Fireside Chat with Dennis and John, wHealth Advisors

December 29, 2021

Talk to a Workflow Expert

Originally presented to the members of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners (ACP), Dennis and John sat down with Hubly Co-Founders, Louis and Ron, for a discussion about why they started using Hubly. Dennis and John share the impact that Hubly workflows have had in helping them run a successful business.


wHealth Advisors Fireside Chat Transcript: Their Success with Hubly Workflows

Introduction

About Dennis McNamara

Dennis is the Co-Founder of wHealth Advisors. Previously, he has served as the US director of business development for a social enterprise firm, a financial analyst and planner for the ultra-high net worth clients of Ayco (the private wealth management group of Goldman Sachs), and as a financial planner at a top-ranked financial planning firm  in New Jersey.

Today, as a founder of wHealth Advisors, he finds immense fulfillment in knowing that they use their platform as a force for good by donating a portion of their profits and offering pro-bono services to those in need.  

About John Munley

John was a successful foreign currency trader with a 27 year career on Wall Street, and yet was burdened with questions.  How am I going to afford to put my four daughters through college?  Am I spending too much money?  Will I ever be able to afford to walk away from currency trading?  His financial planner guided him through these obstacles and showed him a path to succeed. When he was presented with an opportunity to leave Wall Street behind and start his own journey as a financial planner, it was an easy decision to make.

LOUIS

Before we jump in, I want to give everyone a quick overview of the Hubly and ACP resource partnership that we've been working on. Over the course of the last six months, we've onboarded close to 15 advisory firms from the ACP community onto our product. The goal was to discover best practices for workflow management, that teams like John and Dennis have been doing and practicing. While we were doing that, we were working closely with Joanne and Kevin and ACP leadership to learn the best practices that ACP already recommends.

Our team spent a lot of time going through the advisor desk reference, and we've married the best practices from what we've seen the advisors are doing at ACP, and also what ACP recommends. Through that process, we've developed ACP workflow templates to make it really quick and easy for any ACP member to get started with Hubly.

We know the building of workflows and designing components are really difficult. So, the goal of this process was to make it as easy as possible for anyone to get started with their work.

That being said, now that everyone has an overview of today, I'm going to be passing it over to Ron. Who's going to first facilitate a conversation with John and Dennis about their workflow experience, and then he's going to be moving into a live demonstration. 

Fireside Chat

Q: If you think back to a time before Hubly, what initially drove you down this path of looking for a solution like Hubly? 

DENNIS

John and I started a new firm in 2019 after coming from different firms ourselves. We had a different approach to how we were thinking about buying CRMs, workflows, all that kind of stuff. We had completely different experiences. We started with Redtail. It's deep. It's got everything. We were going on trying to say, “okay, let's maximize what we can on Redtail.” It didn't take long for me to get very frustrated with the system - things just seemed convoluted. It was not an intuitive system in my mind.

Then, John and I started shopping around for a different CRM, seeing if that was going to be a solution. I can't even remember how we stumbled upon Hubly. I think somebody referred us to Hubly and I did a demo and said, “wow, we don't have to jump ship”. Instead, we can just layer Hubly right on top.

The first thing I said to Louis and Ron, when we spoke was, “I don't want to ever go back into Redtail for my day to day tasks, I can't stand it.” Since we've come on to Hubly, I probably go into Redtail once a week, but all of our information is getting backed up. I've got peace of mind. Anything for our client is still ending up in Redtail, should we need it. But, I have a place where I can live out of to rely on –  day in and day out. 

JOHN

For me it was more when we were first starting out. When you're a small firm it's easy when you have a few clients to use Excel spreadsheets or take notes and put it in a folder. But we realized as we were going to get bigger that we were going to have to have some way to use workflows. We looked into Redtail workflows just for us to get educated on how to use them. It didn't look very intuitive. We were going to have to put a lot of time into learning how to use them. Neither myself or Dennis wanted to do that. 

So then we thought, all right, do we hire somebody outside to come in and build workflows for us inside of Redtail? We thought about that, but you'd still have to learn how to use it because if you want to tweak it, it is not intuitive on how to do it.

We were stuck. Another colleague of mine had been using Hubly and he actually mentioned Trello. I said, “yeah, I'm using this Trello thing just to do my personal stuff, I wish there was something like that for like, for workflows”. He said, you have to call Hubly.

Which I did, and they gave us a demo. It just made a lot of sense on how to manage the day-to-day operations. Dennis decided to go down that road and explore it a little bit deeper. 

DENNIS

I would add just one other point there that I neglected to mention. John had experience with workflows prior to even seeing Hubly. I really had not come from a firm where we used workflows much. I would keep telling Louis and John, I want a client dashboard, like one place where if that client calls me out of the blue, I can just pull them up and have 90% of what I need right in front of me. Not all siloed out in these different tabs, like it was in Redtail. I don't think it's as bad on Wealthbox.That was the pain point for me having that one central place where I can see just about everything going on.

Q: John, what did you use before Hubly to keep track of your clients? What were some of those processes that you set up?

JOHN

It was Excel spreadsheets and check boxes in Excel. We have new client onboarding with information like - what information on what we need from them and email templates. We have one folder in our One Drive that just has email templates for clients. 

What is nice about Hubly, is you can put all that stuff in the workflows so you don't have to use an Excel spreadsheet. You don't have to use an email template outside of Hubly. It just made keeping everything in one place really easy. 

RON

If you both think back to that first meeting with us, what did you think that success would look and feel like once you got through that onboarding, once you've achieved that?

JOHN

At first I saw the demo of what it's going to look like. And then our first onboarding meeting with Ron, it was just this white screen with nothing there. And I'm like, there's no way this is going to get filled in with workflows. I was like, what did we do? And what did we get ourselves into? But it was kind of putting our trust in you, Ron, to lead us to the path that we ended up. 

DENNIS

Yeah. I had a similar feeling when we first started out, because it did feel like this blank slate. But I mean, it was one of the hardest things for me personally, when we first got started with Hubly, was in those initial training calls, understanding how certain things connect. You're learning, in little bite sized pieces. It was not drinking through the fire hose right upfront. There were a couple of themes that had to be reiterated to us a couple times. Things like streams and tags, which I think we might get into maybe a little bit later here, and just different things to make your workflows actually flow. Because you can build anything, but then there's the way that you utilize the system is through streams and tags, which is kind of like the circulatory system of how the system works. I wasn't connecting dots early on. It took actually doing it building workflows to start to piece things together.

RON

I remember that really clearly. We were talking frequently about how streams are not workflows and how workflows are not streams, but I think the underlying aspect that really helped it click was once we finished categorizing your book of business and you saw how that begins to flow naturally, we really saw your hub come to life.

JOHN

I think another great part about it is you go into this onboarding and you don't have to do anything. It's just going to magically disappear like me and Dennis put a lot of time and thinking about our workflows because there's a lot of things that. We didn't even think about what our process is behind it. We didn't really have a process. So we kind of had to go through things step by step, and it really got us committed to these workflows and thinking about our process in different situations.

Whether it was during tax season, during an annual meeting, during an end of the year meeting, and even cash flow - like how do you move money between accounts? Is there a process for that, that you don't really write down, but at times you are going to forget steps? This way, it keeps you all in line on these steps. So it was a lot of homework, it took six to eight weeks to build this out. It really got me and Dennis doing the work to get all our processes done.

Q: If you could give a word of advice to those advisors and team members who are about to embark on the Hubly training process and onboarding process, what would you tell them?

DENNIS

I think with adviser tech and the universe of technology available to any of us financial planners, it comes down to what you make of it. For us, Hubly was an investment, not just obviously financially, but the time that we put into the onboarding. Like John said, we took the onboarding really seriously. You have to really embrace it. It’s going to be a central part of how your day in and day out works. I could see it being something that a user's not going to get the best experience if they're not connecting all those dots.

Workflows work because everything is tied together. There's still some things, even as we've gone through one full year in using it, where we've had to tighten our workflows up, because we're like, wait a second, we set it up this way when we did our onboarding with Louis and Ron, but in practice we had to live it and do it. So, I think that it's an evolution too. It's kind of a living breathing thing, but to get that started up front, to get it to a point where it's workable - it takes time. That would be my one suggestion: give it the time, make that investment.

RON

Awesome. Thanks Dennis. Anything to add to John?

JOHN

I guess I think each person is going to be in a different situation. Like me and Dennis, we really were starting from scratch. I'm sure a lot of people out there had workflows that they've been using. They don't have to take that much time and build this out. So I think everybody's going to have a different experience with it. Like Dennis said, I think for us, this is an essential part of what we do every day. This is what we mainly use to keep track of where we are with clients and what we have to push forward and everything to set it up, we want it to make sure that we did it right. That this would be the only thing that we had to use. 

RON

That's super powerful. I think that it's very true that the firms like yours that really are so successful, which is surprisingly quite a lot of firms that choose to start with Hubly are looking for that single system that they live out of and to get that peace of mind of not having to check your emails all the time between each other, not having to check task lists and spreadsheets, and just constantly feeling like data is flowing all over the place. 

I think that one of the most important things that stands out to me now that you're fully implemented is that I've seen you proactively make the time on a regular basis, as you just mentioned Dennis, to revisit your workflows and to make those improvements. So I'd love to ask you as one of the last questions here before we move on to the demo.

Q: What drives you to kind of pause, go back, improve, and iterate?

JOHN

A couple things, one - it’s efficient. We just want to be as efficient as we can and not waste time on things. So, you know, if we see we've missed a step, we'll add it to the workflows. If we see this is taking too many steps, we can cut it down. 

Another thing has kind of gotten us thinking and has made us more conscious of how we're wording our workflows. Somewhere down the road, we may get a virtual assistant and we want as an assistant to be able to pop into any workflow and be able to understand things. So while it may make sense to me and Dennis if a third party was looking at it, it may not make sense to them. We've started to change verbiage so that if somebody else was looking at it, would they understand exactly what we're looking for? 

RON

Perfect. And then Dennis, anything to add to that? I know that you never were big on workflows before Hubly, but now you're actually going in there and you're living in Hubly and I see you building out and making changes to workflows like tax season, et cetera.

DENNIS

Yeah. I think the motivation to improve is just that we had a lot of room to improve. We do surge meetings,  three set meetings throughout the year. So each of them were unique in their own way. I work with medical professionals, right? Buying a medical practice, and all of a sudden I'm building out that workflow in real time, based on some of the things that I'm going through with a client. Compliance, birthday – different things that come up. So, there were things that were just coming up, but we were like, oh, wait a second. I don't want to have to think about these steps again.

Why don't I create a workflow and when it's relevant for a client, I can just drop them in and have my task list ready to go. 

RON

To give everything context, I think it's super important to know, having the perspective that we have worked with 14 other ACP firms,  that there's a lot of overlap with those initial workflows that Dennis and John did create in their Hub. A lot of the improvements that I've seen you guys go out and make have really been about refining those templates into making them more and more specific to how they actually work in practice.

JOHN

I think the key to all of it is just because it's so easy to use the system that we're able to tweak it on our own. We're able to improve it on our own, that we don't have to wait for Ron to call us back and tell us how to do something. We can actually build our own workflows now that we know how to use it and use it well enough that we really don't need a lot of help after that initial onboarding process.

RON

Exactly. For those of you listening for those of you considering starting with Hubly, or if you already have, and you're waiting for that first training call, I just want to add there that the journey that Dennis and John went through was really a journey of discovery and trying to build out those processes from scratch. 

As a part of our recent partnership with ACP, we have 80% of the templates that you're going to need to get started with - a template and a framework. So everything that you have in your reference is going to be a starting point in Hubly. This last portion that we just talked about, that iteration, that making changes on your own and really getting the most use out of the workflows that work and feel the way that you do, that's going to be all that we're going to focus on. 

We're not going to start from scratch. We're going to start from the starting point that the network has given us to make it as easy as possible for you to spend as little time as possible in the early days, just building these things out so you can spend more time learning how it works and forming those habits, which I think are at the core of what we're going to cover next. I know a lot of advisors get overwhelmed with having to-do lists all over the place. 

I would love to hear your process of doing that now that you're working in Hubly. 

JOHN

I'll start off by saying that because of COVID me and Dennis, hadn't been in the same office for almost a year. That initially when we were talking about doing this presentation, we realized we use Hubly completely differently in our day to day operations, but it still works for both of us. So we thought it was a great idea that we show how we use it differently, but yet come to the same end result.

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