How did a Nebraska farm boy become the one of the most successful financial planners in the nation? This is the story of Ron Carson and his evolution from insurance agent to highly successful independent advisor.
Carson’s success is rooted in early influences, and sustained by three key components that have shaped his life. Now his unique way of working and living has become a model for others.
As the son of two farmers, Ron was surrounded by the trappings of agricultural life. But alongside the farming tools and animals there was something else: financial charts–lots of them. His mother, in an effort to hedge the family’s farming risks, had become an avid trader in commodities futures. The financial charts and graphs fascinated Ron, and though he didn’t know it at the time, the seeds of his future career as a financial advisor were sown.
Ron’s mother had another influence. “She was extremely nurturing,” says Ron. “I grew up in a very caring, supportive environment that has directly impacted the way I treat my clients today.”
Eventually, Ron left the family farm to attend the University of Nebraska. In need of extra money, he started selling life insurance out of his dorm, cold call after cold call. Within a short period of time, he was pulling in substantially more money than he ever had. Though this infusion of money inspired him for some time, eventually the cold-calling took its toll. Ron burned out.
“I decided to go back and start calling some of my very best clients,” he says. “I didn’t call them for any business. I was just so sick of cold-calling, I wanted to hear a friendly voice.”
As Ron called each client, he began to realize something: They truly appreciated that he had taken the time to call, especially since he was calling without a specific agenda. He decided to make it a policy to continue calling his clients just to say hello.
Fast-forward several years. By 2000, Ron had earned his securities license and founded a business that had grown into a marketing machine. During that year alone, he earned nearly $6 million in gross revenues.
Today, Ron manages over $600 million on a fee basis for clients who have at least $5 million each. His company, called Carson Wealth Management Group, has a strong support structure, including a CPA, a paralegal, a long-term care specialist, and strategic alliances with other professionals in his area.
Even in the face of difficult market conditions, his achievements have been impressive. In 2001 he grossed $4.7 million, and he is on track to gross between $4.4 million and $4.5 million in 2002. About 65% of his revenue is derived from recurring fees.
What lies at the heart of this success? Ron cites three key components:
1. A burning desire for success
2. “Love Affair Marketing”
3. A high level of systemization
A Certain Definition of Success
For Ron, “success” means leaving the world a better place by helping people find meaningful purpose in their lives. His personal mission, he says, is to “take the time to help family, friends, staff, and clients reach their goals; set and achieve the goals I commit to; and live each day with purpose.
“When I approach people with this frame of mind, it makes everything simple,” he says. “I do things because I love to do them, and I genuinely enjoy the people I’m working with.”
Defining success–and then living out that definition–also means learning to say “no.”
“I learned that you don’t really need to do it all, and you don’t need to have a good reason for saying no,” says Ron. “All you really have to do is to just say, ‘No, thank you.’”
It’s not just talk. Ron recently took an entire summer off to spend time with his family–a move that surprised his business associates and friends. “I made a commitment,” he says simply. “I kept it.”
Ron took another step once he clarified his mission: He simplified his life. Now he only belongs to organizations that share his goals. Furthermore, he surrounds himself with people who help him achieve his personal mission, and he slowly weeds out the people who are roadblocks to this mission.
He even cleaned out his closets–literally. For Ron, physical organization has contributed to a clearer mind and less stress. All of these steps move him closer to his goals, and help fuel his passion for life.
“Love Affair Marketing”
Ron’s passion for life is also the foundation for a very effective marketing process that he calls “Love Affair Marketing.”
“It’s based around emotional reciprocity,” says Ron. It’s easy to see his mother’s influence in the strategy, which focuses on nurturing his existing clients. Under the “Love Affair Marketing” plan, Ron holds special events for his clients, stays in touch, and helps them set and achieve goals. And because his efforts come from the heart, clients not only stay, they refer others.
Ron focuses all of his marketing efforts on “Love Affair Marketing.” The successes of his previous marketing strategies, including a weekly radio show, pale in comparison.
In addition to “Love Affair Marketing,” Ron also developed an in-depth method called the “Blueprinting Process.” He uses this process to coach other financial advisors through an affiliated company, Peak Productions (www.peakproductions.com), helping them clarify their definition of a meaningful life. He also uses the process with a few select clients.
“Not every client is willing to have a heartfelt ‘what do you want from your life’ conversation,” he says. But for those who do, the “Blueprinting Process” can be a life-changing event. It’s yet another way Ron differentiates himself from others in his field.
All Systems Go
If a burning desire for success allows Ron to focus on the things that really matter, and “Love Affair Marketing” allows him to attract great clients, Ron’s systemized approach is the glue that holds it all together.
“Systemization allows me to deliver a high level of service, and it allows me to do this for less than it costs a typical financial planner to provide an average level of service,” says Ron.
He has developed a highly organized system to keep his business top-of-mind among clients. This system is a customized version of GoldMine Business Contact Manager which he continually refines.
Ron uses this software to identify the six key things he must accomplish each day. It’s no surprise that these tasks are tied directly to his mission and vision. The software keeps him organized, and keeps him on track with his marketing efforts as well. In short, it is a tool that enables Ron to provide a consistent, personalized level of service at the lowest possible cost, and without letting any client slip through the cracks.
Ron also takes a systemized approach to scheduling his day. Often up by 4:30 a.m., he seamlessly blends his work and his personal life–attending meetings, taking his daughter to lunch, working out at the gym. By clearly structuring his day, he is able to complete a great deal of work without sacrificing his personal life or goals.
Ron’s business model–and his outlook–are unusual in an industry that is often more focused on “What’s in it for me?” than “How can I better serve my clients?”
Ron’s “Blueprinting Process” is particularly intriguing. My belief is that people are dying to have deeper conversations–they just don’t feel comfortable doing it. They need permission to open up and discuss the really important issues in life. In our North American culture, we have a tendency to focus on the external, but it’s the internal that truly drives us.
This appeal to the internal, which is not typically addressed by the financial services industry, distinguishes Ron and his marketing from almost all other financial advisors.
Ron is clearly the type of advisor that wealthy clients would love to work with. Why? Because he truly cares about them and has systematic processes to reinforce his client focus on an ongoing basis.
I asked Ron what it was that prompted him to finally make a commitment to focus on his quality of life. He told me that he was motivated to make changes when he realized how quickly his kids were growing up. He felt like one day he was having his first child, and the next he was the father of a teenager. In addition, he was influenced by his clients, some of whom had passed away with incredible amounts of wealth, but no real relationships with family or friends.
“It’s incredibly important to have a personal business mission statement, and a clear vision of where you are going,” says Ron. “I believe this is a quality that differentiates the top advisors from average advisors. Top advisors have a vision, and they take action on the opportunities that will help them achieve their dreams and goals.”
By focusing on your own mission and purpose, you can remain calm in the face of trouble. For instance, the market turmoil will not affect you as much if you are at peace with your overall direction. You will see the big picture, and you will be able to approach problems with a clearer perspective.
Ron Carson has shown that caring about your clients and defining the mission for your business and your life can have enormous positive effects on your business. But it’s not something you can fake. It has to come from the heart. If it does, your marketing and your life will be simpler, and defined by true meaning, joy, and happiness.