This month Blue Blaze Financial Advisors joined a growing community of startups, big companies and retail businesses moving into Bell Work’s the former Bell Labs megalith structure in Holmdel. Somerset Development is reimagining the Eero Saarinen designed masterpiece into a live, work, play space complete with an indoor quarter mile Main Street, hotel and restaurants. It's located in Holmdel, NJ, right off exit 114 of the Garden State Parkway.
This week I sat down for an interview with our friends at Marketing Rival, an agency in the Bell Works community, to talk about Blue Blaze’s decision to pick up headquarters and move to the space that’s humming, even while it’s still under construction.
Here are the highlights of our chat:
Why move out of a thriving, growing mini urban hub to come to Bell Works?
We have loved our time in Red Bank, which is where we have been located since Frank first started practicing financial planning back in 2002. So much is going on there, but ultimately we see our future at Bell Works. We are very much long-term thinkers and we feel there is tremendous opportunity that comes with moving our operations over to Bell Works. We love the growing community of thought and technology leaders taking root in the building. We know the history of the building itself will provide for our own company’s ongoing creative innovation. As a firm offering a totally new concept in the world of financial services, moving our home into the neighborhood of other companies and individuals who are trying to do the same in their own fields, we feel we will be right at home. Our hope is that this will be a great environment for us to grow and spread what we do.
What’s your totally new concept?
We believe that EVERYONE deserves an optimal life. Most financial services firms have a motivation that goes to building shareholder value, maximizing profit, etc. Their marketing materials may emphasize client benefit, but their offerings of products and services really add to their own pockets. Our motivation is very different from the traditional model I think. Our first focus in the client reaching their optimal life where the way they manage their money reflects their values and where they want to go in life.
Bell Works is all about creating a symbiotic community - a mini metropolis in the suburbs called a metroburb. What do you think of the concept?
It makes me happy! I feel like our team will fit right into this environment. In so many ways I think Blue Blaze will fit into the ecosystem. We see the metroburb and Bell Works as the re-birth of the suburban system, a breaking out of constraints to do things a new way, which requires vision. I lived in the shadow of this building for a large portion of my life and I always remember people saying how it would always be vacant. “That’s just the way it is,” people would say. We feel like we are doing that within the financial services world - for a long time, it was just done a certain way and we are taking a real shot at changing that. Both the Bell Works project and the Financial Life Guidance concept are ambitious undertakings. So at our core, I feel like we’re connected. Now the other great part is we talk to all of our clients about identifying and living ideal lives. We love the opportunity that the live-work-play space presents for us. We are not just some human-drone worker bees! Having all of the opportunities for learning, networking, growth, convenience, recreation - all within the building is pretty cool. I still want to pitch my rock wall idea to the Somerset Development Group.
So just like we help our clients identify and live out their ideal life, we do the same for ourselves personally as well as for the firm. What kind of firm do we want to be? We all show up every day and put our heart and soul into this. The location that we do this from is very important! Of course, we could save money (a lot!) by everyone working from home. But we feel the amount of money we pay in rent is more than worth the investment we receive for being a part of the Bell Works ecosystem. The building is gorgeous and something we are proud to show up to everyday and proud to show off to our clients. In essence, it is an ideal location for us as we try and grow this new concept of financial life guidance!
At your former office you and Client Services Director Sarah Robbins were able to walk to work. Why give that up?
We loved walking to work, it fits right into our environmental convictions, but this move actually helped us seize another opportunity to put our values to use. Bell Works in installing the largest photovoltaic skylight in the America. Soon every pane of glass in the ceiling will be pumping electricity back into the building. And bonus, there are plans for electric car charging stations out front. It was that last push we needed to buy that electric car we’d been planning for. And our dog Nala loves the new digs. We had her on the walking trails out back during lunch and she was in dog heaven. Working at Bell Works is good for the whole family.
How will this space better serve existing clients?
We’re grateful when our clients come to visit us and we want their experience to be one that’s memorable, happy, and, hopefully, fun. I think our clients will appreciate the upgraded experience they feel, both in terms of the building itself, as well as the individual space that they come and visit us in. We’ve moved away from the chair and conference table model and more to comfortable seating. Keeping with the tech trend of the building, we have also upgraded a lot of our in-house technology and presentation equipment, which will provide for more interactive and meaningful conversations and planning.
What kind of new clients will it help you connect with?
As a startup company ourselves, we’re excited to be around other startup minded people in this space. I truly believe that what we do is of tremendous benefit to anyone inclined to invest in the future of something they care about. Those are our ideal clients. So being around ambitious people that will reside inside Bell Works is an ideal space for us.
A lot of companies here do educational events for the community. Tell us about yours.
Between Frank and myself, we have decades of experience in areas that are probably of interest to the Bell Works community. We hope to be a part of that community sharing our knowledge, providing financial life guidance tips, and speaking on topics that are relevant and meaningful to the Bell community. We have discussed doing a “Happy Hour/Office Hour” that allows for a more informal interaction where we can connect with other employees in the building and begin to develop a relationship. No sales pitch - we just genuinely want to be a part of the community. We are also thinking about hosting a financial life guidance session to discuss some ways people can begin to do this on their own and resources they have available to them.
On June 6 we’re hosting a panel discussion for would be entrepreneurs with a special focus on mid-career professionals who are thinking of quitting their day jobs to start their own company.
Join Blue Blaze for Owning It. Is the Entrepreneur’s Life for You? (Really?)
An evening event at Bell Works on June 6
Tell me about the design elements. How do they support what you're doing?
I love how the building encourages participation outside of the traditional office format as well. I can't wait to utilize the common spaces for meetings with the Blue Blaze team or even with clients. Working in the atrium, you feel this awestruck inspiration with the magnitude and beauty of the building around you. For some of our clients, I think that setting will really put them in a more comfortable and even “think big” state of mind. Especially millennials. The traditional sit-across-the-conference-room-table-and-talk-stocks format is over. Now we have multiple venues to hold deep and meaningful conversations that yes, will hit the investment portfolio, but also - what are the critical areas we need to focus on to reach the ideal in your one and only shot at it. Too many people “zombie” their way through life. It's time to take control baby!!!
Both millennials and mid-career professionals can take advantage of free office hours with Frankie and Frank Corrado on June 6 following the entrepreneur event.
Above image by Brad Montgomery