EP 68 | The Guide is Not the Hero: Financial Advisors and the Power of Storytelling with Aaron Klein

10.28.21 | 0 Market Scale

Aaron Klein is the co-founder and CEO of Riskalyze, the organization that invented the Risk Number, empowering the world to invest fearlessly. Under Aaron’s leadership, Riskalyze has grown to serve thousands of financial advisors and has been recognized by Fast Company Magazine as one of the world’s top ten most innovative companies in finance. InvestmentNews has named Aaron one of the industry’s Top 40 Under 40 executives. In addition to his responsibilities at Riskalyze, Aaron actively performs humanitarian work. He has co-founded and serves as a board member of Hope Takes Root, an initiative to serve orphans and vulnerable kids in Ethiopia, and serves on the board of Invest in Others, an organization that supports financial advisors who give back to their communities. 

Aaron joins me today to discuss how financial advisors can harness the power of storytelling to foster their connection with clients. He describes how the impetus behind Riskalyze started in a conversation between friends. He defines what the “red pill” principle is and shares the different personal routines he maintains to help him balance his time between family and business. He also discusses how clients seldom make long-term decisions, highlights how social media can be used for positive outcomes, and underscores the relationship between storytelling and good selling.


“Painting yourself as the hero instead of a guide leaves your clients as a spectator. You can’t be a successful financial advisor until the client takes an active role in the story.” – Aaron Klein


This week on The Model FA Podcast: 

        Aaron’s backstory and why Riskalyze made a pivot to the B2B space

        The “Apollo 13” question and how Riskalyze started as a conversation between friends

        The “red pill” principle and the difficulty and wonder of being an entrepreneur

        Mindsets and personal routines that help Aaron stay positive and persevere through challenges

        Unlocking the secrets of powerful storytelling

        How clients make short-term decisions that serve as fuel for their long-term vision

        Using the C3 list to commit to the process of success

        The law of diminishing returns in social media

        Using capitalism to pull people out of poverty


Resources Mentioned: 

        Book: What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story by Michael T. Bosworth

        Book: Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr

        Book: Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire by Brad Stone

        Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz


Our Favorite Quotes: 

        “There are ups and downs and ebbs and flows in the entrepreneurial journey. It’s important to have an aspect of your life that’s foundational and stable. For me, that’s my personal routine.” – David DeCelle

        “A start-up is a process of learning. It’s about how much tenacity and drive you have to extend that learning experience long enough to get you to the other side.” – Aaron Klein

        “Ensure that the client feels educated and empowered to make decisions that can save themselves.” – David DeCelle


Connect with Aaron Klein: 


        Riskalyze on LinkedIn

        Riskalyze on Facebook

        Riskalyze on Twitter

        Email: [email protected]

        Aaron Klein on LinkedIn

        Aaron Klein on Instagram

        Aaron Klein on Facebook

        Aaron Klein on Twitter


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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Aaron Klein  00:06

You know, first of all, I think at a fundamental level, what I love about what you just shared is so many people jump into selling and sales and they don't really understand what good selling and sales is right? Like good selling and sales is about creating opportunities for other people to thrive through what you do and making them aware of that. But it's very them focused, it's not you focused and that you know, it sounds to me like that's what you kind of learned along that journey right? As you pivoted your approach to that


David DeCelle  00:41

welcome model of Fes I am very excited to bring our guests to you today have had a couple of good back to back recordings today. So having a great day myself, hopefully you will get some value out of this episode, and we are here with Aaron Klein. Aaron is a co founder of riskalyze. riskalyze was founded in 2011. And he helped grow the company to serve 10s of 1000s of financial advisors and twice being named as one of the world's top 10 most innovative companies and financed by Fast Company magazine. He also co founded hope takes root and initiative to serve orphans and vulnerable kids in Ethiopia and serves on the board of invest in others, an organization that supports financial advisors who give back to their communities investment news has honored him as one of the industry's top 40 under 40. executives, I am humbled and grateful to be with you today, Aaron, and I welcome you to the show.


Aaron Klein  01:39

Awesome, thank you so much for having me, and really grateful for the invitation excited to be here. Love it.


David DeCelle  01:43

So let's go through a little bit about your backstory. So if I'm not mistaken, your initial strategy back in 2011, till I'm not sure when was more of a B to C strategy, if I'm not mistaken, you quickly realize that it's kind of tough to go B to C, and you weren't finding a ton of success as you had hoped at that point in the business. And you had decided to pivot more towards the B the B space. And as a result, you guys have you know, 30,000 plus users on the platform now so to say it was a successful pivot, I think would be an understatement. But tell me a little bit about that journey and realization that you had during that time period.


Aaron Klein  02:25

Yeah, for sure. So you know, riskalyze is a company that actually started as a conversation between friends, I was, you know, running global product for a division of an options brokerage firm, my co founder, Mike McDaniel was a financial advisor. And so you know, I'm leading technology teams that are building tools to help options traders figure out risk. And I remember saying to him, it is crazy how the average individual thinks about the concept of risk. And he said, if you think that's crazy, you should see many of us financial advisors Think about it, you know, we just really haven't had the tools in our profession to understand who our clients are, and really align that with the risk in their portfolios. And so, you know, when we double clicked on that idea, we really, you know, kind of realized that the industry had gotten kind of reliant on these qualitative terms, like conservative, moderate, and aggressive. And, you know, the real problem is, is that we're not really sure if everybody means the same thing by these words, right? And so, you know, I, you can imagine, like, if contractors and architects talk to each other, they'd be like, Don't forget, where they want to, you know, a moderately conservative hallway leading to their moderately aggressive conference room, and like, the building would not come together, right. So we really felt like we needed to put the feet and inches into this process for financial advisors. And that's, you know, a big part of how the risk number was born. But when we started in 2011, one of the things that we kind of said was great financial advisors are not going to road test brand new risk technology on their clients. So the first thing we've got to do is we've got to validate this. And our thought process was kind of interesting. And you know, to be honest, as much as this strategy didn't fully work, I look back and like, I'm not sure that we would have gotten to where we are, if we hadn't followed this part of the journey, you know, but what we did is we built it as a free website focused on kind of $25,000 e trade guys, right? Like that was kind of the prototypical customer we had in mind for the first version of this free on the web. And, you know, effectively, that part of it was very successful in that we got some PR, and like the New York Times, and Barron's and NPR radio, we had users come in and build $2 billion in portfolios on the platform. So we had a lot of engagement from people who loved capturing the wrist number, and then, you know, plugging in their portfolio and kind of seeing how the alignment happened and like, coming back and like rechecking that from time to time, and so there was there was a lot of engagement from users there and you know, that $2 billion, it was like $27,000 average account size so we definitely it like struck a chord with consumers in a way you know, that was really interesting. Our strategy though, to make money off of this was to license that technology, you know, once we kind of proved it out to One of the big five discount brokers at the time, right and say we kind of had some projections for how much money we thought we could make off that we weren't going to, you know, we weren't going to be wildly successful with that money. But we planned on using that money to sustain the company in investing in the advisor product that we really wanted to build, right. And so, you know, I'm criss crossing the country in 2012, trying to put a deal together with one of these five discount brokers. And it didn't, it was not going well, like, within short order, like three of the five just dropped out, you know, they're like, we just don't use third party partners to do technology for our retail platforms. And then, you know, like e trade wanted to do the deal, but they were kind of a financial basket case in 2011. And so they actually lost their CEO again that year. So you know, it just wasn't coming together. And then, you know, TD Ameritrade actually really wanted the deal to happen. But they had some technical hurdles at the last minute. And so that, you know, kind of fell apart. And so here we are, like Labor Day of 2012. And I'm flying back home from a meeting with TD Ameritrade where the deal has like fallen apart. And I'm like, we've got three months of money left in the bank somewhere, I've still got the page, you know, the notebook where I flipped it up into a new page, you know, and I'm sitting there going, I wrote what I call the Apollo 13 question at the top of that page, right, which is where Jean Krantz says, what do we have on the ship? That's good, you know, like, what are our assets here that we can work the problem with, you know, and all I could really write on that page was great core risk methodology, you know, in technology, and $2 billion of validation. And so you know, I came home kind of got the team together on Labor Day weekend, and I'm like, you know, guys, we've got three months of money left in the bank, like, if we're gonna go down, let's go down swinging, let's rebuild the product for financial advisors now, and let's see if the $2 billion of validation is enough to get great financial advisors to use the product. And you know, lo and behold, that worked in our investors stood behind us in March of 2013, is when that came out of beta. And it just kind of, you know, went like a rocket ship from there. And it's been a wild ride ever since


David DeCelle  07:04

I love that I'm curious to know, because I've found or seen this in myself on a number of occasions. And I would imagine, everyone listening to this has dealt with this as well, which is doubt seeping in throughout your entrepreneurial journey. So you go and you know, you get shut down, and all these meetings you're spending to, you know, actually fly out there and stay out there, you know, what were some of the things that you did with your mindset along that journey to stay positive, persevere and continue to move forward. Even with those, I won't call them failures, I'll call them learning opportunities along the way,


Aaron Klein  07:40

honestly, like they are kind of micro failures along the way, right. But they are learning opportunities. And part of it is the mindset of keeping in mind that this is a process of learning, like a startup is a process of learning a bunch of things that hopefully lead you on a path to a business, right. And I mean, that that's literally what a startup is. And so you know, I would just say this, one of the first things you kind of have to figure out is, are you way off? Or are you a little bit off? You know, like, if things are not working out, how far off do you think you are one of the core principles that I tried to follow, and it's really difficult because it's difficult to have perspective, I had good friends of mine, who were very supportive people who were like, like, maybe this is just effects that they were saying, maybe you're far off, you know, like, maybe you're just pointing in the wrong direction. But I tried to follow the principle, you know, of like taking the red pill, right? Like that the concept from the matrix of like, let's choose reality over, you know, telling ourselves what we want to hear and really tried to listen carefully about what was working and how far off we work, because we were clearly off, right, like the initial strategy was not working. But there were parts of it that were clearly right. Like all that engagement from users told us that there was a hunger for quantifying things about how you're invested in figuring out who you are, and matching that up with how you invest. And so there were a lot of good signals that were telling us that we weren't far off, we were just a few degrees off. And at the end of the day, if you're just a few degrees off, like the startups that fail are when people quit, like the question is, how much tenacity how much how much drive Do you have to be willing to extend your learning experience long enough to like figure it out and get to the other side, and we got very fortunate, you know, between you know, smart people that were willing to be kind to me and give me advice and give me perspective, right? And combination of that and great, you know, co founders and people in the company at the beginning. And we could talk through issues and think through things and try to figure out you know, which degrees we should turn to try to sail the ship in the right direction and kind of reach you know, where we were trying to go you know, that combination of things came together and for us, allowed us to get to the other side, and that's, you know, that's a hard journey it takes there's a reason why entrepreneur is such an incredible title is because man it's a calling and it takes a long time, sometimes of kind of wandering out there and sailing into the vast unknown and you can't see land, and you don't know, if you're missing land by three degrees or 180 degrees, you just don't know. And that's the difficulty. And also the wonder that is being an entrepreneur and going through that process of being a startup. And you know, finally learning enough that it becomes a business


David DeCelle  10:20

love it. So if I'm tracking you, it's a matter of having the right people on the team that are tenacious, while also supportive. And then being open to feedback. Maybe from some folks, you take it a little bit more with a grain of salt than others, if they don't see the vision as much as you I remember, when I left being a financial advisor and got into the consulting space, you know, my a lot of members of my family, you know, family wants the best for you, hopefully, anyways, they want the best for you, and especially my parents, their job is to protect you. And there was not it wasn't that they were casting doubt. But they're like, what are you doing, you have a good thing going, but I kind of use that as fuel. But you know, taking people's feedback, so you can read your act and having that support system around you is kind of what I'm hearing from you.


Aaron Klein  11:05

Well, I'm taking the red pill means that you're hearing their feedback. And you're asking yourself lots of questions like, you know, first of all, do they know something about the market that I don't? Well, when it's your parents, God bless them, you're right, they're there to protect you. Right? They're there to and and I would, I would just say, you know, I drive around with the risk 99 license plate on my car. But when it comes to my kids, my risk number is a lot lower than that. So I'm gonna do my best to be a supportive parent of their dreams. But I'm quite confident there's gonna be times where I'm going to be sitting there going, Oh, are you sure you know what you're doing? Like, you've got a good thing going? Are you sure you want to take that leap? And, you know, that's a natural thing, I think, for kids to do with parents, I think, you know, again, if you're going to be an entrepreneur, you have to take that into account. And I had to look, for example, at some of those friends who were casting some doubt and go, Okay, do they know something about the market that I don't, you know, turned out, they knew something about software, businesses and startups, they didn't necessarily know anything about this industry in this particular market and the market that we were trying to serve. And you know, I remember one of those friends, for example, after the first you know, 100 advisors had joined riskalyze. And he was just kind of like, yeah, 100 customers, like I've seen startups fail at 100 customers, just be careful before you overextend yourself, like he wasn't trying to be negative, he was just one of the best for me, right? And just be careful before you overextend yourself. And I just remember that conversation and going, I hear that right. But I know enough about this profession and I'm hearing enough input from people here to know that this is that if you can get 100 people 100 financial advisors to take a risk with their clients, right? The most precious thing that they safeguard to leverage your technology to serve them better. And the feedback is you help me serve my client better, that is something where it's going to have legs and that was you know, you got to listen to the right signals. When you're when you're an entrepreneur, it's pretty critical


David DeCelle  12:51

of it. So I have a belief I'm curious to get a sense as to what you do. So my belief is that in the entrepreneurial journey, there's ups and downs and ebbs and flows and you're challenged constantly throughout the process, your resiliency is challenged and I feel like you also get a lot of warning shots along the way that help you redirect and I think that it's important to have a certain aspect of your life that is foundational and stable and for me that's my personal routine that I know that if crap hits the fan, I can go back to that so I'm curious to know what your personal routine looks like like your self care routine, so to speak, outside of outside of business that keeps you on track.


Aaron Klein  13:37

Yeah, that's an interesting question. I would say that it's gotten a little bit more intentional in more recent years than frankly it was before I mean, I remember in the early days I would just kind of live and breathe and you know just riskalyze like every every moment of every day it's still pretty all encompassing but you know I can say in those early days I didn't have much of that kind of routine so if I was not living and breathing and thinking riskalyze I was probably spending time with my wife and kids like that that was those were the two things I was doing that was it you know so you know I definitely learned along the way you know we've gone through lots of ups and downs definitely I mean feel really grateful more ups than downs right but have gone through both kinds at all different stages of this company and you know so i a few things that I've learned and you know some of these are self care some of these are just what I need to do to be invested my family I care a lot about my family my wife and I have three kids you know they're 1714 and 12 and you know, the company has been around for 10 years so you can do the math like time goes by in a flash right and so I you know, 10 years from now they're all going to be out of the house so I don't have you know, the luxury of just going well, no, I'm just gonna keep focusing on this. I'll focus on you guys later, right? Like I want to be the kind of dad who is intentional about about being there for his kids and my wife and I I have been married now for 20 years and you know we're each other's best friend and so like that's important and you've got to take time and invest in that so what have I done have I really worked kind of routine to make that happen one thing is that this did not come natural to me but I turned into an early bird an early person right so the alarm on weekdays the alarm goes off for me at 445 in the morning that is hard for me like I I kind of like crawl out there and make the coffee and and try to start waking up at 445 it's not a natural thing but I then take about an hour you know probably until about six a to generally read you know and just think and you know, some days I'm reading some days I'm writing I've started there some days where it's just like I can't even focus on reading because I've got too much swirling around in my head and I'll just pull out a notebook and just start writing and just getting it down on paper and processing all those thoughts and I end up getting a lot of clarity on that I also one of the things I did recently I'm generally pretty self controlled so at first I thought that this was kind of silly but it's just so helpful for muscle memory I turned on Apple's screentime for myself from like it basically does downtime on my phone and email doesn't work and all those different things don't work from like I think I said it's like two in the morning just in case I was working late one night which is pretty rare but like two in the morning to 630 right and so I do that because if I get sucked into email or other kinds of issues and I don't even know I'm doing it half the time I can't tell you how many times I'm sitting there making coffee and I flip up on my phone I tap the email app and it pops up and says this is this you know this app is on downtime right now and I'm like yeah I don't do that right now right but it's muscle memory and so I've been using that as a tool to say don't get sucked into that like spend that hour reading and you know thinking through things and it's given me a lot of clarity so one of my always on apps is the to do list because I do come up with a lot of things that I go to do that you know I need to think about that problem and then six to 630 I'm usually like on the peloton bike or doing something else you know working out and then you know shower change and leave for work and getting to the office you know sometime in the seven o'clock hour typically is when I try to do that 730 ish something like that and so what why do i do that in the mornings that's frankly so that I can leave the office at six o'clock and have dinner with my family when I'm in town if I don't get in early and do that I cannot get home for dinner consistently when I'm not traveling and so for me I've just tried to make that Paramount we do that you know every evening that I'm in town and then my wife and I usually the kids clean up dinner


David DeCelle  17:33

wow darted Yeah, maybe or maybe Oh, nice.


Aaron Klein  17:40

Yeah, yeah, we go out for a walk around the block and we just like process our day and talk about stuff and go out and like walk around the block for you know, 30 minutes or something like that after dinner every night. And so that's kind of the routine that's worked really well for me and then you know, I The other thing is that I absolutely I probably work about 58 to 62 hours a week, I find that anything above that, like my productivity is like dropping like a rock, you know, so I'll work some on Saturdays for sure. I don't know how to do my job without you know, spending some some time catching up on Saturdays. But I really work to keep Sundays just work free. We go to church together, and we spend Sunday you know, quiet and trying to spend time with each other and try to keep it work for you love it.


David DeCelle  18:25

Well, it's good to hear that I'm doing a lot of the same things that you're doing. One thing that I'm not doing that I'm going to need to figure out is the settings on your phone with the screen time I didn't realize that was a thing, but I feel like that will help a lot with you know, my phone, like I'll put it on silent. But if I look at my phone, I'll see the notification. So I have to look in how to do that.


Aaron Klein  18:44

So yeah, it's pretty cool. It's pretty cool downtime under the ScreenFlow. So


David DeCelle  18:49

check that out. Yeah, awesome. So I've read a book recently called what great sales people do. And early on in my career. I was an advisor for seven years and probably the first half of that it was a sales based culture. So I was like super salesy. I got in and when I was, you know, a hungry 20 year old and I alienated a lot of people in my life. And during that time because whenever I reached out to them, I either wanted their time, their money or their network, and it wasn't I over rotated. And one thing that I haphazardly stumbled upon was rather than selling I stumbled upon talking and selling through through storytelling, but I had no format about it. And what I really liked about this book is it brought you through how to actually construct a story, be it for a stage talk, or be it for you know, a sales conversation, what have you. And what I've liked about this conversation so far is every time I've asked a question, you've had some sort of story format throughout each of your responses, and I know you have a stage talk and you know that it really hits on storytelling specifically it's called unlocking the secrets of powerful storytelling. So I know we don't have enough time to go through everything that you talked about on stage. But I'm curious to know how you view storytelling. And I'll leave it at that and let you take it as you please.


Aaron Klein  20:11

Yeah, sure. So you know, first of all, I think at a fundamental level, what I love about what you just shared is, so many people jump into selling and sales, and they don't really understand what good selling and sales is, right? Like good selling, and sales is about creating opportunities for other people to thrive through what you do, and making them aware of that, but it's very them focused, it's not you focused. And that, you know, it sounds to me, like that's what you kind of learned along that journey. Right, as you pivoted your approach to that. So I will say that I think that the storytelling approach to things will not work, if you build it on top of a bad Foundation, that selling is about, you know, basically exploiting everybody's time, money and network for yourself. Right? It's, it's, it's still not going to work, right. But storytelling is a really powerful and, you know, construct to think about because, you know, I really believe that everything that we do is around creating the opportunities for others to thrive through what we provide and what we do and the value that we deliver to the world. And so the question is, is how do we effectively communicate that because a lot of us slip into a bad pattern of how we communicate that and it's a very simple pattern, okay, I'm the hero, and I'm here to save the day, right. And so the book that I read that started me thinking down these lines as well is there's a couple of books that I read, but probably the most powerful one was story brand, which is by Donald Miller. And it sounds like it's similar concepts to what great salespeople do. But you know, basically, what he points out is that, you know, every great movie kind of follows a very similar pattern. And, you know, effectively, you know, there's somebody who has a problem, they have a challenge that they need to address, and then you know, a guide comes onto the scene and kind of helps them solve the problem, okay, or defeat the enemy, or whatever they've got to do in that particular story, right, and kind of get to the other side of success. And the point is, is that that person who's there at the beginning, that's the hero of the story, that guide is not the hero, the guide comes onto the scene and helps the hero, you know, solve the problem and get to the other side. So you know, let's apply this to Star Wars, one of the greatest movies of all time, right? Like Luke Skywalker is the hero of that story. You know, Obi Wan Kenobi is not the hero of the story. He's the guide, and Luke has to decide whether he's going to follow the guides advice, and ultimately, you know, manages to kind of win the day and destroy the Death Star, right. But that formula exists in a lot of different ways. And so now let's take it down. Let's apply the core idea to financial advisors. Oh, boy, is that true with financial advisors, financial advisors tend, you know, they're in a service business, they care deeply about doing the right thing for their clients, and they tend to very naturally fall into the hero role in the story. One of the reasons why that's true is because financial advisors, in my view, do very heroic work, okay? It is not, you know, anything less than heroic, to help average people figure out how to take their life's work and manage it towards creating wealth that allows their family and what they do to turn into their grandkids going to college, or world changing nonprofit work through their generosity, or just the ability to retire with dignity and security and not be dependent upon others, right? Like, these are great things that financial advisors enable, and it's heroic work. So it's natural that they would kind of fall into the hero role in their communication, but it's critical that they make the client the hero because if you paint yourself as the hero, okay, instead of you as the financial advisor, adopting the role of guide, okay, if you adopt the role of hero, guess what that leaves your client is the spectator on the couch, they are watching your movie, they're eating popcorn, and every couple of minutes, they're going, what is this movie done for me recently, like, you know, and it's a it's a transactional relationship. Whereas the truth is, you as a financial adviser cannot be successful unless the client plays an active role in the story. It's their short term decisions that are going to feed the ultimate success of their financial plan that you're helping deliver for them, you need them engaged in the story. So if you don't position them as the hero of the story, and you come in as the guide to help them get to the other side, they're not going to get there. And ultimately, it's going to be a transactional relationship that doesn't really work out.


David DeCelle  24:28

I love that I feel like there's a lot to unpack in there that we don't necessarily have the time allotted to do so my biggest takeaway is making sure that you as the advisor is not positioning yourself as the one who's saving the day and being the hero, but instead, make sure the client feels and I'm putting words in your mouth let me know if I'm wrong. The client feels educated and empowered to make the decisions that they can save themselves from whatever the villains scenario is that they're currently in. At that point in time,


Aaron Klein  25:01

yeah, whether that's market volatility or whether that's, you know, high fees, or whether that's whatever that is that they're dealing with it, they want to solve that problem, you know, you being able to go to your client and say, Listen, I'm really excited to work with you. I'm here to give you some guidance and some help on how we're going to navigate through this. But you know, you play a very important role in the story, right? Because I'll put it this way, I spoke to a large group of financial advisors once I was super cool. I said, How many people here help their clients make great long term decisions? All the hands go up, right? Like every financial advisor, you know, is like, Yes, I helped my clients make great long term decisions. I'm like, I'm terribly sorry, trick question. None of your clients make long term decisions, they only make short term decisions, right. And the deal is, is that great short term decisions are ultimately the fuel the input that amazing financial advisors use to create those life transforming long term financial outcomes, right. And so that's what this conversation is all about is helping the client understand that they have a really important role to play, they have control over this situation, you're there as their guide to help them get to the other side and navigate through that, hey, model phase,


Patrick Brewer  26:10

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'll 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 dot model f a.com, forward slash excelerator or www dot model FA comm hover over work with us and click on accelerator hope to see in the program.


David DeCelle  26:58

So what I like about what you just said, Love about what you just said actually is totally unrelated to that scenario. But you mentioned that clients make short term decisions that serve as the fuel to that long term vision that they have for themselves and their family. And I think there's a lot of power in that as it relates to a financial advisor, specifically, meaning oftentimes, you can get overly excited or overly bummed out as you look into the future to your vision. And what you need to do. And I mentioned this earlier on another podcast, but we put together this program called the C three list. And then what the C three list is, the three C's are commitment, consistency, and confidence. And on that list is five things that you do every single day. And those five things are related to whatever your long term vision is. And the five things are two things that move you forward as a human being. So it could be waking up at a certain time working out eating clean reading, whatever, two things move your business forward, every day, it could be reaching out to a certain amount of prospects or clients, it could be asking for introductions, it could be creating content. And then the last thing is something that moves someone else forward as small as you know, holding the door open for that awkward amount of times where they jog over to the door, you know, random act of kindness, whatever it may be. And the whole idea there is really three main components. Number one is that oftentimes, we can get overly excited or overly anxious about that larger goal. And we need to control the controllable and do the little things every single day that are in alignment with that larger vision. Second is that they're 100% in your control is not get a certain amount of referrals, it's ask a certain amount of times and if you ultimately commit to that process, and you're consistent with it, confidence, I think anyways, comes or goes based on whether or not you keep little promises to yourself on a daily basis. So you're willing to put yourself in that uncomfortable situation and ask for an introduction because your confidence has risen. And all that time you're getting one step closer brick by brick to whatever that larger vision is, that was my main takeaway as it relates to how to apply that to a financial advisor as well.


Aaron Klein  29:10

100% Yeah, I love that. When did you deliver or when did you create that C three framework that's really cool.


David DeCelle  29:18

I would say, December or January, so December 2020, January 2021. And it was basically a culmination just to give credit where credit's due, it was a culmination of like a few different lists that were out there. There's the power list by Andy for Sela the prizefighter day with Ben Newman, Ben Newman was actually just recently on the podcast and it was my own spin on that to where, you know, when I was a financial advisor, there were days where I felt awesome and unstoppable. Yeah, and then there were days where I would feel off kilter. And that was usually because professionally I may have been making a bunch of money but personally, I was overweight and not being healthy or the opposite. I was doing great personally, but I wasn't making enough money and I found that my happiness is derived from is every aspect of my life moving in the right direction. And I quickly realized that in order to do that, and ensure that there's just a couple things that you need to do on a daily basis to take the appropriate steps and create that momentum for yourself,


Aaron Klein  30:13

Well, I'm curious, like how much of the fact that you're coming out of a global pandemic, your influence you to like, get that down on paper and use that that way, because I found that I needed the routine and I needed and then I had to find small ways to change the routine, just to try to make it a little bit more interesting, you know, not massive material changes, just like, you know, good ways to like shake things up and make life feel a little bit a little bit dynamic. You know, because 2020 was a hard year without that kind of routine.


David DeCelle  30:40

Yeah, I agree. And I would say previous to the pandemic, I was pretty fairly routinely utilizing other people's lists. And then what I found was there was a lot of advisors who grew substantially during the pandemic, because they just put the foot on the gas. And there are other advisors that you know, figuratively speaking head onto their desk, and they need a little oomph. And that's, you know, where the C three list came from, which is, hey, here, here's your own, that you may need. Yeah, that's really great. That's awesome. Cool. Appreciate that. So to transition, you know, one of my big passions within the industry, as I feel like most advisors are good with their continuous learning, some of them aren't. But most of it, which continuously learn the challenge, though, is that I find that a lot of them learn within the confines of our industry, and then they need to be so I don't want to take away from that. But I feel like I mean, even the two books that we discussed already, they're not our industry specific. And there's a lot of great nuggets out there. So what I asked all of the guests on the show is what's a book, it could be your favorite book, it could be one of the books that had a big impact on you throughout your career. What is that book? And why did it have an impact on you?


Aaron Klein  31:51

That's a great question. I try to read a lot, because I've learned a lot of different things from reading books, one of which is that many books are not that great. You know, but but and that's okay. Like, I still feel like I and what I mean by that is that a lot of books have one interesting core idea, and it probably should have been a blog post, but you know, they had to staple 17 more chapters on to make it worth 1999. You know, that's, that's definitely true. I just, I don't know, from my perspective, like, I don't feel like that should take away from the ability to learn that great nugget, as you call that right from that button. So for me, it's been a learning experience with reading, I used to get stuck, where it's like, Well, the reason I'm not reading right now is because I'm on this book, and I'm on chapter three, and it's a drag at this point, and I'm just stuck on that book. So I've started to learn, like, hey, look, if it's boring, just like, you know, start flipping through pages very, very quickly, and see if it gets more interesting. If you finish the book that way, like that's okay, you've learned something from that book and move on to the next one, you know, but there are some that are really interesting. And frankly, the books that I like the most are books that that are really kind of documenting how different companies or how different leaders or how different you know, organizations did something rather than sitting in the in kind of the academic framework of like, here's an idea. And now let me prove to you the veracity of the idea. Okay, to be clear, there are some great books like story brand, like some of the stuff we've been talking about that are those more like, I'm going to give you a framework and prove it and help you implement it. Those are interesting, but you know, like one of them that I absolutely really enjoyed just recently was Amazon unbound, right. And that's, I think that guy's name is Jeff stone, who wrote that book. And it's basically just telling the story of like Amazon from shortly after IPO to today and how it's just grown into this, you know, an amazing company. And, you know, I recognize sometimes it's a controversial company, you can like Amazon, or hate Amazon, and you can still look at it and go, it's wild, what they've been able to accomplish, right? And it's wild, the kind of innovation culture and the invention machine that Jeff Bezos created there and I think that it's very interesting and very instructive to sit there and go well how did that come about? and great stories about how that actually happened in the real world are sometimes few and far in between and Amazon unbound has been a really interesting read to just like walk through some of those different pieces of like how did they become a player in Hollywood How did that even come about right How did the prime you know free shipping program come about how did Alexa come about? And how did they get all of this from within a company that basically was shipping toilet paper in a lot of different directions? Right You know, and and that's, it's, it's just, it's a fascinating read. To think about that I I've read a lot of books about Amazon. By the way, there's another one that I recently read that I've distributed to a lot of leaders inside of our company called working backward, and that's a little bit more there's still a lot of great stories about how they did it, but it's actually written by two former Amazon executives, one of whom was Jeff beezus, Chief of Staff and you know, the level of specificity of how they use written narratives instead of PowerPoint and how they You know, work backwards from how this impacts the customer. Again, a lot of these kind of core principles are things that we've, you know, they've been reflected inside riskalyze, for example, for 10 years, but there's ways that they've implemented them that I looked at and said, Wow, that's powerful. We're gonna we're gonna try that and see if that works inside of our organization. So those are two that I found really interesting. Recently, Amazon unbound and working backwards. Yes,


David DeCelle  35:23

there's a couple things that you mentioned that I want to hit on. So one is, when you're reading a book like that, it's always nice when you read something about what a successful company did or is doing. And you're doing that too. And it serves as great confirmation that you're on the right track, you know, and then it's up to you, if there's an idea that you have not implemented saying, okay, they may be doing something different, but how is that applicable to my business, so it requires some critical thinking. And then back to the beginning where you mentioned, you know, there's a lot of books out there that aren't like, Oh, my God, this was awesome. But there's still usually a nugget. And to me, that's worth, you know, the four or five hours that it takes to read the book, and that's your speed reader inquiry, the faster and then when you think about what the alternative is, the alternative is you get lost in this device right here, or you're watching the TV show. And for me, during free time, I'd rather fill my brain with books and podcasts as opposed to social media, and, you know, and TV shows and movies and stuff. And I still do that don't get me wrong, but a hell of a lot less than, you know, before I, you know, took up learning again over the last few years.


Aaron Klein  36:31

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, you just have to look at the ROI of all of those different activities, right? Like, right, social media has a strong positive ROI. For me, I engage in it a lot, I learn a lot from customers,


David DeCelle  36:43

if you're engaging, if you're just sitting there consuming, like a lot of works to then it's like your brain. Absolutely,


Aaron Klein  36:49

absolutely. I but you know, like, I get value out of learning what other people are saying on social media, but it has a law of diminishing returns exactly what you just said, right? where, you know, there's, it has some value, but at some point, you're really not learning. And you're just you're just kind of everybody's saying the same thing to each other in an echo chamber, and you've got to go, you know, challenge your brain in other ways. So, you know, I would argue, if all I did was read books, and I was completely cut off from what the rest of the world thinks, which is, you know, basically, I consume that through social media, that probably wouldn't be a super positive thing. But on the other hand, if I'm spending anywhere close to like, equal time, looking at what the rest of the world thinks, versus trying to learn for myself, that's negative ROI. For sure. I don't have a magical percentage, but like, it's not equal time, I should be learning a multiple of how much time I'm just hearing what the rest of the world thinks.


David DeCelle  37:41

Totally agree. So before we wrap up this portion of the show and head into the after hours, sure, if there happens to be an advisor that is yet to be using riskalyze. There's,


Aaron Klein  37:53

there's definitely, definitely a few out there for sure.


David DeCelle  37:57

Well, hopefully they're listening to this episode. So with that being said, What's the best way to engage with you? What's the best way to engage with the company? Yeah,


Aaron Klein  38:06

sure. Well, I mean, first of all, we love having the opportunity to serve financial advisors. And we feel so grateful I, you know, it was probably about it was 2017, when we first hosted our customer conference, the fearless investing summit, that we didn't know if anybody wanted to come to a conference for their risk alignment solution in 2017. I'll just be really honest, right? Like we booked a relatively small hotel and said, and it was in Lake Tahoe, like a 45 minute drive from here. And we're like, we're like that way. If nobody wants to come, we'll go up there. We'll take 15 people up there. And we'll just like, you know, hang out with the 50 customers who show up and we'll just call it a day, right? And it was sold out. And it was wild. And I mean, when I walked in there with my couple of co founders, and we're just like, Oh my gosh, like it struck us that riskalyze has become more than a company it's really like this fearless investing movement of financial advisors who believe that if you engage clients with risk, it transforms how you can communicate how clients can understand and see the things you've been telling them for years. It transforms them from fearful investors who make bad short term decisions into fearless investors who make great short term decisions and that's that movement is what drives us today. So you know, if you're interested in engaging in that obviously riskalyze comm is a great way to get started you can email me if you're if you're curious, I can connect you with somebody great on our team. I'm AK at riskalyze calm and I love talking with great financial advisors and I am active on Twitter at Aaron Klein and love doing that a little bit less active on LinkedIn, but I'm on LinkedIn as well and and love connecting with great financial advisors on any of those networks.


David DeCelle  39:40

Awesome. And based on when this recording will be released. It'll probably be end of August, you know, perhaps into September. So if you're listening to this, I hope to see you in a month or so at the riskalyze conference, Patrick Byrne and I will be there. So with that with every episode before we head into the after hours portion here if you found value Today, which I think you'd be hard pressed to not find value, go ahead and share this with another advisor that you think will also find value. And also, in order to help increase visibility, get this in front of more folks, they can be impacted as well, we would love it if you would go on to iTunes and leave us a review. Hopefully, it's a positive one. And when you do so go ahead and screenshot that review and shoot me a text with that screenshot and the word riskalyze. So I know what episode this is in regards to and shoot me a text at 978-228-2338. Now what will happen when you click Send is you'll get an immediate reply, automatic reply with a link for you to input your name. And that's just so you can get added to my contacts. And then beyond that, you're chatting with me, you know, back and forth. So it's not an automated platform or anything like that. And as a thank you for doing so one of our managing partners at model FA Dan Allison, he has a referral methodology that he's been speaking on in our industry for the last 18 years. And we got two videos, that's one of him presenting and another one that basically says, Hey, now that you're excited about this, here's actually how you do it. And we got the scripts, we got the language, we got the process, we got all that type of stuff. So as a thank you for leaving a review, I will give you a login link for free to be able to go and consume that. So with that we're gonna head into the after hours portion. But for now, Aaron, I appreciate your time. I appreciate your energy, I think it'd be great to see you up on stage. If you're this good on a podcast over a brief period of time. I'm excited to see you on stage. So with that, thank you and we'll head over to the after hours portion.


Aaron Klein  41:35

Thanks, David. Thanks for having me.


David DeCelle  41:49

So, typically, we spend some time you know asking funny questions, you know, maybe sharing an embarrassing story or two. With that being said, I want to pull a little bit of an audible on that because I think we could actually not in the recorded fashion but be able to crack some jokes and whatnot in person here later on this fall. So with that, I am very intrigued to hear a little bit more about hope takes root. Sure and what got you into that what it's all about, I always love to hear how people use their time which is valuable and their wealth towards serving people that may never be able to reciprocate. I'd love to learn a little bit more about that.


Aaron Klein  42:32

Sure. Absolutely. It's something I love talking about and it's so fascinating because you know it's I don't want to say that we totally like stumbled into it but it's a series of small short term decisions right that kind of led us there and it probably starts when we made the decision to adopt we've my wife and I've adopted three times and you know candidly we've never been diagnosed The reason we can't have biological kids it just like didn't happen for us immediately and then we kind of said you know my youngest sister was adopted was born in Romania to we're very comfortable with understood the process for like maybe this is like our plan A like maybe maybe this is what we're supposed to do. And so anyway, we decided to do that. And you know, to try to make a long story short, my my first son is our 14 year old and he was born in South Korea and in South Korea, adoption is kind of international adoption is driven for cultural reasons. It's kind of a patriarchal society. So like bloodline comes through the man so if you're the daughter of a single mother, eventually you'll get married and kind of that will be erased but if you're the son of a single mother, they don't even give you your mom's last name and you kind of have no blood law. Wow. So you might not even get married like your your future father in law would kind of go but I don't know who you are. I don't know what your family is, you know and so yeah, it's it's really kind of interesting. They're, they're, you know, there's a lot of Korea is trying to change that in some different ways. But that's kind of what's there culturally. And so that's, you know, that drives a lot of Korea's international adoption. So we adopt our son, he's eight months old when he comes home. He's an amazing kid. He's He's really awesome. You know, a couple years later, we go back to adopt again, and Korea has ballooned up to like a three year Wait, and we're kind of like, well, that kind of tells us there's not as much need there right now. So our adoption agency had just started working in Ethiopia. Right? And so we're like, Okay, well, maybe we'll you know, so we applied to the Ethiopia program, then Ethiopia, international adoption is driven by like bone crushing poverty, right? It's a rich country in terms of its culture. It is the fastest growing economy in Africa today. So it's, it's actually in a bit of a Renaissance. And it's really exciting to see and we're trying to serve some of that to drive more prosperity into that country with what we're doing with hope takes root. But initially, we're just adopting our daughter, right? And we fly to Ethiopia to like bring her home. She's also eight months old when she comes home, but it is a life changing experience to travel in Ethiopia and just kind of see things that you just hadn't really seen. We think we have people I this is a little bit politically incorrect to say but like we think we have poor people in the United States. Like I don't want to denigrate anybody's experience the United States who struggles through things, but like our poor people often have smartphones in the United States, okay? Like you have not seen poverty until you've gone to sub Saharan Africa and seen like truly desperate situations that are just so hard to see. And so that was life changing for us. And so we decided at that point in time, we started thinking and writing and reading and talking to people and going like, how do we make an impact? It's not just adoption, international adoption is great, but like the solution to Ethiopian poverty is not for us to adopt all of their kids and bring them here, right? Like, that's not the solution to poverty. It's the solution for that kid. But how do we think holistically about that and kind of try to solve that problem sustainably, and we got involved in a school project in the south of Ethiopia, it was about 200 kids, when we first saw it, we were really grateful to become a part of that and raise money to build more classroom buildings, and ultimately grew it up to about 1300 kids, these kids, you know, get two meals a day to try to keep them in whatever family situation they're in. Sometimes aunts, uncles, grandparents, sometimes a parent or two, but they stay in their family situation instead of becoming orphans. And then they get a world class education. And so far, I want to say we're five or six classes in of eighth graders that have graduated out of that school, and the countrywide pass rate is like 60%. And we've got 100% of our kids that have graduated eighth grade with a passing rate in the eighth grade exit exam. So it's an amazing program. So what we were really kind of struck by By the way, on one of these trips, we met the kid who became the third climb kit, right? We met him in one of the public orphanages in Addison. So he joined us about five years ago, and he's an amazing kid as well. And now we've renamed them Eeny, meeny, miney, because there ain't gonna be no Mo. No Mo. So, um, so I, you know, it's it's, it's I love I love him to death, but like, there's no mo so so we, we, we are, I'm telling you, they're amazing kids, but no, mo so I, we, this leads us to be thinking about, you know, okay, well what happens to these kids after eighth grade, you know, not to say that we've solved everything before eighth grade with the school project, we love the school project we're involved in, but like, what happens these kids after eighth grade. And so basically, like, you're gonna maybe go on university track, that's like, call it the top 5% of kids in the country, which, by the way, in Ethiopia, I mean, not trying to knock the country but like, they have the worst student loan program ever. Okay, like University is free, you just pay a huge percentage of your income for the next 30 years to the government to pay for your free tuition. Okay, like worst student loan program ever. But hey, you know, like, at least they've got universities and they're growing and growing, you know, the skill set of their population as best they can. But for the vast to the bottom 95% of those kids, their option is really kind of trade school, vocational school, right? And the question is, for many of them, they can't afford the tuition to go to vocational school that is not tuition free, they've got to pay for that. And for particularly for orphans and vulnerable kids, like they don't have the money to do that. And so we're sitting there calling, maybe we need to create a vocational school that like is paired with some life mentoring to like, help them figure things out, and we'll raise the money and we'll have a tuition free vocational school, and then I'm sitting there going, that is like the opposite of sustainable, right? Like we're gonna be running around begging people for donations to try to keep a vocational school impacting 30 kids a year alive. Okay, like that doesn't sound like a scalable, sustainable model. And so the idea struck us. And what we've built is kind of crazy. It's it's in the early stages, but hope takes root is about creating this vocational school hiding in plain sight as a for profit business. So what we did is we raised the capital into a US 501 c three, we invested the capital into starting this for profit company in Ethiopia. Okay, we are committed to putting about 20% of the revenue or more, we're trying to figure out what's sustainable into hiring student workers, these student workers do not have skills, they would not be people who are typically hired, okay, but we're gonna pay them to become student workers and effectively learn everything from sales to customer service to technical support to coding and learning how to help build the product. They're building marketing automation tools for Ethiopian shopkeepers and small businesses, right and so they're going to learn all of this we've got four student workers in the program already very early days, we're hoping to scale that up and grow it and then the plan is the three shareholders I'm one of them, who own this company in Ethiopia have all committed that every dime of profit distribution we might ever take from that company will be donated back into the US 501 c three so that we can go back and replicate the program somewhere else, right? So it's it's a really cool cycle where we're going to use capitalism to just pull people out of poverty and create this engine that I hope makes a huge impact in etc. geopier first but like probably a lot of other countries in the future,


David DeCelle  50:03

that's awesome man. It's a as I started off, I think it's always great to see people who use their time and their wealth to better other people. But what I'll say now is in addition to that, it's always good to see how someone recognizes a problem and then actually does something about it. So I don't mean to be patronizing by any means but good job dude. That's frickin awesome. Well,


Aaron Klein  50:30

thank you No, I really appreciate that and what's really cool is that our executive director for hook takes root in the Director of Operations for this business in Ethiopia are actually going to be at summit Oh cool, so you'll get to meet them at the fearless investing summit. You know, we've we've done some of the fundraising for this project at summit every year, we've done like, you know, Casino Night, instead of buying ships, you make donations to the to the charity, we've done a couple of different things where we've raised money, you know, for hope takes root as a part of summit. And so we're going to do that again this year. We're really excited about it. And we're going to have them on stage to kind of talk about how it's going, because hey, we've got employees in Ethiopia, student workers in Ethiopia, it's starting to make an impact and starting, they're starting to ship their product and it's really exciting to see


David DeCelle  51:14

of it. I'll make sure to bring my wallet to the event and whip it out with a big smile on my face. So with that, that's Aaron, this was fantastic. This is my last meeting of the day before I hopped on a plane to go back home for the weekend. So it's a great way to end the day and I look forward to meeting you in person here in a few months. Looking forward to it, David, thanks.


David DeCelle  51:33

Take care.