Brittney Castro learned the importance of patience when looking to sell her own business. As an entrepreneur and financial planner, she added saleswoman to her list of titles as she tackled numerous negotiations and potential deals.
After rejecting a failing negotiation, she feared a deal might not happen and began shifting her focus back to running her company. But then, right before the pandemic hit, everything fell into place. In this episode, hear how Brittney learned to let go, and how sometimes that’s exactly what is needed.
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For people who aren’t familiar with your work, can you give a quick overview of who you are and what you do?
I’m a certified financial planner and I have my own company, Brittney Castro Inc. I did financial planning for 15 years with individuals, helping them build a financial plan and roadmap, helping them with their investing.
And at the same time, I was also doing a lot of speaking [engagements]. And about 10 years ago, I started doing brand partnerships to teach financial literacy. So a lot of content creation. But yeah, I guess nowadays, you can call me a financial influencer, I’ve heard that. Content creator. I don’t know. I don’t really like labels. I just feel like I’m a business owner and I have a handful of services that I do. And it’s all in the finance and business category.
So tell me about your background in sales. How did you get started?
I took a job as a financial advisor at a college. I had no idea what it was, I just said yes. Luckily, at that time, there was a lot of training.
So I learned how to talk to clients, how to get clients, how to prospect, how to market, and how to do financial planning. I felt very fortunate because at that time in the financial services world, there was still a lot of money being poured into developing young advisors, which I think is becoming more rare.
But the job was like sales. I never had a salary. I was always on commission, always in charge of making my own income, making my own success. So early on, I learned sales. I didn’t really necessarily like the idea. I think there’s that stigma that comes with cold calling and sales.
But back then, it was just, “This is what you got to do to have this job, to make an income.” So I did it. And over the years since then, I really see sales completely differently. I’ve definitely developed it in my own sense. For me, a lot of it is just connecting with people, building relationships, telling them what I do. And if I do that authentically, which is just part of my personality and who I am, stuff happens.
Even when I go to business events or networking events, I’m not there on a mission. I don’t have an agenda, like I’ve got to sell a person or make a transaction. I don’t think that way. All I think about is, “I’m just going to connect with people.”
And I know now from experience, those connections lead somewhere. I don’t know how, when, or what, but they usually do. And that’s, for me, more fulfilling.
Well, it sounds like you’re leaning into authenticity rather than trying to force something that maybe isn’t there.
Absolutely. Nobody wants to be forced to do anything, right? And luckily, I have confidence in life in general, but even more so now because of my experience. I’m like, “Here’s what I do. Here’s how I do it. If you want to work together, great. If not, that’s OK too. Like, it’s not a problem.”
But if you tell me your problem, I have a solution. And to me, the right people will stick and it’s not a matter of trying to sell people, it’s just telling them what you do and they’re either going to do it or not. And I think it’s way more of a feminine way of running a business and selling.
That’s great. What has your experience been like, as a woman working in this world?
Yeah. I’ve used it to my advantage, to be honest. It never really was a problem for me. In the beginning, I did notice right away, I was definitely unique and different than most of the financial advisors, and I used that.
I used it to build a name for myself, and credibility, and created a whole brand around it. Originally, my company was called Financially Wise Women, and I was marketing myself as the financial planner for busy and successful women. I created content all about women and money. I built my business in a way that I felt would serve the women clients that I was going after, which was a fee-only model — which, 10 years ago, was not very common.
And I did it virtually. I created a YouTube channel and started creating content. So for me, being a woman in finance, I always saw it as an opportunity. Like, “I’m going to leverage this.”
Of course, there’s challenges. Of course, there’s the hurdles of just being so different and not really speaking the same language as most of the financial advisors. But I always tend to look at those types of challenges as opportunities. I really leveraged it. And I still do. Not maybe as much of the women-focused content, but still, it’s part of my brand and part of how I built a name for myself in the industry.
That’s a great point. So obviously, this show is about people who have had some sales deal that they can’t forget. And I want to hear about your story. So where does this story begin? Take me back to the beginning of this deal that you want to talk about today.
So the deal I want to talk about is just selling my practice. When you have a financial planning company, there’s this idea that you build equity. The clients that you have, if there’s some sort of recurring revenue, that’s what we consider the valuation of your business.
So that’s how you value a financial planning business, through your recurring revenue, through the clients that you have. So when I first started, I worked at more of a corporate model for five years. And unfortunately, there wasn’t the ownership of your clients at that company.
I quickly realized I couldn’t stay in this model, because I wanted to have a business. Like, I’m a business mind, and I thought, “Well, what’s the point of having clients if they’re technically not my clients? I’ll never have equity.”
So I left after five years and started over. I couldn’t take those clients with me. And I went to an independent financial firm that allowed me to have equity. It cost more because there’s more out-of-pocket, but at least I was building equity.
After about two and a half years, I built a little brand, a name for myself, and I sold it. I sold it to the guys at the office I was working at to then create my own financial firm. We call that a registered investment advisory firm in the financial world. So I kind of had these bridges, right? Like a corporate independent, running my own financial shop.
So I had that baby sale or acquisition that taught me how to do it. It taught me, “Oh, if I build clients and I build this revenue, I could do it again.” So when I started my own financial firm, that was what I was going for. I would build my book of business, my clients, up again to the point where I would sell it, eventually.
And at the same time, I was also building my brand partnerships and speaking. I had a business that had what I call two pillars: the clients, and public speaking, brand partnerships, and content creation.
In 2019, I just started talking to a lot of firms. That process of talking to firms took me a year and a half of going through maybe seven negotiations, actually with different financial firms, learning what I wanted out of the deal, what I didn’t want out of the deal.
Because the deal that I was wanting was very specific, and I didn’t see it done. I wanted to sell my existing clients and also partner with the firm who bought it, to have a referral arrangement. So all the clients that I continued to send to them, I would get a cut.
So I had like three jobs. I’m running the clients, doing these brand partnerships, and I’m negotiating. And then I have to keep all these negotiations secret and I can’t let it take over the work, because you have to be fully present with these other roles.
I kept telling myself, “OK, hang in there. Hang in there. It’ll work. It’ll work.” But sometimes, you’re like, “Dang, but when? Like, how much longer? I’m tired.”
What was your lowest point throughout this process? Like, was there a point where you just were feeling really down about it, or things weren’t going well, or you had a bad conversation? Is there anything that sticks out to you on that journey?
The last deal, the company ended up doing some screwy things in the end, so I didn’t take that offer. The owner of that firm, basically wanted me to come work for them for a year for free.
At the end, he put a salary out for like $100,000 that I would work and help with the transition, which was always kind of part of the plan with these deals. You’ve got to help the transition.
But then at the very end, he was like, “Well, we’re not going to be able to pay you. But this is what you can get out of it.”
So I was like, “You want me to come work for you for free for a year? Like, in what reality would anyone say yes to that offer?” So it went from all these promises, to basically giving me very little for the actual business and then wanting me to work another year for no money.
And he said some things to me too, just about like his negotiation tactics. He would say some jabs towards me like, “Well, that’s not how you negotiate.”
And then at the end, I literally wanted to tell him, “That’s not how you negotiate.” But I took the higher road and I just said, “Look, that deal’s not going to work for me. I’m sorry that we actually spent this much time, and you led me on for three months to just come to this realization. But no, I’m never going to take that deal. So best wishes to you.”
And I realized, “You know what? I’m just going to run the practice. I don’t want to sell anymore.” It was like a year-and-a-half journey. I don’t want to sell anymore. I’m just going to keep doing it. Maybe I have to wait another two years. Who knows?
I literally was like, “No more. I’m not going to talk about it anymore. I’m just going to run the practice and do them both,” like do these both pillars. Even though I was at capacity.
And then like a week later, a woman I know in the industry — she was also a CFP n— said, “Oh, Brittney, are you still interested in selling your practice? I know this woman who’s looking to buy.”
And I had known of this woman, but I had never talked to her in this year-and-a-half-long journey of conversations with every firm I could think of. And so it was just one of those things. We talked, it was easy. At that time, I was very clear. Here’s what I want. We’re either going to do it or not. And it just kind of worked out well.
We had about six months of actually putting that deal together, then inking the deal, and then another three months of me transitioning all of those clients. So it was a journey. And then the pandemic happened. So then it was like perfect timing.
Talk about life. Because I had transitioned and now, I was just doing the brand partnerships. And I could actually feel like, after all these years of working, I could relax for a bit. And I really told myself, “Once I do this deal, I’m just going to chill for a little bit.”
That’s amazing. What would you say is the overarching lesson that you learned from the whole thing?
I would say maybe the overall lesson is you’ll get what you want at the end, and it’ll be better than what you thought. It’ll be more in alignment with what you really need and want. It might not look like you thought, it might not be all shiny and flashy, but it’s going to be the right fit. And it will work if you don’t give up.
And you have to go through the process of that — learning, things failing, mistakes, not working out — to get more and more clear and more and more ready for the actual thing that will be the right deal and match for you long term.
This episode of Pretty Big Deal featured Brittney Castro, founder of Brittney Castro Inc. It was produced by Meghan Barr and edited by Xavier Leong. If you have a pretty big deal to tell us about, write in to PrettyBigDeal@zoominfo.com. Otherwise, we’ll see you on the next episode.