A One Man Wrecking Crew


If you followed the NBA Finals, you know the Cleveland Cavaliers lost two of their five starters late in the season and in the playoffs. Regardless, the team made it to game six of the finals before giving up the championship to the Golden State Warriors, who have the league’s MVP, Stephen Curry. Maybe the best all-around player is LeBron James, who carried his injured Cavaliers team through the end of the season. 

Everyone was cheering for the underdog team from Cleveland in hopes that LeBron could single-handedly win the series for the city. But while everyone was talking about how he’s a one-man wrecking crew, they were also talking about his stamina, or rather lack thereof. One of the greatest athletes in the league, he appeared to be tired and run down in the playoffs. You can’t blame him. He was forced to score more points, grab more rebounds and assist in more baskets than his teammates. 

I think the Cavaliers demonstrated why a collaborative team approach is best – in basketball and financial planning. With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on the sideline, LeBron was forced to essentially do everything to fill the gap they left. While he made it work during this series, it clearly took a physical toll. 

The same would be true for your financial planning practice. Too often, I see planners attempting to be the LeBron James of financial services. They try to do too much. In the end, they get tired, lose focus and makes errors. Their client base grows too large and the personal contact their clients loved quickly evaporates. The solution: Make sure you build a team infrastructure into your planning process. If the primary relationship manager (you) aren’t available, then envelope your clients with the bench strength they deserve (your team). 

By building a team with a strong supporting cast, you can build a sustainable, profitable business model that your clients will appreciate. While you might have short-term success (one series) with just one superstar, long-term success (a championship) with a team approach creates value in your business and makes it referable.  

Bottom Line: Being the superstar might work in the short run, but having a strong bench adds value to your client relationships, which translate into wins for you.  

Tools I Didn’t Know Existed


One of our carrier partners visited a couple of weeks ago, and I talked to the wholesaler about her friend who is an ultra-marathoner, running more than 100 miles in races. We also talked about my running, which had been reduced because of some hip pain I began experiencing. At that point, I was only able to run one or two miles before my hip hurt so much I had to stop running.  

The wholesaler mentioned a shoe I’d never heard of before – the Hoka One One. She had me look it up right away, and at first glance, I thought it looked like a heavy brick you would attach to your feet. She talked about the cushion and explained that her friend was able to complete long runs comfortably since moving to this shoe. I remained skeptical. I’d been loyal to the same brand and same shoe for the past seven years of running. Every other time I tried a new shoe, I got blisters, foot pain and hip pain, so I always ended back in the same model as before.  

Reluctantly, I decided I had to try something to help my hip, and there was specialty running store where I was going to be staying for the weekend. I purchased the Hokas – they were the most expensive running shoes I had ever purchased. However, they are incredibility comfortable. In the prior 30 days, I had only been able to run about 20 miles total due to the pain. In the first week of wearing the Hokas, I’ve been able to run 11 miles comfortably. I’m back to increasing my mileage, improving my times and enjoying my running. 

I share this experience as an example of, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I was locked into one shoe because I had success with it previously. But, my body has changed – as do economic environments, client expectations, client goals and purposes of monies. 

We have to be more open to looking at alternatives. Even slight adjustments or updates can greatly enhance our chances for success. Instead of thinking about your old, comfortable shoes, try to think about how the new, improved, better chance for success shoe could help you. I challenge everyone to change their mindset, be open to new ideas to help clients, and be focused on finding solutions instead of remaining in their comfort zone.

The Bottom Line: We get comfortable with the way we do business. Challenge yourself to think differently, act differently and create different results with clients using different strategies.  


Why Financial Illiteracy is Like a Cancer


Recently, I read an article from Yahoo Sports about former Indiana Pacers player David Harrison. After earning $4.4 million in four seasons with the NBA, plus some time overseas playing professionally, the 32-year-old basketball player is nearly broke. We’ve heard about these scenarios before, but this story exemplifies why financial illiteracy is like a cancer. It does not discriminate by wealth. It does not care about race or gender. Simply put, not understanding your financial situation and circumstances can ruin your life.  

Harrison can’t even work at a local McDonald’s restaurant, not for lack of trying. Customers recognized him – it’s difficult to miss a 7-foot person taking your order – causing them to ask questions and end up taking 40 minutes to order, according to the article. So he had to leave McDonald’s. Banks foreclosed on his home and tried to repossess his car, and he still provides for his infant son. He says he can’t even afford to finish the final 16 credit hours needed to earn a degree (he left college early to play in the NBA). Needless to say, his life now is extremely different from his life when he was playing in the NBA. 

Even though most of us won’t be retiring from the NBA, this example shows the importance of having a reliable stream of income when your main source of income stops – no matter your age or profession. It’s something that’s all-too-often overlooked. I’m sure Harrison would appreciate having some level of steady income right now. And, he probably wouldn’t care about the rate of return on that income – he would be more focused on the bills he could pay instead.  

The Bottom Line: Financial literacy begins with education and planning. Understanding income needs and potential pitfalls could help your clients avert many hardships later in life.



Winning Teams Have Infrastructure


Back at the end of the NFL season, I remember listening to a sports broadcast discussing the similarities of the four franchises in the conference championships. All these teams had something in common: infrastructure. It’s an important ingredient for success in sports AND business. 

The host pointed out that each team had built a championship contender through various methods: free agency, the draft, retaining talent through long-term contracts or some key trades. Two teams had MVP quarterbacks. Two other teams had rising quarterbacks. Some teams relied on the run more than others, and a couple relied heavily on the short passing game. The methods were different, but all led them to winning. 

If you’re going to succeed in business, you need to find a way to build (or partner with someone that has) infrastructure around you. In the financial services industry, you need to have:

  • People who can support your sales efforts – Product specialists are key to positioning the correct solution with the right client situation.

  • Post-sales support – You need to be able to get your pending business through the pipeline efficiently, with little need to touch paper after the client signs. You need to be able to focus on the next client solution. 

  • Marketing – You must have a team that understands our business, your business, your clients’ needs, and how to brand that story repeatedly.  

  • Cutting-edge resources – Your staff needs to supply a flow of ideas and clients to you so that you are always looking for ways to drive revenue through your office. A good brokerage agency can provide ideas through data-mining and understanding the coming trends in the industry. 

  • Financial reporting – Just like you ask of your clients, you must be able to understand where you earn your revenue and where you spend it. Make sure you are getting all the commission reporting from your carriers to make your life easier. Establish processes so you can monitor the financial health of your business. 

If you don’t have the resources to reinvest in your business today, then you should partner with organizations that can help with the above areas. You might find that their partnership is more valuable than having a single person on staff, and it may be more profitable to outsource many of the infrastructure needs listed above. If you’d like more information about creating an infrastructure around your office, give us a call at Ash Brokerage. 

The Bottom Line: Successful teams and businesses have outstanding infrastructures surrounding them. Great producers focus on activities that solve client problems, while others handle the non-revenue activities.  

Change vs. Virtuosity


The definition of change is to convert or transform. Essentially, we all change year after year as we continue to transform as humans. But real, meaningful change might be better described as virtuosity – the development of great skill or mastery. So, what does it take to become virtuoso?  

Becoming a virtuoso starts with one question: Am I resolved to be the best? If you are resolved to be a virtuoso, you have a purpose or intent to be the best. In doing so, you will do the things necessary to become the best – regardless of time commitments, money or effort. That is a clear difference to just changing.  

As an industry, we have to be resolved to improve the client experience with underwriting, application processing and overall experience. We must commit to making the industry better, and do so in a manner that deploys financial resources, intellectual capital and time commitments from all levels.

We have to change our mindset from just change – because we are changing for the sake of change – to being resolved to make our industry a virtuoso industry. It has to be one that new talent views as a premier place to build a career, where clients seek information and don’t rely on “robo-investing,” and where we deliver true value to clients.  

The Bottom Line: Re-think change to become a virtuoso, and remember the first step is redirecting our mindset.