Why a Comedian Decided to Start His Own Financial Planning Firm
In 2011 I decided to leave a career in Construction Estimating that I quite enjoyed. I chose to leave that industry and profession because I wanted to control my own destiny and I figured that a career in sales was a way to do that.
That led me to a large financial planning institution and I was fairly easily sold on the idea of pursuing a career where I would have the opportunity to help people, build long-term relationships with my clients, have a flexible schedule and most importantly, control my own destiny. Worst case is that I figured I would walk away with knowledge about a subject that I didn’t have, but wanted to learn.
At the time, and still to this day, I was performing as a “professional” stand-up comedian around Western Canada (mostly in Edmonton) . When I say professional, I mean that I make money to perform, but I definitely don’t make enough to live and I never wanted to try for that goal as that isn’t the ideal lifestyle for me. With that being said, it is something that I absolutely love to do and will continue to do it for as long as someone is willing to pay me to attempt to make a room full of people laugh.
Financial companies are fairly strict with what are called “Outside Business Activities,” but when I was hired, they made the decision to allow me to continue performing in my spare time. I wouldn’t have accepted the role had they said otherwise.
Over the course of the next 5-years, my little practice was doing quite well. I had won several awards and trips, had completed my CFP Designation and now had a solid base of clients that would be the foundation of a successful career. It’s a hard business to break into, but gets easier and quite rewarding if you can grind through the first few years.
I was always a little torn at work though, because as I learned more about the industry, my company, and all of the others (including the banks), it became more and more clear to me that Canadians were often being sold products that weren’t in their best interests. There were options now available that I would have preferred to recommend to my clients, because it could save them a small fortune in fees and improve the chances that they’ll have a much larger retirement nest-egg.
I was also discouraged, because it was very clear that compensation structures were set in place to benefit the Adviser and be more profitable for the Corporation, but not necessarily be in the best-interest of the client. High sales were being rewarded over proper financial planning advice.
The issue was that I didn’t really have any other choice. Every company was much the same. There are slight differences, but they’re all very similar, so I figured I would do the best that I could with what I had to offer.
That is until...
I was up for a promotion that would have been a great income boost for my family, especially since my wife was on maternity leave and it would have been great to have a more steady stream of income. I was in Winnipeg for training and a buddy of mine, Kelly Taylor (look him up), who also happens to be one of the best comedians in the world, was performing at the club there. I told some new friends from the training that we should go and see him because he is a beast. When I got there he asked me if I wanted to do a guest spot (which just means I go up for 5-minutes and tell a few jokes for free). I didn’t do well and thought nothing of it as I enjoyed the rest of his show.
A few weeks later is when things started to get weird. Word got out that some guy (me) was trying to use company dollars to pursue his stand-up career. At first I was told to quit comedy immediately and I obviously refused. After weeks of negotiations, I was given an ultimatum that was not acceptable to me. I am proud of my comedy and proud of the cool things it has allowed me to do in life and the people it has allowed me to meet.
Once I realized that I was supposed to devote my life to working and creating profit for a company that was asking me to compromise the way I wanted to live my life and a manager that wasn't willing to fight for his employee that he gave his initial word to, I knew I had to move on.
The only problem is that I now had to walk away from a business I had built for 5-years. I had worked closely with over 100 people, including family and friends, who trusted me with their money and were now tied to a company due to DSC funds, which is another huge issue I had with the industry. It was easy for me to walk away from the company, but super hard for me to walk away from those clients, because I had now broken their trust and it was something I never intended to do.
I was angry and determined to make my company and managers regret their decision and it led me to the absolute best professional decision I have ever made in my entire life. I decided to use my stand-up and my story to create a company that I could be 100% proud of. It would allow me to market and teach the way I wanted to teach and recommend products that save my clients money and that I 100% believe in.
Initially I was furious, but now I am thankful for how things worked. I will always be upset about having to walk away from my old clients, but I am thankful to my old firm for a number of reasons.
They did a good job of teaching me the fundamentals of financial planning and focusing on that, but also taught me a lot about what I dislike about the industry and what I wanted to change. Even if K4 is just a small part of the change I want to see, it’s still something I will always be proud of.
That’s the beginning of the story of K4 and I guess we’ll see where it goes from here.