Tuesday, June 13, 2017
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan
I recently read Failing Forward, by John Maxwell. There is an excerpt from the book which discusses how failure can be a valuable learning experience if we actually seek to understand it.
Maxwell uses an analogy from a Peanuts cartoon to illustrate the concept. He cites an example of Charlie Brown building a sand castle on the beach which gets flattened by a wave. Charlie Brown stares at his would be creation, knowing a lesson is in there somewhere but he doesn't try to figure out what it is.
Often times when people fail at something it sends them to a dark place or they have such a fear of failing that it paralyzes their effort to try. As Maxwell explains, we must embrace failure for what it is, an opportunity to learn. But we must put in the effort to learn from it. This is what helps us grow and prevents us from making the same mistakes. In Charlie Brown's case, he could have learned to build sand castles a little farther from the waves.
Taking the leap to become an entrepreneur is a big risk. Waves are constantly washing up onto the shore and wiping out sand castles. You know going in that the statistics are against you. Most business fail.
A couple of years ago, I made the leap. I set out to build my own sand castle. And here I am about to pad that statistic even more. I built my sand castle too close to the waves. It is hard for me to call Divvy a failure though.
Don't get me wrong, this was a gut wrenching decision (if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm closing the business). I started to go to that dark place. I peaked in the door. It wasn't pretty. It was scary. Holy sh*t it was scary! And painfully negative. I've been knocked down a lot. I always have and always will get back up. This time it seemed a bit harder to get up.
As I started to fall, I picked up my head and looked around me. I got brutally honest with myself and my family (extended family and friends). I asked for help. I quickly realized there was a long line of people offering to help me get back on my feet. I knew that the impact would be felt, but with help I could brace for impact then bounce back up. It was time to embrace the suck (Marine speak... Shtuff just got real. Deal with it. Learn from it. Move on.)
It is hard for me to call Divvy a failure. I have learned more in the past 2+ years running this business than I had in the previous 10. I learned a lot about life. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about the people I associate with (and those I choose not to). I learned a ton about business. I met some of the most amazing people on the planet. Seriously. I met some people who were in the trenches too, hooking and jabbing out there in the entrepreneurial world, who I truly believe are going to change the world. I got so far out of my comfort zone that I don't even remember where it was. I put myself, and my tiny little company, in a position to pitch to execs at a Fortune 200 company. I hustled, stumbled, tripped, and fell backwards into some great situations. I built something from scratch (with a lot of help) that people paid their hard earned money for. My clients are awesome! There were even some people that wanted to join the team (they were crazy enough to want to get in the fight with me). It has been an amazing experience, filled with daily roller coaster rides, lots of fun (and some heartburn), and a lifetime worth of lessons.
I did it. I took the leap. For those of you who know me well you know that Sinatra's song "My Way" should be playing in the background as you read this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E2hYDIFDIU
At the end of the day, the business did not work out how I planned, or how I wanted it to. If I looked at the sand castle that has been washed away and didn't learn anything from it, it would be a failure. But I don't. The sun will come up tomorrow, I'll wake up, and that will be a pretty good way to start my day. I'll have an opportunity to take the lessons learned and apply them to my next adventure, whatever that may be.
To everyone who helped make this wild ride happen, THANK YOU!
“Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Look to tomorrow.” - Snoopy
Monday, May 22, 2017
We are all busy. Life is busy. Running a business is busy. The word busy is even in the word business...sort of. I make a motion to change the spelling of the word business to busyness. All in favor say "I".... (crickets). Moving on.
I get it. Being a financial advisor is tough. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to succeed. And don't even get me started on all the back office stuff you have to keep up with.
If you want to grow your practice you're going to have to find a way to spend as much time as possible in front of the right people building relationships. Notice I didn't say telling them about the next hot stock. Can I be frank (sure can I still be Garth...)?
You're not the best stock picker in the world. If you were you'd be running a $10B hedge fund from your 100 ft yacht in the Caribbean. Your value, as a financial advisor, to your clients is in the relationship.
What if you found the time in your busyness (still no?) to add one more meeting with the right person per month? Per week? Per day? I'm guessing that would have a significant impact on your business. So why don't you do it? Why don't you build more relationships with the right people?
(insert laundry list of excuses)
At the end of the day it comes down to time. You're too busy, right? Life is busy. The most successful financial advisors I know are very efficient with their time. They have a process for everything so that their business is streamlined and they spend most of their time building relationships. And remember your value, as a financial advisor, to your clients is in the relationship.
After numerous conversations with some of the top advisors around the country, I came up with the top 5 processes successful financial advisors should have in place.
Marketing is the process of letting people know you understand a problem they may have, informing them about your solution to it, and giving them the chance to contact you for more information. Lead generation. Attracting potential customers to you. The key to effective marketing is understanding your audience. The ultimate goal is to position yourself as THE subject matter expert in a particular niche. This can often be achieved by consistent messaging in relevant content via articles, advertisements and/or social media. Too many advisors are generalists, which is why their marketing doesn’t work.
Prospecting, on the other hand, is you proactively reaching out to meet people who you may be able to help. Similar rules apply to prospecting. Too many advisors are generalists. How many times have you met an another advisor at a networking event that works with HNW individuals that are 55+? (yawn…just. like. everyone. else.). Sure you do, boss. My guess is you’re at that general networking event because you’ll work with anyone who is willing to give you their money. And your pitch proves it. That is why it isn’t working. Think about the doctor analogy for a minute. If you’re about to have open heart surgery, who do you want to do it? Obviously you’d pick the heart surgeon over the family practitioner. Your clients think the same way. If you position yourself as THE subject matter expert for a particular niche, you can prospect in the places where your best clients will be. Your elevator pitch should be consistent with the marketing messages you put out too.
First of all, it should go without saying but I see it constantly. Be respectful of people’s time. If you scheduled an hour, don’t let it take two hours. If it gets close to the time acknowledge it and take the appropriate next step. Have an agenda. Stick to it. Check for understanding of the agenda with your prospect/client. Keep some buffer time in it to allow for conversation, questions, and if they would like to add something. There are several types of meetings you may have in your practice (intro, getting to know you, solution presentation, periodic review…). Have a clear plan for each type of meeting. It will simplify things for you and your clients will appreciate it too.
Essentially onboarding is another meeting (or series of meetings), but it is so important it is worth its own category. The most important things to get right during the onboarding process are making the client feel welcomed/special and setting expectations. If you get those things right life will be much simpler in your practice. If not, well, brace for impact. This is where you get to shine regarding how easy it is to do business with you.
Financial Planning and Investing
How many advisors do you know that focus all of their time on generating returns across 100 different portfolios? My guess is that none of them are top producers. Top producers realize their value, as a financial advisor, to clients is in the relationship. They are not trying to be the best stock picker in the world, because they are aware they are not. They are aware that most people don’t need a complex solution. They take a simple approach to investment management, focusing their time on client goals and planning. As for planning, they also streamline that as much as possible. They cover similar topics which each client and dive down the appropriate rabbit hole as needed based on how questions are answered. They have a few key partners they work with that are on board with the process, bringing them in when their expertise is required.
We are all busy. Life is busy. Running a business is busy. Being a financial advisor is tough. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to succeed. If you want to grow your practice you're going to have to spend your time wisely. Your value, as a financial advisor, to your clients is in the relationship. Spend your time deepening relationships and adding value.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Chance (my son): “Dadda, we should add another letter in the alphabet.”
Me: “Really? Why?”
Chance: “My Letterland character doesn’t sound right. C is supposed to sound like Clever Cat. We need a letter that makes the CH sound. (pauses briefly) Can I have a snack?” (casually walks away as if he didn’t just turn my entire world upside down)
Me: (Mind blown. Jaw drops to the floor. #geniuschild!)
**note- www.letterland.com is an awesome resource to help kids learn how to read.**
I have been on this planet for almost 40 years. I have had the opportunity to lead and follow some of the greatest minds in the country. I have a graduate degree from a top tier university. I try to surround myself with innovative thinkers in the startup community. Not once have I heard a comment so obvious yet so outside of the box. Not. Once.
I was excited. Motivated. I immediately wanted to hire my son (who is in kindergarten) to review my business plan. I had so many questions. There had to be some things right in front of my face that I was missing. LIGHT BULB! Maybe I could do a focus group with the kids in the neighborhood? And it would be cheap too, all I’d need would be a box of popsicles and a homemade bike ramp!
Well, the popsicles melted while I was trying to build the ramp. Apparently that shiny orb in the sky produces a lot of heat and as it turns out I’m not very handy. Epic fail on the focus group I guess. However, I did come across a couple of other resources that reinforced the idea of trying to think about business like a kid.
Chris Heivly, cofounder of MapQuest, wrote a book called “Build the Fort” (check it out here). In the book he relates the experiences he had as a kid to building a startup. Simple, yet effective ways to think about building and growing a business.
Carl Nordgren, entrepreneur and professor, wrote a book about a class he used to teach at Duke called “Becoming a Creative Genius (again)” (check it out here). It discusses how we are born creative and helps us find ways to get back into that way of thinking.
From those books and numerous follow up attempts on the focus group, I’ve come up with the top 3 reasons why your startup should hire kindergartners.
Kids just go outside and play. They make up games and rules as they go. The games constantly evolve. As more kids come out to play, they find a role for them. They are creatures of creative action. Imagine if your startup did that.
2 No boundaries
Kids know right and wrong, but they don’t allow their minds to have boundaries. They don’t know how to give their minds boundaries. They are little explorers. What’s over here? What is this? How does it work? It looks like it could be a good addition to my rocket ship. Our minds are trained to only go so far down the rabbit hole. It’s a stick. I will put it in the yard waste bag. Kid brains are designed to chase things all the way down the rabbit hole and then to dig another series of tunnels to come home. Imagine the possibilities in your company if there weren’t boundaries.
3 Lack of fear/embarrassment
When kids are playing they share their ideas and build upon each other. When they think of something that sounds fun or adds value to the game, they blurt it out. No fear. They are just having fun and trying to continue to do so. Adults often get self-conscious about voicing ideas and opinions. Imagine if the people in your organization didn’t hold back.
Imagine what could happen to your business if you looked at it like a kindergartner. You take creative action. You don’t allow yourself boundaries in thought. You encourage the sharing of ideas.
Now, before I get emails from every labor lawyer in the country, lighten up. I’m not actually encouraging people to hire (or condone hiring) kindergartners. After all, it’s not practical. They take naps during prime productivity time…