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Reflection as momentum

Sarah Steimer

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Scritchfield looks to harness the organization's historical energy as he steers MDRT into the future.

Stability comes largely from understanding your surroundings: If it’s icy out, you walk a little slower. Should your balance on the stairs seem shaky, you grab the railing. But stability is also about taking a 360-degree view. You learn from what came before but keep an eye to the future.

MDRT President Randy L. Scritchfield, CFP, LUTCF, holds firm in the belief that you should take a full accounting of your work. That includes the work that’s been done — what’s worked and what hasn’t — as well as what else could be done.

The 37-year MDRT member from Damascus, Maryland, USA, hasn’t gotten to where he is through brute force or blind optimism. He’s carefully carved out his place as a successful advisor: His resume includes three Court of the Table and 20 Top of the Table qualifications. Scritchfield is an MDRT Foundation Excalibur Knight and member of its Inner Circle Society and has served on its Board of Trustees. He’s built a long list of leadership roles and other involvement in various MDRT entities. He’s also the founder and president of the retirement planning firm, Montgomery Financial Group.

None of this was by chance, and he looks toward his role as President with the same thoughtful reflection he brings to other aspects of his life. Part of that is understanding he doesn’t function within a vacuum. Scritchfield answers questions about his leadership with a group mentality. There are people who came before him, and there will be others who come after him. He’s an important piece of the puzzle, certainly, but he views his role less as a director and more as a motivator: He sees where the momentum is and where the victory may lie, then funnels his energy accordingly. To do so, it requires a vision that includes both reflection and foresight.

Building on solid foundation

Scritchfield has firsthand knowledge of the ways MDRT has changed, having first become a member in 1985. He remembers attending his first meeting in San Francisco, California, USA, with about 6,000 fellow attendees.

“In 1985, I was a life insurance agent and selling life insurance was the only way that you could qualify to join MDRT,” he recalls. “Today, one can serve their clients with virtually any financial product or advice and qualify as an MDRT member.”

Most members were from North America at that time; today, 90% of MDRT members are from outside the continent. The shift has been the result of the organization’s strategy to remain globally relevant to advisors.

Importantly, he’s witnessed the Executive Committee shift with MDRT’s changing membership, as well. He points out that, for the second time in its history, the majority of the Executive Committee is non-North American. He calls it a positive indicator that leadership reflects membership.

Scritchfield calls the geographical and cultural perspectives these leaders bring to the table invaluable.

“No. 1: They’re aware of what’s going on in their country that we may not be,” he said. “And No. 2, there are cultural differences of perspective.”

Just as the Executive Committee’s makeup has changed, so has its role. Rather than functioning in the belly of the engine room, making decisions on smaller matters, the work happens — as Scritchfield describes it — from a place of higher elevation. The leaders aren’t trying to be too involved on a micro level; they’re keeping an eye on the larger environment.

Part of that is looking to the past and the future. Scritchfield has ideas for the organization’s future, but they rest squarely in what he’s learned as a member and an MDRT leader — and he often quotes or references previous MDRT Presidents.

Adding his own brand of reflection

It’s much easier to be clear on your goals, questions and actions when you’ve built reflection into every aspect of your life as Scritchfield has. He came to the financial services profession by way of the restaurant business, where profit margins are slim. He meticulously tracked food costs, average tab per table and wage costs to run a profitable restaurant. Scritchfield brought that discipline to be self-analytical to his new career, which is a significant factor today in his successful business. While he’s left the ledger sheet behind, he establishes annual goals and tracks his progress toward them. “I record the past, and I plan out the future,” he said. “It’s amazing when you write it down and it happens.”

One of the most transformative developments in Scritchfield’s career was engaging a business coach. One of the most important exercises he learned was to compile a list of cleanups every three months: He determines three items to either delegate or otherwise remove from his plate, and then he considers three new capacities that he now has time to undertake.

Scritchfield explained that this also happens at the Executive Committee level. The leadership team considers what’s working, what’s not and what can be added.

Just as an unexamined life is not worth living, an unexamined business or association will not survive nor thrive as the world changes, Scritchfield says. But he’s also aware of what areas of the organization are well-oiled machines that don’t require leadership’s attention.

“We do a critical assessment of everything that’s going on — and an even more critical assessment of new initiatives that we started,” Scritchfield said. “Presumptively, things that are already established don’t need much involvement on our part. We have excellent staff in place, outstanding directors.”

He points to the multiyear digital transformation project to deliver customized value to members globally, for example, as something to be reviewed more closely as it gathers steam during his term. But he has confidence in finding the pulse of the organization’s momentum and helping to guide undertakings in motion, versus tugging the reins in a particular direction.

“The President gets out in front of where the organization is already headed, becomes the spokesperson, the face of the organization for 12 short months, but the organization is on a pretty good trajectory,” he said. “When you have an organization on a great trajectory, why would you not just get out in front of it, and then continue that trajectory?”

Although it doesn’t need to be repeated, the direction of the organization and the world at large went through the ringer during the pandemic. MDRT remained true to its mission of helping advisors best perform their jobs in any environment — and Scritchfield is confident that the shifts and redirection the organization took continue to place MDRT on a compelling path. Similar to many members, he’s excited to return to in-person events, but he cautions against a complete return to how the world looked and acted previously — because reflection showed the benefit of certain modifications.

“Let’s not abandon the lessons that we learned from the last 15 months,” Scritchfield said. “Let’s make sure we can maybe facilitate more book clubs, facilitate more webinars and members getting together organically — not necessarily in person.”

He does reiterate his excitement around engaging in person again, and he reminisces on the dinners and connections he’s made at previous events. But he’s keeping an ear to the ground for what members want and need, helping to gently steer the organization as he observes lessons from his predecessors, peers and experience.

“As President, you’ve got to just go out and listen,” he said. “Just listen to the members. You’re not advocating for anything, per se. The only thing you advocate for is for people to join and current members to engage more.”

In his acceptance speech at the 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual Event, Scritchfield described MDRT as an organization with three primary attributes: meaningful, relevant and essential. As President, he plans to continue this work in the following ways:

Meaningful: “I believe most of our members have gained a better appreciation and perspective on their lives and what they do for clients in the last year,” he said. Under the organization’s Whole Person concept, he said MDRT will continue to help members stay steadfast to such principles.

Relevant: Scritchfield credits MDRT’s strong brand for helping it stay top of mind and be an organization that people want to be associated with. He points to new organizations such as the MDRT Academy and MDRT Global Services as ways to continue MDRT’s relevancy, particularly in developing markets.

Essential: The goal is to help members grow their businesses, which Scritchfield said has been particularly evident in the past year. “It is ironic that in a year we could not get together in our traditional manner — through in-person meetings — that we set membership records,” he said, pointing to the ideas and best practices that members and prospective members found through the organization as one of the main ingredients to that success.

Contact: Randy Scritchfield randy@randyscritchfield.com

 

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