In the land of finance, discipline equals freedom and financial advisors know this better than anyone else. To clients and the community, they offer expertise which enables folks to achieve their goals and become financially independent but as the financial advisor, what about your goals and independence, and more importantly, what about your happiness? There are a variety of factors that could make your future feel uncertain but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fulfilling.
In his new book, Freedom Street, Scott Danner shares lessons learned and insights gained from nearly two decades of managing assets, purchasing financial practices, and creating succession plans to ensure a future that is both prosperous and rewarding. He knows what it takes to effectively balance goals to serve clients, make an impact in your community and make your next chapter count. And yes, it’s A-okay, sometimes even advisors need a guide.
Hey Listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum. I’m excited to be here today with Scott Danner, author of Freedom Street: How I Learned to Create a Rich Life, Live My Legacy, and Own the Future as a Financial Advisor. Scott, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Scott Danner: Thanks for having me, Drew. I’m excited to be here.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick this off. Can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
Scott Danner: Sure. I am a two-decade financial advisor in an industry that I never knew I was going to be in. I actually started working at the attorney general’s office right out of college and was in a crime prevention role with the AG, did a lot of PR, and ended up applying to be a financial advisor and loving it. Building a career, lifestyle practice for about 14, 15 years and then I went out and started my own independent company, Freedom Street Partners in 2016.
We’ve built that company to about 40 advisors across seven states and we manage about two and a half billion dollars and we started that from scratch just five years ago. It’s a quick version of the journey but there’s been a lot of great stories in between. That’s the professional background. I like to think of myself— like I’ll talk about in the book— as somebody that’s much more in-depth.
I can’t stand at parties when they’re like, “What do you do, Scott?” I’m like, “Well, let me tell you about who I am first!” No, I’m just kidding. The professional background kind of led me to writing this book and leading into this journey and I’m really excited to share it with the world.
Drew Appelbaum: Why was now the time to share these stories in the book? Was there an “aha moment”, something really inspiring out there for you? Or did you have some downtime because of COVID?
Scott Danner: Yeah, I wish I had downtime. I think our company grew faster during COVID than I ever imagined and so we were extremely blessed. Ultimately, I think it was the first thing you said, which was an “aha moment.” The “aha moment” was really a couple of things. I broke this book down into creating a rich life, living my legacy, and owning the future. When I really think about living a rich life, it was all the things of really creating something that— I could put down some of the very things I had learned over the years that I had used to share with other advisors and other business owners. I felt like it was a great time to do that.
I also hear too many people every day talk about really creating a legacy or their legacy is something that they look forward to in the future when they stop doing something. I just really believe that I had heard that so many times and I wanted to get out there and talk a little bit more about living it. Actually doing it today, not waiting for anything. The, “own your future” was the biggest “aha moment”.
So many business owners— and I talk to so many in my role as an advisor as well as in my practice. We have helped advisors in that next chapter of stepping away and selling their practice. I was really amazed at how unprepared people were for that next chapter. The “aha moment” was, what prepares people for the next chapter? It really went back to those couple of things. If they’re living a rich life and they’ve created this rich life that’s well beyond their business, they’re successful.
If they’re living their legacy not waiting, they’re complete. They feel better and then you can own the future because you’re really prepared for whatever comes next.
Life First, Then Wealth
Drew Appelbaum: You just likely want to help these people out and lend your expertise and you have an idea of this book in your head. A lot of times, during the writing process, authors will go down that road but they’ll start digging deeper into some of these subjects and they’ll come to some major breakthroughs and learnings. Did you have any major breakthroughs or learnings along your writing journey?
Scott Danner: Drew, it’s huge. I think there were a couple. I mean, we really completed this during COVID and I think that was a breakthrough in itself, that I was really taking too long to get through the process and I had to finish it.
The writing process is cathartic. It’s therapeutic. One of the first questions I was asked revolved aroun
d failures. I remember spending two days writing down things that I hadn’t thought about in years and then I asked my wife a couple of them. She gave me an assortment of a couple of things that I hadn’t even thought about in two decades.
When I say failures, I mean learned lessons. Things that really, I grew from but it even forced me to go back. I had an episode as a child where a traumatic break-in and assault of a babysitter that I witnessed and was a part of— and I go into it briefly in the book— but it was amazing how many things in my life had been really driven by some of the things I felt and saw and grew from and had to coach and coerce myself through my years. This book process pulled that out of me.
I hadn’t really thought about those things in that capacity until I really started going backwards and trying to put it all on paper.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s dig into the book itself and I think we need to start it off a little bit. You briefly talked about it but, talk to us a little bit about your company, the Freedom Street Partners?
Scott Danner: Yeah, I think that’s a great place to start. I’m very proud of building something, a culture at Freedom Street Partners where it’s really built around our advisors and how we serve clients. I kind of saw the industry as something that was going through a shift and I really believe that financial advisors aren’t going to be something that you use less of in the next 20 years, it’s something that we’ll need more of.
The more AI, the more things come out and do everything for you, the more you need someone to help you make some of life’s biggest decisions. I think at Freedom Street Partners, what we really try to do is create an environment that ultimately is combining life first, then wealth, and optimizing it for our clients and our financial advisors.
We really built a model that we could grow and develop for, not only one client at a time, but a practice at a time. That got me a lot of data, a lot of information, and a lot of cool stuff that helped really bridge the gap into the book and how I saw the next chapter of helping advisors in the future.
Drew Appelbaum: Why do you think most people would, say, have trouble balancing that home and work-life? Is it really possible to have that laser focus in both? And as an add-on question, are financial advisors better or worse at that balance?
Scott Danner: I love that question. I battle with this question all the time and there’s a chapter where I hit it p
retty hard in the book and I’m excited to share it. I really believe this. Can you achieve balance? Yes. Will you constantly be in balanced in some capacity? Absolutely.
It’s actually having the self-awareness to understand when and what you can do to correct. I talk about in the book, having a process I use called the four quadrants where I really break down my life in a brain stomping exercise on a regular basis. It’s my – what I call a rebalancing exercise.
I go through four quadrants. Quadrant number one at the top on the left-hand corner is your relationships, your family. On the right side is your wealth, your work, what you do. And on the bottom is really your foundation. It’s your health and it’s your spirituality.
To me, without those two things, it’s really difficult to have success than the other two things on top. But, what I find is when I start going through it and brainstorming and writing everything that’s on my brain in each category, sometimes that’s as simple as, things I want to do with my children that I haven’t done that I kept telling myself or things that I’ve put off at work or finishing the book.
They’re all ways that I use to be self-aware so that when I’m imbalanced, I can recognize it. I think we all have that challenge and I will tell you humbly, I’m challenged with it just like everybody else. I mean, it’s not easy to do all the things that we’re doing in a day-to-day world and still feel like you’re giving everything you love, the time and energy that it needs.
What Is a Rich Life?
Drew Appelbaum: Now, in the title of your book, you do mention a rich life. I’d like to ask, what does a rich life mean to you? Is it monetarily rich? Is it rich in adventure? Can you just define that for us?
Scott Danner: Yeah, I think it’s best described—I start off by telling the story when we go into this chapter about putting one of my sons to bed one night and he said, as I was walking out, he goes, “Hey dad, would you be rich if you didn’t have us?” And I just started laughing. I wasn’t laughing at him, of course, but it was just such a big question. You know how sometimes kids can ask a simple question that really blows up in your head?
I wanted to make sure I responded the right way and I said, “No, I can’t even imagine living my life without you in it, without our family.” It was a perfect opportunity for me to say, “Would I be financially better off?” I mean, on paper, it might work that way but the reality is, it’s not about money. Creating a rich life without something or someone that you love to put money into is useless. It’s the investment in people.
The investment in relationships. The investment in your legacy and doing something bigger than yourself that creates that rich life. Having someone and something to care about and to develop and to build is so much more. So, that night obviously, I told him, “Look, I’ve thought about this a lot. I grew up without a whole lot so in my brain, when I first started working and building, it was really about financial freedom. But financial freedom is useless if you have no one to share it with.”
Drew Appelbaum: I also think a lot of folks are defined by their jobs. It’s what they think about most often, it’s where they spend the majority of their time. How do you suggest that people really rediscover what matters most to them outside of the office?
Scott Danner: Yeah, I love that. I often see financial advisors and business owners, especially small business owners where their impact, like you said, is really defined by what they do every day, and when they sell that business or separate from that business or even retire, they don’t even know what to do. Some of the things that we teach and coach on really guide people to start to find some of those areas of impact that go well beyond above an
d beyond what you do at work. I love coaching my children in soccer, I love watching soccer games, I love being out in the fields.
I started a wine festival 12, 13 years ago, because I loved wine and we wanted to create a charity that would give back to community charities and be much bigger than anything we could do individually. When I look back at those things, those are the very things that I poured so much energy and effort into because I love them. They all kind of met where passion and work ethic and grit and impact all came together but they weren’t really defined by work.
I think it’s finding something outside of your career but it can coincide. It doesn’t mean that people don’t know you, like you, and trust you because you did something great, or you coached their son or you developed a great community game changer. It’s really just one of those things where they all kind of work together and your impact is well beyond the normal functioning of the day-to-day life of work.
Drew Appelbaum: You talk about in the book how people really need to find those gifts and talents that they bring to the world. What are some questions that if somebody stands up and looks in the mirror and takes that second and really ask themselves a question, what should they be asking?
Scott Danner: Where am I spending most of my time? A lot of times just a self-evaluation of where my time is going and is it what I love the most. What we find is we often spend the most time on the things we loved the least and the least time with those we love the most or what we love the most. Evaluating what it is that we really love to do. The question I always like to ask is also what am I really good at?
Everybody knows— hopefully at this stage of our lives— knows what we’re really great at and we got to dig into that more. We have to do more of those things. When I started the company that I am in today that I run, truthfully a lot of it was about building around strengths. I was so tired of doing all the things that I really wanted to build around the strengths the things I loved doing and the things I was really great at.
Not just things I could be good at but things I enjoyed that I didn’t feel depleted at when I left. So, that self-evaluation in the mirror is really a way to pull all of those things together.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, a big thing you talk about is also legacy. Taking those questions you just asked and maybe getting those answers, putting those into action can that change someone’s legacy? What are the steps that really need to be taken once you have those answers to put this all in action?
Scott Danner: Yeah, I love putting it all together because the truth is when you are talking about a legacy, m
ost people that leave behind any level of a legacy, that’s significant. Where other people talk about it or other people know of it is because they were really doing something they were great at. The more you pour into something you’re great at, the bigger your stage becomes. The bigger your stage becomes, the bigger your impact becomes.
When you have the ability to do something you love and you have the ability to take that love and passion of what you’re putting it into, you’re great at it, you’re able to really build on that, what you find is there’s a lot of great output and there’s a lot of change that you can make in the world. Or maybe it’s just right there at home in your house. I can tell you just from personal experience— and what I’ll say about this book that I think is a little bit unique is— when I started writing this it is going to be a “how-to”. When I ended it, it was “how I learned.”
Because really, there were parts of it where it was just my story and without telling you my story, I couldn’t really get out what the “how-to” was because I didn’t want to pontificate. I didn’t want to just tell people like I know it. I’ve experienced it, I’m living it. And that wine festival is a great example of something that answers your question. We have a dentist chair in the local free clinic.
We have a mobile mammogram vehicle that drives around town that we’ve donated tens of thousands of dollars. We’ve donated to the cancer center and pediatric cancer, and Honor and Remember… I could name so many things. We’re talking about millions of dollars that have gone to an assortment of community charities and truthfully, that got bigger and bigger because the stage got bigger and bigger. The people that showed up were more and more.
The impact that our community felt, and that I was able to be a part of, just made me feel really great about using those resources to plan, develop big events, bring people together, and to do so over something that I found a lot of excitement in. Why? It was kind of one of those things where it’s just when it all comes together it just works.
Be Prepared to Transition: Emotionally, Mentally, and Financially
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s say we go back to the work-life balance and asking yourself these questions. You come to the conclusion that you are ready for an exit. You are ready for all life, less work, no work. What is an exit out of the game look like for a financial adviser and are there any major pitfalls that can be avoided?
Scott Danner: Yeah, I think ultimately for a financial adviser, it is probably pretty much the same as any business owner. The first thing is everybody seems to be ready financially for the exit. Nobody really tends to be ready on the emotional side. So, the first thing is this book is really designed to kind of guide you through some stories and some directional conversations that get you emotionally prepared.
Getting second opinions, having evaluation on the business, understanding the real value is also a major benefit. Because a lot of times people say, “I want to sell something” but they think the value is, either way, less or way more than it is. Having an idea of exactly what you’re working with is empowering because now you have a good idea of what’s fair. It is like making a trade in the NFL. If two teams both see the great value in it then everybody walks away a winner.
We also really want to make the seller and the buyer heroes. You want the buyer to be a hero as they come in and you want the seller to be the hero as they go out. You are celebrating the legacy that they’ve built in that business or that practice as financial advisers and you’re building something bigger than yourself along the way. Then the new guy that’s coming in or gal that’s coming in is able to really develop and build on top of that.
I also like to talk a little bit about personalities— which I talk about here. You’re never going to be perfect but knowing the dynamic, having two people that are exactly the same isn’t always the right recipe. Sometimes it’s having a team approach, knowing that one person’s going to do great with these clients or my style best matches this style, and having self-awareness and also having that coachability through the process. Because it’s difficult.
It’s a transition and any transition is a change in your life. It’s a challenge and the word in itself is a time for change. You know that’s something that in our industry, I don’t think it’s any different than any lawyer, doctors, practice… Any industry at all that sells a business, you have to go through some basic steps. Then we layout in the book several other steps that are a little more intricate like how to put together the team and all the things that you want to have in a checklist.
I will say this, the key component— and what I really wanted to get out of this book is— there’s a lot of books that will tell you how to sell your business and they’ll focus on all the financial stuff. What I really wanted to accomplish here was how to prepare, almost like a preamble. What are the things that would get you started thinking about these areas so you’re ready? Not just thinking about it but you’re ready. You’re in a place where not only emotionally, physically, mentally, you’re all there and ready to go so when you separate you can enjoy the days that you’ve been thinking about and planning about.
After COVID, how many people are thinking about this just in their 30s or 40s, about a career change or a transition? It’s not just for people that are towards the end of their career. The average financial adviser in our career is 62 years old. The average adviser is already at what most people would consider retirement age and this hasn’t changed. People haven’t actually transitioned out. It’s also about how to prepare more people to be ready. I think that’s the key to any transition is actually kind of hitting it rounded out.
Drew Appelbaum: Besides the book itself, you also provide more resources for readers on your website including case studies. Can you tell us what is the name of your website and then what can readers find there?
Scott Danner: Sure, scottdanner.com. We made it very simple. And what you’ll find there is really an assortment of information. I will have some short videos, I’ll even have a couple of quizzes that will help financial advisors really know how ready they are. What’s their succession readiness score? How did they have a continuity plan in place? And then we’ll have some case studies as well. Those case studies will talk through some stories that have worked.
[Stories of] people that have been successful and how they’ve done it. It’s like going into a house when you’re trying to buy a home. You don’t really want to see exactly how the person lived in that house. You want to see yourself in that house. You want to see how you could adjust it to fit you and that’s how any practice or any business really is and that’s what we try to focus on when we built this out.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Scott, we just touched on the surface of the book here but writing a book where you’re helping folks to become more successful in both their professional and personal life is no small feat, so congratulations on taking the time, on getting this down and having your book published.
Scott Danner: Thanks for having me and thanks for helping us get the word out. We’re really excited and we look forward to hopefully lots of readers.
Drew Appelbaum: I do have one question left, it is the hot seat question so prepare yourself. If readers could take away only one single thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Scott Danner: I think ultimately where we spend our time, we’re giving our love and where we give our love, we’re often not always spending the right amount of time. I think it was a lesson that I have to self-evaluate, on a regular basis because of how busy we can become. This isn’t me preaching, it is just something that I like to tell myself all the time because I can readjust and reassess and make sure that love is going in the right places. Because when we all die and someone is doing our eulogy, nobody ever talks on average about what you did for a living.
They talk about who you loved, who loved you, and where your impact was and it’s about your relationships. I think that’s really something that I value excessively and I talk a lot about in this book.
Drew Appelbaum: Scott, this has been a pleasure and I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Freedom Street, and you could find it on Amazon. Scott, besides checking out the book and your website, is there anywhere else that people can connect with you?
Scott Danner: We’d definitely love to see people on YouTube. I do a ton of videos. One of the things I’m going to do for the book is actually record several videos talking about each chapter and kind of guiding the reader through it as something new and innovative. And like I said before, scottdanner.com is a great place to start. Thank you so much for having me and thanks for really helping us celebrate this.
Drew Appelbaum: You’re welcome and we appreciate you giving us some time and wish you nothing but the best of luck with your new book.
Scott Danner: Thank you so much.