Mister Fred Rogers once said, “Real strength has to do with helping others.” Karl Elsass learned customer service as a teenager from his grandfather and his father, and he learned about helping others through financial planning while working with his dad during college breaks. He earned his first license at age 18 and added another license every summer while studying for his finance degree.
Karl, president of Elsass Financial Group, joined me as a guest on my podcast series, ‘Cambridge Stronger’. One of our ‘Spirit of Cambridge1’ honorees, Karl talked about serving clients with quality financial plans that speak directly to their wants, needs, and goals. He began by sharing his learnings from his family.
“My dad and my grandfather had a five and dime store, and I really learned a lot about customer service from those experiences,” said Karl. “I can remember my grandpa telling one of the employees that customers are not an interruption, they are the reason for the business.” This concept really stuck with Karl as he watched his grandpa and dad put in the effort and hard work to create value in their business by serving customers. They sold their store while Karl was in high school and his dad began a business focused on life insurance and financial planning guidance to clients.
“In my freshman year of college, I took a finance course that I really liked, and I realized that my college had a finance degree with a concentration in insurance and investments, and I thought that it really sounded interesting,” said Karl.
He mentioned this to his dad who was the one that suggested Karl earn his licenses and help him in the summer during college break. From then on Karl was hooked on helping others with their financial planning.
Traditions are passed down through generations and back to current day, Karl’s son has now been helping him this past summer while on his first summer break from college. His son has been scanning old files and found a letter Karl wrote during his first summer working with his dad’s business. “I still have that client now, 31 years later.” Karl is hoping that one of his sons will join him in the practice in the near future, allowing him to ensure care for his clients while building upon his succession plan. His son finding the letter to someone still a client after three decades was an inspiring moment for all of them.
Speaking of inspiration, Karl demonstrates commitment to his clients and his family. In fact, Karl has known his wife since they were in kindergarten. “We've been friends forever, and have been married 27 years. I just turned 50 and I feel like I have some time yet to go, but I also feel like I need to start thinking about passing along the business.” Karl said he wanted his sons to find a profession they really enjoy, as he clearly does. It is clear he would be thrilled if his sons were inspired to join him in his business, but above all, Karl wishes to pass down his passion for helping people to his sons. Listening to Karl, I think about insightful thoughts from Winston Churchill who once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
“I really like helping people, and sometimes there are things that they can't do on their own,” said Karl. “They're really thankful that we can help them. When they can really see the value to the bottom line, that's super cool for me.” Karl also said he has a number of family scenarios where he is working with three generations at one time, and he really finds this to be rewarding. Even if younger clients have not yet reached their prime earnings and savings years he likes to work with them and guide them regarding smart financial decisions early on. Relationships with younger clients is key for Karl and his business, and he has found that both parents and grandparents tend to bring them in to receive financial advice.
I also feel strongly with Karl’s approach and together we think more financial professionals can focus on a strategy to engage younger generations – such as offering to talk with a younger person as they graduate from college and start their career. I have done that with my daughter and son and they both know to call our family financial professional when they need support and financial advice. Karl is also helping existing clients set up accounts from money the client is gifting to children or grandchildren. This offers valuable support by helping younger people get their finances sorted and on a positive path early in their life planning.
Cambridge’s core values of integrity, kindness, flexibility, commitment also resonate with Karl in his personal life and professional life as a financial planner. “It's now going to be a year that I have been working with the Cambridge Business Consulting team, and they advised me to first to take a look at our value statements. I found the values at Cambridge are also our values. The value I try to emulate the most is kindness, which is a unique value for Cambridge as a firm. I've always thought that was needed, and it goes back to comments from my grandpa back at his store,” said Karl.
“All you need is in your soul,” is a beautiful phrase from the song ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I feel the kindness and desire to serve others in Karl and his spirit and soul. I am grateful to Karl and independent financial professionals like him who trust us and allow Cambridge to serve them and their clients.
Clients are the reason for this business. This profession is about strength from helping others, and together we are stronger.
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to listen to my podcast with Karl to hear more about his family and business philosophy, as well as why he is an inspiring part of Cambridge Stronger.
1The Spirit of Cambridge Award is given annually to independent financial professionals who are dedicated to serving their clients while reflecting Cambridge’s core values of integrity, commitment, flexibility, and kindness. Each year, Cambridge home office associates select three award recipients from a pool of outstanding financial professionals who have been affiliated with Cambridge for at least 10 years. The awards are presented during Ignite, Cambridge’s annual national conference, along with a donation by Cambridge to a qualified charity of each recipient’s choice to further honor their spirit and dedication to their clients, Cambridge and the industry. The Spirit of Cambridge awards began in 2012 to recognize quality financial professionals reflecting the Cambridge spirit, and thousands of dollars has been donated in their honor to charities across the country. Given their dedication to their clients, Cambridge, and the financial services industry, this is a well-deserved award for each honoree
Testimonial statements and personal experience stories may not be representative of the experience of others and is no guarantee of future performance or success. Quotes are highlights from the podcast episode and may reflect edits for brevity and/or clarity within this blog by Cambridge’s CEO, Amy Webber. These messages and materials are the confidential property of Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. (“Cambridge”). The ideas and information in this presentation are general in nature and provided for informational purposes only. The accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of the information cannot be guaranteed. The information contained herein is not intended to render tax, legal, or investment advice. All rights reserved. Further use is prohibited without prior written consent from Cambridge. Please contact ‘email@example.com’ for questions or consent.
Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC, and investment advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Adviser. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of Cambridge Investment Group, Inc. Cambridge and Elsass Financial Group are not affiliated.
Testimonial statements and personal experience stories may not be representative of the experience of others and is no guarantee of future performance or success.
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