Who are you and what business did you start?
Renée Weese, CFP® is Founder and Managing Member of Nora Wealth Advisors, LLC, a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor based in Atlanta, providing financial planning and wealth management to individuals, families, and business owners. At Nora Wealth, our services are centered around helping our clients to gain clarity, prepare for the future, consider exciting opportunities, and build a better life. We help align your dreams with your means. We help build wealth your way.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I grew up professionally in the insurance industry, becoming part of a team that started a small auto insurance company, took it public and then sold it to a major industry player. Eventually, I became President of the Division for the new owner. I found my role as an executive for the large corporation highly rewarding, but I also longed for the entrepreneurial culture of the small start-up environment. When the time came to make a change, I knew what I wanted to do.
During my tenure as a company executive, I was continually surprised by how comfortable I felt dealing with corporate finance, but I was uncomfortable with my own understanding of personal finance. I experienced fits and starts in finding a financial advisor that I felt both listened to my goals and had my best interests at heart. Finally, I met my first fee-only advisor, who asked me not only what I wanted to do with my money, but also what it meant to live my best life. That advisor helped me vet my various options, and as a result, I chose to become a fee-only, life-goals-oriented financial advisor.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Making a career transition to a new field was a big leap. I chose to join a small firm, where I could immediately begin building my client base. Also, having solid credentials was critical, so I earned my Certified Financial Planner® designation early on. It took a few years to become self-sufficient, so having a solid financial base in place to support me was key.
I began laying the groundwork and was ready to set out on my own by late 2016. On Valentine’s Day 2017, Nora Wealth became a licensed Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm. I had my website, NoraWealth.com, ready to roll. The client relationships I had built, along with strong communication and a solid process for the transition, led to 100% client retention for the move.
While the proper logistics and service model are critical, having a compelling message is paramount to effectively setting the stage for any business. My message became clear to me in the process of choosing our name. My dear grandmother’s name was Nora, and I kept thinking about that. But frankly, I felt a little silly naming a financial advisory firm after my grandmother. One day, I decided to Google it, and low and behold, I discovered that the name “Nora” invokes the balance between material and immaterial wealth, between financial value and human aspirations, such as freedom, security, and legacy. To me, real value lies in neither of these two aspects of life but in the balance between them. It is my fundamental belief that without the human side, wealth is less meaningful, and without wealth, some of our most profound human qualities cannot be expressed. I have learned this lesson myself, as an executive of a successful startup insurance company, again as an executive for a large corporation, and later as a financial advisor. Now, as Nora Wealth’s Founder, I have the satisfaction of bringing the combination to life for my clients.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For me, by far the best marketing strategy is to start with a passion for what you’ve chosen to do. Then, deliver a compelling message and provide an excellent work product and services to clients. If you strive to consistently exceed expectations, the news will travel. Of course, partnering with someone who knows how to accelerate spreading the word through digital marketing and PR is critical to leveraging your message.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Nora Wealth is thriving. Our nimble business model has served us well during the pandemic. We have doubled our revenue over the past 24 months, while coping with unprecedented challenging times. Our goal is to double again over the next four years, so we are optimistic about achieving that. We have also learned much more about who we are and which clients we are most able to benefit. As a result, we’re excited about honing our message and services to better reach those we can help the most.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have learned to lean into uncertainty when it comes to new ideas that align with my passion. Those uncertainties delayed me from taking actions needed to realize my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Also, building a business that is nimble and can flex with the times has paid off, especially during the pandemic. Because Nora Wealth was operating largely remotely, without commitments to office space and other expenses, we were able to continue operating profitably with relatively little disruption.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My strategy for Nora Wealth has been to stay flexible and manage expenses by leveraging other businesses as partners to deliver the “package” of services that clients need. Nora Wealth acts as the “hub of the service wheel”, so we choose cost-effective, reliable partners that strengthen our business model and service delivery. We use a local IT service provider to help vet and support our software tool choices and security. As examples, we use Microsoft Office for email, calendaring, and back office. We also like ScheduleOnce for scheduling appointments, and we use Zoom for meeting remotely. We use tools specific to financial advisors through our strategic investment management partner.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
It’s hard to find enough time read as much as I’d like. I tend to collect books that appeal to me and to read most of them cursorily. Some, however, just reel me in, including ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek, ‘Enough.’ by John C. Bogle, founder of Vanguard, and ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame. I listen to a wide range of podcasts which both feed my soul and teach me important insights from leaders in business and the financial advisory industry. It’s important to find experts that resonate with you and to follow what they are covering.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Pay attention to your inner voice. Follow your instincts. Take calculated risks and be prepared to make some mistakes. Learn from them and move on. Be realistic about the commitment it will take, both emotionally and financially, but don’t let fear stop you from pursuing your heart’s desire. Shore up your support base and financial resources. Choose partners, employees, and clients carefully. Be compassionate to yourself. Track what you do, reflect, and make adjustments to improve for the future. Take time to celebrate your successes!