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Learning about Leadership through Baseball

“Baseball is this huge analogy for life,” said Rebecca Herman, Ph.D., professor of leadership and organizational development at Kaplan University’s school of business. Herman spoke to FPA volunteer leaders about leadership and volunteerism at the FPA Chapter Leaders Conference in Broomfield, Colo.

Herman, a baseball fanatic and co-author of Lead Me Out to the Ballgame: Stories and Strategies to Develop Major League Leadership, shared the following steps to effective leadership:

Lead Yourself
To be an effective leader, you must lead yourself. According to Herman, this takes passion, leading by example, and respect. “Leading by example is one of the best behavioral lessons we can give our team,” said Herman.

Leading Others
The next step to effective leadership is leading others. To do this successfully, Herman says you must cultivate relationships (spend time with the people on your team each day), communicate effectively, and support your people. After interviewing dozens of Major League Baseball players for her book, Herman was shocked to learn that what players wanted most from their managers was support; they wanted their managers to have their back.

Leading the Game
This is what Herman considers your expertise. She encouraged the planners in the room—experts in financial planning—to stay up to date on their expertise, to foster teamwork and create a winning culture.

All these steps will lead to becoming a major league leader, scoring a home run and experiencing your own version of that champagne-popping moment of winning the World Series.

Schulaka Carly_resizedCarly Schulaka
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, CO

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5 Myths about Working with the Media: Busted!

If you’re looking to build relationships with local and national media so they will call on you when they need a quote or subject matter expert on their financial planning story, here are some things to keep in mind.

This tips were shared by Ben Lewis, FPA’s public relations director, during the FPA Chapter Leaders Conference in Broomfield, Colo.

Myth 1: You need to have expertise working with the media in order to be a sought after source/expert.
Not true, says Lewis. Reporters are constantly looking for new sources, new experts and new points of view.

Myth 2: You need to be on guard at all times during an interview.
“It’s not an interview,” says Lewis. “It’s a conversation.” He suggests that planners approach every interview with a journalist as though it is a conversation with a client. Speak with confidence about what you know. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” if in fact you don’t know the answer to a journalist’s question.

Myth 3: If you are interviewed, you will be quoted in the story.
A journalist may interview you for 10 minutes or an hour, but that doesn’t mean your quotes are guaranteed to make it into the published piece. The journalist may use your interview as background, but that doesn’t mean they don’t value you as a resource.

Myth 4: Journalists are malicious and will use what you say against you.
Simply put, no journalist is out to get you. But it’s important that you prepare for the interview, by doing proper research to have solid, confident points to make. Before the actual interview, inquire about the angle of the story and know what you want to say.

Myth 5: Being a smart professional is enough to work with the media.
No matter how smart you are, if you deliver your answers to the journalist’s questions like a lead balloon, it will go over like a lead balloon, says Lewis. Your nonverbal communication is key. “It has to come from your heart as much as it comes from your head,” he says.

A few more “speaking to journalists” tips from Lewis:

  • Remember that you are never just representing yourself. You are representing your business, your FPA chapter, and your profession.
  • Always tell the truth.
  • Always have something to say.
  • At the end of the interview ask, “Did I answer all your questions?”
  • Don’t ask to see a copy of the story beforehand.
  • Always thank the interviewer.

Schulaka Carly_resizedCarly Schulaka
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, CO

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Find Your Strengths, Align Your Life

StrengthFinderThe coolest thing about the work I do is that my vision and purpose align with my strengths and passion. The vision that pulls me forward is to provide tools, knowledge and support to those who want to create a greater version of life. To do this, I need to reach as many people as possible through speaking, writing, coaching and team-building.

Those familiar with the Clifton StrengthsFinder® and identification of talents will recognize my top five in the paragraph below. Begin aligning your life by taking the StrengthsFinder assessment and exploring your top five strengths.

My “maximizer” strength leads and is all about becoming greater. My “strategic” strength allows me to discover the different ways people learn and connect. My “positivity” brings the ability to recognize, progress and celebrate success. My “futuristic” strength lights the way allowing a preview of how things can play out years ahead. My “woo” strength is the influence to help others see, feel and believe what I do. With this alignment comes the continual search for ways to enhance the value I bring to clients and to grow in the process. What a win-win!

Knowledge of your top five strengths themes will increase your confidence and highlight ways you can drive what you control. The Action-Planning Guide on the Gallup Strengths Center website allows you to create a customized action plan. You can do this all on your own by reading the books, recording your learnings and putting them into action. It will take you a long time. Work with a certified coach to shorten the learning curve and enhance your understanding.

Among the many things you will learn is that strengths are defined as the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance. Strengths deriving from talent is a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving. Add to this the investment of time spent practicing, developing and refining your talents and you have a strength.

The formula looks like this:


Developing strengths can be a challenge as our human tendency is to focus on the things we don’t do well. For example we dwell on that one “C” on the report card or “did not meet expectations” in the performance review. While criticism and negative remarks are tough to take, they can help reveal what we do really well. You cannot be all things to all people or great at every aspect that your work requires. Top performers know that in order to succeed their energies must be focused on what they do best.

What do you do best? I challenge you to find out. For less than the cost of a good lunch, you can begin to chart your own course.

Barbara StewartBarbara Stewart
Coach to financial advisers
Owner and founder
Accelus Partners
Houston, Texas


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3 Ways to Find the Flip Side of Failure

Have you ever wondered if anything positive could come out of getting a negative result? Let’s use the example of the last time you did not close a sale—your hopes were probably deflated as the prospect walked out the door to go home and “think about it.”  Did you take time to reflect back on your conversation with the prospect and think about what you learned from the situation? Successful advisers know that the flip side of failure is being able to learn from their mistakes.

The following are just of few examples of what you might do to get better results next time.

  1. Prepare for the Presentation: Many advisers spend the majority of their appointment preparation time working on a financial plan to determine their recommendations. However, what they don’t take time to work on is preparing and practicing the actual presentation or dialogue. As a result, they rush into recommendations which oftentimes leaves the prospect feeling confused or overwhelmed.
  2. Make a Personal Connection: People tend to work with people they like. Personality-based selling is the art of understanding personality types to make and build better connections. If you don’t know much about it, you should do some homework. Remember, you must make the connection before you can make the sale!
  3. Help them Understand Why They Should Buy: People hate to be sold to but they love to buy. When you map out a series of questions to take them down a “questions path” to understand why they should buy, you are helping them come to their own conclusions before you’ve even explained your recommendations. This is one of the single most important things you can do to help close a sale.
  4. Prepare for Objections: You should ALWAYS expect objections. If you don’t, you most certainly will get them and won’t know what to do with them. Take time to write out rebuttals to at least five common objections and practice them well before your appointments.
  5. Ask for the Order: A little known secret to sales is that an interested prospect will give you buying signals by asking you questions as if to imply that they are considering owning your recommendations, such as, “How long will it take to move the money over?” When this happens, you must answer and ask for the order. One of the easiest closes is to simply say, “Are you comfortable moving ahead?” Ask this and you might get another objection—for which you have prepared a rebuttal—or you get the sale!

Turning Your Failures into Success

Obviously, there is much more to each of the aforementioned five points to ensure you find success. It is a proven fact, though, that you can turn any failure into a success if you take the time to learn from your past errors and find solutions (or best practices) to keep you from repeating them which will allow you to take your failures and find their flip side.

If you read this article and would like help techniques about how to best learn from your mistakes, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com to schedule a free complimentary consultation with Dan Finley.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.

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Managing the Business Development Process: A Key to the True Ensemble

According to a recent report by Cerulli Associates, financial advisers today are more likely to join an established RIA than to create their own advisory firm. Another study by InvestmentNews came to the same conclusion. Are these results surprising? Perhaps for some, but the talk regarding the emergence of ensemble firms has been around for more than a decade. Whether due to aging founder advisers who want their firms to continue after they’re gone, or to advisers who want to grow the top line, there is indeed a hiring frenzy by existing firms.

What happens after the frenzy has been satisfied and additional advisers are in place is another story. Unfortunately, “buyer’s remorse” can sometimes set in: Firm leaders who have failed to anticipate and prepare for the changes resulting from having additional advisers in the firm cannot achieve the intended results. So, what can be done to prevent this scenario?

As the leader of your organization, you should, of course, carefully craft the vision and business plan—and then drive that plan into reality. But one key to forming a true ensemble is the need to manage the business development process—sometimes referred to as the sales process.

Manage the Process
As advisers join your firm, they will need leadership and management to help them grow. You may find that it doesn’t cut it to go back to “business as usual” and focus your time as a financial adviser on only serving your clients. Be it loosely or with formality—and whether or not you call it “sales”—the business development process within a firm needs to be managed. To do this, consider the following:

  • Have individual advisers set revenue goals. This will yield the forecast on which future expenditures of the firm can be based. At least some of these expenditures should be for marketing efforts designed to gain new clients.
  • Track all activities. It is all too easy to service existing clients endlessly and never get around to prospecting. Keeping track of advisers’ revenue-generating activity will help provide some needed structure and balance to client-servicing activities.
  • Coordinate marketing events. This will ensure that firm-sponsored events and expenditures are embraced by all advisers within a firm.
  • Recognize success. Advisers need to be recognized for their achievements, as well as coached in areas where improvement is needed.
  • Evaluate techniques. By evaluating the effectiveness of different revenue-generating approaches, future time and energy can go into those prospecting activities with the highest return on investment. This is often referred to as tracking and assessing the effectiveness of endeavors of the sales funnel.

A Word to the Wise
If you love being a financial adviser and working directly with your clients but hate managing others and/or focusing on others’ growth, you might want to “stick to your knitting” and remain in a solo practice. And if you think that growing your business is as simple as finding another adviser to join your firm, think again. All work is a process—including business development.

Remember, you might establish a multi-adviser firm by hiring more advisers. But a key to forming a true ensemble includes actively managing your business development process.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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Quick Tips to Client Gifting

At the end of each year, most organizations send expressions of gratitude to their clients and partners. Gifts abound! How can you stand out? FPA can help you make it count!

Corporate gifting with those bright colors and pretty packages can be seen as not much more than a marketing ploy–or worse–a bribe! You want your gift to show sincere appreciation for your business relationship. Here are some tips to ensure your gift is noticed and valued.

  • Forget the chachkies. The surest way to have a gift end up overlooked and probably discarded into the trash bin is to send something that will never be used. You might think that $1 teddy bear with your logo on its shirt was super cute and a great way to save money, but will your clients really even notice it? And do you really want a stuffed animal on your desk?
  • Don’t get too personal. You may know that your favorite client has been eyeing that beautiful crystal decanter and tumbler set with the brass inlay that allows for a tasteful monogram, but for a business relationship, this may not be the best approach. First, it reveals that you may know a little too much about your client’s private life. Second, it does not allow for your generosity to be shared (more on that later). Third, this is one expensive gift!  Which leads me to my next point.
  • Don’t be overly lavish. If you cannot afford to spend a large amount on every client you have, you shouldn’t spend it on just one. No matter what industry you are in, people within it know each other…and they talk. You do not want to send the message that Client A is more valuable to you than Client B. That just destroyed all the goodwill you had intended! Not to mention, many company policies do not allow gifts over a certain value to be accepted.  And worse, a client may end up feeling like you are trying to buy their business. Out the door went that warm fuzzy feeling again.
  • Give a gift that allows your clients to share in your generosity. As I mentioned above, a sharable gift is a better bet than a personal one. Good executives know that the people who work for them deserve as much thanks for being a good business partner as they do. This can be challenging in really large offices, but even a small basket of fruit or cheese and crackers will go farther than a bottle of wine. Make the gift you give something that everyone in the office can ooh and ahh over… and enjoy!
  • Personalize your message. While it is tempting in this busy world to sign all your cards with a generic “Thank you for your business,” statement, the sincerity of your gift gets lost. Take a few moments to add a personal tidbit that will add warmth and express genuine appreciation for those who help sustain your business. They are important to you; make sure they feel that way.

And to thank you–our very appreciated and valued FPA members–we have partnered with some amazing gift companies. Click on the logos below to learn more about special FPA member discounts and all the tasteful and beautiful options that they offer. Happy gifting!  Our best to you and yours.

Buffy Fletcher
Corporate Relations
Denver, Colo.

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Embrace ‘Beginner’s Mind’: Don’t Let Your Expertise Hold You Back

During a recent lunch with a well-known venture capital investor, I asked him what is the secret formula behind his spectacular success. His answer was laconic, “Beginner’s mind.”

He explained that in spite of his in-depth venture capital expertise, he still looks at any new investment opportunity with the same child-like curiosity and desire to learn he applied to his very first transaction nearly four decades ago.

His response made me reflect on the countless times in our daily life we miss the opportunity to use this sage approach. Our highly competitive and individualistic culture force us to approach people and situations with an expert’s mind rather than a beginner’s mind. The former, far too often, triggers in us the very familiar “been there, done that” response, which leads us to believe that once we have achieved some level of knowledge about something, there is no longer anything for us to gain.

“Beginner’s mind” is a Zen principle, expounded by Shunryu Suzuki in his classic book on Zen Buddhism titled Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. In the book, Suzuki teaches that the beginner’s mind is a mind that is fresh, curious, unbiased, awakened to numerous possibilities and void on any preconceptions. This type of mind profoundly differs from the one that habitually governs our daily activities and customary ways of thinking and responding to people and situations.

Suzuki’s central message is that, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Beginner’s mind is about purposefully setting aside our beliefs, conjectures, preferences and existing ideas to create space for new and potentially better ones. When we resolve to learn something we know nothing about, we must begin from the beginning. We don’t know anything about it, ergo our mind is empty and receptive. That’s beginner’s mind.

This should exhort us to never feel as if we have something all figured out when discussing with a client a financial plan or an investment. We must train our mind to be as inquisitive as that of a child, unhindered from bias and unencumbered by our existing knowledge. This will foster in us the desire to listen mindfully to our client or prospect to gain more knowledge and learn about their fears, needs and goals. Ultimately, life never ceases to present us with endless opportunities to learn more.

But, why should we resort to being a beginner when discussing topics or devising strategies that we dealt with innumerable times during our professional life and that have become almost second nature to us?

Having a beginner’s mind approach is of vital importance, because, as we become experts at something, our mind unfailingly leads us to believe that we already know everything there is to know.

Children are a powerful example of beginner’s mind in action. They never cease to surprise us with how fast they learn new things. This is because they embody the view of John Locke—a seventeenth century British philosopher—maintaining that the mind begins as a “tabula rasa”–the Latin expression often translated as blank slate upon which layers of experience accumulate.

Very often in our daily life those layers of knowledge turn into a hindrance to critical investigation and end up curtailing our ability to identify the best option. The beginner’s mind approach is cultivated by being curious, open to hear or observe all that is said or manifests before us without predeterminations. Ultimately, it means tending to a client or a situation wholeheartedly, in the present moment, refraining from rushing to pass judgments or offering solutions until we have absorbed all there is to absorb.

Investing demands beginner’s mind. It is a highly competitive profession. Identifying objective investment strategies to address clients’ increasingly complex needs and situations—amidst fierce competition—is a dynamic process that requires an unusual openness and clarity of mind. Failing to experience greater openness and awareness for new ideas can lead advisers to feel overconfident and prone to implement poor decisions on behalf of their clients.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.


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