Jennifer Alford is a very busy woman—and she likes it that way. Her work schedule and community involvement appear to be those of someone twice her age. At 27, she is the youngest of four partners who established Creative Financial Partners in Perrysburg, Ohio. In addition to serving a full roster of clients, she commits untold hours to her volunteer positions, including as president and board member of the Exchange Club Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. She also finds time to act as treasurer of NAIFA-Toledo, as chair of that association’s Young Advisors Team, and she is currently taking part in NAIFA’s Leadership in Life program.
“I THINK COMMUNITY SERVICE IS SO IMPORTANT. IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO GET A CONSTANT FLOW OF PEOPLE IN THE DOOR.”
But she has had the proper training to handle it all. While still in high school, she interned at the insurance agency where her mother was an administrative assistant, The Savage Agency. And while industry great John Savage was no longer there, brother Bob was a strong role model. When her dreams turned to college, she continued to work full time at the agency while pursuing her studies in finance.
She did move on from there to work for another local agency—where she served first as office manager and then as marketing director. What she learned in this latter position proved to be invaluable to her next business venture: starting a new firm with three other colleagues in 2005. Their business now employs 16 other advisors as well as support staff.
Creating a niche
While most young advisors are struggling just to get by, Alford has put her marketing savvy to work and is thriving. Her niche is women-owned small businesses with 15 or fewer employees. She chose it because that is who she is: a woman business owner with a small staff, and so can relate well to her clients and their needs.
Her position as board member of The Women’s Entrepreneurial Network is fuel for this niche. “As a board member, you get to know everybody and get to help,” she says. “I think community service is so important. It’s the only way to get a constant flow of people in the door.”
She has learned important business lessons from other members of the network, and has reaped the benefits of the referrals she gets from them. She is careful to emphasize, however, that it is always a two-way street. Alford has several “referral partners” that she has met through the organization. “A referral partner is someone who cares enough about my business and I care enough about theirs that we are helping each other’s businesses grow together,” she says. “We both have the same target market, so we conquer everything together.” That means she doesn’t have to put in long hours chasing prospects; instead, she spends just two hours a week working with her referral partner.
One partner, for example, is the owner of a day spa. For her last client-appreciation event, Alford rented out the spa and treated her clients to a mini spa day. What would a busy female business owner welcome more than a bit of pampering? And ever the smart marketer, Alford points out that she participates in all her client-appreciation events. “What better way to bond with a client than sitting next to them for an hour while getting a pedicure?” she asks. She says the key to successful client-appreciation events is being with the client.
When it comes to her work, whether it is assisting her clients or spending time with the Exchange Club where she oversees 13 board members and a staff of seven that serves 100-plus families, she has just one regret—that there aren’t more hours in a day so she could do more.