Welcome to the Eventual Millionaire Podcast. I’m Jaime Tardy and today we have Trae Wieniewitz on the show. He’s the President and CEO of Wieniewitz Financial, LLC in Knoxville, Tennessee and has had to rebuild his business from scratch after Hurricane Katrina. He’s got great stories of starting small, perseverance and working hard and I’m so glad to have him on the show today. Welcome, Trae.
TRAE WIENIEWITZ: Thank you very much, Jaime. Glad to be here.
JAIME TARDY: Excellent. So first off, I’d love for you to tell me a little bit more about the story of what happened to you in Hurricane Katrina because it seemed really interesting.
TW: Well, you know, back in 2005 as everybody knows, there was the big hurricane in the Gulf called Hurricane Katrina. At the time, I had a financial planning practice that stretched from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Louisiana and up and down the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A lot of our marketing that we do to generate new clients is generated through public seminars at restaurants. Well, to make a long story short, the restaurant that we had planned for a seminar overnight was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina along with a lot of my other clients’ homes and a lot of the demand for what we did in the territory.
So we had to make a bunch of decisions quickly and ended up finding a place and relocating our practice from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, New Orleans area to Knoxville, Tennessee where we’ve been since 2005. So it was a pretty interesting situation but we started to talk about starting from scratch. That’s something that we’ve had to do, it’s some things that all of us as entrepreneurs have to do from time to time and as of 2005, October, we’ve been in Knoxville, Tennessee and this is where we call home.
JT: Excellent. So how big was your business before? Like did you have quite a few employees at the time?
TW: Actually, no, we didn’t. We were just getting started so talk about a momentum killer. We had one full-time employee and one part-time employee. That part-time employee worked a little bit of overtime, that was my wife. She had just actually quit teaching school which she did full time to give us consistent income to help me out in the business and help grow our practice and then we had to kind of reevaluate what we were going to do, to do what we enjoyed doing which is helping people with their finances.
It was an interesting ride and it has been a whole lot of bumps and bruises along the way as with any small business but we’re here now. We’ve been very blessed and fortunate to end up here in Knoxville and we love the Knoxville and the Smoky Mountain area.
JT: Excellent. So it’s funny because you started your same business twice pretty much. What tips do you have? I mean you must have ways that you grew your business that you’ve done twice now that has really started you off on the right foot. What were some of those things that you did?
TW: Well we just tried to be consistent with our message. Most of the things that I learned I started out in the business in a traditional Wall Street brokerage firm and what I realized there is very quickly that kind of limited our clients as to what they could use as far as planning techniques and products so when we got out what we tried to do rather than for lack of a better analogy, rather than being a general practitioner we tried to focus on being a specialist and at least know that we were getting very, very good at one particular area of planning and so since then what we’ve done is try to just kind of focus our marketing efforts and such on our specific target area.
You can’t always be everything to everyone. That’s really helped up to brand ourselves as a business and to be known in our area and around the country as a specialist at what we do.
JT: Now how did you go ahead and pick that niche? I mean if you came from sort of a general practitioner background kind of a thing, how did you end up picking that one thing that you thought the area needed?
TW: Well, back in 2001 when I got into the financial planning industry, this was at the end of ‘90s, it was right before the market started tumbling. We had 9/11 back in 2001 and a lot of things economically for our country have been in flux ever since. What I want to do is always to try to add value to client base and so what we thought and what we focused on since then are strategies and planning techniques that would allow them to make a fair or reasonable return when the stock market had a good year but as since it has been in the last 10 or 12 years, the market has been so volatile up and down, the main focus would be safety first and protection of the principle and then just participating in the market again.
Some of the market gains when the market had a good year so that strategy has proven to be very, very successful for all of our clients over the last 10 or 12 years and it’s something that going forward with all the changes in the global economy with the financial environment not only in the United States but worldwide, natural disasters, catastrophes and stuff that we hear about on the news all the time affecting people’s 401k and retirement, we believe it’s a specialty that will continue to add value to clients going forward.
JT: And I saw on your website the whole thing that you have, the video series on safety first and it was one of those things where you’re like, when I was looking at it, of course everybody right now is really into like keeping hold of what they do have because it is so volatile. So was it easier to grow your business knowing that you know you were the safety first guys? You were the people that really wanted to protect the principle, to go out and get new clients and say we help you protect your principle at least, you know, as the best thing to do.
TW: We believe that it is. I mean I believe that it is. It’s one of those things too that generally when I first started out in business as a traditional broker, financial planner, we were kind of trained to be very, very general. If we did seminars we were trained to be intentionally vague. Don’t ever tell the clients exactly what you do for them. Don’t ever tell them what you believe in. Never take a stance on anything because if you do, you might actually ostracize someone that might come in and then you might not have a chance to help them or sell them something.
Well that’s kind of a theory. As we’ve been out on our own for awhile now, it’s a theory and it’s not practical. So when you’re out in the real world and you’re out working with clients, what we have found to be a better strategy is just to say hey here is what everybody else does, here’s what I used to do and then here’s what we do now as a specialty and why and the reality is when folks meet us for the first time or they visit our website and do our video series or just call for questions, they know exactly who we are and what we do.
We take a stance for what we believe in and we also let them know up front hey you know what, we’re not going to be right. We’re not going to be the one wealth manager for all of your finances and all of your money but chances are we’d be a good fit to be on your team and could add some value to what you’re doing.
JT: That’s excellent. An honest approach which is hard to find a lot of times.
TW: Yes, in today’s market it.
JT: What a sad thing to say, right? So what do you do? I know you mentioned public seminars. How do you get your clients especially building in two different places? You had two different markets to build. What really worked for you?
TW: Well we’ve always done direct mail and our direct mail pieces, it’s pretty traditional as far as the mailing goes. We invite clients to a no strings attached workshop. Generally there’s a dinner served. We have worked up as far as location wise from in our earlier years fried catfish buffet restaurants to now we just get, honest to goodness, now we do all of our restaurant seminars at Ruth’s Chris.
JT: Oh wow.
TW: So we provide a very, very nice dinner, great atmosphere. We feel that that reflects some professionalism as far as the company that is putting on the dinner and us and so we do that and then honestly, we’ve been very, very blessed. We‘ve built our business slowly but at the same time consistently so that over half of our new business every single year is built from clients giving us either more money to work with or bringing us their friend and family as clients for referrals. So we’re very fortunate we don’t have to necessarily pay for all of the new business that’s coming in the door anymore like we did in the first couple of years.
JT: So how do you usually get referrals? Do you ask for them or do people just love you so much that they want to tell all their friends and family about you?
TW: I wish it was that way.
JT: I know, right!
TW: In a perfect world that would be great. But actually, what we try to do is just to be consistent. We were consistent in our message. We’re consistent in what we do and what we can do well for folks and what we do is we consistently have public workshops monthly. Sometimes even weekly and we keep that in front of our clients and our clients know once they’re a client they’re part of the family. It’s a family owned business. It’s a family feel. We have a lot of different client events that we do from birthdays to retirement parties to, I mean I can go on and on.
We have done some very, very fun things for our clients and we make them feel like a part of a family rather than just an account number. So many people nowadays with retirement planning or mutual fund buying. They don’t necessarily have a relationship. They have an 800 number. So we try to make them feel a little bit different than that. But what we do to generate the referrals is we have different events which you can use whatever industry that you’re in and I’d be happy to give you some tips on how to build your client base using your existing client base.
We do a lot of bring your friend events. Other ones we have a public seminar and you know the ticket in the door for the client is they have to bring someone that doesn’t know us. Once we kind of give a couple of memory joggers on where they may find some folks that we might be able to help, those things fill up quicker than our public seminars.
JT: Wow. That’s excellent. So how does direct mail work for you? I mean have you gotten a good response into your public seminars or is the bring a friend event better so that way they already know I can trust you and it’s easier to invite a friend. But what’s your best ROI?
TW: Yeah, bring a friend for sure is always our best ROI because we get a quicker response. We have to mail out to a whole lot less folks to get a full room or two full rooms and honestly that’s cheaper. The most expensive client that you have is the one that you get first off. You know once you have an existing client you can help them, you can service them and the business that you’ll get and referrals that you get for them cost you a whole lot less than direct mail.
Honestly, our direct mail responses are probably not any better than yours if you did one. We’re lucky to get 1 percent on average from the mailers that we send out. But you know, fortunately, with a proven system that works in our industry, a 1 percent or a little less response can yield a pretty good business plan if you do it consistently.
JT: Wow, even for a free dinner at Ruth’s Chris. I mean only 1 percent on that. I’m surprised.
TW: Yeah, you would think it would be better but unfortunately numbers are numbers and marketing is marketing. So we are venturing out with your help hopefully to and to some different social media networks and that is a new area for me as far as marketing goes so hopefully we’ll, with our online video series for potential clients and things like that, Twitter, Facebook, we’ll hopefully get into the new generation and be able to get clients a different way other than dinners. But as of now, that’s the best way to build trust, build rapport and figure out if we’re right for someone or not.
JT: So you don’t only do local clients then. You can do them anywhere. I mean if you’re going social media I’m assuming you’re trying to get out more nationally or are you still trying to stay in your local target market?
TW: Yeah, we have most of our clients out of state. You know, out of the state of Tennessee basically come from referrals. We haven’t really generated a whole lot of clients via social media honestly yet, say in different states, but we have clients covering, for instance, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Montana. I mean we even got clients in California. So we can work with folks wherever they are but generally speaking we’re not going out and doing a mail piece in Los Angeles, California to try to get new clients.
We’re going to work with folks that are out of our geographic area by referral and that seems to be very, very well because once again, like you said before, your referrals come with that folks that kind of know, like and trust you already because of who referred them to you.
JT: Having someone else talk you up instead of you talking yourself up is much better.
TW: No question.
JT: Excellent. So what are some of the obstacles and challenge and failures you’ve had, I know Katrina is one of them that you’ve had happen in your business?
TW: I think most of the obstacles that we’ve come across have kind of necessitated from getting into areas that were not our specialty honestly. I have been involved in some real estate developments. I have been involved in some other business ventures that look like a great deal or it was what other folks were doing that were making money but the bottom line is I would just encourage all entrepreneurs out there to find something that you’re passionate about, that you’re good at and don’t feel like you have to be doing everything or what someone else is doing to make money. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
We’ve looked at some different franchise opportunities that for some people have worked but honest to goodness, God only gives us a handful of gifts so once you figure out what those are, you know, utilize them, make them better and I’m sure we’ll get to personal development. I’m a big fan of John Maxwell and he says if you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 on your key competencies as what you’re good at, you can take yourself or you can take someone in your employment from say a 6 or 7 to an 8 or 9 and make them very excellent but you’re never going to make someone who is a 1 or 2 in a certain area a 10. Rather than focusing on weaknesses, figure out what your strengths are and essentially, not in a bad way, but exploit those and market those.
JT: Excellent. So it’s funny, you talked about focus in two ways. You know focusing on your strength but also focusing on one business instead of going out and reaching and listening to everybody else and where they make money. So how important has focus been in your success?
TW: I think all entrepreneurs would love to be able to hit it big like a Donald Trump or some of the entrepreneurs that seem to just, everything they touch turns to gold. But the reality is and maybe there’s time for that down the road as your career matures, but I would encourage everybody just to stay focused on the things that you’re very, very good at. Figure out what those are and I think for us when we really saw kind of an exponential growth in our practice was when we tried to, as far as financial planners go, got away from the traditional role of the financial planner saying, “Hey whatever needs you have I can help you with that because I have a license for it” and saying, “Hey, you know what, I’m probably not right for everything that you do but let me show you what we’re really good at and let’s figure out one account that we might be able to help you with and let’s earn, we’ll earn your trust and the rest of your business down the road.”
JT: That’s great. So what do you think separates you, the successful entrepreneur, from the entrepreneurs that don’t succeed?
TW: You know, we’re fortunate to or I’m fortunate to work with a lot of financial advisors, insurance agents, brokers across the country. I do national training. I do mentoring for other agent brokers just like myself that are trying to make it in the business and what I see is obviously you’ve got to have a willingness to succeed and an attitude that stays positive but you’ve also got to invest time and effort in your business and in yourself.
I started reading and listening to tapes and stuff all the way back to Anthony Robbins. My dad when I was growing up playing sports was a big positive thinking influence on my life and I think that just kind of, the older you get, the smarter your parents get? That stuff has come back to help me out quite a bit in practice since I’m not playing professional sports like everybody wants to do when they’re growing up. But in business because, you know, just everyday life with employees you’ve got issues, you’ve got, people are people wherever you live and you’re going to have issues if you deal with people.
JT: So what are some of those resources that you’ve done or read that really helped you out?
TW: Not a paid endorsement but I’m a big John Maxwell fan. He has a leadership series. He’s a big leadership teacher and trainer and I’ve read, I can’t even name all the books of his that he has written. But at the same time too, he recommends a lot of his friends and stuff to do similar things in that industry and as well one of the things that you can do is he has got now I think he has blogs and video series and everything like that with new media.
But when I first starting to use him, they basically, you signed up and for 30 or 40 bucks a month which when you’re getting started seems like a lot at the time but it’s an investment in your business and it’s an investment in yourself. We subscribed monthly and every month I’d get a CD in the mail and the CD would have about an hour to an hour and a half teaching from John Maxwell that was personal development, spiritual development and leadership developments from an aspect of your business and that’s been a very big part of trying to use some of those principles that you live your life with to help run the business. That’s been a big help.
JT: See that’s great advice. It’s funny because I say on my blog that one of the reasons why I want to become a millionaire isn’t necessarily for the money but for the person I’ll grow into as I hit these obstacles and issues and grow past them. So how have you grown as a person on your way to wealth?
TW: Well, it’s amazing. We’re family first, God first, as a priority for our lives and one of the things that having wealth and stuff now has done for us is giving us opportunities to help others where while we were getting started in our careers and newlyweds and in college and had no money, there are so many people along the way that it takes forever to list them all that either financially or some other way invested in your life to get you through a tough time or get you through college or whatever that obstacle in your life was.
It has given us a great opportunity from a standpoint to invest back in or pay it forward to folks that whether it’s kids in high school that don’t get to go to beach camp because their parents can’t afford the cost or whatever the case may be, it’s just given us opportunities to be a giver in more ways than just teaching our skill. We’ve been able to give financially and a lot of times that goes a long way.
JT: That’s so great. I mean as you were talking, the thing that popped in my mind was that no one does it alone. No one becomes successful alone and it sounds like you’re on the other side of that now being able to have all this wealth of information and be able to give it to others. Not that you can’t do it as you’re going along too but it’s just one of those things where you’ve attained so much being able to give must be wonderful.
TW: Yeah, you know, and I’m not sure who said it but nothing worth having is worth having unless you’ve been able to give it away. So it’s so true whether it’s your money or your knowledge or whatever. But it’s very, very fulfilling, probably one of the most fulfilling things that we do as far as one a monthly basis is the trainings that we do with other folks, sharing with them our daily struggles and our business struggles and helping them get around some of those obstacles so that they can get to the place in life they want to get to with their family or with their business or what have you.
That’s exciting to be able to look. I think at some point you and I both will be able to hopefully look back on our children’s lives and say the same thing. So on a different level, it’s great to be able to contribute to other people’s lives as well.
JT: Yeah, definitely, way better. So when you were growing up or when you were younger, did you know that you’d be a millionaire or did you always know that you would be successful?
TW: I think from a young age. I think my parents engrained in me kind of a hard work ethic and a no quit attitude. Did I think anything about the financial success? Honestly, and every kid’s dreams growing up maybe they want to be a professional athlete in something and I did too at the time, but honestly, when you start looking over life and what you think you are going to do, that honestly wasn’t, I think it was a desire but it wasn’t actually an end all goal because you never know how things are going to work out so you try to just make sure that you’re at peace with what it is that you do.
That you have a good balance between life as well as work and family. I mean some folks have priorities that are different than what my priorities are so I would say identify those and work your life and your business around doing what it is that you want to do. I’m fortunate. We have a very, very good consistent business now. It has taken 10 years to get there but hey I get to take my kids to school in the morning. I don’t start my day until 9:00. Don’t take any appointments after 4:30 and I usually cut off half a day on Fridays and when you take all the time into consideration that we have off for our employees and holidays for the year, we might work 10½, 11 months out of the year total.
But it’s, you know, you can always work harder and make more money but you’re not always going to have that time to do the things that are important to you or your family.
JT: Well how was it then in the beginning? I mean I interview a lot of people and sometimes they’re like, you know, I had to work 80, 90 hours a week every week for three years before it took off or whatever it was. What did you have to do at the beginning? How hard did you have to work?
TW: I think that’s pretty accurate. I don’t think anybody, you know, I guess there are occasions where folks with the power of social media and the internet now, I guess there are always overnight millionaires and lord I wish it was like that for us but the reality is, especially in our business, when I first started even down in Louisiana, I was driving 2½ hours one way to do seminars, to meet clients, to see people and just like anyone else in our business, I’ve drive two hours to meet someone and had an appointment with them and then when you knock on the door the blinds move but they don’t answer the door.
So I’ve been through all that too and yeah, we worked the 90-hour work weeks and weekends and when you get started, you have to do what it takes to build a business at all and meet people when they’re going to meet you.
JT: Well it’s funny, I read on your site that you have a favorite quote and I absolutely love this and the quote was, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional” by Kathleen Casey. I thought that was wonderful and sort of sums up what we’re talking about right now. What are your thoughts and why is that your favorite quote?
TW: Well I think it kind of sums up life. I mean if you think that you’re going to go through this life that God gives us and not have troubles and not have struggles then I’d love to interview you. But other than that, everybody is going to come across life. There’s plenty of quotes that are very, very good about it’s not how, it’s not getting knocked down, you know, it’s how quick you get back up and things like that. But everybody is going to have obstacles in life and so it’s trying to make sure that you can deal with them and how you deal with them, how you approach them and get to the next one that I believe I guess patterns your success and puts you in a position where you can be successful.
JT: Well and it’s funny, as you said that, it made me think of how you had the issues with Hurricane Katrina and I read that six weeks after Hurricane Katrina you had the other business up and running in Knoxville, opened the doors and that’s crazy because most people would sort of be scared and not know what to do next and think about it for awhile and recoup but six weeks later you had something else open. So you just took action and just did it. That’s crazy.
TW: Well, you know, one of the things that we’re fortunate to do or I’m fortunate to do is travel around the country and speak and talk and train other advisors and also kind of get input. I mean I talk to a lot of folks that make seven figures consistently and one thing that’s consistent I can tell you with all of the folks that make a lot of money a year and they’re excellent in their field regardless of the field and that is there was a pattern of insecurity. Most millionaires that I know and most top producers in their fields that I know are hugely insecure as am I.
I think one of the things that drives a person to success or that drives me to success is the fear of being a failure. One of the things, especially then when you get a family, you have to be the provider. You have to be the father. You have to be a leader and every morning I wake up Monday morning and I’m unemployed. You know what I mean? So we have to go out and make it work and we can’t let all those little things along the way take us off track.
JT: So do you think that you just use it like change it into fuel? You know, having this fear of failure it somehow makes them take action over sitting and wallowing in oh my gosh what if I fail?
TW: Well, you know, I think it’s just a decision that you make in your life that just says, “Hey, you know what, I’m going to do what it takes” and not failing. Anthony Robbins teaches and you listen to him, you’ve probably listened to some of his stuff a long time ago, he teaches that people make decisions out of one or two ways. To either achieve pleasure or to avoid pain. Well honestly you can think about all the decisions and go through a bunch of examples in your own life but the subconscious ability and decisions to make decisions to avoid pain actually hold a lot more value and are a lot bigger of a driving force than the ones to gain pleasure. Most people want to avoid the pain more than they want to gain the pleasure whether that’s starting a new exercise program or starting a new business.
JT: It’s so much easier to rest in a comfort zone but if you’re going to hit pain it’s like oh no!
TW: It’s like maybe I’ll just wait until tomorrow to do that.
JT: Exactly, exactly.
TW: So there’s not much that separates the ultra successful from the marginal. I mean honestly, a lot of it’s just mindset and the ability and the investment that they’ve taken in themselves and personally.
JT: That’s excellent. Excellent advice. So for the last question, what’s one action that everyone can take this week to move them forward towards their goal of a million?
TW: I would go out to your local bookstore, Barnes and Noble, whatever, go to Amazon.com and just look through the personal growth section. As cheesy as that may sound, pick up a book. Pick up an audio by John Maxwell. Pick up a book by Anthony Robbins and you’re going to start to hear the passion that they had for life and the passion that they have for what it is that they do. Hopefully they can convey that to you in whatever field that you’re in and that will be the first investment that you have in yourself.
But over the rest of your lifetime, you have to balance how much time that you spent working on your business and working in your business and you’ve also got to devote time to working and developing yourself as a person and working on your life so that you can have time to enjoy it and you’re not spending all of your time and effort with the stresses of everyday life of running a business.
JT: That’s excellent advice. And it’s so funny, you talk about Anthony Robbins and I remember thinking that he, way back when, when he had tapes and stuff and infomercials I was like oh wow that’s so cheesy and then somebody told me well you have to sit down and watch him on YouTube. There’s tons of stuff on YouTube. I was blown away. I thought he was this cheesy guy and yes he’s a bit over the top but I was really impressed with some of the stuff he had to say and now we are so lucky to have so much content from amazing people available for free online.
I mean all these millionaire interviews are all for free and there’s so much available for people and going out and getting a book is what – 10 or 15 bucks? So it’s amazing how cheap you can go ahead and grow yourself.
TW: Yeah, no question at all. Ultimately, one of the things that he teaches and that other folks like him teach is find someone that’s achieving the goals that you want to achieve and do exactly what they do. And even if you’re just partially as successful as they are at what they’re doing, you’re going to have success in what you do. So that’s all I’ve done. It sounds pretty trivial. It sounds pretty simple but honestly, so has my business plan and it seems to keep working.
JT: Simple advice is the best advice. Great. Excellent. Well where can we find more information about you and your business online?
TW: We have done our best to update information on our websites. My website is www.traew.com. www.traew.com and on there we’ve got everything from updates from Twitter. We just now started a blog so hopefully I can have you on as far as a feature for our blog sometime too.
TW: But we’re doing everything that we can to be a good source of information for folks. That’s the best way to get a hold of us to see what we’re all about. Feel free. There’s a contact us button there. If you have any questions at all, I’d be more than happy to be a resource for you.
JT: Excellent. I’ll definitely put all those links in the show notes and all the information there so that way people can just click over and check you out because I know you have a video series about safety first and stuff that people can take a look at.
TW: Absolutely. Nothing is charged and it never costs anyone a dime ever to sit down or to talk to us on the phone. As always, if we can help them, we’ll tell them we can help them. If we can’t we’ll tell them we can’t help them and it won’t be a huge waste of their time.
JT: Perfect. Well thank you so much for coming on today, Trae. I really appreciate it. You’ve had amazing information and thanks.
TW: Very well, Jaime. Well thank you so much for having me and I hope to be on in the future.
JT: Take care.
Thanks for listening. You can find out more great information like this on eventualmillionaire.com.