Jim Sanderson

Photo taken on location: Tiverton, ON

Better late than never. It’s a phrase Jim Sanderson knows well. He’s been an advisor for 28 years, but only started focusing his practice on business owners in the sand, gravel and road-building industries five years ago.

He jokes it took too long to connect his more recent career with his first job as a geologist, which he left after three and a half years. “I was about to get married, and most geologists I knew were divorced,” says the ScotiaMcLeod advisor. “You’re out in the field a lot.”

So he switched careers. He had an interest in finance and decided to take the Canadian Securities Course while on a drilling operation in Northern Ontario. He passed and moved to Toronto, joining the marketing department of Wood Gundy in 1985. In 1986, he became an advisor with the same firm. Nine years later he joined ScotiaMcLeod.

Sanderson continued to follow mining developments and attended the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference each year, but never used the event to seek clients.

Then, seven years ago, he took a course with coaching firm CEG Worldwide, which delved into how advisors could specialize in particular client types. Over the next two years, Sanderson researched industries, such as film and entertainment, until he realized the aggregate industry would make a great fit, since he already knew so much about it.

Based on that realization, he started interviewing aggregate industry stakeholders to assess the number of potential clients, their concerns and their average net worths. Those interviews confirmed his hunch.

He spent the next five years building that niche up to 20% of his book, and wants that number to rise. He initially spent $10,000 on the CEG course, and has since spent an additional $13,000 per year on niche-specific efforts (see “Costs to attend,” below). “From an investment standpoint, I’m probably even,” he says. “And going forward, I’ll be in the black.”

This year has been fruitful. After a recent conference, he set up a meeting with a business owner he first encountered 10 years ago. He says it takes time for fellow attendees to become clients. “It’s not like you’re seeing them each year,” he says. The benefit comes from “being there consistently and [having] people recognize you.” He also attends other events aimed at his niche.

Here’s how he makes it work.

Costs to attend

ScotiaMcLeod advisor Jim Sanderson’s full conference and marketing budget is between $20,000 and $25,000 per year, which includes CE courses and financial events. He also runs seminars that both niche and non-niche clients attend. His recurring niche-specific efforts cost about $13,000 annually. Here’s how it breaks down:

Association-related costs, 2014
Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) membership $2,000
ORBA annual meeting $1,000
Ontario Sand, Stone & Gravel Association (OSSGA) membership $2,000
OSSGA annual meeting $1,000
Booth rental at OSSGA meeting $1,200
Travel and hotel to attend OSSGA meeting in Ottawa $1,000
Hand warmers given out at OSSGA meeting $500 for 300
Sub-total $8,700
Half-page ad in Rock to Road magazine, plus banner ad on the magazine’s website $4,000/year
(four issues/year)

“I don’t know if it converts [into client dollars],” he admits.

TOTAL $12,700

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