Small Business Interview: Alvin Carlos

Want to see how a financial planner uses LACRM? Check out Alvin's story!
Written by Eunice Koo
Meet our small business owner:

What does District Capital Management do, and how did you get to where you are today?

I’m Alvin Carlos, CFA, CFP® and I’m a Financial Planner and Managing Partner of District Capital Management. I started doing financial planning since 2011, and in February 2013 we established District Capital. District Capital helps young middle class professionals make smart financial decisions. We help individuals and families with budgeting, debt management, retirement planning and investing.

Using an annual retainer model where clients pay a fixed fee each month (starting from $170/mo), we help our clients make smart financial decisions, and be on a path to reach their goals. We help them achieve financial freedom, and align their spending with their values. Unlike more than 90% of financial advisors, we do not sell financial products, and thus can be more objective on the advice we give.

Our firm is unique for three reasons: 1) we give holistic financial advice, 2) we have a strong background on investments (my two business partners manage billions of dollars at a foundation and a pension fund, and I am a CFA charterholder, which is the most recognized investment designation), and 3) we like working with young middle class individuals and families, since we can make a bigger impact that way.

After I finished my graduate program in international economics, I worked for a non-profit in Washington, DC on international development. During that time, I pursued my deep interest in personal finance on the side by consuming investment books and personal finance magazines. I felt it was a waste to keep this knowledge to myself, so I started volunteering to help people with their finances. And I realized that’s what I wanted to do everyday. While working for a non-profit, I also noticed my co-workers and friends struggle with their personal finances. They didn’t know who to trust, and often they just end up winging it. A Brookings study revealed that middle class families lose billions of dollars in avoidable expensive mistakes. A 2015 White House report also revealed that working and middle class families lose $17 billion a year due to hidden fees and conflicted advice given by traditional “financial advisors.” On the flip side, those advisors who have excellent designations and business practices often target high net worth individuals with at least $1 million in assets. This leaves a huge swatch of middle class professionals with nowhere to turn to.

We established District Capital to address this huge gap.

What does a typical day look like for you?

"I have one or two meetings with clients, check-in on where they are at and identify next steps that need to be done."

I start with one or two things that I really need to get done for the day. Then I respond to emails, and go to meetings. At some point, I go through my task list for the day as listed in LACRM.

I have one or two meetings with clients, check-in on where they are at and identify next steps that need to be done. I respond to emails from clients and do some marketing work, like writing a blog post or meeting a prospective client.

Want to make CRM use a daily habit? Check out these tips for making sure you log into the CRM every day

How does collaboration work at District Capital Management?

I assign tasks to my assistant and my associate (or vice versa) using LACRM. We also do weekly meetings as a team.

One constant challenge I face managing a team is how to be clear on expectations. My team believes in our mission, and I try to give them constructive feedback. Constant and honest communication is key.

Collaborate with your team by using tasks and events! Learn how to assign agenda items to your colleagues in this tutorial. 

How did you grow District Capital Management from where it was to where it is today?

"A piece of advice that has helped us continue growing is to know your mission and vision and do not stray. Communicate this well with all members of your team. Do not hesitate to hire an expert who can save you both money & time over the long run."

We initially tapped our personal social network, and it just grew organically from there as they referred us to their friends and co-workers once they understood the value of our financial planning services. Many of our clients continue to send their friends and co-workers to us. People also find us online via the CFP Board, Financial Planning Association, and NAPFA website. We build customer loyalty and generate repeat customers by giving high quality advice, communicating well, and giving timely responses.

Some obstacles we faced when growing is figuring out how to streamline our process, and get the word out. Outsourcing and automation has helped. We hired a Compliance firm to help us with compliance. Using apps like Calendly for scheduling are also time savers.

A piece of advice that has helped us continue growing is to know your mission and vision and do not stray. Communicate this well with all members of your team. Do not hesitate to hire an expert who can save you both money & time over the long run.

Some key things you need to succeed in this industry include a good financial planning software. Productivity tools like LACRM, Calendly also help keep you organized and being able to delegate tasks to assistants and associates ensures everyone is on the same page. Successful financial planners have great empathy, listening, and communication skills, and are good with numbers.

How has using a CRM changed the way you (and your team) work?

"We use LACRM to track prospects, send newsletters to clients & prospects via the Mailchimp integration, record client conversations & correspondence, and coordinate tasks between team members."

It’s an established standard practice in the advisory industry to have a CRM, and we needed a way to keep track of prospects & clients. So we discussed the CRM together as a team and decided to move forward unanimously.

We used LACRM since we began our firm in 2013/2014 and with it, we are able to coordinate better. It also ensures nothing falls by the wayside, since all the tasks are recorded.

We use LACRM to track prospects, send newsletters to clients & prospects via the Mailchimp integration, record client conversations & correspondence, and coordinate tasks between team members.

Want to get started with email marketing? Check out our tutorial on setting up a sync with MailChimp and Less Annoying CRM

Do you have any tips or tricks on how you use LACRM?

I love LACRM because it’s really straightforward. It’s also really easy to search for specific keywords on lists and reports by using the CTRL + F function. I like that the CRM is linked to Mailchimp, so it’s easy to send emails to both prospects and clients.

We use the Task feature to assign tasks to various team members and collaborate with one another. We assign prospects & clients to different groups. But in general, I use the note-taking space most often to record client conversations and recommendations during meetings.

A quick note-taking time-saver: dictate your notes into LACRM using your smartphone! Check out our tutorial here. 

What made you choose LACRM over other CRM solutions on the market?

"I like LACRM exactly for what it stands for – it’s less annoying and much more user friendly than other CRMs out there. It was also affordable for a start-up firm like ours."

When doing my initial evaluations, I requested a demo from various CRM providers, like Salesforce, etc. and we went with LACRM because I like LACRM exactly for what it stands for – it’s less annoying and much more user friendly than other CRMs out there. It was also affordable for a start-up firm like ours.

A CRM rep set the account up for us, showed me real quick how to use it, and I just played around with it afterwards. It’s really easy to use.

Want to see how other financial planners use LACRM? Check out a testimonial from Sophia Bera, another CFP!

Thanks for checking out this customer interview! If you're interested in seeing Less Annoying CRM in action and you want to check out our template made specifically for financial planners, check out our live demo! Just click the "try a live demo" option in the center of the page. 

Posted on Jan 8, 2018
Filed under Customer Spotlights
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