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Mike Palmer is proof that it’s never too late to become an entrepreneur. He founded Raleigh financial advisory firm, Ark Royal Wealth Management, at age 50. It was a risk that paid off, and this month he shares with us his tips for success in advisory services.

The Fork In the Road

“Three years ago, I decided I was ready to do it,” said Mike Palmer, founder of Raleigh financial advisory firm, Ark Royal Wealth Management. “I had thought about starting my own firm for years, but I was reluctant because I had young kids and I just couldn’t take the leap.” Today, Mike says he wishes he would have made the decision sooner, but he isn’t too hard on himself. “In retrospect, I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without all the experience I’ve had. You have to come to that fork in the road at your own pace.”

Founding Principles

Mike may be new to entrepreneurship, but he is not new to the financial world. A Certified Financial Planner, he has been in the business for over 25 years. “Early in my career, I was lucky to have good training from mentors in the bank trust world.” While he says he gained a lot of valuable technical education and expertise, ultimately he discovered this wasn’t the right environment. “At the end of the day, I wasn’t having the bank manage my money. I was doing my own indexing. It’s hard to tell people to do something you’re not doing.” Mike then transitioned to a position with an independent trust company prior to starting Ark Royal. “To the average person, there’s not much distinction in financial advisors,” he said. “They see someone who works for a major bank and think it’s the same as an independent registered investment advisor, and that’s far from the case.” Mike is what’s called a “fee-only” advisor. That means he is paid only by the client, and does not receive compensation or incentives based on the products he sells. Mike says that assures his clients he is always acting solely in their best interests and allows him to give more holistic advice. “To me, fee-only means I do for the clients what I would do for myself.”

Finding the Right Fit

Not only does Mike work only for his clients’ benefit, he only works with clients that see value in his style of financial management. “Back at the bank, I didn’t have the luxury of choosing who I wanted to worked to work with,” said Mike. He advises other business owners to pass on a client who isn’t the right fit. “If the fit is not there, you’re just going to disappoint the client and they will get frustrated. Life’s too short for that.” Mike also stresses the importance of setting realistic expectations from the start. “I tell them the truth about the investment returns they can expect. I explain my investment approach. It’s right for some people, not for others. That’s okay.”

Communication is Key

Working with clients, Mike finds he needs as much skill at psychology as finance. “If I could do it again, I would have taken more psychology classes in college,” said Mike. He says his years of experience have made him a master of interpreting body language. “It’s as much about what they’re not telling you as what they’re actually saying.” He is particularly interested in the field of behavioral finance. “Economic theory says that people should act rationally, but they don’t. I’ve seen smart people do dumb things when it comes to money.”Mike says the importance of communication cannot be understated in making sure your clients are satisfied. He schedules advance meetings with clients twice a year. That way, he can address concerns proactively. In the meetings, he takes detailed notes. He tracks goals, accomplishments, and to-do items for him and his clients. After the meeting, he emails a summary to the client. Sometimes, in reading back through the notes, clients will discover a misunderstanding that can be quickly addressed. This also keeps all expectations and promises documented. “Communication is key,” said Mike. “It is the mortar binding the financial plan together.”

Getting the Word Out

In addition to communicating one-on-one with clients, Mike also likes to communicate with his on a broader basis. He maintains a website blog, which he updates at least every other week. Several hundred people receive his email newsletters, which have an open rate higher than the industry average. He credits the fact that he writes much of the content himself, rather than using widely-available content. In order to keep up with the demands of writing content, he sends two types of newsletters. One, sent every month is just a brief note on a topic of interest with links. The other, sent quarterly, is a more robust newsletter that takes a deeper dive. “I enjoy writing about personal financial topics,” said Mike. “But if you find it hard to produce a full-size newsletter every month, just send a quick note to stay top-of-mind.”

It’s Never Too Late

This is just one of many tricks Mike has had to learn quickly as he now juggles his clients’ demands with the demands of running his own business. “There’s a lot to learn,” said Mike. “I have a new skill set in IT that I didn’t have before and wish I didn’t have now,” he joked. He says it’s not so intimidating if you can learn a little about a lot of things, then look for help to fill in the gaps. “I have a base knowledge of IT, but I also have an IT consultant. I have a base knowledge of accounting, and I leave the rest to Padgett.” He says the key is to entrepreneurship at any age is to know what you can and can’t do and make a plan around that. “If you can do that, it’s never too late,” he says.

Padgett’s 3 Wise Questions:

  1. What are the three most important keys to success? “Trust. Work with people you enjoy. Always be learning.”
  2. If you had one more hour in each day, how would you spend it? “I would get more exercise.”
  3. If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? “Warren Buffet. He’s the greatest individual investor of my lifetime and the way he thinks is so fascinating. I learn something new every year from reading his shareholder letter.”

For more information on Ark Royal Wealth Management, visit www.ark-wealth.com