Protea Conversations: Josh Sterling

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked.  Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations in 2023 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In May 2023 we spend time with Josh Sterling, Wealth Strategist at CAMAS.

Josh is a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®). The CLU® is the oldest designation in the financial industry and focuses on life insurance, estate, and business owner planning. He is also a Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®) , a Certified Long Term Care Consultant (CLTC®), a Certified College Funding Specialist (ACCFS®), and a partner at Camas Advice. He is a past President of the Redwood Empire Estate Planning Council and a founding member of North Bay Trusted Business Advisors.

As a holistic Wealth Strategist, Josh is an expert in solving the myriad of problems businesses, estates, high net worth, and high-income earning individuals face. Whether it be life insurance planning, retirement planning, tax reduction strategies, charitable planning, long-term care, estate planning, college funding, or transitioning out of a business Josh can provide honest and straightforward solutions tailored to your circumstances.

Tell us a little more about your decision to become a wealth strategist and your journey to joining CAMAS?

I ran a soccer company and founded a youth soccer club in my earlier years. It was a challenging yet fulfilling job, but the constant travel and time spent away from my family began to take a toll on me. That’s when I decided to change my career path and focus on something that would allow me to spend more time with my family while still positively impacting people’s lives.

Around that time, I was working as the head assistant at Sonoma State, where we won the national championship in 2002. Being part of a successful team and running my own business significantly shaped my current profession. During my time at Sonoma State, I had to be strategic and innovative to help the team succeed, and in my business, I had to be diligent and resourceful to keep it afloat. These skills helped me transition into my current profession as a Wealth Strategist.

My transition into finance started when I began helping youth soccer players find a good college. During this time, I realized the high cost of college education and how challenging it can be for families to plan for it. To help families navigate this, I started doing college funding planning, a mini financial plan around the high cost of college. It was a fulfilling experience, and I enjoyed helping families plan for their children’s future.

As I delved deeper into finance, I learned about permanent life insurance and how it could be an incredible tool for building and preserving wealth. This newfound knowledge led me to meet my business partner, Rick Bailey, in 2010. Rick is a JD, CFP, and a national speaker on advanced life insurance planning, and we hit it off right away. He taught me a lot about the intricacies of finance and wealth planning, and we began working together as a team to serve our clients better.

Over the years, we changed our titles from Financial Planner to Wealth Advisor to Legacy Planner, but we ultimately settled on the two words of Wealth Strategies, as that is precisely what we do. We work with businesses, individuals, and estates that have wealth, helping them grow, protect, and transfer that wealth through strategic planning.

In summary, my journey to becoming a Wealth Strategist and partner at Camas Advice was a long and winding one that involved running a soccer company, founding a youth soccer club, being part of a successful team at Sonoma State, and working in college funding planning. Through these experiences, I discovered my passion for finance and wealth planning, which ultimately led me to my current profession. Working alongside Rick and helping our clients build and preserve their wealth has been a truly fulfilling experience, and I look forward to continuing to serve our clients for many years to come.

Protea Financial Wealth Strategist Josh Sterling

What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

On a personal level, the biggest challenge I faced in reaching my current success was the significant hit to our family income and lifestyle when I changed my career. As anyone who has built a business from scratch can attest, success does not come overnight, and financial sacrifices need to be made in the early stages. My family had a newborn at the time, and we had to rely on savings and my wife’s salary as an elementary school teacher to get by. Looking back, I am still determining how we managed it, and with two teenagers and more obligations, it would be impossible to do it again.

Another personal challenge I encountered early on was the feeling of sadness that came with leaving behind one of my biggest passions – coaching. I truly enjoyed it and felt that I had a talent for it. However, I soon realized that being a Wealth Strategist is like coaching in a different way. Rather than coaching athletes on the field, I guide my clients and help them achieve their financial goals. Both coaching and providing financial advice require the same fundamental skills – understanding the client’s needs, creating a game plan, and motivating them to succeed. It took some time, but I eventually realized that the skills I learned as a coach have been instrumental in helping me become a successful Wealth Strategist.

The biggest professional challenge I have faced, and continue to face, is the difficulty in educating people about my profession as a Wealth Strategist. What I do is unique, and my strategies and solutions have yet to be widely known. Each client requires a specific and tailored approach that is not part of mainstream knowledge. These strategies have been used by big banks, the wealthy, and Fortune 500 companies for decades but are not commonly known or accessible to the general public.

As a result, it can be a significant challenge to educate people on the value I can bring to their financial situation. There are few professionals like me, and getting the word out about my services can take time and effort. Therefore, I spend considerable time providing general education on various financial topics. For instance, I wrote a piece for Protea earlier this month and created educational videos. My goal is to help people understand the value of what I do and how I can help them achieve their financial goals through tailored and specific strategies.

What are your short-term goals for your career and yourself?

Wow, short-term goals. No one has asked me about that. Usually, it is about long-term goals or dreams. When it comes to short-term goals, I want to establish myself as the leading subject matter expert in working with high-net-worth and high-income individuals, business owners, and estates. The reason behind this goal is simple – to help more people. My ultimate aim is to help individuals reach their financial goals, and becoming a top expert in my field will allow me to do just that.

Education is not just about content – it is also about relationships. Therefore, another short-term goal is to continue to grow my network of trusted professionals. As a former sports coach, I understand the importance of having a strong team, and I want access to the best team for myself and my clients. To achieve this goal, I spend a lot of time talking to and educating professionals in the field.

My short-term goals revolve around establishing myself as an expert in my field and building strong relationships with professionals to serve my clients better.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

This is easy! The best piece of advice that has helped me in my success is to build relationships with professionals. Although it may be slower than marketing or building your business directly to clients, it is much more fruitful in the long term. One of my mentors once told me that I could either go after the fruit at the end of someone else’s tree or plant my tree (a network of trusted professionals who refer to me) and have my fruit.

If you go directly to the client (which I also do), they may already have a team of professionals who can easily say “no” to you. However, building trusting relationships with other professionals can help you achieve a “yes” from potential clients. It’s a simple concept, but only a few people go this route. My mentor advised me to be patient and to focus on building relationships. He told me not expect referrals for at least two years. He was right – at around 18 months, I remember referrals starting to come in.

Building relationships with professionals has been the best advice I have ever received. It takes time, but it is much more beneficial in the long run than going after individual clients directly. I have grown my business and achieved success by having a network of professionals who trust and refer me.

What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

When I was starting, I was fortunate to receive great advice. However, there is one piece of advice that I wish I had learned earlier – that there is enough business to go around, and I do not need to be so protective of my ideas.

It took me some time to understand this, but I eventually realized that there is no secret sauce, and everything can be found online. The key is knowing the value you bring by taking complex ideas and making them easy to understand. It’s not about the strategy itself, which can be found everywhere, but about how you use, design, and tweak it to fit each client’s specific needs.

Moreover, it’s about how you explain it to your clients, making sure they understand and can make informed decisions, not confused ones. I wish someone had told me earlier that I don’t have any competitors, as we are all unique in our approaches and ways of working. The more we share and collaborate with others, the more we can all grow and succeed.

What advice would you give to others to help them be better leaders?

If I were to advise others on how to be better leaders, the first thing that comes to mind is to find your passion. When you do what you love, it shows in the way you lead and inspire others. Additionally, being true to who you are is key – authenticity is vital in leadership.

Moreover, it is important to be okay with not always being the smartest person in the room. Instead, absorb as much knowledge as possible from those around you. Surround yourself with people who challenge and push you to be your best. This is where good mentors come in – they can help guide you and teach you things you might have yet to learn independently.

Finally, if you find that you are the smartest person in the room, you are likely in the wrong room. Surrounding yourself with people who are more knowledgeable than you can help you grow and learn. So, seek opportunities to learn from others and surround yourself with people who inspire you to be a better leader.

Protea Financial Josh Sterling Playing Soccer

Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?

You can still find me on the soccer fields when I’m not working, not as a collegiate soccer player and coach at Sonoma State University (where we won a National Championship in 2002!), but as a Dad. My amazing wife, Kristy, is an elementary school teacher and was a college soccer athlete, too. Our two sons, Carson and Parker, have definitely inherited our soccer genes and love competing in tournaments across the Western states.

Our family adores sports, traveling, dogs, beach days, and hanging out in our backyard pool and outdoor kitchen with our two English labs, Hula and Maui. We’re all about enjoying life and making the most of every moment!

As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Canine Companions (https://canine.org/). Canine Companions is leading the service dog industry so their clients and their dogs can live with greater independence. They provide service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities and facility dogs to professionals working in healthcare, criminal justice and educational settings. Since our founding in 1975, our dogs and all follow-up services are provided at no cost to our clients.

Independence shouldn’t be limited to those who look or live a certain way. Disability reaches all races, classes and backgrounds, and Canine Companions will too. Clients come to Canine Companions because of our reputation, the quality of our dogs, the experience of our training staff and the desire to lead life with greater independence. We are committed to providing services to all qualified clients. 

Become part of the ever-expanding Protea network. Contact us now and let’s work together to share our passions and help each other grow!

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