Meet Jim Brogan, our pick for the Senior Market Advisor 2011 Advisor of the Year. This Knoxville, Tenn.-based advisor combines a thriving practice with a radio show, television appearances and teaching duties. Follow us with Brogan through a day in his life to see how he balances it all.
The morning is all about planning for Brogan and his team. Each day begins with the 8:08 meeting, where the Brogan Financial team gathers in the conference room to go over the day ahead and discuss any potential roadblocks or challenges that could crop up.
The idea of team is extremely important to Brogan. He works hard to get the right team in place from the start rather than trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. “I think the type of employees we hire is important and it’s important how we treat our employees.”
BRANDING THROUGH EDUCATION
Whether appearing on his weekly radio show, a weekly television appearance or teaching classed at the University of Tennessee, Brogan is constantly searching out ways in which he can both build brand awareness and find an opportunity to teach potential clients about retirement, the debt crisis and even the importance of good health habits.
MEETING WITH CLIENTS
Client meetings at Brogan Financial work like clockwork due to the planning that goes into them. Brogan meets with his operations manager and one of his investment advisor representatives (he has two) to discuss the clients they will meet with in the afternoon.
As Brogan puts it, “business efficiency is everything to me. We put enormous time and energy” into the process. “Everything here has a purpose. We have an operations manual for everything we do, line for line.” They have everything planned to the point there are no surprises.
An eye on the community and on client events is a key component to Brogan Financial. The firm is tied to the Butterfly Fund 5K Run/Walk, which benefits childhood cancer research. They also host a private dinner cruise and an annual holiday event where clients are treated to food and musical entertainment.
After a health scare a few years ago, Brogan knew he needed to change his eating and exercising routines. “I decided to put a lot of time in my health and I lost 80 pounds. I still have a little more to go, but now exercise is an essential part of my life.”
The late basketball coach, John Wooden, had a philosophy he lived by, “be quick, but don’t hurry.” Although Wooden was the Wizard of Westwood, making his name at UCLA and Jim Brogan bleeds University of Tennessee orange, that philosophy is one that Brogan lives by, squeezing more into a day than most people can deliver in a week.
His ability to run such a multi-faceted and well-oiled practice (that grossed $34.5 million in sales in 2010) and to make it look so effortless is one of the key ingredients that led Senior Market Advisor to choose him as the 2011 Advisor of the Year.
Based in Knoxville, Tenn. (yes, Big Orange country), Brogan Financial focuses on the senior market. As he told SMA in an earlier interview: “I like working with that market because I found that I identify very, very well with their values. They’re on time, and if they give you their word, you can pretty much take that to the bank.”
There’s that word again, time. And it’s the true essence of Brogan’s practice. These seniors that Brogan has chosen to advise, after all, do not have time to waste. Time is not on their side. Time is of the essence and Brogan makes it clear that he understands their needs and works efficiently and effectively to get their accounts in order.
On the following pages, you will step inside “a day in the life” with Jim Brogan. You’ll find out how he communicates with clients. You’ll learn some of his trade secrets and some of the cornerstones of his practice: with trust, education and compliance taking center stage.
But most of all, you’ll learn that Brogan has mastered a simple but elusive philosophy: be quick, but don’t hurry.
“I love to teach. I will always be an educator.”
The morning is all about planning. After Jim drops his two daughters off at school, the work day begins with the 8:08 meeting. The Brogan Financial team gathers in the large conference room (yes, there’s a small conference room, too) where everyone talks about their plans for the day, but does not sit down because standing serves as a subconscious reminder that the huddle is a short meeting–five minutes, tops.
Each employee is asked to share “good news” that is non-work-related and might focus on what someone had to eat the night before or watched on television and usually there are a few good jabs and bragging rights about a real passion in the office: college football.
Each employee is asked to share the top three things they’re working on for the day. And finally, each employee is asked to share a “stuck,” if they have one. A “stuck” is something that an employee may be having issues with or having difficulty completing without the assistance of others. By sharing a “stuck” the hope is that other team members may have answers or resources that can help that particular employee.
In this early part of the morning, Jim shuts the door and takes what he calls his “quiet time.” It’s a time for him to reflect, collect his thoughts, quiet his mind for a few moments so he can focus his attention on the clients who will walk through the door that afternoon and the others he will talk with over the phone. During this “quiet time” he also takes a minute to quickly scan the markets (with the financial troubles in Europe and the debt ceiling crisis in DC taking particular interest right now).
Later in the morning, Jim meets with Jamie Scott, a securities-licensed operations manager, and Lance Treat, a newly hired investment advisor representative, who for the next several months will trail Jim in all of his client meetings until he takes on clients of his own. During this time, the team goes over all the clients Jim will meet with during the afternoon. They break the clients down to first meetings, six-month reviews, annual reviews, etc., and, based on the type of meeting it will be, Jim makes decisions on the type of financial advice that will be given to the client.
Brogan …On Team Building
“I think the type of employees we hire is important and it’s important how we treat our employees…I’m the first to tell you I’m not the easiest person to work with. I’m a perfectionist. And I want excellence from all my employees. You are only as good as your weakest link. But my employees also know I’m very fair. You have to treat your employees like family and if you treat them like family, they treat you like family. That’s what they deserve. But you have to hire the right people.
One thing I’ve learned: It’s not worth trying to save a few thousand dollars to hire someone who is not the best candidate just so you can save a few thousand dollars. Hire the very best people you can find. And if you have to pay a little bit extra money for them, so be it. But it’s going to pay off tenfold in the long run. And the other thing is, don’t be cheap with your employees. Pay them what they’re worth. If anything pay them on the higher end because the last thing you want to do is lose an employee because you weren’t paying them what they were worth and you’re not treating them the way they deserve to be treated.”
“Hire the very best people you can find. And if you have to pay a little bit extra money for them, so be it.”
The Brogan Financial team includes:
Brooks A. Brown, director of marketing and public relations
Jim Kraeske, investment advisor representative
Audrea Matherly, client service associate
Jan Padgett, administrative assistant
Jamie L. Scott, operations manager
Lance Treat, investment advisor representative
“How does teaching play a role in the big picture? For me, it is the big picture. Number one, I love to teach. I have always loved public speaking and that probably goes back to my musical background of being a singer and a musician and playing a couple of instruments. But I love public speaking. As a matter of fact, when I was getting my undergraduate music degree, one of my professors told me, ‘Whatever you do, if you don’t go into full-time education, you need to do something where you are presenting in public and teaching.’
Education is the core element of everything we do here. It’s the core component of my brand and that’s to teach people about how they can use their money to accomplish their goals in life. People don’t want ‘advisor speak’; they want real people to talk in real language. When I signed up to teach at the University of Tennessee that was my way of giving back to the community. I love to teach. I will always be an educator.”
…On The Radio
“The radio show builds up the brand. People listen and they think, ‘Here’s a guy who’s educating the community on issues we are going to deal with in retirement.’ Not just financial issues, but also helping them fulfill their goals. Your retirement years should be the best years of your life. That is what you’ve worked all your life for. So the radio show is all about that and all the other media feeds into that as well. But ultimately it’s about education; it’s about explaining to people things that maybe they haven’t thought about before. And finally, it’s all about getting the message out that we are going to show them how they can go through the process to achieve their goals.”
“40,000 listeners tune into Jim’s weekly radio show.”
“Over the years, I’ve established personal and business relationships with local and regional media. I noticed a deficiency in expert financial commentary, particularly for the aging population, and so a year ago, I pitched my contacts at the local NBC and FOX affiliates. The crux behind the pitch was that the majority of viewers for their morning shows were baby boomers and retirees. The idea was to provide educational content that focused on issues relating to both the latter stages of one’s income-generating work life and the income distribution phase as well.
I’ve covered a wide range of topics, like the impact of inflation on savings, misconceptions about 401(k)s and the do’s and don’ts of financially assisting adult children. I also talk about the economy and the national debt and taxes. Again, the success here is based on the relationships I’ve been fostering for a decade now. We pay nothing for television appearances; it’s all organic. The success is also a result of our dedication to providing up-to-date educational information that includes no sales pitch whatsoever.”
…On Finding The Right Clients
“I think one of the real keys to attracting better clients is how you are introduced to that potential client. To me that’s what it’s all about. Anytime I have a client that is comfortable and trusting enough that they introduce a friend or relative to me, that is one of the greatest compliments they can ever give me. And we find we are getting more and more client introductions from current clients.
My goal is when they walk through the front door they are already 80 percent on the way to hiring me. Well, a lot of that is due to education and what they hear from me before they come in. That’s why I like the classes and the radio show. But a lot of that process is how they are introduced to me. That’s why I like client introductions because ultimately I’m being introduced to a potential client by a person they trust. They tend to extend that trust to you as long as you don’t do anything to lose that trust.”
“Thanks to an Otis Spunkmeyer Cookie Oven, the office always has a variety of fresh-baked cookies waiting for clients.”
…On Client Meetings
“Let’s say we have a first meeting scheduled with a potential client. We immediately assign all the tasks of what needs to happen from that point forward, such as when the letter needs to go out, when the phone call needs to be made to confirm the appointment and when the agenda letter needs to go out. We create all that in Junxure, an office management system, so when Audrea (Matherly, the client service associate) comes in that day, it will pop up and tell her to send out the letter to so-and-so for the week after next. Junxure is really good at creating a workflow process and then you can go in and manage it and make sure the tasks are being followed up on.”
…On Business Efficiency
“Business efficiency is everything to me. We put enormous time and energy into that. It’s an evolving process. There are always going to be things to tweak and improve. But everything here has a purpose. We have an operations manual for everything we do, line for line. The whole idea would be if I have an employee who has to be out, I could bring someone off the street, put the manual in front of them and they could go through the steps. Then we get the same result every time so we don’t get mistakes.
We did bring in a business consultant who worked in the securities industry and she helped us streamline our operational procedures.
“I’m a detail person, but I don’t want to deal with details. I’d rather be a big picture person. It’s not just getting the potential client into the office, it’s knowing exactly where they will sit and how we will communicate with them once they are here.”
…On The Debt Crisis
“I have felt for a year that we have not seen the worst of the debt crisis in Europe. The leverage in Greece and Ireland was probably the tip of the iceberg and we’re starting to have concerns with Italy, which is a major problem. I think the issue with our debt ceiling may be overshadowed a bit by what is going on over there. I do think as long as we solve our debt ceiling problem, if that happens, I actually think we would see more investment come back to the United States in the short term.
Advisors need to be concerned about Europe because when that time bomb goes off it would put all local economic markets in some turmoil. I don’t know when. I don’t think anybody does. But I think we haven’t seen the worst of it. And advisors need to be aware of it because of the potential volatility in their clients’ portfolios, which again leads back to the safety and security of a lot of the things we do with our older clients like indexed annuities. People want safety and security, but they don’t want to sacrifice all their growth potential. Those can be very powerful tools to do that if they are used correctly.”
“I grew up in Knoxville. Knoxville has always been a special place for me, and I want the people of this community to walk into this office having already hired me. You do that by achieving a brand name in the community and developing a reputation.
We do a ton of community outreach and everything I do from a marketing perspective is to build that brand in the community. I don’t want folks to think of us as just financial experts. When they hear the name Jim Brogan, I want them to think that’s the guy who cares about people who are dealing with retirement issues. Not just financial, but also health care and political freedoms—whatever the topics are. That’s why the radio show is more geared toward living the best years of your life. I want to help people live better lifestyles.
It’s not just about the money, it’s about what that money represents for our clients–which is to serve them as they live, what should be, the best years of their lives. To me that’s all about building a brand in the community: That’s the guy that can help you with retirement issues.”
An eye on the community and on client events is a key component for Brogan Financial.
- On Aug. 20, the firm presented the Second Annual Butterfly Fund 5K Run/Walk. The Butterfly Fund was established in 2008 in support of research, treatment, and services dedicated to the defeat of childhood cancers.
- On Oct. 7, Brogan Financial offers a private dinner cruise to clients (and a referral) on the Volunteer Princess Yacht.
- During the holiday season, Brogan celebrates with clients at a local country club with his annual Holly Days event, where clients are treated to food and musical entertainment from the Brogan family. It’s also a time for clients to contribute essential items in support of the Ronald McDonald House.
“I was on a bad road three years ago. Really, it started when I got out of graduate school.
My activity level went down and my eating stayed constant…I packed on the pounds. My glucose started showing insulin resistance so I was on the road to diabetes. I have very bad sleep apnea. One time I drove off the road and almost killed myself. I knew I had to do something if I wanted to see my kids grow up and if I didn’t want my wife to be widowed–I had to invest the time.
I decided to put a lot of time in my health and I lost 80 pounds. I still have a little more to go, but now exercise is an essential part of my life.
When we run businesses we focus so much on growth and accomplishing the next objective and I’m a very goal focused person. I’m always looking at the next goal. But I had to hit the brakes and say ‘I’m not taking care of myself—none of this means anything if I don’t have my relationships.’ “
“I like to limit viewing my emails to one to two times per day. Also, I don’t look at the Wall Street Journal at the end of the day. I can’t disengage if I do that and I don’t want to take my work home with me.”