“Do the right thing” are truly words to live by and sell by for Mark Lindsey, a self-proclaimed “safe money specialist” who personally put $23 million in fixed indexed annuities premiums on the books in 2006, along with about $1 million in securities and another $400,000 in life insurance premiums.
Lindsey, 45, is the owner of Los Angeles-based corporation Freedom Dream Team, dba Asset Protection Consultants, which did close to $40 million as an organization last year. Lindsey is a CSA who also holds Series 6 and 63, even though he doesn’t do much with securities. He is also a Chartered Senior Financial Planner.
Lindsey grew up in Orange County, and like many Southern Californians, developed a passion for surfing, something he still enjoys after 30 years. He went to the same high school that Tiger Woods would attend years later. After a short stint in college, the entrepreneurial spirit led Lindsey to start a car detailing business at the age of 19, and about a year later he went into real estate. By the time he was 23, Lindsey was introduced to the insurance industry, and he sold life insurance and mutual funds through the 1980s into the ’90s. Then financial advising became his calling as he became driven by the idea of helping seniors keep their money safe.
In one of the most saturated markets in America, Lindsey differentiates himself by telling seniors, “I believe that safety is the most important thing as you grow older, and I want to help you keep your money safe. So whatever you want to keep safe, I’m your man.”
Lindsey was a single parent with full custody of two daughters for almost 11 years. That taught him plenty about effective time management. Now remarried and living in Thousand Oaks with two stepchildren in addition to his daughters, his work week (consisting of 30 to 40 appointments; 12 to 16 he’s never seen before) typically ends by 1 p.m. Fridays, allowing him to devote long weekends to his family. There are occasional night and weekend work commitments, but family is a high priority, with frequent outings to ski areas in the winter, riding ATVs in the desert, or spending time boating on Lake Havasu on the California-Arizona border. With a second home in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Lindsey has recently opened up an office there, as well. “We’re growing,” he says. “It’s a very exciting time.”
Senior Market Advisor: When did you start your business?
Mark Lindsey: I started in January 1984 in the bedroom of my home as a little home-based business. My mom has been working for me now for 23 years. She started with me and she’s still with me. She’s kind of my right arm. We’ve been able to surround ourselves with absolutely phenomenal people. Their ethics and morality and everything are just exactly everything you want to work with if you are going to open up your business. I’ve been very lucky. I realized at a young age that my driving force was going to be entrepreneurial. I had that entrepreneurial spirit since I was young.
SMA: What drew you into the senior market?
ML: What I really liked is the idea of helping people that were older to help them keep their money safer. That’s how I got into the senior market. My mom and dad were growing older and they had more questions. I was getting older, and I was looking at this and looking at that. What really appealed to me is the idea of working with a segment of the population that really needed to be more focused on keeping their money safer with less risk. Quite frankly, I’ve built my practice around the idea of being a safe money specialist. I don’t like things that have risk. I have really kind of become the kind of guy people come to in this area when people want to keep their money safe. That’s me.
SMA: When you first got started, you struggled a bit. How were you able to gain some traction?
ML: Well, you know, when I first started, it’s always a learning curve. You’re trying to figure it out and find out what goes on. I think you spend the first 10 years just learning. You spend the first 10 years just trying to figure out your niche and how you fit. Then you get into your own and you start to understand. I’ve always believed that the best experience anyone can get is to get field experience. I truly believe that the first 10 to 15 years of my career, I was putting myself in the position to do what I do now, to have the success that I have now. I believe it took me 10 to 15 years to really figure out what I was doing and really understand all the dynamics that go with helping people and the way we do it. Since then, my business has grown every single year to the point now where sometimes I have to sit back, look in the mirror and pinch myself. I really do.
SMA: How do you prospect?
ML: We prospect a number of different ways. We have lead generation systems. We do some seminars. Over the years, of course, we have accumulated, literally, thousands of clients. We do client appreciation dinners. As a matter of fact, tonight I have a client appreciation dinner right here in Los Angeles with over 250 people. Husbands and wives and guests. We do a dinner with a kind of a DJ/actor that comes and sings and some great things. I have my picture taken with everybody. It’s an event that people now have come to be excited about. Tomorrow night, because Los Angeles is so spread out, we do our second event. That’s got 250 people coming.
We don’t talk business; we just want to tell them thank you for trusting us and working with us and being our clients. I can tell you that it pays dividends. They are there with other clients and they see they aren’t the only ones. They talk and it is amazing how much business I do from a client appreciation event. It’s just amazing. We do some client bring-a-friend nights where we send out an invitation to our clients and we do a special workshop just for our clients and for them to bring a friend. Those events are spectacular. I like it because it takes away the referral stigma. In this business, we know that referrals are a big part of it. Most people ask for referrals, call people, and a lot of people are uncomfortable giving the names of their friends and family. In my years of being in business, I have never met one single client that has been uncomfortable bringing a friend of theirs to a dinner or a workshop and if the client likes me, the client checks yes. If the client doesn’t like me, they don’t check yes, and we don’t get together. It’s very simple and it’s non threatening.
SMA: How do you overcome objections?
ML: That’s a more challenging question, obviously. It really depends upon the objection. Frankly, it’s as easy as asking very simple questions. I’ll give you an idea. When somebody says, “I’m not sure what I should do with this,” or “I like CDs,” my question is always the same: How much of your money do you want to keep safer? And are you happy where you are? And if you are happy where you are, why? Here’s a great one: Who is the money for? See, a lot of financial advisors ask a very simple question: Who is this money for? Is this for you in your older age? Is it for your kids? Is it for your grandkids? That all has a determination into what type of recommendation you may make for that particular client. The whole idea of trying to figure out how to help somebody is you must ask questions. Selling is not an event. It is a process of asking the right questions to determine can you help them, first, and No. 2, what type of recommendation is going to be best for that person.
SMA: How is mentoring helping you out? Who was your mentor?
ML: You know, I actually worked with a number of people. There’s a couple of guys out there right now that have made tremendous impacts in my life. Mike Botkin from San Diego has been a great mentor for me. He’s been a great help. I have another friend back in Atlanta by the name of Ty Young who has been a phenomenal inspiration for me. Together, we have changed some things that have been phenomenal in the industry. I think those two guys have really been mentors for me, not only business-wise, but family-wise, spiritual-wise, all these things. They are just tremendous individuals.
SMA: How are you passing that on to others?
ML: We actually mentor somewhere in the range of 30 to 50 people per year. Individuals from around the country come in. They’ll ride along with me for one to two days and watch what we do. In that process, we teach them how to be ethical, moral, how to do things right, how to ask the right questions for the client. In this industry, a lot of this business is asking the right questions. With all the regulations out there, you must be positive that the products you are offering are suitable for the client you are giving them to. A lot of the guys are looking for that help. I love mentoring because I learn a lot from the individuals coming in. But I love to take somebody that is struggling out there and they really want to do good, and they want to help people, and they are just struggling. I love to be able to show them a very simple and easy way to ask the right questions and do things.
SMA: Is this how your “Programs to Premiums” system came about?
ML: Ty Young, my friend in Atlanta, and I were at a conference. We were talking about mentoring and about how much we love mentoring, and I said, “You know, it sure would be great if, instead of mentoring one person at a time, we could just get 100 guys from across the country into a room and share with them exactly what we do. Show them the questions we ask. Maybe show them a presentation for a client. Show them exactly what we do, how to ask the right questions, how to do things.” He looked at me and said, “That’s amazing.” The next thing you know, out came a training program called Programs to Premiums. It teaches anybody – from a producer doing virtually nothing to a producer doing $10 million. It shows them how to ask the right questions, a very simplistic sales process. It shows them basically everything from A to Z. It’s something that I never had and most guys in the industry never had – the training from A to Z. That’s what we created. It has been absolutely unbelievable. The individuals that have attended our training, the average production increase is up well over 50 percent. We have a lot of guys that are over 100 and 200 percent. The average growth rate is 50 percent, which is staggering in an industry that actually went down last year in growth. So we’re pretty proud of that. That’s one of those things that, every once in awhile, it comes out and we’ve got some very big plans for that in the future. It’s kind of an exciting time.