Joseph Eschleman of Towerpoint Wealth: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder
The ultimate success, or failure, of your organization originates at the top, and is a product of the decisions, or non-decisions, of the President. As important as it is to delegate, and to hire and interface with good, smart, intelligent people and colleagues, the buck stops with the person in charge. As a “regular” retail financial advisor at a major Wall Street firm, I basically only had to answer to myself and to my clients — now, I manage a team of six (plus myself), which I fully anticipate to significantly grow over the next few years, and their success, and the success of Towerpoint Wealth, depends on how I coordinate and support everyone as the President.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph Eschleman, CIMA, President of Towerpoint Wealth, LLC, a $300 million boutique wealth management firm launched and headquartered in Sacramento, CA.
As Towerpoint Wealth’s President and founder, Joseph provides customized financial planning and strategic wealth management counsel, helping a select group of successful individuals, business owners and entrepreneurs, corporate professionals, and retirees both grow and protect their personal net worth. Throughout his 21-year career, Joseph’s extensive training, experience, and expertise in portfolio and investment management, sustainable income generation, and comprehensive wealth protection and asset transfer planning has continued to help him help his clients move toward their ultimate goal — to achieve complete economic peace of mind.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was 24 years old, I quit a dead-end job in New Jersey and drove cross-country to Sacramento in three days to be and live with my girlfriend of only three months! Fortunately, things worked out between the two of us, as I have been married to Megan Eschleman for more than 18 years now.
Armed with nothing more than $800 in my bank account and a bachelor’s degree from Lehigh University, I immediately set out to find a permanent job after quickly realizing that selling Dr. Ballard’s dog food inside of PetCo’s and PetSmart’s wasn’t an ideal career path. After spotting an open position on Monster.com for a “financial advisor in training (FAIT)” with Prudential Securities, I successfully interviewed and was hired as a baby-faced rookie financial advisor by my manager at the time, Ron Tolle. Ron told me that he had “one simple truth” for his new hires — “if you beat me into the office every morning, and are here every evening when I leave, I won’t fire you.”
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Ron’s expectations seemed simple enough to me, so I made it a point to arrive and unlock the office every day at 6:00AM (Ron usually came in around 6:30), and leave after locking up the office at around 7:30 or 8:00PM (Ron usually left by 6:30). The long 14-hour days (not including 8AM — 2PM on most Saturdays) weren’t the difficult part, but the grit, thick skin, and tenaciousness needed to make 250–300 cold calls every single day as I built my network and my practice was the challenge. I have always been a glutton for punishment, so let’s just say that making 300 cold calls a day an acquired taste…
Besides Megan, I did not know a single person who lived in Sacramento, and at the time (in 1999), cold calling was still an effective way to build a network and a clientele, so I smiled and I dialed. There was some science to this method of prospecting, as 250 calls led to about 50 conversations, which led to about 10 decent leads, which to about three face-to-face meetings, which led to about one new client. But the amount of rejection that I endured in starting from absolute ground zero as I built my pipeline and my network by cold calling was extreme, and difficult to stomach on a daily basis.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Three areas: 1.) The simple and express fear of getting fired — I realized I had no choice but to work my tail off and continue my long hours and cold calling if I wanted to keep my job (and in hindsight, I am very happy and proud of the grit and tenacity I showed in maintaining this routine for about six straight years as my practice grew), 2.) The “drug” of adding new clients — once I began to have a few tastes of success, the feeling of “winning” and actually taking on new clients was addictive. Realizing that the 14-hour days and hard work were paying off, the grind of my professional routine became much easier to tolerate, and 3.) My father — throughout my childhood, I saw him leave the house to go to work every day at 5:30AM, as he was always the first one in his office by 6:00, and he worked a full 12-hour day every day. I don’t think his work ethic was anything I was acutely conscious of, but I firmly believe that witnessing the consistency of his routine, and hard work, left an indelible impression on me, almost like I had an innate responsibility to exhibit the same energy, passion, and professional tenacity as he did throughout his career.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
I believe this is where my story gets fun and interesting. Things are going great today, and I could not be happier as the President of Towerpoint Wealth, nor prouder of the boutique and fully independent wealth management firm that I launched 3 ½ years ago. While my current workload is more robust to what it had been previously (I now choose to wake up at 4:00AM every morning to do “quiet work” until 7:00AM, and then start my “regular” day at 8:30, usually wrapping things up by 6:00PM), having a large equity stake in my own firm make the hard work well worth it. My all-time favorite quote is from Elon Musk, who said the following about starting your own company:
Interestingly, if four years ago you would have told me I would no longer be an employee, no longer working as a financial advisor for a major Wall Street firm, and instead running my own $300 million fully-independent boutique wealth management company with six other team members, I would have laughed directly at you! However, I was left with no choice but to go out on my own and launch my own independent company, understanding I was terminated in April of 2017 by the Wall Street firm I worked for after being a financial advisor there for 18 years. I was an at-will employee with little recourse, being fired came as both a shock and a huge surprise to me, and I was left spinning and completely unsure about what the future held for me, and just as importantly, for my trusted clients.
Being an industry veteran, I had many contacts and good connections in the local wealth management community, and in overseeing a “book” of $250 million of client assets, I was potentially a very attractive hire to the managers of a number of other large Wall Street firms located in Sacramento. However, with the termination “ding” now on my public record, each of these managers’ hands were tied, as their compliance departments would not allow them to extend a job offer to an advisor who was terminated from another Wall Street firm. I quickly realized that I was left with only one choice if I wanted to save my career — I needed to launch my own, fully-independent wealth management firm from ground up, and do so as quickly as possible if I wanted to have a high probability of transitioning most of my loyal clients to my new firm.
With the help of Mindy Diamond of Diamond Consultants and Shirl Penney of Dynasty Financial Partners, I went from a practicing financial advisor employed by a major Wall Street firm with 18 years of tenure, to being fired, to officially launching Towerpoint Wealth, a boutique and fully-independent wealth management firm, all in 30 days. It was an absolute whirlwind, or better said, typhoon — an absolutely huge undertaking that I assuredly would never choose to go through again if given the choice. However, in retrospect, it was unquestionably the best thing that ever happened to me and to my career, it obviously just didn’t feel like it at the time.
Within a year, I diligently worked and grew Towerpoint Wealth from $0 in client assets under management to $180 million, and from one employee (me) to three, subsequent to my team (Lori Heppner, Towerpoint Wealth’s Director of Operations, and Nathan Billigmeier, TPW’s Director of Research and Analytics) joining me at TPW. I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude and pride in the trust, loyalty, and confidence that Nate and Lori showed in me when they both quit the same Wall Street firm I was fired from to work with me at Towerpoint Wealth. Today, TPW has seven team members, and manages more than $320 million of client assets. Our first goal is to reach $1 billion in client assets, which we believe will cement us as the premier wealth management firm in the greater Sacramento region.
I believe it is safe to say that without a huge dose of both grit and resilience, I would not be where I am today, Towerpoint Wealth would not exist, and our clients would be in a much less advantageous personal and economic position.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is hilarious to me now, but for a long, long time I was “professionally paranoid” about being perceived as being too young to be a financial advisor, so I wore fake eyeglasses to make myself appear smarter and more mature! The glasses were a crutch for a long time for me, and justifiably a standing joke among my colleagues and friends. It took awhile to realize that my clients, once I demonstrated my expertise, experience, and most importantly, genuine care, couldn’t care less about my age, nor about my fake glasses.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Two specific items:
- Towerpoint Wealth truly offers comprehensive wealth management as a central service and primary value-add for our clients, meaning we help them properly coordinate all of their financial affairs. Most financial advisors, and wealth management firms, say they do this, but in reality they exhibit a strong bias towards only investment planning and portfolio management. This is not suggesting that investment planning and portfolio management are not important (they most certainly are!), but if our goal truly is to help our clients achieve complete economic peace of mind, then we need to focus on much more than just the investment spoke of the wheel. Taxes, estate planning, retirement planning, income planning, real estate management and analysis, insurance planning, liability management, and cash management are just a sampling of the other spokes of the wheel of the suite of comprehensive wealth management services we offer.
- Culture. Our clients have come to expect us to host regular, fun, and unique client appreciation and education events, which we happily deliver on. Here is what you are missing out on (!):
- Wealth and Health appreciation dinner and seminar at The Vintage Monkey
- Renewable energy / responsible investing private dinner at The Grange
- Participatory cooking demonstration and family-style dinner at Mulvaney’s B&L
- Test drive a Tesla!
Most recently, we had to get creative with the obvious social restrictions that have all had to endure with the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided to host a private virtual wine tasting event with Trent Moffitt of Moffitt Vineyards. We hosted back-to-back virtual events on 12/2 and 12/3, and had approximately 60 clients, colleagues and friends attend each event, and both were an absolute hit!
Click HERE to watch a recording of our 12/3 virtual event.
Additionally, our internal culture is based on the simple “work hard, play hard” mantra — click below for a few examples of how exactly we play hard!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
An excellent question, understanding that extremely hard work seems to be a minimum price of admission to be successful in any industry, the wealth management business certainly included. However, working hard does not have to equate to burning out, as the importance of personal and professional task delegation, schedule structure and “ownership” (don’t be afraid to say “no” to non-essential meetings, emails, calls, and requests), and technology savvy speaks to the ever-increasing ability, and responsibility, we have to work smarter.
We also have a personal responsibility to ensure we keep our priorities straight, as it is easier to thrive professionally when our personal lives are full, a priority, and fulfilling.
The flexibility that the wealth management business provides can be a blessing and a curse, as the “opportunity” to work is ever-present, for better or for worse. But not having to answer to a boss (in the traditional sense of how the word is defined) is truly a luxury, which affords those who have the ability and the skill to properly manage their time and their calendar with the opportunity to take ample amounts of time away from the office to spend time with family, to vacation, and to cultivate hobbies and pursue personal endeavors.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The three people I am most grateful towards who helped me get to where I am are:
- The aforementioned Ron Tolle, who in 1999 took the risk of hiring a tenacious, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed 24-year old with zero experience, and who coached me and helped me develop as a financial advisor and as a man
- The aforementioned Shirl Penney, who took the chance of partnering with me at Dynasty Financial Partners to help me launch Towerpoint Wealth after I had been fired, and showing me and setting the example for me of what leadership means as the president of a company
- The aforementioned Megan Eschleman, my wife of 18 years, who not only “tolerated” my many hours away from home and in the office, supporting me as I grew my client base, but who also encouraged me to take risks, to work hard, and to exhibit sincere care and emotional intelligence when working with each of my clients.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In addition to the financial well-being and economic peace-of-mind that we continue to help our clients achieve, we also channel Towerpoint Wealth’s capital in very philanthropic ways:
- Every year, we send our clients TisBest charity gift cards, giving them the opportunity to redeem them and support charities of their choice.
- We have made 100% matching donations for clients and friends who donated money in support of fire relief in the Napa and Sonoma Valley. Click HERE and HERE.
- We are actively involved in our local community, participating in a myriad of volunteer efforts and sponsoring local educational institutions and charities. Click HERE for examples.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Being a financial advisor and being president are two completely different skill sets. Leading clients, versus leading employees, requires different competencies. I never had to focus on, coordinate, nor worry about client billing, HR, business expenses, accounting, corporate taxes, mergers and acquisitions, sales training, employee onboarding, compliance program coordination, firm-level cybersecurity, and hardware and software management and due diligence when I was a “regular” retail financial advisor at a major Wall Street firm. I do now!
- Your firm will not grow if you are not willing to work longer, harder, and smarter than your competition. I was quite comfortable, and successful, working 35 hours a week as a “regular” retail financial advisor at a major Wall Street firm. As evidenced by #1 directly above, the myriad of additional responsibilities that I now have as president requires a lot more of my professional energy, attention, and time.
- The ultimate success, or failure, of your organization originates at the top, and is a product of the decisions, or non-decisions, of the President. As important as it is to delegate, and to hire and interface with good, smart, intelligent people and colleagues, the buck stops with the person in charge. As a “regular” retail financial advisor at a major Wall Street firm, I basically only had to answer to myself and to my clients — now, I manage a team of six (plus myself), which I fully anticipate to significantly grow over the next few years, and their success, and the success of Towerpoint Wealth, depends on how I coordinate and support everyone as the President.
- Your people (and not your clients) are your company’s biggest assets — never forget to treat them that way and remind and show them that constantly. Flexible schedules and unlimited vacation, mandatory days off, regular pay increases, internal recognition of professional accomplishments, personal handwritten notes of appreciation, hosting employees and their families for dinner at my home, unique and personal holiday gifts, employee appreciation and teambuilding events, and cultivating an internal culture and belief in “the Towerpoint Wealth family” at every turn is a responsibility that I sincerely enjoy.
- As Gary Vaynerchuk said, “Stop focusing on dumb sh**. Don’t be afraid to break things. Don’t be romantic. Don’t forget to take the time to breathe. Don’t aim for perfect. And whatever you do, keep moving.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Starting a movement that ensured financial literacy classes were mandated for and taught to both middle school and high school students. A significant percentage of our population are uneducated about and struggle with even basic financial, investment, and wealth-building principles, and to teach these ideas and ideals to our children, when they are young and impressionable, would have a long-lasting and extremely accretive effect on our society. While we’re at it, please require our politicians to attend these classes as well!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
- Click HERE and follow TPW on LinkedIn
- Click HERE and follow TPW on Facebook
- Click HERE and follow TPW on Instagram
- Click HERE and follow TPW on Twitter
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
It was a lot of fun, and was absolutely my pleasure!