The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree for Chuck Layman. It never has. His daughter, Alicia Lewis, works with him in his firm, and Layman’s father was also in the insurance business. “He worked for Prudential and when I was a teenager I used to watch how the people in our community respected my dad,” Layman says. “We lived a comfortable lifestyle and took vacations when we wanted and I kind of liked that. It was around that time I made a decision to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”
Layman got his start in the business in 1976 after earning his life insurance license and says, even after 36 years he has no regrets. “It was the best thing I ever did. I totally love what I do. I doubt if I will ever completely retire because I love what I do.”
Mostly, he loves working with the people of his Northern Colorado town. He loves helping them solve financial problems and tamping down any fears or confusion they might have. “The two main things I hear from people is that they’re afraid of losing money in the market because of the volatility and they’re worried about outliving their income.”
While Layman provides annuities as a safeguard for the volatility, he’s not an annuity-only advisor. “I’m not saying that people should have all their money in an annuity, but I also believe that when you show people how it will fit into their planning process of giving them a complete diversified plan as a safety net, they love it.”
He loves to get in front of the clients as often as possible. One of his favorite ways to interact with prospects is through educational programs. Some people call them “seminars,” Layman says, but he looks at them as educational programs. “We do two every five weeks.” It’s a way for him to educate people and break down any myths or preconceived notions prospects might have heard about annuities and other safe products from the mainstream media.
Layman lives by the personal touch with clients. It’s not enough to just send out a reminder note a few times a year. He says that won’t do with the relationships he’s built up over the decades with these clients. He’s grown up with these people. They’ve formed bonds so when special occasions occur, Layman sends them that personal reminder: “Hey, happy anniversary,” or whatever the occasion might be.
And he’ll send a reminder about their finances as well, asking if they want to come into the office or have a telephone conference. He says it’s amazing how many people will walk through the door, people with long-standing relationships, and they’ll be looking for new products due to the seeds that Layman has planted.
Yet Layman realizes that he cannot do it all for his clients. Therefore, this year he added a health-care specialist to his team. “We’re specialists in income planning and asset preservation,” he says. “But we can’t be a jack of all trades, so we have brought somebody into our office that can help the people to understand what the [PPACA] legislation means and what’s to come in the future for health care.”
More recently, he’s broken into radio to reach a larger audience. Initially, he joined the airwaves to help with branding the business. It got another foot in the door so that when someone did receive a piece of mail from Layman, they were already familiar with him from the radio show. But since the show’s more humble beginnings, it’s become more than just a branding vehicle, developing into one of the firm’s major marketing tools, along with workshops and client referrals.
The final piece of the business that gives it that family feel is Layman’s dedication to community involvement. Every year the firm is deeply involved with the local food bank. They have an interesting twist on how to get food to needy families. The firm rents out an old movie theater and shows classic black-and-white films. The movie and popcorn are free. All audiences have to do is bring canned goods for donation.
The latest community project is one that has been special to Layman and to the community. “We’ve been working on care packages for our soldiers in Afghanistan.” He says it started with doing it for clients of his who have children, grandchildren, nephew, nieces, whatever, in the armed forces. It’s grown to the point that most recently they shipped out 30 packages to soldiers, with all the goods donated by the community.
Layman says there’s one more secret to the firm’s success. “I don’t work Fridays anymore. I’m done. You know, I’m 58 years old. I’ve been doing this for 36 years, and if I can’t get it done in four days, I shouldn’t be in the business.”
For practice management tips from other top advisors, see SMA’s 2012 Advisor of the Year Finalists.