By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter
Tracey Aiello of the Angelo Planning Group has made a fulfilling, enjoyable career as a consultant for the past 15 years by helping other people find new jobs and, more recently, helping women manage their finances more effectively.
Here is a video of Aiello talking about his involvement with RPCN and his latest project.
Aiello came to consulting from a variety of other jobs; at that time, selling very large automation systems, but his background also includes laying track for the railroad while in school and then being a railroad engineer after school, as well as working for Kodak and Xerox, among other jobs. “I’ve been in sales for 30-plus years but never sold anything.” He switched to consulting after one of those classic moments as a parent: “I became a financial consultant in 2003 when I was driving down 490 at 4:30 in the morning (for work) and got a phone call from my little son,” he recalled. “He said, ‘Daddy, don’t go.’ I decided right then that I wanted to spend time with my son while he was growing up. I went right to the August Group.”
Since then, Aiello has moved from client to driving force with the August Group, which is his major networking commitment. He has seen that organization grow from 300 to more than 6,500 people helped over the past 12 years.
Aiello became a Master Strategist in neurolinguistic programming, which is the psychology of understanding “why we do what we do, and don’t do what we know we should do.” He also earned an MBA in financial management from RIT, although “that is not really what I do,” he noted. “I look at (financial planning) from a strategic aspect. I’m not selling products. I work with a team that includes people who watch the market.”
He works mainly with individuals, who often find him through his August Group visibility. “At first, 90 percent of my clients came from the August Group,” he said. “Now it’s about 25 percent, with 75 percent coming from referrals.”
Aiello loved every job he has had and has no regrets about any of them; even though “there are a lot of things I would have done differently; any failures were learning experiences,” he said. Like many RPCN colleagues, he started consulting without a formal business plan. “I just didn’t realize that I did have a plan in mind.” It wasn’t anything formal or structured, but it worked like the proverbial charm.
Helping people out gives Aiello his greatest sense of reward and fulfillment as a consultant. His favorite question to ask potential clients, but actually anyone he meets, is “How can I help you?” That mindset translates beyond his business life; in the recent blizzard, Aiello hopped out of his car and started pushing other people’s vehicles that were stuck in the snow!
Aiello added the Women Investment Network (WIN), which is designed to educate, connect and empower women, to his service offerings late last year – another aspect of his interest in helping others. “I’ve seen so many meetings where all the attention was on the men, with the women left out of the conversation,” he said. “I didn’t like that. I also noticed that a lot of women were very competent in their business lives, but not comfortable with financial aspects of their own lives. They may be paying all the bills, but they aren’t looking at the long term.”
WIN provides not only financial planning advice and resources, but fun as well: The April meeting will be held at a paint-your-own-pottery shop and the May meeting will be at a garden center.
In addition to RPCN, WIN and the August Group, Aiello also is involved with a lay ministry program at his church and is a Boy Scout leader.
Aiello credits his success as a consultant, and his enjoyment of his consulting life, to a can-do attitude. Unlike many people who consider consulting, “my plan was that if this doesn’t work, I’ll find a way to make it work, rather than walk away and do something else,” he said. His commitment to networking is also a major factor in his success. “You have to love to network,” he said. “You have to network everywhere you go.”
To Aiello, success as a consultant requires listening to what people say, rather than always being the one to talk, and what he calls sensory acuity: “interpreting what someone says and what their body language is really saying, because they might not be congruent,” he said. His advice for those considering consulting: “The first thing is to become unemployed,” he said with a smile. “Too many people have a great product or great idea, but that isn’t enough. You have to look at ‘why’ – you can’t get into consulting just to be getting a paycheck. It’s not about what you know; it’s about how you can help someone solve a problem.” It helps to have a specific, fairly narrow focus, he added: “The more you focus on a niche market, the better chance you have of success.”
Keeping basic business principles in mind is important to Aiello and part of the advice he offers anyone he helps. That includes things like presenting a professional, businesslike appearance at any event associated with networking and interacting with colleagues. “You only have a few seconds to make that first impression," he said.
For Aiello, “it’s all about networking and connecting with people you can share with. I try to help people get back to work. That’s what really helps me get up in the morning.”
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”™ She is also the owner of Communication Central (www.communication-central.com), which hosts a conference for communications entrepreneurs in the fall.