Adrian George, CFP, TEP, knows it sounds cheesy. He doesn’t care. “At the end of the day, it didn’t matter how we finished because we already felt like we won,” said the eight-year MDRT member from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
He’s right, of course. George, a 25-year veteran paddler and coach in the sport of dragon boating (Google it!), moved 10 years ago from a competition-focused boat to a charity boat connected to the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada (fulfilling wishes for kids with life-threatening illnesses). He helps raise about $50,000 each year in an eight-week period, totaling more than a half-million dollars in the last decade. “I jumped ship, quite literally, to one with a lot more meaning,” he added.
Those priorities are reflected in his 7-year-old practice as well, where a picture on his wall reads, “Happiness is not so much in having as sharing; we make a living in what we have, but we make a life in what we give.” So it’s not surprising that the fee-based business’ clients — mostly doctors and dentists who have children or are planning to have children — all work to help people as well.
Just as the clientele represents two sets of health care professionals in tandem, the practice, in fact, has two Georges in tandem. While Adrian runs his office in Calgary, his twin brother, five-year MDRT member Christopher George, CFP, TEP, runs the practice’s other office in Vancouver, British Columbia. The brothers communicate regularly, to put it mildly.
“Our wives roll their eyes; if we’re not talking on the phone, we’re texting 50 times a day,” Adrian said. “And they’ll be the first to tell you that if they’re talking to us on the phone, they can’t tell us apart.”
But the Georges aren’t in business together just because they’re easily confused for each other (though, Adrian said, this pays off when medical students move from British Columbia to Alberta and swap one George for another). In fact, Adrian at first hesitated to include his brother in the business, waiting until his twin went through the difficult early years and came out successfully on the other side. Now Adrian is proud of Christopher for qualifying for Court of the Table along with him; Christopher’s challenge is to help Adrian qualify for Top of the Table.
And there are a lot of reasons why their practice has thrived. With referrals a big part of their practice, they ask not, “Who do you know who might be interested in working with me?” but rather, “Who’s part of your surgery team?” or “Who do you rely on?” They also generate referrals through events they call either “play dates” (all fun, no business) or “check-ins” (a dinner event where information needs to be communicated, alongside a little fun as well).
What’s novel about this is how the Georges develop the events. After a client came to a brewery tour and then identified that they don’t drink, clients now fill out a checklist indicating what they’re interested in (including fashion events, museum tours, courses about government benefits and much more).
Preferences are uploaded into a CRM, and the advisors can target specific clients for specific events. “We can say, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about hosting a beer tasting, but we want to make sure it would work for you because you’re somebody I’d really like to have there,’” Adrian said. “‘And if you’re not working and your anesthesiologist isn’t working, would you consider inviting them?’”
We want to make it easy for them to refer in a non-threatening environment and establish the social connection.
The process is careful not to push — clients are told that their friends/colleagues will receive a thank-you email but otherwise will not be asked to meet with an advisor without expressing prior consent. “We want to make it easy for them to refer in a non-threatening environment and establish the social connection,” Adrian said.
The events stay small, with no fewer than eight and no more than 16. “I’d rather host two nights of 12 people than one night of 24,” Adrian said. Not only does that mean he can better focus on the people in attendance, but he can create scarcity by telling others, “We’re sold out, but we’re going to host a second event; what works for you?”
During one event at a gourmet pizza bar in Calgary, Adrian met someone who had come with a client. That prospect asked if they could bring someone else to another event. “I got a referral of a referral before I’d even gotten the first referral,” he said.
Ultimately, Adrian said, they earn business and referrals by caring about clients, families and community. It’s also why the biggest birthday present for his sons (ages 8 and 10) is donating their age times $100 to charity. Until age 5, it went to Children’s Wish; since then, the boys have had to research and make a case for where to donate. They currently give to the Animal Rescue Foundation.
“I can help them get exposed to the difference they can make,” Adrian said.