Hopeful entrepreneurs make their pitch to the PVG

Cameron McCaig gave the big presentation.

Now he and co-founder Kathleen Meyer play the waiting game.

Will their start-up company, The Trestle Project, be successful?

Will it attract investors?

What about the beta users they need for their on-line virtual connection service for professionals and clients?

Meyer and McCaig followed the advice of their Peak Venture Group 5-Minute Presenter forum mentors. They fine-tuned the Power Point Presentation, pared it down to fewer words in a larger font and added bullet points. Most importantly, they added large graphics for visual appeal.

Then five minutes later, it was all over with — or at least the standing in front of 140 PVG members part.

They’d been warned by the mentors not to expect much response from members until one or two months after the presentation.

Nonetheless, “we had quite a few (people) approach us right after the meeting,” McCaig said.

Several attendees liked The Trestle Project’s concept of using software as a service, or SaaS, to virtually connect providers and clients, and the benefits of video conferencing with a professional or therapist who is a “match” for their needs, Meyer said.

Best of all, several business owners are already interested in being beta users of the service.

The mentoring process helps entrepreneurs “hone their ‘solution value’ message with laser-like clarity,” Meyer said, “so it can be conveyed in less than 5 minutes. If you can do this, you have truly (identified) why people will (need) or be attracted to your products or services.”

McCaig has advice for entrepreneurs who are ready to ramp-up, start-up and have a successful business: “Be teachable, and be responsible.”

Future for financial planners

When Richard Salmen talks about the changing landscape, he’s not referring to bonsai and bamboo in the boardroom. As chairman of the National Financial Planning Association, Salmen knows the future of financial planners will change — it’s a matter of how much, when and for whom. Will financial planning be regulated at the federal level, or remain at the state level?

“When I took the chair at NFPA in 2006, I never thought I’d see the words ‘financial planner’ in proposed legislation,” Salmen said.

Ponzi schemes, the credit market collapse and allegations against advisers changed that in a hurry.

The debate among those in legislature and the industry centers on fiduciary responsibility — which will affect both investors and financial planners.

“Much of this is a cultural change as much as a legal change,” he said.

Proposed legislation is needed for the “appropriate development of the profession” and for the public to have guidelines about whom to trust.

Salmen was keynote speaker at the Southern Colorado Financial Planning Association’s monthly meeting at the Garden of the Gods Club on Wednesday.

Although “you can’t legislate morality, no matter how hard you try,” he sees the need for a “baseline standard below the certified financial planner certificate level” — something all other developed countries, except Canada and the United States, already have.

There’s a need for fiduciary regulation because it’s “very difficult for the average consumer to know if someone has their financial best interests at heart,” Salmen said. “But the distinguishing obligation of a fiduciary is loyalty to your client.”

By 1929, most states had adopted some form of securities regulations. Much like snake-oil salesmen or quack doctors, some unscrupulous people were actually selling the sky in Kansas — hence “Blue Sky” laws — and swampland in Florida.

Consumers and investors are understandably concerned about protecting their trusts, estates or retirement.

On the flip side, financial planners’ “biggest fear is the liability of fiduciaries,” he said. However, by now, there are dozens of years of case law that define fiduciary obligation.

“Implied in case law is that you can end up being a fiduciary without realizing you are in that role,” Salmen said. “So we’re getting to fiduciary — either kicking or screaming — or by explicit act of law.”

The federal level is the most effective way to regulate, Salmen said, because it avoids conflicting laws between states.

Since the financial meltdown during 2008, the timing has been ripe for change — but it has to be soon, before the momentum is lost.

“We Americans have the worst memories in the world,” he said.

It helps, after a failure, to be able to forget and forge ahead undaunted, but it’s also a weakness.

“The biggest challenge in getting appropriate regulation is that the economy has come back too quickly — so there’s less impetus for Congress to fix it, since things are getting back to normal,” Salmen said.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229.