034 | How to Create a Productive Remote Work Culture: A Conversation with Vital’s Team

Have you thought about expanding your business to a virtual setup? In today’s episode we discuss our teams virtual set up and how we have navigated building our team for remote work. 

In this week’s episode of the Vital Strategies Podcast, I brought together members of our team to dive into the intricacies of our virtual work environment, highlighting what works for us and the challenges we’ve faced. We discuss the critical aspects of hiring self-driven, accountable, and results-oriented individuals to build a cohesive remote team. Maintaining work-life balance, combating Zoom fatigue, creating intentional boundaries and social interactions are key themes.  

The benefits of our virtual setup extend to our clients as well, allowing us to serve entrepreneurs with a broader reach than a local-only presence would permit. This expanded reach has helped us build stronger trust and relationships, enhancing the customer experience. Listen through to hear each team member’s take on what it takes to make a great remote environment and how we have overcome challenges that remote work can bring.  

Key Takeaways: 

  • Crucial hiring criteria 
  • Maintain work-life balance 
  • Create intentional boundaries and fostering social interactions 
  • Ensure team cohesion through periodic in-person gatherings and strong communication 
  • Serve niche markets with a broader reach than local-only presence allows 
  • Building trust and relationships with clients 
  • Staying at the forefront of technology for productivity and efficiency 
  • Essential qualities for virtual team members 


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Follow on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/patricklonergan/     


Sponsored by Vital Wealth    

Music by Cephas    

Audio, video, and show notes produced by Podcast Abundance   

Research and copywriting by Victoria O’Brien 

Patrick Longergan [0:06 – 1:55]: Welcome back to the Vital Strategies podcast. I’m your host, Patrick Lonergan. And in today’s episode, we have some special guests from the vital planning team. Joining us are three key members from the vital Nadine Fannucci, Terry Hilburn and Ryan Johns. We’re going to discuss the pros and cons of being a virtual team. Nadine, my personal assistant, helps keep me organized and focused from across the country. She also handles all new account paperwork and moving money for our clients. Kerry is a financial advisor that has helped us develop our systems and processes to expertly coordinate with entrepreneur clients across the nation. Ryan, the newest addition to our financial advisor team, brings fresh insight from his transition from an in person firm to our virtual work environment. Today we’re diving deep into the pros and cons of working virtually. We’ll explore how each team member navigates the challenges and leverages the advantages of working remote. Make sure you stay to the end to hear their valuable insights into optimizing remote work and how we can deliver world class service, helping our clients pay less tax, build more wealth so they can live a great life. Let’s dive into the conversation with our incredible planning team, Nadine, Carrie, and Ryan. Nadine, thank you for joining us here today. I do appreciate it. I’m excited to talk about having a virtual team and you being a key part of that. You sort of kicked off the whole party with virtual staff. I was in a position where I was tired of trying to hire folks locally, train them up. Just after a few years, they’d leave because of life reasons. And that was totally fine. And I was like, man, I need to go find somebody that has some experience that can help me out. And I had two friends in a row from the business world ask me if I had heard of this service called Belay, and I’m like, no. But after the second time, I’m like, I better look into it. So I got plugged into belay and belay plugged me into you, and it’s been, I think, almost six years now.

Nadine [1:55 – 1:56]: Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [1:56 – 1:56]: Is that right?

Nadine [1:56 – 1:59]: September. September will be six years. Yep.

Patrick Longergan [1:59 – 2:02]: Yeah. So that’s amazing to me. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Nadine [2:02 – 2:12]: Apparently lots of changes with the company in those six years. So it’s been amazing to see it develop and become what it is because.

Patrick Longergan [2:12 – 2:55]: Really it was the two of us. And then we started hiring more people after that, and I was concerned. I’m like, how are we going to do all of this financial advisory stuff remotely? Feel like I need people here to help me. And just to outline real quick what your sort of roles and responsibilities, I feel like you make everything happen from a client perspective. Somebody needs a new account, paperwork, money moved. You’re doing all of those things. And then you’re also helping me out. I will say managing me. Cause I need some structure in my life, and you bring a ton of that. And so I do appreciate it. Just helping me sort of stay on task, focused on the things that need to happen that, you know, maybe aren’t the top of my mind. So I do appreciate your investment in me and our clients, our firm. So thank you for that.

Nadine [2:55 – 2:56]: Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [2:56 – 3:26]: So one thing that I would like to comment on is I’m amazed at the number of tasks you complete in a day. We joke that I can do three things a day, right. So those three things better be, like, super important projects that are going to move us forward. You’ll do. I’m still amazed by this. Like, we’ll be talking, I’ll send an email. I have to stop talking to you. I type the email, and then I can hit send, and then I’m like, back where I’m talking to you, you’re responding back to me. Then all of a sudden, I get a composed email in my inbox from you. I’m like, how did you do that?

Nadine [3:26 – 3:27]: Some multitasking.

Patrick Longergan [3:28 – 3:52]: Yes. I am amazed by your ability to get things done. Yeah. You get more tasks done on a Tuesday than I can get done an entire year. So I so appreciate that. So I think one of the things that would be interesting to talk through is just how we made the transition from an industry that was very, like, paper based. You know, we had paper files. We were migrating that direction six years ago to being more digital, but.

Nadine [3:52 – 3:54]: And now, like, almost completely virtual.

Patrick Longergan [3:54 – 4:11]: Right. Yeah. So I’m in Iowa, you’re in California. There’s no chance that you’re able to just pop into the office and help with anything from handing me some documents to checking the mail. So can you walk through, like, how we made this transition from having people in the office to what we did to make it work virtually?

Nadine [4:11 – 4:59]: Yeah, I think Covid definitely pushed it forward a lot faster. However, we were doing it before COVID so I think what helped was just having the clients who were used to having emails, having things emailed sent to them, not having to do necessarily everything in person and doing Zoom meetings and, you know, just being more comfortable with that sort of platform. Yeah, but I definitely think that that helped having those type of clientele. But we still also had the clients who needed more of the hand holding in person meetings, which you would complete and then send everything to me to finalize. And I think that’s what helped also was having the digital platforms for us to utilize on the backside, where you would still meet in person with the clients.

Patrick Longergan [5:00 – 5:06]: Yeah, I feel like we almost had, like, tiers. Right? Like, we had the digital adopter. Cool. We’ll send it to you to sign.

Nadine [5:06 – 5:06]: Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [5:06 – 5:24]: Docusign. Then we had folks that were maybe a little resistant sort of in between. Right. Yeah. You could send it to me to docusign, and they could do it on my iPad. Or then we’ve got the people that don’t trust anything digital. And you would send it to me. I would print it out, get signatures, and then get it back to you.

Nadine [5:24 – 5:43]: Yeah. And I think with COVID that kind of pushed more of those ones that were a little into having to be more comfortable with the digital age of having to do everything basically online and getting a little more comfortable. So I think that kind of helped with us moving forward also. So it was a little helpful. But, yeah, we definitely were doing it before COVID Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [5:43 – 5:47]: And I think that actually gave us a huge advantage for Covid.

Nadine [5:47 – 5:47]: Yes.

Patrick Longergan [5:48 – 6:57]: The cool thing is, you gave me permission to go, all right, this virtual thing works, and I think I should tell this story. So you got started. I think we were doing it very part time, and then we started dialing up your hours. Cause I’m like, this is cool. This is amazing. I appreciate. Nadine can get just all sorts of stuff done. And then I had a friend that was for his 50th birthday. His wife surprised him with a shark diving trip. And my wife was like, sure, pat would like to go. Well, that included being out to sea for 20 hours, and there was no way I could communicate with you. So I’m like, Nadine. All right, here we go. Here’s your list of resources. I’m out. You can’t contact me. And I got back, and it was like, no issues. I’m like, this is amazing. So, yeah, that was a lot of fun, and that sort of sold me on. Okay, there’s nothing we can’t do. And then from there, we hired Carrie. You know, again, all pre Covid, but I was like, man, I can’t find a CFP here in Iowa that lives here that can help us with our planning. So we were moving in the direction of virtual clients. So it was like. It seemed to make a lot of sense. And then the world shut down, and it was like, cool.

Nadine [6:57 – 6:59]: We’re already ready for this?

Patrick Longergan [6:59 – 7:18]: Yeah, this is not a problem. So. Good. So let’s talk a little bit about sort of the practical pieces. We’re in different time zones. I’m in central time, you’re in Pacific time. So when I get to the office at 08:00 a.m. it’s 06:00 a.m. your time. And can you just talk a little bit about how the time zones, how that affects your rhythm of life?

Nadine [7:18 – 8:09]: It actually helps my rhythm. I think I’m a little different than most people. I’m with my husband and family schedule. Having the central time hours works better because then I’m off earlier and allows me to be with my children after school and allows me to make dinner and have that family bonding time, but also have that time in the morning to get them ready because of the flexibility with remote work. So I think that’s very unique to being remote and working remote is you do have more time with your family, you do have that time to get them ready, get them out the door, all that stuff. So I think working central time is actually a benefit for me versus some people think it’s a downfall because you have to be up earlier. But I don’t mind and I like being off earlier, so it’s a lot better for me to be central time, the Pacific time.

Patrick Longergan [8:09 – 8:36]: Good, good. I was pretty sure that was the case, but it’s always good to hear. So one thing that we’ve also recognized is we think virtual environment works because we hire professionals. We hire people that are self starters, they’re accountable, they results focused. And so I appreciate your, all of those things. So can you talk a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you, how you prioritize the tasks, how you manage all of the things you have going on?

Nadine [8:36 – 9:05]: Yeah. So the way my day works is, you know, I get up, I get on my computer, go through some emails, see what’s come through from last night to the morning, kind of prioritize the emails. Then I hop onto juncture and go through my task list for the day and see what I can knock out, what calls I need to make, follow up with any items with clients or the custodians and kind of just figure out what needs to be done. But I basically just run my whole day off, my email and my task list.

Patrick Longergan [9:05 – 10:13]: Yeah, you do an amazing job. Our CRM is juncture and I, and you know this, and I’m sorry for this, but I don’t work well inside of the CRM. If something needs to go in there, I’m generally sending it to you to put in there. So I appreciate that. But you do such a fantastic job using the workflows and juncture in general to just keep track of those thousand tasks you do in a day. And so I think that’s a sort of a key highlight. You know, if somebody’s out there looking to sort of build a virtual team or add people to their team virtually, it’s like. And the thing that I love about that is as an owner, I can go, let’s say it’s the 5 July day after Independence Day, nobody’s working. Somehow I run into a client and there’s a question. Somebody texts me, whatever, and I’m like, oh, I can go into the CRM and I can see all the things you’ve done, I can see all the emails the client sent back and forth between the two of you, and I can sort of pick up and sort of know what’s happening. And so I think that central framework of the CRM is just a fantastic tool for us to be able to communicate effectively inside of the team.

Nadine [10:13 – 10:49]: Yeah. And I think as our company grows, it’s going to be really effective for being able to help when people are on vacation or, you know, out sick or anything like that, is being able to look at those notes and seeing what, hey, what has that person done? What can I do to help move this forward? Or what can I do to help answer those clients questions? Having those notes because we are virtual definitely helps. Versus if we were in office, maybe we would be talking about it at the water cooler or something, but because we’re virtual, we don’t really talk about what’s happening. So I think those notes are very important in the CRM.

Patrick Longergan [10:49 – 11:06]: Yeah. And I think that’s probably a benefit of being virtual. Like all of those bits of communication get captured where the water cooler conversation doesn’t, or the scraps of paper that something gets written down on. Or if I have to go find a client file in somebody else’s office, like, we don’t have to deal with any of that.

Nadine [11:06 – 11:17]: Exactly. You’re not having to track it down. Like, hey, this file is not where it’s supposed to be. Where is it? It’s always where it’s supposed to be because it’s on a database, it’s in a computer. So it’s always where it’s supposed to be.

Patrick Longergan [11:17 – 11:28]: Yeah. Good. So one of the things that virtual work environment can be great for a number of reasons, but there’s also some challenges. What would you say, would the challenges be of working remotely, and how do you handle those?

Nadine [11:28 – 12:13]: I think the challenges would be just not having so much personal interaction with your coworkers, also just not really knowing what’s going on in their life. Like, maybe there’s something happening and you don’t understand what’s happening. You’re like, why aren’t they responding back to me? They always respond back right away. So I think just having that lack of communication that’s constantly happening in an office where you don’t really get virtually. I do think that we do a really good job at that. We do have two meetings a week where we all kind of talk together before we get into work stuff. So I think that definitely helps kind of understand where people are, what’s happening with them. If there’s something that we can do to help them in their personal life, to help with work, kind of keep it. So I definitely think those meetings help.

Patrick Longergan [12:13 – 12:34]: You’re right. But I do feel like it’s a piece that is missing that we don’t get virtually that we do in person. You know, because we would have instead of 215 minutes sessions a week, we would have the proverbial water cooler lunch, you know, all of those other times to, like, you know, bump into each other and just. And oftentimes we’re not seeing each other.

Nadine [12:34 – 12:34]: Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [12:34 – 12:55]: You know, we might see each other on a zoom, but you sort of show up different where you see each other and you can sort of tell something’s off with somebody. Right. You can connect. Hey, how you doing? So I would agree with you there. How about work life balance? I can see a scenario where when your home is also your workplace, it’s hard to sort of shut it off because there’s always going to be another task to knock out. How do you balance all that?

Nadine [12:55 – 13:42]: It can be hard to just completely shut off, especially doing things from my phone. I’ll get emails throughout the night and I’ll look at them. Doesn’t necessarily mean I’m responding to them. I try not to respond after certain hours just because I do try to shut off. But, you know, if it’s just a quick answer and I already know it, I’ll respond back to a client, sure. But there is, you know, you have to be a little strict with yourself and realize, hey, you know, this is my cutoff time, I’ll get back to you tomorrow type of thing. Unless it’s an emergency or if it’s a one off reason. You know, there are certain things where it’s like okay. Yeah, I totally get it. Like, let’s figure this out real quick. But I think just having that boundary where, hey, this is the cutoff time. Let’s make sure I’m not responding to emails too much after this time or doing any other tasks after this time. Like, I need to shut off and walk away from my computer. I think that helps.

Patrick Longergan [13:42 – 13:54]: Yep. Yeah, that’s really good. And I try to encourage that, you know, please don’t expect if I send you an email at 10:00 p.m. it means I’ve put the kids to bed and I’m just cleaning stuff up. It doesn’t mean I need a response, you know?

Nadine [13:54 – 14:25]: And I will say, like, in the beginning, I feel like that was something where I was like, oh, I better respond. I don’t want him to think that I’m not looking or, but I think having you as a boss and being like, hey, no, you need to make sure you cut off at this time. Just because somebody’s sending you something or I’m sending something doesn’t necessarily mean I’m, you know, wanting a response back right at that time. So I think having that reassurance that it’s fine, hey, you don’t need to respond back right away, that, that helped a lot. Also for me to finally let it go and be like, hey, this is my cutoff time, and be a little more strict with myself.

Patrick Longergan [14:25 – 14:50]: Yeah, yeah, I’m a big believer in rest. And there’s been times where I’ve been like, Nadine, you don’t need to respond to these emails or text messages or what have you. You’re on vacation. Like, please, like, just, yeah, just let it be. But you’ve also shared, like, hey, I have a minute. I’m okay. Just like, not having this avalanche of work exactly. Fall on me when I get back. So I’m just chipping away at some of these easy items. I’m like, okay, if you’re a professional, I trust you. That’s totally fine.

Nadine [14:50 – 15:24]: I think that’s the beauty of remote work, is, you know, if I am on vacation where if you’re in office, you come back and there’s so much work, it’s like, oh, my gosh, I wish I was still on vacation. Or this is just so much. I’m just so stressed now. Where remote work? Yeah. You know, like, if I’m just sitting around doing nothing or I’m like, hey, you know, I’m not like I’m waiting for someone to get ready or something like that. Like, I can chip away at some of these emails, some of these tasks. So I’m not so stressed when I get back from work or from my vacation. So I think that’s kind of a nice thing about being remote also is you can kind of pick and choose things that you want to do when you want to do them, even if you’re on vacation.

Patrick Longergan [15:25 – 16:10]: Yeah. Yeah. And I think, too, the fact that we don’t have an official vacation policy, like, please take it. And all of the data says if you don’t take at least two weeks of vacation a year, you’re less productive. And so my thought is like, please, I want you all to take time off and sort of be unplugged and disconnected and refresh and relax. But Kerry made an interesting point once. She was like, when I was working in office, if I had a two hour long thing I had to go do, I would take a whole day of PTO. And she was like, now I don’t have to do that. I can just like work, go do my thing, come back, and I just make sure I don’t have anything scheduled during that time. And so I don’t know, it does seem like there’s some flexibility there that allows you to take time off when you’re taking time off. But also, like if you need to fit things into your, your work day.

Nadine [16:10 – 16:42]: Yeah, exactly. And I think it’s very helpful having a family and having that flexibility. You know, if I need to pop at my kids school real quick to watch a recital or, you know, something really quick where it’s only a 45, 50 minutes thing, you normally would have to take way more time off of work because of that. Because, you know, you have to drive home and then to their school. I don’t have to do that. I’m already at my house. I don’t have to drive from my work to get to that school event or something like that. So there’s a lot of flexibility with working with remote, which I really enjoy and I think it’s very helpful.

Patrick Longergan [16:42 – 17:13]: So what advice would you give to somebody that’s been considering hiring a virtual, I’ll call it personal assistant or virtual team member? Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on, hey, make sure when you hire somebody do this because I will say the thing that one of the reasons it’s worked so well is I think our personalities are aligned well. And I think belay maybe did a pretty good job of this. But the way I manage, it’s like, here’s an outcome. I don’t know the best way to get to it. And you did a great job of going, cool. I’m just gonna use my resources and figure out how to get this outcome.

Nadine [17:13 – 17:14]: Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [17:14 – 17:22]: So I think that helped. But do you have thoughts on if. If somebody’s looking to hire a virtual assistant, what things they need to keep in mind?

Nadine [17:22 – 17:50]: Yeah, I definitely think making sure you’re both, like, your personalities align. Obviously, you don’t want somebody who you’re just dread talking to every time because that’s just not going to be helpful in a virtual work environment. Also, I think making sure that the person that you hire is very good at being task orientated and making sure that they can get those tasks to the finish line without necessarily constantly asking you for help and making sure they’re resourceful is something that they need to look at also.

Patrick Longergan [17:51 – 18:23]: Yeah. I think one thing, too, that’s really helped us is you’ve been through a few iterations of this. More than a few. Just our CRM and having, like, a platform to gather all the data and the workflows. And now I don’t need to connect with you directly to figure out the status of something. I don’t have to text you and go, Nadine, what’s happening here now? Sometimes I do because I’m in the middle of something, and it’s like I need to know something right now. But that just allows us the platform to just really communicate effectively on without having to communicate directly.

Nadine [18:23 – 18:45]: Yeah. And, you know, when you do text me those questions or email me, hey, what’s happening with this? It’s easy for me to answer those questions because I do pop on the CRM real quick, and it’s super quick for me just to respond back to you versus if we didn’t have that, I’m like, oh, wait, let me look through my emails, let me look through my notes on my desk. Something like that. Having that CRM definitely helps. Be able to just pop on, be like, hey, this is what’s happening.

Patrick Longergan [18:45 – 18:56]: Yeah, good. Nadine, anything else? I’ve got one follow up question, but anything else on virtual work environment and any wisdom you want to share before we wrap up?

Nadine [18:56 – 19:09]: I think just to say if somebody’s thinking about going virtual just to do it, because it definitely is very helpful and it works out and you just got to work through those kinks, and before you know it, you’re like, wow, I can do everything virtually, so it definitely helps.

Patrick Longergan [19:09 – 19:47]: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I just look at, personally, the talent pool that it opens us up to and the clients we can serve. The fact that our team is all virtual. Makes it super easy to serve our clientele, which is virtual, which means we can be hyper focused on one particular type of client, which happens to be an entrepreneur that makes over a million dollars that has a tax problem. Right. So it’s like, that would be hard to do. If I tried to run this practice just on the people in my Clinton, Iowa, that has 30,000 people or less. It’s like, well, that number is pretty small and we’re going to have to either expand our geography or figure out a new way of doing business. Good news is we figured out a new way of doing business.

Nadine [19:47 – 20:04]: And you get better employees, I feel like. Cause you can just find ones that really are the best ones versus, oh, well, these are the only ones who applied because there’s only two people that want to work the city smaller. So it definitely helps open up that, that as well.

Patrick Longergan [20:04 – 20:11]: Yeah, that’s great. So one final question. What can we do to make the remote work experience at vital better?

Nadine [20:11 – 20:42]: I think just always improving and looking at new technology and if we just sit down and like, okay, well, this is how we do it and we’re never going to change anything. I think that’s not going to be helpful for us in the future. There’s always new and improved ways to do things, and there’s always new and improved technology to use. And I definitely think that we’re doing a great job at constantly looking at new things and trying things out. They might not always work the way that we want them to, or, you know, we might be like, hey, nope, this isn’t working the way that we want. Let’s not use it. But I think just being open to that is something.

Patrick Longergan [20:42 – 20:43]: Yeah.

Nadine [20:43 – 20:45]: That I really like about vital.

Patrick Longergan [20:45 – 21:06]: Cool. Nadine, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for just embracing whatever it is that I am and being able to just help me be better. You helped me manage all of the things we have going on, and I so appreciate that. And really because of you, it opened up a whole different direction for our firm, and I just appreciate that. So thanks for joining us here today.

Nadine [21:06 – 21:08]: Yeah, thank you.

Patrick Longergan [21:18 – 22:01]: Kerry, welcome back to the podcast. I’m excited to have you back. Today we’re digging into what it’s like to work as a virtual team, and I just appreciate how you really help us create a framework inside of vital that has allowed us to have a virtual firm and be able to deliver client work at a really high level. And so I’m excited on getting into that topic here today because you’ve been sort of instrumental in helping us really design all those pieces. When we think about the work we do, it’s really projects. Right. And it’s projects with different categories under different categories. But can you walk through sort of the approach we have for project management for clients being a virtual team and virtual clients? Yes. Can you talk about that?

Carey [22:01 – 22:51]: Yeah. So I think our team, if we just tried to oversimplify things, which is most things are not simple, but we have to do it somehow. So if we oversimplify things, we usually put every sort of project in one of five categories, which would be cash flow, insurance, estate, and legal investments or tax. So somewhere in there, and it might a lot of tax problems or tax projects, we also have to kind of focus on them from a cash flow lens, too, but we try to oversimplify it and just say, okay, where is the project at and where’s it landing? And then start to essentially put together a scope and schedule for that project of, okay, what are the first steps? Who’s responsible, who needs to be involved, and how do we tackle it?

Patrick Longergan [22:51 – 24:00]: Yeah, I think that’s great. And I think there’s a few things. There’s a number of directions we can go with this. I want to unpack some of those pieces, but I think if we were to start high level and think about how we approach the project management piece, we’ve come up with what we call the vital client experience. You know, everybody’s onboarding looks exactly the same. You know, the first five or six meetings are all identical for every single client because we’re trying to figure out where we’re at on the map, what’s important to them, where they want to go, and just get a very clear picture of all the data and all the stuff that we get involved in. It just takes a long time to gather it all. So I think the client experience is sort of the first part. And again, you did a great job sort of pushing that agenda forward with us, because I would say when we first started doing this complex tax planning for clients, client a would walk in and be like, hey, I want to purple submarine. And be like, sure, we’ll build that for you. Next client would walk in and be like, I want a green rocket ship. We’d be like, yep, we can do that, too. And it’s like we end up with those outcomes, but we do it now through the context of the client experience. And you were like, hey, we’ve got to stop doing this. We can’t do everything custom every single time we have to have a framework to start from, and so I want to acknowledge that and appreciate it.

Carey [24:00 – 25:25]: So, yeah, I think we all noticed there’s room to improve capacity in there. And so our approach is still extremely customized. There is no client that is the same as another, and their whole situation is not the same. But what we tried to do is just use past experience and resources and put together essentially a starting point of when you come and engage. We want it to look the same for everybody. The reports are different. They’re obviously personalized, and the information we’re taking on is different for different clients. But the overall process and deliverables look the same, so that we have comparison to year over year to provide clients with, like some history there. But the hard part is, you know, it’s a double edged sword because no clients are the same. And so when they’re onboarding, typically they’re coming to us with a problem to solve. And so we’ve had to be very diligent of doing everything we can to stay on that process because we were very confident in it. And then through going through it, we realized that it is the right thing. Let’s get onboarded in this very detailed manner because it allows us to then focus on projects and get them done in a more efficient manner. And so oftentimes when clients come on board and they’re like, I have this thing, it’s top of mind, like, please don’t forget. And we have to really spend some time and say, okay, is this a fire that we just contain for the moment and get through our client experience? Is it a fire we need to, like, put out first and then get back on process?

Patrick Longergan [25:25 – 25:50]: Yeah, that’s great. And I think we’re dealing with some of that right now. We’ve got a client with a couple of urgent issues, and we’re like, well, we’re going to try to do all of this while we’re onboarding. And it’s so interesting how much more challenging it gets to solve some of those problems without all of the foundation laid on the onboarding process. So good. So how do we keep track of all of these complex things we have moving on? What technologies, what tools are we using to be able to do that?

Carey [25:50 – 26:42]: For me, the documentation piece is key. When I first started working virtual environment, I think one of the hardest things was knowing clients at a deep level where it’s like, top of your head in person. I saw them, I knew them, I knew how tall they were. I knew what was going on. Their family, because you’re in person, maybe I saw them out and about in town. But going virtual, it was kind of a learning curve, which is odd, because now I don’t feel that way. But I do remember at the beginning, and so documentation is key. The other thing is we’re virtual. We don’t have files to go pull their file and dig in, and then it comes to you. So a lot of our clients are also virtual, I would say very heavy. So we’re collecting data at a very rapid pace all online. So we didn’t have that stored in a manner where you could reference it quickly. We would not be doing a very good job of providing services.

Patrick Longergan [26:43 – 26:51]: Let’s talk about documentation for a second. I think I know what you mean, but what are you referring to with documentation and how are we collecting all of that information?

Carey [26:51 – 27:54]: I think our client files, everything we receive from a client is saved for me. Emails, the rate we receive emails and communication from clients, just however I always say, I mean, I have my ways, but our team, when new folks come on board, it’s like you’ve got to figure out whichever way works for you. If you don’t know of a way, then we’ll all share how we do it and figure out what works best for you. And then the last piece is our CRM. We always say if it’s not in CRM, then it didn’t happen. That’s our history book for each client that essentially we try to note every single conversation. If a client texts us even, which is not preferred, but it does happen that that has to go in there as well. Where if, I don’t know, if I disappeared for a few days or something, somebody could come in and virtually pick up the pieces. And I think that’s the end goal, is that if something happened to anybody on our team, could another member of our team step in where services continued on for clients where they almost wouldn’t realize anything had happened?

Patrick Longergan [27:54 – 28:23]: Yeah, and I think that’s absolutely correct. And I can’t tell you how many times the CRM saved me. You’ve been working on something. Nadine’s been working on something. I’m interacting with the client. They have a question about a specific thing that I have not touched yet. I don’t know anything about it, but I can go to the CRM and I can quickly get up to speed and go, all right, cool. I know exactly where this thing is. You know, on Tuesday it was mailed out. It’ll be there on Wednesday, and everything’s going to be good to go. So, yeah, the CRM’s been, and even.

Carey [28:23 – 28:48]: Our emails go in there, which is a lifesaver, because if a client somehow is emailing directly with you and I’m left off, but you’re out of the office or in a meeting and they’re needing a quick response, you know, we’re able to go in there and see that and essentially pick up the pieces, even if it wasn’t in our specific outlook box. So having great continuity amongst our team is probably a really big piece of it all.

Patrick Longergan [28:48 – 29:26]: That’s great. And I look at the CRM as sort of a communication tool. Like, I could email you a status update, but I don’t need to do that because all of the data is right there. And you can just, if you want to know something about a client status of a project, you can go get plugged in there. So I think another thing that’s happened inside of the CRM that’s valuable is we find these complexity projects that we work on over and over again. We start to create workflows because we’ve got multiple people involved. It’s really nice that you can sort of do your piece. You check your final box, then Nadine knows that she needs to get back involved and sort of run from there. Can you talk a little bit about workflows and just how they help make us more efficient?

Carey [29:26 – 30:21]: I would say workflows would be the equivalent to automation. But if you talk to some of our clients, oftentimes I think we feel like we’re behind. So we certainly try to automate when possible. But unfortunately, actually, I mean, at the end of the day, financial services is such an old industry, and I think they’ve crippled themselves along to like stay up to date. So we do what we can to also stay in compliance too. Compliance often has a hindering effect on that. But, you know, our CRM does have the ability to have automated workflows within it. You know, it’s another, I guess, internal project. When we’re not client facing, we’re making sure that our own technology is built out and up to date. If a process has changed, make sure we’re documenting that where the automation piece continues to follow along with it. So it’s certainly a full time, it’s an ongoing project, just working on the business of keeping those items up to date. So our team is running efficiently?

Patrick Longergan [30:21 – 30:42]: Yeah, absolutely. And I feel like the workflows are all evolutionary. They all started as a word document. Like, let’s just start putting all the steps down. Then they start turning into software solutions, which are the really nice, it’s nice to, I don’t have to remember exactly what to do. I can go look and see in the process. Sort of tells me where to go next, which is, which is nice.

Carey [30:42 – 30:56]: Maybe at some point AI can like have a greater part in it, but our compliance in the financial industry is such a big piece of it, which is frustrating at times because we have clients who are really on the cutting edge of all of that.

Patrick Longergan [30:56 – 31:02]: Yeah, good. So moving on, what are the challenges working in a virtual team environment?

Carey [31:02 – 31:50]: I would say just the communication aspect of it. People that are in Zoom meetings all day long, and so then you get in and you really can’t focus. The other piece is, I think people get on a Zoom call and it’s like, okay, it started at twelve, it’s 1201, let’s jump into it. And so you lack that first few minutes when you maybe sit down in a conference room early and are just catching up with somebody. Or I would say in the office days, you met a client in the lobby and they’re getting their coffee and you’re going to sit down and you’re talking to them about how their I, spouses or kids or grandkids are what travels they have. And so I think the fact that it’s like a scheduled time, it just feels kind of different. And so we have to be very cognizant about like taking the few minutes at the beginning to actually connect and kind of humanize the conversations.

Patrick Longergan [31:50 – 31:50]: Yeah.

Carey [31:50 – 32:10]: So I think that poses as a challenge that we just have to be cognizant of and it can be avoided. But then the second piece is, I think you’re not in front of somebody to shake their hand. And so there’s a level of trust that comes with just seeing somebody eye to eye. And so I think virtually it just takes a little more time sometimes.

Patrick Longergan [32:10 – 32:25]: I would agree with that. And I think that’s a little bit of our goal with the podcast, too. It’s like, let’s let people have an opportunity to meet us, get to know us, hear how we think before we are sitting down in front of them going, hey, let us manage all the intimate details of your financial life.

Carey [32:25 – 32:47]: So one time it prospect said, I think it was our second time to meet this individual, and we asked for tax returns and cash flow statements and she kind of hesitated and everything. Okay, do you have any questions? You know, and she’s like, I think you’re asking me to undress on a second date. I don’t know if you remember that it was like, you’re not wrong, you know?

Patrick Longergan [32:48 – 33:37]: Yeah, to put it bluntly, it’s good and it’s true. And I think you’re making a good point about, like, the virtual meeting environment. Like, it is efficient. It is a very efficient way to have meetings. But I heard this once, and I think there’s a lot of truth in it. Be efficient with things, not with people. And I think, unfortunately, it sort of flipped over, and we’re efficient with people. And it’s hard to, like, build those connections that you get to make in person when you maybe have an hour scheduled for the meeting, but it runs five minutes early because you run into them getting coffee, and then it last 15 minutes longer because you’re just chatting about whatever’s going on in life. So, yeah, I think that’s good. So you came from a traditional in office environment to a virtual environment with us. What do you like about the change from in person to virtual virtually, I.

Carey [33:37 – 34:40]: Would say, obviously, with that came flexibility in my instance, which I appreciate. And I think I was really empowered to kind of have more control over my own time. And so that was a plus for me. I don’t know if that would be a plus for every person, but that was certainly how I viewed it, you know? And I think the other thing that I appreciate is it allowed my clients that I work with to expand drastically. So the clients I work with now are complete opposite than what I used to work with. And not, it’s not that one’s better than the other, but it is fun getting to make connections with folks all over. So, you know, our team’s getting together here in Chicago in a few weeks. It turns out a client’s going to be there because they’re nearby. If I was still in an office environment, I probably would have never met that client in person. So with this, you know, we happen to be getting it together, and it all aligns. So that’s fun. And just having clients that do all sorts of, you know, their businesses are so different because they’re all over the place across the US. And so that’s been a lot of fun and a big change.

Patrick Longergan [34:41 – 35:47]: Cool. And I also think there’s a couple things that it takes to make a virtual environment work. Like, first, I think you have to hire the right people. They have to be self motivated. They have to be responsible, accountable, all of those things. And then I’m, from a leadership perspective, I am not a micromanager. Like, I just expect you to get your outcomes. And I also probably should apologize to you for how little we had for training and development. When we first started, like, we were sort of figuring it out. You were the first advisor we had hired virtually. So it was like, oh, this is different. So I appreciate your patience with us and just your investment in making that smoother for the advisors that have come after you. So that’s been good, but I think those things have allowed the virtual environment to work. You’re just a professional. Everybody we are looking to hire is a professional that can be trusted to get their work done. And we’ll give you a track to run on. Hey, here’s how we think this is best, but we’re also have no pride of ownership. If there’s a better way, feel free to pursue that and share the new wisdom with us. But good. Okay, so I guess my question is, what can we do to help make your experience at vital better?

Carey [35:48 – 36:57]: So working virtually or in person? I think there’s a lot of times where you could say you spend more time with your co workers than your spouse or family. You know, it ebbs and flows, of course, but so I think the one thing that stays the same with that is you still have to enjoy the people you work with. And so, for us, we work at a very high speed. Oftentimes, we’re all busy at any given time, and so we try our very, very best and always keep it top of mind to take a few minutes, connect on it like human skill, not just work wise, and connect as individuals. And so I think there’s times where we’re in the thick of some big projects, and anytime we hop on, it’s like, let’s jump into it, keep going about her day, and typically, somebody will give it a second, like, hey, how are you doing? What’s going on? What’s your spot? Where are the kids? What camps are they in? You know, whatever it is. But I think we all have to do a really good job of, like, remembering every now and then. Like, I think we take turns of who kind of makes the call of, like, it’s always at the right time. Somebody takes a deep breath, and it’s just like, how are you doing? I think if we keep that forefront, then, you know, everybody has a place here, right? Everybody feels like we’re all swimming in the same direction.

Patrick Longergan [36:58 – 37:35]: That’s great. I think that goes back to the efficient with things, not people. But one of the last things we want to do as a virtual team. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong here, but is to, like, hop on another Zoom just to hang out right. Like, I’ve already been on enough zooms today. I don’t need to just, like, show up to one and chat with my teammates. But I think you’re right. And I like the fact that we’re making a conscious effort to get together more often a couple times a year, just to bring everybody together and spend a moment working on the business and then just connect as people. So. Very good. Well, Carrie, I do appreciate all of your investment in vital, and it’s been good. It delivers a ton of value for our clients. And so thank you.

Carey [37:35 – 37:36]: Thank you, Pat.

Patrick Longergan [37:49 – 38:08]: Ryan. I appreciate you joining me here today for the podcast, talking about what it’s like to work in a virtual environment. We’re trying to just help people understand what are some of the things that work? What are some of the things that don’t work. And the thing I’m looking forward to you is you had a decade or more, actually. More.

Ryan [38:08 – 38:08]: Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [38:08 – 38:31]: At least working in person, in office, and now you’ve been six months or so virtual. And so I’m excited to sort of hear your thoughts and feedback on what’s working, what’s not working, things we can do, do better. So I’m just interested in your initial impressions. How is the first six months gone for you, just working in a virtual environment?

Ryan [38:31 – 39:03]: Yeah. I feel like before I left my prior firm, I had some maybe hybrid experience just because I’d be out of the office meeting with clients. And then there’s days where you end up having some remote work. I didn’t fully appreciate some of the nuances of what a full on virtual environment would be like. Pros and cons. Right. And I think my initial assessment of the first six months is like, man, this offers a lot of flexibility, and it also has enabled me to interact with my wife and my three kids differently and more often.

Patrick Longergan [39:03 – 39:40]: Yeah. And I think one thing that we try to do when we’re hiring people is we’re looking for professionals that can self manage. Right. Because you’re not getting micromanaged. I’m not telling you when and how and what to be doing outside of show up for the client meeting and some of our regularly scheduled meetings. And so I think that matters. And then it also being accountable, results oriented and sort of self driven, I think all factor in there. And you seem to be doing a nice job with all those things. So are any of those things anything that you’re like, wow, this is different than when I was working in the office from a freedom, flexibility perspective that are now a challenge?

Ryan [39:40 – 40:17]: Yeah, I think what I wasn’t anticipating is it’s actually easier to work more. So I have to be intentional about, as a dad and as a husband, I have to be intentional about creating some separation, whether it’s. It may not be literal separation because, you know, I’m in my office here in my home, but just being intentional about monitoring whether I should be in dad mode and turn it off, you know, for the night. And how do I do that? That was something I wasn’t expecting, is that it’s just kind of easier to stay engaged and work a little longer because the office is right here.

Patrick Longergan [40:17 – 40:38]: That’s good. So I think an interesting thing that I’m curious on your perspective of is working in an office environment where you have your peers next door, down the hall, that type of thing, versus your peers are now spread all over the country. How is that dynamic? It’s been different. But can you just talk a little bit about positives, negatives of that?

Ryan [40:39 – 41:31]: Yeah. Well, I will say that as a Florida native, you know, growing up here and never having to think too much about anything but the eastern time zone, that’s been part of it. I now have to pay attention to central and mountain and Pacific sometimes. You know, I think one thing that a lot of people can relate to is there’s some camaraderie. When you’re in the office live, it’s very easy. You can overhear someone’s conversation, say, oh, do you need help with that? And maybe that’s not always a good thing when someone can overhear your conversation, but it’s easier to engage, I think, on a personal level, and then also to have a very quick, spontaneous interaction about, you know, whatever case you’re working on, whatever’s going on, say, hey, what do you think about this? And for us, we need to be more intentional about the social aspects and also interacting on projects. And I think we do a pretty good job of that. Really?

Patrick Longergan [41:32 – 41:46]: Yeah. I think the social aspect is hard. If there’s one thing I would fix, it would be that we would figure out a way to spend more time together face to face. I really don’t love the idea of going, hey, let’s spend more time together on another Zoom meeting. Right. I think Zoom, right.

Ryan [41:46 – 41:50]: Just adding meetings for the sake of meetings can be found. Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [41:50 – 42:00]: Zoom fatigue is sort of a, I think, a real thing. And so a lot of times, our internal team meetings, we’re not turning the camera on, and that’s okay. Like, I just don’t need to be sitting in front of the camera. Again, so.

Ryan [42:00 – 42:00]: Right.

Patrick Longergan [42:00 – 42:20]: Yeah. And we get together a couple times a year, which is nice to just work on the business and spend some time together and have some fun together, but it’s just not, I’ll say that’s a key factor. That is a challenge that I don’t know necessarily how to overcome is like, how we get more of that interpersonal time together, water cooler, lunch, that type of thing so.

Ryan [42:20 – 42:46]: Well. And I think as we scale, that problem may change. It will. It will change and morph. Right. Because right now, one of the things that I think is nice and helpful is if we’ve got a client meeting, we’ll debrief after the client meeting, obviously, to work on some takeaways from that meeting and next steps. But oftentimes that’s an opportunity just to check in. How’s your week going? What do you have planned? And that’s important, I think, to make sure we understand what’s going on with everybody.

Patrick Longergan [42:46 – 43:04]: Yeah, that’s good. All right, so now let’s focus on client meetings for a second. You’ve done a number of in person client meetings. You’ve done a great job managing the virtual meeting environment. Could you give us some insight into how you see that benefits the client going to a virtual environment versus having to come into an office?

Ryan [43:04 – 44:06]: Yeah. You know, and I think it’s interesting because we might tend to think about it in terms of some clients may like it, some clients may not, depending upon their personality type. But some of the power behind virtual meetings is that we have instantaneous access to just about all of the documents and files that we might need, and we can find them very quickly. And so if we go down a rabbit hole a little bit because a client has a question about investment type or something other than what we planned on talking about, we can be pretty nimble. And I think it’s more nimble than when I’m meeting in my conference room at another office and having to get a document printed because we’re going to screen, share, say, oh, this is what I’m seeing. So I think that’s a major benefit to the client. Obviously, we always think about commuting time if a client doesn’t need to drive into an office, and it’s enabled us to have much broader reach. So if a client is traveling, we’ve had meetings with clients who were overseas and they were able to meet. They wanted to, so maybe they don’t want to if they’re on a vacation, but we’re pretty flexible because of that virtual meeting.

Patrick Longergan [44:07 – 44:13]: Absolutely. And I think one thing, too, is it allows us to serve a very specific client because we’re not limited by our geography either.

Ryan [44:13 – 44:14]: Right.

Patrick Longergan [44:14 – 44:33]: Our entrepreneurs that have a tax problem and sort of need the entrepreneur private office installed in their lives, it’s like we can do that where if we were just in Tampa, Florida, or Dallas or Southern California or Clinton, Iowa, like, that’s going to be harder to find the clientele locally that are going to go, yes, I want that need that service.

Ryan [44:34 – 44:51]: I would say thinking about the clients that we work with, the business owners, obviously time is valuable to everyone, but it is very common for us to meet with somebody who is in between meetings. They may not be at their office or their home, and so they’re taking our meeting and getting other things done that day.

Patrick Longergan [44:51 – 44:57]: Yep. I think we had a call earlier in the week where the client was in the car, they were driving to the next thing, and it was like, all right.

Ryan [44:57 – 45:10]: Yeah, yeah. And we’re walking through cash flow calendar and we’re walking through tax optimization. I mean, we’re having a very helpful meeting, but he’s trying to make the most of his time for that day. And so I think it’s very helpful.

Patrick Longergan [45:10 – 45:21]: So how about you? How has it affected you as an advisor, moving from a. And you maybe touched on a few of these pieces, but going from an in person meeting to a virtual environment?

Ryan [45:21 – 46:21]: Yeah. You know, I think relationships are important, and building trust is important. And maybe initially, when all of these virtual meetings started becoming more commonplace, there was resistance from clients and advisors to engage that way because you’re trying to build that relationship. And how do you do it if you’re not in person? So that has been, maybe there’s a little bit of a learning curve there for me to make sure I’m paying attention to body language and facial expressions as we’re talking while also managing the documents that we’re trying to share. From a technology standpoint, we might utilize PowerPoint, have PDF’s open, we might have a live Excel document that we’re working in. And that is a little bit of a learning process, I think, to navigate comfortably in that space and recognize that we’re also kind of leading the way, or we’re kind of driving the bus at a conference room table. You can just grab a physical document, say, hey, look at this, and with what we’re doing, you say, no, we’ve got to get it on the right screen, then remember that you’re sharing or that you’re not.

Patrick Longergan [46:21 – 46:46]: Yeah. And I’ll say, that was a skill that I didn’t fully understand when we first got started was to how to organize everything from the Zoom screen to my presentation to all of the documents I could possibly have up. It’s like it takes some organization before the meeting and just getting into a good rhythm for how to manage all those things, because it does take a little bit of energy and effort. So good.

Ryan [46:46 – 46:57]: It does. But I would go back to what we kind of mentioned earlier, which is once you kind of have the hang of it and have everything available that you’d like to utilize, you can move through it into things more quickly, which is great.

Patrick Longergan [46:57 – 47:07]: Yeah, I do feel like the meetings are efficient. But back to that trust factor and like, getting to connect with the human being, sometimes that efficiency isn’t good for those pieces.

Ryan [47:07 – 47:09]: So, yes.

Patrick Longergan [47:09 – 47:18]: So thinking about your daily work routines and productivity, how is being virtual affected that compared to being in an office?

Ryan [47:18 – 48:28]: Yeah, a lot of my day is still kind of regulated by the calendar, and so there’s some of that kind of feels similar in terms of, well, what’s going on today? And that’s going to govern the time that I can get x, Y, and z done. If it’s nothing, prep for a meeting. But what I’ve found is I’ve given up the commute. And, you know, down here in Tampa, Florida, I know in Clinton, the commute’s a little bit different. But down here in Tampa, Florida, my commute has gone from an hour plus one way to potentially next to nothing. And that can be odd, because as I was referencing earlier, it can actually be easier to engage sooner or disengage later in the day if you’re not paying attention being here at home. And so one way that I’ve kind of adjusted that is I kind of treat taking the kids to school or getting them to their bus as my commute. And then when I arrive back at the house, it’s like, okay, here we go, and try to have bookends in terms of the working hours so that I have a pretty clear idea in my head about what the day is going to look like, because I’m also trying not to have things bleed over too much into the evening hours once I need to kind of put a different hat on.

Patrick Longergan [48:28 – 48:36]: That’s great. And good for you for recognizing those boundaries, because it’s easy to slip into. Like, all I do is work. I’m at my office all the time.

Ryan [48:36 – 48:40]: So I don’t know that I’ve nailed it yet. These are good ideas, but I don’t think I’ve nailed it yet.

Patrick Longergan [48:40 – 48:51]: I feel like anything in life, right. We’re always working on improving and fine tuning. So, yeah, maybe you’ll get it to the point where it’s perfect, but I don’t know. Probably not.

Ryan [48:51 – 48:52]: Balance is good. That’s all.

Patrick Longergan [48:52 – 49:10]: Okay. So being a new member on a virtual team, it’s hard to connect with people. Right. Because you’re going to lean on them for all of the training and development and all of those pieces. And so can you talk a little bit about how did you get integrated into the team in a way that you’re like, hey, this is comfortable. I like these people.

Ryan [49:11 – 49:51]: Yeah. I kind of think of it kind of from two different structures. One is kind of a mentor structure, and the other, I would say, is like a buddy system in a way, and mentor structure. Pat, you and I meet regularly, and a few times a week we kind of have a standing meeting where you say, okay, we’re going to spend 30 minutes, and a lot of times we’re working on things that are coming up that day or that week. But early on, that was a very good kind of platform for us to engage and talk about very high level things, even in terms of the software that we’re using. Here’s a program that we use, but this is how we use it. So I was able to get kind of regular training through those mentor meetings to make sure I’m understanding the tools and communicating the right way.

Patrick Longergan [49:52 – 50:26]: Yeah. And I’ll say you’ve done a great job. The thing that we really valued was, I’ll call it your longevity at your last firm. We don’t see that very often, and, like, that says something about your character. And so I’m like, when you were willing to join the team, I’m like, this is great. Then just how you’ve been able to sort of put your own spin on things. And we feel like it’s our job to hire professionals. You absolutely fall into that category. And then to see your work product and go, cool, this is good. I didn’t think of it that way. That’s been a lot of fun to see. Just you sort of get on what we’ll call the client experience and just be able to take and run and make it your own. You’ve done a great job with that. So thank you.

Ryan [50:26 – 51:29]: I might backtrack a little bit and say maybe. I think of it three ways because you just made a good point. The mentor system is helpful. We’ve kind of covered that. The buddy system, I think of, in terms of engaging with Carrie and Nadine and kind of, you know, my peers to say, okay, how would you handle this? And I had many conversations and Zoom meetings with the two of them to make sure I’m operating properly. And I still just talked to Kerry earlier today to look at an investment allocation. So it’s important to have that buddy system, too, to say, what would you do here? And then something that you just brought up, which I will add as my third leg of the stool here, is a pretty well defined client experience and process. So early on, and maybe this is not necessarily virtual versus a physical environment or in person, but early on, we say, okay, how do the client meetings work, and what are the expectations? And say, well, this is what we’re going to do. And we go from kickoff to key observations to solutions to implementation. So there’s a lot of those helpful tools in the background to help me understand kind of the culture and the work product and the process of vital.

Patrick Longergan [51:29 – 52:31]: Yeah, that’s great. And I have to give a lot of credit to Kerry for the client experience. Early on, everything was custom, and it was not good. We got the work done, but it was just a lot of work because we didn’t have the foundation of all the data and sort of clear tools that helped us quickly figure out what all the opportunities were. So once we got that sorted out, it was like, it allowed us to then give everybody a custom solution. And, you know, all the reports are custom for each individual client. But it was, it was nice to have this, like, foundation from the client experience to start from. We have that for onboarding and then like an annual rhythm. You know, all of our entrepreneur clients have the same needs throughout the year. And so it’s like we’re looking at those things and then there’s going to be the random stuff that pops up like, hey, somebody’s looking to acquire my business, or I’m looking to make an acquisition, or, I’ve got this real estate project. Can you help us with that? So, yeah, we just slot those things into our rhythm. But that’s. That’s good. Very good. Thank you. And one thing that I think was also nice, just from my perspective, was meeting in person before you decided to join us, right?

Ryan [52:31 – 52:32]: Oh, absolutely.

Patrick Longergan [52:32 – 52:45]: Let’s connect as, like, human beings if we’re going to make this career change, like, let’s see each other in person for a minute and spend some time together. We have a hiring requirement, and it’s called the four hour car ride. Could I go on a four hour car ride with that person?

Ryan [52:45 – 52:46]: I like that.

Patrick Longergan [52:46 – 53:00]: Because if the answer is no, then they’re a no. And so it’s like you really don’t know in an hour long zoom presentation if somebody fits that criteria. But when you go spend, you know, a weekend together with you and your family, it’s like, all right, I could do the four hour car ride. Let’s do this.

Ryan [53:00 – 53:05]: So, yeah, and you also got to see my three kids and how they behave during putt putt.

Patrick Longergan [53:05 – 53:06]: Yes.

Ryan [53:06 – 53:11]: Which, you know, I think Putt Putt is going to bring out the true colors of any child. So.

Patrick Longergan [53:11 – 53:23]: And of the individual, like, how competitive are people? Right. You know, so it was fun playing putt putt with your wife and finding out that she’s just a stone cold killer. Like, she wants to win, period, end of story.

Ryan [53:23 – 53:26]: So, yeah, she’s a competitor for sure.

Patrick Longergan [53:26 – 53:39]: Very good. So I think I’m going to move on to, like, looking forward and closing thoughts. So I’ve asked this question to Kerry and Nadine, and, you know, based on your experience, what can we do to make the virtual work environment better?

Ryan [53:40 – 54:06]: We touched on one item earlier, which is just kind of how do we engage socially to make sure we’re kind of having some of that water cooler talk. And that can be hard. But I do think that’s important from a company culture standpoint. And I think culture kind of who we are and the vision is important for any company, but I think probably even more so when we don’t necessarily get together unless we’re intentional about it.

Patrick Longergan [54:06 – 54:22]: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I feel like it’s the number one challenge with the virtual work environment is the interpersonal relationships, like connecting as human beings versus just sort of robots getting work done. And I think it’s a challenge with our clients, too, that we try to overcome.

Ryan [54:22 – 54:46]: I do think that one thing that we have in place that is pretty helpful in that regard is we almost always are going to have two advisors in every client meeting. I think that helps both from the company culture standpoint so that we can be consistent in how we operate and communicate, see each other in action, but then also from the client standpoint, to get to know multiple advisors and make sure they’re engaged with who is going to be working on their case.

Patrick Longergan [54:46 – 55:02]: Yeah, that’s good. It also just those redundancies are nice. Somebody’s out on vacation, client has a question or an issue that needs to be resolved. It’s like I don’t have to go read the entire list of notes in the CRM to figure out what’s going on? It’s like, oh, right, yeah, here we go. This is the path forward. So good.

Ryan [55:02 – 55:17]: If I had to add a second item of something that we could be mindful of to continue to improve in the virtual environment, it’s just ensuring that the tools that allow us to operate efficiently from a technological standpoint are updated and maintained.

Patrick Longergan [55:17 – 55:27]: That’s good. I think one thing that I have to be careful of my personality is, like, I get excited about shiny new things, and so I can almost take that too far.

Ryan [55:27 – 55:28]: Yeah, we’re not going to lag behind.

Patrick Longergan [55:28 – 55:36]: I can take that too far and be like, hey, guys, here’s a new thing. Like, let’s switch our CRM again. You know? And it’s like, no, Pat.

Ryan [55:36 – 55:36]: Right.

Patrick Longergan [55:36 – 56:29]: I heard this, and there’s so much truth to it. It’s like it was something along the lines of, the tools are not the way to success. It’s just this sort of showing up. And we could run our firm on Google Sheet, right, and sort of keep track of all of the things going on with the clients in a complex spreadsheet. That would be stupid, would be inefficient, but, like, we could, and I don’t think we would deliver any less fantastic tax solutions doing it that way. But we get caught up in finding shiny new toys every now and then. But. But, yeah, I like to be on the front edge of the software, and I just feel like it creates efficiencies that are all really good. So good. Very good. Any final thoughts on Covid? Sort of kicked us all into this virtual environment, whether we wanted to or not, which the cool thing is we were virtual before virtual was cool. So do you have any thoughts on sort of the future of virtual work and how that’s going to shift things for our society?

Ryan [56:30 – 56:53]: I mean, I think it’s a tidal wave that can’t be stopped for most industries, not for all, of course, but certainly for the professional environment, it’s going to keep moving in that direction. And so I think that that’s going to lead ultimately to people having to be more intentional, like we’ve talked about in terms of how they engage with coworkers and how they spend their time. But I think we’re at the beginning stages of it.

Patrick Longergan [56:53 – 58:05]: I think that’s good, because I think you make a really interesting point. I feel like social media, even though we’re digitally more connected, we’re less connected personally. And, yeah, that trend could be continued with virtual work environments. And so I think we have to be real intentional with that. I think one interesting thing that I personally think about what it allows our firm to do is I can go out and hire a specialist. I can go find Ryan Johns, who’s a financial advisor, who’s an attorney that has the type of experience that we want to bring to our firm. And I’m not limited by geography. And so I almost feel like the niching of industries, especially the professional services, can really get hyper focused. If I’m an attorney in Clinton, Iowa, and I’m just serving this geography, I’ve got to be jack of all trades, master of none, where I could go, you know what? I’m going to do this super specific IP technology with AI coming about. That’s what my firm’s going to be, and I’m going to go find the best attorneys in the nation and we’re going to serve people from right here. I think more of that’s going to happen versus this. We’ve got a lot of journalists right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how it, it all plays out. All right, Ryan, any final thoughts before we wrap up?

Ryan [58:05 – 58:09]: I guess one thing I would add is I never thought I’d have this many screens on my desk, but no, other than that.

Patrick Longergan [58:09 – 58:13]: Yeah. The data says productivity goes up dramatically when you start adding more screens.

Ryan [58:13 – 58:18]: Yeah. And I’m sure there’s a break even. I don’t know if that’s at like four and a half screens or five and a half screens.

Patrick Longergan [58:18 – 58:23]: One of our clients has six screensh. Is that right? I think Jonathan’s got six screens.

Ryan [58:23 – 58:24]: Yeah, I think you’re right.

Patrick Longergan [58:25 – 58:35]: You watch him in a meeting and he’s what could you possibly be looking at on all the screens? But I sort of get it. You know, it would be kind of nice to have all my stuff spread out in a way that works.

Ryan [58:35 – 58:37]: Yeah. I’m not opposed to adding more.

Patrick Longergan [58:37 – 58:47]: Very good, Brian. Well, I appreciate you. I appreciate your contribution to our virtual team, this podcast, to all the good work you do for our clients. Have a great day.

Ryan [58:47 – 58:48]: Thank you. Thanks, Pat.

Patrick Longergan [58:49 – 59:54]: Thank you for listening to the Vital Strategies podcast. We wanted to give you the first look at the tools we’re developing that will help you with the four cornerstones of wealth building. To be an insider to get access to the tools to help manage your cash flow, create a tax strategy, invest wisely and protect the wealthier building, go to vitalstrategies.com cornerstones. You’ll be first in line to get access. These tools are designed to help you pay less tax so you can build more wealth and live a great life again. That website is vitalstrategies.com cornerstones. I want to remind you to rate and review the Vital Strategies podcast on your favorite platform. Your feedback helps us towards our goal of saving our clients and listeners over $1 billion in taxes. Those dollars are better used in your hands versus the government bureaucracy. Thank you for listening and for being a vital entrepreneur. You’re vital because you are the backbone of our economy, creating opportunities for your employees and driving growth. You’re vital to your family, fostering abundance not only financially, but in all aspects of life that matter. Finally, you’re vital to me because you strive to build wealth, make an impact through your business, and live a great life.

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