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Michael Kitces #FASuccess Podcast: Why Michele Clark "Plugged In" to a Larger Firm

In order to focus more on her clients and less on the hassles of being a business owner, Michele Clark joined Acropolis Investment Management, an independent RIA with nearly $1.1 billion in assets under management.



Welcome back to the 139th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!

My guest on today’s podcast is Michele Clark. Michele is the senior portfolio manager for Acropolis Investment Management, an independent RIA based in the St. Louis area that oversees nearly $1.1 billion of assets under management for more than 800 clients.

What’s unique about Michele, though, is that until very recently, she ran her own independent hourly financial planning practice and only recently decided to tuck in or, as she puts it, to “plug in” to a larger firm so that she could worry less about the hassles of being a business owner, from bookkeeping to IT, and simply focus more on what she enjoys the most, which is connecting with and servicing her clients.

In this episode, we talk in depth about Michele’s somewhat nontraditional journey through the advisory industry, from starting out selling mutual funds door-to-door with Edward Jones, to switching to Charles Schwab and becoming a regional investor education specialist until she was so successful the travel overwhelmed her and she decided to switch and become a branch financial consultant instead, and then growing her base of Schwab private clients so large that it once again overwhelmed her to the point that she decided to go out on her own to structure the practice the way that she wanted, only to once again, over the span of 10 years, grow to the point that the business was consuming too much of her life and to make the decision to plug into Acropolis to, yet again, back off when the advisory practice got too big and rebalance both her business and the work she’s doing in it.

We also talk about how Michele built her independent firm, from the way she structured her project-based fees in her hourly business, to the challenges she discovered when trying to properly price renewal plans for ongoing clients, the trick she used to begin to systematize the processes and procedures in her firm as it grew, and what she learned about the changing ways that clients are finding a financial advisor in today’s environment by meticulously tracking her own sources of new business for nearly a decade.

And be certain to listen to the end, where Michele shares her own tips on how to stay lean when starting an advisory firm, the importance of developing an expertise or specializations so that you don’t have to rely on local business development opportunities and can attract clients no matter where they are, and the inevitable challenges of growth in the early years of starting out on your own, even when you’re experienced in business development.

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