Pillars of Building a Resilient Company and Navigating Change – Ep 19
On Episode 19 of The Wealth Cast, the tables are turned! Charles is introduced by Tina Dietz, CEO and Founder of Twin Flames Studios, which produces The Wealth Cast. Tina talks with Chas about his big news, the merger of Independence Advisors with Modera Wealth Management as of the beginning of 2021. Chas shares a number of thoughts and stories, from the business philosophy he always pursued—that he has done well by doing good—to his unique approach to expanding his network through his passion for various hobbies, including fly fishing and military history. He also talks about his trip to Germany on behalf of Dimensional Fund Advisors, where he gave presentations in German… and more.
Welcome to The Wealth Cast, and as you can hear, I’m not Charles Boinske. This is Tina Dietz, and I’m the CEO of Twin Flames Studios. My team and I have had the pleasure of working with Charles and his team to produce The Wealth Cast, and over that time, I’ve gotten to hear some of the fascinating stories that Charles has about his career and his personal journey. Today, we’re diving into some of those stories to kick off the new year.
So welcome to your own show, Charles!
Well, thanks so much, Tina. I’m glad to be here.
Yeah, turning the tables a little bit! I was happy you allowed me to kind of hijack the show and showcase you. I know you are—unlike myself—not a fan of the limelight necessarily. But I really appreciate you taking the time because some of the stories you’ve got here and the the journey that you’ve had, of developing this company of Independent Advisors, and the changes that are on the horizon here are—I think—quite fascinating as an entrepreneur and someone who studies leadership. So as Stephen Covey famously said, “Let’s begin with the end in mind.” You’re starting at 2021 with some big news and changes. Why don’t you just fill us in?
Sure. Thank you. So we’re just really excited to have just completed our merger with Modera Wealth Management, and this is really a natural evolution of Independence Advisors, as I’ve explained to so many people. And I can share with you, sort of the details of that, at the appropriate time during the podcast, but I think, suffice it to say, the team is excited, the clients have been unbelievably supportive, and we’re ready to go.
That’s wonderful. And so what kind of prompted—what was the lead-in to making some of—this big change, in this merger? I know that Tom Orecchio is CEO of Modera Wealth, and Modera Wealth is also another one of our clients. We’re gonna be doing some conversation with you and Tom as we move into the new year, along with their show, which is called Decision Dialogues. So I’m really curious, how did the two of you arrive at this decision?
Well, it’s a bit of a story, as these things tend to be. But I’ve known Tom and Modera for years—for approximately ten or twelve years. And I’ve known Tom really well, because we both serve in a national group that gets together periodically three times a year, face-to-face, and sort of serves as an advisory committee for each firm. There’s six firms in the group—six other firms—and we act as sort of an informal board of directors for each other: just sharing ideas and processing decisions, etc. So I’ve known Tom in that category, or in that venue, for a long time, and I’ve gotten to see how he runs his company and how Modera treats their clients, etc.
So, I was very, very comfortable with Modera and Tom, and some of the other folks there as well, from my experience over the years. But it really came to be because of, you know, sort of what I view as a natural progression of things. Independence Advisors, you know, was founded in 1993, and we’ve had some really successful experiences growing the business, particularly over the last ten years or so. My desire has always been to, you know, perpetuate the culture and the way we deal with clients well into the future, and the best way to do that turned out to be merging with Modera, in my opinion.
But it was not an overnight decision. It was a process that evolved over—or a decision that evolved over a period of years, that, in my view, honored the commitment we always had made to our clients first, and then to our staff, and then to the owners of the business in that order. Of all the options that we had, to perpetuate the growth of the company into the future, the merger with Modera checked all the boxes to honor that sort of hierarchy of decision making.
So you mentioned that it’s always this order of priorities that you have, between your clients, the owners, the staff. How did you arrive at this order of priorities? And let’s define that a little bit further.
Yeah, I think the basic idea is “to do well, by doing good.” And the way you do well, by doing good, in my opinion, is by putting your clients’ interests first at all times. If you don’t do that, then you have short term relationships, and you don’t have the opportunity to continue to help people over the years towards their goals. And at the end of the day, that’s the Prime Directive of the organization, right? To help them achieve whatever it is that they want to achieve.
Then in order to do that successfully, you have to have really good staff, and dedicated staff. And so in order to have good and dedicated staff, you need to take care of them. You need to make it an attractive place to work.
And then at the end of the day, if you do those first two things, I believe that the business itself will do well. And that takes—it’s a bit of a leap of faith, right? Because most—or many businesses; I shouldn’t say most—but many businesses sort of run the opposite way, from what I just described. They put the interests of the company first, and then the interest of the staff, and then the interest of the clients.
And yeah, the owners, or the shareholders kind of coming first, and everybody else kind of coming after that. And your perspective is to reverse that.
Yeah, it’s really a long term perspective, I believe, Tina.
So as a leader: You and I have talked about leadership regularly, and it’s a big interest for both of us. How do you find that in yourself, that you have kind of come to balance, or learning to balance—I know, I’m always learning to balance—being of service, versus being in a state of servitude. Because being of service obviously, is what we’re all about—being in the best interest of clients, but it can easily slip into the space of being very draining as a leader, or being pulled into a thousand different directions and, you know, leading to burnout. So, you know, as people are listening, and they’re thinking about all of the things that they have to manage, is there any advice that you’d give around walking that line?
The most important antidote to the burnout question is doing something that you really love to do. Finding, choosing the path that allows you to achieve the things that are most important to you. And that’s not always about money, right? That could be about satisfaction, it can be about your professional career—whatever it might be. But if you find yourself in the wrong profession, then burnout becomes, you know, a big issue—at least in my experience.
For me, there’s always been a dedication to trying to help every single client to the best of our ability and to continuously improve that ability, because it’s a responsibility that we feel that we have to our clients. And so that is a lot of work. It’s easy to coast at a certain point in your career. We’ve chosen not to do that, because we want to honor the commitment and the trust and the confidence that the clients have placed in us over the years.
So it is a balancing act, but if you’re—I firmly believe if you are doing the right thing in terms of your personality, etc. Work, is—yes, it’s work. But it’s also there’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes out of it.
Well, one of the things that has made you and your company unique is that you’re known for connecting and building your community, your networks, your clients, through personal hobbies that you love. So, we have to share more about that. How did that come about, and why is it been so successful?
Well, I think it’s been successful because it’s authentic and natural. It originated years ago. I had a tremendous client who’s long since passed away, who I became very friendly with when I was in my 20s, late 20s, and we started doing outdoor activities together—hunting and fishing and that sort of thing. And it just grew from there, just totally naturally, and what I learned in that process was that, for me, personally—this does not apply to every person—but for me personally to be the best best advisor I can be, it helped to have personal experiences with people. Because it enabled you to really understand who they were, and maybe deliver information in a way that was therefore more receptive to that person, or they were more receptive to, just because you could deliver it in a way that you knew would resonate with them.
And so, beyond that part of it, it was just fun. And so we started, years ago, a fly fishing association. Not for the purpose of business, but really for the purpose of having a good time and getting to know people better, and in addition, supporting the sport of fly fishing—which, you know, fly fishermen tend to be concerned about the environment, which is a really important cause to me. And so this was sort of a backhanded way of getting people involved in thinking about streams and forests, etc., as well. So it checked a lot of boxes, and just turned out to be just a fantastic way to develop relationships with folks and get to know them better.
And that now has led to some other association types of development as well around military history. Is that correct?
Yeah, so we’re just in the early stages—actually COVID-19 caused us to just sort of put this on the side burner for a year. or so. One other interest that I have is military history, and it turns out, so do a lot of other people, and I’ve had the good fortune of being able to travel. I have a very, very accommodating, understanding, wife, who’s been with many Civil War battlefields with me, and Revolutionary War battlefields, etc., and she’s very supportive of my interest.
And over the years, you know, I’ve learned that other people have a similar interest, and so the idea is to put together a group that takes tours of places like Little Bighorn battlefield, or maybe Normandy if we get really, really aggressive in terms of the distances, we’ll go. But it’s the same purpose, you know? It’s the same idea that you share these experiences, and you really get to know people, and it has to be something that you genuinely love. If it’s not, then it’s artificial, and you know, inauthentic.
Yeah, there’s something so important about keeping the human connection in business. And we find the folks that we’re drawn to working with, that are drawn to working with us, through these commonalities of conversation and values and activities and things like that. I love that you have taken what some people would say is networking, and turned it on its head, and just really made it about hanging out, being with people, getting to know each other,
That’s the only way that I know, that feels right to me. You know, I’m very fortunate. My mother was an educator. You know, I grew up in a very liberal artsy household. I mean, we had books about every subject imaginable on the bookshelf. And there was a rule that when we were kids, when we went to the bookstore, she would buy any book that we wanted, as long as we promised to read it. As a result, it just planted lots of seeds of interests, and fly fishing comes from that, and military history comes from that. I just think, you know, I owe my mother a great debt of gratitude for raising us in the way that she did.
I think I love her already, just from you talking about her, I would have loved to have been, I could get any book that I wanted, as long as I promised to read it, I was always that one that came out of the library with 20 books in a stack.
Right? Well, I remember just a quick story: When I was little we we lived in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, this was before my father passed away, and my mother worked at the local high school, and when they opened the library—they opened a brand new public library in Hatboro—and I remember, I have a vivid recollection of sitting on the floor, in the aisle of the Hatboro Public Library, when they were opening up the boxes of new books they were going to stack on the shelves, you know, getting them all in order. And just going through them in the children’s section, and my mother just pulling out, you know, a dozen books that we took home. And it started—that sort of interest started at a really young age.
I can definitely relate to that. Books and microphones have been my two best friends since I was about two years old.
Well, you know, a lot of people might not know about you, Charles, is that you are pretty fluent in German. And, you know, learning a language—but you didn’t learn that in childhood. How did that come about?
Yeah, so I would suggest that the non-German speaker might think that I’m fluent, but the native German speaker probably would think that I’m not. So that’s a very nice compliment, but I would say, my German language skills, you know, we were always interested in my family in speaking other languages, for whatever reason. Maybe it comes from the liberal arts background, I don’t know. But I’d had some smattering of German in school, when I was younger, and then in college, a little bit here and there. But my real interest in German came maybe 15 years ago or less, when Dimensional Fund Advisors opened an office in Berlin. I had a conversation with the CEO Dave Butler about, you know, “I’d be willing to help tell the story of developing the kind of business that we developed over the years,” because this was a relatively new concept in Germany—and that I understood some German and I could speak some, and I’d be glad to help in any way that I could.
Well, he basically took me up on it, and my wife, Laura, and I, as a result, ended up going to a German tutor, every Saturday, for three hours a Saturday. We sat in Barnes and Noble. And we learned German. She learned to just for the heck of it, I learned it so that I could make a presentation in German. And it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. Our kids, both of our sons learned some German in school, so all four of us speak a little bit of German, and it opened so many doors, as I went to Germany to speak to advisors—and the ability to do it in their native language, and then have conversations afterwards, even if my German was imperfect, which it was, and still is, it just enabled me to connect with them on a level that, you know, wouldn’t have been possible if we had just spoken English.
It was a big challenge. You know, I love big challenges, and learning a language in nine months basically, it’s a big challenge!
It checked a lot of boxes, I liked the challenge. I liked the interaction with another culture. As similar as Germans might be to Americans, there’s lots of differences. And I learned a ton. I learned as much from the Germans, as they’ve learned from me, I’m sure—maybe more. So it’s been a great experience.
Cultural exchange is fantastic. I have had the pleasure of working with groups of international teenagers and young adults over the years, and it’s something I go back to repeatedly for my own development, as much as it looks like I might be contributing to them. I feel like it’s much more the other way around. But I’m very curious about your—this interaction with you, with Berlin and Dimensional overseas. Your company and you aren’t generating business from those events and from making that contribution, so what is it that you find is important for you to have that kind of contribution?
I would say it’s twofold. First, at the highest level, it appeared to me to be an opportunity to amplify the messaging of Independence Advisors: Trying to do the right thing for clients, trying to make sure that everybody got their fair share of the capital market returns. And this was a way that I could do that by speaking with German advisors who were in the early stages of developing their industry, and help them help their clients. And as a result, I could influence the financial experience of thousands of people, which was a real privilege and an honor and fit very well in with our mission at Independence. So that that’s the first thing.
The second thing was it turned out that it was one of the best experiences of my life from a business perspective, because there’s nothing like traveling with a group of people, or working with a group of people, who are so committed to doing what they believe is the right thing. And the energy that goes with that, and the camaraderie that goes with that, going into various German cities and speaking at universities etc. It just—it’s hard to express, it’s hard to explain the kind of energy you get from that. It was exhausting, but it was invigorating at the same time.
For those listeners that speak s a second language—you know, speaking a second language all day, and sort of not being fluent enough that you translate automatically, but you have to translate it basically, as it’s being spoken to you, which requires a lot of brain, you know, just a lot of brain energy. It’s exhausting. And then being up late at dinners, etc. But as exhausting as it was, it was just an incredible experience. And I hope when COVID clears, I can get back to doing that to some extent, because it’s—like I said—one of the best things I’ve ever done.
And this entrepreneurial spirit, this feeling of, “Yeah, let’s do it,” because you can see how it makes a difference. This is a thread that I know that I’ve seen, as you’ve shared stories with me about the fly fishing and the military history and you know, working when in Germany, and now this transition to merging with Modera. It’s all this kind of what I would call it almost an upward spiral of expansion. Where did all of this began? Why did you start Independence Advisors the way that you did?
Like so many things in life, one thing leads to another, right? You compound these experiences and it is like compounding wealth—it just, all of a sudden, that experience becomes a lot bigger than you ever imagined it would be. You know, the origins of Independence really stemmed from experiences that we had in the financial services industry. In those days in the late 80s and early 90s, the industry was a lot different than it is today, although some vestiges of that original industry still, unfortunately, are around.
And that is, there were so many conflicts with clients. We saw the new opportunity to create a registered investment advisory firm that used Charles Schwab, at that time, as a custodian for client assets, that could eliminate so many of the conflicts that we had with our clients in terms of how you charged the transaction fees, etc. And it just felt like this was the right thing to do. Knowing what we knew about the financial services industry, we could create a firm now that would treat us the way we would want to be treated should the roles be reversed. And that was sort of the the genesis of it.
My partner at the time, Jim Brown, and I had worked together previously at Kidder, Peabody and another firm, and it seemed like a natural progression. And then once we, you know, tilted that first domino over, tipped that first domino over, all the other dominoes just fell into place behind, and we evolved from being very investment-centric to doing more planning for clients, etc., over time, and grew into what we are today, just by word of mouth. We never acquired a firm, we never—all of it was through growth from from referrals from existing clients, or centers of influence, or what have you. So it was a slow process, but it was a very rewarding process, and something I’m really proud of.
Our relationships are so much at the heart of every business and everything we do, particularly, you know, being of service to clients. As your company developed, there came a point where there was a change in ownership, and so many businesses, companies, go through a transition like this, where someone might want to move on, or priorities change. And we’re dealing certainly with all kinds of changes and shifts in relationships and businesses, and pretty much every area of our lives right now. How did you navigate that transition? And, you know, do you have any advice for those who might be going through something similar?
Every experience that you have, whether that experience is positive or negative—you should take something from that experience and apply it to the future. And that’s how you get better at what you do. We did something really well in that first transition, and that is, we took the time to rededicate ourselves to why we were originally doing this in the first place. You know, the clients come first, not that that hadn’t been the case in the past, but we rededicated ourselves to that; and reinvested in systems; and reinvested in added staff that were really competent over the years. We’ve we’ve just done everything we could to take those sort of, you know, formative experiences, and use them for leverage to make the firm better.
There’s all sorts of little things that have occurred over the years that we’ve used in similar ways. But, you know, almost like getting a clean sheet of paper and saying, “Okay, here’s what we do really well, how do we make that better?” And then, “How do we improve the things that maybe we don’t do as well as we’d want to be able to do, and focus on those items?” And so we integrated strategic planning into the firm and setting quarterly goals for what needed to be achieved, and started managing projects better. I’m sure it’s just an experience that lots of companies have had, but I think it’s a natural part of the evolution of a firm of a company.
And that’s hard, right Tina? When you go through change like that, a lot of people, you know, a lot of individuals understandably shy away from the challenge that goes with that change. I learned that—and we learned as a firm—that you need to embrace those changes. You need to embrace those opportunities, and, you know, I should say at this point, that I couldn’t have done that by myself. I had to have a group of dedicated teammates to accomplish this. This is not something that one person does without the help of others. This was a team effort. It could not have been achieved without everybody pulling on the oars at the same time.
Right, and you know, loyalty is bred from relationship, from trust, from these characteristics of putting people first—even before you know the bottom line, and it’s not generally a choice between the two. It’s just a matter of getting, like you said—embracing the change, you know, or to use a bit more of a buzzword we’ve had lately, it’s leaning into things rather than running away or sticking our heads in the sand.
So, as you have continued on, you know, creating your team and developing your company, your culture over the years, what has been crucial to help you and your team ride the wave of changing and continue to grow?
First is, growth is a necessity from my perspective. It’s not a “nice to have,” it’s a “must have.” And the reason it’s a must have, is that in order for any firm—and I suppose this is true in any industry, in any country—in order for a firm to continue to do what’s best for its clients, and to attract the right kind of staff, it needs to grow. Because growth provides the opportunity where you invest in your client deliverables, and to attract, through opportunity, the right staff. And so I always viewed growth as an imperative for those reasons.
I think over time, we developed that attitude as a firm. That’s not always an easy thing for everybody to embrace, because growth is hard, right? Growth requires the ability to evaluate where your strengths or weaknesses are, to acknowledge your weaknesses and work on them, and to take advantage and capitalize on your opportunities. That sounds really easy, but it’s not. And so we as a firm, I think, developed the ability—even though we have very disparate personalities, and everybody, you know, comes to the table with their own views on the world, etc.—we found a way to communicate and develop goals and achieve them in a way that was really effective.
So as you’re moving forward into facing 2021, and the culmination of this merger, the changes that are happening all around us, what are you most looking forward to?
I will tell you on a personal level, I’m most looking forward to spending more time with my clients. You know, it’s just—this is a privilege. As the firm, grew out of necessity I became more involved in some of the administrative things that growing firms have to deal with, and that all had to be done. But, quite frankly, it’s not my favorite thing to do. I would rather spend time with the people that I’ve gotten to know and that I really enjoy spending time with—my clients—and try to be a resource to them and help them achieve the things that are important to them. So that’s what I’m looking forward to most.
I’m also looking forward, though, to seeing the folks that I’ve worked with for, in some cases, close to 20 years now, take advantage of the opportunities that are available, in a bigger, growing firm. And I feel great that the staff that I have now has the opportunity to achieve things that they may not have been able to achieve, just because of the size of Independence Advisors in the past. And so I’m I’m really looking forward to seeing how they develop, and what opportunities they take advantage of, and I’m here to help them in any way that I can.
Thank you, Charles. You know it, there’s such great power in staying fluid and being able to pivot, being curious and embracing change as it comes along so that we continue to grow and I really appreciate you allowing me to kind of take over today, and have you be the subject of the interview instead of the other way around—really appreciate it, and thank you for sharing your stories today.
Well, thank you so much for taking the time and doing it. It was an honor and a pleasure as always, and I’m happy to have a chat with us sometime in the future.
Of course, always, always, always. And for those of you listening out there thank you for joining us for this episode of The Wealth Cast. And remember to subscribe on whatever platform fine podcasts are found as you can find us everywhere, every other week here on The Wealth Cast. And remember, you can also send us feedback! You can go to thewealthcast.com, you can comment, you can send messages. If there’s a topic you’d like to hear, we certainly want to know about it. So check it out, join us at thewealthcast.com, and we’ll see you for our next episode.
Tina Dietz is the CEO of Twin Flames Studios, which produces The Wealth Cast and Decision Dialogues. Tina is an award-winning and internationally acclaimed speaker, audiobook publisher, podcast producer, and influence marketing expert who has been featured on media outlets including ABC, Inc.com, Huffington Post and Forbes. Tina’s podcast, The StartSomething Show, was named by INC magazine as one of the top 35 podcasts for entrepreneurs.
Tina has been building businesses for over 20 years, and through Twin Flames Studios she helps to amplifiy the influence of leaders, experts, and companies around the globe, through podcast and audiobook production. Prior to founding Twin Flames, Tina’s career encompassed both the private and public sectors, connecting some of the largest utility providers in the US with college and university programs, ensuring qualified candidates for these companies. She is also the co-founder of the Nayada Institute of Massage, an international training company and family-owned business that continues to grow today.
In 2016, Tina was the recipient of the Evolutionary Business Council MORE Award, and in 2017 she received the award for Outstanding Audio Company from The Winner’s Circle. She is also a member of the EBC leadership body and a founding member of the Forbes Coaches Council.
Tina splits her time between the US and Costa Rica where she’s part of the leadership team building a community of conscious leaders called Vista Mundo. She and her husband are pleased to be giving their children the opportunity to grow up inside of the ‘global village’ and prepare them for a changing world.
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