Greg Heller is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of HCR Wealth Advisors. His entrepreneurial acumen has steered the phenomenal growth of the company over the last 20+ years, from a two-person, family operated financial services boutique to a multi-faceted, SEC-registered investment advisory firm whose client investment portfolios total over a billion dollars. Under his leadership, HCR has expanded its advisory services and client roster to include high net worth individuals in entertainment, sports and the technology sectors as well as privately-held corporations and non-profit organizations.
How did you get started in this business?
I made a little stop working for a local bank, but I hated it. My college friends said they wanted to start a financial planning company, and I wasn’t interested but after doing research, I became interested. I realized I enjoyed answering questions about where to put money and helping people after discovering the difficulties people had in understanding financial markets. This is an area that I understood while others struggled, so I wanted to jump into the field.
How do you make money?
It is actually quite simple. We charge an investment advisory, or active management, fee to our clients based on the number of assets we manage for them. This is how we are compensated.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Fortunately, we were profitable from day 1. As a firm, we understand our clients and learn what each of them needs and wants. My experiences also helped me to understand businesses.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
In 1998-99 when everyone decided that they could be in the market. Everyone believed that they could manage their own money because tech stocks were rising so they didn’t feel they needn’t us. I was telling people to diversify while everyone was making money in only one sector. My gut questioned how long we could survive, but then the dot-bomb happened.
How did you get your first customer?
My first client was a college friend’s dad. He gave us some money to manage and that was the jumpstart start that I needed.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Since I founded the firm, we have not spent much effort on direct marketing to prospective clients. I view wealth management and financial planning as a relationship-driven business built on trust. So, I encourage everyone in our firm to market themselves by developing deep connections with family, friends, and professional peers both in and out of the financial industry. When those people feel that they know you well and trust you, opportunities will arise to cultivate a professional relationship with them. So in a roundabout way, we are dependent on referrals, but we don’t really ask for them. We want to be seen as a trusted source for financial information and advice for people who are facing the transitions in life—marriage, divorce, buying a house, kids, college, starting or selling a business, retirement, inheritance, etc. And once they are our client, our goal is to deliver the best possible customer service and experience to grow those strong bonds. Our hope is to continue serving clients for multiple generations. And we have been lucky enough to have worked with some families for three and soon-to-be four generations.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Due to volatility because of COVID-19, the toughest decision is whether clients should participate in the stock market. Decisions regarding how to allocate people’s money is always on our minds. The current uncertainty and the financial challenges that some clients may have had made these decisions particularly difficult.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
The joy of helping people. It all comes from them – the thank you’s, kindness, interaction, people reaching out. I really enjoy this aspect of the job, and because I love it, it helps me be successful. If you don’t love what you do, then it is hard to reach success. Therefore, I think the joy that I receive from helping others is a huge factor.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Several years ago, a large financial institution approached me about acquiring the firm to build out and run its wealth management division. While that would have been a financially lucrative transaction, I ultimately decided not to do it. I have no regrets. I continue to enjoy being an entrepreneur and being my own boss. And, most importantly, I still have the ability to meet with and talk to clients on a daily basis, which would not have been possible if I had agreed to sell.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
We want to help families move forward. We are in such a great place to see businesses emerge. We will see a transformation from how we did things in the past to how we do things in the future. Great demand in jobs and increased consumer demand. We will see incredible growth in all sectors. So much access to capital which was a huge obstacle to growth but not as much anymore. I’m very bullish on what I see ahead.
What business books have inspired you?
Good to Great, Richest Man in Babylon (basics behind financial planning and economics and real-life experiences), The E Myth by Michael Gerber
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I wish I found like-minded individuals that were in the business longer than I have and see whether or not I could gain knowledge from their experience versus going through it alone and developing my own trail. There were other people who were doing what I was doing so it would have made the process easier and would have made fewer mistakes.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Unfortunately, I can’t take on any mentorships at this time.