the real estate, training, technology, infrastructure, and support advisors need to make the move to an independent affiliation.
Most advisors are not content working under the large wirehouses, banks, and publicly traded firms, whose main focus is growing their corporate earnings. Many of the decisions on how advisors run their practice are made without regard for the end client, leaving the advisors often frustrated and feeling like they are not in control of their business.
Starting a business teaches us so much about perseverance and personal growth.
Having a physical office space and support surrounding the advisor leaves the advisor feeling stagnant since they have all they need to run their business, despite being unhappy with their current broker dealer or custodian. The thought of leaving seems like a massive undertaking and the advisor may choose to not make the change. Not only do they have to worry about moving their clients, but now they need to figure out the setup and the on-going logistics of outfitting and running a physical office without support.
Our organization was developed to help support the advisor who wants to be independent but wants the support they have at their current firm from a business operations standpoint.
They maintain control over their private practice but outsource all the back office non-revenue generating activities to Good Life, allowing them to focus on solely being an advisor in control of their own destiny. Advisors leave their old firm, in pursuit of their own version of the good life for themselves and their clients, all while backed by our infrastructure and support.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Good Life Companies is an ever-evolving business. When we first launched the service-oriented entity, Good Life Advisor Systems, we only provided client transition services. This service was solely developed to repaper individual client investment accounts to our platform.
This transition support is a huge piece of making the move to become independent. After several transitions, we recognized this business was transactional. Once the transition was over, we needed to offer more support and services to keep our advisors affiliated for the long term. Real estate was the first big offering we added after the advisor and client transitions offering was running smoothly. In 2013, we assumed a lease for a 4,000 square foot office in Pittsburgh with advisors that were connected to us from our prior firm. We oversaw the construction of the physical office space, furnishings, and installed all necessary technology for their office to be functioning on the first day of their transition from the old firm.
After this first project was complete, we evaluated all aspects of the project. This included a review of our timeline, our vendors, and the experience with them, along with the realized versus budgeted expenses. We made tweaks to our process to improve upon the next buildout and transition. After smoothing out the real estate buildout process, we continued to follow our advisors’ money spent on additional services not currently obtained through Good Life. This included marketing support such as brand development and client facing marketing materials and it also included administrative support and human resource services, along with investment management and account trading services, just to name a few.
We launched these additional services advisors needed to continue to grow and efficiently run their businesses, which has ultimately allowed our advisors to become even deeper aligned with our firm for the long term. This also has drastically increased our revenues year over year, along with profit per advisor.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We are in a unique industry where we could not inform clients, colleagues, or managers we were going to be leaving our prior firm to start our own. My wife was seven months pregnant and my partner, Courtnie, was four months pregnant. We took our spouses out to dinner and told them we would be leaving the firm we started and built a successful practice in order to launch our own dream.
With their support, we did a significant amount of due diligence to find a custodial partner that would allow us to scale the business as we grew.
The entire launch of our business was self- funded. We searched for office space, furnished the space, and outfitted the office with the necessary technology to launch the business. With two babies on the way, we really had no time to waste or any room for error transitioning our clients over.
On February 2, 2012, we made the move to our new custodian, and Good Life was born. We furiously began calling and seeing as many clients as possible, all while prior colleagues were contacting our clients giving them incorrect information about our departure. We worked from very early in the morning seeing clients before their workday, late into the evening.
In just five weeks we were able to move around 500 accounts over to the new firm.
Once the transition was complete, we felt a personal obligation to share our experience and expertise with other advisors who found themselves trapped in a firm that no longer embodied the beliefs they had professionally and personally. When a firm is dictating the client experience which does not align with your core values, it makes it difficult to stay working with that firm.
During our first few years, our team found ourselves wearing nearly every hat as a business owner along with being a financial advisor to our clients. From being the portfolio designer to the technology department to managing the accounting, and overseeing the services we needed to run the office, we knew we had to invest our resources back into adding key personnel and professional partners who could support our mission.
Once we laid out all the internal procedures for setting up and running the office, we began significant marketing efforts along with partnering with recruiters who could help us quickly grow our advisor base.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In order to attract advisors, we developed several different services that allowed them to an affiliate in many different ways. We have been very nimble and creative to close business, instead of trying to force advisors to fit into a “one size fits all model”.
In the beginning, we only took on advisors who needed help transitioning. We then made a pivot and took on advisors who also needed real estate. Due to regulations and complexities of not being a formalized Registered Investment Advisors, the first couple of years we mainly were a service organization.
Once we had enough advisors and revenue coming in from the service organization, we then filed with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) to become a federally Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). Being an RIA increases the firm value significantly while forming an even tighter allegiance with our advisors. It also allowed advisors to affiliate with us for RIA or compliance purposes and tap into some of our services we offer that did not include real estate. It allowed us to be more of an a la carte RIA and allowed us to increase our potential advisor base.
Some advisors want to assume their own real estate expense or perhaps work from home. In the old model before becoming an RIA, there was no need for Good Life. By developing the RIA and subsequent services, we have been able to take “no” off the table.
Marketing is the key to any successful business. Like any other “start-up” it requires patience, testing, failing, and re-evaluating which can be costly. In the beginning, everything is more or less an experiment, especially when you are disrupting an industry the way we have. Our team has gone through several iterations of websites and technology tools paired with marketing strategies. Through all of this, we learned a lot and had some expensive projects we implemented that were ultimately not working the way we had planned. We are in a very fast-paced, ever-changing industry.
Good Life is always focused on innovating to stay ahead of our competition. This includes launching new services, restructuring our pricing, developing new marketing techniques internally as a firm, and for our advisor base, along with shifting our focus from being a compliance firm to being a service organization that strives to meet all identifiable needs for our advisors. Listening to the needs of our advisors along with following where they are spending their hard-earned dollars to support their own practice has allowed us to continuously increase our revenues year over year.
One of the biggest attractions locally, which also allowed for significant personnel expansion, was the construction of our headquarters. Due to the unique design and build-out of our corporate headquarters, several local and national publications picked up our story. This has given a significant presence to the local advisors in our home office to gain retail business. In addition, it has allowed our team the ability to grow by hiring additional team members in each department. By adding additional team members, we have been able to expand our service offering and support additional advisors.
We have several legs in our marketing strategy. One of those includes referrals from existing advisors. When they have a good experience with our firm, they share that experience with their former colleagues. We also have several recruiting relationships with recruiters whose sole purpose is to recruit financial advisors to our organization. Good Life has its own business development team and we are organically cultivating our own leads to recruit financial advisors.
Our business development team heavily uses LinkedIn and Facebook to share our stories and our culture. We have a tight allegiance with a local PR firm that has helped us share our success in bringing advisors over, along with sharing the story of our rapid growth.
Good Life recently engaged with a second public relations firm to generate interview opportunities with large media outlets including television and print publications. Due to our significant growth, Good Life was named on several lists of Fastest Growing Companies Nationwide including Financial Times, Inc 5000, and many local publications such as the Philadelphia Business Journal. All of these strategies have helped boost Good Life in becoming a leader in the industry and a true disrupter in our marketplace.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our firm’s growth rate has averaged 50-75% gross revenue annual increases for the past five years. In 2012 our gross revenues were $750,000. We closed out 2019 with $25,000,000 in revenues between all Good Life related entities.
To continue growing our organization we need to expand our offering to multiple broker-dealer channels across the industry. Our focus over the course of the next 18 months is to move to that model. This will allow our firm to cast a wider net to advisors who need services from a support organization such as ours, without having to do an entire firm change.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Starting a business teaches us so much about perseverance and personal growth. When you are comfortable being uncomfortable, you push yourself beyond measure to be better than the day before.
We try to preach this to our company culture. Personal growth happens when you do things that are hard and out of your comfort zone.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The tools our organization currently uses consist mainly of Microsoft Office products. We then utilize a proprietary in-house system, which hosts all our client information and trading platform with our current custodian.
We are investing a significant amount of resources into Salesforce. Salesforce is going to be the platform we will use to expand and streamline our internal operations. This project will allow more seamless integration amongst departments. It will eliminate the need for double entry of data in many instances and allow for real-time sharing of information. Financial information such as profit and loss of departments, advisor units, and branch offices will all be real-time. This information is critical in allowing us to make decisions as a firm and how to best handle our relationships with currently affiliated advisors.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Without a doubt, there were two things that influenced me heavily. One was a book and the other was a person.
The book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes turned my whole mindset around. I grew up looking at how bad things could be, and I approached life that way. By simply looking at the GOOD, and focusing my thoughts and energy on good outcomes instead of bad ones, it turned my business and my life around.
The other book was one I really came about later in my life and that is the New Testament. The author of the majority of the New Testament was a man by the name of Paul. If you study Paul and model his behaviors, regardless of your beliefs aligning or not aligning with his, you will find that he had unwavering faith. In fact, he had so much faith and conviction that he would change his life to model those beliefs and he would eventually die because of his convictions.
His spirit models that of most entrepreneurs in the sense that at some point we develop a passion that is so deep and so true that we would do anything for our business.
Whether you are selling apples, financial products, services, or a way of life, successful entrepreneurs do it with so much conviction that it radiates amongst the audiences they are speaking to. Passionless businesses that focus on how things can break instead of how things can be fixed are businesses that may last through an initial wave of excitement but quickly become obscure, mediocre, or obsolete.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
When I get asked this question, I think about who I was when I was “just starting out” and what worked versus what didn’t work. I can say that you have to be extremely self-motivated as a business owner. Especially if you make it through the first year because it is easy to go from the “am I going to make it?” to the “I’ve ‘made it’” thoughts.
Once a week when the thoughts of “go me, I am doing well” come into your head, stay humble. Think about the thousands of people that are doing just as good if not better. That will push you to keep working hard.
But, before that, going back to day one… I would say that the best thing I had going for me was that I did not know what I did not know. That was alright because I had blind faith and confidence in the industry, in the ability to fill the gaps in the industry that I noticed and my ability to put a team around me that could execute. Knowing on day 1 what I know now on day 5,001, I know I would not have run as hard or as fast because I would have been cautious about the things that could derail success along the way. It was only running that fast that allowed me to run right through or right over any hardship.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not currently looking to hire any positions in this current moment. With that being said, we are always adding support team members as the firm continues to grow.
Where can we go to learn more?
GoodLifeCo.com is our overall corporate website. From there, each of the entities that make up Good Life Companies has individual pages explaining the services offered under each item.
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