As the major television networks interrupted regular programming in March 2003 to cover the beginning of the war in Iraq, Americans watched the battles unfold. Dave Much saw the action, too – as a participant on his way to Baghdad.
When most advisors say they have war stories, they’re talking about closing a tough sale or facing a skeptical seminar crowd. Much, CSA, owner of Much Financial Services in El Segundo, Calif., has actual war stories, something he says is a plus with seniors, who tend to be very patriotic. Now a lieutenant colonel in the Marine reserve, Much is a senior financial advisor who doesn’t mind standing in front of a crowd presenting seminars, even though his first one was a disaster.
“I didn’t write one piece of business,” he says, but at least no one was shooting at him. He stuck with it and claims seminars are now his main tool to attract new business. The combat veteran says his best sales job ever may have been convincing his wife, Tamberley that seminars were the way to go, especially after the first disaster and with two new mouths to feed – twins, Maximilian and Alexandra (Max and Lexi), born while he was at war. So which was scarier: coming home to kids or being in a war zone? “I think I was probably more scared having left with no kids and coming back with two kids” he says. “There’s a little more permanency to coming home to kids than running around dodging bullets.”
One weekend a month and two weeks a year are still dedicated to the Marines, training to protect his country. His work days are spent protecting the retirement assets of seniors in the Los Angeles area. His fall Saturdays are spent rooting for his beloved University of Southern California football team, a dedication that led to 12 members of the USC marching band playing at his wedding. (His wife is also a USC alum.) Glad to be home and running a business in an industry he loves, Much told me a bit of his war experience.
Senior Market Advisor: How long were you in Iraq?
Dave Much: I was there from the kickoff of the war. I went from the border all the way to Baghdad. We secured the U.N. compound in Baghdad and I lived there for about five days. Then, the regiment came over and saw that we got the power, the water, the electricity, the Internet and the phones back working, so they decided they wanted to move in there and us to move somewhere else.
SMA: So you left the country before your children were born?
DM: Yes, almost exactly a month prior to the start of the war, we left about February 20. We spent about a month out there in the desert in Kuwait and then we were there with the 1st Marine Division when the war kicked off. My battalion was the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, 1st Marine Division. We were the only reserve infantry battalion in the war.
SMA: How old were your twins before you finally got to see them?
DM: About three months. My wife went into labor the Tuesday after I left for the war. I think they were going to be early anyway, but I think with all the stress and running around and last-minute preparations, we went ahead and had them a little early. I was a little surprised when I got the Red Cross message announcing their birth. I was expecting it to be about two weeks later than it ended up being. So I was a little concerned at first whether they were all right with them coming that early, but they spent three weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and came home the day the war started.
SMA: What did you learn from that whole experience?
DM: Well, like everyone says, it’s pretty cliche: You appreciate the little things a lot more. It’s funny being one of those guys that comes back from a deployment and sees the kids for the first time. You see that on the news all the time and you never think it’s going to be you, but that was really neat. We’ve got some wonderful pictures of the event. Actually, I have one in my office just as a reminder of where I’ve been and what I’m doing. It’s a lot of fun.
SMA: Out of all that, what led you to a career as an advisor in the senior market?
DM: Well, I had been in the business for some time before I was activated. I was already in the business. I had been pursuing, for the most part, long term care and securities for a large property/casualty company. I was briefly a captive agent for them. My best friend was a district manager for them. He needed somebody to come in and start marketing the long term care and securities. I was never one of these guys who wanted to go and take pictures of Hondas and make sure that somebody had bars on the windows of their house.
I have never been interested in the property/casualty side of the business. So when they came up with this new position and this opportunity to market the long term care and securities, I felt that was a better fit for me. I went over and did that for some time. While I was activated [February 2002 until summer 2003] and I was away, they stopped offering their long term care product and my buddy left the company. So I came back and there really wasn’t a big need for me or a big magnet holding me there.
SMA: When did you start your business?
DM: I did a seminar, I want to say October or November 2003. It didn’t work at all well. The general agency, or the FMO, that I was using sort of gave me a system that they had come up with in-house. It was horrible. I didn’t sell a single piece of business. It’s tough to put on a seminar and not sell a single piece of business. I just got out of the Marine Corps and I needed to make an immediate impact on my bottom line. I’ve got two mouths to feed. That wasn’t a great way to start off. I knew the right venue for me was getting in front of as many people as possible because I knew I could sell myself. That’s really what people buy when they come to your seminar. They’re not really buying a product, they’re buying you. I always knew that it was the right venue for me, but finding the right system and the right people to show me how to do it was the important thing. About six months later, I happened upon another guy who is quite accomplished in the industry and he said, “Well, you seem to be pretty sharp. If you want to go out and get to know my guy in Arizona and if he says he likes you, I’ll teach you everything I know.” And I said OK. So then the big sales job came. I had to convince my wife I wanted to do some more seminars.
SMA: So seminars are working for you now?
DM: It was a night and day difference for me once I started doing seminars with this group. It made an immediate impact on our lives. Within two months, I told my wife to quit her job that was bringing in more than $100,000 a year.
SMA: What is it about seminars that makes them successful?
DM: There are so many things that go into it, starting with the kind of venue you choose, your invitation, whether or not you contact them before the event. All these things build credibility. If you don’t hit the mark on all of the steps along the line, you are fighting an uphill battle. When you get involved with people who, first of all, know what they are doing and, second of all, are willing to impart that information to you, it takes most of the trial and error out of it. Now, certainly you are going to eventually tailor things to your own personality or something along those lines, but you have to have the foundation. It really starts with that.