Cracking the Marketing Code with Dean Thurman

Dean Thurman
Co-Founder of White Glove
January 10, 2024

Joining us today is Dean Thurman, Co-Founder of White Glove and InvestWise Financial, who reveals the power of face-to-face interaction. Forget cold calls and unreliable referrals. Dean champions seminars as the most effective marketing tool.

The harsh reality of the industry is that 90% of financial advisors throw in the towel within five years. Our guest sheds light on the power of seminars as a key marketing strategy for building a business that booms, not busts.  

Joining us today is Dean Thurman, Co-Founder of White Glove and InvestWise Financial, who reveals the power of face-to-face interaction. Forget cold calls and unreliable referrals. Dean champions seminars as the most effective marketing tool for advisors. Why? You control the message, the audience and the connection. Virtual workshops are great for scaling, but nothing beats the intimacy of in-person meetings.  

Recognizing the reluctance of advisors to handle the logistics of seminar planning, Dean explains how White Glove was established to take care of the planning process, allowing advisors to focus on their core strengths. The overarching message of the episode is Dean’s secret sauce: being a marketer first and a financial planner second. This mindset shift is crucial for building a thriving business.  

In this episode, you’ll learn critical concepts on:  

  • Shifting your mindset from financial planner to marketer
  • Defining growth objectives for personal success
  • Marketing your services with seminars
  • Scaling your financial planning practice
  • And more!

Connect with Lara Galloway:

Connect with Dean Thurman

About our Guest:

As co-founder of White Glove, Dean draws from his more than 25 years of experience as a financial advisor, many of which he spent conducting educational seminars to grow his practice. He provides guidance and direction to the White Glove team on how to effectively market the company’s business growth services. Dean is also the co-owner of InvestWise Financial, a financial firm with half a billion in assets under management.  

Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, SVP of Channel Management at White Glove. Lara provides advisors with an opportunity to hear from some of the best minds in the business. Follow along to learn quick tips to help you grow your business from gaining new leads to keeping current clients engaged and everything in between.

Now onto the show.  

Bill Tucker: Hello. And welcome to the FAST Podcast with Lara Galloway. Lara, good to be with you again. I didn't say this the last time I saw you, but you seem to have some nice new studio set up there.  

Lara Galloway: We do, Bill. We have moved into our new office here and we got to build it out and make it just what we wanted.

And it's a really great space. So we're getting settled in our new spot and have our cool new podcast set up, finally.  

Bill Tucker: Fantastic. Well, I'm looking forward to hearing about your guest today, always very interesting in terms of perspectives on the [00:01:00] financial services industry. Who do you have and what are you talking about?

Lara Galloway: Well, today I am very lucky to have a special guest, Dean Thurman Jr. Dean is one of the co-founders of White Glove and been my boss for a long time. So, I'm really excited to get to bring him in to the FAST Podcast and talk about him today. Dean draws from his more than 25 years of experience as a financial advisor, many of which he spent hosting educational seminars to grow his practice.

And he provides guidance and direction to White Glove and our team on how to effectively market the company's business growth services. Dean's also the co-owner of InvestWise, a financial advisory firm here in Bloomfield Hills with half a billion in assets under management. So Dean, welcome to the FAST Podcast.

Dean Thurman: Well, thank you for having me, Lara. I'm looking forward to it.  

Lara Galloway: Awesome. Well, I have some questions here for you today. And, you know, obviously I know a lot about your background and history, but what's fun is to introduce you to our listeners. So, [00:02:00] you have a very unique story to tell and you run at least two businesses.

I actually know you have a couple of others on the side, but why isn't one enough is a good question. All joking aside, why did you decide to start White Glove?  

Dean Thurman: Well, thank you for the question. And I would actually answer it in that most financial advisors, certainly ones that have their own practice or clear through an independent broker-dealer or an FMO or something like that.

They are small businesses and very much entrepreneurial minded. So, it's not as uncommon as most people might think to have kind of your main job and then a side hustle. And it just so happened our side hustle, mine and Mike Thurman, my cousin and co-founder at White Glove, along with Jeff Grail, turned into basically the primary job.

Lara Galloway: And how would you describe that side hustle when you started it? What did it look like?  

Dean Thurman: Oh, what a great question. It was a mess. It was awful. Yeah, just like any new [00:03:00] business, it started in the basement of our financial planning firm. We hired friends and family. We all did the best we could, but it was basically just a hot mess, getting hotter all the time.

But we loved it. I mean, quite frankly, it was a labor of love. It was exciting. It still is. We hired a lot of great people early on. Many of them are still with us here today, you know, six or seven years later. I know you've been with us a long time. And for an entrepreneur, that's actually the chaos and the fun and all that's just very exciting.  

It's not a negative at all. So, the only thing better than one business is two or more. As far as I’m concerned.

Lara Galloway: That's a good answer. And being an entrepreneur myself, I know exactly what you mean. And yeah, it's pretty addictive.  

Dean Thurman:100%. Yeah. I love it. Some people, you know, collect trinkets or cars or whatever. Us entrepreneurs, we like to collect [00:04:00] businesses.  

Lara Galloway: Yeah. I love that. That's great. But why specifically, what was happening in the industry that made you say, White Glove needs to happen.  

Dean Thurman: That's another really good question, Lara. I never considered myself, even though I started in the business, you know, it’s 33 years ago, almost 34.

I never thought of myself from day one as a financial advisor. Yes, that's what I did. That's what I enjoyed doing. I love it. Still do. To this day, I love my clients and helping the community and I love everything about it. I really consider myself a marketer first because when somebody told me that well over 80 percent, and some statistics say 90 percent of folks that get registered to be a financial advisor have failed out of the business within five years.

I was like, I don't want to be part of that 80, 90%. I want to be a success story someday. And when I looked into why people fail out of the business or just struggle for [00:05:00] 10, 20 years and never really break out to a successful practice is, it all came down to having enough people sitting on the other side of their desk.

That's all it is. Yes, financial advising is complicated. It's important. It's difficult. It's always changing. It's very much needed. But there's a lot of us out there. There's a lot of competition out there and people don't just become a financial advisor, like a dentist, you just put your sign out front and people start knocking on your door.

That absolutely does not happen. So, I said, I need to be a marketer. So, Mike and I started all different types of marketing and seminars by far were the best type of marketing that we could control. Definitely wanted referrals. Referrals are the best. I still prefer a referral lead over any other source.

But you can't control that. You can only ask so many times. But you have no control over when they come [00:06:00] in either. No control when they come in or the pace of it. Whereas hosting a podcast or a radio show or billboards or what I like, which is seminars, you can kind of control that flow a lot better and can control how many people gets to hear your message and gets to hear about your services and what you offer.

And that all the other things that you mentioned too, I mean, doing the podcast or whatever other things, TV, that we see our advisors doing other lead generating type events. I don't know. Maybe podcasting, maybe doing a TV show has the same sort of thing. But I think one of the things that I love most about seminars, and I am passionate about when I'm talking to advisors about it is how you humanize your marketing, right?  

Like when you stand in front of a group of people and you share the same space and you ask questions and they ask questions and you answer back and forth, that gives some sort of, I think, special sauce to it all. Even [00:07:00] listen to a podcast, I think it's really good.

Lara Galloway: You can connect with people. The attendees really can hear what you think, and you can share your thought leadership, but in a seminar, you're getting that chance to really communicate and engage with people. And I think that's super special and really kind of key to the growth that you had in your firm, right?

Dean Thurman: Yeah. We grew from day one you know, doing seminars way back in the day, just with overhead projectors and just very basic stuff. But at the end of the day, we are in the people business. There are no successful financial advisors that are good with people and connecting with people.

And there's no better way to connect, no more human way to connect than face to face, looking somebody in the eye, shaking their hand, getting a sense. That's not to say that webinars and podcasts and even virtual meetings with your clients aren't very good and that there isn't a place for that. There is.

And that really helps you scale. But [00:08:00] at the end of the day, I think most financial advisors prefer to be in the same room with somebody, getting to know them while the prospect or the attendee gets to know the advisor.  

Lara Galloway: Yeah. It's hard to beat. Hard to beat for sure. And like you said, everything else virtual has its place, especially for scale, but it's hard to beat the in person.

So just thinking more about growth strategies that you guys have tried, and again, you created a seminar marketing company because you tried a bunch of different things. You found that this worked for you. What are some other marketing tactics or strategies that you tried that didn't work?  

Dean Thurman: Well, you know, like every entrepreneur, your failures outnumber your successes.

Lara Galloway: Yeah. Let's hear those.  

Dean Thurman: Easily, you know, two to one, three to one. Ours are at least 10 to one of failures. In fact, you may not know this, Lara, but we actually for a long time had a fail board and it was one of the things I was most proud of at our office at InvestWise, all the different marketing things that everybody has [00:09:00] tried and we've failed.

And I also like another phrase, which is, none of us is as smart as all of us. So, at one point I gave, we have 10 advisors at InvestWise now. And I put everybody in teams of two, gave each pair a 5,000 budget to just try something new, something we've never tried before. Right?  

Lara Galloway: So smart.  

Dean Thurman: And I said the only thing is it can't be marketing to your existing clients. And it can't be something we tried already. And indirectly, that's actually what started White Glove. So, that was a success. The other four failures were everything from we tried to engage with certain estate planners and networking their CPAs.

That didn't work very well, for us, we tried something. It might still live out there somewhere called a wise watch because we're InvestWise Financial. Wise Watch was proactively managing people's 401ks. I remember doing all the marketing for that, [00:10:00] launching it and me and Mike sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring at eight o'clock in the morning.

I wonder if we had enough phones. It was like the Charlie Brown special where he goes out to the mailbox on Valentine's Day.

Lara Galloway: Did you have enough?  

Dean Thurman: Exposed. Right. Oh my God. What a great question. Zero calls. And that's all right. Because just like Thomas Edison, when he was asked what did it feel like to fail 10,000 times when you're trying to invent the light bulb?

And he says, I didn't fail 10,000 times. I succeeded in finding 10,000 ways that light bulb wouldn't work. And you really need that mindset as an entrepreneur. And quite frankly, White Glove just started again in the basement of our financial planning firm, really just to drive more leads to our advisors in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

It had nothing to do with what we call the rest of the world or outside our financial planning firm. And one day, Mike came to me and said, now that we're doing this on Facebook and other digital ads, we might be able to turn this into an actual [00:11:00] business and other financial advisors struggle just like us.

They don't want to do the work of a seminar. No financial advisor really enjoys all the logistics of planning a seminar and all the risk you take when you front the money for a postage or mailer or whatever. And then people may or may not show up and they may or may not become a client. And I thought that was brilliant.

So, I said, yeah, you know what? Why don't we kind of try and bring this out to the rest of the world. Our competitors, although we don't consider anybody a competitor, we always think in the abundance mindset that there's tons for everybody. How many more people can we help? How many more communities? How many more advisors can we help?

And we absolutely love doing this, which has led me into coaching as well for other financial advisors, whether it be on marketing, whether it be on practice management, obviously seminar speaking, all that kind of stuff. So I just love it.  

Lara Galloway: That's awesome. It's funny in all the years, and I've heard you speak a [00:12:00] lot.

I have never heard that story about that. You were giving everybody the chance with a 5,000 budget, to go find something that works. And that that's where White Glove came from. I didn't hear that little piece and all the other ways that you failed and let me just call it out, like having a failure board.

I have not heard that before. I don't know how I haven't heard that. But I really want you to bring that back and make sure that our sales team and all the employees here hear about that, because what a great growth strategy. What a great mindset to lead your culture and say, yeah, we're going to fail.

We're going to fail FAST. We're going to fail often. We're going to learn, we're going to pivot, right? All that stuff that you're doing, so clearly half a billion in AUM. You're doing well at this point. And what do you attribute your success to?  

Dean Thurman: Recognizing early on that we are marketers first, financial planners second, and also having the right attitude, the right [00:13:00] expectations.

Everybody who's a financial advisor has a fair amount of ambition, intelligence, people skills. And like I say, a lot of them are not too dissimilar. from myself and have something that might catch fire. But Jeff Grail, our other co-founder, we've started other businesses. He was the first person to bring Tim Hortons to Michigan.

He and I had the largest marble and granite fabrication company west of the Mississippi. I also went bankrupt by the way. That was another fail. Thank you for bringing it up. Yeah. It's not the board. It's a big one. And I part owned a disco bar for a little while. Oh, it was so much fun.

I mean, not that White Glove and financial planning isn't fun, but discos take it to the next level. So, I just go through life. Have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't get too beat up when you get knocked down. That's not a failure. That's part of the process. The failure is getting knocked down and staying down.

You get back up. [00:14:00] You're just all that happened is you're a little bit smarter than you were before you got knocked down. Well, maybe missing a few teeth, but that smile is still really good.  

Lara Galloway: Right. Okay. So, one of the things that you mentioned just a minute ago was how you've kind of gotten into the coaching because what I love and I've seen you do and I think is so powerful and just a real testament to your leadership who you are as a leader is you learn something and then you want to teach it.

Just as fast as you can, right? You're like, oh my God, this is the best thing ever. And one thing I've been hearing you go off about quite a bit. And I think all of us are kind of drinking the Kool Aid on this is estate planning, and how you did not really perceive estate planning, something that you should be doing as a financial advisor, but you flip the switch.

You started hosting these workshops and I think I've heard you say that has been a big key to your growth in maybe the last year or so. Is that a fair statement?  

Dean Thurman: That's a very fair statement. I want to give a shout out to you and my dad, Dean Thurman [00:15:00] Sr. who originally came up with doing some seminars with a topic of estate planning.

Of course, at that time we were looking at doing estate planning seminars hosted by attorneys. And then through trial and error and innovation at some point, I realized, you know what, I do as much or more estate planning for my clients than an attorney does. The attorney does the administrative part of it, the documents, if you will, but there's so much more to estate planning. When mom and dad think about leaving money to the next generation, they think about it really in, in two pieces, not just one.

They don't think of it as just reducing family friction through documents, which is very important. Wells trust, durable power of attorney, that type of thing. That's the documents. And it does reduce family friction, but they also want to reduce family taxes. They want to disinherit their least favorite relative, their Uncle Sam, and leave as much as possible to the next generation.

And every advisor listening [00:16:00] to your podcast right now speaks to their clients about maybe converting some of their IRAs or 401k to a Roth or what a stepped-up cost basis means for their appreciated Apple stock and why you shouldn't use that stock to remodel. The bathroom because mom and dad pay taxes on it, but if you leave it in your portfolio at death, your kids don't pay federal income taxes on it.

So, we strategize all the time. And those are just two examples of about 10 on our seminar where we talk about how a financial advisor does a lot of estate planning for mom and dad or grandma and grandpa. Through estate planning strategies. Yeah. So, that was a big innovation that has been a big growth factor for both InvestWise and our advisors there, and they're killing it with estate planning and they're helping a lot of people with estate planning.

Lara Galloway: But also White Glove, that's become our hottest topic. Our most popular is still taxes and retirement, but estate planning [00:17:00] is catching up. And I haven't coached one financial advisor yet that started out thinking of himself or herself as an estate planner. Or estate planning strategist at the beginning of the call.

But by the end, they're like, heck yeah, actually I do help the next generation. I do talk about Billy and Susie inheriting the money tax free in a Roth or stepped off cost basis or tax bracket management for mom and dad are in the 12% bracket, whereas Billy and Susie are in the 24 percent bracket. So, how can we arbitrage that and keep the most money in the family and the least amount going to Washington, D.C.?  

So, that's a very exciting new topic that I'm coaching on right now. I see the passion coming alive when you talk about it. And it is, it's true. It's such a mindset shift, right? You had to make that mindset shift. And then you turned around and started preaching like crazy to everybody to get more financial advisors on board.

So, such a great thing. And I love the [00:18:00] fact that you do get on the phone and coach our clients and help them when they're not sure. And you're sharing everything as fast as you can. And one of the things that I think is important is to talk about how you leverage your work as an advisor.

We're kind of anecdotally hitting it here, but how do you see it, Dean? How do you leverage your work as an advisor when you're consulting and growing us here at White Glove?

Dean Thurman: Yeah. So, as we mentioned a couple of times, Mike and I are also the founders of InvestWise Financial. We were just two guys with a couple of assistants starting.

Now there's 25 people that work there, over 10 advisors. Not everybody has to grow that way through seminars. You can just grow your own personal practice through seminars. We chose to go with the sub rep route. But what that has allowed at White Glove is for myself and my advisors to be the test track.

That's what I tell them, but internally here we call them the guinea pigs. For all of our new [00:19:00] ideas, whether it's an idea from you or from any of our other folks at work here, it will try anything. And InvestWise, we'll vet it out. We'll fail, fail fast. We'll put it on the fail board, but we don't bring anything out to the rest of our hosts or the rest of the world until it's actually been vetted out and optimized.

Estate planning has been around for maybe three and a half years, but it was just in the last year, maybe even six months, that I felt passionate about it and that we really have it as a well-oiled machine. It starts out as a thought and evolved to the point where we feel comfortable recommending it and training on it to other folks out there.

Lara Galloway: Well, and you're doing other topics. I know you're testing a lot of different topics. Our clients come to us and ask can you do a topic on, RMDs. Can you do a workshop on divorced women? Can you do a workshop [00:20:00] on annuities?

Dean Thurman: I get that question all the time. Love that question.

And we say, well, we have to test those topics out. And when we say that it's good for the people listening to know that you guys are the ones testing it, right? Like you're doing all of that hard work and being willing to go and try something out. And sometimes you show up and it's not the best topic.

It doesn't go as well. And sometimes it does, right? Yeah, totally. And you know, there's a few pieces to that recipe to success. Certainly, if I was in front of a group of people that wanted to talk about annuities, that would go very well for me, but we also have a marketing department. Are they able to set out the right message to get the right butts in the seats, the high quality folks with a decent amount of investable net worth that want to hear that message?

There is nuances to having a retirement seminar and that resonating with people, whether it's taxes and retirement, social security, or estate [00:21:00] planning, making sure that you check all the boxes and talk about the things and fulfill the mark, the promise of our marketing, but also have that conversation about, hey, we're talking about, let's say, taxes and retirement.

Well, there's a lot that goes into there. Now we're talking about retirement income planning because in retirement, you're taking income. And when you talk income, you can take it from three different places, right? Pension, social security, and personal savings. So, let's talk about the taxation on those.

And once we start talking about taxation and the pros and cons of those three different income legs of the stool, we can have an annuity conversation or we can have a diversification or dollar cost average or a conversion conversation. Whatever it is that you feel passionate about as an advisor with your clients can be feathered in there and nuanced.

And no matter what topic is promoted. So, you know, that pivot, if you will, [00:22:00] is something that is a delicate issue because you have to make sure that you don't bait and switch people, that you fulfill the promise of our marketing and you give the people in that audience what they are looking for.

And that's some pitch on your pet investment that you want to recommend. They're there for an education and we make sure we get them the education and then others, help coach folks on how to feather in and nuance the message that they're looking, that they want to make sure the audience receives as well.

Lara Galloway: So good. Yeah, absolutely. So, what's a piece of advice that you would give the financial advisors listening to us today? If they want to grow their business and all the things that you've tried, what would you recommend?  

Dean Thurman: First, define growth. Because growth can mean a lot of things. It can be an individual person, that simply wants to have 50 million or a hundred million dollars under management, keep it small.

Maybe just have one assistant, or maybe [00:23:00] even no assistance, maybe a spouse or adult child maybe that comes in there and helps them out.  

Lara Galloway: And they might be looking for growth of their freedom and growth of their personal time. Such a good point.  

Dean Thurman: And, you know, if they have a bigger automated practice that they build through seminars, that might be success and growth to them.

Whereas somebody else might want to hire a sub rep or three, or like we have 10. So, define that first. Do you want to be kind of a solo practitioner, maybe one partner or so, or do you want to really build a business around your practice. And once you decide that seminars are almost always the answer to get you to that point because you need people sitting in the chair across from you to get to that point.

So I would recommend defining the growth and what they want to be first, and then setting out a [00:24:00] plan to get there. And if you decide to grow by having several different advisors, it's a whole other can of worms, but it's a great way to build a real business if you have that itch. And I can also help coach on that.

And there's plenty of information out there on how to manage expenses, payouts, non competes, conflicts of interest, all those types of things. So, I've been there and done that. Many others have as well, but make sure that you talk to somebody that's been there and done that before you do it yourself.

I originally just wanted more time in my life. So when I did seminars and I got to a certain place, I could just kick back. And that's exactly what I did. I happened to live on a little lake, and I was about 30 years old and I had enough AUM to only work 20 hours a week or so. And in the summer, I'd go out there on the lake.

Nobody was there. There was housewives and retired guys. [00:25:00] And after a week and a half of that, I realized they're not really my peers. It was fun, but I got to get back to work. And so, what I thought I wanted turned out to be not at all what I wanted. I feel retired now. I love what I do so much now. I don't feel like I work a day in my life.

Lara Galloway: And I watch you bouncing back and forth in between several businesses all day. So that must be amazing that you found the right kind of job, the right kind of work.  

Dean Thurman: Yeah. I love it.  

Lara Galloway: That's great. That's awesome. I can tell. Well, I guess it's time to wrap it up. And our last question, Dean, as always, how do you define success for yourself?

Dean Thurman: Happiness. Happiness for yourself, happiness for your friends and family, helping others. I mean, that's true happiness, right? And what's so awesome is all of your listeners picked what I consider is the best career on the planet. It's better than being a rock star. It's better than being a trust fund baby.

Things that most people would love to have. [00:26:00] Because you can completely control your schedule, your income, how you want to build your business. You can take time off to see your kids little league game anytime you want. A lot of us don't have to ask their boss for that.

So, to me just deciding to be in this industry is success. Next step is find your happiness within this industry.  

Lara Galloway: That's awesome. Well, Dean, your energy and passion are certainly contagious. And I hope I can get you back in here to talk some more to me about a lot of other topics because I know you have a lot to say.

Thanks so much for being on the podcast today.  

Dean Thurman: Thank you, Lara.  

Bill Tucker: That was a great conversation, as always Lara. One of my favorite features of the podcast, if you will, is the definition of success. And today's was the simplest one word, happiness. It's great. I also don't want to leave without giving you a shout out, Dean, if I can. I love the idea of the failure board.

I know a number of entrepreneurs in amongst the entrepreneur people. The idea of failure is not a bad word. It's an accepted fact of life. I think it's great, though, that you have a failure board and that you tell your employees and the people that you work with hey, in order to grow, you have to get outside your comfort zone.

And if you're going to do that, we're going to support you to do that. And we're going to give you the environment to do it in and your witness, your testimony to the fact that it's a really solid business strategy to follow. Thank you.  

Dean Thurman: That's great. Thank [00:28:00] you. Thank you very much.  

Bill Tucker: And Lara, thank you. And to our listeners, thank you very much for listening to this podcast, the FAST Podcast with Lara Galloway.

We would like it if you would be a subscriber. If you're not a subscriber already, hit the button. It's easy. Then you don't have to remember where and when you heard the podcast or when it comes out, because it will be delivered to you and you will never miss another podcast. And if you're so moved, we'd humbly ask that you rate the podcast and share it with others.

Help spread the word, if you will, on behalf of Lara and all the people at White Glove, I'm Bill Tucker urging you to remember to live your best life today.  

Voiceover: Thank you. Thank you for listening to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, your go to source designed to help you grow your business.

Have questions about the topics covered during the show, visit our website at www.whiteglove.com or email us at info@whiteglove.com. Don't [00:29:00] forget to click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become available. The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guests and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of White Glove.

The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional investing advice. Always seek the advice of your financial advisor or other qualified financial services provider with any questions you may have regarding your investment planning.

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