Matthew's Mind

Your wings already exist. All you have to do is fly.

It’s 2001 and I’m 20 years old; a sophomore in college. We’re out late (too late) and Friday night is winding down. We weren’t saints that night, but we weren’t out causing trouble either. In hindsight, I could’ve made better decisions and not been out at 1 AM with that crowd, but we’re simply doing what college kids do on Fridays…

“I’m outta here.” I said to a couple people, as I walked out the door, down the stairs and headed through the parking lot.

Then, before I ever caught a glimpse of something coming, a fist landed above my left eye. Then another to the stomach, then a third back to the eye. I stumbled back, but didn’t drop. And for sure I was dazed. Adrenaline kicked in and as I looked up, two guys I’d never seen were hollering things I won’t repeat. One of them was about my size, maybe a little smaller. But the other was bigger. Much bigger. And I was in a bad spot.

As I backed up and tried to make sense of everything, they kept yelling things about me being with one of their girlfriends. Apparently she lived close by and they thought I’d just left her building. Yes, I did come out of her building. But no, I wasn’t seeing her. I was in a different room with friends just before I’d left. I tried telling them that and you can imagine how that went. Mumbled thoughts and adrenaline flowing through everyone. But… somehow they listened. Somehow they didn’t keep throwing fists. There were a lot more choice words and threats. But between my words and the blood they saw flowing around my left eye, those guys decided to back off. I guess they’d made their point.

Fast forward to today and I’m scared for you.

I’m scared that as you’ve been gathering client’s money and allocating pieces towards equity investments (AUM), you’ve only felt prosperity. Alongside the client, you’ve both exclusively experienced the good times. I’m scared there’s too much money in the system, it’s too loose, and too many people lack perspective.

And one of these days…

Whether it’s next month – or next quarter – whether it’s next year – or three years from now…

You’re about to leave that building, walk through the parking lot and get punched in the face! I’m scared you’ll never see it coming. Then maybe a couple more punches will follow, maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll drop to the ground, maybe you won’t. Maybe the threats will back off, maybe they won’t.

But maybe, just maybe, there’s something more you can do about it. You can see the punch coming. So when those two guys come around the corner, you’re ready. The best financial advisers in the country will be prepared. They’re initiating conversations today about perspective, proper (re)allocations, and setting everyone up mentally and strategically for whenever that market correction hits. All the success, all the prosperity, the market gains and how flush the system is with capital – all those are amazing factors to be grateful for – if they’re used right.

But don’t be lazy. Don’t be unprepared. Don’t sit back and play defense (or look the other way) today. If you do, then you have no one to blame but yourself when that fist is headed your way.

I’ve still got a scar above my left eye to remember that night.

More than anything, it’s a reminder to make good decisions about who I’m around and what the situation is. I won’t allow myself in that position again. But will it take a painful scar – for you and your most importantly your clients – before you learn your lesson? Or can you be ready, starting today?

It’s been said:

“Anyone who’s successful has a certain amount of ego”.

Would you agree?
Because I do. While I might not like that I agree, I do.

But if ego is an ingredient to success, where does that say about humility?

If an egotistical person is that way because of “their” accomplishments, success at various levels or life fulfillment, and all of that drives additional success, how is that a bad thing? I’d argue it isn’t. But only if that ego stays healthy and in check. That’s where humility enters.

Humility is defined as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness”. And while I’d never suggest anyone have a low view of their own importance (that’s counter productive), it’s vital they recognize how important everyone else around them is! Humility in action recognizes and appreciates the upbringing, family, staff, coworkers, mentors, friends and countless others who’ve allowed you to thrive. Humility says they are one degree more important than me.

So how do we balance humility and ego?

By one degree.

Keep your humility dial turned one degree higher than your ego dial and you’ve found the answer. Self assurance, drive, confidence and ego? Yes. But only if followed by genuine recognition of all the pieces that help you get there.

Humility vs. Ego. One degree.

I remember being 8 years old and wanting a Nintendo. Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt and the plug in gun. Remember that thing?!? nintendo

1989-Upper-Deck-Baseball-1-Ken-Griffey-JrAfter that it was a Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck rookie card. He was the best. I loved “The Kid” growing up and Upper Deck made an amazing choice with him as their #1 card in their inaugural set.

After that it was a CD player. One of those top-loading, 5 disc players that had the big speakers on each side. It even had 5 vertical bars on front to adjust the bass and treble! What were the first CDs I should buy right away?

And in each of those situations, with those material items and 8 year old desires,
my father found an opportunity to teach me.

You see, for as long as I can remember, dad worked at a credit union. Being young I didn’t really understand what he did. I just knew dad left early and came back before dinner, always in a shirt and tie. I knew he was always busy. I knew he helped people with their money and I knew that when money came up in conversation around our house, he had plenty of wisdom. So at the young age of 8, after my mother helped me get a paper route, my father taught me the basics of money management; as I opened savings and checking accounts in my own name.

Fast forward 30 years later and I still remember riding my bike to “Charlie’s Sports Cards”, walking inside and writing a check for thirty dollars (asking the owner how to spell “thirty” on the check!) for that Ken Griffey Jr. card. It’s engrained in my memory forever. But me opening that checking account with dad’s help was only the beginning.

For the last 40-plus years dad has been connecting with local people as a trusted guide for their finances. There’s not a place in town he can go for lunch without running into someone he’s impacted. From someone at the local Tony’s Pizza plant that needed a car loan when their credit might not have been great and they needed someone to believe in them, to a former employee who needed that extra time off when their child was sick. Everyone dad came in contact with left in a better place.

Dad RetiringSo a couple weeks ago, when it was time for dad to retire, it was a bit surreal. It was surreal to him I know for certain; but also to the rest of our family, all his clients and to every staff member he’d led for the last 40 years! Dad was a rock to all of us and someone you could depend on. Now that he’s walking into the next chapter of life, we’d all need to readjust in our own little ways.

I was happy for him, and proud. Of course in our line of work we needed to make sure dad (& mom) were financially secure forever. (Part of that solution came from the security provided in an index annuity with a guaranteed, lifetime income rider!) They’d done a great job planning and were set. They’d done everything within their control to make sure of that.

But when it’s your own father retiring, it’s different.

When it’s your own family, your own friends, your own connections, it means more. When you’ve watched them work their entire lives to accomplish something, it needs to be carefully executed and details need to be taken care of. Because this one felt different. While everyday I help millions of dollars from dozens of financial advisers and retirees move into safety, I don’t know them on a personal level. Everyday is volume. But this one, specific situation is gravity.

Which has me reminding myself, and reminding you, that every client you work with – for every client you serve – this is their one time. This is their “different”. They’ve worked for decades. They’ve planned. They’ve worried and striven, saved and budgeted. Now they’re looking to you… they’re looking to us… to get it right this one time.

For me, and my own father retiring,
this time it was different.

Please remind yourself often that for the person sitting across from you, and talking to you on the phone, this time it’s different for them. And let’s get it right.

Everyone has strengths. Everyone has weaknesses.

We can talk through different schools of thought around strengthening your weaknesses, or doubling down on your strengths. I’m rather opinionated on that one. But that’s for another time. My only point today is that all of us have our inherent positives and negatives.

And I have double zero desire to judge.

Leave your gavel at home. We have no idea what’s happening inside someone else’s four walls. I can guarantee there’s more to the story than we know. Most times it’s more complex than at first glance too. So I beg you to have employ more empathy.

So if we agree everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s best to not judge others, what’s that leave us with? Easy. One word.

Intent. Intent is everything.

Intent looks at the macro and gives the benefit of the doubt. Judgement looks at the micro and divides us. Shortcomings are fine and being self-aware enough to know yours and even tell us about them is praiseworthy. But please be true in your intent. If that’s not pure, we have real problems.

(On a related topic, but completely different vibe; one of the top producers at Advisors Excel has told me he only needs two things when hiring someone into his firm. He needs to know that one, they’ll work hard and two, he can trust them. That their intent is pure. We’d all be smart to steal that mindset.)

You made the jump.
You’re doing things your way, the right way, how you envision it.

But not everyone likes it, right? Maybe not your friends, parents or even your spouse. Your competition for sure doesn’t like it and status quo is screaming at you to stop! If we’re being honest, there are times you’re even questioning yourself. But only for a small minute. Because again, you’ve decidedly taken a different path (since you crave different results).

When they push back, what do you do? Let it bother you? Cave and fall in line, taking the same, worn-out route everyone else does? Or…
Can you find a way to “love the push back” because it means you’re playing offense, when they’re playing defense? Your mentality becomes your greatest weapon.

Do you regret it? Nope. Not you.

You’ve already won; because you’ve done what 99% won’t. You leapt. You’re in rarefied air because you’ve already pushed forward.

The market is the market. And long term you’ll win if you’re good enough. (That’s for a different post.) But today, that’s not the point. Because while I hope you win at this long term – I already applaud you. Stop, smile and be proud of the jump.

Leading vs. Lagging Indicator – what’s the difference? And why should you care?

The majority of my coaching time begins with clients focused on the result desired, the lagging indicator. Discussions center on what’s happening after the equals sign, not the equation pieces themselves. We talk about why that number (albeit profit, revenue, production, hours worked or a handful of other “end goals”) isn’t where someone wants it.

  • Profit is down, but doesn’t “feel” like it should be.
  • Revenue is off, but why?
  • Production is flat, but workload is up.
  • Hours worked increased, but efficiency hasn’t.

Ever felt that?
Oh, you have? You feel that right now?!?

Let me suggest it’s because you’re looking at the end result. You’re focused on the lagging indicator, which is the “scorecard” of all your work done and processes in place. And you’re focused in the wrong area.

If a ball team isn’t winning games, they need to back things up and re-evaluate what’s happening before the game. Likewise, if you’re not securing clients, revenue or achieving the work-life balance right for you, you should back things up and re-evaluate what’s happening before the point of sale.

Where you need to focus is an earlier, leading indicator. The earlier, simpler, more concrete and communicate-able (is that a word?) the better. Another fancy MBA term for this is Key Performance Indicator (KPI). But call it a leading indicator, KPI or whatever you want. If you don’t have one, and the support team around you doesn’t know it, then you’re in trouble.

The easiest example…

Before clients are acquired, you obviously need closing meetings. Before closing meetings, you need opening, first meetings. Can you back-calculate (or reverse engineer like I’ve talked about before) into how many opening, first meetings you need to bring on the number of clients, revenue and profit you want? Once that number of first meetings is known, you’re able to tailor a marketing plan to directly aim at that number of first meetings; and communicate the number of daily, weekly or pending first meetings that should be on your firm’s calendar to hit your objectives.

Leading indicator (or KPI) = 1st Meetings
Lagging Indicator = Clients/Premium/Revenue/Profit

Want to crush it in 2018? Find your single-most important leading indicator (or KPI) and focus everything on it. Marketing, sales process, appointment flow, staffing, internal communication, stated vision and goals and tracking. Then watch the lagging indicator take shape.

Head, Heart, Hands.
Head, Heart, Hands.

Say it with me now…
Head, Heart, Hands.

When you’re moving into a “call to action”, albeit at the end of a public workshop, radio show, television spot, in a current client setting or over coffee with a referral; the situation doesn’t matter. As the #1 overall producer at Advisors Excel told me last week:

“Tell them what you got, what it’ll do for ’em & what to do. In that order, don’t over-complicate it.”

  • This is what I’ve got (appeal to logic, their head).
  • This is what it’ll do for you (appeal to emotion, their heart).
  • This is what you should do (appeal to action, their hands).

One more time. Are you sick of it yet?

C2A Formula = Head, Heart, Hands.

Go get it.

It’s easy to get ahead of yourself. With so many success tactics to try (that work for other people, so they’ll work for you, right?) and options at your fingertips – you’re ready to do it all. Now. Yesterday in fact. But recently I’ve needed to slow a couple of you down.

Case #1 involved a client of mine eager to execute on a platform we recently introduced centered on “Earning Stages”. It involves creating a signature talk, valuable calls to action, the “closing heart” and proprietary processes. Beyond that we showed how to scale beyond the stage and place a relative value score on every stage possible. The wrap up involved 5 types of stages to earn, mediums to approach decision makers, materials we’ll create alongside you and an avenue to charge ahead with all of it. At the end of this presentation over 100 clients signed up (at $8k apiece!) within 30 minutes. Phew! Powerful. He wanted in. So it makes sense that my client should move forward, right?

Nope. He wasn’t ready.

When we dissected his 2018 marketing plan there was a gaping hole in client events. No client education, a sporadic client referral event every now and an annual (cost too much, no ROI) client appreciation event. The whole client event processes needed revamped in a big way. So before we charge into a brand new marketing funnel (earning stages) I suggest we fix what’s already in place, but broken. Then, and only then, can we have fully commit to the next big thing.

Case #2 involved someone who wanted to hire their first associate/junior/sub advisor into the office. On the surface, I agreed. Time was stretched thin, service was taking up too much time and one marketing funnel was producing big results; where we could double into that and expect to see amplified results. No brainer, right?

Nope. He wasn’t ready.

As we dug deeper into his marketing processes and tracking, it was clear there was little to see. Very little of it was documented. Looking beyond that, we discussed a repeatable sales process that this additional advisor could step into and use. Again, nothing formalized had been created. Speaking about staff and how they interact with the advisor, what roles they take on and how they fit into the overall picture, it was choppy at best. Heavy doses of communication, transparency and alignment were needed. Show me an intentional marketing plan with basic tracking on the front end, a repeatable sales process outline in the middle and staff who understand where their largest value is created on the back end – then we move ahead full steam. But not until then or it fails.

While we all want to take the next “it worked for them, it’ll work for me” step (a positive trait, since we’re wired for growth) – be careful to not get ahead of yourself. I want that next step for you too. I want that next marketing platform, that next stage, that additional advisor and to see that ear to ear smile on your face at the end of 2018. But make sure we slow down to evaluate your step first, before you take it.

It’s just SO MUCH….

In 2018, can you feel the overflow of information in your life? All the emails, news stories, headlines, “experts”, opinions, divisions, points and ensuing counterpoints. It becomes overwhelming if you let it.

  • If I feel that way – how do you, my clients, feel?
  • If you feel that way – how do your clients feel?
  • And if we all feel this way – what should we do about it?

This “too much information” world isn’t slowing down either. Ever. To the contrary, it’s speeding up and providing more, more, more and more every year, exponentially. (To see something that’ll blow your mind, look at these live Google search statistics). So naturally, that means your access to information decreases in value every second. The way I memorized state capitals or multiplication tables in 3rd grade is no longer relevant. Siri, Alexa and Google own that. Learning to learn is valuable. But memorization for memorization no longer is.

So what Matt?!? What’s it mean to me?

This means that your ability to recall information will constantly decrease in value. Google will relentlessly crush you. But…there’s a heap of good news that follows, to everyone open to it. In this world of  information overload; an entirely new and more nuanced field continues to flourish. As opposed to information recall’s continuous decline in value, this field becomes more valuable by the second.

Your clients we referenced above (who feel the same information overload) want a trusted expert. They need someone to lean into, who has their best interest at heart, understands their situation and is intellectually and psychologically capable of custom curation. Curation they can’t do. Curation Google, Siri or Alexa won’t perform. Curation only you can handle.

A museum curator could choose any number of masterful pieces to display. They have endless medium, artist and subject options. But the best curators have an understanding around what they want to create. They envision what their audience needs before their audience knows it for themselves. They have a skill set that’s incredibly valuable; and your highest functioning level is evolving to become similar.

With the endless amount of information building daily, what does your audience want (even if they can’t tell you)? Then more importantly, how can you take everything available to them (like these 8.77 million search results on “Retirement Planning”) and organize things to make sense?

  • Those who filter…
  • Those who siphon…
  • Those who are the (intellectual & psychological) resource people trust…
  • Those who envision what their clients need…
  • Those who make the complex simple…
  • Those who custom curate win…

Curation is king.

Management a decade ago was carrot or whip. Place a carrot out there for employees to chase or whip from behind and threaten to get what you want. Either way, it’s a jaded, outdated style where the employees work for you and you’re the master manipulator.

Hear me loud on this – to succeed in “management” in 2018 (better called leadership), you work for those people reporting to you. Again, you work for them. Top down culture. Got it?

Ego severely limits your upside in today’s economy. Humility is where it’s at. And the higher and higher you go up the ladder, the more humility you need to deploy. To where all the way at the top, you’re very aware that you’re working FOR a whole lot of people.

They don’t work for you; you work for them.
Humility not ego.

Change your mindset for 2018. Because you deserve it and I know they deserve it too.