Thrive Global Presents "Ask The Right Questions" with Pete Bush and Tyler Gallagher

May 1, 2020

Originally Published on 5/1/2020 by:

As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pete Bush. Pete is the founder and CEO of Horizon Financial Group, a wealth advisory firm based in Baton Rouge, LA that serves a national clientele made up mostly of business owners, executives, entrepreneurs, and professional athletes. A 28-year veteran of the financial services industry, Pete is a Certified Financial Planner® practitioner, an Accredited Investment Fiduciary® and an Office of Supervisory Jurisdiction (OSJ) for Cetera Advisors, LLC. He is currently serving as the Chair of Cetera Advisors’ Advisory Council as well as representing the firm on parent company Cetera Financial Group’s Advisor Engagement Council.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was playing college baseball at LSU back in the late 80’s and a former player approached me about becoming a financial advisor like him when I was done playing. Well, like a lot of overconfident young athletes, in my mind, I was going to play in the big leagues and I would NEED a financial advisor, not need to BECOME one! And as I always like to say, I probably would have made it too, if not for a tragic…lack of ability!

All joking aside, baseball cuts everyone eventually and when it did, I sought that guy out and went to work for him, thinking I’d give it a year to see if I liked it. While I was always a quick study and good with numbers, I thought being a financial advisor was going to be all about product knowledge, understanding markets, and being able to deliver solutions and strategies to my clients. Those things are important to be sure, but I fell in love with helping people and getting that positive feedback pressed some button in me that I got addicted to. That feeling I would get when I would see someone’s worries or anxieties about money melt away, or see their confidence or trust in me soar, really made stick with it early on when it would have been easy to quit. And that feeling has never gone away!

I worked there for about eight years, but I always knew I was entrepreneurial and I’d eventually want to open my own firm, which I did in 1999. What started as “I’ll give it a year” at twenty-four, has turned into a very fulfilling career as a financial advisor.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

When I first started, there would always be another advisor with me in the meetings. But a couple of months later I was out on one of my first appointments by myself to see a new client and fill out paperwork. I guess they felt I was “ready” to handle this simple situation alone. I remember going through the forms to set up the accounts, but I kept getting stuck and didn’t want to mess it up because I only had one set. Or, the client would ask me a question that I didn’t yet know the answer to, and I would have to stop and call the administrative assistant of the boss each time. Remember, this is 1991, these are paper forms, and I had no cell phone or internet so I would ask the client-to-be if I could borrow his land line phone each time. All-in-all, I think I sat there and called back to the office about six or seven times, all in front of the client!

When I got back to the office, I came in the door and waived the papers above my head while smiling and saying “Captain Clueless has returned to base!” They bought me a “Captain Clueless” hat to wear as a gag gift that year at the Christmas party and all had a good laugh about it.

Probably the biggest lesson I learned from all of that was that even though it takes courage, it’s okay to just be real with people. I told the client this was all new to me and that I wanted to make sure I got it right for him and I know he appreciated that. I remember driving back to the office thinking, “Well it probably won’t ever get any worse than that so there’s only one way to go from here!” A positive mindset and a short memory are both good allies when you’re learning like that.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Probably the most exciting initiative underway at Horizon right now is our next-gen planning and advice platform we call Simplifynance. Instead of offering stripped down, low cost services for those with foundational financial needs alongside our traditional client wealth management services, we created a new brand, a new website, and new marketing materials with everything geared toward the younger client.

The service is led by a next-gen advisor in her early 30’s who identifies with the life stage of this demographic. So far, it is attracting children of existing clients and young professionals of all kinds. These are the folks that are hard for firms like ours to reach because they are turned off by the term wealth management and they are looking for a different type of relationship than the generation before them.

The goal of the service is to help people start sooner so they can finish stronger and make fewer mistakes along the way because they have engaged with an ongoing thinking partner to check in with periodically. With finances being one of the biggest factors in divorces in younger families, perhaps the confidence gained from couples being on the same page will lead to stronger relationships and contribute to families staying together.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

The biggest inflection point in my career came about fifteen years into it when I really dug into Dan Sullivan’s Strategic Coach Program. For a couple of years, I devoured everything I could that he put out and then finally made the leap to formally enroll about twelve years ago. It wasn’t so much that I was not successful by conventional standards at that time, it was just that I kept bumping up against what Dan calls the Ceiling of Complexity. It’s basically a barrier that requires teamwork and thinking differently to break through, something you can never do as a “rugged individualist.” The quarterly focusing, thinking tools, and conversations with other successful entrepreneurs have proven to be invaluable to our team and I.

What I started doing immediately was that instead of thinking of myself first as a financial advisor, I shifted to thinking of myself as an entrepreneur who happened to be working in financial services. It’s not as subtle a distinction as it first sounds, because approaching my life and business first as an entrepreneur opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking about the future and what I was capable of accomplishing personally and professionally.

The main takeaway is to be coachable and find a coach who fits your style. The best in the world at anything still have coaches because a good coach can do the one thing you can’t do for yourself: hold up the mirror and show you where you need to improve or change. The old saying is true — you can’t read the label from inside the jar!

What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?

Leading our advisor network puts me in a front row seat to looking into other advisors’ practices around the country. I host monthly coaching calls for them, as well as record a podcast for advisors called The Confident Advisor Practice. My advice to them has been consistent over the years but I’d say the top three would be:

1. Create a future vision of your firm that is bigger than your own career that other people can self-select into, communicate it clearly and update it often so everyone has clear line of sight to where the train is heading.

2. Always put your clients’ and your team’s needs ahead of your own. If you take care of your team, they will take care of your clients’ every need.

3. Lead with financial planning and get to the heart of people’s fears, hopes and dreams. Position yourself as a planner, thinker, and high-level problem solver and not just as an investment consultant. You will be the most valuable and useful in other people’s futures by serving as a trusted ongoing thinking partner who knows their whole story, versus someone who just has a snapshot of some of their financial holdings.

Regarding the vision element, in late 2010 we were going through a rough period unwinding a former partner from our group and chaos and confusion were in the air. I remembered reading a story about how Walt Disney, during the early critical survival days of his movie production company, decided to have everyone come back to work after dinner to share the pictures and grand visions that were in his head about theme parks and new characters and much of what we know Disney eventually became. He told them that people who were on board should stay and those who thought he was crazy should leave and, of course, some did.

So I tried it with a few of the faithful team members at a private after hours dinner and I shared in vivid detail what this company looked like in my head years from that time. There were a few tears shed and a renewed passion among those team members who could tangibly feel my sense of purpose and clearly see where I wanted to go. They decided to stay and they continue to lead this company today.

Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As a “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?

First, I’d want to make sure the advisor is asking them the right questions. Many advisors just see people as representing a certain sum of money that they can manage or invest. But the right questions are about you, your family, your biggest worries, your biggest dreams, and what it will take to have a confident and happy life. Sure there will be documents to get to and look through, but there are also other things to unpack that affect a person’s success and willingness to stay committed to a plan. The money has to be in service to a life and a plan, and a good advisor will want to know what that means to you instead of going straight at the money.

Secondly, I’d want them to make sure the advisor has experience working with people just like them, with their set of circumstances. Whether they are a doctor, an engineer, an athlete, business owner, etc…there are nuances to their career and planning needs that are specific to their vocation and it’s helpful to work with someone who has already navigated those waters with clients just like them. No one wants to feel like they are your “beta test” for addressing their unique needs.

Also, the advisor would need to be connected to a trusted professional network of other people they might need, such as tax, legal, insurance or mortgage professionals. The very best advisors play well with others and serve almost like a general medical doctor by routinely referring their clients to other specialists. The higher the level of complexity in a person’s life, the more they want a financial coordinator who can interact with other disciplines and is multi-linguistic when it comes to professional matters.

Next, they’d have to be registered with the regulatory bodies of our industry and also credentialed and certified at what they do. The titles and designations of the financial industry are many and can be confusing, but among the most trusted is the Certified Financial Planner® designation. That alone is not enough, and it’s certainly not the only one, but it shows the commitment to continuing their education and submitting themselves to a code of ethics and a fiduciary standard of care when dealing with clients.

Lastly, like any great relationship, communication is key. We all communicate differently and have different frequency preferences so to avoid trouble down the line for everyone, they’d want to know that the advisor’s communication style and frequency of contact matches their expectations. Ideally, the advisor would have a really strong team around them who are great at handling details, following up on things, and following through on action items. More relationships get off the rails in this area than they do because of the advice being delivered.

I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?

It’s a great question and I couldn’t agree more that it is a misperception and reputation that our industry has earned the old fashioned way by focusing mostly on asset management versus financial planning. Still today, many advisors can only be paid by selling investments or portfolio management services, so they ignore anyone without substantial assets. But, new retainer-based and subscription-based planning services are popping up, like our Simplifynance service I mentioned, that provide access to affordable advice for a fixed monthly fee.

Some people’s needs are simple, some very complex and a lot in between. An analogy to the medical world is fitting here in that we have over-the-counter medicine, urgent care, visiting your primary care doctor in the office and then at a high level we have concierge medicine or private physician services. All play a part depending on your needs and I think financial advice is the same way. You can do it yourself, you can visit with an advisor for a specific urgent problem or concern, you can meet with an advisor to build a long term plan and help guide your investments and check in every so often, or you can hire a holistic wealth manager to coordinate your financial affairs.

I think the best time to reach out and visit with an advisor is when you start to feel like you don’t have the time, temperament or knowledge to do it yourself and that mistakes would be more costly than you can stomach by going it alone. That’s individually defined of course, but help is available now at all levels and it’s easier than ever to find an advisor for your needs.

We’ve been approached by young couples in their mid-twenties who want to make sure they start out on the right track, all the way up to people with significant wealth who start to get nervous managing it all themselves. As an advisor, the key is offer a variety of flexible solutions people can self-select from that fit their needs.

Because we were getting asked so much about what an advisor does and what value could a person expect to get from working with one, we actually recorded a 9-part podcast series on our Confident Wealth Podcast that addresses this very topic in much more detail.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are countless people who I owe a great deal of gratitude to but perhaps the most influential from a business success standpoint was my college baseball coach at LSU, Skip Bertman. He taught me the power of visualizing, goal setting, discipline and teamwork. He was a great leader and demanded that his players strive for excellence. He actually had us practice running out of the dugout to celebrate the final out of the championship game so we could rehearse what that would feel like. No wonder his teams won five National Championships during his Hall of Fame career.

Perhaps the main thing he taught me was what has become my code of personal responsibility that I teach my kids and my team: “If it is to be, it is up to me.” It was written on the concrete beam in our locker room and every year, it is the first thing I write in my new black journal as a reminder of accountability to myself. It is imprinted on my brain.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe that financially confident people change their world and the people around them in incredibly positive ways. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, and probably even more prevalent.

If I could spark a movement, it would be to have an education system not only around money and how it works from the math and logical perspective, but to also teach about the emotional and behavioral side of dealing with money. People just don’t know how to communicate about money and so dealing with it often damages relationships between spouses, parents and kids, business partners, etc…

I believe that if people were coached on how their behavior is the primary determinant to how financially successful they would become, or not become as the case may be, then we would have more happy and confident people. And since we’re dreaming, to me that would translate to better marriages, more confident kids, better and longer lasting businesses and on and on. The ripple effect of financial confidence would be incredible.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am mostly active on LinkedIn and Facebook, but hang out on Twitter a little as well @Pete_Bush. I also blog and Podcast on The Confident Wealth Podcast on iTunes.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Securities and advisory services offered through Cetera Advisors LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, a broker/dealer and a Registered Investment Adviser. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity.

Thank you for all of these great insights!