Don’t Panic: Today is not forever. Don’t give up on yourself or your goals. I have been there, and the added stress of today has almost broken me but keep going. Find someone to talk to about how you are feeling. We all need a support system these days.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Burke, CFP®.
An entrepreneur at heart, Katie has almost two decades of experience in the financial services field. She launched Method Financial Planning, a fee-only financial planning firm, in 2015 to focus on the planning needs of young families and busy professionals. In 2018 Katie Co-Founded Equita Financial Network, a collaborative solution to support other women in building successful financial planning practices.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I had an internship in college that made me realize I wanted a career in financial services. My job was pretty much shredding paper and doing data entry, but I got to see first-hand what a financial advisor did all day. I was immediately struck when seeing the relationship between clients and the advisors and it all seemed so exciting.
After graduating from college, I spent the next decade getting as much experience as I could working for larger financial services firms. As you may be aware, the majority of the financial services industry is made up of men (women make up less than 20% of all financial advisors) and I never had an opportunity to work with a female financial advisor because frankly, there weren’t any women advisors around. As I moved further along in my career, I recognized that if I wanted to juggle having kids, and a career in finance, I would need to create my own firm. I was really good at what I did and had the experience to back it up, but I found a lack of support as a working mother in my industry.
In 2015 I created Method Financial Planning, offering comprehensive planning and investment management solutions to busy professionals. When word got out about Method, I started fielding calls from other women across the industry asking how I started my firm, and many of them felt the same way I did — they were undervalued in their current firms, under paid and felt stuck. Three years later I co-founded Equita Financial Network, a collaborative network of women-led financial planning firms.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
I started a second company to fill a void that existed for my first company! By the time I reached the second anniversary of Method Financial Planning I was ready to take my firm to the next level, but traditionally that was expensive and meant I might need to give up some of the independence I had fought so hard for. Bridget Grimes and I had known each other for a few years, and she found herself in the same place, so Equita Financial Network was born. It was created out of a need that Bridget and I had to grow our planning firms, to have access to top resources and to provide exceptional service to our clients. It has since become a platform for other women financial planners to do the same — to build the business they want, — and a passion of ours to help women in our industry succeed.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At Equita we have been focusing on growth and how to get the word out there about what we are doing. We have assembled an awesome team of service providers and partners and are ready to take the firm to the next level to help support women across the country to build the financial planning business they want. It is an exciting time and we want to be a force in the change to attract and retain women in the financial planning industry. I think you will be seeing more of us soon!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I consider myself very lucky that I have had many people along the way that have helped guide me. I had an amazing manager at one of my first jobs and I give him a lot of credit for helping me stay in the industry. One of the greatest pieces of advice he gave me was to be your own advocate. Speak up about the work you are doing and where you want to go. Take the time to learn from people you admire in the industry and always continue to build your network.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Monday, March 16th my children’s school’s closed and our nanny of two years told us she wasn’t coming back to work. I suddenly had to figure out how I was going to continue to grow my businesses while overseeing the homeschooling of my Preschooler and Kindergartener. Everything that was not needed to survive immediately fell off my list. I felt selfish but I immediately started a grieving process for the life I had. I wanted to shut down, throw my hands up and quit. My days went from meetings discussing financial plans and business strategy, to complete and never-ending chaos. I was more exhausted than I ever have known in my life and felt like I was letting everyone down. Work was piling up and trying to manage working while supervising the kids’ Zoom meetings felt impossible.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Luckily, I am surrounded by some awesome resources through Equita and a community of other women and working moms. At Equita we work with a business coach, Colleen Hallinan of Qii Consulting. Way before a pandemic took hold Colleen taught us the benefits of time blocking to be efficient and take control of our hectic days. I used this to schedule my work calendar but never knew how useful it would be in my personal life as well. I felt some sanity come back into my life when I applied it to my new normal, giving myself time in the morning to work, exercise or plan for the day knowing I was helping the kids with schoolwork in the mornings. I changed my meeting availability to meet with clients to weekends or after 4:30pm when my husband could take over parenting responsibilities. This calendar planning allowed me to be focused and present whether it was wearing my mom, teacher or work hat.
We all know that the ‘to-do’ list is never ending and can take on a life of its own. Taking 15 minutes before shutting down work for the night I take stock of the items on my list and review the top 3 things that must get done the next day. This allows me to be focused, feel accomplished and give my day some direction no matter what is thrown at me.
I have learned in these trying times to give myself grace. Those who know me might say I am a Type A perfectionist, a trait that has served me well in my career, but in reality, I need to learn to give myself some grace, especially in times when it seems like the world is falling apart. Progress, not perfection, is an important mantra in my life these days.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Owning a business, let alone 2 businesses, means that you are always working. In a pre-pandemic world, we were able to figure out my crazy work schedule while being a mom and a wife, and I felt like it was all starting to fall into place. When everything changed it meant there was no longer a separation between my mom, wife and work hats. Work was at home, kids were at home, and my husband was at home, and they all blended together 24/7. Method turned 5 this year and Equita turned 2, so both businesses are still in many ways in startup mode and need a lot of time and attention to not only keep them running but to keep them growing. Business did not stop even when the world felt like it did.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Since the pandemic began, I have realized how important it has been to adjust my expectations and communicate realistic expectations to my colleagues and clients. Prior to the pandemic if there was a tight project deadline, I had no issues working additional hours to get it done, but now life was different. It was important to share what was realistic to help ease some of the pressure I was feeling to hold it all together, and to communicate to others what they could expect from me during this time. Luckily most of my business was conducted virtually prior to the pandemic so no one was surprised using Zoom meetings to stay in touch. They may have been a bit surprised to have my 3-year-old interrupt the meeting to scream that he had to use the bathroom, but after a good laugh, the conversation would continue.
I knew that I had to pivot. My husband is awesome, and I have an amazing network of business colleagues that shook me out of it. I had not come this far to give even an inch up. I took some time for myself and figured out my next steps. My husband works for a large corporation so I asked him to request some personal days to takeover kid duty so I could clear my head. I realized that there was no option to have someone watch my children (we were in full lockdown mode in our community) so I had to find some solutions on the business side to help me reach those goals I had spent so long crafting and planning for. Through my network I found an operations assistant to help with client tasks, and a marketing expert to help continue to market my firm. These decisions were key to help my businesses run while I was helping my children with schoolwork.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Plan with the best intentions but be flexible. Set realistic expectations for the day, so even if things go downhill you are still accomplishing the tasks that must get done that day.
Try to separate work life and home life. This seems impossible these days, but we have set up different rooms for different activities in our house. The boys love having their own space to do their work, even if it is just keeping their school supplies in their own container and giving them each their own special chair to sit in. My laptop moves around with me during the day depending on what is going on with work, but when I have scheduled time to work, I head to my home office, a place where I can focus.
Take time for yourself and do not be afraid to ask for help. I am so burnt out by the afternoon juggling kids and work calls. When it is time for my husband and I to switch roles and for me to put on my work hat being productive feels impossible. As soon as our community started to open up, I found a sitter to help for a few hours every morning to start to get back on track. I also started running again. I loathe running and have asthma, but when I know I have 30 minutes to myself I can throw my shoes on and literally run out the door and run my anxiety out. It has done wonders for my mental health.
As I was doing this interview my mom called because my son is sick and she was headed back to my house with him. The craziness never ends, but somehow we pick ourselves up and continue to take care of business and our families because we are awesome working (super) moms!!!
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Build a support network. Whether it is a virtual happy hour, a group text, or taking a walk around the neighborhood I have never appreciated my community more. We are all craving human connection more than ever, and we have to be creative, but make it happen.
To come back to the mental health piece I referenced before, figure out how to find time for yourself. Get outside, do a virtual workout, write in a journal.
Plan new adventures with the family. We plan a family night every Friday night, so we have something to look forward to all week. It could be a movie night, make your own pizza night, building a fort in the living room, something to help everyone exhale the anxiety and have some laughs.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Use this time to change up your routine: I was glued to the news at the beginning of the pandemic and the first thing I did every day when I woke up was check the news. Depending on what I read the news could completely derail me for the rest of the day. I now intentionally spend the first hour of my day setting myself up for success. It might be getting some work accomplished before the kids wake up or going for a run to get me in a mindset to have a productive and positive day.
- Embrace the craziness: I tell my husband that one day by 7:45am our house will be quiet. Our house is loud from 5:45am — 8:00pm every day. There is no break, there is no off button but one day we may miss the craziness and the extra time we get to spend with our family.
- Focus on what is most important: I have had countless conversations with other women during this time who have come to the realization that they didn’t love what they were doing before the pandemic and are using this time as a chance to figure out their next step. Maybe they enjoy working from home, or being around loved ones more, but I think many of us have reassessed life and what is important to us during this trying time. By focusing on what is important in your life you may create a new path for yourself.
- Don’t Panic: Today is not forever. Don’t give up on yourself or your goals. I have been there, and the added stress of today has almost broken me but keep going. Find someone to talk to about how you are feeling. We all need a support system these days.
- Keep Learning: I have learned so much about myself and my family these past few months. I have had conversations with my husband that I don’t know if we would have had pre-pandemic. Conversations about where we are going, and how to make this all work together as a family. Pre-pandemic we ran around just getting through work and life, now we are more thoughtful about our decisions as a family.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Be there to listen. Everyone has a different way of processing what is going on and has different needs to help them get through this difficult time. I think on Facebook I saw someone write — We may all be in the same storm, but we are in different boats. I could not agree more.
We are very lucky that we live close to family so make it a point to have socially distanced visits with my grandparents, and we have the boys make cards to send to other family members that we are unable to see in person. Our life is so busy every day that it can be easy to forget how lonely this pandemic has been for others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“One day at a time. One step at a time” — unknown
I have a sticker on my laptop with this quote, so it is something I literally look at all day long. I can’t tell you how many times a day when I am looking at it, I have to intentionally remind myself of how true it is. I have big goals for my career and my personal life, but I have to remind myself to take things one day, one step at a time.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow me on LinkedIn
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!