EP 67 | Refining Your Unique Value Proposition with Eric Clarke

10.21.21 | 0 Market Scale

Eric Clarke is the Founder and CEO of Orion Advisor Solutions, an organization that helps advisory professionals operationalize their vision for success by delivering cutting-edge financial technology and investment management solutions. Eric is an advocate for fiduciary advisory professionals and has written several articles for InvestmentsNews and The Journal of Financial Planning. A highly-regarded thought leader in the industry, Eric has received various awards, including ThinkAdvisor’s IA25 in 2012 and 2019 and InvestmentNews’s Icon & Innovators Award in 2019. Before founding Orion, Eric served as the Chief Operations Officer for CLS Investments from 1999 to 2006. 

Eric joins me today to discuss the four pillars financial advisors should build to set themselves apart. He shares the history of Orion and how the company was born out of Eric’s frustration with finding the right RIA technology. He describes what makes a powerful value proposition and explains why advisors should focus on creating an impactful brand experience for clients. He also highlights the power of habits and discipline, discusses the value of listening to feedback, and underscores why any business owner should think about their “why.” 

“Figuring out the exact market you’re going to serve is critical to success and refining your value proposition.” – Eric Clarke


This week on The Model FA Podcast: 

        The founding of Orion and the challenges the company faced in the early days

        How Orion dealt with financial advisors’ reluctance to adopt financial services technology

        Eric’s advice for entrepreneurial advisors who want to build their own businesses

        The importance of listening to market and client feedback

        The power of habits and how to maintain work-life balance while growing a company

        How financial advisors can differentiate their value proposition in the marketplace

        The impact of building a unique brand experience

        Niching down and why financial advisors need to identify the market they want to serve

        What strategic alignment is

        Different ways financial advisors can leverage technology to prospect clients

        The Traction model and the give-to-get prospecting method


Resources Mentioned: 

        Book: Brand Harmony: Achieving Dynamic Results by Orchestrating Your Customer’s Total Experience by Steve Yastrow

        Book: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

        Book: The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki


Our Favorite Quotes:

        “Prospect, plan, invest, and achieve. Those are the four strategic pillars advisors need to differentiate their value proposition.” – Eric Clarke

        “Advisors can set themselves apart through the experience component of their relationship with clients.” – David DeCelle

        “Your target market determines everything else about your business, branding, and marketing strategy.” – David DeCelle


Connect with Eric Clarke: 

        Orion Advisor Tech

        Orion Advisor Tech on LinkedIn

        Orion Advisor Tech on Instagram

        Orion Advisor Tech on Facebook

        Orion Advisor Tech on Twitter

        Eric Clarke on LinkedIn

        Email: [email protected]


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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Eric Clarke  00:07

I think that as an industry, we have changed our value proposition from being centered around investments and having an investment centric value proposition to that having a planning centered value proposition.


David DeCelle  00:25

Welcome Model FAs. I am very excited to bring today's guest to you, Eric Clarke. Eric is the founder and CEO of Orion Advisor Solutions. As an industry recognized thought leader and advocate for fiduciary advice, Eric has written numerous articles that have appeared in investment news in the Journal of Financial Planning, and has received numerous industry awards, including Think Advisor’s IA25 in 2012, 2019, and 2020, and Investment News Icon and Innovators award in 2019. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in accounting from Brigham Young University and a Master's of Business Administration from the University of Utah. Eric is an advocate for financial advice and loves helping entrepreneurial advisors grow their firms. Exceptionally excited to have Eric on the show for a couple of reasons. A., obviously, as you all know, Orion is a fantastic organization and a very big substantial player in our industry. So it's a nice win for me, quite frankly, to have you on the show, but also some of the topics that we're going to be discussing today that Eric is passionate about, I am also personally passionate about. So I think we'll have a great conversation set up for all of you. And with that, Eric, welcome to the show.


Eric Clarke  01:43

Great. Thank you, David. It's an honor to be on your podcast today. And I really look forward to engaging with you on a variety of topics.


David DeCelle  01:53

Awesome. So let's go back in time a little bit. So just so our audience has context, how long has Orion been around?


Eric Clarke  02:00

I founded the business in December of 1999. The business was really born out of frustration, if you will, of not been able to find the technology that we needed to support our fee only RIA business. I was working as the head of OPs and IT for a billion dollar RIA back in the late ‘90s. But we did an exhaustive search, looking for the technology that would help us run our business more effectively, scale out the number of clients that we could provide services to, and quite frankly, we just couldn't find what we were looking for off the shelf, so to speak. So we felt compelled to create the solution to not only meet the needs that we had, but also meet the needs that we felt a growing market of fiduciary advisors would certainly need as well.


David DeCelle  02:52

Awesome. Well, while you were out building a business, I was also doing building back in 1999. It just happened to be with Legos when I was nine years old, as opposed to an actual, an actual business. But so you found an opportunity, you went to serve that community, solve your problems, or challenges I should say, while also helping other folks through those challenges as well. With building any business, there's other challenges that come into play. And I'd be shocked if you started in December 1999, and then by January of 2000, you were at millions of dollars in revenue; there's obviously a growth curve there. So what were the beginning stages like and, I guess more specifically, what were some of the challenges that you experienced that could have just caused you to give up that you decided, you know what, I'm actually gonna persevere through this?


Eric Clarke  03:45

Well, I'd like to just mention that, first off, the fiduciary advisors have a lot of great technology choices today. So when we think about the late ‘90s, and what was happening, and the choices that fiduciary advisors had at that time, it's hard to even imagine the fact that there weren't a lot of great technology providers for such a great part of this financial services industry that we find ourselves in. So, you look at Michael Kitces’ FinTech road maps, so to speak, and there are so many great tech providers today, and it's just a matter of every advisor figuring out how to align those technologies with what is the best fit for their unique value proposition. But back in the early 2000s, so you know, we spent two or three years building out the core components of our tech platform that are still in existence today. When we went to market, the first Schwab impact conference that we went to, advisors were very hesitant about doing business with a company that was providing technology through the internet. Again, something that's very hard to imagine today, but doing business through the internet in our industry, in our space, really didn't take off until 2006 or so. So for those first, oh, six or seven years, we were battling this conversation of, hey, I use the technology that is installed on my server, the server is in my office closet, why would I ever change that? If a client wants a report, they call me on the phone, I fax it over to them. You know, life was very different; the way that advisors were communicating with our clients was very, very different than it is today. And, if you think about the way that we consume goods and services today, we would never think of going the route of buying technology, installing it on a local server, having that server set on top of a filing cabinet, which filing cabinets don't exist anymore. But that was a challenge that we faced initially is just getting people to be willing to open up to doing business in advanced and innovative technology way at that time. Then, as the internet opened up as an acceptable way that not only advisors could leverage technology resources, but also serve their clients better — you know, we've been on this evolution of technology in the adviser space, providing, I think, one of two primary objectives for advisors. The first being operational efficiencies, like actually allowing advisors to do their jobs at scale. And second, providing a great client experience. And, you know, that client experience that the investors expect isn't based on the experience that they have working at other financial services companies. It's based on the experiences that they have when they're using their phones to work with companies like Amazon, Uber, Netflix. So the way in which advisors have to interact with our clients today is so different. And that was probably that next evolution of focus and success that our organization experienced, as I look back on the past couple of decades of being in business.


David DeCelle  07:08

Now what point in the beginning stages, and perhaps it's in 1999 in that last month of the year, or perhaps it's a different year? At what point did Orion become profitable enough to where you can look in the mirror and say, this thing's actually going to work?


Eric Clarke  07:25

You know, we self-funded the business, so we didn't have access to a lot of capital to help us really; you know, today, startups have access to a lot of capital that allows them to go from vision to execution in a much shorter timeframe than what we were able to. It took us, I would say, five to six years before we were at a breakeven point. We were making some significant investments but fundamentally believed in the fiduciary advice that our advisors were providing to clients. We did have our first customer in that affiliated RIA business that we broke off from to form Orion, and, quite frankly, that business was funding our start, so to speak. And while they were funding our start, we also were somewhat limited with regard to our development cycles, timeframes, that sort of thing, because the business was using that sole client, if you will, to fund the beginnings of what today has evolved into Orion.


David DeCelle  08:30

So in that first five to six years, you're not being general, of course, but you're not making any money in terms of breaking even or turning a profit. What would you say to folks that are in a similar position where they're kind of scraping and clawing, trying to build something of significance? What are some of the success principles that got you through those first five or six years? Is it working late? Is it having a vision? What is it that got you through those five to six years that set you up for the success that you have today?

Eric Clarke  09:02

We definitely put in a lot of hours where you're burning the candle at both ends. The biggest thing that we were doing was trying to make sure that we listen to any and all feedback that we received. The other thing is that I quickly learned that when we would make what you'd normally consider to be a mistake, those were opportunities for us to correct course quickly and pivot quickly. At first, we would try to do the same thing again and expect a different result, which doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's easy to do at the beginning, instead of taking the market feedback and being willing to truly listen to what we were hearing in the marketplace. Probably the biggest area that I didn't listen to initially was around the pricing of our tech. So I was pricing it from the perspective of what I thought it was worth instead of what the market was willing to pay. And I think that that was a key lesson that we had to learn early on in that you need to be willing to offer your services out in a way that the market is willing to pay for those services, and then figure out your business model and how you're going to operate underneath that, or the scale that you need to have to be able to be successful. So, we definitely put in a lot of late nights. I think I could have done a better job of leading the teams to work smarter, so to speak, if we were listening to that feedback more closely that we were receiving.


David DeCelle  10:37

So, working hard, putting in the hours, making sure that you're getting feedback, and then you're listening to the marketplace as it relates to pricing. I go back to feedback portion; I remember when I was early on in business, I would — my natural reaction was to take offense almost to the feedback because like, this is my baby type of thing. And it's like, no, you don't get it. But ever since shifting that perspective to hey, this is actually pretty valuable information, I noticed two things. One is people have really good ideas, and if implemented, you can have a big impact and make some good money from those ideas. But also, I think from a relationship building standpoint, if there's some sort of conflict or friction or that feedback rubs you the wrong way, if handled directly, and with some grace by both parties, then it ultimately has the opportunity to build that relationship even stronger than it was before. You know, going back to a previous point that you made as it relates to burning candle on both ends, I have, I forget who I picked it up from, but I hear a lot of folks that say, I feel like I'm working too much and I'm not spending enough time at home, and I'd like to have a much more balanced life. And I've bought into the concept of if you really want to be successful — and you can define success however you want, saying it here as it relates to financial success, how much impact you're having, and are you able to provide for yourself and your family and the folks that you serve — that balance isn't a real thing. It's more of like a blended life, I guess you could say, but what's your take on how do you make sure that you're running a successful business and you're running a successful household? How do you how do you balance or blend those two?


Eric Clarke  12:18

That's a great question. I'm a big believer in having very regimented habits that will lead to the outcomes that you want to see happen in your life. So, every day I wake up early and the first thing that I'll do is exercise. Following the exercise, I'll take some time to — even 10, 20 minutes — to meditate and then start my day by getting ready and coming into the office. I'm probably a bit more regimented in that regard the most, but I find that if I can start my day correctly, then everything else will fall into place; as opposed to getting off on a late start, trying to, feeling behind right away when you walk in the door, so to speak, or when you start your workday. So for me, all starts with a successful morning and being able to clear my mind. I prefer to get up and run, so I like to put in five, six miles in the morning, and by doing that it helps me clear my mind and just really be open to a great day. At the end of the day, it's important for me to have dinner with my family for those days where I'm in town and not traveling. If there's work to be done after that, then absolutely willing to make sure that I'm putting in those extra hours to get some things done. Things have changed over time where my activities are certainly different than they were when we started up the business years ago, but my involvement in the business is absolutely interweaved with my lifestyle, what I do each and every day, and what I enjoy doing. I enjoy being connected with the business, understanding what's going on and what we can be doing to help our advisors more effectively serve their clients.


David DeCelle  14:09

You bring up a good point with the morning routine, and I would say the point in my life where it was the beginning stages like 20, 21, 22 years old where I was still trying to figure out what's going on and which way is up. It always felt good in the short term or in that specific moment to hit snooze, stay in bed, and then oh, I have fifteen minutes to get ready, shower, throw on the suit, and then get to work. And I would always feel like I was chasing my tail, and what I realized, which it sounds like you've been doing for quite some time, well before I started, is that your day is sort of a momentum play. And if you can wake up and get up when your alarm clock goes off, if you can then go ahead and get in some exercise, whatever that is — for you running — if you can meditate right and clear your mind. Well that's, right off the bat, that's three —they may be small — but three small wins. And then whether you're winning or losing at the beginning of the day, it tends to be contagious with everything else that happens that day. I think back, whenever there's been a bad thing or a negative thing or a curveball thrown at me, I swear it's always on the days where I choose to not be disciplined in my morning routine, and call it coincidence, call it the universe giving me a warning shot, so to speak. But I find that the opposite is true. Every time I have a very regimented morning, the day seems to be awesome. So it's good to hear, from me specifically, that on the right track with being disciplined in the morning routine.


Eric Clarke  15:37

Absolutely, it’s critical. I consider that to be my time, right? Like, that's the time where I'm really able to think and center my thoughts and layout my goals for the day, so to speak.


David DeCelle  15:49

Yeah, and I agree with that, too. I, in the first half of my career, which has only been 10 or 11 years since I graduated college, the first half of my career, I was having a lot of meetings at like 7, 8, 9 o'clock in the morning. Which I think that there's certainly some value in that and meeting with those people and doing business, so to speak, at those hours. But over the last few years, I've shifted actually, in a similar vein as what you just said, which all of my actual meetings with clients, sales call, shooting podcast, whatever it may be, they fall between the hours of 10 and 4, and that is it. And then my working before and after, of course, there's always plenty of stuff to do. But in terms of client interactions, I limit it between those hours, and then I make sure to get up between 4:30 and 5:00 every single day. So let's just call it five for easy math, that's five hours before my first — I have a whole day to myself before interacting with anyone. So it's almost like — I'm hopping on a flight later on today, and what are they going to say when we sit down? Well, secure your mask before helping others. So if you're spending some self-care or you time in the beginning of the day, you then have the energy to give yourself up to service to the folks around you, your teammates, your customers, your prospects, etc. So glad to see we’re aligned in that in that regard.


Eric Clarke 



David DeCelle 

So let's go through some industry related topics. So if I got a dollar for every time I spoke with an advisor who said, honestly, I think I have the best value proposition of any other advisor out there, I'd probably be at the same clubs that you're a part of your level, Eric. So with that being said, I know when we had spoke initially, one of the things that you're really passionate about for yourself as well the advisors that you serve is really helping people understand how to refine a value proposition. Is it something that a client, if asked, what value does your adviser provide? Is it something succinct enough and worthy enough to be remembered? So I want you to riff on that for a little bit as it relates to value proposition and then I'll ask some follow up questions along the way.


Eric Clarke  17:57

Our value proposition at Orion is probably a good place for me to start. We are fundamentally helping connect the advisor client journey across four strategic pillars of prospect, plan, invest, and achieve. And so the reason that we are aligned around that advisor client journey, and those four strategic pillars of prospect, plan, invest, and achieve, is that our advisors then have the opportunity to differentiate their value proposition in the marketplace, their service offering to clients, by focusing in on what they're doing that's unique in regards to each of those four strategic pillars. So we want to help advisors be successful with their prospecting efforts. Oftentimes, that involves us extending technology workflows. Those technology workflows that are resonating the best with prospects, the things that are top of mind to them, the concerns that they have, are often then directly tied to planning workflows, the planning technologies that we're both offering to our advisors and integrating with third parties. Then we take those planning workflows, connect those to a model marketplace of investments. What can we be doing to help our advisors stand out and be unique in a highly commoditized area of investments? Well, you can still add value through monitoring risk, looking at expenses, providing tax and behavioral alpha, those things are huge. And then ultimately, tying that back to the plan and helping make sure that the advisor has a clear way to tie the achievement of the investors goals back to those initial objectives and goals that were set together. So, those four areas, we feel like advisors can do a lot of things to differentiate their value propositions around those four strategic pillars, and our job at Orion is to actually integrate that experience, help our advisors, make sure that their technologies and workflows and that the client experience allows them to differentiate their brand in the marketplace. You know, one of my favorite books is a book called Brand Harmony. And it really, Steve Yastrow, the author, but Steve goes through and talks about the importance of making sure that your brand experience is real, and that that experience will then help you create advocates for your business. Most of our advisors today are growing through referrals. Referrals are a key source of new business for them, and so making sure that that brand experience is top of mind, I think, is a great way for advisors to differentiate their value proposition and ultimately drive that back to future growth of their business.


David DeCelle  20:48

I'm gonna put some words in your mouth to connect some dots. And obviously, let me know if it's not accurate. But one would assume that the majority of advisors have a pretty decent service model. They do what's right for the client, if they have that fiduciary standard, and that's something that a client can go to one or tens of thousands of folks and get that same level of service. So if I'm hearing you correctly, based on that assumption, the thing that's going to set advisors apart as a relates to their value to the client is not so much around planning and expertise, because let's just assume that that's of high caliber, but it's more so the experience component to the relationship, am I tracking or did I miss hear you?


Eric Clarke  21:39

It is, it is and there's so much more to it, right, David? So it's like, for instance, we work with a firm out of the northeast that only works with recently divorce women. Well, that is a very specific niche that they are narrow casting into. And that firm thinks about their prospecting efforts, they can connect with those prospects in a very unique way. They know exactly how to reach them, they know a network of alliance partners that they can be working with when it comes time to planning. They have unique needs, they're experts around those needs. And you follow that through to the investment portfolio, and ultimately, the reporting that goes back out to that market as well. So it's not just important to look at those strategic pillars, but you've also got to, in relation to your value proposition, figure out the exact market you're going to serve. At Orion, we serve fiduciary advisors, independent fiduciary advisors, that's it; that's our market. We have not build systems around commission processing or supporting brokerage business, selling load mutual funds, those types of things. We support independent fiduciary advisors, and that has been critical to our success, to know and understand our target market, alongside helping us to refine our value proposition.


David DeCelle  23:02

And that kind of leads me to the next topic I want to discuss is focusing on a target market, because I feel like our philosophy anyways is that your target market, quite frankly, determines everything else about the business. So it determines your overall branding strategy, your overall marketing strategy, and I'll give a quick example of one of those. It goes into the level of, not the level, but the types of service that you provide goes into the experience component, and quite frankly, it determines perhaps how you go about asking for introductions to more folks like them. So as an example, as you know, if someone's working in the retiree space, one of the age old strategies, that hopefully will be coming back here now that we're hopefully on the other side of COVID for good, is seminar marketing; where these folks attend a seminar, they like the guy or gal who's doing the presentation, hand them over the money. And it's kind of like, it's a math equation; amount of invites to attendees to, so on and so forth. Now you ask a business owner to go to that same Lunch and Learn or dinner seminar, and they can sniff that out from a mile away as to what the real intentions are. And if they're burning both ends of the candle, as you were at the beginning, they're just not going to have time to do that. So an example of a marketing strategy for business owners is kind of what we're doing right now, which is an interview style podcast, which is a creative and ethical way to trick someone to hang out with you so you can start to build a relationship. So my point is, is that depending on the types of folks that you're working with, one marketing strategy that works for one group of people may not work for the other group of people. I think referrals work for everyone. But that's once you get them as a client, deliver a great experience, and you've done a good job earning that opportunity to ask for referrals. So with that, one of the things that we had discussed, again, in the call that we had previous to this, is the idea that there's multiple different ways that folks can go about growing their business. So I just shared a couple from my end, but what are some ideas that you have that advisors would find valuable?


Eric Clarke  25:02

You know, the first thing that I think that advisors ought to be doing is making sure that they have strategic alignment. So, there's book Traction by Gino Wickman, and that book for us not only helps us define our value proposition, the target market, everything that we need to do to strategically align our business, but it also helped us realize opportunities through those discussions and brainstorming activities where we could go above and beyond what we are currently doing. Creative ways that we're seeing advisors reach prospects involve using technologies, obviously around email campaigns, digital ad placements with things that are top of mind for prospects. They're leveraging third parties like Smart Asset to receive referrals. They are working with technologies to help them identify prospects for their niche, technologies like Biz Equity, that then help them identify private business owners where they may be able to offer various specific value added services; and technologies like Zoom Info, so that when they do have a prospect or somebody that they're interested in talking with, they can leverage the big data sources that Zoom Info has done such an elegant job of, curating and pulling together for the advisors benefit. So there are so many things that advisors can be doing, and oftentimes, advisors’ expertise does not specifically align with all of these things that we're talking about here. So they will want to align with partners that can help them execute, help them execute on how to best market, position and, and grow their business. You know, anytime you're running a business, I always look at things from the perspective of marketing generates leads. Obviously, marketing is the protector of brands, but they generate leads. Your sales efforts generate clients, and your service offering — so in our case, our operations, IT, corporate service teams — they create advocates. So you go from creating leads to clients to advocates, and that's how your business works together and functions well as a team. But you've got to be willing to step back and say, what are we doing in each of those areas? What are we doing to effectively create leads? How are we then taking those leads to create clients? And how are we taking those clients then to build advocates to then come full circle to generate more leads to help us to continue to grow?


David DeCelle  27:45

So there's a lot there; there's a couple things I want to hit on what you said. So I'm a big believer in the Traction model that you started off with. For those of you who have not read the book, I would highly suggest that you do, and if you're hesitant to invest the time in consuming the entire book, a shameless plug, if you go to ModelFA.com, I wrote a blog about Traction. So you can get a little highlighter commercial, if you will, about that book, so I just wanted to hit on that briefly. You also mentioned a bunch of different resources, like Biz Equity, or Smart Asset, or Zoom Info, etc. So when I was an advisor, I remember making 40, 50 outbound phone calls a day. And, when I got into the business, I assumed like, oh, I'm licensed now; people are just like, my phone's just gonna ring, and I quickly realized that that was not the case. So, started going more outbound, 40, 50, 60 phone calls a day, and there was a low success rate in those phone calls, turned into appointments, where I'd book two, maybe three people a day. So if I wanted to, you know, better results, I needed to increase the activity that was 100% in my control, and what I've noticed is that there's a lot of — and I didn't want to do that, but I had to do it because it was 100% eat what you kill type of environment and I bills to pay and I goals to hit — but I find that there's a lot of advisors who are currently making enough money to where they don't need to put themselves in that uncomfortable position. And I find a lot of advisors, even when they get a referral is, they're reluctant to actually just pick up the phone and give them a buzz. And the more and more I thought about it, I came to the realization that whenever you're calling someone like that, you're always leading with some sort of ask and they don't even know you yet. And you're asking for their time or their money or whatever, so we put together a process that I think you’d enjoy. So obviously there's this process here with the podcast if you're working with business owners, but we have another process that we call give-to-get offers. And the give-to-get offer is something that is super valuable to that prospect and very easy for you to execute on. And what you do is you’re giving something of value in exchange to get their time and to get more of their information, so that as you're providing that gift to get offer — so an example could be a social security analysis or an informal business valuation or a benefits X ray, right? So you lead with that on the front end; hey, I noticed that you work over at XYZ company, I know this is totally out of the blue, but I know that there was just a change in your stock options. I have a number of clients over there, and if you're open to it, would love the opportunity to help share with you what those changes are, and how it impacts every other aspect of your financial plan. Would you be open to discussing that, within that context? They're more likely to say yes to that, than they would be just out of the blue, hey, I'd like to bring you through my entire financial planning process. And then when you're going through that, it's as simple as here you go. And then, hey, as I was looking through your stuff, I also noticed X, Y, and Z, and I really think that we could shed some light on that and do some creative planning. Would you be open to continuing conversations? Again, it's a momentum play.


Eric Clarke  31:06

It's so wise in how you're setting that up, too, because it's very specific to a need or a change that's happened in that prospect or that investor’s life. And I think that, as an industry, we have changed our value proposition from being centered around investments and having an investment centric value proposition to that of having a planning centered value proposition. And I love the way that you set that up, because it's something that's a top of mind planning item for the client, a top of mind concern that they have. Asking someone to come in and do a comprehensive financial plan would be about on the lines of asking someone to have a root canal. It's just not a great experience, historically, for clients to go through a comprehensive planning process. And, afterwards, they've gone through an exhaustive process of getting everything pulled together, they get a very thick plan, they print out, put on the shelf for five years, it collects dust, it isn't reviewed. The industry, while we change to having a planning centered value proposition, I think it's incredibly important that we stay focused on creating plans for concerns that the client has, and over time building out that comprehensive plan. But engaging the client in ways that you're actually helping to solve problems that they have, you're providing value add to the relationship, as opposed to accomplishing an item on a checklist of, hey, we've got the comprehensive plan done.


David DeCelle  32:44

Agreed, and the entire comprehensive plan is like an elephant. And we know the best way to eat an elephant, right? It's one bite at a time.


Eric Clarke 

One bite at a time, yep.


David DeCelle 

Cool. Well, Eric, let's pivot. So, if this is the first episode that you're listening to, one thing that we do with all of our guests is we ask what their favorite book is, or at least one of their favorite books; because I find that there's a lot of advisors in the industry who are continuously learning, there's some who are not, but there's a lot of advisors who are continuously learning, but they tend to do so by default within the confines of our industry. Which of course is important, you need to be up to speed so that you can continue to serve your clients in the best way possible, but there's also so many other principles or ideas or strategies that you can learn from reading books outside of our industries. That's really the goal here is to promote learning outside of our industry and then taking those ideas and applying it to what you do on a day to day basis, be in business, in life, or in both. So with that being said, Eric, your favorite book that you wanted to talk about is The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. Tell me a little bit about that book and why you chose it.


Eric Clarke  33:54

I had an opportunity to hear Guy speak early 2000s. He worked for Steve Jobs at Apple, was asked to lead a team that would ultimately put the Apple II computer out of business. He and his team were funded by Steve to be located I think like ten miles away from their headquarters there at Apple, and they came up with the Macintosh. And Guy has an incredible entrepreneurial spirit about him. His innovative insights are infectious, and as you read The Art of the Start, it gets you, if nothing else, reenergized and motivated, excited to jump back in and really re-examine your business as an entrepreneur, as a start up again. And I think that is just incredibly exciting. I've read and reread that book many times. It does have a very tech perspective built into it, but it's directly applicable to being a financial adviser and providing advice to clients. The one takeaway that defocuses on, just quite honestly, in the setup of the book and what Steve is doing is this concept of you know disrupting your own business as opposed to letting someone else do that and finding yourself on the outside looking in. So this cultural mindset, if you will, of constantly challenging the status quo is just evident right from the start of the book. It's great book, it's a quick read, it won't take long but it may then get you hooked on Guy Kawasaki in general; he's a wonderful, innovative entrepreneur.


David DeCelle  35:40

I'm hearing similar themes; so when someone asked me what I do, my line that I say before I go into detail is that I help advisors fall in love with their business again. I feel like, based on the recurring revenue model, it's easy to become complacent, it's easy to forget why you started. It's easy to not want to disrupt your own business and really change that. So while you're going through that, I went on Amazon and grabbed the book, so I'll add that to my list and I'll follow up and let you know how I like it.


Eric Clarke 



David DeCelle 

Cool. So before we pivot over to the after-hours portion, Eric, for those who are listening who may not be using Orion already, what's the best way for them to get in touch with Orion? Are there places for them to connect with you personally? What's that look like?


Eric Clarke  36:26

So our website is very easy, it's just Orion.com. Anytime advisors want to connect with me, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or via email. My email is very simple, it’s [email protected], E-R-I-C. So it's, again, a couple of easy ways to connect. We’d love to learn more about your business and hopefully ways that we can be additive to your value proposition, the unique offering that you're bringing out to investors in the market that you serve.


David DeCelle  36:57

Awesome. So before we go into the after-hours portion, as always, if you found value in today's episode, feel free to go ahead and share this with someone that you think will also find value in it. I think specifically the first half of the conversation, quite frankly, is applicable to anyone; they don't have to be a financial advisor. Go ahead and share that if you found some value. Also if you would be so kind as to leave us a review on iTunes, that would really help with visibility on that platform so we can get in front of more advisors and they can get value from not just this episode but both our past and our future ones coming up. And as a thank you for doing so, if you take a screenshot of that review and text me that picture, with Orion in that text as well so I know what episode it's in regards to, and shoot me a text at 978-228-2338. What will happen is you'll get an automated response that will have a link that will just have you put in your name so that you're added to my contacts, and then beyond that initial message that's automated, it's actually me chatting with you back and forth. So as a thank you for doing so, I will go ahead and give you access to one of our partners, Dan Allison, who joined the Model FA; he has referral methodology and we got a couple videos within our online course that we have. And I will give you a link and give you access to those videos as a thank you for leaving a review, and hopefully within that review, it's some nice things that you're saying. So with that, we'll be heading into the after-hours portion. But, Eric, for now, I appreciate you joining. I also appreciate you being an advocate in figuring out how Model FA and Orion can better serve the advisor community together, and excited to meet you in person and continue to build our friendship and business relationships. So thank you very much for your time.


Eric Clarke 

Great, thank you David.


David DeCelle 







David DeCelle  38:54

Cool, that was really good man. I enjoyed a multitude of different things. I mean, not selfishly for me, but reassuring to me that some of the mundane activities that are done on a daily basis like waking up on time and going to the gym and meditating and all that stuff that's been in my calendar as recurring events for some time now, are foundational pieces to the rest of your life success, both personally and professionally. So typically with these after our sections, we are a little bit more loose and funny and asking silly questions and things like that, but — and maybe we get there — but I do want to, I would love to get your perspective on a couple things. So number one is whether you're a brand new advisor or you're someone who's been in the business for some time, I alluded to this before, which is helping advisors fall in love with their business again, and I find that people's businesses — and I'm going to share my idea after you share yours so that we can compare notes — but sometimes it's because of business, sometimes because of personal life. So my question to you is when, because we've all been in that situation at some point in time where we just feel off to some degree, what have you done in the past to relight your own internal fire during those times of doubt?


Eric Clarke  40:13

Yeah, I think that it's really important to understand your why. Why do you do what you do? What are you trying to accomplish? For me, I love the idea of fiduciary advisors who put their interests first, helping people figure out how they're going to retire the financial challenges that they have. So for me, at times when you feel overwhelmed, stressed out, burned out even, I think it's also a great opportunity to then set some personal goals, something that you'd like to accomplish that have nothing to do with business. So for me, I think I've run fourteen marathons now, and running a marathon, what it does is running the marathon is like a six to eight month process that you go through to train, to get ready, to get prepared for that. Has absolutely nothing to do with work, but it helps me to obviously clear my mind, but it gives me something else to focus on. Things like vacations or the normal things that you do, they are temporary, but setting a longer term personal goal, or some type of something that you'd like to accomplish outside of work, I think it's really helpful.


David DeCelle  41:32

Well, I'm excited to hear that. So throughout the conversation, I've noticed a lot of similarities between you and I and various aspects like morning routine and meditation. And you've done fourteen marathons, I've only done one, but broke the ice, which excites me, because it's like, oh, maybe I'll end up at Eric's stage at some point. But it also worries me, because I like the hair that I have now, and if I become you at some point, that's going to end up going away.


Eric Clarke 

I think it’s bad genetics on my part.


David Decelle

I digress. But, to your point, I think that, as I alluded to before, there's balanced life that people try to aspire to. I view it more of like a blended life. And the way that I view this is that if you're feeling off, like there's been times where business is crushing, making good money, serving a lot of people, but I just feel off. Maybe I stopped working out, maybe I stopped meditating, maybe I'm a little bit overweight at that point in time, or if life is crushing personal life, but I'm not making any money, it's tough to feel good about that, right? So I find that all these things are intertwined. So we actually put together this program, this list, if you will, called the C3 list. And the three C's are commitment, consistency, and confidence. And this list is comprised of five different components. It's two things that you do every single day that move you forward as a human. So that could be waking up at a certain time, it could be going to the gym, it could be eating clean, it could be reading, whatever; two things that move your business forward every single day, certain amount of outreaches, perhaps content, asking for referrals, things like that, learning something new within your business. And then the last item is something that moves someone else forward. So maybe it's a date night with a spouse or spending extra time with kids or a random act of kindness, holding the door open for someone. They don't need to be these monumental things, but if you picked this up as I was going through that list, the main thing about the list is that the things that are on it are 100% in your control, and they're not results focused, they are action focused. And when you commit to that, doing those things every day, and you're consistent with that, you can have the confidence moving forward to work through uncomfortable situations and have the confidence moving forward that you have that well rounded blended life because you're checking boxes throughout the day in all aspects of life, including being of service to others. So that's kind of how I address relighting a fire, so to speak.


Eric Clarke  44:09

Totally agree, and your insights on that third bullet point are especially helpful. As we focus on reaching out and serving others, it only makes us feel better about — it's just the magic of the world so to speak. As you're helping others, you will naturally then feel better by helping them.


David DeCelle  44:30

So lastly, and I'm kind of putting you on the spot here so I'll give you a moment to think of one if it's not readily available, but in building Orion, with you and of course your talented team, since 1999, there's a number of years in there between then and now, which then creates a number of opportunities to have fallen flat in your face or having some sort of embarrassing moment or something where you walk out and you're like, oh my god, I can't believe that just happened. What's one of those stories that comes to mind that you think our listeners would get a chuckle out of?


Eric Clarke  45:03

Well, I think that, we've had a lot of those throughout the years, obviously, as the business was smaller, and we were starting up, it’s just a very different situation than, say, running our business today. We've certainly had a lot of opportunities to correct course. Early on, we were involved in sending out tax reports, the realized gain loss report, and we spent very late nights getting those prepared, getting those ready, sending them out; but we had issues with those reports, we had to re send them out, it was very, when we sent the corrected realized gain loss reports out, it was an embarrassing thing for the firm. But along the way, we really found that we bonded together as a team early on. I mean, and just talking about this, you don’t, the brokers today are providing the cost based information; that used to not be the case. So, the importance of what we were sending out was significant, and we realized that it was going to be a bad situation. People, in some cases, we're gonna have to file an amended tax return, so it was of extreme importance. And while it was a difficult, challenging time in my career, so to speak, I can say that internally, our team really bonded, and many of those same team members that we were going through that experience with are still part of our Orion team today.


David DeCelle  46:38

And it goes back to what we were talking about earlier with conflict, if handled directly and with some grace and understanding, it ultimately builds relationships. And, you kind of just proved that point there with being in the weeds with your coworkers and employees of the firm. And they're still here today, even though there was that crappy scenario that you had to work through together.


Eric Clarke 

So, that's right.


David DeCelle

Awesome. Well, for those of you who stuck around in the after-hours, hopefully you got another nugget or two in there. Eric, once again, grateful for your time. And we will hopefully be chatting soon and hope to meet in person at some point soon as well.


Eric Clarke  47:15

Well, thank you, David. And thank you for all the terrific work that you and your team are doing to help advisors at Model FA. And like you mentioned, we’re looking forward to doing more and more together to help these advisors that we mutually serve achieve higher levels of success. So thank you so much for having me on your podcast today. It's been a great experience, and I've learned a lot. I've got a page full of notes based on some of the great nuggets that you've shared. So thank you.


David DeCelle  47:42

I appreciate that. Take care everyone and thanks for tuning in.