The Power of Connection: How Seminars Fueled Business Success with Kurt Stahl

Kurt Stahl
March 13, 2024

Kurt's journey exemplifies the power of seminars not only as a marketing tool but also as a platform for building lasting relationships and providing genuine value to clients.

New to the town and lacking established connections, our guest craved a space filled with people genuinely interested in learning about financial planning. Seminars became his platform for connection, and he emphasizes that anyone can master them with preparation.   

Joining us today is Kurt Stahl, President at Gulf Coast Financial Planning LLC, who shares his journey of building a successful practice centered around seminar marketing.  

The key to a successful seminar, according to Kurt, lies in effectively linking the chosen subject matter to a broader financial planning framework. He advises presenters to frame their talks in a way that compels attendees to seek personalized guidance to solidify their financial well-being.  

Ultimately, Kurt’s journey exemplifies the power of seminars not only as a marketing tool but also as a platform for building lasting relationships and providing genuine value to clients.   

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

  • Building genuine connections with prospects 
  • Mastering seminar marketing 
  • Attracting your targeted audience 
  • Becoming a captivating presenter 
  • And more! 


Connect with Lara Galloway: 

Connect with Kurt Stahl: 


About our Guest:  

Kurt Stahl graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Economics and worked over the years as a mortgage banker and a stockbroker in Washington DC, Chicago, and San Francisco. In 2000, he left the United States to work for an investment banking firm across China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia for six years. Later, he moved to Saint Petersburg, Russia where he lived for eight years and worked for an American private equity firm (www.jensen.ru) that owns and operates office, industrial, retail, and multi-unit residential property.  

As Director of Sales and Leasing for a billion-dollar portfolio of strategically-located properties across Russia’s second largest city, Kurt was able to have many very fascinating interactions and negotiations with prominent Russian businessmen, oligarchs, and gangsters.  In 2014, Kurt returned to the United States and took a position as a subadvisor within a Sarasota, Florida financial advisory firm. When he passed his Certified Financial Planner designation, Kurt started his own firm, Gulf Coast Financial Planning in March of 2017.  

Podcast Transcript

Voiceover: Welcome to the FAST Podcast, your go-to source for Financial Advisor Strategy Talks hosted by Lara Galloway, Senior Vice President of Channel Management at White Glove. Tune in as we uncover valuable insights from industry experts, offering you actionable tips to elevate your business.

Lara Galloway: (06:34.953)

All right, guys, welcome to the FAST Podcast. I'm excited to have one of our very best hosts at White Glove with me today. I've got Kurt Stahl, and Kurt is, we call him a proverbial poster child of White Glove because Kurt has just done amazing things with the tools that we've given him, and he's had great success, and he's, you know, Kurt. What I love about you, and I can't wait for you to share today, you are such a good businessperson, you're such a good human, Educator because I love the way you share your experiences in a way that other people can really understand So Kurt, welcome to the FAST podcast.

Kurt Stahl: (07:13.998)

Thank you very much. I appreciate that. That's a nice introduction. I'll try to live up to it.

Lara Galloway: (07:20.209)

I know you will. You're a tall man and a very good man.  

Kurt Stahl: (07:24.662)

I'm not that tall. I'm just six feet. Yeah. I'm a regular guy. All right. And I'm not six foot six. I wasn't quarterback of the high school team or anything. Just the average guy on the street. Okay. Regular guy.

Lara Galloway: (07:30.605)

Just a regular guy.

I love it. I love it. Yeah, awesome regular guy. So, Kurt tell us what you do as a regular guy in your day-to-day business Where are you and what kind of work do you do?

Kurt Stahl: (07:47.346)

Sure. I'm in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. So, I'll tell you a little about my background. I was born in Chicago, lived there. My family moved to Virginia when I was 10. And I basically grew up there, went to the University of Virginia, got a degree in economics. I worked as a mortgage broker for quite a few years. I was a stockbroker for two years in 86 and 87.  

I learned how bad it is when you lose clients’ money. When Black Monday came in 1987 and I'd been building a client base and the market dropped 22% in a day and I had to call all these people telling them that, you know, they'd lost a hundred thousand, $200,000. So, I learned a little bit.

Lara Galloway: (08:26.793)

I cannot imagine. Yeah, I just can't imagine that. Wow.

Kurt Stahl: (08:32.374)

No, yeah, but it was a lesson too, because I've used that understanding of what it's like to lose other people's money. Now, you know, if they stayed in the market, it did recover, but I've used that going forward and that's helped me. You need to learn early that you don't want to lose other people's money and that you must have a plan that's going to make sure that when the market drops, they're not selling low to fund necessary expenses.  

After the crash in 87, I went back into mortgage banking for a number of years. I moved from DC to Chicago and then over to San Francisco. Um, you know, I got married along the way, had a kid, unfortunately got divorced. So, you know, something that a lot of people have gone through. Everything hasn't always worked perfectly in my life. In 2000, I went overseas, and I started working overseas. I worked for an Australian investment bank.

That moved me around Asia for a number of years, working with a medical company they were working with, helping to manage that. So, I lived in Indonesia, Beijing and Shanghai and China, and I lived in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and Thailand. So, I did that for about three years. Then they pushed me over to Russia and I lived for eight years in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I worked for that investment bank for a while and then I ended up working for an American and private equity firm there in Russia. I met my wife, and I had two kids during those eight years in Russia. We went back to the States to rest in Virginia and a couple months after I got there, I got contacted by the Australian investment bank that I had been working for in Asia and they said come work in Perth. So, I went there for a couple years.

After two and a half years in Australia, you know, the kids were getting Australian accents and she said, you know, are we going to live the rest of our lives here where they're going to build all their friendships and everything? Or are we going to end up in the States? So, we decided to go back. I had no job. We decided that we'll go somewhere where we want to live. And we chose this area of Florida. So, we looked at Florida. We wanted to be somewhere warm. If you haven't been to Russia, it's really, cold.  

Kurt Stahl: (10:49.098)

So, we wanted to be somewhere warm. Yeah, I mean, it would be negative 40 for months at a time. I would call my dad in the United States and there'd be 110 degrees of difference between his temp and mine. So, we decided on Florida. And so, I started back in this business as a sub advisor. I joined a firm as a sub advisor. And right away, I understood that if I wanted to make money in this business, I needed to run my own firm.

So, from that day on, I started working as a sub advisor, I worked on getting the certified financial planner designation. There's a lot of designations out there, I think a lot of them are valuable and I'm constantly trying to improve myself. I'm constantly studying for another designation. But that was the first one because that's kind of the gold standard. So, while I was working hard during the day, every night I was studying for two or three hours and the minute I passed that exam after two years,

I decided I'm going out on my own now because I knew I had to be able to answer the question how long you've been doing this. And the way I answered it was I didn't answer it. I'd say I'm a certified financial planner. So, I dodged that question and said I'm a certified financial planner. That's the gold star in this industry. I know what I'm doing. And you do know what you're doing by the time you've passed that on some level. So, I wanted to go out on my own, but I had this problem. And the problem was...

It's one person. I was literally from the start; I was renting office space by the hour. I'd have a meeting with someone. I'd say goodbye to them in the office. They'd leave five minutes later I'd take all my gear and go out to my car and work in my car for an hour and a half till I had another appointment. So, I knew it was going to be. Well, I knew it was going to be me alone for a while. Cause I, I mean, I had a number, I had a divorce, as I mentioned.

Lara Galloway: (12:28.825)

I'm going to go to bed.

You are a hustler, man. That's great. You really did it.

Kurt Stahl: (12:41.734)

I started a business at one point that failed. I mean, if you look at the top five reasons for bankruptcy, I had at least three of them. So, I never went bankrupt, but you know, at the time when I came back to the States, we didn't have much.  And I couldn't hire this giant staff. It was going to be me, and I knew it. But had a problem- How can I do the marketing and be the advisor and do the appointments?  

And then I stumbled upon White Glove and Natalie Grassi was a gal working there. And I met with her.

Lara Galloway: (12:48.865)

Ha ha ha.


Kurt Stahl: (13:12.07)

This has got to work for me. I mean, I'm putting money into this that I don't even have, and it's got to work. And it has worked fantastically for me. That was 2017, March of 2017 when I went out on my own, I have only used White Glove for my marketing since then. And it's just been gold for me from day one.  

The first seminars I had, looking back, some of the first few that I had are still some of the bests I had in terms of the number of people I got. So, you know, and that's not to say that every seminar is fantastic either. I have some that aren't great and some that are fantastic, but I stuck with it during that first year and, you know, and my revenues at the end of 2017 were $224,000 and it was me. I didn't even have an office. As I said, I was going in and out of an office, running by the hour.

So, uh, so that's how I got started.  

Lara Galloway: (14:12.289)

Let me ask you this though, I want to just back up for a second though, because you, I love, you know, when you share that you started with white glove, kind of right there at the beginning when you were working out of your car and renting an office by the hour. How did you pick seminars though? Like that that's not everybody's first choice. So how did you pick seminars?

Kurt Stahl: (14:29.454)


Well, I had moved here, I didn't have any connection groups. I mean, I didn't grow up here. I didn't have high school or college friends. We knew no one. My wife was from St. Petersburg, Russia. We didn't know a soul in this town. The firm that I went to work for as a sub advisor did dinner seminars. So, I was doing dinner seminars within six months for that firm. So, I was speaking at dinner seminars.  

Now. I did not like dinner seminars because in Florida there's people, we call plate lickers, and they just go around every night and eat free dinners on financial advisors. They have zero intention of becoming a client. They just want a free dinner. And so, I also was raised by a little Irish Catholic woman who gave me lots of Catholic guilt syndrome. I do not want someone to join my firm because they feel guilty that I bought a steak, and I don't want to fill a room.

Lara Galloway: (15:30.509)

It's not your modus operandi. Yeah?

Kurt Stahl: (15:32.518)

No, not at all. And I don't want to fill a room with plate lickers, with people who have such low morality that they're going to come and get free steaks every night from someone who's hoping to get their business. I wanted to do educational seminars. I wanted to have the room filled with people who want to learn something and want to get something out of the meeting. They're not expecting any free gifts, free food, anything. They come to learn.

Lara Galloway: (15:51.81)


Kurt Stahl: (15:58.826)

And then if I can teach them something, I can bring them to my office and perhaps make them a client. So, and the other thing about seminars for me is, they're a chance to connect. I know some people are very good at webinars. I connect better when I'm with someone in a seminar.  

Lara Galloway: (16:17.568)

No doubt.

Kurt Stahl: (16:22.782)

That might sound then like I'm this extrovert, the guy at the party who's making all the jokes or something like that. I'm the exact opposite. I am an introvert, even to the extreme. When I go to the advisor events, I'll sit at a table by Myself. I don't make friends with everybody across the room.  

But when I go and do a seminar, I put on a bit of a show, okay. And when I sit with clients, I have to be something that they need. And that took practice. But seminars allow you to connect personally. And what I did to overcome being an introvert was I got really good at the seminars before I started them. And it's like anything else. Michael Jordan did it.

Lara Galloway: (16:57.218)


Kurt Stahl: (17:17.982)

Do you know how first started his game? never having played basketball, right? He was cut from his high school's basketball team. I mean, I don't know, probably everybody knows that, but Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team. And then he went out and did more work than anybody else and became the greatest ever. Now I'm hardly the greatest ever, but I put in the time. I'd spent a lot of time practicing the seminars. And I go through PowerPoints, which I like, but I don't memorize the script.  

I would look at PowerPoint and I know what the PowerPoint was generally focused on, and then I'll talk because I know the material. So, I think that seminars give you a new, unique chance to connect with people and seeing you face to face in the room with them makes a difference. I think anyone can get good at it. Cause if I can get good at it, anyone can. I really am a quiet person at heart. That's, that's not who I am.

Lara Galloway: (18:16.757)

Yeah. Well, just one of the things that I think comes across, you didn't say it explicitly, but being an introvert who has decided to do public speaking, crazy as that is, right? Number one fear for most people above death is public speaking. And you've decided to do it anyway. And I think you say when you get there, you put on a show, but I feel like it’s one of the things that you do so well.  

Because I've seen some of your recordings and such over the years, you have become an educator. And like you said, when people come to your office, you have something they need. That's right, you don't have to be a celebrity. You don't have to be Pat Sajak on the Wheel of Fortune who keeps people engaged or whatever in a game show. You've got something they need.

Kurt Stahl: (18:50.488)


You're right.

Lara Galloway: (19:07.797)

You're an educator, you're a subject matter expert, and maybe that takes some of the pressure off.  

So, I just want some of the advisors listening today, if you're thinking, I can't do seminars, I can't do public speaking, listen to what Kurt's saying here, because I think that is like a really pivotal statement.

Kurt Stahl: (19:24.234)

You're exactly right. And when I say I put on a show, again, I am fundamentally quiet, but I know the material. And the other thing is, and if anybody has seen a good seminar on social security or on taxes or on estate planning, a good seminar ties that subject into that attendees need to Learn about overall planning.  

All my seminars start based on one subject, take social security, and they come in thinking, all right, I'm going to learn when I should take my social security. But my whole presentation is about the fact that in order to make the right decision about social security, you have to plug this into a retirement plan. And you have to look at the impact it's going to have on your taxes. And you have to look at the impact it's going to have on the withdrawals you take from your IRAs or from your non-qualified accounts and all these things interact and make everyone's circumstances unique.

There's only one way that you can understand when you should take your social security and that's to sit down with someone, tell them about your unique circumstances and then let them help you make that decision. So, it is educating. And I tell one or two stupid jokes during it. So, I'm not up there trying to be, you know, Chris Rock or anything.

I know the material, I know how social security interacts with taxes, I know what people do with their social security in terms of when people are most likely to take it and why, and I talk to that subject matter in a way that makes them feel, I need to sit down with this guy in order to get this decision right.

Lara Galloway: (21:10.489)


Kurt Stahl: (21:12.114)

If you do a seminar on social security and you tell them how to make the decision without meeting with you, then you have no reason for them to come in and sit with you in your office. I remember listening to some white glove podcast or something, which was a live interactive thing and a guy got on and said, you know, I did a white glove seminar, there were like 30 people in the audience and none of them became clients. I was sitting there thinking that's on Wycliffe.

They gave you 30 people, and you didn't turn any of them into clients. You need to go look in the mirror and figure out what you did wrong. Okay. And the great thing about our position is that I'm with advisors, Excel and AE Wealth Management as my RA. You know, it doesn't matter wherever you are, you're going to have endless resources, Wycliffe has endless resources. Frank, I use Frank's dollar bill opening at every seminar.

Lara Galloway: (21:50.157)


Kurt Stahl: (22:11.102)

I mean, I learned that through training from White Glove. There's so many resources and so many ways to get better that are provided by White Glove or by your IMO or your RIA or just out there on YouTube. So anyone who wants to get good just has to practice.  

I heard a very interesting study recently. It was about all the different factors that contribute to a financial advisor being successful. And I started listening to this show, I was very curious as to what was going to be that number one factor. And what the number one factor was to success for a financial advisor was time in the business, which is very interesting to me because basically it says a couple things and one is that anybody who can stick in there, hang in there can be successful, right?

I've accelerated that process by trying to learn a lot in the first few years. If it's about experience, then why don't I cram 10 years of experience into the first two years of my work process? And that's exactly what I did.

Lara Galloway: (23:19.637)

Yeah, you don't need to sleep. You just need to consume as much education and experience as possible, right? Yeah.

Kurt Stahl: (23:23.562)

Yeah. And, you know, I started, as I said, in 2017, my revenues in 2021 were $1.2 million with me and two staff members. So, so you can do it. And, you know, anyone can do this if I can. I, I've gone to events where you stand or you sit and you're watching somebody up there and he's a handsome model and he's talking about all the businesses he built from ground zero and sold and then built another one and made millions and I'm sitting in the audience thinking, you know, this isn't me.

I'm just as ordinary as anybody else. I wasn't quarterback of the football team. I wasn't even on the football team, right? I was a little guy, weighing 140 pounds, you know, when I was in high school, I had some. interesting jobs, but I never made millions in anything particularly.

I had a divorce, I had a business go under, I've had a lot of struggles along the way. But I found this. and with your guys help, frankly. Because White Glove has been my only marketing really. With a lot of work, which anyone can do, anyone can work hard, you don't have to be brilliantly intelligent to work hard.

Kurt Stahl: (23:23.562)

You don't have to be brilliantly intelligent to be a great financial advisor. Okay. You've got to learn your software. Right. There's, there's so much out there to help you. If you know how to plug all the numbers into software, you can show someone a Monte Carlo simulation and you can plug the software into, or the details into social security software and retirement planning software and risk software to assess their current portfolio. It's a lot of data entry and then the software does the hard work. Right.

Lara Galloway: (25:11.03)


Kurt Stahl: (25:16.278)

but you've got to know how to speak to people.

Lara Galloway: (25:18.953)

You mentioned anybody can do it, the hard work. You've clearly put in your time and effort to practice and prep before you even do a webinar or a seminar, and now you're doing them on such a regular basis.  

Have you ever heard of Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers? Are you familiar with that?  

Kurt Stahl: (25:35.498)

Yes. Yes, I have.

Lara Galloway: (25:18.953)

So, he says, I think in there, the number's around 10,000 hours is what it takes to become an expert. Would you say you've got 10,000 hours in the seat at this point doing your seminars?

Kurt Stahl: (25:47.442)

And then some and then some. Yeah. No, I mean.

Lara Galloway: (25:49.997)

Yeah, yeah. So, it's not hard, but you have to be diligent, it's a grind, but you've also mentioned White Glove and our resources. You mentioned Frank and you're referring to, for those of you who don't know, Frank Masselli, one of our premier coaches and has been a part of White Glove forever and does a lot of presentation coaching, and you've taken the education available. You've taken the expertise available.

You’ve learned not just how to speak, but how to pivot from being that subject matter expert in front of a room of attendees on social security to let me talk to you about how these fits into your whole portfolio and your retirement income planning. Let me talk to you about all of that.

You've taken all the pieces, Kurt, and you've added them up. And like you said, it's not rocket science to be a financial planner. There's so much technology and software that can help you do.

It's learning to connect with people, learning to build that bridge and show them how you're the person that can really help them get the financial future and the outcomes they want.  

You've mastered that, So, you're not just a good speaker and a good financial planner. You've mastered that piece as well.

Kurt Stahl: (27:02.478)

Well, you mentioned, for instance, all these resources and using them. Like when I started, you guys taught me that, hey, you can send your presentation and your seminar to Frank immediately within a month or two of starting. So, I recorded my presentation. Why wouldn't anyone send a presentation to a guy like Frank? If you've ever seen him speak, I think he's one of the best speakers I've ever heard.  

So, I sent this presentation to this fantastic speaker, and he analyzed it and gave me help.  

I use his opening, as I said, in every seminar. I mean, so it's just about pulling together the resources and doing as you said, the work.

The first two years when I was a sub advisor, I studied two or three hours every night. I was tired when I came home, I didn't want to do it. I had two young kids. I'd play with them, eat dinner, and then go and do that. It was tough.

But it's paid for itself. If you don't do that, okay, then you're putting yourself back, you know, years by not putting in the work.

There are so many resources that can help you, so many. So, I mean, use them. That's how you become successful.  

Use the resources.

Lara Galloway: (28:12.63)


Well, Kurt, you are clearly a portrait of a regular guy who's not exactly regularly successful. You've got, I think, some mad skills and you've got some great success.  

I always ask at the end of the podcast here; I'd love for you to share what your definition of success is.

Kurt Stahl: (28:36.322)

Well, I would answer that from a standpoint of personal things and then work things.  

You know, my family is the most important thing in my life. You know, I have a wonderful wife. I have three beautiful kids and the ability to take care of them, right?

My second daughter is a freshman at FSU. Um, she's a chemistry major. You know, to send her to a good school, to take our family on good vacations, to spend time together. We just, you know, we did a Christmas cruise, all of us. To take good care of my family. That's success in my personal life, and to have those good relationships.

From a business standpoint, you know, I've had people from our headquarters at, I'm with Advisors Excel, but it could be any IMO, right? Say, you know, why don't you build this into a bigger firm? Why don't you hire sub advisors and things like that? And the reality is that I don't want to, I don't need that for me.

I want to build a practice that makes good money for myself, but I don't want to have 30 people working for me. Again, I don't want to have to deal with them because I'm an introvert. I have to have meetings all day long. That's as much as I can take. I don't want to deal with a staff of 30 people.

Lara Galloway: (29:37.313)



Kurt Stahl: (30:00.37)

I'm perfectly happy building a successful firm that's small. And I really care about what happens with my clients. And I know a lot of people say that we always do what's best for our client, no matter what.  

There are a lot of product lines out there that people have tried to get me involved with to say, hey, you do this. And if they can't prove to me that it's better for my client, I won't do it.

Kurt Stahl: (30:00.37)

I don't care if I make 10 times the money doing this product instead of that. I'm going to do the one that's best for them. And that results in a lot of referrals.

We have more five-star reviews than any financial advisory firm in this area, except one. And interestingly, that firm, almost all the reviews came on one day, if you look at it. So that's a little...  

Lara Galloway: (30:52.812)

A little sus.

Kurt Stahl: (30:54.034)

Aside from them, we have more five-star reviews in this community than anyone else. And because we always try to do what's right for our clients.  

I made a mistake one time that cost my clients a bit of extra taxes. Right away I went out to my headquarters and said, you know, what's the process I got to go through? I want to pay for this tax mistake for them. Well, that client, he died.

two years ago, he'd been with one of our first clients in 2017, him and his wife. And his wife told me later that in the hospital while he was dying, she was scared and she's totally incapable of taking care of herself. And he looked at her and he said, "'Kurt and Andrew, that's my office manager, 'they're going to take care of you, don't worry.'" And, because I had done what was right for him years ago.

It cost me several thousand dollars, but it was my mistake and I had to fix it. And I paid for that mistake and made him whole. And that gave him a hundred percent belief that we would take care of his wife when he was gone.

He died. And we've been taking care of her. She can't even drive a car. Andrew drives down to her office a lot, or we do zoom calls.  

So, I mean, if you do what's right, I think your client base will grow a lot faster than if you do what's right for you.

Lara Galloway: (32:18.053)

That's an amazing story, Kurt. All the times I've heard you speak; I have not heard that story and I got chills.

So, thank you for sharing that. I can see, and I'm sure our listeners can too, that there's no doubt because you are successful. So, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us here at the FAST Podcast, Kurt. It's been a pleasure.

Kurt Stahl: (32:31.982)

Thank you.

You're welcome. Thank you. Thank you very much. And if anyone wants some help, you know, reach out to me through White Glove. I'm happy to help anyone I can.

Lara Galloway: (32:44.233)

Yeah, we'll do that. We'll make sure that we post some resources that we talked about today. And if people do want to get in touch with Kurt, we'll help you do that. Kurt, thanks for being a great resource, as always.

Kurt Stahl: (32:53.774).

Thank you.

Voiceover: Thanks for tuning in to the FAST Podcast with Lara Galloway. Questions or comments about the show? We'd love to hear from you. Shoot us an email at info@whiteglove.com. Also be sure to check out the show notes to find any resources we may have mentioned. As always, don't forget to hit that follow button. So you'll never miss an episode. And once again, thank you for joining us on the FAST Podcast.

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