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EP 43 | Jeremy Burger on Empowering Advisors to Innovate and Experiment

04.28.21 | 0 Market Scale

Jeremy Burger is the CEO of Merriman Wealth Management, a Registered Investment Advisory firm of motivated people that combine technical expertise with compassion and empathy. Merriman was in a period of rapid growth when Jeremy joined the company in November 2007 as a Wealth Advisor. Two months into his new post in the firm, the global financial crisis of 2007 occurred, and Jeremy was at risk of getting laid off. By showcasing his willingness to help the company weather the storm, not only did Jeremy retain his position, he became Director of Advisory Services in July 2014 and CEO in January 2017. Today, Jeremy’s mind for innovation and improvement persists, ensuring that Merriman attracts, retains, and empowers advisors, so they can empower their clients to Live Fully. 

Jeremy joins me today to discuss how his willingness to improve different aspects of Merriman helped him avoid getting laid off during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. He describes how Merriman’s Associate Advisor program helps the company address the talent shortage in the financial services industry. He shares the lessons he learned from his favorite book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and explains what it taught him about refining their service offering. He also underscores the value of cultivating diversity in an organization’s teams and highlights the impact of encouraging financial advisors to find and enhance skills they’re passionate about. 

“Good ideas can come from anywhere. Encourage and support people to experiment and you’ll see results you wouldn’t have thought about.” - Jeremy Burger 

This week on The Model FA Podcast: 

  • How Jeremy avoided getting laid off during the 2007-2008 financial crisis
  • The value of saying ‘yes’ to opportunities even if they’re not personally enjoyable
  • What the FITFO philosophy means and Jeremy’s advice for financial advisors who want to rise to the occasion
  • What Merriman’s Associate Advisor program is, how it develops advisors’ skill sets, and why it’s critical to the organization’s growth
  • Addressing the financial industry’s war on talent through effective training
  • The Advisor DNA Assessment and the value of creating diversity in the financial services and wealth management industry
  • Why business leaders need to seek feedback from their companies
  • Lessons from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
  • The importance of empowering advisors to flourish with their own ideas
  • The impact of allowing people to pursue a career while focusing on their passion
  • The power of encouraging advisors to experiment and innovate 

Resources Mentioned: 

 Our Favorite Quotes: 

  • “When you try new things and never fail, that means you’ve never really stepped out of your comfort zone to innovate something new.” - Jeremy Burger
  • “Empower advisors to figure out what they’re passionate about and create opportunities that align their skill sets with what the company needs.” - Jeremy Burger

 Connect with Jeremy Burger: 

 About the Model FA Podcast 

The Model FA podcast is a show for fiduciary financial advisors. In each episode, our host David DeCelle sits down with industry experts, strategic thinkers, and advisors to explore what it takes  to build a successful practice — and have an abundant life in the process. We believe in continuous learning, tactical advice, and strategies that work — no “gotchas” or BS. Join us to hear stories from successful financial advisors, get actionable ideas from experts, and re-discover your drive to build the practice of your dreams.  

Did you like this conversation? Then leave us a rating and a review in whatever podcast player you use. We would love your feedback, and your ratings help us reach more advisors with ideas for growing their practices, attracting great clients, and achieving a better quality of life. While you are there, feel free to share your ideas about future podcast guests or topics you’d love to see covered.  

Our Team:

President of Model FA, David DeCelle 

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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jeremy Burger  0:06 

From an industry standpoint, there's like this war of talent, and trying to figure out how we can get advisors and it's really difficult to hire senior advisors. And so our view is that, if we can find people earlier in their career, help them develop their skill sets and watch them over time, that's going to create a really great opportunity for them. It's gonna be really beneficial for the firm and our clients.

 

David DeCelle  0:37 

Well welcome Model FAs, and I am very excited to have today's guest Jeremy Burger from Merriman in the Pacific Northwest. The reason why I'm excited to have Jeremy on the books for this show is really a few reasons. Number one, is he has a pretty unique story as to how he became CEO of his firm, and we're gonna talk a lot about that today. Second is he's just an awesome dude. And third, he's a client of ours, him and his firm, and it's always great to meet new people on these shows, but it's also great to highlight some of our existing relationships as well. So before I welcome Jeremy to the show, let me start off with his bio just to give everyone some context as to who you're going to be hearing from today. So Jeremy is the CEO of Merriman Wealth Management, a registered investment advisory firm with three different offices across the Pacific Northwest, and through organic growth in two acquisitions in the past four years. His firm currently serves about 2200 households across the country, managing approximately $3 billion of AUM. Merriman is an established firm of intellectually curious motivated people that combine technical expertise with compassion and empathy. Working with their advisors, I can certainly say that that is extremely true. Just as a side note, Jeremy, you got awesome people working with you. Merriman believes true wealth is not just accumulating money, but also enabling clients and those they care about to live a fuller life. Our advisors, or their advisors I should say, are trained to understand the relationship between money, the control it gives clients over how they spend their time, and the powerful and universal influence that has on their happiness. Jeremy joined Merriman in November of 2007—talk about good timing there, at the peak of the market soon to be the demise of the market at that time—as a wealth advisor. He became the Director of Advisory Services in July 2014, and ultimately became CEO 10 years after joining the firm in January of 2017. Today, he spends his time ensuring that Merriman is effectively empowering their clients to live fully. It's one of their mantras in the organization. Actually, Jeremy just got some air pods that he's not wearing today, because the audio was a little funky, but he got some air pods that say “Live Fully” on them. So good branding on your end. So help clients live fully and ensuring that Merriman can attract and retain the right people to help them serve their clients throughout their lives. So Jeremy, appreciate your time. And welcome to the show.

 

Jeremy Burger 

It's great to be here. I look forward to the conversation.

 

David DeCelle 

Awesome. So let's dive into your story. So you joined an already established firm. So if I'm not mistaken, you were at another RIA beforehand, you come and join Merriman, and quite frankly within, what a month or two, the market just dropped. Merriman didn't even hire another advisor for a handful of years, based on the circumstances. What was your life like in those moments?

 

Jeremy Burger 

It's interesting to like, reflect back on that time. So yeah, I joined Merriman, I think my start date is like November 27, or 26th, 2007. And obviously, we're working with you guys, which we really value and thinking about business development. But when I got hired, and throughout the interview process, one of the things that stuck out to me was that Merriman had been growing extremely rapidly. And so, I was kind of positioned, coming in as, you're going to meet with clients, you're going to have three meetings a day with prospects, you don't need to follow up, they're gonna bring their checkbook, and really you just serve clients. And almost immediately that was no longer true. And so, especially right before that we had merged with a CPA firm. And they were trying to integrate those two organizations, and we weren't prepared for it yet. I think we would be now, but anyway, as that was happening, we were reevaluating that integration, so there was a lot of change happening. And I had no clients, there was no prospects coming in, and they had done their first round of layoffs in early 2008 that had ever happened in the company, mainly the CPA firm. But it was a very stressful time and I was going through the CFA level two during that period. But I think what my goal during that period or how I my thought process was, I just want to do anything and everything I can to make this firm better and to help the people. I know the advisors especially, they were on the phone with clients, really trying to help them make smart decisions with their money. And anything I could do to help, ultimately was going to help the firm and help the clients. And so, I was kind of a madman, I helped with our research department, our finance department. And ultimately, I think, as we got further into 2008, there was a period where they ended up going through a second round of layoffs, and pretty much every day I thought I was gonna get let go. And the day they did the second round of layoffs, they came back to me and said, after telling me my boss was looking for me and they couldn't find me, and she walked me into the door, closed the door behind me—I totally thought I was gonna be calling my wife telling her I got let go. But luckily, Jeff Merriman, actually our former CEO, came to my office, and he said, you know Jeremy, your name was on the list today. We were going down the list and your name was on the list. And when we got to your name, we thought we're not gonna be able to hire you back in a year, right? And so we're going to basically eat the cost—because I had no clients—we're gonna eat the cost and want you to be here long term. And that's a moment of, I feel like grace and confidence, from the Merriman team that they had in me well before I even had in myself, that really, I think, still sticks with me to this day.

 

David DeCelle 

Well, it's interesting, too, because based on the information that you shared just then, in terms of helping with various aspects of the organization, because, quite frankly, since you didn't have any clients, you didn't have anything else to do. But you could have easily sat back and collected a paycheck and just kind of like, rode it out. And well, my guess is the folks at the top saw that you were willing to help and willing to be a team player, and willing to provide value where you could, and if you didn't do those things, you probably would have been let go that day.

 

Jeremy Burger 

Yeah, without question. I definitely was low man on the totem pole; most of the numbers would have shown that I should be let go. I really just tried to say yes, look for opportunities where I thought I could add value. And some of those opportunities were things I really enjoyed, and I learned a lot, and I got a broad perspective of the organization. Some of them were things that weren't necessarily that enjoyable, but needed to get done. And again, I just wanted to, besides the fact I wanted to keep my job, I also knew the importance of helping clients get through what was a very difficult time and anything I could do to help the advisor, who that was kind of my client at the time, I knew ultimately ended with a better outcome for our clients.

 

David DeCelle

Cool. What I think is really interesting. So in our call that we had in advance of this, oftentimes people assume, at least I assume that if someone's running an organization at the CEO level like you are, it's interesting to me that you're not this way. So what I had asked you is, have you always had that entrepreneurial itch? Like, did you have businesses in high school or college and things along those lines, because that's what I would assume, someone who rises to the top has always had that in their blood. And I was shocked when you came back and said, no, that's not how I am. So I feel like there's a lot of advisors out there who may not be proactively aspiring to become a CEO at the organization that they're a part of, because they haven't had that entrepreneurial blood flowing through their system before. So for those folks who are out there and listening to this, how did you rise to the occasion when that moment was presented?

 

Jeremy Burger 

Yeah, well, you know, it was a long time in the making. And I think for me, especially throughout that process, it wasn't till very close to actually getting offered the CEO job that really, I said, yes, this is what I want, and I'm going to advocate for that. I think it was a much more natural progression for me where I think my interest and where I think my skill set was, was again, constantly thinking about how can I better myself while at the same time benefiting the organization and helping everybody, like lift all boats. And so, throughout that period, every time I thought about, hey, I think we could do this a little bit better, I see a problem, I'm going to try to solve it or try to figure out what to do, I was always trying to do it in that context. And, I took opportunities that came my way, and I created opportunities for myself—not with the end goal of being CEO, but with just the end goal of this is what I think we can do to make the organization better. So there did become a point where, and I think this is true for any advisor that probably may aspire to be either the CEO or a more, kind of companywide leadership, as opposed to an advisor is, there was a period in time where I remember kind of having to make a decision. Which path did I want to go down? And that was, at times that was a scary proposition, right? Because one, I love serving clients. It jazzes me up, I love closing business, and so I love all of those things. But I also know that you can't do everything, and there becomes a point where even if you do, you don't do them as well as you could. And so, I think, for me, making that decision of, okay, I want to help lead the advisory team, and then that led to okay, I want to be on the board of the company, and then I want to do X, Y, Z, and constantly making sure that, okay, this is the right path. And that means I'm probably not going to do as much on the advisory side, but that's where I think I can make the biggest impact in the organization.

 

David DeCelle

So before I share my takeaways from that, because there are two main takeaways, I would ask you, and you may not have like an exact number or anything like that, so it's more of like a gut check. You mentioned that you created opportunities through like sharing ideas, and kind of like the vision and direction of the firm. How many of the ideas that you had were actually implemented? I would imagine anyways, that out of all these ideas, only a handful of them actually stuck. Did that hold true for you? Or is every idea that you have good?

 

Jeremy Burger

Definitely. Talk to the fellow people that you connect with at the firm. That's definitely not true. I don't know of a number. I think there's incremental change, and then there's change that I think, really can make a big difference. And I think on the big change, it was probably two or three ideas, that I thought, hey, this is something that I really think is going to push the organization forward, and is a very different way of doing things and we've done it in the past. You mentioned the associate advisor program earlier, that definitely is a big one. And also just helping push the firm from really investment management to wealth management, which now doesn't seem like—everybody kind of talks about wealth management, it’s not as new or cool now. But for us, when we were really doing this 10, 11, 12 years ago, it was still a little bit new. And there was—we all have our own biases, we have our ingrained, what we've been doing, and it was a lot of work to not only build out the process for Merriman and think about how we're going to do it. But really, a lot of it's the, how do you build buy in within the organization? I can tell you to do something; you might even do it. But clearly, that's not going to create lasting change, like getting buy in for the vision that we're trying to go to. And that was a lot of work, but one of the things I'm probably most proud of, throughout my time there.

 

David DeCelle

The two takeaways that I was alluding to that you mentioned, is just saying yes to everything, and then figuring it out. I have a saying, when I ran our new advisory development program when I was an advisor, it's called FIFO. And it stands for figure it the f- out. So I feel like that'll be a title of my book.

 

Jeremy Burger

That seems like an after-hours conversation, David.

 

David DeCelle

That's a little teaser, Jeremy. So, just saying yes, as opposed to, oh, well, I don't know, I haven't done that before. Those sheepish sort of responses where instead, it's yes, and then you go and figure it out, so that you elevate yourself and prove yourself through the value provided and your ability to FIFO. And the second takeaway that I had was, you've shared a bunch of ideas. You weren't shy to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. How old were you in 2008 to 2010, roughly?

 

Jeremy Burger

I was in my late 20s.

 

David DeCelle

Late 20s. So you're dealing with an executive team who I would imagine had gray hair, right? Which you're one of the few CEOs in the industry that doesn't have gray hair. Congratulations.

 

Jeremy Burger

I know, thank you. Thank you.

 

David DeCelle

So you're sitting in this boardroom, so to speak, and you're putting yourself out there as a kid, compared to them, and not being shy to do so. And lo and behold some of those things stuck. So I want to talk more about the associate advisor program, because what I shared with you before, at least now, and it may have been then, but at least now, this isn't a brand new idea. But I feel like in firms of your size, it is rare that someone has figured out how to implement that in a smooth fashion. And having worked with you guys now going on over two years, we're now working with the new set of associate advisors. So I'm kind of seeing where they start, where they end up working with the more veteran advisors. And if it's clear to me from the outside looking in, it’s probably pretty clear to people internally, as far as like this is step one, and this is step two, and this is step three, and people can cast their vision and have a good roadmap to actually get there. So help me understand, for those of us that are listening, and they're like, well, what is an associate advisor position? Are they power planners? What is it that they do? Why do they start there? And then where do they ultimately end up?

 

Jeremy Burger

That’s a great starting point. It's a super important program within the organization. I mean, I think this is the future on the advisory side. Obviously, there's a lot of back-office people that we also spend a lot of time thinking about career pathing. But I think on the advisory side, this is where a lot of the future leaders of the organization are going to come from. And I think from an industry standpoint, there's like this war of talent and trying to figure out how we can get advisors, and it's really difficult to hire senior advisors. So our view is that, if we can find people earlier in their career, help them develop their skill sets, and watch them over time; that that's going to create a really great opportunity for them, it's going to be really beneficial for the firm and our clients. So the associate advisor, really, we view it kind of as advisor in training. And so, they help in many ways with the advisor relationship, some of it is learning some of the technical skills, and obviously, working towards getting their Certified Financial Planner designation, or whatever the case may be, but really trying to dig into the financial planning. Helping us build out the financial plans for clients. So that's probably step one is really trying to get some of the technical skills down. Then as somebody progresses, they might be in the meetings at first taking notes and doing some of the follow ups. Then the vision is for them to be much more active in the review meetings, much more active in the prospect meetings, and allowing an opportunity for them to be presenting to clients, presenting to prospects, and allowing then the advisor that they're working with to provide feedback, provide mentorship. And one of the things that we strive for is, not only allowing the advisors to work with a number of associates, but a number of the associates to work with the advisors. Because what sometimes can happen too, when you get paired with one person, they might do it exactly the way that you want, they might do it totally differently. But they're going to have their process; and at Merriman, we try to institutionalize as much as possible, but I liked your acronym earlier about figuring it out. I think we try to make it a very consistent client experience. But we also allow for people's personality and their own skill sets to evolve. So that's an opportunity for them to see, hey, here's a couple of successful people that they do the baseline; say we have a core investment, philosophy, those things, but they might do things a little bit differently based on the personality and it gives a broader perspective. And then ultimately, we start transitioning some clients to them, or them bringing in some clients, working with their own and then ultimately trying to become an advisor and a partner in the firm. And so it's building not only the technical skill set, but also while they're building that skill set, how do we also start to build some of the business development mindset and skill set around advancing relationships, and really being intentional and thoughtful about how we're going to connect with people to build those over time.

 

Unknown Speaker

Hey Model FAs, I know you're enjoying this conversation, but I wanted to take a quick break to talk to you about the Model FA accelerator. This is a unique collaboration between us and you, where we help you build a financial advising practice that you can be proud of, we focus on the foundational concepts around how to pick a niche or a specialization, how to price your services, how to construct an offer that people are going to buy, and then how to market it and sell it in a way that will get people to sign on the dotted line and become clients of your firm, all while giving you the information to scale and set up workflows and operational processes that will allow you to reclaim your time and build a practice that doesn't run you. So if you'd like to hear more about that, go to www.ModelFA.com/accelerator, or www.ModelFA.com. Hover over Work With Us and click on Accelerator. Hope to see in the program.

 

David DeCelle

So I like that a lot and that my mind is moving a million miles an hour right now. And say that because I come from a totally different model. So your fee only, right? I come from the eat what you kill commission-based type of model where you're making fees off of the investment portfolio, commissions off of insurance planning, things like that. And the model that I came from is, like I said, eat what you kill. And I don't think either model from the point of view of, where are you going to be more successful, I don't think the models are right or wrong in terms of where you're going to be successful. Now we can have different philosophies as to what's best for the client, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I think that in the mall that I came from, what ends up happening is only a handful of people actually make it, even though a lot of people could have made it. And they're focused on sales first, as opposed to knowledge first, and then what ends up happening is you just go out and you sling whatever is gonna pay your bills that month, and you just have that inherent conflict of interest and not necessarily conflict of interest between products and clients or services and clients, but paying your bills or not. So what I really like about your model is I feel like it casts a wider net as to who and how many people can be successful; because in my model, there were great people that are very intelligent, that just couldn't cut it at the beginning stages, and then they get discouraged, and then go and do something else and potentially miss out on a fruitful career in the financial services industry. Whereas your model, I like that, A, you pay a salary, so that they don't have to worry about paying their bills, you help them getting their designations, and you focus on the technical skills and the planning skills first; because then when it comes to the point where they're in client conversations, and starting to manage relationships, ultimately, they're going to have confidence, knowing that they can actually hang in the conversation. And then what you're also doing a good job at is promoting that joint work to provide feedback back and forth. You're also as opposed to an advisor who's going to retire, just dumping all their clients on someone and potentially experiencing a lot of attrition for the firm, you're integrating them years in advance. So it's like the utmost smooth transition. So I think that the model that you've put together, which I've come across other firms that have something similar, is something that I think the whole industry needs to adopt, and even the firm that I come from. They're starting to do that a little bit more, but it's an advisor who's building out their own team. It's not the organization itself, so you have to hope that you come across an entrepreneurial business owner, not just a salesperson who happens to be selling financial advice.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, that's right. It goes to what the organization values, and sales, business development, whatever you want to call it, is growth for the organization—is somewhat the lifeblood. When we talk about providing career paths for people, when we talk about helping people meet their financial goals, growth provides a lot of that, right. But I think at the end of the day, we value that expertise and empathy. And, it's a unique thing in our industry, and you highlighted it where there's people that are extremely good at sales, that you wouldn't want to touch your family's finances with a 10-foot pole. And they make very healthy livings, good for them. And then there's other people that are extremely knowledgeable, but they can't connect with people. And so I think what we're trying to do is, say, hey, this is what we value. This is how we're going to build out the model. And it also provides, as you said, it brings in a different skill set. And we think about having a diverse workforce, when we think about providing opportunities for people that maybe otherwise wouldn't have got it or like you said, get discouraged before they—it's like, okay, well, my friends and family don't have any money, or whatever the case might be. You're discouraging a large part of the population from having an opportunity in something that they might be extremely talented at. And so I think when you build—when you build a good team, you need a lot of different types of players. You can't build a Super Bowl winning team with five Tom Brady's, right?

David DeCelle

I don’t know man, maybe you could!

 

Jeremy Burger  24:50 

I don't know; you wouldn’t want Tom Brady is your receiver, right? And so, what we try to do especially early on is help build those skill sets. And then, and you've worked a lot with us on this, and I think on the associates even more is, try to help them, kind of empower them to figure it out, figure out what they're passionate in. And then we try to create opportunities that align with what the company needs and what their skill sets provide. And the sooner we can do that, in an organization, we think the better.

 

David DeCelle

Well, I think, too, as you continue to scale, and we're starting to get to this point with you guys. So you're familiar with our advisor DNA assessment that our team created. And essentially, for those of you who may not know what that is, the advisor DNA assessment, we believe that people derive energy from certain types of activities in the business. So the four DNAs that we've come up with are called the Connector, the Rainmaker, the Guardian, and the Architect. The connector is that salesperson, quite frankly, and that person is awesome to get someone excited, to cast the vision, to edify the next person that they're going to be meeting with. But to actually put together the recommendations—part of the reason, I love developing other humans and specifically advisors, and that's why I got into the consulting space—but part of the reason was when I basically graduated from selling insurance to then getting into the investment space, I just wasn't smart enough in that regard to really be able to do that, and be able to say with confidence that they're going to be in a good spot. It was just complicated. And I think that's the first time I've actually admitted that, so you got me being vulnerable on here, Jeremy, but I feel like that just wasn't where my skill set was. I wasn't an Architect. I wasn't the person who likes to crunch the numbers. I'm on the front end. So then you have the Rainmaker, and the Rainmaker is someone who's really good at identifying problems and opportunities and presenting solutions and getting people to actually take action specifically on something that's intangible. It's not like they're buying a widget, right? And then from there, the Guardian is the person who's actually taking care of that client relationship moving forward, making sure that they deliver an exceptional Grade A experience, and then the Architect behind the scenes is truly crunching the numbers. And everyone needs to know what other folks are doing so that you can be supportive of one another and make sure that you're singing to the same tune, so to speak. But ultimately, as the organization grows, it's making sure that people are just quite frankly, on the right seats of the bus. And they derive energy from their work, because if they're exhausted at the end of the day is probably because they're doing stuff that they shouldn't be doing.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, that's right. And oftentimes, there's something that they don't enjoy doing that somebody else really does. And so it's like, how do we pair those people to create the best team to go out and serve our clients? And, we've been doing it for a number of years now, I think; we're constantly trying to think about how do we develop this? Now we have 50 employees roughly. How does this work when we have 100 employees? In thinking about down the road, how do we constantly be going out looking for people that we think are going to fit Merriman well, have the right skill set, how do we attract them in? How do we create great opportunities for them, give them the training and do it at 50 people as well, hopefully 100 people.

 

David DeCelle

So usually, I wait for this until the end in regards to sharing what your favorite book is. So for those of you who this may be your first episode, what I do in all these episodes is I ask our guests what their favorite book is. Selfishly, I want to know some new books to listen to; I listened to them, I don't read them. And I also want to promote learning for our industry; I feel like there's a lot of us who have become complacent and are not learning something new every single day, or if they are learning something new every day, typically it's related to the industry—which of course you need to do and stay up to date and things like that. But there's so much value in outside resources and outside perspectives, which is why I've woven this into the podcast. But the reason why I want to bring this up now, the book is by Marshall Goldsmith, and it's called What Got You Here Won't Get You There. And I had the opportunity to listen to this before our call. One of my biggest takeaways was the idea of as a leader, soliciting feedback from the people in your organization, because we have what are called Scotomas, which are blind spots, where we may think that we're doing everything right. But when people give us feedback, we're like, oh, I didn't even realize that I was doing that or that I wasn't doing that, thank you so much. So checking in with your folks along the way if you're constantly looking to learn, constantly looking to improve, and constantly looking to grow as a leader; and Jeremy, you mentioned your favorite part of the book (and hopefully didn't stop here!), but your favorite part of the book is the title. So again, the title is, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. So, when you had joined the firm, you were at 1.6 billion in client assets, and now you're just over 3 billion in client assets. So what got you to the 1.6 didn't necessarily get you to the three, because from my understanding, you were more simply managing assets and bringing people through a true just sales process, and you shifted over to holistic planning, right? You grew to 3 billion. So my question is, if you had to a cast the vision for the future, what got you here isn't going to get you there. What's ultimately going to get you there?

 

Jeremy Burger

Well, luckily, I didn't stop at the title. I first actually read it just quickly, right before I joined Merriman, is the first time I read the book, when I was actually at the prior firm. And actually reading that book is one of the things that led me ultimately to change firms. Because I could see that one of the main things that it talks about is that oftentimes, people who've gotten a certain level of success, the bad habits they have, they think they got there because of that. And that that will just continue, and I could tell that that wasn’t true. There was a ceiling to kind of where I was, and the people that I was working with, and that if I wanted to aspire for more, that I was going to have to go somewhere else. But I think we've spent the last couple years really continuing to refine our service offering and really set the team up, get the right people in the right seats at the right time for the organization. And giving them enough tools to develop their skill sets, without so much rigidity or just a rigid process where we don't allow them to figure it out. I think our goal is to empower people with the tools and then help them flourish in their own ideas. We talked to ideas earlier, right? I don't have a monopoly on good ideas. I think that's very clear if you talk to some of my other coworkers. And so we want people to be able to test things, try them out, and figure out what's going to work for them, and ultimately, what will help push the firm forward. So I feel that we've been building that base now of really getting the right people in the right seats. And now, I think it's going to be continued execution on two fronts; one is going to be on growth, and how we think about where we get clients from. And so, referrals are a major component of the business, I think they'll continue to be—we're working with you guys a lot on that. But we're also actively testing and trying new ways of reaching people, and I think that will continue to be an iterative process in thinking about how to capture new people to the firm that maybe don't know us right now and attract them. And then I think from a service offering standpoint, it's continuing to institutionalize and systematize those things that we spend—you talked about the investments earlier—we spend a lot of time trying to get our clients basis points of improvement. But that's something that's consistent across the firm. So how do we make that component of the process as systematized as possible but personalized to the client, so they feel like they're getting a custom experience, but we have a really good back end? And then thinking about okay, going forward, it’s kind of been wealth management and that would be a continued process, but how else can we add value in our client lives? And I think really trying to understand what are those things that we might be able to do internally? And what are those things that we need to partner with the right organizations to help our clients live fully? Which really comes down to understanding how time and money interact with each other, and helping them get more control over their time.

 

David DeCelle

Love it, I can say, working with you, Tyler, and Christie at the top, obviously, and then the advisors of the firm, what’s really enjoyable for us is, so you mentioned earlier in your career, you just said yes to everything, and then you figured it out. What I really like is that you say yes to our ideas, and you let us figure it out. So I guess my point in bringing that up is you, not just at the advisor level, but at the firm level, you're willing to test things. So, we tested, webinars and in speaking with Frank and Alan, they're having a blast, and they got some good people in the pipeline. And once COVID hopefully goes away at some point we can do seminars again, and we've talked about starting various podcasts and a lot of your advisors are creating content. It's just a breath of fresh air when, just for people listening, Jeremy is not just saying this stuff, they're actually doing it as well and trying to be innovative and trying to be different and truly, from my perspective, anyways, empowering your advisors to focus on certain niches and understanding. We just had a session with Frank and Paige and Alan and Amy, about how they're going to attract certain people, and they came prepared with such good out-of-the-box ideas. I know without even having shared it with you, although I did CC you on the notes, but I know that you're going to be supportive of that stuff, even though they're totally out of the box. Because, when you can allow people to pursue a career while focusing on their passions along the way, that just helps. It just helps. So for that, I'm grateful that you guys are like that. Just so you know.

 

Jeremy Burger

Well, great. I'm grateful for those advisors who listened and everybody else on the team, that they're willing to get outside their comfort zone. And I think oftentimes when you try new things, if you try new things and you never fail, that means you didn't really step out of your comfort zone. You didn't really try to innovate something new. And, I think for us, it's this comfortability with the idea that we're gonna try things, and not all of them are going to work. And that's okay, and that we want to be supportive of that throughout the process. I'll give you a funny story. Tyler and I, many years ago, we tried to do a number of seminars, and we built this—what we thought was outstanding seminar—we practiced, we did all these things, and we did not get the results that we wanted. And that was uncomfortable, but we also said, hey, what can we learn from it? What can we try to do better next time, and how do we move forward? And so I think it's, support people along the way, give them the tools, understand sometimes you're going to have things that work incredibly well, and sometimes things aren't going to work. And, how you bounce back from that and keep moving forward. And then the last thing, just quickly I'll say is, and you touched on it, which is that we're trying to allow everybody the opportunity to pursue what's important to them, because I think what happens sometimes, as leaders, and I know that this is definitely true in my own experience, I think as I've progressed—hopefully progressed—as a leader, is we make assumptions, and we put people or ideas in boxes. I think one of the things that I'm consistently reminded of is that people surprise us, and good ideas can come from anywhere. So we're trying to encourage and support people in trying things, and we're seeing things that maybe we wouldn't have thought work, showing a lot of results. And those people are super excited, like they're having wins. I mean, it just it builds on it. And I think now, we're seeing that—you mentioned in one of your notes to me recently that the field across the organization is just so much different. And I think part of it's because people are having their own success. And I also think we just have a very team-based approach. And it's like, you succeeding doesn't come at the expense of me, we all can succeed. And we all can be better for that, and I think we strive for that each day.

 

David DeCelle

I love it. So, Jeremy, if anyone has any questions, or anyone is interested in Merriman, where can they find you? I want to make sure you get a little bit of a plug before we enter into the after hour section?

 

Jeremy Burger

Perfect. Well, obviously merriman.com; I'm more active on LinkedIn. And I think I try to share interesting information, connect with people; those are probably the best places.

 

David DeCelle

Awesome. Well, I appreciate you joining. We're obviously gonna be entering into the next segment right now. But before we do so, thank you. For everyone who tuned in today, I think that there's a lot of great nuggets throughout this episode. So as always, make sure that whatever your main takeaway was, or main couple takeaways are, put them into action immediately. Don't just listen to this stuff and be an information zombie where you're the smartest person in the room, but you don't do anything about it. So, make sure that you're taking action. Also, I did mention as well, our advisor DNA assessments earlier today on the show. So that was the Connector, Rainmaker, Guardian, and Architect. And if you think that that would be helpful for you feel free to reach out to me and actually, if you would be so kind as to share this episode with someone who you think would find it to be helpful, we'd appreciate that. And also, if you subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes, if you take a screenshot of that review, and shoot me a text at 978-228-2338. Again, 978-228-2338 send me a screenshot of that what will happen is you'll get an automated response right away with a quick little form to fill out your name so I know who it is and then beyond automated text, it's direct conversation with me. It's not like a chatbot or anything like that. So if you send me a screenshot of your review, and also say Advisor DNA in the text, the first three people that do that, I will send you a link to be able to take that assessment and I'll hop on a debrief call with you as well to figure out, based on your advisor DNA, where you should be focusing based on your current setup. So as a thank you for going out of your way to make a review quickly, that’s what I'll do for the first three people. So again, I appreciate everyone's time and attention. Hope you're enjoying these shows as much as I am. Jeremy, thank you, again for joining. And we will see you guys on the after-hours portion.

 

Jeremy Burger

Perfect. Well, thanks so much. It was great being here. Awesome.

 

David DeCelle

There was a lot of really good stuff in there, man.

 

Jeremy Burger

Thanks. It was funny, when you were talking about the actionable things, I was listening like, what would I take away from that?

 

David DeCelle

I mean, the two main things that come to my mind…

 

Jeremy Burger

I don’t know if this is the after-hours section or not.

 

David DeCelle

It’s all after-hours. And this is actually good to debrief during this portion, because a lot of people may be thinking the same thing where it's like, I really liked that, but what do I do now? I think that it's when presented with opportunities, say yes. Number two is, don't worry about the judgment of others, and just bring up the ideas that you have, making sure that you're speaking up if you think something can be innovative. And then if you're still listening, and you have a firm with multiple advisors, you should have an Associates program if you don't already and model after some of the stuff that Jeremy's done.

 

Jeremy Burger

And hopefully some people maybe who are listening who thought, wow, no firm is perfect, but that a lot of what Merriman’s trying to do sounds attractive. That they reach out, right? We're hiring, we’re trying to find talented advisors, either starting out in their career or who've been here for a while, who want to be part of something bigger. And I think we have a great culture. And we would love to talk to more people who are maybe interested in making a move. I was smiling in that last section, because this is the after-hours section. So I have to tell you a funny story about like the first couple months of joining Merriman. So we were, again, we had grown very rapidly, we were doing workshops constantly, we had a podcast, voted best podcast by Money Magazine in 2008. We were producing content all the time, but we had a couple articles that were like every year updated evergreen, like they were super valuable. All the advisors use them in workshops—they were used. So I'm a few months into the job, again, I have no clients, I'm a nobody. And there's this article that we're gonna post and I'm reading through it, there's this big table, and I won't go into all the details, but there's a big table. And I think to myself, I don't think this is right. I don't think we're showing what we think we are and we need to change it. So I spoke up and I think I brought this to I think the appropriate level people, and they were like, yeah, we think it's fine the way it is. And I said, I'm not quite there yet. I want to be a team player. I want to jump on board, but I don't think we're there yet. So long story short, within my first couple months of being there, as the market’s falling, I end up having a meeting with me, the founder, the CEO, the CFO—like the leadership team. And basically, it's me explaining why I think the way I think we should present something is right. And Paul Merriman, who I loved dearly, say no, I think this is still the appropriate, I think we should still do this. And my wife, I remember at the time, my wife saying, Jeremy, you're going to get fired, can't you just be quiet? Like, just move past this? And I was like, no, but I think I'm right. Which by the way, is terrible; I've gotten better over the years. But sure enough, they ended up changing the article.

 

David DeCelle

And now you can go back to your wife and say, honey, aren't you glad that I spoke up? Because I'm running the ship now.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, I try not to do that. Actually, you know, Jeff Curran, who's an outstanding advisor on our team. I told him many years ago about a prospect who, also earlier my time at Merriman, basically told me, and they were a large prospect, they basically told me that they weren't going to hire me because of my age. And that always has always stuck with me. And Jeff, when I became CEO one time said, you should send him a note and tell him that you're now the CEO. And if you know Jeff, that would be a very Jeff thing not to necessarily do, but to talk about. But I told him, I don't think that's very helpful.

 

David DeCelle

Or you could—so one of my favorite podcast by Andy Frisella is called the MFCEO and it stands for the mother effin CEO. You can just send that prospect a podcast recommendation they can like to do what the subliminal… So before we get into some of the funny questions, I do have a question. So you joined an already established firm? You were young. I would imagine that you haven't been at the firm the longest right now, there's probably people that either started with you or were hired before you. You start off, you got no clients, recession hits. Fast forward 10 years, you're the CEO. When you first became CEO, did you find that everyone was like, within the organization, was super supportive of that? Did you find that there was any apprehension or maybe resentment? And how did you kind of work through that? Because I know that if I joined the firm, and did those same things, I feel like there would be some potential apprehension at first. But, I also feel like that conflict, when handled directly and with some grace, ultimately builds relationships; but I guess walk me through that scenario.

 

Jeremy Burger

You know, I've seen that play out with other firms. It probably depends a little bit on the culture and also the circumstances. So I think in my specific case, since that's what we're talking about, we have a lot of tenure within the organization. So there were a lot of people that I've been working with from day one. And I think they saw me progress and saw me in action many years before it was that I was CEO, right, and they saw that progression. And I think that limited any major conflict, where I think the best succession plans are often the ones that seem natural. Obviously, Amazon, you know, Jeff Bezos recently said he was stepping down from CEO and it was kind of a non-event, because the person that he chose was somewhat expected, everybody already bought into him. And not to say it was totally smooth and there weren't some difficult conversations pre becoming CEO, but I think luckily we were kind of able to address those as a leadership team about who we thought was the best position to move the firm forward. And ultimately, then when the time came, it was a very kind of gratifying and surreal moment of being like, okay, now we're here, I have the support of people, and now I have to kind of get everybody moving in the same direction. And it worked out pretty well.

 

David DeCelle

Cool. Yeah, I like the idea where it wasn't just like, oh, dad appointed his son the CEO, because he wants to keep in the family. It was you've been working towards that for 10 years through the actions that you were taking on a daily basis.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, that's exactly right. And I think for some people, especially when it got announced, I might not have been next in line. So there was a little bit of surprise, but I think, my hope is anyway, that when people kind of stepped back and thought, okay, what do we really want going forward and things like that, that then they said, oh, yeah, Jeremy makes a ton of sense. And we're going to rally around him and I think that that was totally the experience, which just has made it even more kind of impactful for me.

 

David DeCelle

Cool. Few hotseat questions for you before we wrap up. And these are some “would you rather” questions, so they are great. And whatever you're thinking they are, they’re not, because they're totally random. So the first one: would you rather use eye drops made of vinegar or toilet paper made from sandpaper?

 

Jeremy Burger

Oh, geez, Louise. Probably eye drops of vinegar. Both sound uncomfortable.

 

David DeCelle

I mean, I use baby wipes every time so to use sandpaper, like, my rear end would not be very happy. So I have to pick the eye drops too. Would you rather be a clown who distracts the bull? Or the cowboy who rides the bull?

 

Jeremy Burger

Oh, man. I'm gonna say the cowboy because it sounds more interesting. In real life, could I really get on the bull? I don't know. But I like the idea of being on the bull.

 

David DeCelle

It's funny, because when I first read that I was like, well, do I want to sound like a badass or do I want to be safe? Maybe started on the mechanical bull at a bar one night.

 

Jeremy  Burger

Yes, I may have done that once or twice.

 

David DeCelle

Final one. Would you rather have to go to the bathroom in a giant litter box in your house, or anywhere you want but you can only do so outside? Now mind you. It rains a lot out there. It gets cold out.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, rain and cold.

 

David DeCelle

Then you're tracking sand all throughout the house.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, yeah. You know, even though it does rain a lot here in Seattle, I do like the outdoors. And especially with COVID. In Seattle, it's not as easy to get outside as much as it sometimes otherwise is. So I'm going to go with outside.

 

David DeCelle

Cool. I love that CEOs of firms at your level and whatnot, I'm just asking these ridiculous questions.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, yeah, they're absurd, but it's all in fun, and I really, I mean, I hope that people find it valuable. And I think overall, I'm just super grateful to not only lead, I think an incredible organization with incredible people, but also to partner with people like you guys, and then the rest of the team at Model FA in helping us get our exposure out even more, because I think we do great work for clients and want to expand that.

 

David DeCelle

Awesome. Well, I appreciate the kind words in the plug towards the end, so thank you very much. And for those of you who stuck around for the after-hours portion, hopefully you got a chuckle. Hopefully you got another nugget or two with our debrief. And appreciate you tuning in. Jeremy, thanks again for joining.

 

Jeremy Burger

Yeah, thanks so much. It's great being here.

 

David DeCelle

Awesome. Take care.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai