Optimize Your Practice with Checklists & Flowcharts with Michael Lecours of fpPathfinder (EP241)
Updated: Feb 15
In this episode you will learn how flowcharts and checklists can help Financial Advisors navigate complex financial planning questions. The three major benefits of leveraging these tools include providing consistent advice, marketing and client engagement and systematizing your client communication.
For this episode, Jay Coulter interviews Michael Lecours who is a Financial Advisor and Co-founder of fpPathfinder, a company he started with Michael Kitces.
Learn more about fpPathfinder by visiting https://www.fppathfinder.com.
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Learn more about fpPathfinder:
Intro Vocals 0:01
This is The Rsilient Advisor Show with Jay Coulter.
Jay Coulter 0:09
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the Resilient Advisor Show. Joining me today is Michael Lecours, co-founder of FP Pathfinder, and he's also a financial advisor. We're going to discuss how financial advisors can leverage checklists and flowcharts to help deliver better client experiences. Now, this show is sponsored by resilient advisor coaching. Without simple systems, your business will always be in a state of chaos. After implementing the resilient advisor framework, you will become hyper focused, clear on your value, confident and your ability to grow, and free to build your ideal life. Learn more by visiting resilient advisor.com. Mike, welcome to the resilient advisors show.
Mike Lecours 0:55
Hi Jay, thanks for having me.
Jay Coulter 0:57
I appreciate you coming on. Let's start with your background in the financial services industry.
Mike Lecours 1:03
Sure. So I'm a financial advisor, been a financial advisor for nearly 10 years. But when I first got started, I was running into a problem. I think a lot of advisors ran into this problem, and that they couldn't keep certain rules straight. And so one of the things that I did was I created a little tiny flowchart for myself. And that flowchart just to help to answer certain common questions that I had, for me, the big one was answering the question that a client would ask about, could they make a Roth contribution or a deductible IRA contribution, for whatever reason, I kept getting those rules mixed up. And so when I came up with that little flowchart, it was an internal tool just to help me kind of get the lay of the land. And then I found out other advisors, kind of struggled with those kinds of questions as well, not maybe that exact one, but there were others. And so I ended up creating lots of different flowcharts for other advisors. And I started to find out that there were, there's a pretty big community of folks looking for these kinds of tools to help answer some kinds of questions and help them have better conversations with their clients. And that led me to Michael Kitsis, who was working closely to try to develop a product around checklists. And so we thought, let's merge these two ideas together and see what we can create. And that led to FP Pathfinder.
Jay Coulter 2:29
Actually, it came out of necessity in running your own practice. Tell us a little bit about your advisory practice.
Mike Lecours 2:36
So I, we, our business is structured, like a lot of other advisors. It's got a strong RIA aspect to it. But it also has a bit of a hybrid approach. We have some old legacy business that was all commissioned business. Now, my father was one of his advisors. In fact, when we started working together, I was basically his succession plan. He was getting ready to retire thinking about it, and he needed some support. So we had about 100 million in assets under management. But what was interesting with this was that he had a very strong niche, he really focused his client base on a utility, local electric utility. So he knew everything there was to know about that plan. And, he helped to guide a lot of those clients through retirement. But as we kind of grew, and we started to get to that next generation of clients, then all of a sudden, we started to introduce a little bit more complexity. Now it was some children were doing really well, they had very great professional jobs. Others had moved away. And they were across the country. And then we started to see that, that our client base was starting to fragment. It started as a niche. But as we got to the next generation, it started to get a little bit broader, the needs changed. And so that led to a lot of different kinds of conversations and a lot of new things that we were starting to struggle with, with common questions, in some cases, but for us, it was new, it was outside of what our focus was.
Jay Coulter 4:14
So then, in what year did you start to formalize these checklists and flowcharts and then start to realize that you could create a product and commercialize the offering, how did all that take place?
Mike Lecours 4:25
So okay, that's an interesting question, because it didn't happen overnight. So I came up with a first checklist. I don't know it's probably eight years ago, or the first flowchart maybe eight years ago. And it did pretty well. Like I was using it. I was sending it around to bloggers, it got picked up by a few. And I was so excited and I'm thinking okay, I can do more. But he couldn't make more I couldn't like I didn't have like the recipe, the structure on how to package them up and figure out how to build them to make them clear and accurate. So I thought about it for about two years before I was able to release another one. And then it started to click with me, I understood like how, here's how I can take the Social Security rules and tie them together. Here's how I could come up with something on anyway, distribution rules. And then I was able to kind of find a rhythm. And I was able to produce one or two a month. And I would say, I did that for about a year. And each time I made a new one, I would send it out to bloggers. And that's when I got connected with Michael. And we spent maybe six months talking about what the business could look like. And so we launched the business and now it's been about four years.
Jay Coulter 5:39
Okay, so you connected with Michael about four years ago and starting to formalize how you could build a company around this to help advisors with this end deliverable?
Mike Lecours 5:47
Exactly, exactly. And I think there's an interesting point there just about creating content. Because when we first got started, that's what it was just content, whether you're making video advisors making a unique video, or art or writing content, like newsletters or blog posts, it didn't happen overnight. It took a lot of time. And there was a period where I wasn't able to figure any of it out. And so to me, like, there's a lesson there about just sticking with it coming up with that structure. And it was the sort of thing where I only got serious with it, when I actually started writing it out as a quarterly goal. Come up with three flowcharts, make sure I'm getting one done every month. And once I started finding that cadence, then everything else started to fall into line. And the conversations with the blogger started to happen, the library started to grow. The database of financial advisors that were subscribing to this started to grow. And so it was really just the rhythm of doing it each month. That's when it took off.
Jay Coulter 6:55
Yeah, Hey, Mike. Entrepreneurship is 90% Hustle and 90% making it up as you go along in the beginning isn't it?
Mike Lecours 7:03
Very much so.
Jay Coulter 7:05
Alright, so you get into the cadence, you're delivering these checklists and flowcharts. You've commercialized it, you've partnered with Michael. And then what happens to this? How are you growing this business today? What does it look like?
Mike Lecours 7:20
Yeah, so Okay. For a while I was, this was my side project, it was like my evening hustle, I was a financial advisor by day, and then we're going to FP Pathfinder in the evening, right as the pandemic was happening, that's when I made a bigger shift. And I decided to spend a lot more time working in FP Pathfinder. And I brought on a business partner who helps on the advisory side of the business, so I can spend more time working in FP Pathfinder. And so right as the pandemics happening, we're releasing a couple of really interesting new features for FP Pathfinder, you can white label, the checklist and flowcharts. So you don't see the FP Pathfinder logo. In the upper right hand corner, you're seeing your advisors logo in the upper right hand corner. And then we're starting to move it into the point where those checklists are interactive now, and the adviser can send a link out to a client and have them complete a checklist. And then that information then sent over into the CRM. It was those two functions that really took us out of just being content and morphed us more into a FinTech offering or of a marketing tool, it became a client engagement tool for clients, or advisors to use with their clients. And that's when we started to see real growth. All of a sudden, the pandemic happens, the Cares Act comes out, rules are changing, Everything's new. We have a recession coming in at the same time, like there's a ton of planning issues that are happening now. And advisors, some of them, maybe they've never gone through a recession, because they just, it's been so long, or they went through it, it was 10 years ago, so they don't remember all the conversations to have. And so all of a sudden, we're just having us. They were looking for a systematized way of having these conversations with clients.
Jay Coulter 9:23
Oh, my It's worse than that. We have a generation of advisors who's never been through a long recession, or economic downturn. Alright, so a couple things in there to unpack that I think advisors will find helpful. First, tell me about the integration with CRM, and let's just use wealth boxes. As an example. I'm a huge fan of that platform. What does the wealth box integration look like for FP Pathfinder?
Mike Lecours 9:44
Sure, okay. So let's just go on, like how advisors kind of see these things play out or how we see advisors play out in this case. client calls up something big just how Up in their life, let's say they, their spouse just passed away. And they call them and say, Hey, to the client to the advisor, I have my spouse passed away. What should I be doing? Now, this is like the exact time when the advisor needs to help their client the most. And what ends up happening we find is that advisors, they only deal with that situation every so often. So they don't know all the rules and all the questions to ask right off the top of their head, they've got to go do some research. And one of the things they'll do right away, is just type it into Google, they're just looking for some kind of guidance, right away, just to kind of like, just to provide something, some sort of relief for that, for that client, that's probably going through a lot of pain and struggling. So that's where Fe Pathfinder really started to leverage its tools there. So an advisor gets the phone call, they pull up the contact record in wealthbox, from wealthbox, they can pull up the checklist they need, there is one I've just passed away, what should I consider, or maybe it's a job loss. And with one click there, they're now opening up the checklist that they need. They can complete the checklist themselves, they can answer the questions, just checking the box, they can type in some notes, if there's some details there. And when they're done, they hit one button. And now they take this completed checklist note, think of it as like a note template. At this point, they take the note, it goes back into the CRM tied to that contact record. And there it does the three things. It takes all of the different planning issues that were identified, and boiled them to the top of the note. So you as the advisor, you can go in and very quickly see what planning issues were discovered. Then, it also will take all of the questions, or all the planning issues that were identified and assigns it as a task into the future. So that way, you uncover it now, maybe you got the meeting in a couple of days, all the research that has to be done to look into those possible planning issues. It's set as a task for you. And then the last thing that it does is it takes questions that were answered because maybe it's too complex, or the client just doesn't know or more data gathering is needed. And anything that's left blank is put as another note to follow up on in the future. So nothing's falling through the cracks.
Jay Coulter 12:30
And which other CRMs does this integrate well with
Mike Lecours 12:34
red tail, and Salesforce accelerate, which is like a built on top of the Salesforce chassis?
Jay Coulter 12:41
Yeah, excellent. So the big ones. All right. And then if you're not using one of those CRMs, the stool is a completely useful tool and viable. It just doesn't integrate with the CRM system. So let's pivot and go back to the beginning in the history of why this even matters, why checklists and why flowcharts. And that's because I think you have an interesting story on why these are important.
Mike Lecours 13:06
Sure. So a lot of the inspiration and this is coming a lot from what Michael Kitsis brought to the table here was from a book written by Atul Gawande called Checklist Manifesto. And that is a phenomenal book, if anybody's looking for a book to read, especially if you're looking for things that are process driven. And, and basically, the whole book outlines his digging into how checklists have influenced the world. And he sets the stage by his own personal example, when the World Health Organization came to him. And they said, we're, we got this crazy problem over here. There's this thing out there that's disabling like 8 million people, and killing another million people every year around the world. And, and so when you look at that, that's like akin to VHS. It's like a tuberculosis and malaria. Okay, that combined, like, that's how impactful this is, but it's not a disease. It's the complication rates from surgeries. And the World Health Organization figured out that depending on where you live to the type of surgery you are going for, there was like a, like a really high chance that you could get sick or even die from a surgery. And so they call it a tool and they said, What do we do? How do we fix this? And so he went through and he did all this research, talk to hundreds of doctors, and he found out that it was a checklist. It was like a 15 point checklist. It was like five or six things to do before anesthesia is turned on five or six things to do before that first incision is made, and five or six things to do before the patient leaves the operating room. And if the doctors did all of that, and they checked all of those boxes, there was this dramatic decline in any complication rate from surgery to the point it was like around 20, or 30%.
Jay Coulter 15:21
Interesting. So let's take that and pivot to how it helps financial advisors, right, so the logic is there, it makes sense, right? Tell me about your experience and advisors experience using checklists and flowcharts.
Mike Lecours 15:34
Sure. So personally, it was started as an internal tool. I just needed it as a quick reference sheet to be able to answer client questions as they came in. And I wanted an easy tool to help prepare for client meetings. So I wasn't spending hours. And that's how I thought a lot of advisors would use it. Shortly after we launched, advisors came back and they said, We don't necessarily want this just behind the scenes, we want clients to see this, we want to show it, show them that there's actually a lot of complexity in what we do. But we're here to guide them through the process. So yes, there might be a complicated flowchart or a 20 point checklist to go over on this. But you don't have to go through this by yourself, we're here to guide you. So in that case, it went from being a behind the scenes tool to very much in front of the client. But it acts like the roadmap. So there, it's like the big shift, it's that it comes forward, it's in front of the client. And then advisors are saying, we actually want to scale how we do our meetings and how we gather data. And we don't want to spend our time with the meat in the meeting, trying to answer these questions with the client. We want to do it in advance. So we and this goes to the CRM integrations. So now advisors can send the link out to a client and saying, Hey, we're looking to do look into review, insurance. Right now, please go ahead and complete this checklist and give us a call or schedule this time for our meeting. So now, when an advisor has a meeting with the client, they've already gathered the data. There's already some good, interesting talking points. And hopefully it comes in early enough the advisors already prepared. So when they have the meeting, they're spent working with the client, solving the problems.
Jay Coulter 17:34
Can I stop you there and ask a question. So one friction point I find a lot of advisors have is when they send out that questionnaire from E money, you're right capital, like the client or more important, the prospect, they don't want to fill it out. What type of friction do you have with these tools, as opposed to the financial planning ones?
Mike Lecours 17:54
So that's an interesting point. And, and I think that there's how some of this is getting framed. And our most successful advisors are combining this in a modular planning approach. So they're not just sending out this one massive checklist, saying, Here's everything I'm trying to gather right now. Some are, but this goes down to having a service calendar approach. And so they're sending out emails, maybe once a quarter, or once a month, whatever, their own cadences. And they're saying, Hey, we're going to do estate, we're looking at estate planning this month. Here's this checklist. Go through it. If you see if you mark yes to any of these questions, that means that there's a planning item that we should discuss. And if so, we want to hear from you please click the link to schedule a meeting. So now, you like, if you're a client, and you say, I don't have an estate planning issue, I don't need to do this. But I'll take a look at the questionnaire. And you pull it up, and you see 20 questions. And when you go through this, you go Oh, actually, you know what we did just make? We didn't do this change over here. I didn't even realize that. But maybe I do need to talk to them about this, this one question. And then that opens the door. So I think that's some of the nature of the conversation, because it's not it's not necessarily an open ended question that we're asking. It's a very pointed yes, no question. And in a lot of cases, the advice the clients gonna just check No, in most cases. And that's great. But it's when they check that yes, that's our opportunity. So it can actually it's not an intimidating process. It can be very quick to run through this and say, okay, doesn't apply doesn't apply doesn't apply. That applies. And I need to talk to him about that. I had no idea that was something I should be thinking about.
Jay Coulter 19:52
Can any of these checklists or visuals be used in marketing?
Mike Lecours 19:57
Yes. How Yes. There, you could just think of it as pure content, a lot of advisors, they will take a checklist or a flowchart. And they'll say, oh, like perfectly example, doing Roth conversions at the end of the year. We've got some advisors that they send out an email to their prospects to clients. And they're saying, Hey, do you know the benefits of doing a Roth conversion? Well, here they are. And the outline like all the cool features that keep it at a high level, they put their own perspective on it. And then they sit, they end with, if you want, download this flowchart to learn more, or to see if this actually works for you. Now, they're not creating the flow chart, they've just linked it to their flow chart that's been white labeled with their logo on it. And when they pull that up, now the client can go through and they can see all they can see the path for them and see if it actually makes sense. So some advisors have taken that to a whole nother level. And now they write a blog post. And instead of just giving away the flowchart, they're using it as a lead magnet. And they're saying, you want to see if the flowchart to see if this works for you. Please give us your name and your email address. And we'll send you this flowchart for free. And so now it becomes a lead gen option for them.
Jay Coulter 21:16
Got it, and part of your pricing enables a tier that white labels everything like you had mentioned.
Mike Lecours 21:21
Exactly, yes. Yep. So once there's a tier where you get to put your logo on it, you can have the disclaimer on there. And that also comes with all the rights to use it in your marketing efforts. Or, or maybe they're doing a video like a YouTube video. And they'll just put the flowchart or the checklist up and they just walk through it. And here are the steps. Here's the process. Here's what we see. And it's just, it's just a visual guide to take somebody through a particular planning question.
Jay Coulter 21:51
What are some of the more popular checklists and flowcharts today?
Mike Lecours 21:55
Oh, okay, well, a lot of them are very cyclical. So at the end of the year, our end of year checklist, super, super popular, because it covers all of the different planning issues to look at, that have to be completed by the end of the year. Then we'll move off into like, right now, it's all the issues to be thinking about at the start of the year. So it's like getting the fresh start. One document one, it's not even a checklist, it's a summary guide. It's just all of the important numbers, annual limits get updated every year. And all of those numbers that we have to keep those fresh in our mind. But we've got a summary where it's just all of those important annual limits that are getting updated. That's one of our evergreen ones. We just had one that came out that it's just timely like this, all the changes from the secure act. We summarized, like the top 20 that could impact folks over the next few years. Put that as one checklist. We've done the others in the past, like last year, when inflation was really starting to take off, we put one together that just covered issues to look at in dealing with inflation. Because for a lot of us, myself included, I've never, I've never been an advisor when there were periods of high inflation. So I don't know all those questions to ask. I could do the research, but I want to have it ready to go. So I'm not forgetting those kinds of conversations or those questions when I'm meeting with the client.
Jay Coulter 23:27
All right, so Mike, I told you my shows are 20 minutes or less. We're already at 25. And I still have a ton of questions. We do need to land this plane, I want to give you an opportunity to talk about a use case that an advisor could walk away with so what is one of your favorite use cases for the FP Pathfinder program?
Mike Lecours 23:45
My favorite use case, I touched upon it earlier deals with incorporating FP, Pathfinders checklists and flowcharts into an advisors modular planning approach. And where the lightbulb went off for me was when an advisor said, I send out four emails to my clients each year. And it was basically when I probed them, he goes, I sent one in the first quarter saying I'm just looking at taxes. And then in the second quarter, I'm just looking at investments. In the third quarter, I just look at insurance and estate planning. And in the fourth quarter, I just looked at end of year planning options. And I built my whole business around those four touch points. And that whole idea of the modular planning has really taken off, and that's where FP Pathfinder can come in, and just be the guide to support those efforts, whether it's behind the scenes, or it's right there in front of the client. It provides the framework to help have those conversations.
Jay Coulter 24:49
Mike, thank you so much for coming on. I learned a lot I know the audience learned a lot where can they find out more about FP Pathfinder
Mike Lecours 24:56
Jay Coulter 24:59
Excellent branding. Hey Mike thanks for coming on.
Mike Lecours 25:01
Thank you so much Jay.