Last Updated on November 16, 2020
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About Drew Parker
I grew up on the East Coast, lived in Chicago for a few years, and now reside in the Seattle area. I’m a Gemological Institute of America trained Gemologist and began my career in the Fine Jewelry industry. After being the V.P. of a premier independent jeweler, and then of a wholesale diamond dealer, I wanted to have the experience of working for a large national company ($1B+). I became a Fine Jewelry buyer for Nordstrom, and after several years transitioned into the role of a Merchandise Financial Planner for a $1B segment of the business (less traveling!) and then became the first Merchandise Financial Manager for Nordstrom Rack ($5B). While I became well versed in the principles and best practices of business financial planning, I also gained extensive experience in designing and building financial planning tools. I “retired” from Nordstrom in 2016 and a year later created The Complete Retirement Planner (www.completeretirementplanner.com).
About The Complete Retirement Planner
When I learned that 82% of households have no written financial plan, and don’t know how to create one, I knew that I could help. When it comes to financial planning, no one should need to rely on guesses, assumptions, generic benchmarks, or any advice that presents broad generalizations as specific goals, yet, that’s what 82% of households are doing. Calculators, apps, and “planners” that ask only 4-5 questions are woefully inadequate (that’s being kind). In an effort to help “the 82%”, I created The Complete Retirement Planner (TCRP), a unique financial planning tool that makes it easy for anyone to easily create a comprehensive, completely individualized, year by year financial plan for both pre- and post-retirement. The information it provides rivals financial plans offered by professional advisers for a fraction of the cost. Our e-commerce site also educates about what constitutes a reliable retirement plan, as well as responsible financial planning best practices. With less than $1,000, and without any assistance or experience, I formed an L.L.C., designed an e-commerce web site, and a new business was born.
How Did You Get Your First Several Customers Or Users? How Many Users Or Customers Do You Have Now?
I had no idea if people would trust an unknown, obviously small start-up for such an important task, so I priced the planner far below market value and included every detail of what the planner was capable of on the web site. I wanted to make sure, as much as possible, that the benefits of using the planner were clear and that potential questions were answered without having to ask them. I had no advertising budget at this point and was unsure of how well I had set up effective SEO, so any sales would constitute proof of concept. Within a month I had a dozen sales, which I counted as a huge success, since simply having a web site offers no guarantee that anyone will find it, much less purchase something. From that humble beginning, sales have gown consistently year over year. We don’t release financial information, but I’m happy to say that we have satisfied customers from coast to coast.
How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?
We tried advertising through Facebook, Google Ads, press releases and other venues, but none proved to be worthwhile. To be honest, word of mouth and personal referral is what has worked best for us. The majority of customers state that they have found us through an organic internet search or by personal referral. It may not seem like you can grow a business this way (and if you’re trying to become the next Tesla you probably can’t) but if you’re happy building a business slowly but surely (and without an advertising expense), it can work. Pay a lot of attention to SEO to help people find your web site and it will pay off. If you have a great product that people need and will benefit from, especially at a more-than-fair price, they will be willing to try it even if it’s an unknown. I’ve never tried to “sell” the planner, I just present it. It also helps that we still have virtually no competition (that’s not a challenge!). We’ve also been fortunate to have been mentioned in several on-line articles from U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, MSN.com and Kiplinger’s.
What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?
I’ve run brick and mortar businesses, but an e-commerce business is very different. Put a lot of effort into the different ways that people can hear about your business. SEO is primary so that your site can be found in the first place. Your website needs to be well written (succinct but informative), organized, current at all times, and easy to navigate. People have short attention spans on-line so be sure to show them the most important information you have right up front. Get feedback on your website (from customers, not just friends or employees). Contact social media influencers and explain, briefly, what you are trying to accomplish and ask for their assistance. Find a way to make it mutually beneficial. In the very beginning, simply make sure that everyone you have ever known, and everyone they have ever known, is aware of your business. If you really have something good to offer, word will travel fast.
What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?
There is a void of highly-capable, user-friendly, and affordable financial planning tools available to the public. That shouldn’t be the case in this day and age, and it’s no wonder that the average household struggles with their finances so much. On top of this, many articles offering advice about financial/retirement planning are filled with half-truths (e.g. the “4% rule”, when to claim Social Security, how much you need to save, etc.) and can often be misleading. They may be well-meaning, but everyone’s circumstances, needs, and goals are unique and providing generic benchmarks that are meant for everyone and noone in particular is not helpful. To make matters worse, they often recommend using one of the plethora of available retirement calculators, which are all based on erroneous assumptions and omit essential information. The calculators may be free, but wrong answers are expensive. Directional advice is not enough when it comes to taking control of your finances. It’s no better than telling someone who wants to travel to Paris to simply head East. So many critical steps and considerations are left out that they only have a small chance of being successful.
What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?
Honestly, the craziest thing that’s happened is that I was able to create a product and start a successful business completely on my own, for less than $1,000. While I knew that I had a great product that there was a need for, it would be useless if no one knew about it. I had no idea how to start an e-commerce business, no idea how to set up a legal corporation, no idea how to build/design a web site, no idea how to set up SEO, no idea how to write a blog, and the list goes on. To hire people to help me, just for the initial set up, could have easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. But it doesn’t have to if you are willing to learn. Overcome every obstacle one at a time, stay passionate about what you are trying to accomplish, and you can get where you want to go. Having customers thank me, and tell me how much TCRP has helped them, is the most rewarding outcome I could have hoped for.
What Are Your Favorite Books?
Transparent Things, by Vladimir Nabokov.
How To Make Money In Stocks, by William O’Neill.
Anything You’d Like To Plug?
The only thing I would like to plug is that every household create a comprehensive financial plan. This is not self-serving, I would say it even if I were in a different business. Having a written financial plan is a critical step in achieving financial security. It helps you to assess your current and future financial health, and acts as a financial roadmap. It helps to establish realistic goals, understand the direct impact that current decisions have on long-term results, and to track your progress. It will show, year by year, how quickly you are able to pay off debt, how much is really needed to save for retirement, how long it will take to reach your goals, and what you can do to influence the outcome. You can create a plan by hiring an adviser, doing it on your own, or with the help of any robust planning tool, but it’s most important that you don’t just guess or hope. Seeing your financial future in black and white is eye-opening, and it will give you the confidence to make the best possible financial decisions for your future.
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