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By Paula Carlson

Part-time financial professional: Running a full-time practice on part-time hours

4/21/2020
04/21/2020

The idea of transitioning from full-time to part-time as a financial professional may sound appealing, but the path to success can be very challenging.

Moving to part-time hours doesn’t necessarily mean shrinking your practice or your level of service. You can keep your business running full-time – even if you’re not always there – but it requires determination, strong discipline and a highly competent assistant – or a team of professionals to whom you can delegate key tasks.

Paring back the hours may be appealing for a number of reasons – if you have young children who you’d like to spend more time with, if you’re approaching retirement, or if you simply want to free up more hours to spend on other pursuits.

Catherine Fullerton, a highly successful investment advisor for Thrivent Financial in southern California, made the move from full-time to part-time in order to spend more time at home with her three young children. A look at how she now runs her practice may help you decide whether running a full-time practice on part-time hours would also work for you.

The path to part-time

Catherine entered the financial professional business in 2004 while still in college. She was planning to attend law school and needed to do an internship for class credit. She lined up an internship with Karsten Lundring, a very successful Thrivent financial professional near her home in southern California.

It didn’t take long for her to decide to forgo law school for a career as a financial professional. After her first internship, she continued her foray into the investment profession with an internship with Lundring’s daughter, Sherith Squires, who ran her practice on a part-time basis.

A mother of three, Sherith became a major influence in Catherine’s life – and a role model in her transition to part-time financial professional. “I saw what she did and the flexibility she had,” recalls Catherine. “She was able to pick up her kids at school and be present for her family, and I thought, ‘that's exactly what I want for my practice.’”

Catherine Fullerton with her family 

But it didn’t happen overnight. Catherine spent the first eight years building her business, working 12 hours a day, as well as weekends. But when she and her husband had their first child in 2012, Catherine decided it was time to start working toward a part-time career.

She now has three young children, ages 7, 5 and 1 ½, and her part-time hours afford her the opportunity to spend more time with them. She keeps a set schedule that rarely varies. She works from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and she spends Wednesday at home with her kids, but checks her emails regularly. She also stays home every Friday and devotes the entire day to her family. “I try to be 100% present.” 

On occasion, however, she may slip into the office well before dawn if she has some work she needs to catch up on. “I typically make it back home before my kids wake up,” she explains.

Making it work

There are three primary keys to Catherine’s success – self-discipline, a strong work ethic and a lot of help from her staff.

“One reason I feel I’m successful is that I set a schedule and stick to it,” she explains. “When I’m in the office, I’m working. I’m very focused.” In fact, she even clocks herself in on a timesheet to help her stay true to her part-time commitment.

She also considers herself a master delegator. “I’m constantly pushing things off to my staff.”

In all, her staff works about 100 hours a week to keep the practice running and ensure that the office hours are always covered. The staff includes an office professional who works about 25 to 35 hours a week and a securities associate who does much of the trading and research, as well as the busy work that goes into managing portfolios.

Her third staff member is her husband who left his burgeoning CPA career to devote 35 to 40 hours a week to help with her practice after their third child was born. Her husband often works from home, but he’s at the office on the days she’s not there.

With the help of her staff, she believes she’s able to operate her practice with the same high level of service for her clients. She serves an active client base of about 250 households. Some of her clients are aware that she is only in the office part-time, but they’ve been very supportive. “They know I have kids and that my family is very important to me,” she explains. “I’ve let them know that someone on my team will always be available to them when they need us.”

Even with her part-time hours, Catherine has continued to qualify as a Thrivent Premier Practice Leader, which is an invitation-only program recognizing leadership excellence in sales and service to members by offering top-performing Thrivent Financial representatives best-in-class consulting and VIP services and solutions.

“Sometimes this is still stressful because there just isn’t enough time for everything,” she concedes. “But with three small children, chaos is the norm. I think I’ve gotten better at managing my time. And I’m very fortunate to have a spouse who left his job to help me succeed.”