A Unique Approach to Hiring & the Positive Impact That Can Have on the World w/Stacey McKinnon[Ep70]

Welcome to episode 70 of The Innovating Advice Show.

I’m joined by Stacey McKinnon who is the Chief Operating Officer at Morton Capital Management which manages $2bn in assets and has a team of 45 people.

What’s surprising, though, is that 75% of those team members came to Morton with no prior experience in financial services.

In this episode, we’re discussing how Stacey has completely flipped hiring on its head, her extreme focus on client and employee experiences and her big, hairy, audacious goal that could not only transform financial services, but make the whole world a better place.

Whether you’re a solo shop or also have a team of 45, this episode will change your thinking about how to find and build your team and the positive impact that can have on the world.


Guest Bio

Stacey McKinnon joined Morton Capital in 2014. She oversees internal and external operations, including the client experience, service offering, marketing and business operations. Stacey graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in September 2007, with Bachelor of Arts degrees in business economics and religious studies. Stacey is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and holds a Series 65 license.


01:00 - Introducing Stacey McKinnon

02:25 - The future of the workplace

06:28 - Becoming the Chief Operating Officer of Morton Capital Management

09:07 - Working at Peet’s Coffee: the belief system behind the brand

10:52 - Doing things differently: the power of emotions

13:23 - The story behind The Savannah Bananas baseball team: creating an experience

14:47 - Why acting in the client’s best interest means creating a resilient firm

19:24 - How to hire the right talent

23:22 - Hiring people without previous experience

26:57 - Can solo-practitioners hire this way too?

29:15 - How to plan hiring and business growth

33:12 - Salary and bonuses

35:35 - Setting goals

39:35 - Creating connection in the workplace

42:06 - Moving away from a presence-based management system to goals-based

45:17 - Some final thoughts


Kate: Hi, Stacey. Welcome to the show.

Stacey: Thanks for having me.

Kate: It's such a pleasure to have you here. We have such an important discussion to have. And to provide some context for this powerful topic, I want to share with the audience a few of your own words. And then I'll probably ask you to explain how you came up with this really amazing outlook on the future of the workplace. And you said: "I have this dream that if workplaces were better that would actually fix a lot of societal issues. That if people were happy at work, there may be less depression in the world, less suicide and happier relationships. And then anything you can do to help people think differently about the workplace and think about it being a place where leaders have the responsibility to help society be better by helping their people be happier." That's amazing.

Stacey: I believe that so strongly. It's like my personal why in life.

Kate: It's, that's a huge, huge why, and it's so powerful and it encompasses so many elements of our lives, in the universe and how we all work together. So how did you bring that all together into, into that framing?

Stacey: It was, it was actually a really interesting story. About two years ago, maybe a year into me becoming the COO of the company. I had a prospect meeting and this particular prospect was actually a leader of a nonprofit organization. And as I was chatting more with her about her life and what she enjoys and what she loves, she said her favorite part of being a leader is the dinner table conversations. And I'm like the dinner table conversations? What do you mean by the dinner table conversations? And she said to me, part of leadership is empowering your people so much so, to the point where they have a beautiful dinner with their family, and that was like took me back and just made me rethink my entire approach to leadership because at the end of the day, if my role as a leader is to empower people, create meaningful work for them, help them be even more fulfilled in their job.

Stacey: And the end result of that is that they have an amazing dinner with their family. Like how beautiful is that? And then I kind of was like, well, why does it have to stop there? Why does it just have to stop at the dinner table? Because if somebody truly is happy at work and they bring that happiness home, and then that happiness spreads to their wife and their kids and their mom and their dad and their uncle and their aunt. And then that happiness then spreads even further. I mean, what kind of world would we live in if people were happy at work?

Stacey: And I read a recent Gallup poll that was like outstanding, that said that something like 80% of people are unhappy in the workplace. And that made me just take a step back and realize the power of excellent leadership or empowering leadership because we as leaders, if we can create more happiness with 80% of our world and just the way that we treat people and we work with them, I mean, that's massive change that could occur. So that's my big, hairy, audacious goal is to change the dinner table conversations, which hopefully will have more of a longstanding impact.

Kate: And change the world. So you, you may have created the answer to world peace.

Stacey: I wish it was that easy if it was that easy, that would be really amazing. but you know, leadership is a hot topic. Leadership is a hot topic in our world right now at the highest position. So how do we, how do we change actually the way that we treat one another and, and the impact that that can make. I think there's a, a lot of amazing quotes about kindness out there, but I'm a true believer that kindness might be one of the most powerful, starting points of change.

Kate: Yes it is. And we're going to be talking a lot about, okay, how do you build that team and how do you find that talent and the shifting workplace in this new totally virtual world, we're all living in. But to also give a little more context, you have a pretty incredible story of how you became the chief operating officer of Morton capital. And it is not a traditional path that probably anybody else has taken. So talk us through how you came into that role.

Stacey: Sure. Well, it's just even a little bit of history. I went to UC Santa Barbara, which is on the California coast. I have a bachelor's degree in business economics and religious studies, which are two very polar opposite topics. I actually think I used my religious studies one more though, in this industry than I do  mostly because it taught me about people and people coming from different places in life and trying to meet them where they're at and better understand, Hey, what are the things that you value? Where are you coming from? And then how can I help you get to where you want to go.

Stacey: While working in Santa Barbara, I was a wedding and event coordinator and that was such a fun career. and I really enjoyed helping people in that way. but then when I, myself was going to get married, I moved to a new location and there was just no opportunity for wedding and event coordinators where I was.

Stacey: So I joined a Pilates studio and then I loved it. And so I said, I'll be an instructor. And then I was an instructor and, eventually the owner needed help managing the studio. So I started managing the studio and I was doing that for about two years. And one day after class, one of my clients came to me and said, Hey, I just took over running a wealth management firm. will you come join? I was like, I'm not sure I can transition from being a Pilates instructor to sitting behind a desk all day. And she was very persistent. She said, look, I love the way that these classes are run. I love the energy you bring to the table. So I think you can be really successful in finance and it's not Wolf of Wall Street like people think. It's not all about Bernie Madoff.

Stacey: It's actually really powerful, the impact you can make on people's lives. So after, quite a bit of convincing, I joined the firm in 2014, and became the chief operating officer in 2017. I also have my CFP and work with some clients, but overall it was a huge change.

Stacey: I'm so happy I did it. I'm so happy I decided not to just let what I knew dictate the rest of my life. I mean, my life has transformed in the last six years. And I think that's also what makes me really passionate about leadership, people, and talent development, because this industry can offer so much to so many people, not just the clients we serve, but the people we have in our team. And I would love to give other people the same opportunity that was given to me.

Kate: Well, and you also worked at Peet's coffee.

Stacey: I did. I also worked at Peet's coffee, which that was a transitional moment too in life. I'm so grateful for that because I've recruited six of my coworkers to now work here. 

Kate: Amazing. And we're going to talk about how that's happened, cause that's just so cool.

Stacey: Yeah. It was a really great place to be actually. To give Peet's a little bit of credit, just even as a company, they are so intentional on training. but they don't just train and say, Hey, you need to learn this training because you need to do your job and you need to do your job better. They say, Hey, we have a belief system that coffee can be produced in a way that benefits everyone involved, the farmers, the way that the beans are roasted, the way that we bring it to the table, the smell in our coffee shops, how we market ourselves, how we actually stand for what we believe in.

Stacey: And so Peet's had this way of like creating this belief system in the company and what the company stood for and who the company benefited beyond just the end client. And I think that that translated so well into then how we served our clients. And so even thinking about the way that we think about our business, so much of the company is about  the beneficiaries beyond just the clients. And, I think Peet's really taught us that well so that when it came to recruiting people to join our organization, I knew that I was recruiting people who could like have that like really, really raw, incredible belief system in the company, and then figure out how to make that best serve the people that we serve.

Kate: And that's what's so cool about your history. And I've often talked about how I actually got a degree in photography in Australia, and I think that has benefited me hugely coming into the profession and having a totally different perspective of how things work and not just being taught. Hey, this is how we've always done it. So this is how it works forward.

Kate: And you've used the example before of you've, you've come at it from a few different angles, all of which are fantastic, but it's really about creating that experience and whether it's creating an experience for a wedding or an event or a Pilates class or the experience of someone coming in to get coffee. There's so much that goes into that, that I don't feel like we talk enough about in financial services. And we're talking about the experience of creating people's lives and fulfilling their goals and dreams. And that's, that's probably the biggest experiences anyone's going to have the things that the financial planners help them create the plan to execute.

Stacey: Well. It's, it's funny because I think that we, we feel like data is what's going to change the mind of people, but it's actually emotion that changes the mind of people. So you can look at data, but then what that data produces is confidence. So if you, if you actually start catering how you develop a company to the experience, you actually are like developing a company to the emotions that you're trying to elicit from the experience that you're creating. So every time that you say, Hey, we're going to give this presentation and showcase this data. Well, what emotion are you trying to elicit? What is the end result of what you're doing? Because I think that people, people are connected to emotions. They're not just connected to facts. And that's something that I feel like our industry is trying to develop, but I don't see it quite as much as I'd love to, because I feel like if we, if we truly had that like end result, the  emotion we were trying to elicit in mind, I feel like we would do things a lot differently and we could actually change the reputation of our industry because I think that's still a huge issue.

Stacey: I still think there's a lot of distrust in financial services, which is so unfortunate because we can do so many good things for so many people. But if we can't elicit that emotion of trust, outside of people who already work with advisors, I think that'll be a big roadblock in all of our growth.

Kate: Yeah. And as I was thinking through a lot of your examples, are you familiar with the Savannah Bananas baseball team?

Stacey: I am not.

Kate: So it's a super cool story, but historically baseball in the U S you've got a lot of fans, but you've got a lot of people that are not as interested. And there was this, a baseball team in Savannah, Georgia that was failing and they were not getting fans and they were going broke. And somebody came in and said, I'm going to rethink the entire experience. And it was everything from how people purchase their tickets to what happens when they show up to park to checking in to everything. And they just created honestly, dozens of incredible touch points in a way that no other baseball team in the history of the sport has done to just completely revitalize and change how people think about baseball.

Kate: And I love that story because I've thought about that a lot with, well, how can we apply that to financial services because you're right. You were just talking about the data and what emotions are we trying to elicit.

Kate: I feel like the emotions that often do get elicited are overwhelm and confusion, and maybe a little bit of dread;  it's not those positive emotions that are going to get results and help the clients to take action on that advice. So it's just a super cool story. I'll find the podcast and link to it in the notes, but there's a lot that goes into that. And that's in line with your thinking of just how can we do things differently?

Kate: And you've used the example of like, the restaurant, if you're in a restaurant, you don't have the hostess or the waiter that takes your order then running in the back and cooking the food.

Stacey: Right.

Kate: And I love those visuals. And that was such a big thing because I work with a lot of really small maybe solo preneurs and boutique practices. And we get this whole like, Hey, we have to wear all the hats and we have to do everything, but you're even helping changing my whole thinking about that. And you're like, but you, you shouldn't, you shouldn't be doing it all.

Stacey: In fact. And I think that's actually an interesting issue in our industry. A lot of people think acting in the client's best interest means being there the minute they need something and you being the guy or the girl that can do everything. And I, I think that's actually incredibly backwards. Like I don't think that acting in the client's best interest is being there the minute they need anything anytime. 

Stacey: I think acting in the client's best interest is creating a resilient firm that can exist beyond even yourself, creating mass expertise, creating an environment where people want to collaborate. They thrive. So that that client is not just working with one person that has one point of view, but working with multiple individuals who have multiple points of view to truly come up with the best solution for them, I think that we, we tend to defer to acting in the client's best interest, in kind of an ego-driven way, honestly.

Stacey: And I love to even challenge the industry to really think about what that means, because I feel like if we were to actually contemplate what acting in the client's best interest meant, we would prioritize our people much, much more than we currently do and focus on how they can then empower the client and what tools, what resources, what technology do they need. And if I'm removed from the situation, how can I actually ensure that the best possible experience is created no matter who's  the one sitting across the table in front of the client.

Stacey: And I think that's where that kind of restaurant analogy comes from. It's like, if I'm the owner of the restaurant, do I want to be serving every single table? Or do I want to be ensuring that those tables are properly served? And I, I think that that changing your mindset on that way a little bit would be very powerful in our industry.

Stacey: We think of ourselves, this is a little bit more, of like, I guess our personal messaging as a company, but we always tell our clients or prospective clients that we're kind of like a farm to table restaurant versus a traditional steak house. And the reason we say that is because, and traditional steak houses, you can go, it's consistent, you can get meat and potatoes you're always going to get it. And that's kind of like stocks and bonds, but in a farm to table restaurant, they go out to the marketplace, they see what's in season, and then they select different ingredients and change the menu every day. Our firm is a little bit more heavy in alternative investments. And so we're very much like that where we're going out to the marketplace, we're seeing what's in season and then we're custom designing our menu, but then it can't just stop there.

Stacey: You can't just put a menu in front of a client or a, or a guest at your restaurant and be like, here, that's it, here's the menu. You got it. Now we're going to serve you the food and walk away. That's not how it works at a farm to table restaurant. You walk in and usually the tables are made of like, wood or beautiful material they're not covered with the tablecloth The kitchen is open and things are transparent. Oftentimes the owner is the chef and cooking the food. And, the wife or other family members are there to greet you at the door with a hug, like every single moment of a farm to table restaurant experience has to be translatable to what we do too. And so we even have like a menu of drinks when clients walk in the door that we give to them, and then they can choose from the menu.

Stacey: We call our prospect meetings, not a prospect meeting. We call it the prospect experience. And in the prospect experience, it has things like, some time dedicated to whiteboard brainstorming. We share a short video during the prospect experience. There is some sides and some PowerPoints, but we're trying to kind of even grab some of the different senses because at the end of the day, the experience we create is what's going to tie the client to us. And if we can not just stop at here's the menu, do you like it or not, but actually think about the fullness of the experience. I think it'll just be that much better.

Kate: That's fantastic. And I love that it's all about that experience. And again, I, the Savannah bananas thing, it's just create a different experience and think about it differently and touching on that point about what's in the client's best interest. That's a huge challenge we have coming up in this profession, in the US and the UK and other more developed financial planning countries around the world, is all these solo owner businesses. And  one of the challenges is people don't know who to hire, how to hire. It's not easy to let things go to create that experience. But if you do think about what's in the client's best interest, well, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, then what happens to those clients? How do they get taken care of? What is that experience from there?

Kate: So knowing how unique of a perspective and approach you take to hiring, and you've already mentioned you've hired six people from Peet's coffee, as we're thinking about approaching this differently, how and where do you find the right talent and what do you look for in that?

Stacey: So I would say that there's two different interviews that we commonly have in our organization. We have an interview from somebody who we've seen in the world outside of us, whether we've gone to the same restaurant for a year and had that same server that was just so excellent that we've recruited them in to do an interview with us.

Stacey: We've had an English teacher,  somebody that worked at  a recovery center, another person who was  an administrator of  a preschool, all of these different people that we've brought into the organization. I would say actually probably 75% of our organization is someone who did not have previous industry experience and then started with us. They are people we meet and oftentimes we're selling ourselves in the interview process, and it's not actually about them sitting across the table from us, showcasing their best self and doing a song and a dance.

Stacey: Oftentimes it's us as leaders saying, Hey, we know that the career you've had before this was not the end goal for you. It wasn't that fulfilling. We're willing to invest into you as an organization because we've seen the translatable skills in other places we've experienced, either your services at a restaurant or a Peet's coffee or what we've known of you over the years. Oftentimes we get a lot of referrals for friends, into the organization as well. And we think you can do it, and we're going to believe in you and you're, we're going to walk you through it. And I choose character over experience. That is one interview style that we have. And that's a very different way of thinking about it is really when you, as the firm are selling yourself to the candidate and asking the candidate to have faith and believe in you, that you're going to empower them to get to where they want to go.

Stacey: And then similar to the way that I felt empowered to get to where I am today that to me is  so fulfilling. Even  from a leadership standpoint. I love taking someone from the unknown to  Hey, I know myself and I feel confident in myself and I'm so stoked on what I'm doing now.

Kate: Yeah.

Stacey: We hear a lot from some of those team members that they're just grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this organization and to be a part of this industry that they knew nothing about before, and they're bettering their lives and the lives of their family along the way too.

Stacey: Then the other interview is the people who are selling themselves to us. and there are people with experience that work here and they're excellent. They're so good. And we're so grateful that they came in and it made the training process a lot easier, but that interview experience is a little bit different because we're also looking for character and then character along with knowing how to do the job or had similar  job experience in the past.

Stacey: So I think that in the interview process, we've had to be very open-minded to both selling ourselves and, having someone sell themselves to us.

Kate: Well, I want to start with the first one, cause that's just flipping the entire process and experience on its head and you're right . I experience the same thing, like when I'm out and you get really amazing service, which is unfortunately just so rare that it does stand out, and you see these people and my husband, I have thought that so many times we're like, you should be doing something incredible. And we've thought, Hey, if we had bigger businesses or we could hire people, like you just get that sense that these people are hardworking, that they have all those amazing innate skills and that they would bring so much to any organization.

Kate: So what advice would you have to people that are stuck in the more traditional way of thinking of, Hey, you have to have a resume and I'm always looking to see who's hiring. Cause I'm super curious what's going on out there.

Stacey: Yeah.

Kate: All of it is, even for an entry level operations. It's usually three to five years of experience in financial services and a degree in finance. And there are so many barriers that like you just said, I can see why people are so grateful because there isn't a traditional path into these roles.

Stacey: No.

Kate: So what advice would you have for people to help them start to think outside the box and identify those people when they're out in the world?

Stacey: Well, I think that A) there's a quote out there that "what got you here, won't get you there." So first of all, I think that everyone should pause on that and think whatever got me here won't necessarily get me there.

Stacey: **The question I would ask is when you put out a job posting that says three to five years of experience and a financial services certification degree, why are you asking for that? And generally you're asking for that, so you don't have to do training.

Stacey: So the followup question to that is what does training actually look like? How long would it take? What type of investment is training and would it be better to have somebody with better character and values that align with you and do the training, or is it better to not have to do the training, but then end up with a smaller pool of potential talent and potentially talent that comes with a lot of preconceived notions of what financial services is, and maybe even bad habits that they've learned in other organizations.

Stacey: And that's not always true. I want to just clarify, like we have a lot of really good people that have experienced that work for us. But I think that oftentimes leaders default on what they know because the unknown takes a lot of work and effort.

Stacey: The second piece of that besides training is also communication. So communication and training can solve most issues that organizations run into, but that puts the impetus on the leader or the manager to be the responsible party, not the team member to be the responsible party. So oftentimes when we think about leadership or management, we're transitioning responsibility to that employee to say, Hey, you need to bring your best self to work every day. You need to show up in these ways.

Stacey: When you are hiring somebody from outside the industry, you actually have to take more of the responsibility. I'm going to dedicate time to training you. I'm going to dedicate time to communicating to you. I'm going to dedicate time to empowering you. And my request for you is that you just are open-minded with like a heart to learn. I just want you to learn. I want you to be stoked about learning. I want you to be invested in learning and just asking for learning for the next six months. That is a total change in mindset and much more difficult from a leadership standpoint to execute.

Kate: So how many people work at Morton Capital?

Stacey: We have 45 team members.

Kate: So definitely on the bigger side.

Stacey: Yeah, there are a lot of people in this organization.

Kate: So yeah, I mean 45. That's that's pretty big. So what about those solo practitioners? Or the people with three people in the business, can they still employ this same thinking and take that time to train those people and invest that initial six months?

Stacey: I think they can. But again, it's about having the mentality that you want to build a resilient firm that's truly going to act in a client's best interest. And you have to believe that acting in the client's best interest is not you being at the table for every single conversation and every single activity. You have to believe that a client will be so much more benefited if you have time in your day to read the latest research on financial planning strategies, or look at the investment universe from a broader sense and truly understand what's in their best interest that you even want to drive growth. I mean, sometimes clients get a little bit intimidated by growth because they're like, Oh wait, you won't have time for me anymore. I mean, in fact, what growth does is it provides more capital for me as a business owner, to reinvest in the company, to hire more talent, to have more points of view.

Stacey: And you are going to be served so much better if we grow than you ever were before. If the business owner is actually investing in creating that resilient company. And so that's, my advice is like, take a step back and say, Hey, what are the activities that I'm doing that I shouldn't be doing Because it's actually impeding the client  experience. Who can I hire to do those activities? And what's it going to take to train them?

Stacey: And by the way, it doesn't always mean you training them either like you can, we spread training out across this entire organization, every time someone new comes in so that a lot of the pressure isn't just on one person or one team, but there's also training resources out there in the industry. Schwab has training programs and videos. Fidelity has training program videos. There's lots of consultants. There's operational groups that people can join. I don't think it all has to be on the shoulders of the principle of a four person firm. Yeah,

Kate: Yeah, I agree. So how do you decide when you go that first route of finding someone amazing and selling the firm to them or the second route of, Hey, we are looking for experience and the person is selling themselves to you.

Stacey: We do it at the same time. So we kind of put out the broad based mandate of like, Hey, we're looking for good people. We tell everyone on our team, if you know somebody that you think would be a good fit, please refer them in and we'll interview them. And then in addition, we send out some type of like, hosting either LinkedIn or we've been working really closely with athletes to careers, a group that takes former professional athletes and helps them find careers. So we'll work with groups like that as well.

Stacey: I think overall though, most of the candidates that come to us are not checking the three to five years of experience and certification. And then we have to admit as an organization that the time and energy we take in training is going to be much longer and we have to plan for it much further in advance, sometimes years in advance.

Stacey: So I might be planning for somebody right now that I'm trying to hire that  I need to grow into an associate advisor role in two years because the current person in that role has about two years left until they can become a lead advisor and fill another lead advisor slot that's going to become a senior advisor and like manage their own team and do more business development. So you you're constantly playing this game of like, who's moving and where do I need to fill a spot. And oftentimes it's like two years out that I really need that position, but I'm willing to put the next two years in to filling it, training for it. And then having that person be ready.

Kate: Well, that's a really important thing because that's one of the other challenges in people hiring in this profession is there is generally a lack of career path and people that go in and they kind of get stuck and not to be picking on the smaller businesses, but it is a bigger problem there where maybe they're going to be a succession plan, but the goalpost keeps moving or the business isn't growing so there isn't anywhere for them to go. So how many layers I guess, of a career path do you guys have?

Stacey: We have so many layers. We basically have five different departments. So we have a client service career path. We have a business operations career path, things like MBA, we have an investments career path, financial planning career path and an advisory career path. So most people have the option to go on any of those career paths, but something you just said, I think is so important. I said it earlier as well. We have to grow in order to do that.

Stacey: And I think that's where some of the smaller firms get a little stuck in chicken and the egg. Do I hire this person to free up my capacity to grow, or do I grow so that I can hire this person?  I would make a bet that the former is probably your better solution. I think, figure out a way, if you can be more long-term minded saying, Hey, I'm going to grow.

Stacey: And I'm going to be able t