Mark Aho was adopted. And even though he had an amazing adopted family that loved and cared for him, this has always left a deep impression on Mark. In fact, you could almost draw a straight line from being adopted to becoming a financial advisor.
Mark spent many years working successfully in many areas of finance, and though he learned a lot and did well, he realized that it wasn’t ultimately helping him fulfill his purpose in life. He felt called to something different, something more meaningful.
What Mark wanted to do was help people become good stewards of their money, so they could use it in the right ways.
“What matters to me, what gives my life purpose, is helping people build their wealth, to first care for their family, then their community, and then help create the change they want to see in the world through giving. I’m a man of faith. I believe deeply in this, and dedicated my life to it, and I see financial planning as the best way I can serve my community and people to help accomplish this.”
Mark started his book by sharing his wisdom with his children.
When it came time for his son to go to college, Mark sat down and wrote him a letter, trying to distill all the wisdom he had gleaned in his life to pass on to his son. That letter became an ongoing correspondence between Mark, his wife and his son, and eventually his daughter as well.
He saw the impact that this was having on his children and wanted to share this impact with others.
“I just felt called to write this. I knew I had something to share that could help people beyond my family. It all boils down to that. Yes, of course I knew that my book could help me in business—and it has—but honestly, that’s not why I wrote it.”
Mark tried to write it himself, but couldn’t get momentum.
Mark had no problem writing letters to his children, but when it came time to write a whole book, everything changed.
“I just never seemed to have time. Or something more urgent would come take the time.”
But it was more than just time.
“I eventually realized that I needed accountability and structure and guidance. Just because I had something to say did not mean that I knew how to say it in a book. I needed help, from professionals.”
Mark relied on his friend John Bowen to help him find the right guide.
Just like so many people rely on word of mouth from friends to find their financial advisor, Mark relied on his friends in the larger financial planner community to help him find his guide.
Mark is a member of CEG, an exclusive mastermind group of highly successful financial planners. At a CEG meeting, Mark asked John Bowen (the cofounder of CEG) if he knew of someone who could help him.
“I know John Bowen well, and I know he vets everyone he brings to us fully before he brings them in the community. I trust John’s assessment of people and companies and give it a lot of weight.”
Mark met the team at Scribe, connected with the CEO, JT McCormick, and started soon after.
Writing the book was not easy, but that’s what Mark expected.
The process was both a joy and a pain for Mark. It was a joy because the process fit Mark very well.
“I loved how the Scribe team set expectations early and often. I am a big believer in that, and in my firm, we spend a long time asking our clients a lot of questions about what their expectations are. Those conversations are some of the most important ones we have, and often our clients tell us we ask questions they’d never thought about. Scribe turned that back on me, and from the first call asked me why I wanted to write a book and what I expected it would get me. I really enjoyed it.”
It wasn’t just the process, but the team that connected well with Mark.
“My writer and I had a special connection. I think a big part of it was because he has an adopted child, so he understood a lot of my life, just from the perspective of the parent. It was really something special, and we both really looked forward to our calls.”
But the process was not all kittens and sunshine. It was a pain because once he got into it, it hit home to him how much this book mattered to him, and he spent a lot of time making sure everything was exactly right.
“I took two years to write this book, and as I understand it, that is very long for this process. But I needed that time. I had a lot of work to do, and quite honestly, I needed the time to improve the book. But I’m glad I took it. It made a big difference, even though it was a lot of hard work.”
It took a lot of work on both sides, and it took much longer than most books, but the book did get finished, and on September 4, 2018, Building Wealth and Living in Faith: A Father’s Guide to Leaving Your Legacy launched to the world.
“The book ended up amazing. When I held it in my hands, I was almost shocked by my sense of accomplishment.”
Mark’s book accomplished exactly what he wanted—and far more.
Mark wrote the book with one goal, and that was to share his wisdom so that it could help other people. And it did that, almost immediately.
“I wrote the book for my family, and my friends, and anyone else who could benefit. I told JT that if I could know the book truly helped one person—just one person—I would be happy with it.
I received so many emails, calls, and letters from friends and colleagues and even people in my firm, who told me how much the book impacted them and helped them in various ways. It’s really gratifying to know that what I’ve learned and the knowledge I’ve accumulated can help others in their life.”
But the benefits of the book did not stop there. Mark of course knew that a book could help him in his business, and even though he was not focused on that when writing his book, it did end up happening—in even more ways that he anticipated.
“It’s such an advantage to have, in all aspects of business. It united my firm, and helped us all get on the same page. And then it helped us speak with a common language about the things we all believe and work towards. It became something of a manifesto for us and our work, and made explicit some things we all felt, but perhaps had not articulated yet.”
Mark shares his wisdom with everyone by handing out copies of the book wherever he goes.
The impact on his clients was even more profound and has been long lasting.
“What an advisor needs to differentiate himself is something that shows who he is, what he believes, and what philosophy he lives his life by. If you don’t have that, all the charts and graphs on earth won’t help you.
“Clients want to know who you are, they want to know what you believe, they want to know who they are giving their money to. In my experience, clients evaluate advisors with these three factors:
2. Competenance, and
3. Do They Like You?
“I haven’t seen anything that hits all three any better than a book. Now, of course, a book can’t be the only thing you use. You have to actually be trustworthy and competent and a likable person in real life, but a book is such an effective way to display these traits in a way that is easy, rewarding, and most important—provides actual value to people. It’s not an ad for you. It’s a way to help the reader.
“I buy them by the gross, 100 copies at a time, and I hand them out wherever I go. My church, conferences, speaking events, anything where I meet people who could use the wisdom in the book. It’s been so great to see the impact spread to others.
Part of the reason the book has been so impactful is precisely because Mark focused his book on the thing that matters the most: the impact on the reader.
“I didn’t care about selling copies. Of course if I did, that would be really nice, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. What I care about is the impact the book has: on my family, on my firm, on clients, on the readers, and on potential clients. I spent the time necessary to make this book as good as it could be, because it is an investment in leveraging the impact I can have—and in that regard, the book has been a tremendous success.”
The experience has been, in all ways, so beneficial and rewarding that Mark has found something of a surprise in his memory of it.
“I remember considering the price at the time, but it’s funny—right now, I can’t even tell you what the cost was. Maybe $25k or $30k? $40k? I don’t know. I think the reason is because the impact of the book has been so enjoyable to experience, it’s been worth so much more than I paid. I guess that’s the definition of value, when you can’t remember the price because it’s so beneficial to you.”