How XY Planning Network Has Evolved with Its Growing Membership

9 min read
July 25, 2019

Over the past year and a half, XYPN’s Member Experience Team has spoken with 90% of the Network's 980+ members in a one-on-one capacity.

Our team’s mission is to enthusiastically and meaningfully support members through their membership experience, while also learning about their journeys, their challenges, and what they find to be the most valuable part of membership.

With this feedback, we follow the story of the advisors in our Network, understand where and when the pain points hit, and craft a membership package that fits the needs of XYPN's unique members.  

The past 18 months have brought big growth to XYPN, and we’ve responded to the trends of our evolving membership base by revamping several of our existing programs and adding new ones, which we’ll explore below.

Addressing our Advancing Membership Population

When XYPN first launched in 2014, the Network was comprised of 30 founding members, the majority of whom had just started, or were just starting, their own financial planning firms.

By the end of 2014, our member count had grown to 50—again, most of these members were still in their first year of business.

When we began offering in-house initial registration compliance services in 2016, our membership numbers began to grow rapidly, tipping the scale even more towards new firm owners, who continued to comprise the majority of the Network.

However, our recent data show our members are getting older and more experienced. Over the past two years, experienced members have grown to be the majority. Today, XYPN members in their first year of membership represent 37% of our network, whereas advisors past year one represent 63%.

Additionally, more than 10% of XYPN’s members are either advisors in or owners of multi-advisor firms or manage employees. As XYPN's members continue to grow and evolve, and as more XYPN advisors partner up or hire employees, it becomes increasingly important that we respond to the needs of our growing majority: our experienced members.  

Just last quarter, XYPN’s Advisor Success Team hosted XYPN PAUSE, an exclusive business strategy retreat designed for experienced members. This program was available only to members who had reached $150,000 in annual revenue.

XYPN partnered with Human Scale Business, a business strategy consulting group, to help participants address their individual challenges and create a revamped strategic plan.

Our 2018 experienced member retreat, XYPN Xcelerate, was specifically designed for the advisors who were considering hiring and for members in multi-advisor firms.

Opportunities like Xcelerate and PAUSE provide powerful coaching and networking opportunities for XYPN's advancing members.

As the firms of XYPN advisors grow and evolve, so do their compliance needs. XYPN’s Senior Compliance Consultant, Scott Gill, is currently working one-on-one with 25 of XYPN’s advanced members through our Beta Compliance Coaching Program.  

This unique and individually tailored service helps advisors identify and address holes in their compliance programs, revamp their documents and procedures as they scale their firms, and prepare for regulatory audits.

Former state regulator, Kingston Hollman and compliance expert, Shelby Brown, recently joined our Compliance Team and, like Scott, have been working to address the complex compliance needs of XYPN's advancing member population.

Addressing Evolving Member Struggles

“What is the hardest part of running your RIA?”

This is a question our Member Experience Team asks often of XYPN members—the responses tell the impressive story of the average XYPN entrepreneur, and shed light on how we can better support members.

Let’s explore some of the ways we can help below.

The First 12 Months

What do members struggle with in the first 12 months? Two words: time management.

There’s clearly a lot that goes into launching an RIA (is that the understatement of the century or what?). There will be times when it feels like you have an endless number of to-dos, things to consider, and decisions to make.

Some members still have another job when they join XYPN, or their side hustle takes up too much time. Others feel like they are chronically under water. The reality is that when you launch a business, it’s a full-time, all-in endeavor and you will never feel like you have enough time to find all the answers.  

(If you feel overwhelmed by first year to-dos, use our free All-in-One Checklist, which clearly lays out all the items you should consider before joining XYPN. It will keep you organized and focused on the major to-dos before you start the process of launching your firm.) 

Once you join XYPN and begin the process of launching your firm, things won’t get any less busy, but they will get more organized. Thanks to our Member Experience Program, you won’t be left on your own to navigate membership; every XYPN member has an XYPN team member dedicated to helping personalize their membership experience and address their specific needs.

XYPN’s Member Experience Specialists encourage new members to attend our four-week Start My Firm Program (initiated after an ADV is submitted to the regulators but before approval), during which members work with XYPN's Financial Planning & Process Coach, Emily Purdon, Coaching Program Manager, Arlene Moss, and Director of Compliance, Travis Johnson.

Throughout the four weeks during weekly group meetings, members in a small cohort work through the many nuances of starting their firms, from creating an onboarding process to establishing a compliance program.

By the time a member launches their firm, they are typically engaged in XYPN’s Mastermind Program, an accountability study group made up of four to six other similarly-situated advisors. Committed attendance to these weekly group meetings helps members stay on track and address the very thing by which they often feel most overwhelmed: time management. (Believe it or not, an extra meeting on the calendar can actually help with that.)

The Mastermind Program is designed so members share in their goals and early wins, and in doing so, are able to overcome the heavy burden of loneliness that often comes with entrepreneurship.  

After Year One

While time management is a big struggle for advisors in their first 12 months of firm ownership, after year one, a new struggle rears its ugly head: marketing.

It’s no surprise that once members overcome that initial year of chaos, they self-report marketing as their biggest struggle. In years one through four, marketing is a non-negotiable, and there’s always more that can be done. Until members reach capacity, marketing is a required and oh-so-challenging struggle.

That’s why XYPN has created a variety of marketing programs and resources that allow members to embrace the challenge and empower them to become self-sufficient marketing experts.

Members have access to dozens of marketing and lead generation coaching courses via XYPN Academy. These courses teach members marketing basics, like how to run an A/B test or how to best spend their marketing dollars.

These on-demand webinars let members explore areas of marketing they may not have considered before and allow them to learn at their own pace in the privacy of their own office. 

If members are interested in working with an expert on a personal level to address their marketing needs, they’re in luck. XYPN’s in-house Marketing Coach, Carolyn Dalle-Molle, hosts monthly webinars, facilitates one-on-one marketing coaching, and facilitates our recently launched Content Strategy Workshop. Of the workshop, one member remarked, “I hate having my time wasted, and every minute of class has been valuable.”

Additionally, XYPN has had an impressive number of media requests submitted from reputable industry publications, from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal. Industry reporters routinely rely on the fee-only members of XYPN for quotes in their articles.

Our one-of-a-kind and recently revamped Find an Advisor search portal also helps XYPN advisors market their services and find potential clients. The portal, which is searchable by niche, connects hundreds of consumers with their financial advisors every year, and receives nearly 30,000 unique views per month. XYPN members often cite the Find an Advisor portal as a predominant lead generator. 

The Importance of Networking at Every Stage of Firm Ownership

Marketing is undoubtedly critical to the success of any advisor, but it’s not the only key. Networking also plays a crucial role.

27% of XYPN members in their first 12 months have reported finding clients through their friends and family, and 20% from their centers of influence (COI). Moreover, after year one, 31% of members cite friends and family as their main client sources, and 20% cite client referrals (because they actually have clients by that time!). And between years two and four, 27% of members say clients come from their client referrals. It’s not until year five that inbound marketing accounts for the majority of clients. (Inbound marketing is a long-play and it will take time to see the fruits of your labor.)

What does this tell us? That the members who foster a community and spend time investing in that community are able to effectively leverage it to find new clients during their hardest and leanest years. That absolutely does not mean advisors shouldn’t be working on their inbound marketing—you should, and you will at XYPN, but the most important thing you can do right out of the gate is form and foster relationships with your friends, family, COIs, and each and every one of your clients.

Year Five

Once advisors reach year five, the struggle again shifts. This time operations takes center stage as the main struggle keeping year five advisors up at night.

At this point, members struggle with how to actually run their growing businesses. They struggle with how to hire, when to hire, how to scale, how to offer employee benefits, how to outsource admin work, how to handle investment management when servicing 70+ clients, and the many other facets of successfully operating a growing business.  

How does XYPN support these advisors with their operations needs? A few ways.

We offer Executive Business Coaching to help members understand what’s working, what’s not, and how to align their operations with their goals. Arlene Moss, XYPN’s Coaching Program Manager, is well-versed in the challenges of advancing advisors and works with members to sort through the mental clutter of business ownership and tackle their biggest to-dos. Emily Purdon, XYPN’s Financial Planning & Process Coach, facilitates group coaching sessions and creates process templates and resources for members of all levels. 

Advisors can also find help with operations (and so much more!) at our annual conference, #XYPNLIVE. We loaded our #XYPNLIVE schedule with sessions that address the operational pain points associated with growth. Sessions range from how to onboard new employees to how to prepare for the third decade in business.  

And, for the first time this year, advisors who are more than four years into XYPN membership or firm ownership are invited to our Advanced Member Mixer at #XYPNLIVE. Here, advisors will be able to essentially “speed date” other advisors, learn about what’s worked for them, and walk away with a new network of advisors who are working through similar struggles.

It’s connections like these that we most frequently hear advisors describe as priceless.

The Power of Community

Which leads us to our final stat: across the board, no matter what year in business, the thing XYPN members value most about membership is the community. In fact, nearly 40% of XYPN's 5+ year members cite the community as the most valuable part of the membership.  

How do we continue to foster that sense of community as XYPN grows?

Just this year, we began offering sponsorship of local area meet-ups. We’ve had over ten meet-ups across the country and plan on having dozens more over the coming months.

Meet-ups are an opportunity for XYPN members, and those interested in learning more about XYPN, to connect and network with one another. Having a community breaks down the barrier of loneliness and helps advisors stay sane, focused, and advancing towards their goals.

We also foster a strong sense of community through our Member-Only Forums. Last quarter, XYPN rolled out a new platform that allows our 980+ advisors to connect with one another and ask questions, give feedback, find and offer advice, and more. With enhanced search functionality, members are able to mine answers to their most pressing questions.

The interactions within the forums are incredibly meaningful and valuable. Through the Member Forums, members have found clients from referrals, been empowered to raise their fees, and found solutions to problems that have pained them for days, weeks, months, or sometimes even years. We’ve even had members merge their firms. And we’ve had many members become lifelong friends. 

It’s the relationships that are formed within the physical walls of #XYPNLIVE and the virtual walls of our Network that mean the most to members. The more member “colleagues” you can have on your side, the more supported you'll feel as you celebrate your wins, lament—and overcome—your losses, and continue on your entrepreneurial journey.

As XYPN approaches its 1000-member mark, it’s even more important than ever that we facilitate a healthy community and that we are responsive to our membership. With every quarter that goes by, we’re looking for ways to better help XYPN advisors and ensure we provide a safe and supportive environment for all who join.

XYPN Maddy Roche Headshot

About the Author

Maddy Roche is the Director of Member Services at XYPN, and has been making moves and getting sh!t done since she joined the team in May of 2014 when the Network was made up of our first 30 founding members. Since then, Maddy has worked with and welcomed each of the Network’s members, and helps all of them take advantage of XYPN membership. Maddy is responsible for member benefits and services, including management of vendor partnerships and member rollouts and initiatives. She manages the XYPN Member Experience Program.

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