There's a little something known as the golden rule: treat others as you wish to be treated while embracing change.
For Mark Wheaton, this is not just a mantra; it's his vision behind how he does business.
Wheaton is a Senior Financial Advisor for Assante Financial Management in Pembroke Ontario, right on the border with Quebec. Dividing his time between Pembroke, Ottawa, and Bancroft, ON, he is proud to be able to serve clients with a shared philosophy.
Speaking to him, it's clear that he is passionate about what he does, joking that most members of his team would call him a workaholic. "I'd just say I enjoy what I'm doing for clients," he explained to My Business Magazine.
"If we take care of the client, the client takes care of us," he added referring to his eight-person team.
When helping a client, he likens himself to the conductor of a symphony, leading all the components to create beautiful music, or in this case, to successfully fulfill the client's current goals.
"When you understand who is sitting in front of you and what is important to them," he said, "it enables you to navigate them toward their current goals." The only caveat? According to him many people don't know exactly what they want or the questions to ask.
To figure that out, Wheaton or his associates ask new clients a series of targeted questions with the aim of drawing out what matters most. From there, the process the team gathers financial data and begin to get the clients' finances and personal business matters in order. No matter what the situation, the aim stays the same: "answer the questions that are currently keeping [the client] up at night," as Wheaton put it.
"The largest component of our business is trust. Once people see that you have their back, that they can trust you, and that you're objectively navigating them through what's important, they not only stay, but they refer."
For the past six years, Wheaton has been at the helm of what he calls a "team-approach practice" that specializes in investments including both personal and business aspects. Being part of Assante Wealth Management, Wheaton and his team are bolstered by a huge network of resources at their fingertips. "As I continually get into a complicated tax structure, I have a CPA and tax and estate specialists that work with me," he said.
The bulk of Wheaton's business clientele are small- and medium-sized businesses. That stems from the fact that Wheaton was a small business owner himself before becoming a Financial Advisor. In fact, much of how he does business today was shaped by it.
"In my earlier years, I wasn't always treated as well as I should have been," he recalled.
His career began in the world of sales about 35 years ago. At 19 and working on commission, he created blueprints at a large hardware company. Wheaton turned out to be a star employee by being consistently available for customers and going out of his way for them.
After four years, the sales he was generating alone were accounting for a large portion of the store's total sales. His earnings reflected this too.
Although he was clearly successful, Wheaton was young and didn't think to sign a written contract with the company. As his salary grew, the business became uncomfortable with what he was earning and adjusted the way he was being remunerated. Facing a huge pay cut, Wheaton felt he had no other choice but to quit and start something of his own.
With the experience gained from his first job, Wheaton opened his own business supply company, alongside an investor. This time, everything was done in writing, but it still didn't work out to his advantage. Wheaton realized too late that "[the investor's] dividends and the way he wanted to get paid were actually unfair to the big picture."
After that first business closed, Wheaton started a new business with a new partner, but once again encountered setbacks and unfair business practices. This inspired a change that would alter the course of his life.
Rather than be upset, Wheaton decided he wanted to help people avoid the same pitfalls he had made. At the age of 33, he went back to school to become a Financial Advisor, studying nights while working full time, eventually obtaining licenses in insurance, mutual funds, and accident and sickness insurance.
Now in his 20th year in the field, Wheaton still draws from his firsthand experiences to help small- and medium-sized business owners. He already knows where many have their pitfalls, such as by having all their wealth in the business itself. It's nothing that Wheaton can't fix, though, with his enhanced team approach.
"I get to navigate them and point out missed opportunities while managing their capital," he said, adding that getting organized is key. "In many situations, [business owners] have great intentions, but they're not organized to fulfill what they want to have happen."
"My goal with the clients is to ensure that when they go back to their cars or back to their homes, they're more clear than when they came."
Wheaton's practice places a huge emphasis on the future, both for his business and his clients. When working with family businesses, for example, he always incorporates what's known as a "continuity meeting" with the business' principal members. In a session, the primary stakeholder shares their vision for the future and builds a succession plan for the next generation, detailing exactly who will eventually take over which positions, if possible.
This step is vital but easily overlooked. Some businesses run on the assumption that it will work itself out when the time comes. However, Wheaton has seen how failure to make a clear succession plan usually leads to family strife and unhappy clients.
Preparing for the future is high priority with his own business too. Since taking over the practice, Wheaton began requiring that every file have both a lead Advisor and an Associate. This way, if the lead Adviser is ever gone, whether for vacation, illness, or something else, service to the client remains continuous. The other Advisor picks up the file with all existing client knowledge and continues seamlessly, as he explained it, adding that "if something ever happened to me, the client is not alone."
This policy came about after the practice's former Senior Advisor passed away suddenly. Wheaton took over but was left scrambling to introduce himself to decades-old clients that were now worried about their financial futures with their trusted Advisor gone. From that point on, he never forgot the importance of having a succession plan -- both for clients and for his business.
Today, Wheaton can be proud of the practice he leads. He's also proud of the ways he gives back to his clients in the small community of Pembroke, where he was born and raised. For example, some of the younger Advisors at the practice are planning to run a "financial bootcamp" to help educate clients' children and grandchildren about money management and planning, an important element that is lacking today while adding value to families.
His vision for the next decade is to double his business while still maintaining two Advisors on every file. "I see too often where Advisors retire and say bye to the client," he said. "I want my clients to have somebody behind me, so they can retire in comfort and with peace of mind. This is Why we are here."
Please visit https://www.assante.com/legal or contact Assante at 1-800-268-3200 for information with respect to important legal and regulatory disclosures relating to any of the information above.
Michelle Grossman has spent over a decade in field of news and media, covering everything from business to energy to pop culture and more. Her passion for writing comes from asking the big questions that get to the heart of every story.
Senior Financial Advisor, Senior Estate Planning Consultant
1205 Pembroke Street East