Blue ocean secrets for practice management
David C. Resseguie; Kim A. Siegers-Robinson, BAccs, CPA; Lois R. Weinblatt; and Mark S. Gaunya, GBA (moderator)
Gaunya: I am Mark Gaunya, a 13-year MDRT member from Massachusetts, where I’m the co-owner and chief innovation officer of Borislow Insurance. I am pleased to be serving as the moderator for this session. The title of the session is Blue Ocean Secrets for Practice Management. What exactly does the term “Blue Ocean” mean? It comes from the bestselling book, “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renée A. Mauborgne, which emphasizes value innovation over competition to create new markets and power growth.
I’m so excited by the panel members who have joined us today. Each brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in helping financial advisors clarify their vision, identify their core values and modify their business processes to create the practice they’ve always dreamed of. After this session, you’ll walk out knowing the questions you need to ask yourself and the tasks you need to accomplish to build your dream practice. Without further ado, please join me in welcoming David Resseguie, chief shepherding officer of the Resseguie Group; Kim Siegers-Robinson, creator of the Great-West Lifeco Inc. advisors team and business transition department; and Lois Weinblatt, international visioning expert and founder of True North Visionaries.
The first question will go to you, Lois. We hear words like “mission” and “vision” all the time, but they’re not often defined. What does “vision” really mean to you?
Weinblatt: It’s a great question, and you talked today about the idea of it. This Blue Ocean concept is really starting with clarifying where we’re headed, because if we don’t have that foundational layer, then we can’t get much better. I think a lot of the lack of priority comes from people just not knowing what those definitions or terms mean in the first place. So when I think of a mission, I think of something that’s out there in front of you like a guiding star — aspirational, you’re never going to get there, you never can get there, and the point isn’t actually to get there. It’s really powerful to have your mission, or your purpose, or your why — however you think about it. If you think about the sailors who navigated by the North Star centuries and centuries ago, they had that North Star. They had that guiding light that always pulled them forward. But they never got one inch closer to the star itself. And that’s sort of what a mission is.
While it’s crucial to have that mission in place, if it’s floating out there on its own, it can be inspiring, but it also can be completely exhausting. Because, again, you’re never actually going to get there. And so that is really where the vision comes in because we need a way to really be able to feel successful at different points along our journey. And when I say the word “vision,” I mean your definition of success at a specific point in the future. When I say the definition of “success,” I mean your specific definition of success. Not anyone else’s, your definition. And that specific point in the future is the idea that you are literally writing down on a specific day of the specific month of the specific year of what success looks like for you. And the idea is literally that you can get to that day of that month of that year.
You can read that vision aloud, and it’s the reality that you have created around you. At the end of the day, I think of a mission as your “why,” why you are even going on this journey at all. And then your vision would be your “where,” your “when” and your “what.” Where you’re going, when you’re actually going to get there, and then what it’s going to look like when you arrive. So look over the evidence around you that will show you that you have attained your definition of success.
Gaunya: Is it fair to say there really is no there? It’s your definition of how you get to where “there” is for you.
Weinblatt: Yeah, that comes with the plan, so once you understand really where you’re headed, then you can work backward and figure out how to get there.
Gaunya: Excellent. David, next question, or first question to you. What do you do to stay mentally tough, especially when you face all the rejection and setbacks that can come in our business?
Resseguie: I think it’s critical, so I fully believe that at the end of every single day, we’re going to look at ourselves in the mirror, and we’re going to ask ourselves, Did I have success? Did I create success?
I love John Wooden’s definition of “success,” the coach at UCLA. He said, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” For me, at the end of every day, I’m going to look in the mirror, and I’m going to ask myself, Today, did I live out who I am at my core? Did I live out my identity? I’m also going to ask myself, Did I live out why I believe I exist? Did I live out my intention? Did I live out the person I am, and did I live out the purpose that I’m here for? One of my deepest beliefs is that when you can answer those questions as yes — “I lived out who I am at my core. I lived out why I do what I do. I lived out my person, my purpose, my identity, my intention” — then I believe the impact that you made, practically what you did, mattered a lot. And when that answer is yes, man, you’re going to stay mentally sharp because you lived out your normal.
Gaunya: Yeah, I live in your passion. That’s what it’s all about. Totally agree with you on that. Kim, you’ve worked with advisors for many years. Could you tell us about the consulting expertise you provide to your clients?
Siegers-Robinson: Absolutely. I’ve had the privilege of working with financial advisors for over 20 years, and time really does fly. Most of my time has been focused on how big firms create rapid growth, whether adding the right associate or integrating a profitable acquisition or merging with strong partners. About four years ago, I watched a friend’s business fall apart. He had grown a great, profitable, consistently growing business that he was quite proud of. However, sadly, he became ill and died a couple of months later. He hadn’t protected his business from the most incredible risk a business can face, and that’s living without you. After that day, we added emergency planning into our lineup of work that we do with advisors because it’s so critical to your business to have those plans in place. I’ve been there on the front lines to see what happens when an emergency hits a business. It gives incredible perspective of the planning that’s required upfront.[video]
My father worked in the business for 45 years, had his own company. And at that point, he was very excited about how wonderful the business was, the opportunities that existed. That ultimately made me perk up and be interested in the opportunity, so I started working with my father and his business partner in May of 2002. My relationship with my father was a very close one; we spent a lot of time together. We vacationed together. We traveled. We played golf together. I spoke to him every day of my life. He always planned that you don’t know what the future holds, so seize the day and make sure that you plan for the future. So we made sure we had this transition plan in place so that there was continuity and so our clients could sleep at night knowing that things would continue, regardless of whether or not he was here.
He wanted to be in control of the outcome, and the best way to be in control of that outcome was to plan it out and put plans in place to make sure that nobody else could come in and make that decision for you. We spent a lot of time making sure that what we each did in the operation was seamless and the same so that eventually people could call the office, and whether they got myself on the phone or they had Bob on the phone, it didn’t matter. That was a very big part of our transition plan, to make sure that that continuity was there.
My dad started feeling sick in mid-April 2014, and he was diagnosed with melanoma near the end of June. So from that point forward, we knew he wouldn’t be coming back into the office. On September 6 he passed away, and September 9 we sent out an email to everyone, all of his clients, to inform them about what had happened and to reassure them that the family business would continue on, the continuity was still here, and everything that they knew about the organization would remain the same. The next step was to identify whom to reach out to, and I guess the difficult part of that process was meeting with each person. The conversation inevitably was a discussion about my father.
It was a bit like “Groundhog Day”, discussing what had happened every single day. The reality of having to execute these plans is a lonely process. The impact that it will have on your life is not just that you take over someone’s business; it’s going to consume you. At the very beginning, everyone rallies to support you, which is nice, but eventually things calm down. People go back to their regular, everyday lives, but this process continues. It’s a long process — several years of the process. I think people really need to take notice that this is an issue, and it has tremendous impact on people’s lives. So everyone should be planning for this. Evaluate what would happen if you couldn’t come into work today, and then perhaps look at what happens if your business partner can’t come into work today. What are the impacts that that will have, and how would you solve this problem? You’ve got a lot riding on your health, and to not act and not put a plan in place is a very risky thing to be doing.
Gaunya: The reality is, most of us in this room, all of us in this room, don’t want to think about that. But we all know it’s irresponsible not to think about it. And what Kim does in her business is help people prepare for that eventuality. So thank you for sharing that video with us.
Lois, I’m going to turn to you. At which points in your practice’s growth would it be most valuable to have a vision in place?
Weinblatt: We just talked about a big one, which is a huge transition. So, if you’re going through a huge transition in your business, if you’re at a huge crossroads in your business, or if you’re going through some growing pains, those are some really valuable times to have a vision in place. And when we think of launching something new, maybe we think of launching a new practice, but the truth is, we’re always launching. We’re maybe launching a new product or service. Maybe we’re launching a new person on our team. Maybe we just feel like we’re relaunching ourselves. And, oftentimes, after these conferences, we feel recharged and might even relaunch ourselves. Sometimes people will say, “What’s the point of having a vision in place when so much is going to change in the next three months, let alone the next three years? Isn’t that premature?” In my mind, that’s exactly why it’s so crucial to have that vision in place when you’re launching into something new, especially if it’s with somebody else.
Because there are so many different variables at play if you don’t have that vision to ground you, and, again, if it’s with somebody else, to really align you, then it’s really easy to get pulled in all these different directions. The next one is the crossroads like we saw here on the video, your huge crossroads, stepping into a whole new chapter. And, typically, when people are at those crossroads, I find that they’re so focused on “Do I do this or this, this or this, I’m at the crossroads, this pathway, this path,” and they forget that the real question isn’t “Which path do I take?” It’s “Where am I going?” Once they really clarify where they’re headed long term, then it’s going to become so clear, so quickly: “I take this path,” or “I take that path,” or maybe “I’ve got to go in an entirely different route than I was even expecting.”
And then the last one is growing pains, which typically manifest in two ways, which, I’m sure in this room, we all can relate to both. One is where you’re plateauing. You’re hitting up against that wall, whether that’s professionally, whether that’s personally, our own finances, whatever that looks like.
At that point, really again getting clear on where you’re going, when you’re going to get there, what it looks like when you arrive, and, again, grounding yourself in your intention and your purpose and how you want to show up in the world can help you recalibrate and get over the hump.
The other side of that coin is when you’re growing really quickly. Can you raise your hand if you are in rapid growth right now? On the cusp of rapid growth or experiencing that rapid growth right now? Right, so you know how it feels. It’s exciting, but it’s also really overwhelming. And I always think it’s like going from being in a canoe to navigating a steamship. It’s a little bit different, a different beast. So at this point, you’re growing so much faster that if you get nicked off course by just a hair, you’re going to get so much farther off track so much more quickly. And now that there are so many more people on that ship with you, it takes you way longer to even realize you’re off track. And at that point, you typically overshoot it to try to get back on track.
And so having a vision in place at that point A, everyone on the ship is going to be able to see where you’re going as clearly as you do. As the captain, you want to make sure your crew can see exactly where you’re headed just as you can, and then it’s a tool to make sure that you stay on track. And, inevitably, we’re human. When we get off track, it’s that tool to recognize so much more quickly and, again, recalibrate so much more quickly as well.
Gaunya: David, how do you separate yourself so you stand out from others in your industry?
Resseguie: I think your industry and my industry are really similar because I run a coaching and speaking business, and I prospect the same way that you do, and I think so often it’s just looking people in the eyes and giving deep affirmation and appreciation.
So here’s a perfect example in my mind, and in my business. Have you ever seen the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness”? Are you familiar with Chris Gardner? Will Smith played Chris Gardner, a father who was homeless and then became an exceptional businessman. Well, Chris is a real, live human being. He lives in Chicago. About a year ago, my wife and I and our two best friends were in Chicago. My best friend’s wife used to work for Donald Trump at one of his properties, and she just wanted to go see Trump Tower in Chicago. So we went to the hotel and just explored around. And for those of you, if you’re from Chicago or you’ve been to Chicago, Trump Tower has two towers. There’s a lobby, and then you have the hotel, and then you have the residence.
So we’re walking out of the revolving doors, just after we saw the property, and we were just going to go out to lunch and enjoy the city. And out of the right side of the corner of my eye, I see this man. My wife and two best friends had gone off to the left because we were going to walk down to the road and cross the bridge and go to lunch. You can’t avoid seeing this guy because he is the most impeccably dressed man you’ll see. He’s wearing a three-piece suit. From the corner of my eye, I’m like, “This is a $5,000 suit.” This guy is really well-dressed. I did a double take, and I knew who he was. I knew it was Chris Gardner. So I looked over at my wife and two best friends and I said, “Hey, do you all know the movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’?” And they’re like, “Yeah.” I said, “Will Smith played this guy Chris Gardner.” They’re like, “Yeah,” and they’re like, “Let’s go to lunch. What are you telling us this for? Let’s walk.” I said, “You see the man over my shoulder? That’s Chris Gardner.” I said, “Give me a second. I want to talk to him.”
I had heard Chris Gardner give his keynote. He’s got a few keynotes, but I heard him about eight years prior at a conference in Chicago. Chris Gardner gets hit up by just about everybody because he’s super successful, and how do you engage that type of professional? I was standing about 8 feet away from Chris, and I said, “Excuse me, you’re Chris Gardner, right?” And I stayed away from him for a minute, 8 feet away. And he said, “Yes.” And you know rolling in his mind is What does this guy want from me? or What does he need from me, and what’s he going to ask me for? I said, “Chris, you don’t know me, but about eight years ago, here on the river at the Sheraton Hotel, you gave a talk. It was at Northwestern Mutual’s Central Regional Meeting. I was in the audience. Would you mind if I tell you the impact that you had in my life through that talk?” First off, when you ask somebody “Would you mind,” their mind is trained to say the word “no,” so now he’s inviting me to share with him, and who’s not going to appreciate if I share the impact that he made in my life?
I took about two steps toward him, and I said, “Chris, you really made two points in this talk. You said the two things in your life that you wanted to make sure were, if nothing else, that you honored your integrity for work, and your children were going to know who their father was. You were going to be actively engaged with your children. And the second thing was, you said that whatever you did with your life, with your business, you were going to be world-class at it.” And then I told him a little bit about my business and my children, and he just looked at me with this appreciation. Then he took two, three steps toward me.
And I’d asked him, “Chris, have you ever done work with ...” and I named a few companies that I’ve worked with and asked him how I could help create some introductions. Then I asked him, “Chris, who are some of the people who have influenced your life?” And when I mentioned one company’s name in our industry, he mentioned this woman’s name. He said, “Barbara Scott Prescott was at the board of trustees at that company for a period of time. She was my mentor.” He told me about the influence that Barbara Scott Prescott had in his life. We had a two-minute conversation about it. Well, when I reached out to Chris after that meeting, what do you think I put in the subject of the LinkedIn message to capture his attention? I put “Barbara Scott Prescott.” He’s not going to respond to “Nice meeting you, Chris,” because he gets that all day long. Then I invited my wife over and our best friends, and we engaged in this meaningful conversation.
Eight months later, this past December, I get an email from his team. Chris invites me to his penthouse for an hour, one-on-one. I get to his home, and he says, “Well, hey, Dave, do you have other meetings up in Chicago?” Now, I live in South Florida. I said, “Chris, you’re my one meeting for today. I’m here for you.” And he said, “Oh, wow.” He said, “Well, what were you hoping we’d accomplish today? What do you have in mind that you want to get at today?” I said, “Chris, I’m here for you, man. I want to encourage you. I want to tell you some things that I appreciate about you. I’m sure you’ll be able to give me some advice.” How often do people want to take from us, right? When I just give a little bit. Love must be sincere, right? Those words of appreciation have to be very thoughtful, truthful and sincere. But, I think to separate ourselves from all the other influencers or people who want something from you, seek first to want to give to others. I believe you’re going to get that back.
Gaunya: Yeah, it’s all about living an attitude of gratitude.
Resseguie: I believe so.
Gaunya: I completely agree with you on that. Great story. Thank you for sharing that.
Gaunya: Kim, in your experience, have you found that advisors are prepared against emergencies in their businesses, or are they woefully unprepared?
Siegers-Robinson: It’s a great question. I’d love the audience to help us answer that. Could everyone please raise their hand in the air. So, the question is, What percentage of financial advisors have a written plan in the event they become ill, disabled or die? I’d like you to keep it in the air. I’d like you to keep it in the air if you believe it’s less than 50 percent. I’d like you to keep it in the air if you think it’s less than 25 percent. Pretty smart audience. That’s because you know. Statistically, 3 percent of financial advisors have a written plan if something serious happens to you. Three percent. Mark, does that surprise you?
Gaunya: Honestly, yes. Three? I didn’t think it was that low. Three out of 100? That’s not OK.
Siegers-Robinson: And 99 percent of your clients think you do. We call that the emergency transition disconnect. And it’s not a surprise. It’s because you do fabulous work for you clients’ families and their businesses, so they’re going to assume that you’re covering the risk off in your business as well.
So, an emergency plan really is about protecting the value of your business, from stabilizing the business if you’re not available to do it to relieving the anxiety of your families, your clients and your staff and, ultimately, transferring control if that’s what has to happen. But we always ask ourselves, What happened to the 1 percent? And we like to tease that it’s your families and your staff because they know. In all seriousness, they do really worry because you’re obviously a critical part of providing for them. And we’ll get into talking what the elements of the plan are to move along.
Gaunya: The cobbler’s kids have no shoes. Not OK. Lois, switching to you. Vision is helpful for the long term, but how can it help you build your business on a day-to-day basis?
Weinblatt: So, as Kim was talking about, it’s so important for us to have that long-term view and perspective. But at the same time, I always think if your vision isn’t helping you day to day, then it’s really just sort of nice to have. So, ultimately, when you have a vision in place, it gives you a filter between what’s an opportunity and what’s a distraction disguised as an opportunity. And the more successful you become, the more opportunities are going to come your way, and the more of them are going to be disguised beautifully as opportunities. The more distractions are going to come your way beautifully describes the opportunities.
Gaunya: I call those “squirrel moments.”
Weinblatt: Yeah, absolutely. Shiny object syndrome is truly an epidemic these days.
So, the more successful you become, the more you want to refine that filter so that you can, again, sift out which ones are the true opportunities and which ones are just those distractions that, in the moment, look like an opportunity. And really, at the end of the day, having that clear vision in place helps you make sure that you’re not sacrificing your long-term vision for short-term gain because it really helps you make sure that in any conversation, in any question that you have to ask yourself, at the end of the day, it’s simply, Is this getting me closer to or further away from my definition of success?
When you have the ability to ask that question, you’re able to make much better decisions so much more quickly. And being able to make better decisions faster is one of the things that really can help you grow as a sustainable business and feel more aligned internally as well.
Gaunya: Might that be where the name of your business True North comes from? It is exactly that. It’s that internal compass.
Weinblatt: It is exactly. It’s that internal compass.
Gaunya: Yeah, great. David, where do you create time in your schedule to do the things that keep you on the cutting edge and help you stand out from the crowd?
Resseguie: I like the word you chose there. “Create” time in your schedule, right? Because we can’t find it. For me, I have three small children. We had a baby last Tuesday. We have our third.
Resseguie: I’m married, happily, and life is busy, right? You’re involved with charitable organizations and running your business and your family and all these different things that can pull for your time. And, for me, I’ve had to get very clear on what my core values are and what are the things that I’m willing to take myself away from. What are the things that I’m unwilling to sacrifice? And just one of my values is family. That’s the intentional engagement I have with Jennifer, Charlie, Chaz and Cameron. So, for me, dinner at the dinner table at 5:30 will always happen unless we choose for it not to, like this evening. And being at home with my children when they wake up in the morning is critically important.
So, for me, when I think of this, I think of Malcolm Gladwell and the whole concept of outliers and 10,000 hours of practice as mastery, and we can’t create more hours in the day, but we can. Just think about this for a second: 30 minutes earlier. Whatever time you wake up at this point in your life, think about getting up 30 minutes earlier and just doing that five days a week. That’ll be two and a half hours a week. So you’re looking at 10 hours a month, 120 hours a year. That’s three 40-hour workweeks. For me, it’s what I can choose to do with the 30 minutes or 60 minutes or 90 minutes that I get up earlier with visioning or journaling or reading or listening to podcasts or planning my day. I mean, that’s where you create that time, if you choose to. It could be during the middle of the day, whenever it is. But, for me, it’s before the pitter-patter of my children’s feet are upstairs, because the minute they walk down those stairs and say, “Daddy, good morning,” it’s game on with the family. So it’s that morning time.
Gaunya: So, Kim, those statistics you shared, I’m still mulling them over in my head. They’re concerning, especially with clients with high expectations. The impact is obviously very serious not only to the business itself and the employees who work there and their families but also to all the clients whom you’re taking care of. Could you walk us through the process you follow to help prepare an advisor for an emergency like that?
Siegers-Robinson: Yeah, absolutely. An emergency plan is something every one in this room needs, and, obviously, we hope, never is needed, never triggered. However, having worked through many situations where an emergency has hit a business, the impact of not having a plan is pretty serious. These are the four areas that we cover when we’re doing emergency transition planning. [visual] And you’ll find an outline of a handout on the meeting app that walks through some questions in these areas to help you if you’re interested in creating your plan after this discussion.
So the first is the team you have in place. The first person on your team is the person who is going to step in and do the work you’re doing. Our staff can run the business for a piece of time but not indefinitely. Because if they can, then you wouldn’t be required, and we know that’s not the case.
You also have important roles like executors and powers of attorney who are really critical to the business and need to know what the plan is so they can make decisions. And so it’s to replace the work that you’re doing, and it’s to have people in place who can make critical decisions on our behalf. If you think back to the video, Jamie, the son, had 14 years’ experience when his father passed away. There was someone inside the business who could step in and do the work. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but they had a written plan beforehand. Bob and Jamie were actually in the 3 percent. And while the impression of the video may seem like it’s hard, and it was, it could’ve been much worse. They actually retained all the clients and retained all the staff. And they actually, miraculously, grew the two years following Bob’s death, which is a bit of a miracle.
That being said, it was a ton of work on them. So, in that situation, they had documentation in place so the power of attorney and executor knew of the plan long before Bob was ill. The last time you want to be running around making decisions is when people are in a high emotional state. Because what happens when something significant happens to us and to the people around us who care about us and are supporting us? They’re in a fog. It’s literally called a grief fog. And we just don’t have great access to our rational mind.
If we add fast decisions needed, a complex situation and high emotions, it doesn’t usually land in the best spot. On the documentation front, many advisors whom I’ve worked with actually don’t have strong documentation at all. And the documentation is the playbook to follow. How will anyone know how to make a single decision if it’s not documented or written down? We run a little exercise called a dry run. We bring everyone related to the emergency plan together, and we kill off one of the advisors. Well, not literally. We make them sit in a corner and not participate, which, for most of us, is still very tough.
Gaunya: Thank you for clarifying that.
Siegers-Robinson: We give them a piece of paper and a pen. And then we run the emergency plan. We take the documentation information that we have, and we attempt to see what will happen. And, usually, they’re in the corner feverishly writing because they do not like what we’re doing. You have made a decision to run your own business. You’ve made a decision to be in control of your decision, set your own vision, set your own time and schedule, and, really, please don’t give it up in an emergency because what you’re trying to do is protect your business and everything that you’ve built.
On the running of the business front, Jamie and Bob did business the same way. They used the same client management systems. On your emergency team, you might have someone who can step in who’s already in your business, which is obviously the simplest. But they might actually be outside of your business, so you have to get on the same page, and you might cover each other if something goes wrong.
But, oftentimes, the most critical information is in our heads. If I were to come to your business and, without being able to talk to you, if I wanted to know really important information about our Top 20 clients, who are probably driving a significant portion of your revenue, would I be able to find it in your files, in your client management system? How much about the hobbies and interests and family and values system is in your head? So, you might want to think about making sure that’s accessible because you can’t assume that you’re going to be available in an emergency because often you’re not. We’re not talking about breaking an ankle here; we’re talking about the business doesn’t have access to you.
Last is financial. And I hope everyone in this room has a gold star in that category for your business. Most advisors do well here because you’re in the business of this. One area that sometimes we find is not being looked at deep enough is what are the policies and rules of the companies that you work with? If something happens to you, if you die, do they hold the revenue? For how long? And is there certain licensing? Do they control whom the clients will move to? It’s really important for you to know what that looks like and build your plan around it.
Gaunya: So a follow-up question for that is, What do you typically see for executor power of attorney roles within emergency plans?
Siegers-Robinson: How many people here would say your power of attorney or your executor is someone who cares about you deeply? Maybe a spouse. Quite a few. It’s not unusual. They care about us. They love us. They have our best interests at heart. So, understandably, that’s whom you would select. However, typically, that person may not have an in-depth knowledge of your business. They’re grieving. They may not have anything written down, and they don’t know what to do. We know what that can result in. We’re not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination to change that person, but definitely share your plan with them.
When we do that dry run, which I talked about before, we actually invite the significant others into the room. They start stressed, with lots of questions, and as we start talking about what’s going to happen and running through that plan, you can see the stress leave them because they didn’t have any clue. We might not have actually written anything down yet, but they just feel like they understand more about what’s going on.
The second piece of advice I would give if your power of attorney or executor is a spouse is to nominate someone whom they already know to be there to guide them. Because what happens for real in these events is that they get a lot of what I would call helpful advice. Accountants say, “That valuation doesn’t seem right” or “The terms in that agreement don’t look good” or “Why isn’t it transferring fast enough?” or “Why are they doing this?” or “Why are they doing that?” And no one’s trying to necessarily create a problem, but all of those confusing mixed messages just add to the difficulty of the situation. So appoint someone who knows your plan and appoint that person so they know who each other is and so they have a go-to person in that moment. It’s very important.
Gaunya: Thank you.
Siegers-Robinson: Sorry, I’m so passionate about it.
Gaunya: Being passionate about what you do is exactly what we’re all up here to talk about. Lois, is a vision something you continue to edit and update as your practice grows, or is it static?
Weinblatt: That’s a good question. I mean, I love this idea of really being intentional and understanding about putting down on paper not just those policies and procedures but the plan itself. We want to make sure when we create our road map or our strategic plan, whatever you might call it, that that is something that we are always looking at as living, breathing. We’re constantly recalibrating it. But we want to make sure that our vision is not a moving target. Jeff Bezos talks about the idea that you want to be stubborn with your vision and flexible with your plan.
So often when I see people who are pulled in all these different directions, it’s because their path is always changing, but their destination is always changing too. And you literally cannot navigate if your destination’s always changing. So, again, while you want to make sure that you can pivot and be nimble and be flexible with your plan, you want to make sure that your destination remains the same, right? So, ultimately, that’s going to help you navigate proactively to make sure that you’re getting to where you want to go.
Gaunya: David, so many look for the “secret sauce” in our business. If there is one, what would it be, in your opinion?
Resseguie: Yeah, I believe there is. Are you all familiar with Al Granum, that name? I started at his agency in Chicago right out of college. I’m 34, so 12 years ago. Al taught that if you get 1,000 qualified prospects, 500 of them will say yes they’ll meet you, 300 will sit down and go through a fact finder, and 100 will become clients, right?
I don’t really like those ratios. I think they’re accurate because he did an amazing study, but if I’m going to call 1,000 referrals, why do I only have to schedule 500 of them?
I believe that lies in the power of the nominator or multiple nominators. I see Adam Solano’s back here. If Adam were a partner at one of the major law firms in downtown Miami, and that’s an ideal target market for me, let’s just say that Wendy Jestings is a friend of mine who tells me about Adam and tells me that he’s married and has small children, and he works at a law firm. Let’s say Wendy proactively reaches out in advance to Adam and says, “Hey, Adam. I thought of you today, and I wanted to introduce you to Dave Resseguie. Dave’s a local financial professional here in South Florida. I asked him to give you a call, and, Adam, I assume that you have relationships with a number of other people in this industry. I’m not assuming you’re necessarily in the market for any of the work that Dave does, but Dave shared some ideas with me that, if nothing more, I think you’re going to find pretty interesting and relevant. So, at some point over the next few days, either Dave or someone from his team is going to be reaching out. No obligation on your part to take the meeting. But for what it’s worth, stamp of approval, I think you’ll enjoy it. Also, I just shared his contact info with you. Save it in your phone. That way you know it’s him when he calls.”
Is everybody familiar with Gail Goodman, the Phone Teacher? Gail’s just really passionate about how we become very effective on the phone. I’ve been getting calls while I’m up here. It’s either somebody pranking me or just solicitors who are calling me, but typically, when I grab my phone, it’s a number that I don’t recognize. And we probably answer the phone if it’s a number we don’t recognize. I think that as salespeople and influencers, we do because there might be something amazing on the other end of it. But the majority of people are not going to.
So, what I do personally is, if Wendy’s going to introduce me to Adam, when I’m prospecting with Wendy, I go into my cellphone, and in the favorites of my phone — and this isn’t an ego thing, although I am kind of an arrogant New Yorker occasionally because it’s my home — I’ll have a contact for myself that has all my personal info, and I’m going to share my contact with Wendy and ask her to share it with Adam. But before I share it with the nominator, I edit my contact. So my last name no longer just says “Resseguie.” It says “Dave Resseguie, Wendy Jestings introduction.” So I share that contact with Wendy. Wendy shares that contact with Adam. It’s easy for Adam now to save it in his phone, so when I call, it doesn’t say my number; it says, “Dave Resseguie, Wendy Jestings introduction.” So now, when I call Adam, I don’t even need to call Adam.
Let’s take a step back because Wendy texted that to Adam, that message, and she copied me on the text. So how do you influence the dial-to-reach ratio? Through the power of the nominator, where you don’t ever make a dial.
Now, I just schedule the meeting through text message, and I’m not FINRA regulated, so I can do that. But you guys can. You can schedule a meeting through text. Just don’t give advice on your products.
So, I probably don’t even need to call him. But if ever I do need to, because he didn’t respond to my text message, now when I call, it says, “Dave Resseguie, Wendy Jestings introduction.” Well, the first thing that’s going to happen when Adam looks at his phone, he’s going to see “Dave Resseguie.” So instead of just seeing an area code, he sees this name, and the first thing he’s wondering is Who the heck is that? But now I have him thinking about me. He’s not silencing it. He’s not sending it to voicemail.
He’s thinking, I don’t know who this is, and I don’t know what that picture of this logo is. So now he’s not going to make a decision yet. He’s going to wait. And then what happens when the last name’s a little too long? It starts scrolling. I don’t know about you, but when my phone starts scrolling, I can’t ignore it. I’ve got to look and see what it is. It’s a little too exciting. Then he sees “Wendy Jestings introduction.” Well, if he has a decent relationship with Wendy, now his mind triggers, Oh yeah, that’s the guy that Wendy told me about.
The hardest part of our business right now, I think, is not getting people to take action. I think it’s just reaching people and getting an opportunity to get in front of them.
Gaunya: That’s very true.
Resseguie: So when a nominator tees you off, when you get introduced by a highly respected nominator who is a raving fan of yours, and you give them the language that they can use to introduce you, ease of doing business, they’ll tee it up.
Gaunya: And what do you believe this success ratio is by doing it the way you just mentioned?
Resseguie: So what I can tell you for the rest of the group is, whatever we reach, right?
Resseguie: So you’ll reach whatever you reach. You can’t really control that.
Resseguie: Ninety percent.
Resseguie: It’s 80 to 90 percent reach-to-set ratio.
Resseguie: And then the made the cap is much higher than traditional 50 percent, and to the extent that you’re leveraging Zoom or Skype or Webex or GoToMeeting, I mean, it’s made to keep the ratio high — like 75 to 85 percent is what I’m seeing.
Gaunya: Thanks for sharing that.
Gaunya: Kim, disability is a more complicated emergency event because the length of time away can be unknown. How do you help advisors plan for that type of complexity?
Siegers-Robinson: Yeah, disability is more complicated. Death is pretty indisputable.
Siegers-Robinson: Disability is a little more complicated because of the length of time away. Like I said earlier, we’re not talking about breaking an ankle here. We’re talking about situations where an advisor has been in an accident, has been in a coma for two months. We’re talking about mental incapacitation that creeps up to the point where we can’t do the work. And when I give these scenarios, and every time I’m mentioning these, that’s a real case that we’ve worked on. So it does happen. And if you read through your documentation, is it clear under those two scenarios what would happen and what would need to be done? Most documentation we read is very vague, and if those documents are meant to be guiding the decision-making, there’s not anything in there.
Disability, we break it down into three points in time. The first is an interim period, which we kind of call the grace period, and it could be 30 days, could be up to 60. And that’s where someone whom we have a strong relationship with, either in our business or outside of our business, agrees to step in if something happens to us on a reactive basis to take care of things. No money exchanges hands. We’re just doing it because this is a trusted colleague and friend who obviously has the right licenses and everything else.
The midterm is the tricky part because we don’t know how long the person’s going to be away, and severity is sometimes a moving target based on what’s happening with somebody.
This is a tricky area because, after the grace period is over, we can’t expect someone to take time out of their own business to focus on ours for free. They need to be paid somehow. And there are various ways that you can do that. It could be a percentage of a deal. It could be for appointments that they go on. It could be a per diem. It could be a base salary. It could be something like that. But you need to agree on what that is upfront. Because if you think about it, if you’re in a coma, and your power of attorney has to try to negotiate this, that’s a difficult spot to be in.
So agree in advance what that looks like and what the service expectations are. Are they just seeing people reactively or proactively? And lastly, this is a bit of a tricky area, but I’ve seen it really break down friendships, which is why I mention it, is what if a client, while you’re off, decides to move to the other advisor because they’re worried or there’s just a strong connection? You don’t want to leave how to deal with that to chance. Nobody’s supposed to be doing that purposely, but if a client wants to move, they want to move.
So agree in advance what that looks like because it really could be a sale. What does that sale look like? So that you can handle it after the fact in the long term, obviously a trigger sale. It could be a shareholder’s agreement. It could be a buy-sell on disability. Regardless of what it is, take a look at the documentation; make sure it’s clear. How long does a person have to be off? How severe does it need to be? What kind of medical adjudication do you want with it? You could refer to an LTD policy and definitions in there. There are multiple ways to do it, but go back and look at your documentation, and make sure it’s as clear as it can be.
Gaunya: So speaking of buy-sell, valuation can be significantly impacted, obviously, during an emergency situation. So in your experience, how have you seen it play out in price? The value of the company?
Siegers-Robinson: Yeah, valuation, it’s a very good question. I get asked it a lot. Valuation is tricky under the best of circumstances, as we all know. Before we get into that, I wanted to highlight in the documentation section that often we see in agreements the words “fair market value” written in there, which lawyers love to put in there. I’m not a lawyer. Forgive me if you are, and you disagree with me. However, what that means to me when I see that in an emergency event is a six-month delay, because what the heck does that mean? It means data needs to be gathered, a value needs to be found, and somebody needs to do the work to provide valuation, which you still have to agree on.
We prefer to see you document a formula. Document a formula; document a strike date; make the strike date easy. Make it a year-end; make it a fiscal year-end. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Make it simple. Agree what’s in scope and what’s not in scope. The fair market value can be in as a substitute if you can agree. A gold standard for us, but you have to really be committed to it, is to agree on what it is in the agreement. In the agreement, put it in an appendix, put in an amount in the appendix, and update it annually. Each year we’ll go back and update the amount that both parties signed to that appendix; you just refer to it. That’s what enables speed.
Let’s take a look at some scenarios here. [visual] What if this is the average price, which we all know is a red herring because there are so many different ways to calculate an average price? Well, let’s just make it simple for all of us. Let’s say it’s the average price. Let’s go through two scenarios. Let’s go to a worst-case scenario, which I’m going to tell you as a little story, which is unfortunately real.
So, a worst-case scenario I have seen is about a wonderful lady who’d been an advisor for over 30 years, in her late 60s, and she becomes mentally incapacitated. We have client complaints. There are issues going on, and there’s an investigation done. Her contract is pulled; her licenses are pulled. She can no longer see clients, which is an awful situation to begin with. But the kicker is, she has no power of attorney, and nobody willing to be it. So, Mark, any idea who becomes in control of your life in that situation?
Gaunya: Yes. Unfortunately, the government.
Siegers-Robinson: The government. And, in case any of us were questioning that, that is not a good thing because it doesn’t understand our business; it doesn’t move fast. And, unfortunately, what starts to happen as time ticks on? Is the value going up? It’s not. So, Mark, would you say in that situation that it’s high, medium or low risk for a buyer wanting to take over that business from that 60-something-year-old lady?
Gaunya: High risk.
Siegers-Robinson: Very high risk. Yeah. So let’s start with the floor here. High confusion, significantly long period. This poor lady, whom I have a great deal of respect for, who built a beautiful business, doesn’t understand what’s going on. So she continues to see clients without a license, without a contract, continuing confusion. Clients are departing. They’re fleeing. And so someone finally made an offer, but it was pennies on the dollar, which was very sad, and the government continues to be in control of her life. That’s an awful situation. Let’s talk about a better one.
An advisor we worked with, at the age of 55, dies of a massive heart attack. He has that strong emergency transition advisor, has clear documentation that the plan triggers quickly. They know what the price is. The clients know the power of attorney, an executor in this case. The executor knows what to do, implements fast, and away it goes. That comes in just below average. So we may ask ourselves, Why are we doing all this work, and I’m still getting less than average? Well, because you’re actually a critical part of the plan.
When clients move from one advisor to another, it’s a transfer of trust, and you’re vital to that. So, if you’re not available, there’s no way it can be at the top. However, if you have a plan in place and it can execute quickly, and people know what’s going to happen, you will get a higher ratio here. [visual] So if you look at stats from FP Transitions indicate that it can be discounted 10 to 40 percent. There are my favorite words, “fair market value,” but that’s the quote. So 10 to 40 percent. I will tell you in my experience, the one at the bottom is over 80 percent discounted.
Siegers-Robinson: So it can happen. I only share this with you because I have a great deal of respect for the work that you do for clients. And the businesses that you’ve built, I really love to see you protect that.
Gaunya: Thank you for sharing that.
Siegers-Robinson: You’re welcome.
Gaunya: Lois, what steps can people take to start clarifying their vision?
Weinblatt: Well, again, I love that Kim is helping us really clarify and understand that those steps of action to get something in place are so critical and might feel overwhelming, right? So when you go in and work with a client at the beginning, do they often feel kind of overwhelmed, and then you just help them break it down?
Siegers-Robinson: Yes, for sure.
Weinblatt: And so vision is sort of the same way. Often “visioning” is this term that’s incredibly nebulous, and people don’t really know where to start. So, if they do like what you said, they’ll make some time because I totally agree, you can never find time. You can only make it or create it or carve it out, protect it. Once you’ve done that, even if you have that extra time in the morning or the afternoon or the evening, a lot of times people get tripped up with visioning because they just think a lot about their vision, but they end up kind of going down all these brainstorming rabbit holes, or they write a lot. But it never turns into a cohesive vision, or they get stopped because they just keep planning everything and making checklists and thinking about today instead of where they’re headed.
And they can’t quite get past that. So, if you are thinking you’re in a place where you are at that crossroads launching something new, going through growing pains, and you want to get clear on your vision, my biggest recommendation to you is that you have a process. And what you want to look for in a process is really something that helps you start before the vision. People think vision, and they think future: I’m going to start this process thinking about my future. But it’s so much more valuable to really take a look at what has gotten you to where you are and then take stock of where you are now, and a lot of that work is something that you would need to be doing with Kim as well.
Really, taking stock of where things are now, and only then starting to a look at, like you said, the non-negotiables, right? What are the non-negotiables for your future? And then you go on and write your first draft. I call that sort of level one, clarify your vision. Level two is really where you take that first draft and then you refine it into this finalized document that you could share with anyone on your team. You could share it with the power of attorney. You could share it with spouse, clients — whomever that might be. You have a finalized vision in hand that might be a few pages long that you can actually share.
And then the third level is align. That’s where you work backward in the vision to create the road map to get there. Again, most people just sort of chart the course, and they realize they never really determined the destination first. Vision is all about determining the destination, and then work backward throughout the course.
Gaunya: Thank you for that. David, last question to you. How do you get to that next level that Lois was just talking about?
Resseguie: I’ll be brief with this because this could be like a 90-minute deal, but we won’t do that. So I think it’s a great question. I think that the timing of the question — of what’s next, or how do I achieve what’s next — is critical. I think it should only come after you’ve asked yourself, How far have I come, and what can I rejoice in? How far have I already come? So, for me, it’s a process of quarterly rejoicing, reflecting and then re-blending. And here’s what I mean by re-blending. A ton of people talk about the desire for work-life balance, and I know what they mean by that. Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t believe that’s possible because balance is equal measurements. I can tell you last week, I certainly invested a lot more time with my family than I did in the business because business shut down, and family was full throttle.
And that was by design. It was purposeful, and I was OK being off balance. That’s totally OK. So I think in terms of the blended life — like when you make a smoothie, you’re not going to have as many bananas as you have strawberries. You’re going to have more strawberries and fewer bananas, but when you blend it up, it’s flawless. So, for me, every quarter I take time to go to a place that inspires me, and the first question I ask myself is What are the wins that I’ve had in my life in eight different segments?
If you think of a New York–style pizza, eight slices — we all have our careers, we have our financial lives, we have our families, we have our friendships, we have our social life, the things we do for fun. We have our health, and we have our educational growth. We have maybe our spiritual life or whatever we do for a sense of inner peace. What are the things that, over the last three months, were the biggest wins that I was able to accomplish and achieve? Where was I engaged, and how can I celebrate that and actually take time to deeply appreciate the good, the things that I’ve done that had been fantastic? Then you’re in a spot where you can evaluate where do you feel like you’re at at the present moment?
So I just asked myself on a scale of 1 to 10, in each of those eight segments, a 10 would represent life couldn’t be better. It’s amazing. It’s thriving. I’m fully engaged. I’m fully present. And a 1 is “Dave, if I’m honest with you, the wheels are falling off. Where am I at?” Now I have a really clear visual of this wheel of life, if you will, and if you’re like me, all those areas are going to have a different scale, a different measurement. And if that were the car that I drove from Weston to Miami Beach, my ride would have been bad. [visual] But, because I took time to celebrate and now evaluate, I have really good clarity on “All right, what adjustments do I want to make? How do I want to adjust that sale to make progress?” I think that’s the point where you can take yourself to the next level, or ask yourself, What changes do I want to implement in the next three months to get myself to a next level?
Gaunya: Yeah, and I completely concur with you about balance. I mean, in fact, my business partner is sitting right here. We call it work-life integration because that’s really what it is. There is no balance. It depends, right? It depends on the week, depends on the day.
Gaunya: Yeah. Please, let’s give thanks to all of our speakers here today. You guys are amazing.
David C. Resseguie began his career in the financial services industry in 2007. He spent 10 years working in leadership roles within both Northwestern Mutual and MassMutual. As chief shepherd of The Resseguie Group, Resseguie works virtually and in-person with leadership teams and financial advisors. The Resseguie Group offers one-on-one coaching, keynotes, new advisor training and leadership workshops.
Kim A. Siegers-Robinson, BAccs, CPA, began her career as an accountant and found her real passion was in business development. She has spent more than 20 years working with successful financial advisors and their teams across Canada. From marketing and client management to operational excellence and team effectiveness, she has helped many firms experience rapid growth. Siegers-Robinson created Great West Life’s advisor teaming and business transition department in 2012.
Lois Weinblatt is an international visioning expert and founder of True North Business Development. She has worked with visionary leaders and global organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and India to close the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Weinblatt was a keynote speaker at BNI’s Global Convention and was asked to contribute her knowledge to BNI University, the organization’s online learning platform for their 240,000 members worldwide.