Successful advisors often find creative ways to build their businesses. Take advisor Sarah Boston, for example.

"I built my career dragging my husband along doing cooking classes for women," said Boston, branch manager and financial planner for Bookends Financial Planning, based in Indianapolis, Ind., and affiliated with Raymond James Financial Services. "It was a great ice breaker. Food is a connector. It always means something to people."

Boston spoke on a top advisor panel on Thursday at the 23rd Annual Raymond James Women's Symposium in Tampa, Fla.

She once did a chocolate tasting for retired teachers at which she provided single-source chocolates, chocolates from different countries and blended chocolates. "We had a conversation and we paralleled them to investments," she said.

"We can use what's happening around us and use familiar things for clients to translate what we are doing in our offices for them," Boston observed. "They don't care about alpha, they don't care about Sharpe ratios. I've never had a single client say, 'What's the beta on this mutual fund?' They don't care. But if you sit down over a meal, which is nourishing for the soul and the body, it's a connecting event."

She acknowledged she may have an edge creating food events since her husband is a chef. "But there are a lot of young chefs who need business development who would be willing to partner with you to do some cool stuff. So you get ice breaking, you get connection points, you get people laughing," Boston said.

She added the cooking classes her husband did to help her build her business influenced the kind of business he eventually chose. "My husband doesn't own a restaurant; he owns a private event facility, because after doing these cooking classes for me, he said, 'I want to have what you have. I want clients, not customers. I don't want to be back in the kitchen and never know who I am feeding and what their experience is like.'"

Boston wasn't the only advisor to talk about food and clients. Lisa Detanna, managing director and a senior vice president based in Beverly Hills, Calif., with the Global Wealth Solutions Group of Raymond James & Associates, added special food events are something she's done, too. "I try to do things that are meaningful. No one wants a rubber chicken dinner."

Detanna said her father was a chef for "the White House West" in San Clemente, Calif., when Richard Nixon was president. One of the most popular events she organized for clients and prospects was when her father cooked six dishes that he had made for President Nixon and John Wayne. Barbara Fairchild, former editor of the cooking magazine Bon Appetit, provided commentary on wines paired with the meals. "I thought people would just drop in," Detanna said. "We had over 200 people come and stay the entire six hours."

Food events are not the only kinds of activities Detanna has provided for clients and prospects. She's also gotten a box at major tennis tournaments for clients, and paired a concert with a book reading.

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