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The Rabbit Hole of Success

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What You Need to Know

  • One idea is to have a goal other than just making money.
  • A second idea is to know things.
  • A third idea is to recognize the power of what you can do.

A new year has started, and the question every agent and advisor must ask themselves is, “What will this year look like for my business?”

In 2019 our life and annuity wholesale business grew by 33%, and I had confident expectations that 2020 would bring similar, if not even better, results. As it turned out, we did grow our business, but it felt like I worked twice as hard. 2020 was exhausting.

I often go down YouTube rabbit holes to find videos I want to share with my partners or my young adult children for encouragement. I typically look to self-made entrepreneurs that demonstrate a balanced approach to business and life but are also transparent about the real struggles of being successful. Although Kevin O’Leary often plays the arrogant villain on Shark Tank, I find his unproduced material demonstrates humility and transparency about the real-life struggle of building a business.

Mr. O’Leary published a video on YouTube on June 8, 2020, titled, “How I Made My First Million Dollars, Part 1.”

Two Key Philosophical Takeaways

Every financial professional should have these lessons, drawn from Kevin O’Leary, as core principles in their business.

1. Do not go into business to make money.

Let me explain. I went into business for financial and personal freedom, and what that first meant was that I needed to make the bare minimum required to replace my corporate income so that I would never have a job ever again.

I have found that the pursuit of money, in itself, is meaningless. Money must do something positive to have value. Personal freedom is liberation from chains that can hold you down and inspire all those around you who want freedom. Financial freedom can transcend money by exceeding your basic living requirements and giving back to those who do not have the same opportunity for freedom.

Money is a tool of stewardship. If money were a hammer, you could encrust it in gold and hang it around your neck for all to see, or you could use it to drive that nail into something far more valuable than gold, something that is bigger than yourself. Not all that glitters is gold. Have fun along the journey, enjoy the process, not the monetary destination, and make that journey bigger than yourself.

2. Become successful by finding problems and providing solutions.

If you are a business owner, you need to run your business with dollars and cents in mind. You can go out of business faster than going into business. However, you cannot build a successful financial planning business purely based on your ability to monitor your bottom line.

To be truly successful in this business, you must be an expert at finding problems, be passionate about removing those problems, and get others to believe in those problems and the solution you present. If you do that, the business’s money side tends to take care of itself by overwhelming your expenses with revenues.

Selling problems and solutions are the key to the emotional sale and what makes this business so rewarding. If you help enough people by not being a product salesperson but rather a problem solver and a servant of your clients, it will be challenging for you not to be rewarded.

Unfortunately, we all know people in this business who are in it for the money. Still, I would say that the vast majority want freedom, financially and personally, and the opportunity to help people solve financial problems. That makes this business simple, find people with problems and help solve those problems. You help enough people, and you become successful.

Simple, but not easy.

What makes this business not so simple is that most prospects and clients, even knowing they have these problems, do not want to be helped or are fearful of being taken advantage of in the process of being helped. Consequently, all agents and advisors in this business need to hone their skills so that clients will be more willing to receive the help being offered.

How to Solve Problems Better

This business has three skills that require fine-tuning.

First, the technical skills to help people through products, case design, legacy planning, long-term-care planning, tax planning, and every facet of financial planning can impact your clients’ lives. If you are not learning and retaining new information about products and solutions every day, you are not doing your job.

Second, to truly help people with their retirement, you must have the sales skills to get clients to move beyond the technical and become emotionally committed to solving a problem and believing that you are the person to provide that solution. The ability to sell is the ability to influence. The degree to which you can influence people is the biggest factor in growing a financial planning business. In a real sense, the ability to sell is the ability to lead, and your clients need your leadership to help them buy into solutions for their financial problems.

Third, you must have the ability and the desire to operate with integrity. Lack of integrity does not rear its ugly head just from ill intent. It can also come from incompetence, carelessness, or unreconciled conflicts of interest. The ability to compel and lead clients towards a decision demands a word of caution. With great power comes great responsibility. Obviously, the ability to sell must be tethered by an ethos of best interest if you want to keep your business and truly enjoy what you do.

Understand What You Do

If you are a financial planner, what are you selling? Is it a product? Is it an investment? Is it an idea? I hope at least it is more than a financial product. If you are solving problems with real financial solutions, then every time you are meeting with a client, you are asking them to invest in your version of their future.

Let that sink in for a minute. Do you feel the weight of that? Your version of their future. You should feel the significance of that! Financial planning is not about the sale of a product; it is about changing the course of a client’s financial future, for the worse or the better. If you are successful at compelling a client to act, you must also be emotionally vested and be responsible for the outcome.

Now is the time to prepare yourself and decide what contribution you will have to the results of your success and the success of your clients.

Every year will have its challenges, but will you be prepared to pivot and not let circumstances determine the outcome? Your success will determine how many people you can help. You owe it to yourself and to those clients that will buy into your version of their future.


Anthony Owen (Photo: Annuity Agents Alliance)Anthony Owen is co-founder of Safe Money Radio Marketing, co-host of the Annuity Agents Podcast, and president of Annuity Agents Alliance, a life and annuity wholesaler that focuses on marketing, case design, and sales process.