Shane Westhoelter is the CEO of Gateway Financial Advisors, and I want to congratulate him on being a 2020 Spirit of Cambridge¹ honoree. Shane’s journey has some unique twists. He’s approached and reached his level of success by taking many different turns.
“I grew up in a very small town in Missouri,” said Shane. “Very rural, very small. A farm boy, I got into sports early on. I loved sports and was going down that path, competing in a variety of sports, and then went off to college. I was the first one in my family to go to college. A lot of my family ended up being factory workers, or working on the farm. My dad was always an entrepreneur, always trying to find a better way for us. I wanted to go into corporate law. However, I found myself two years into college dropping out and having to raise a family. I married very young, and was a cable lineman for a few years.”
Shane notes his dad had been in and out of the insurance business, and told Shane he might want to look at the insurance business and thought he would be good at it. So, taking his father’s advice, in 1988, he started in the insurance business, going door to door and selling life insurance policies, in the inner city of St. Louis. About 90 days after starting in the insurance business, he had to deliver his first death claim check to a grieving mother. This experience gave him his first look into the ‘heart’ that comes from this business.
As Shane describes that day - “When I got there, I knocked on the door,” said Shane. “She said, ‘Mr. Shane, please come in. Thank you so much for being here.’ She had lost her seven-year-old son in a drive-by shooting. I remember we sat for about an hour. Reminisced, talked about her son, and she said to me, ‘Shane this check may not seem like a lot of money to someone like you,’ – of course she didn't know at the time that was like a lot of money to me – ‘this check will allow me to keep my dignity. I won't have to ask my family and my friends or the church for money to give my son the decency he deserves. So thank you for helping me keep my dignity.’ That resonated with me, and so that was kind of the start.”
It was very moving to hear of the pain felt by those on the receiving end of death claim checks. Shane’s journey left him to positions with other insurance companies throughout his career, and he spent time in more of a corporate role for a while; we talk about what he learned from the experience.
“It kind of gave me the peek behind the curtain,” said Shane. “I served as a regional vice president for a broker dealer, owned by Hartford. I had my own organization, it was growing and expanding, and I was recruited there because they wanted to cross sell. They brought me in as a regional vice president in the Northern California area. I did this for about a year and a half, and then Hartford went through some downsizing. It was kind of last in, first out, no hard feelings, but it did give me a great opportunity to see what it was like to be on the management side of the table, and to recruit and build, versus focusing strictly on the client side and working with clients every day. A challenge, because I love working with clients. I love helping them solve their problems, or looking at solutions. But, the challenge of managing both became tough. I either had to work with advisors, or I had to work with clients, and it was really difficult at that time to try and do both.”
This is a great segue. I know Shane has the capability of running at breakneck speed, but we talk about how he now effectively balances the client side and his business tasks. Coaching other financial professionals, and building his organization with financial professionals that have the same kind of core values and approach is near and dear to his heart.
“Balance is difficult,” said Shane. “I'm an entrepreneur at heart. My dad was always an entrepreneur; and he probably had four or five businesses going at one time constantly. He was always in sales, so I was fortunate enough to grow up at four, five, or six years of age, listening to Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar, and all these tapes and motivational things. My focus today is on the associates, helping them grow their practices, helping them solve any items that they may come into, whether its, ‘Hey, I've got this client with this issue or a problem that we need to solve for,’ or whatever it might be.”
“Success isn’t owned, it’s leased. And rent is due every day.”
─ J.J. Watt, NFL
Shane and I talked about his work with clients, he’s building a fantastic business, he spends time coaching, and helping other financial professionals, which is so in need inside of our industry today; and he volunteers. Now let’s hear more about what else he does that he enjoys and what motivates him, and not just on the life side of things.
“I do take time for myself,” said Shane. “I love what I do, so it's kind of like a pro athlete. When you get up and you love what you do every day, it's not work, necessarily. Some days it does feel like work, of course, but I look forward to the travel, meetings, meeting with associates, and being in conference calls. It's what drives me. For me personally, I will build in my own personal time. I like to hike, I like to bike, I like to swim. Of course, I'm a runner, I've ran my entire life. For me to get that alone time would be to take off and run maybe a half an hour or an hour, and just have that alone time and de-stress. I do golf occasionally when I can make the time to do it, but I'm more of an adventure guy. I'm very competitive; anything that's related to sports: pick-up basketball teams, whatever on a weekend, go play volleyball. I won't sit still.”
This is a perfect segue on how a successful practice can start with a specialty, a niche. Shane started working with athletes a few years ago, beginning with those in the NFL. His team also includes a former pro NFL player.
“We started off working with NFL athletes a few years back,” said Shane. “Now its pro athletes in general with some NBA, major league baseball, even soccer, and so forth, and there was a crossover there. One, I was very competitive, like I said, in sports all the way up into college. I was actually doing about a four minute mile when I was a junior in high school, and so I was qualifying for the junior Olympics and then towards the US Olympic team. The year that I was to compete in the US Olympics, I actually had been selected to be part of the team, but then we boycotted the Olympics.”
“I was starting to work with the pro athletes. We're working with retired players and some of them have foundations, and again, that crosses over into helping communities, and how do they raise money, and managing maybe the money for them and their organizations, and then working with the athletes as they're coming in on the front end. I'm finding satisfaction working with the retired players and their foundations, and what they want to do to create their stories, or create their legacies.”
Shane has done a lot of really interesting things on his journey, and we talk about the opportunity in this industry. He shares his thoughts about those considering our profession, and exploring becoming a financial professional.
“I was very driven by achievement in my early career,” said Shane. “I'm more motivated now about desires of giving back, and what I can do to help others. If you're coming into this business, understand it's unlimited. You can do what you want to do, take off the time you want to take off, work when you want to work. You can make as much as you want to make. You have to figure out your why, because if you're trying to live on someone else’s why, then it's not going to be a good fit. Once you're in the industry and you have some success, there's many opportunities to give back. It's what can we do as financial professionals, to make a difference in the communities that we live. That to me is the heart of it.”
Great advice. I still believe there is a strong, inaccurate perception out there that our industry is highly inflexible, and what Shane has shared is the exact opposite of having more flexibility to enjoy a career and life – which is the word we really need to get out there. I appreciate Shane for being a part of Cambridge Stronger, and thank him for trusting us and being a great partner.
“There is only one way to succeed in anything … and that is to give it everything.”
–Vince Lombardi, NFL
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to listen to my podcast with Shane to hear from him on how he built his business, his thoughts on motivation, and his drive to succeed.
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 ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ 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 Gateway Financial Advisors 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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