When someone tells Jared Reynolds a fisherman's tale, he makes it a point to listen closely. There could be business in it for him.
While there are a seemingly endless number of sub-specialties in the financial planning field, Reynolds may have one of the most unique. He specializes in working with people in the hunting and fishing industries.
It's not just weekend enthusiasts, either. Between 25 and 30 percent of his clients are professionals in the industries, from tournament fishermen to TV fishing personalities. And he also works with several businesses that serve those fields.
"I know fishing inside and out, so I can relate with these guys," says Reynolds in an interview. "I can talk with them. Heck, I can fish with them. Put me in a boat and I'm in heaven."
Reynolds comes by his specialty naturally. His father was a professional fisherman and passed his love of the outdoors to his son. But when the younger Reynolds went to school, he opted for a personal finance degree.
One of his assignments when earning that degree required him to interview a professional in the field. Rather than looking for someone local in Missouri, Reynolds managed to land a few minutes with the well-established financial professional Allan Ettinger in Chicago. Ettinger told Reynolds his one regret after years in the business was not specializing in an area at the outset of his career.
That advice didn't really mean a lot to Reynolds at the time, but the penny dropped a few years later when his father mentioned a friend who fished on the pro circuit was having trouble with his financial advisor. As it turned out, there was no financial planner specializing in the fishing industry. So Reynolds jumped in.
The boat rule
When it comes to client communications, though, Reynolds says he has one hard and fast rule: Never initiate a business conversation when you're in a boat. Let the client or potential client bring it up first.
"People do business with who they like," he says. "When I get out in a boat with them, I'm not bringing up business — because if I did, I think word would get out that 'he just wants to take you fishing to corner you'."
That rule, in part, has helped his reputation in the industry. Reynolds credits word-of-mouth and referrals for the majority of his business today. And while you won't find him at too many financial planning conferences, he's a fixture at outdoor industry events like the Bass Master's Classic, ICAST (the fishing industry's equivalent of the Detroit Auto Show) or SHOT Show (a gun exposition).
That not only lets him speak with current clients, it lets him talk directly with decision makers at potential new ones.
"The thing is a trade show like ICAST is that the public isn't allowed in, so at each of the booths, you have the president of the company there and you get to walk right up to him and have a conversation," he says. "There are no gatekeepers - nothing. ... I can go to a few of these events each year and get clients at each one. And they're people I want to do business with — the ones who know their industry inside and out."
There's big money in fishing and other outdoors industries these days, too. Reynolds handles the retirement plans for several successful companies — including some in the $20-$30 million range. And many executives eventually bring their personal business to him as well.
Advising the pros
It's the pro fishers that keep him especially busy, though.
"Every cast for these guys can mean anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million," he says. "You end up with a lot of year-end tactical planning. With elite pros, if they win a tournament, that could be $100,000. If they close an endorsement, that's another $250,000. Or if they win a boat, that's all (IRS Form) 1099 income, so how do I shelter it? What do I do to protect it?"
Reynolds’ firm, Wilkerson & Reynolds Wealth Management , offers investment advisory services as well as wealth management and business planning.
There are, of course, some perks that go with Reynolds specialty. He gets to conduct business in areas most financial advisors would never consider. There's the annual fishing trip to Marco Island. He's been to Brazil to fish as well as Argentina and Africa to hunt. And it's all a business expense.
These days, it's others who come to him for career advice. And Reynolds finds himself repeating the lesson he learned from Ettinger all those years ago. Find an area you're intimately familiar with — and build your specialty around that.
It doesn't matter how obscure it might be, he says, there's bound to be more potential clients than you expect. And a blind cast into those waters could help you find your niche.
"I don't care if your parents are chicken pluckers. There's an entire industry built around chickens," he says. "Find the businesses and find the people who work in it. It doesn't matter what the specialty is in America today. There's a publication for it, a trade journal, there's an entire culture built around it — even if it's underwater basket weaving."