No one likes to change systems. Payroll, marketing, operations, etc., no matter what it is and no matter what you were promised, it is going to be a miserable experience.  Like, fall in the mud and get kicked in the head with an iron boot level of sucking.

But. If you don’t ask yourself what the best programs are for your business, you’ll find yourself struggling to succeed. It is vital to reassess if the tools you use are contributing to a growing business. Just because something worked for you a year or two ago doesn’t mean it’s the best option out there for you today.

If so, carry on. If not, then suck it up because it’s time to get to work.

Here at Potomac, we’ve re-evaluated pretty much everything in the past year. So, we are here to share our insights and highlight tools that have helped us reduce frustration, eliminate overlap, and grow tremendously.

We hope what we have learned will give you a head start (and make it suck less).

C-Suite

Payroll

Setting up payroll, healthcare, 401(k), and other HR programs are daunting tasks for a business; they’re fundamental to your employees, and it’s necessary to do them right. As a completely remote company, we have integrated every aspect of the business to operate online.

Gusto perfectly fits that mold, as it supports our team while providing a more hands-off approach. The onboarding platform allows employees to set up payroll by entering their information online, and then we run it from the background. Gusto goes beyond payroll and facilitates our healthcare; they act as insurance agents to find and manage our plans.

401(k)

For financial benefits such as 401(k), we use Vestwell, which directly connects to Gusto. The synergy between Gusto and Vestwell has proved to be valuable HR tools—providing benefits with ease. This is a big deal, considering where we stand on integrations.

Workers Compensation

Just in case someone gets a paper cut, we are required to carry a workers compensation policy. Not to worry—Gusto works with a broker AP Integro, who can access our employee data seamlessly and offer a pay-as-you-go policy. Every new employee is automatically added to the policy.

Expense Management

We use the Ramp Expense Management platform. This sleek platform allows us to easily issue physical credit cards to every employee.

In addition, it’s a spend management platform to control spending from the corporate level; this means that you can set restrictions globally if you want certain employees only to spend money in the “Internet” category.

Each employee can tag expenses into the proper chart of an account designation, which flows directly into our accounting system Xero.

Accounting

We use Xero for our accounting platform. It is one of the cleanest and most straightforward pieces of software to use. They make it easier to work with your data the way you want, and it doesn’t impose the limitations of other accounting software.

Of course, (as an added benefit) it’s compatible with Gusto and Ramp.

File Server

The problem with many legacy file management systems is the lack of innovation. We found a great partner with Dropbox because their ability to manage, control, and deploy information on a corporate level is unmatched. They also work well across operating systems which is a huge hindrance to other products in the marketplace.

The downside is that every integration discussed in the industry regarding file servers is a lie. They all integrate with personal Dropbox accounts, but none of them integrate with business accounts. Be leery of anyone who says otherwise.

Communication

Our team communications have coalesced into Zoom—chats, phone calls, meetings, etc.; Zoom handles the entire system from start to finish.

We can set up a virtual PBX system that is tied to our corporate toll-free number. The extensions then are connected to local numbers that we can secure through Zoom. The local numbers are accessed via softphones loaded on our desktop and then answered using wireless earbuds.

Screen sharing, online messaging, meetings, etc., make Zoom a one-stop-shop for our communication needs.

Task Management

As a 100% remote company spread out across the country, staying on task and remaining accountable is essential.

We use Teamwork for our calendared events and task management. It has dramatically improved our workflow and ability to keep projects running efficiently. Our productivity lives and dies with this—which keeps people plugged in.

Marketing

Our business is educating advisors and marketing to potential prospects—a successful business should have a seamless way to output information for both. We had to find platforms that were simplistic yet effective.

Website

We built our website with WordPress, which has an almost 40% market share of all websites these days. It is incredibly robust and flexible; however, on its own you still need a web developer to get much done. Enter Divi.

Development

Divi is a WordPress theme that brings a visual interface to WordPress. Its intuitive design helped us, who aren’t developers, build a home base for our brand, content, current clients, and anyone curious about Potomac.

Hosting

We use Flywheel, a dedicated WordPress host. They do one thing and one thing onlyand they do it exceptionally well.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

If you have a website, hopefully, you are creating content for users to engage with. We use Ahrefs to research what words or phrases are prominent in the industry to lay out the foundation of the content we’ll write next. They provide search volume, difficulty, and other data points that paint the picture of what people are searching for on a day-to-day basis. New to SEO? We were, too—luckily, their YouTube channel has an endless library to get you started. Creating quality content that generates organic search engagement for your website will provide your company oxygen. As the Mandalorians put it, “this is the way.”

Customer Relationship and Email Management

Our customer relationship management system is HubSpot; we keep information such as names, emails, etc., of our advisors. This is how we reach out to advisors, send them video messages, and connect them with past articles or podcasts episodes they might find useful. HubSpot is also our email system—we don’t have separate constant contact or MailChimp—any automation is sent out through HubSpot. It’s expensive, and a lot of competitors have sprung up in recent years. However, we believe in the power of an all-in-one, and HubSpot checks all the boxes.

Video Presentation

StreamYard is the key for advisors looking for a simple way to put out content without a large production team. Need to record remotely from multiple locations? Want to cut down (or eliminate) your post-production work? Want to bring in charts or do a demo? Want to (gasp) broadcast live? Use StreamYard. It can do just about everything, and it’s super easy to use.

SWAG

Swag has always been a challenge. Finding good ideas and then finding a place to store everything you’ve ordered.  We use a service called SwagUp that takes care of both. Taking a page from our OCIO playbook, they feature a curated list of name-brand items that we can design and print to our liking. Then, they warehouse them for us until we’re ready to send things out. All of it is available in an online dashboard, so you know exactly what you have (and how many).

Marketing Data

With our content volume and number of distribution channels exploding, it became tedious to track data by platform—Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. We realized observing engagement numbers and typing them into a central document was, well, a massive waste of our time. Enter DashThis, a service that has you log in to all your different data sources, customize a single dashboard of charts and graphs, and then decide the time frame you want to observe. It honestly couldn’t get any simpler.

Operations

Back-office Software

We use Orion Advisor for everything operational. They do back-office work such as reconciliation, trading, billing, reporting, etc., and serve as a phenomenal engine. However, given our unique business model, we needed to create a better front end with onboarding, CRM, and new account experience.

As the saying goes, “if you can’t buy it, build it.” So, that’s precisely what we are doing—taking the extra step to control the front end to build a custom user interface on top of Orion. More on this to come.

Education

Investment Proposal

To generate proposals, we currently use Hidden Levers, which Orion now owns. We love the focus on max drawdown and the ease of use. As we continue to build out our own front end, our focus will be on simplicity with the ability to quickly open new accounts. More to come…

Community

Our bread and butter are the ability to source and combine various models from investment strategists. But from our experience, it is tough to get all the information and updates from each manager. Advisors are forced to sign up for multiple email subscriptions and piece it all together.

Since our mantra is reducing complexity, we recently set out to tackle this problem. Our community software, Insight by Potomac, will allow all our advisors to access manager updates, diligence, and commentary from a single portal in a controlled fashion.

Video Commentary

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth? For us at Potomac, it’s worth a lot.

We use the tool Soapbox from Wistia to accomplish this. Not only is it great for product demos, but it also adds a personal touch to respond to some emails via a video update. The feedback has been tremendous from our advisors.

It’s a simple Chrome extension, so the user can quickly generate a video message and insert the link into an email.

 

Portfolio Management

Data

Data is the gasoline to run our money management engine. We currently source most of our data from a company called Norgate. For additional data and sanity checks, we also source data from FastTrack and YCharts. The data is fed into our programming software for systems development.

Systems Development Software

All our technical market indicators and composite trading systems are built inside AmiBroker. This software is extremely robust and powerful—built based on AFL code language. Our testing and execution ability has been supercharged with the addition of this software tool.

Charts

Creating and presenting charts is a colossal amount of our work. Some of our charts are created inside of Amibroker, but the main charting software is Optuma.

Optuma is very intuitive and user-friendly with the additional benefit of beautiful charts. Depending on the data, we also use YCharts as a supplement.

The Future of a Successful RIA?

Every business runs differently. What works for us may not work for you. Take what you can from this and toss the rest.

For us, being static equates to a declining business. What got us here won’t be the same in the future. That doesn’t mean you need to pull a Doug and get distracted by every shiny object that comes along. But standing still (literally) gets you nowhere.

    Disclosure: This information is prepared for general information only and should not be considered as individual investment advice nor as a solicitation to buy or offer to sell any securities. This material does not constitute any representation as to the suitability or appropriateness of any investment advisory program or security. Please visit our FULL DISCLOSURE page.