When a small business owner has a thriving company, there comes a time when they decide to stand pat and let it ride or generate a vision to expand and reach a wider customer base. To explore the many factors involved in creating a broader business model and increasing your company’s impact, Amanda Benson–Tilch, host of The Ask Amanda Show, had a conversation with Chris Ingram of Prosperitas Financial, about his journey from financial advisor to CEO of a company with a diverse range of services.
Should Your Company Evolve?
Some business owners are comfortable with their level of success, and it fits well with their personality and lifestyle choices, while others feel compelled to make changes.
“It started when I was just shy of 20 years as a financial advisor,” Chris said. “I started to look at my life and what I was doing, and the question became, ‘Do I just stay the same or do I do something different? Do I evolve into a new chapter?’”
Chris had reached a level of success where he could have stayed the course.
“But I’m not really good at that,” he said. “I get bored very easily just maintaining. I’m always continuing to try to be better tomorrow than I am today. So, it started to push me in the direction of saying, ‘I can’t just continue to do what I’m doing. I need to take it to the next level.’”
Changing Your Business Model
If you’re a business owner wanting to make changes, begin by analyzing the industry, looking at it from two different perspectives:
- What you feel the industry needs
- The direction the industry is going
The Client’s Perspective
Chris suggested thinking first about what the client wants and needs.
“From the client’s perspective, the way I viewed it, they really wanted somebody to manage all aspects of their financial life,” he said.
He looked at a model of services called a “family office,” that’s typically restricted to clients with a high net worth. Through a family office system, professionals manage everything from A to Z regarding the client’s financial life, including:
- Their real estate
- Their investments
- Paying their bills
- Bookkeeping for their business
Everything is run through the family office to optimize their finances, but it’s typically not available to the average client. Chris felt the industry needed the same services offered to others.
“That’s what the average client wants, and they don’t know how to tie all these pieces together,” Chris said. “They’re looking for somebody to come in and take over everything and guide them to their goals and future financial success. So, the first thing I thought of was: ‘How do we bring that level of service that they’re giving to these ultra-high net worth clients in those family offices down to a level that every client can get it?’”
You need to educate clients about why it’s important.
“One of the biggest flaws or mistakes clients make is not understanding how beneficial it is to them to have somebody really fine tuning all aspects of their financial life,” Chris said. “Then the problem was they couldn’t get it anywhere. Nobody was able to really provide that.”
What ends up happening is they fragment their financial life:
- They have an estate planning attorney
- They have a financial advisor
- They have an insurance agent
- They have a property and casualty expert
“They have all these different people who don’t know each other and are not communicating, so they’re bouncing from person to person and getting different advice,” Chris said. “I had my first meeting with some clients with a very large estate – $15,000,000-plus – and the wife looked at me and said, ‘I have no idea where our money is, how it’s doing, where our real estate is. Nobody’s communicating with us and we don’t know what’s going on.’ I described to them that they need somebody who’s going to tie all these things together, to be the quarterback and coach their team. It gives you peace of mind, knowing that everything is aligned and doing exactly what it’s supposed to do and educating you in a way where you no longer feel lost.”
The Advisor’s Perspective
With Prosperitas Financial, Chris connected a wide range of services to offer more than investment advisement.
“Having been an advisor for almost 20 years, what I realized is the reason that most advisors aren’t doing it is because it’s very time-consuming,” he said. “It’s very difficult. Some of them, frankly, just don’t understand all those different areas, so they’re trying to moonlight. And some of them are afraid to dive into these other areas, so they don’t even bring them up.”
Advisors may lack the resources to offer other services and they often specialize.
“At Prosperitas Financial, not only did we want clients to be able to get these services, we wanted to help advisors, to provide them with the tools and resources to offer these services to their clients,” he said. “It’s just physically almost impossible for them the way they’re currently set up.”
When advisors join Prosperitas they have access to experts including:
- College planners
- Estate planning attorneys
- Insurance agents
- Business attorneys
- Business consultants
“Now they can go to the table with all these different specialists in these different areas and make sure their client is truly getting the best advice from all the different areas they need,” Chris said. “And then be the coach, be the person that’s sitting in the middle making sure that everybody’s doing their job and providing that service to their clients.”
Launching Your New Business Model
When you start to build a new business, you have to think about multiple facets including:
- The brand
- The onboarding process
- The marketing
- The location
- The leasing
- Furnishing the office
“It evolved,” Chris said. “I had to figure out how to create a company that would optimize the service to clients and give an opportunity to advisors.”
When you create or rebuild a business, you begin to wear more hats.
“They often look at me as two people within the firm – I’m still a financial advisor, I still have my book of business, but as the CEO of the firm, my job is to provide these tools and resources to make advisors more productive and work better with their clients,” Chris said.
Branding begins with choosing a name for your new company. Prosperitas is Latin for “prosperity” or “providing good fortune to all.”
“That’s what we’re in the business of doing – providing good fortune, good results,” Chris said. “I’m helping people accomplish their goals, and that was kind of summarized in that.”
The Work-Life Balance
Chris was married with four children when he created Prosperitas Financial. Moving from a comfortable position to taking on a lot of risk begins with a conversation between you and your partner.
“Everybody’s going to be different – the relationship they have and the personalities of the spouses and your responsibility in the household,” Chris said. “My wife is probably the most supportive, ‘whatever you want to do’ kind of person. She never really puts any pressure on me being away. She’s super supportive in all areas of that kind of stuff, so I’m very lucky.”
Finding a fit that includes room for the family can be challenging.
“The hardest thing is the kids,” Chris said. “I’ve coached every team that I could, I want to be at every dance, every game, every everything, so the challenge of trying to juggle it all sometimes weighs on me. If I have to run to a basketball game and then turn around and run back to the office, then run back home, it is what it is. It’s part of the process – having goals of being there for the family, being a good dad and a good husband, and also building a business at the same time.”
When you launch a new company you can get buried by longer days, more responsibilities, as well as the additional phone calls and text messages.
“I don’t just have clients calling me, now I have advisors texting me at all hours of the day, asking me questions, wanting to meet with me and collaborate and talk about things,” he said. “So, the need for my attention was spread out even more and it continues with every new advisor we bring in.”
Creating a Team
You need competent help when you launch or expand your small business, which means you build a team to help you with operations.
“The beginning was crazy,” Chris said. “Now I have great partners and people involved, which helped out a lot, so that was huge. If it would have been solely me doing it, it would have been way worse. Kudos to them for being there.”
It’s important to have a good team, which is most successful when the business owner identifies their own strengths and weaknesses.
“I surrounded myself with people who are good at things that I’m not good at,” Chris said. “They’re able to pick up in areas that I don’t want to do, that don’t interest me. It interests them, and it excites them, so they pick up that piece and take it.”
Marketing Your New Business
When you’ve developed the shift in your business model, you’re ready to roll it out to the public. For Prosperitas Financial, Chris had to market both to the clients, to get them in the door, and to advisors to bring the talent into the company.
“I think the challenge we had in the beginning was understanding who was the audience we were trying to reach, because previously as a financial advisor, my target market was the clients,” he said. “I started to realize we still want to get the message out to clients – what we provide and the opportunities we present to them. But as a firm, we’re also now looking at it from the standpoint of trying to get our message out to the advisors and let them know the opportunities that we provide to them and what we can bring to the table for their business.”
There are multiple levels of engagement where marketing is concerned, particularly in the early phase of developing your new company.
“I’m having strategic partners come to me and say, ‘Let’s talk about my business plan,’ so I’m talking about business plans for a college planner and business plans for an estate planning attorney,” Chris said. “That’s a lot of different marketing ventures. The scope of who we’re marketing to and what attention we’re trying to get has gotten much bigger. Trying to fine tune that and be able to meet all of those needs has been a bit of a challenge.”
For companies of various sizes – whether you’re a new business owner in Santa Clarita or a global corporation, you can work with marketing professionals from an outside firm or hire in-house staff to grow your customer base.
“I hope everybody, especially in the Santa Clarita area, would say that we did a fabulous job when we first started the company,” Chris said. “We were everywhere, and we really blanketed the community with our information.”
Prosperitas made their presence known through in-house marketing in the beginning, but as they continue to grow their company from a small business in Santa Clarita to widen their scope and make a broader impact, they may need to reconsider.
“Currently we’re all so busy in the office with all of the massive amounts of growth that we’ve had,” Chris said. “We’re contemplating right now how to transition into that next level and bring on a team or bring on other people.”
The advantage of in-house marketing is your ability to control the content, and Prosperitas has a studio in their office.
“You have people there who could create content right away, and it’s not an outside firm asking you to send them content,” Amanda said. “You have a lot of dynamic personalities who would do great with video – quick messaging – who would capture and relate to people, grabbing the attention of the average person and trying to do business with them.”
A successful social media influencer recommends having a camera follow you throughout the day to capture the gems that occur randomly.
“We have so many people at the firm who have great information to share, and it just pops up at weird times,” Chris said. “If there was somebody there who was constantly recording and could capture those things immediately, I think we would get a lot more content out there, so that’s another thing that I am exploring.”
Developing a Company Culture
At the beginning of the process of pivoting or launching a new company, you have to decide the culture you’re trying to create.
“I love your office vibe,” Amanda said. “It’s so welcoming and bright – busy in a way, but it’s not loud and obnoxious. How did you develop that culture?”
Chris did not want Prosperitas to resemble an old-school financial services office.
“We wanted a bright, light, exciting atmosphere to walk into,” Chris said. “Planning for your financial future and dreaming about what you want your life to look like is exciting, it should be fun. Not this gloomy doctor’s office, like ‘I’m going to get a root canal today.’”
When it comes to creating a company culture at Prosperitas, they have a teamwork philosophy.
“There’s a vibe we want from every single person who works for the company. It’s ‘I’m excited to be there. I want to be a part of the team. I have fun being at work,’” Chris explained. “We’re very critical of who we allow to be a part of the team. You could be a financial advisor who has the most gigantic book of business on the planet. If they’re not nice to my staff and they’re not fun to be around and they’re not going to be a part of the team, we will not take them on, and we’re very strict about that. We want to keep that level of ‘family feel’ in the office.”
In a culture of teamwork, everyone is willing to help others in the office. It’s not an adversarial vibe, even between advisors. It’s collaborative.
“We have the idea that there’s plenty of business out there for everybody,” Chris said. “A rising tide lifts all ships. If we all work together, we can do so much more collectively than we would by locking ourselves in our offices and trying to do it individually.”
Staff and advisors at Prosperitas also have team outings, such as a recent night at MB2 Raceway. It dovetails with the company’s message that they are a family.
“We do a lot of fun things together, we get out as a group,” Chris said. “We’re working together, we spend time together, we do fun things together, we go on vacations together. We try to bond and have a real relationship with everybody in the office. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to fulfill our dreams of what we want our life to look like and it’s the same for your employees. We want everybody to have the kind of life that they really desire.”
Prosperitas Financial is a registered investment advisory firm (RIA) and Chris wants to become a ‘Top 25 RIA’ firm in the country. “That’s the goal we’re shooting for and it’s going to take time,” he said. “We are definitely on the right path.”
They began in California – establishing a company in Valencia and other parts of greater Los Angeles. They’re currently exploring the Bay Area and opening an office in Las Vegas while meeting with professionals in New York, Chicago, Florida, and Austin, Texas.
“The goal is to spread across the country and take what we believe is the right way to do this job and give it to more and more people,” Chris said. “We feel like we do it right and we’re doing really good things for clients, who deserve to get this level of service.”
Their method for expansion involves:
- Finding an advisor in that area to serve as a “branch manager”
- Determining the look of the office
- Marketing to that community
- Hiring a team
- Recruiting advisors
- Building up a presence in that area
- Repeating the process in other areas
“We want to have a nationwide presence and have a brand that other advisors could use in their community,” Chris said.
Meet the Experts
Christopher Ingram – CEO of Prosperitas Financial
With decades of experience as an Investment Advisor Representative/Fiduciary, Chris Ingram has offered clients an uncompromising commitment to provide financial advice and services. After working at firms including PaineWebber and Morgan Stanley, he became an independent financial advisor through Ingram Financial Solutions and witnessed the evolution of the financial services industry and the needs of his clients. His vision drove the formation of Prosperitas Financial, providing an extensive array of tools and resources to elite financial advisors and financial service providers. They advise clients in a collaborative setting to include financial planning, wealth management, life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, corporate benefits, employer retirement plans, health insurance, estate planning and trust services, tax preparation and planning, college guidance, lending, business succession planning, and more.
Amanda Benson-Tilch – Small Business Consulting
While you may notice her first by her wit and second by her infectious sense of humor, the next thing you’ll learn about Amanda Benson-Tilch is: She’s a problem-solver. Owner and Growth Strategist of Ask Amanda Consulting, she offers the skills, tools, and network it takes to get the job done — no matter the task.
Working with each client differently, she helps identify blocks, present solutions, implement them, and execute. And if she can’t execute, she’ll connect you to someone who can. She’s helped past clients improve their branding, operations, customer service, marketing, company culture, and more. She’s organized a company-wide rebranding and restructuring after it was bought out. And she’s helped local small businesses increase their growth without increasing the headache. From consulting to full-scale project management, Amanda steps in to help your business level up with ease.
In addition to her work with Ask Amanda, she’s also the Director of Business Development for Thomas Realty Co., a property management company in Burbank, where she oversees the growth of select tenants. Currently, she’s serving as the Managing Director of both Burbank Fitness Club and Burbank Center Apartments. She recently helped completely rebrand, renovate, and rebuild the gym, and she started the same process with their luxury apartments.
About The Ask Amanda Show
On any given day, small business owners and entrepreneurs spend most of their time putting out fires, solving problems and asking themselves questions like: “How do I brand this? How do I reach more people online? Why can’t I break through my revenue ceiling and reach the next level of business?” They often feel like an island – holding it all together without the support, clarity, or feedback they need to finally achieve their vision. That’s exactly why Amanda Benson-Tilch created the Ask Amanda Show. As a small business consultant, not only does she have the answers to the questions you keep asking, but she’s also created a podcast community that reminds you: You’re not alone in this journey.
Tune in once a month to get access to small business experts, nuggets of inspiration and answers to those burning questions preventing you from growth. Enjoy powerful guest interviews as Santa Clarita small business experts share their stories and provide actionable steps to help you grow your business. Whether you’re a business owner, aspiring entrepreneur, or someone looking to get more involved in your community, this is your show!