Tim Sullivan, CFP®, EA
Though Tim Sullivan didn’t start out with a financial planning career in mind, he can look back now and see how experiences that at first seemed unrelated in fact prepared him to lead his own firm. While in school at the University of Missouri, Tim managed a business focused on renting equipment to the construction industry. It was a family-owned company, and though Tim wasn’t family, the owners treated him as such. Though the tight-knit culture suited him, Tim knew he eventually wanted to do something else. The job gave him the opportunity to meet new people every day, but the work itself over the years began to feel a bit stale. He wanted something that would challenge him. Plus, the owners had no plans to retire any time soon, and Tim wanted an opportunity to own his own business in the near future.
Tim enrolled in CFP® classes, but he wasn’t sure which direction he would take his career. The area he lives in Columbia, Missouri is dominated by brokers, and so fee-only planning wasn’t on his radar. But one day while browsing books online, he came across Bert Whitehead’s book, Why Smart People Do Stupid Things with Money. After reading it, Tim realized that the fee-only model aligned with his version of financial planning. “I thought to myself, this is how people should be getting financial advice,” he says. Still, the possibility of starting his own firm seemed quite daunting. Luckily, the ACP conference that year was taking place in Kansas City. Tim reached out and wound up spending a full day at the event. “The people were so fantastic and welcoming,” he says. Plus, the introduction to the ACP community gave Tim the confidence to push ahead with plans to launch his own firm.
After going through the ACP training in 2011, Tim opened his doors in 2012. He found that his years of working with the public had taught him a lot about how to interact with clients and feel comfortable finding ways to connect. Though at first he shied away from talking about his previous jobs, the more he opened up, the more he realized how common it was for people to take winding paths to find their careers. In fact, it was often a point of connection for him and his clients.
Tim felt lucky to have ACP. Getting his CFP had given him the technical foundation, but it wasn’t the guide he needed. “ACP is so valuable, especially for new planners or anyone looking to scale” he says. “It really gave me the road map for my practice.” In this industry where things are constantly changing, Tim feels lucky to have a resource based on common sense. In fact, he still uses Bert’s book as a reference. “I often ask myself, ‘What would Bert do?’” he says.
Over the years, Tim has identified his ideal clients as millionaires next door or folks who are putting themselves in position to be in that category someday. They are people who appreciate money, but who don’t believe it’s the most important part of life. Having a strong foundation has allowed Tim to cultivate a client base with whom he shares a lot of common ground. Getting to do what he loves with people he enjoys makes the job all that much more fulfilling.
Tim has been an avid volunteer with ACP. He served on the Conference Committee for five years, eventually becoming conference chair. He’s also been on the board the past two years and is the incoming ACP Board president for 2021. Though 2020 hasn’t allowed for much in-person connecting, Tim appreciates the way ACP brings everyone together. “ACP gives us a way to feel like all these folks are our colleagues. That’s why I first got involved. I wanted to be around ACP people.” When Tim thinks back to his first ACP conference, he remembers the feeling of being surrounded by brilliance. “Being around people who are smarter than you is a great way to learn, especially when they’re so generous” he says.