Do Right (Featuring Phil Calandra)


In this episode of the Truest Fan podcast, you’ll meet Phil Calandra, a financial advisor and leader of the Atlanta team of Apella Capital Management. With everything going on in the financial markets (and the world), this is a great time to meet Phil because he is an optimist. Phil is great at putting things in their proper perspective. He’s a great cheerleader. He also knows how to lead people, whether it’s his clients or his team or his family, and he shares some timeless advice. He learned some of it from his grandfather. We talk about the importance of “doing right” and how to hang in there when things get tough. You’re going to learn a lot from my conversation with Phil.

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Show Highlights

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Podcast Transcript

Rob  00:06

In this episode of the Truest Fan podcast, you’ll meet Phil Calandra, a financial advisor and leader of the Atlanta team of Apella Capital Management. And this is a great time to meet Phil because Phil is an optimist. He’s a cheerleader. He knows how to lead people, whether it’s his clients or his team or his family, and he share some timeless advice, advice that he learned from his grandfather, the importance of doing right and the importance when things get tough of staying in there and kitchen, not giving up. You’re going to learn a lot from this conversation with Phil, stay tuned.

Announcer  00:53

You’re listening to the Truest Fan podcast. And now here’s your host, Rob Brown.

Rob  01:03

Hello friends, welcome to the Truest Fan podcast. I am super excited today because as I’ve been promising the last few weeks, I’m going to be introducing some guests to the Truest Fan podcast. And today I have my first guest, Phil Calandra, who is with Apella Capital down in Atlanta and all full disclosure, I guess that’s important. Phil is a client of mine. So, I know Phil very well, and I, and I’m positive that he’ll be somebody that you’ll want to listen to and learn from as we go through the interview today. So welcome, Phil.

Phil Calandra  01:39

Good to see you, Rob. Thanks for having me.

Rob  01:41

Oh, it’s great to have you have you on here. So, Phil to start out, because, as most of my listeners know, part of the reason that I wrote Truest Fan is because I am a huge Cleveland Indians baseball fan. And that’s how I came up with the whole Truest Fan idea. I need to know who is your favorite baseball team?

Phil Calandra  02:04

Well, you kind of gave it away when you said into the introduction from Atlanta. We’re the reigning World Series champs so that would definitely be the Atlanta Braves.

Rob  02:18

Well, that does make sense. But I do know, you know, people you’re very close to people who live in Atlanta and Atlanta is not their number one.

Phil Calandra  02:27

That’s true. That’s true. And if you live in Atlanta right now, and are not a Braves fan, it means you are transient or dropped here from another planet like Chicago.

Rob  02:38

Oops. We won’t give that one. We won’t give that one away. So, and then another thing I think is great for people who are listening to the podcast to get maybe some other information about you. What’s your what’s your favorite hobby? What’s something that you like doing outside of your work and going to Braves games?

Phil Calandra  02:58

Yeah, that’s a big one. Um, you know, I’ve always tried to be physically active. And that led me down a pathway, post college and post early career into triathlons. So, I like to swim bike and run or read. So, I guess that would be the fourth.

Rob  03:17

But I guess, swimming, biking and running together is kind of like the exact opposite of reading, right? One requires lots of motion and activity and the other words.

Phil Calandra  03:31

That’s why you add the reading into it.

Rob  03:37

Okay. Okay, that’s the recovery. I think they call it right. recovery time is reading time. So great. Yeah. And that’s obviously a very high intensity hobby that tells me is I know about you that you’re a pretty competitive guy.

Phil Calandra  03:56

Yeah, that’s accurate. And I think any type of balance that comes in your work, personal life to have that balance, everybody’s going to have some pursuit outside of work. And for me, triathlons, running, swimming, following a discipline training regimen. It’s the discipline, its consistency, its discipline. And then because I’m somewhat competitive, it’s benchmarking myself, right. I, I’m certainly not the fastest. I’m not going to win trophies in every event, but I’m going to compete against myself and use that consistency and discipline, just the same as I would in business. I’ll do it outside of business.

Rob  04:41

Yeah. Perfect. Perfect. That makes perfect sense. And I know that is really important to you. So, I have I have some questions. And for those of you like me, because this is the first time I’m doing this, or kind of getting used to this format. What I want to do is ask questions of my guests that are similar so we can kind of relate stories and why people feel the way that they do about how competitive they are, the way that they treat other people, what their goals might be in their business. And one thing that I think is always fascinating to ask someone is, you know, when you think about advice that you’ve been given over the course of the years that you’ve been around, I’m sure there’s been more than one person who’s given you some advice whether you want it or not, is there like one nugget or a couple of nuggets that really jumped out to you that you go back to over and over again, as maybe a guiding principle?

Phil Calandra  05:39

Wow, um, you know, I think so much so much of my early development as a young man and then as the as a young adult was from my grandfather, and I remember his words, it was two words really do, right. And when you’re a young person, you don’t necessarily know what do right means. But to me it started to frame over the years, do the right thing, do right, by your family do right by your friends do right in all aspects of your business, especially in the field that we’re in and financial services, I think you could probably make a pretty large case that Wall Street and the financial services industry doesn’t always do right, whether you’re classified as a fiduciary or not. So, I think that’s probably, I hear those words from him every single day. The other thing I would say quickly is because we have, you know, affinity for baseball, he always used to tell me when I was younger, stay in there and pitch. I only paid two seasons of baseball, but he always I hear him telling me stay in there and pitch, which was his way of saying don’t give up. Don’t come out of the game. Don’t get, you know, distracted, stay in there and pitch. So, I think those would be two things that I’d share.

Rob  07:04

Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. And you know, those are two like quick phrases that are easy to conceptualize and picture. And obviously, you can envision them because you can hear or maybe even see your grandfather saying them to you. But they’re also great, because there’s something that you can go back to all the time. And when you get into that situation where you’re not, you’re not trying to, you’re not deciding between robbing a bank or not robbing a bank but making life decisions that are important. Say, Let’s, let’s do right, let’s do it, right, let’s do this right. And then maybe it’s not going the way that you hoped that it would go. And you say, you know, I’m doing the right thing. So, I’m just gonna stay in here and pitch and I’m just gonna keep going at it. And so you don’t give up. That is. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. That’s great advice for all of us. You know, kind of in that same vein, you know, one of the things that I think about a lot right now is there is a ton of negativity in the world. And it’s really easy to feel beat up. Because you know, every time we turn on the TV or listen to somebody engaged in a political conversation, it feels like they’re trying to beat each other up trying to one up and it kind of carries over, you start to wonder, well, am I you know, am I doing the right thing? And I think it takes away somewhat from your own kind of mental toughness and that importance of believing in yourself. Do you? Do you agree with that? Is that does that resonate with you at all?

Phil Calandra  08:41

Well, absolutely. I think for me, personally, optimism is the only realism. I don’t really, you’d have to sit me down and talk to me in very small words and short sentences to be able to convince me otherwise. But you’re so right Rob in that the daily bombardment, the 24/7 click by click news cycle that we are exposed to is always in the negativity, it’s always a got a negative vein. And I think that’s probably because the oldest axiom and medium is bad news is good copy. But if you look at all of our lives as Americans and how blessed we are in this country, optimism can only be the real only realism because look at my 52 years walking on this earth, I’ve been blessed beyond measure greater than any generation previously in my family. And I think the next 50 years are going to be even exponentially better. So, I think you have to be able to turn that out. I try and coach my clients as they’re depending on me and Trish and Chris, Ellen and Davis, our team at Apella. They’re depending on us to help them reach their best, most cherished financial goals. And a lot of people can’t tune out negativity because it is just we’re, we’re in a swarm of it.

Rob  10:07

Right? You know, that accident has me thinking about the word fear, because that seems to be another kind of popular word. today. We’re being told to be fearful. And so those who might view optimism as the right way to go about things. How do you how do you view fear? How do you, what are you afraid of? Or are you afraid of anything?

Phil Calandra  10:30

Well, I think fear is a natural God given emotion. We all experience it. You just try to every day not allow that fear to come in the henhouse and destroy all of the beings that are in there. And that’s the same Anything I think happens to people we and truthfully, as a business owner and entrepreneur over the years, I certainly had a scarcity mentality at times, probably it was to my detriment, but it also kept me sharper and looking down the road and saying, well, how do I get myself out of this? How are they? How do I stay in there and pitch and not let that negativity or fear overcome me? But yeah, I think fear is a natural God given emotion, but so is optimism. So is, you know, any of the other emotions, compassion, success, and the more you build upon that, I think, the better we get at things. Fear, you know, I would say fear and stress. Right? They’re imposed, internally, I don’t have to get stressed out about anything, unless I choose to same thing with fear. But nonetheless, it’s, you know, it’s part of every human nature, it’s part of human beings.

Rob  11:46

Yeah, no, absolutely, absolutely. I think that’s important to think about, because, you know, we, I think you express it very well there at the end. It’s a choice, you can choose to be fearful or stressed. And obviously, there are there are things that happen in our lives that we that we fear. We have something that happens to the health of one of our loved ones, you know, it’s hard not to be fearful. But can we approach that fear in a way where we acknowledge the difficulty of the situation, but also bring in our belief that being optimistic is going to be a way to help get through that?

Phil Calandra  12:27

Right? Well, and I think too your life’s experiences, and your own maturity, age you in that. And if you’re a young person listening to the podcast today, and maybe you don’t have a tremendous amount of experience, maybe it’s in business or relationships, but are there other people, are there other truest fans all around you in your life that you can rely on or lean on to help you bridge that gap until your own maturity develops? Because I we’ve all had situations, I have many personal relationship, you know, family issues, that I didn’t have maturity, and I didn’t have an understanding of what was going on at the time. But I tried to find a pathway forward by leaning on other truest fans to use your, you know, perfectly synced, you know, description of people that we need in our lives.

Rob  13:18

Right, right. Yeah. And I appreciate your saying that, because I think that really is important. Because we also live in a world where, you know, kind of all the information that we need to have can be readily available to us. And you know, just because we read a tweet or read a blog post, you know, we can think, well, gosh, I am very knowledgeable. I know everything about that. And that’s overstating it, but we get this sense of self-importance or have just like we network, like we’re a know at all. But it isn’t, until sometimes we have the benefit of putting in some years and going through some of the experiences that that knowledge turns into wisdom. And that wisdom is the thing I think that you’re referring to that truest fans appreciate about themselves, because they can share it, but they also appreciate it about others because sometimes you need help, and you want to reach out to that person who’s your cheerleader, who will give you that wisdom back and tell you hey, be optimistic, do right. You know, whatever, whatever it is, keeps you on that right path.

Phil Calandra  14:25

Right? Well, I think too. That’s why mentorship programs work. That’s why parenting a traditional family. Whether the mother and the father are married could be divorce situations. My sons came through that but we both were active in parenting. We wanted to make sure that we were instilling upon them those things that they couldn’t do for themselves or didn’t have the maturity or the experience. The truest fan had to give them that to a certain extent.

Rob  14:54

Right. And you and your wife, even though you had split we’re true as fans of your sons through thick and thin. In fact, I think you take them to a few Braves games when you when you get a chance. Hopefully you get well Cleveland sometime soon.

Phil Calandra  15:11

Don’t need to do that. But we did We were fortunate enough to go to game five of the World Series last year and I can tell you that is an event that I certainly would never forget, and I know that my sons will never forget.

Rob  15:24

Yeah, I can just tell by the look on your on your face. The people listening this podcast can’t actually see

Announcer  15:37

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Rob  16:03

So, you know, one of the lessons of being a truest fan is that smiles and kind words go a long way that they’re really important, you know, are there things are a little habits that you have or tricks that you play on a regular basis with your family, or your clients or your team that you use to try to, you know, pick them up, and, and let them know that you’re thinking about them and you care about them.

Phil Calandra  16:31

You know, I think that’s probably an area for improvement to be honest. I am very driven, I’m very, I think that I put on myself a never ending, I raised the bar on myself. So, I think one of the things that I could have improvement in as a leader, as a as a manager, as a father is to step away from that raising of the bar and be more empathetic and be able to do more of that. But I think that the way that you do it is the way a good coach does, you know, tries to recognize the good inputs, and when the outcome doesn’t perform the way we would like, as long as we’ve put in the best input. The outcome isn’t always something we can control. But you know, yeah, I think that’s how I would answer that. I everybody could be more empathetic. I know I could be

Rob  17:24

Right. Yeah. No, I just I was just curious about that. Because I think that’s something to think about. Because it’s so easy to forget that there are people who need that attaboy, you know, even if it’s a situation where we might have to tell somebody on our team that they need to improve their performance, if you start that conversation by letting them know how much you appreciate them and what they do, and that the thing that you want them to improve isn’t because they’re a bad person. It’s just because sure, just, you know, something that they did isn’t working the way that you would like it to work. And if they realize that they probably wouldn’t like it to work that way, either.

Phil Calandra  18:05

Right? Yeah, I think that in that line, and I’m not the first one to ever say this, but you really can’t motivate others, you can create an environment in which they will prosper, they will improve, they will up their game. But the notion of motivating others, I’ve heard that said and I tend to agree with it, we can motivate we can motivate ourselves hard to motivate others, but you have to create an environment that allows them to be the best version of themselves. And that he may still it still may fall short from the bar that somebody else may said.

Rob  18:40

Yeah, I think that’s a great point. In fact, I just had that conversation last week with the client was saying, how do I motivate so and so they’re just, you know, they’re just failing, and they say all the right things, and they tell me they liked the work they’re doing. They like working with me, they love our clients, but you know, they’re always falling short. How do I motivate them? And as I had an answer, honestly, you know, you just have to create an environment, as you said, where they feel supported, they are recognized for things they do well, but when they need a little bit of extra kick in the rear end, they get that too. And it’s real. And I think that’s, that’s what we’re also over time.

Phil Calandra  19:17

Yeah. And I think again, it’s we can control our inputs, we can’t control the outcomes. So in in creating an environment that you can have people flourish and grow. At the end of the day, I think it’s upon them, they have to want to grow, they have to want to flourish. And then sometimes the hardest thing is maybe that particular individual is not in the proper role. The Human Capital has been deployed in an inefficient way. And that’s something that happens.

Rob  19:50

Right. So let me kind of turn that a little bit. Think about that in relationship to your client. So, when you’re working with your clients, and you’re helping them plan, you’re doing financial planning, you’re helping them plan for their retirement. How does that coaching that creating the right environment work best for you and helping clients see that they’re on the right track and they’re in working with you they’re part of the right team?

Phil Calandra  20:21

I think all good financial outcomes will come from a progression in this order and only in this order. The first is goals. The second is the plan itself. And the third is the funding medium, the portfolio, the investments. It’s a progression that has to follow in that order. And once you have the right plan designed for goal attainment, you become a very goal driven planning focused investor, as opposed to what most people are doing out there, which is their market driven and current event focused. And they’re thinking that if they can just get to beat the S&P 500, as a silly example, that somehow, they’re going to achieve all their financial goals. But they haven’t articulated what the goal even is, for example, a date specific dollar specific retirement, whatever that means to somebody. So, I think that progression has to take place, then I’m constantly communicating coaching, doing video communications to help people stay on track. And in many instances, 80% of what I do at any given time is really behavioral modification. It’s getting people to not blow the plan up in other way, in other words blow themselves up. Because Wall Street, we were talking about the negativity, financial journalism is forever going to create failed investors, because they’re not goal driven and planning focus their market, they got to find a reason why the market is in a little bit of a downturn, and then tomorrow, there’s going to be another reason why the market is up 2%. And that’s when a behavioral coach becomes the best thing they could ever pay for. But that’s not what Wall Street really prescribes to people. So, I think it’s behavioral coaching, and again, creating environment with my experience and knowledge to help people reach their most cherished financial goals outside of that, why do we have any portfolio investments? It means nothing.

Rob  22:29

Yeah, great, great point. So, tell me, who is your ideal client? So, what is the type of person that you like to work with the most and appreciates that environment that you’re creating?

Phil Calandra  22:41

That is really a great question, because I have always in nearly 20 years of working with clients, I always struggled with the notion of having a minimum because when you when you would say to someone, you know, what’s your ideal client, many cases, you’ll hear? Well, they have a million dollars in investable net worth or half a million dollars of in, you know, 401 k, rollover, or whatever it is, I always had a problem with that. I was raised by a single mother who never would have had financial counsel ever. She had three kids at home and was making $16,000 a year one of them entering Florida State University with no chance in you know what to be able to provide assistance. So, I went in building my firm, not necessarily feeling that I had $1 amount for the ideal client. So, with that said, I’d say my ideal client now is somebody that’s passionate about their own goals, they’re going to listen to good rational counsel, and they’re going to allow the plan to play itself out. They’re going to be good listeners, and they’re going to be good questioners. I want my client to ask, why are we doing, this helped me understand that. And generally, those relationships get deeper and deeper and more rooted in you know, like I said, their goal, their most cherished financial goals, I think that something magically happens, if I were to demographically frame it, something magically happens in the life of people’s finances when they reach 50 years old. And I’m past that, we both are just a little past it. But something kind of goes off in people’s mind in America, they turn 50. And they for the first time, many people recognize holy cow, I’m, you know, maybe 10 or 15 years away from this life changing altering event, which we call retirement, it’s really the point in which you just you stop going, dear J o b or nine to five, and now you’re, you’re looking to that financial independence, I don’t want to have an alarm clock to wake me up, I want to get up and choose to do what I do, I’m not going to have a paycheck, I’m going to be generating paychecks. And if it begins to happen, I think in the early 50s. So ideally, I’d like to see and meet people that are, you know, 50, 55 have a runway long enough that we can correct any mistakes, but then make sure that the flight plan and the pathway helps them achieve what they want to achieve. I don’t want to take on a client that is destined to fail, then I’m complicit in the failure and I Wall Street firms that are pretty complicit in a lot of failure. I don’t want to be that advisor.

Rob  25:25

Right. I think you really put that well, Phil and I and in thinking about the way that you were describing that relationship that you have with clients. I think one of the things that you said that really jumps out to me and the way that you are really that cheerleader that truest fan of your clients is that unlike some advisors that I meet and speak with you like questions, and you like difficult questions. You don’t you may not like difficult people who are, you know, irrational when they ask questions where they’re just trying to, you know, beat you up or make a point. But that’s I think that’s part of that relationship is that that client, that ideal client that you enjoy working with knows that when they have that they get some news in their life or they read something about financial markets or whatever’s going on, they know that they can come to you and ask a question, and you’re not going to go, hey you have a plan, don’t worry about that question. I’m not going to I’m not going to answer it.

Phil Calandra  26:21

Yeah. And I don’t think as advice giver, I never want to tell somebody in a glib way, don’t worry about that don’t pay any attention. Trust me. Right. That’s not what it’s about. I think a good working relationship is built on the premise that we have a common philosophical belief on how we’re going to get to and through this retirement game, and putting in these in place, things that I just believe in. I think so much of financial advice, today comes at it more from you mentioned fear, I think I look across the marketing complex. And you know, now with social media, I had a radio show here in Atlanta for almost nine years. And I can remember hearing other competing radio programs, and they were just driving this narrative that the world is coming to an end, this time is different. And what they really are doing is creating a sales environment based around fear, and why would we ever want to do that I want to be, I want to tell the truth, I want to do right, and I’m going to do exceptionally well, by doing right and telling the truth. It seems in a lot of instances, that’s not the case today, because people are trying to focus on a transaction rather than like you said, the relationship and really understanding what they’re trying to accomplish. If I do that, I truly believe all the rest of it just takes care of itself. And I think that’s part of the truest fan mantra or belief that I love.

Rob  27:59

Right. And obviously, the results that your business has had and growing over the years and attracting wonderful people to work with is proof positive of that. So, this might sound like a silly question. But one thing that I know, a lot of advisors struggle with is making it really obvious as to whether or not they’re open for new business, that they’re actually accepting clients. So, I just want to ask that straight out. Are you accepting clients to your practice?

Phil Calandra  28:33

Yes, we are open for business, we are accepting new clients. However,

Rob  28:40

So what’s the best way? I’m sorry, go ahead.

Phil Calandra  28:42

I was just going to say however, I want to make certain on the very front end of a newly created relationship with a client that we philosophically agree that we will both be committed to the progression I talked about, goals, plan, and then the portfolio. And if we have that agreement, then I’m absolutely thrilled to help anybody that I can. I will say that over the last several months, as we have merged and transitioned our practice with the Apella capital, I’ve been blessed with a tremendous opportunity, I can see the moment in time coming rapidly that I won’t take new clients because I want to service at my utmost 100% potential that I just may not have the capacity to do that. Apella certainly would with associated advisors, but Phil, individually, I may see that day.

Rob  29:41

Yeah. And it’s something that I’m sure we’ll work on is that time approaches more closely. But that’s just coach Rob piping in there. So, if what’s Well, first of all, like what’s the best way for somebody who might be interested in talking you to you to reach out like, what does that first conversation look like? Because I think what’s, what do you do to kind of get over that, you know, because some people who might be listening say, hey, Phil, sounds like great guy to work with. But he just said that he has a business that’s filling up. I might hesitate to reach out.

Phil Calandra  30:16

Yeah well, I’ll just give the short commercial then. The phone number is 678-218-5925. That’s the phone number to the office. You can go to That’s a p e l l a capital ca p i t a l. And there’s an Atlanta office location page. Scheduled 15 minutes with me. The initial step, I think in any advisory relationship has to just be a very casual conversation. I want to get to know what you’re looking for; you want to have a forum to ask me whatever you need to ask. So, a 15-minute conversation can accomplish that if after that point, we agreed to explore it further than, you know, we might dig in for, you know, 30, 45 minutes, you know, potentially an hour and then discover again, what are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish? What have you done to this point? What maybe keeps you up at night? What do you think is going well? What do you think is not going well, and then if I can point you in a better direction, than we might have you no reason to continue the conversation.

Rob  31:26

So, I’ll be sure to put your contact info in the show notes. But I want to, again, just point out I think the what I think is really important that whether it’s Phil or somebody else, it could be a future guest on this podcast that you want to talk to, the best thing that you can do, if you like the way that somebody talks about the way they might serve you is to spend 15 minutes with them, and really get to know them because that’s the real key. So, I felt we’re at the end of our time. I have one last question. One last question. If you could leave the audience with one piece of advice, what would it be? And I almost want to tell you that it needs to be what your grandfather told you. I asked you the question. I’m not answering it for you.

Phil Calandra  32:10

Yeah, you just did. You know, I think you got it for the for the bigger picture. We’re all in some ways, cogs in the wheel. So do the right thing. Do the right thing for yourself, your family and others. And yes, stay in there and pitch, don’t give up, keep moving forward. That’s something that I have learned in so many different ways. And we all have the big differences. Do you lay down or crawl up into the fetal position in the corner? Or do you get up, dust yourself off and then do it again, you know, if we’re having a baseball analogy, you know, if you go to the plate 10 times in the major leagues, these are the best ballplayers in the world. And if they go to the plate 10 times and they hit it two and a half or three times on average out of 10. That is a heck of a season. If you’re consistent enough to string that along for 6, 7, 8 seasons. That’s a really big contract and a trip to Cooperstown. So just don’t give up. Keep going. Because guess what, life’s not fair. It’s going to knock you down. Those that get back up. They do the right thing. They stay in there and pitch guess what they’re the ones that are going to have the World Series ring just like the Atlanta Braves did last year.

Rob  33:34

You had to put that in, there’s a guy whose team hasn’t been hasn’t won a World Series in my in my life. But I won’t, I won’t end on a negative I want to end on a positive so Phil as you bring us to a close. I just want to tell you how much I think you really represent what I consider to be a truest fan. I know how much you believe in yourself how much you really care for and believe in those around you. And you really like to spread that good word by doing as your grandfather instructed. And just stay in there. Keep pitching and doing it right with a smile on your face. I think that is just an awesome way to be and I am proud to know you for being that that person. So, thanks for being on this. I was going to keep wanting to say the inaugural edition of the podcast but just the first podcast of Truest Fan where I’ve invited in a guest couldn’t think of a better person to have on board.

Phil Calandra  34:31

I’m happy to be here. Rob. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me, my team and my family.

Rob  34:36

You’re so welcome. 

Take care.

Rob Brown

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