How do you define success? Success can come from many aspects: life, career, family.
Often I get asked how I became a financial advisor and what has led to my success. When someone views me as successful, I’m always flattered. While I do consider myself to be successful, I’m also very humble.
By industry standards, I’m just a pea. I’m not a rainmaker, not a million dollar producer, not one of Forbes Top 100 financial advisors. I don’t have hundreds of millions under management.
Most big time producers would probably chuckle if they knew the size of my book of clients. So why do others and myself consider me to be successful? Because I love what I do (and it shows) and get paid very well to help people each and every day.
Being a financial advisor is not easy. Being naive and inexperienced, that’s something that I really didn’t know when I got started in the business– but very quickly found out.
How hard is it to get started? When I began my career with A.G. Edwards & Sons in 2002, I had a training class of around 55 people. My class ranged from 23 year-olds, like myself, starting their careers to 50+ year-olds attempting a third career. After completing training and being “in production” (better know as licensed to sell) for a year, our class of 55 had been slashed to less than half. At my five year anniversary mark, there were only 5 of us left.
If you’re a numbers geek and you use my class as an example of your odds of surviving, then you have a 91% chance that you are going to fail if you decide to become a financial advisor. How do you like your odds?
As I reflect back onto my young career, I’m truly thankful to many blessings that have been bestowed to me. There have been many emotional roller coasters along the way but I know that the following basic fundamental principles have been the foundation to my success. Just so you didn’t think that I was blowing smoke, I recruited two other successful financial advisors, Russ Thornton and Brian Plain, to give their take what it takes to truly succeed in our business.
Abide by the Golden Rule
One of the keys to my success has much to do with how I was raised. My family has always taught me live by the golden rule:
“Treat others the way that I would like to be treated”.
It’s such simple advice that rings true in every situation. I apply this basic principle in life and most importantly in my career. If a client calls me while I’m on the phone, I’m sure to call them back as soon as I can. Why? Because I hate having to wait on someone to call me back and I don’t want my client having to wait. Same thing on emails and sending out paperwork.
Always do what’s right for your client. This will often mean giving up short term financial gain. Do what’s right for your client because it is the RIGHT thing to do. Do it early and often and you’ll see it come back to you in spades.
Give 110% and Then Some
This business is not for everyone. I’ve seen many people get started and think to themselves that they have what it takes only to see them fizzle out in under a year. What made me different? Because I wanted it. My first year, I spent all day and 2-3 night per week cold calling. Yes, I was that annoying guy that would interrupt your favorite TV show by asking you the following:
“Hi, Mr. So and So. My name is Jeff Rose, and I’m calling from A.G. Edwards here in Carbondale. I”m just calling you today to see if you are an investor and if you are open to new investment ideas from time to time.”
That was it. That was my magical spiel. Imagine saying that 100-2oo times a day? If you weren’t jealous of me yet then I’m sure you’re jealous now
After cold-calling, I started hosting lunch and dinner seminars. I used to beg invite potential clients to a free meal so they can hear me talk about some general investment message. I used to do one of these every 6 weeks or so trying to get my name out there. In addition, I would sacrifice weekends setting up booths at trade shows. I would and have driven over 2 hours to meet with somebody hoping they would do business with me. There were many highs and lows and I’ve enjoyed every moment.
Be Persistent, Not Pushy
When I first started in the business I had no clients given to me and it was up to me to find new ones. When I came across someone who was a potential prospect, I was very eager to convert them to a client. So eager that I would follow up more so than was properly necessary. I learned along the way that you have to wait until people are ready to act, BUT you still want to make sure that they think of you when the time is right. That’s why it is important to follow up: phone call, e-mail, hand written note. Just make sure that when you do follow up it’s not too often.
Russ adds a bit of his experience in working in a Wall Street firm,
A Wall St brokerage firm is a sales firm. I’m not criticizing sales because it’s a critical function in any healthy business. In fact, though I’m an independent advisor today, I’m still selling my advice. I guess my point is that you should understand up-front and make a career choice on the basis of what you want, and are willing, to sell to people.
Shut up and Listen
How you ever been to cocktail party and got stuck having to listen to a person who felt the need to tell you EVERYTHING about them even though you never asked. Don’t worry I won’t do that to you :) One thing about me is that I’m a very curious person by nature. I like to ask a lot of questions and most importantly: L-I-S-T-E-N.
Be an educator and share your knowledge. A successful advisor talks WITH clients, not AT clients. Making things simple and understandable isn’t easy, but it is essential.
Learn How To Be a Teacher
“A child miseducated is a child lost.”
John F. Kennedy
One of the surprising aspects of job is how much I play the role as educator. Most people that I work with don’t have the desire to know or understand what the beta or standard deviation is on their portfolio. They just know that they have worked there butt off to save as much as they have and that money has to last through the rest of their life. And they are hiring me to help them through the process. Some part of the process is easy (I need X amount dollars per month to survive) while other aspects can be confusing (I’m looking to set up an A-B Trust to protect my assets from estate tax). Whatever the circumstance, it’s imperative that all parties have a good understanding of what we are trying to accomplish. Without that general understanding, that education of the financial goals at hand, any major bump along the way could jeopardize the desired result.
Russ points out,
When it’s all said and done, it’s the client’s money. You can give them the best advice and listen to anything and everything they’re willing to share with you, but they have the final say in any decisions that are made. I’ve found the best way to work with clients is to be a caring educator. No, I’m not trying to teach them everything I know, but I want my clients to have a thorough understanding of their choices and the possible consequences of each choice they might make.
Give a Damn
If you really want to be a successful financial advisor you have to genuinely care about the people (your clients) that you are helping. You can’t look at them as “how much money they have” or “how much you make off of them”. In 2008 when the market was falling, I could care less about how much I lost. I was more concerned about all my retired and soon to be retiring clients and how this would affect them. If you don’t care- truly, genuinely care, then people see right through you.
Have Some Faith
“See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I can remember in my first year of becoming a financial advisor I had one of the worst earning months of my short career. I made less in a month that I made when I was still working part-time at GNC making $6/hour while I was in college. Luckily, I was still young and didn’t have a family to support, so I made it. What also helped me is having God on my side and giving me the strength and power to not doubt myself and continue forward and succeed.
Brian ends with,
Worry about the things that you can control. Always take care of your clients and do right by them. Don’t be afraid to let them know how they can help you grow your practice. If you’re consistently exceeding your clients expectations, they’ll likely become your best source of potential referrals.
There are very few certainties in life. And there are perhaps even fewer in the financial services world. But I sleep comfortably at night knowing that I’m doing work I love and working hard to take the best possible care of my clients. I consider my clients part of my extended family and do my best to treat them as such. Sure there will be problems and obstacles that inevitably pop up along the way, and there’s only so much I can do to minimize these, but I am comforted by the knowledge that there is no one else out there that could care about my clients as much as I do.
Thanks for Brian and Russ for contributing!