David Adams | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

David Adams


Nashville-based David Adams Wealth Group is a full-service financial manager that oversees $250 million in client assets and works with corporate executives, musicians, small business owners and professional athletes. The practice focuses on clients going through life transitions, such as marriage, divorce, retirement or selling a business.

The Mistake:

I'm a CPA and a certified financial planner, but I started off in the accounting and consulting world. I made the switch over to being a financial planner in my mid-20s, and the mistake I made was I felt so much pressure to get clients and get the business.

Because I was younger, I had to hide being green and new in the business. The job demands so much technical knowledge and I overcompensated there. I would go into these elaborate presentations on the stock market and why clients needed to work with me versus really stepping back and really learning about the person and his or her life first. I would fall back onto the more sterile presentations.

I was also hard on myself, and with every opportunity I had, I felt like I had to take the business because I was trying to grow a business. I wanted to be all things to all people.

I can remember one instance where there was a client that wanted to work with me but had a son who worked in the business who was always telling his father what to do. He was taking advice from his son and constantly bringing it back to me and sending me on a wild goose chase to appease everyone. I knew that going into it, but I wanted the business because it was a big account. I did that for years and was able to have a heart-to-heart with both men and asked them to go a different direction.

People crave relationships at the core, and relationships end up breeding trust more so than showing how much you know.

The Lesson:

What I needed to do and what I try to do now is really go in and connect with the client. I'm really at the core a relationship person, but I thought I needed to look really smart first and let clients know how much I knew. People crave relationships at the core, and relationships end up breeding trust more so than showing how much you know.

My favorite saying in the business that I think explains that is, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." I truly think that is the case, even with money.

In the first meeting I now always ask about the person. I'm a much better listener, and I now only talk 25 percent of the time and listen 75 percent of the time. That probably used to be the other way around when I first started. I don't talk about myself or the firm or what we do until the very end of the meeting. I ask questions like how many financial advisors you have had and I ask about those relationships. You can learn a lot from these answers to see if they are constantly changing advisory teams and if they are coachable. It's amazing what you can find out if you just shut up and let people talk.

Another thing I do when I'm trying to go in for the close from a technical standpoint is I just tell potential clients that I'm looking for a 20-year relationship and someone I can do life with and really get to know. Everyone isn't a good fit, so I really make sure to get to know them while not pressuring myself to get the business. I really try to think long-term.

Follow David Adams Wealth Group on Twitter at @DavidAdamsCFP.

Photo courtesy of David Adams.

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