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Living your mission

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The following is based on one of Norm Trainor’s clients, Joel Goodhart.

When I first started coaching Joel Goodhart, he was a Top of the Table advisor and was already a peak performer. Yet, like many successful financial advisors, Joel has a burning desire to be the best that he can be and to make a difference in peoples’ lives. His father was a doctor and a generous man. In college, Joel wanted to be a lawyer. His interest in politics led him into financial services. A friend who was involved in politics persuaded him to become a financial advisor.

When Joel started in the business, he represented one company. Even then, he realized that no one company could do it all for his clients. The company doesn’t matter to the client. What matters is that they trust you.

Over time, Joel became an independent advisor. He positioned himself as the client’s trusted advisor. Clients expect their advisor to have the product knowledge and expertise to recommend the right product or solution. Informed decision-making became the important outcome. Joel realized that clients want the Cliff Notes version when a product or solution is being offered, while compliance wants the complete dictionary description. Clients respect the due diligence involved. However, they want to enter into a dialogue and make their own decisions. One of the things that attracted Joel to financial services is that he is a born teacher. With his clients, he forms a symbiotic relationship. They want to learn in order to make informed decisions about their financial health and well-being and Joel loves to teach.

We live in an “experience economy.” In affluent societies like ours, people have choice. Products have become commoditized. Starbucks is a good example. It had become an iconic brand by changing the coffee experience. Joel and his partners, Stuart Leibowitz and Dennis Freedman, realized that when people visit with you, they are looking for an experience.

In their company’s mission statement, BIRE Financial expresses the essence of the experience they are trying to create: “We help our clients experience financial security through informed decision making.” That statement has evolved into what Joel and his partners call “the first talk.” Joel highlights the fact that the partners’ combined experience is 90 years. They have the knowledge and expertise to help their clients make informed financial decisions. Ultimately, the client has to drive the process and feel comfortable with the financial decisions.

That is where the informed decision making comes in. Joel describes the process this way: “Your job is to help clarify the experience the client wants. We are not “hard-sell” artists. Our clients typically come to the meetings prepared. They bring their important documents. Sometimes, the documents reveal problems that need to be addressed. For example, a couple which came into our office had a will that had not been updated for 12 years. The will was set up for one child. They now have two.” Joel was able to suggest an attorney who could help to prepare these documents. It is about doing things right.

Another client story illustrates the importance of doing the right things. Joel had an attorney as a client. He was married to an attorney. Joel was introduced to them by another client. They did everything that was asked. Later, they separated. This required a re-working of the financials and their policies. About six months after the divorce, the client called and said he had just inherited $1.2 million. Joel now has in excess of $2 million of his money. The client is now a partner in his law firm. He does not do a single thing without talking to Joel.

The experience of making informed decisions even in a very stressful period of his life created a bond of trust. When you do things right, trust equals loyalty. Joel and his partners take the time to educate and coach their clients through the often difficult process of making the right financial decisions. The clients’ experience of financial security through informed decision making contributes to Joel’s firm’s 20 percent-plus annual growth. This is a great example of the power of living your mission.

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