It’s been said that the brutal reality about being in commission-based sales is that you wake up every morning unemployed. But for seasoned and successful financial advisors, transitioning from a life spent desperately seeking leads to one with a steady family of clients and the resulting reliable pipeline of future customers is indeed the hallmark of “making it.”
Such is the story of a unique team of financial professionals we recently visited in northern Colorado. Chuck Layman, 57, and his daughter Alicia Lewis, 29, are the owners of Loveland-based GrowSecure Inc. Insurance and Financial Services, a profitable and prosperous advisory business where family takes on a whole new meaning.
Chuck’s father was in the business and Chuck himself has now spent more than 30 years as a financial and retirement planner; his daughter joined the team six years ago and is on the road to assume more and more responsibility, especially as Chuck eyes his own retirement. His sister-in-law, Lois Hewitt, acts as the company’s office manager; his wife, Elaine, frequently serves as co-host and cook at client gatherings at the couple’s foothills home.
Beyond their own blood relatives, Chuck and Alicia say that they feel as if their entire 300-plus client base has become family as well, and the duo’s uniquely personable and community oriented approach certainly attests to that fact. What follows is an equally personal look at a day in the life of the GrowSecure Inc. team; while it may make them sound like 24-hour-a-day financial superheroes, consider this journal a blending of the many weekly aspects of their business, with more than a few takeaways on how to mirror their winning ways.
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“What’s going on, Chuck?”
The GrowSecure team’s day starts with a regular call from Alicia to Chuck.
Chuck’s pre-work regimen includes checking Web pages such as Yahoo Finance, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. Alicia works out or walks her dog–and both she and Chuck are in the office by 9 a.m. Their first client appointment is at 10 a.m. Depending on the day, they’ll keep in contact with existing clients or spend a whole day on case planning or education. (Both are working on their Series 65.)
The GOAL: 12 client appointments a week
The Succession Plan
Alicia’s role in the company has increased exponentially over six years and will become even larger as Chuck moves toward partial retirement. “I’d like to step out, live on a house boat six months a year and never live through a snowy winter again,” he says.
Alicia says her interest in the industry began during a middle school job-shadowing day. “I always loved how my dad was so available for our family … he loves his job, and he never seems stressed out,” she says. “So, I asked him–’how do we get me into the business?’”
Together they work toward a goal of $12 million a year in business
Converting prospects into satisfied clients requires a lot of legwork and both partners spend time making sure locations for their educational programs (their name for seminars) are comfortable. “We like to do things classroom style… if they’re at tables, with food orders and bathroom breaks interrupting things, no one’s paying attention,” Chuck says.
The Educational Overview
Twice every five weeks, Chuck and Alicia host an 80-minute seminar on topics such as “5 Questions Every Retiree Must Answer in 2010.” Their central focus: Financial security and the lessons learned in the last three years. “I can look out during the program and see who’s going to come in for an appointment–I can see it on their faces,” Chuck says.
Getting the Word Out
GrowSecure Inc.’s marketing efforts also include daily ads on 600 KCOL, a conservative AM talk radio station and a new, weekly radio show called “Northern Colorado’s Safe Money Experts. “You gotta spend money to make money,” they both say. “But the radio show will give us more credibility and costs much less than the $8,000 a month we spend on seminar mailings and those events.”
Worth Her Weight in Gold
Layman and Lewis’s secret weapon is Erica Pauly, their company’s marketing and public relations master. A former local magazine editor, Erica’s behind-the-scenes role includes building a media presence; designing and writing their ads, fliers and mail pieces; managing their website and tracking traffic; as well as overseeing compliance issues. “We hired Erica a year ago and it has completely changed the way we do business–we had all these good ideas but we didn’t have the time or resources to make them happen,” Alicia says. “We’ve seen about a 30% jump in business, and we expect a 60% increase in two to three years, entirely based on the help and planning she provides.”
Hard-hitting Community Outreach
Chuck and Alicia spread the word about their business through a sponsorship of the Colorado Eagles, a Central Hockey League team which plays at the Budweiser Events Center. They’ve also held community movie nights at Loveland’s Rialto Theater (“Casabanca” was a favorite), which doubled as a food drive for a local charity.
The V.I.P. Referral Program
As a non-threatening and incentivized method of finding referrals–which make up 50% of their business–GrowSecure adopted this plan:
For existing clients:
o Bring a friend to a seminar, earn $50
o If your friend comes in for a consultation appointment, earn $100 more
o If your friend becomes a client, earn $150 more
One couple with a lot of friends has earned $3,000 already.
GrowSecure’s Three-Step Sales Process:
1. Prospects are pre-qualified (they must have $100,000-$150,000 ready to invest and must have attended a seminar). Chuck and Alicia then invite them into their office to talk and see if their personalities match. “It has to be a fit for us, too,” Alicia says. “We pick and choose who we work with.” Their first question to prospects: “What is the biggest reason you came in today?”
Future clients’ common concerns:
“I’m afraid I’ll outlive my money” and “I’m sick of losing my money in other investments.”
Working Out the Deal
2. In meeting No. 2, Chuck and Alicia–working, as always, as a team–outline their offerings,
using a whiteboard for illustrations. The bulk of their business is fixed-indexed annuities, though they will do some life insurance for estate planning. “We’ve always been into annuities and that’s 90% of our business,” Chuck says. “But we scream diversification.”
Safety — Liquidity- — Potential Growth
“How would you like to get a $500-a-month pay raise, yet not worry about outliving your money?”
Closing the Deal
3. If they reach that point, meeting No. 3 seals the deal and helps start what have become many long friendships with clients. The team’s low-key approach never changes: “I am just not a high-pressure guy,” Chuck says.
Clients tend to be
o aged 65-70
o with $1 million net worth
o making a $235,000 average purchase of products
The Personal Touch
In addition to scheduling appointments and screening applications, office manager Lois Hewitt bakes fresh oatmeal raisin or sugar cookies for visitors. “Clients get a kick out of it, and it puts them at ease,” she says.
“The Book of Thanks”
GrowSecure’s most prized possession is a scrapbook of letters and notes offering heartfelt testimonials to the work Chuck and Alicia have done. Prospects see it on their way into the office.
“I thank Chuck every day for saving my money. I am able to go to sleep at night because of you.”
Taking Care of the Family
Just as important as finding new prospects is the team’s focus on relationships with existing clients. Chuck and his wife will host V.I.P. dinners at their own home for top clients and their friends, as well as birthday parties. “Take care of your clients and they’ll take care of you,” Chuck says.
They’ve also had golf events, spa days, a fall holiday party and an annual pig roast in the park. Sales and selling are completely avoided at these client-appreciation events.
A Balanced Life
Chuck and Alicia have realized that a life spent entirely devoted to business isn’t much of a life, so during the slower summer months, they work a lot of three-day weeks. Chuck also spends many nights and weekends living aboard his cabin cruiser at Fort Collins’ Horsetooth Reservoir.
“I love what I do and it’s lucrative, but when you see someone’s life change because of what we do, that’s a total high,” he says. “I’ve seen guys who do four times the business we do, but they have no life or time for their families.”
“Bring your bathing suit … we’re going to have a staff meeting …”
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Alicia Lewis has worked with GrowSecure Inc. for six years. Her role with the company will expand as her father, Chuck, moves towards retirement.
Alicia Lewis and Chuck Layman have become one of Northern Colorado’s most successful financial planning firms by cultivating friendships with their clients and maintaining a belief in protecting those clients’ assets.
Client testimonials big part of GrowSecure’s sales and marketing process. This “Book of Thanks” is shown to each new prospect during their initial consultation.
Twice every five weeks, Chuck and Alicia host educational seminars for prospective clients.
“Bring your bathing suit, we’re going to have a staff meeting.” Layman and Lewis always remember to balance their working and non-working lives, especially during the summer.