The importance of thought-leadership

Insider Sources: Evan Jehle From FFO

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Last Thursday at Insider Sources we spoke to Evan Jehle, Partner and COO of FFO, a family office and business management firm.  Throughout his career, Jehle has worked to provide business management, tax and accounting services to ultra-high-net-worth clients, including celebrities, athletes, asset managers and executives. 

Combining his depth of experience with the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) Certification from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Evan is uniquely positioned to serve as a trusted advisor to ultra high net worth clients and families providing objective recommendations in all areas of personal financial planning, including income tax, estate, retirement, investment and risk management.

Prior to joining FFO, Evan was a principal in the Rothstein Kass Family Office Group. He is a frequent speaker at seminars and workshops on topics related to the family office industry, business management and advanced planning for ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

At the session, Jehle shared what it was like running a family office, and defines what he calls “thought leadership,” a mode of thinking he believes is essential to running a successful relationships-driven firm. 

What is thought leadership? 

According to Jehle, central to thought leadership is confidence: not just in your field or your background, but confidence that you as an advisor can provide the best and deepest answers to your clients. 

“The point of a thought leadership campaign is for you to be a celebrity thought leader,” Jehle said. “There are a lot of smart people that are experts in what they do, but nobody knows because they’re at the desk, doing their work, and they’re not out there sharing their work with the world. So, they’re just the quiet experts, and to be the thought leader you have to be knowledgeable, but you also have to have a distribution network and get yourself out there.” 

Thought leaders need to justify the confidence in their work — Jehle, as a member of the Forbes Finance Council, takes readers through his thought mentality, and how his thinking can be applied to smart financial planning. Talking about issues in your respective industry, identifying common trends in clientele, and then sharing those identifications — these steps are the beginnings of a good thought leader. 

“The first step to thought leadership is thinking about your clients, thinking about issue spotting. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal, and the article was about touring companies,” Jehle said. “Apparently, there is this new program, so I immediately take that, and I send it to three clients that it could be relevant for. That is thought leadership, simple as that. Now it is not your own thought leadership, because you aren’t putting out your own content, but that is how you get started.” 

Applying thought leadership to a family office 

Jehle starts by setting a regular time every week to engage in “thought leadership,” in which he reads and identifies key issues within finance that would pertain to anyone in his business network, or any one of his clients. While forwarding material is just a start, it strengthens his network with other thought leaders, or other business professionals putting out content. 

“I would say the best thing that I did to start was reading, and learning what other people were doing, absorbing it all and then distributing it to a small network of people that I had developed. It is thinking about content that may not even be yours, and distributing it so that people get your name in their head — that’s where thought leadership begins,” Jehle said. 

By developing a core community, especially within a family office space, Jehle got the opportunity to fill in gaps within industry conversation with his own expertise. Crucial to thought leadership is communication: while originally Jehle didn’t think writing content was his strong suit, publishing and speaking are crucial to getting ideas and leadership publicity. 

“I’m actually a little bit technical, so I thought ‘I’ve got something to add, let me write an article. From there, however, one firm might pick it up, and publish it in a newsletter for their clients,” Jehle said,” And then in there, maybe industry groups pick it up and publish it within their groups. My writing and my thinking slowly start to gain traction. Now all of a sudden, I’m generating my own thought leadership, and that’s really how you’re going to evolve into that role.” 

Thought leadership tools for the future 

Jehle has recently launched his biggest thought leadership campaign yet: a podcast called Critical Cast. The podcast focuses on critical thinking for high-net-worth individuals, families, business owners, and executives, and how managers help them be successful. 

“We are talking and letting other people listen. Listen to what issues are going on, how we got to where we are,” Jehle said. “It doesn’t feel like work. It is thought leadership — it is generating content and putting it out there, and I hope it is helpful to the audience.” 

“Here’s the secret: it is not a firm or a building that can become a celebrity thought leader. It is the person,” Jehle said. 


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