In today’s conversation, I sit down with Bryan Miles. Bryan is the co-founder, along with his wife, Shannon, of Belay Solutions (formerly known as EA Help). Belay provides virtual assistants to help business owners and C-level execs in a number of industries grow without the added stress of having to do everything on your own.
I was introduced to Bryan through our mutual friend Michael Hyatt who started out as a client of Belay, and in turn, Michael put Belay on the map with a single tweet. If you’re finding yourself with email inbox overwhelm, getting bogged down with travel bookings, or stress at home due to lack of calendar integrity you’ll want to put this episode on repeat.
Also, don’t miss the advice midway through the episode that Bryan got on the side of a mountain while climbing with one of his mentors on what it truly means to “own a business.” Some of the wisest advice I’ve heard in any interview I’ve ever done.
One last thing… If you scroll down past the resources section of this page, you’ll find an unexpected “Added Bonus” from Bryan that I know you’ll love!
Here are a just a handful of the things that you’ll learn:
- [05:36] First off, Bryan shares why he and his wife decided to leave their jobs at the height of a down economy, turn their life savings into startup capital, and launch a much-needed business – despite the fact that their families thought they were crazy – and why they knew they were making the right decision.
- [12:07] Next, we talk about what a virtual assistant really is – and what their services can mean in the context of the largely brick and mortar financial services industry, where so many advisors are running solo operations. Bryan shares stories of how bringing in assistants and virtualization are transforming the workforce as a whole – and why the word “assistant” is something of a disservice to the talented, qualified individuals Belay works with.
- [22:52] From there, we get into why Entrepreneur awarded Belay Best Company Culture in 2017 – despite the fact that they have no office and don’t take face-to-face meetings. Bryan takes me through why the Mute function during video calls is the devil, his unique closer that leads prospects to sign contracts, and how to make virtual meetings as meaningful – or more meaningful – as in-person ones.
- [34:00] We then dig into the issue that I see time and again during my coaching calls: the struggle to find great talent. We talk about how to feel comfortable handing off work to an assistant after years of doing it yourself, and the team that Bryan’s family works with to take care of their own day to day operations and oversee their wealth.
- [47:36] From there, our conversation organically leads to a big topic: how ego can get in the way of growth. Bryan shares the story of a climbing trip he took with a hugely successful entrepreneur, the piece of advice that pissed him off because it was so right, and how it led him to scale Belay like he never had before.
- [55:19] Finally, we dig into why responsiveness is so important, why this leads so many leaders to let assistants run their email and calendars, and what it truly means to lead a great company.
“You’ve got to take a step back and acknowledge that we already live in a virtual world. Grandma can FaceTime her grandkids four states away. We’re leaving voicemail into some digital cloud somewhere. The things we do are already so virtual and automated. Some people, for some reason, hold out, and say ‘I’ve gotta have this person next to me.’ That’s dying, really quick.” – Bryan Miles Click to tweet
“You’ve got to take a step back and acknowledge that we already live in a virtual world. Grandma can FaceTime her grandkids four states away. We’re leaving voicemail into some digital cloud somewhere. The things we do are already so virtual and automated. Some people, for some reason, hold out, and say ‘I’ve gotta have this person next to me.’ That’s dying, really quick.” – Bryan MilesClick to tweet
- [09:16] Why Bryan and Shannon changed the name of their business after establishing their brand – and how they simplified their organization, improved their ability to cross-sell, and stopped getting angry emails from confused video gamers.
- [13:38] What the name Belay means to Bryan – and how it reflects the company’s mission.
- [19:08] What Bryan’s clients are really getting when they hire an assistant.
- [21:43] How virtual assistants help their clients achieve work-life balance and separation when our smartphones make it easier than ever to be “always on.”
- [30.62] Why winning an award from Entrepreneur has led to Bryan receiving many inquiries from other businesses looking to move away from the traditional in-person work model.
- [32:08] How Bryan handles time off for both his corporate and executive assistant employees.
- [43:58] Why Bryan will drop the wrong client when needed before they do damage to the brand.
- [52:08] How to have a startup that empowers and delegates instead of working grueling, exhausting weeks – and the question you should be asking yourself with every task surrounding your business.
- [56:56] Why letting someone else run my calendar and email has created a better experience for my clients.
- [1:07:58] Bryan’s advice to his younger self – and how this affects how he sets goals and plans his company’s growth.
- [1:10:08] Why Bryan aspires to be a multi-dimensional person – and why so many successful people are one-dimensional.
- [1:11:08] The books Bryan recommends the most.
- [1:12:38] Bryan’s one piece of advice for financial advisors.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Free Solo, a National Geographic Movie
- Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization On the Growth Track–and Keeping It There
- The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth
REVIEWS OF THE WEEK
Thanks for checking out the latest show, on to this week’s featured reviews!
This week’s first review comes to us from Kurt Stahl who says:
Kurt, what’s up man!?!? Thanks for the review, always fun when I see them come in from people I actually know and have worked with. I hope you are listening in to this episode as I want to give you a personal shout out as it’s been incredible to see both your personal and business growth in the few short years you’ve been at Advisors Excel. For those of you listening in, I’ve literally seen Kurt transition from a one man team with little to no marketing into a firm that’s literally done a “double double” having grown from $4.5M two years ago, to $11M last year and now is pacing for $22M in 2019. What a testament to hard work and being open minded to marketing ideas and strategies that some of our biggest offices are having success with. Kurt is a lesson in, as Jim Rohn calls it, being the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with… Congrats Kurt, can’t wait to see what your firm looks like in another couple of years!!! Thanks for the partnership, we appreciate you.
The next review comes to us from user Crupper cakes who says:
Thanks so much for the kind words and review. Not going to lie, since starting the podcast, my book collection has increased exponentially as well!!! This review made me think of this quote you Game of Thrones fans out there will love from George R. R. Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” And if you think about finding a mentor in today’s day and age, often times we overlook the simplest option that is lying right in front of us – books. In reality, we all have an unlimited supply of mentors right down the street at our local library, for FREE. We have a saying in my house with our children, “Readers are leaders.” And I have to say with every interview I do, it rings more and more true. A common theme with ultra successful people is they read… a lot. So glad to hear the podcast is inspiring many of you out there to read more books, it has me as well. Thanks again for listening in and the review!
And the last featured review for the week comes to us from Bob Lamm, who says:
Bob, two reviews from clients on the same podcast! Thanks for the review man, really appreciated!! It’s been awesome to see the work you, Rick, Parker and the rest of the team have gotten done in just a few short years. It continues to inspire me how some of the most successful financial advisors in the country approach their business and are constantly striving to get better and better at how they deliver value to their clients. You all are certainly leaders in that regard. Thanks for all you do and the partnership, we appreciate you all.
Ok, as we wrap this show, thanks again for those of you who have taken the time to write a quick review, I love reading each and every one. In fact if you’d like to connect on a more personal level, give me a follow on Twitter, I’m @brad_johnson. Let me know you listen to the show, how you found it, who I should have… etc. I’d love to continue the conversation there!
Take the 1st Step to Building Your Ideal Practice: Apply for “Virtual Discovery Session“
For those of you that have interest in diving deeper or figuring out how you may be able to have our team help you implement many of the ideas shared on the show, my day job happens to be consulting financial advisors from all over the US on how to grow their business and design a practice that serves them, versus them serving it. Yes it’s possible to grow your business and work less, this is a model we’ve replicated over and over in markets all over the country… So, if you’d like to apply to see if it makes sense for us to have a 1-on-1 conversation on how to overcome what may be getting in your way, you can do that at bradleyjohnson.com/apply. It takes about 5 minutes to fill out the application so we can understand what your business looks like, what challenges you may be facing and how myself and my team may be able to help. We then dive into a Discovery session where we ask a lot of questions based on your survey. We do a lot of listening, and take a lot of notes to build a rough draft of our proprietary Elite Advisor Blueprint – 90 Day Plan™. Taking the first step is as simple as applying at bradleyjohnson.com/apply 🙂
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- Listen to it on iTunes.
Welcome to this episode of the Elite Advisor Blueprint Podcast with your host, Brad Johnson. Brad’s the VP of Advisor Development and Advisors Excel, the largest independent insurance brokerage company in the US. He’s also a regular contributor to Investment News, the Wall Street Journal, and other industry publications.
[00:00:26] Brad: Welcome to the Elite Advisor Blueprint, the podcast for world-class financial advisors. I’m Brad Johnson, VP of Advisor Development at Advisors Excel and it’s my goal to distill the best ideas and advice from top thought leaders and apply it to the world of independent financial advising. In today’s conversation, I sit down with Bryan Miles. Bryan is the co-founder, along with his wife Shannon of BELAY Solutions, formerly known as eaHELP. BELAY provides virtual assistants to help business owners and C-level execs in a number of industries grow without the added stress of having to do everything on their own. And I was first introduced to Bryan through our mutual friend, Michael Hyatt, who actually started out as a client of BELAY and, in turn, due to the amazing job they did for him, he really put BELAY on the map with a single tweet.
And what I found is if you’re finding yourself with email inbox overwhelm, getting bogged down with travel bookings or stress at home due to lack of calendar integrity and really having that firewall between work and life, you’ll want to put this episode on repeat as Bryan dives in deep about how they fix this over and over for their clients. Also, you won’t want to miss the advice midway through this episode that Bryan got on the side of a mountain while climbing with one of his mentors on what it truly means to “own a business.” Some of the wisest advice I’ve heard in any interview I’ve ever done. Okay. Before we dive into this episode, we have a trifecta of offers that Bryan was kind enough to share with all you Blueprint listeners. They’re available right at the top of the show notes at BradleyJohnson.com/60 or if you happen to be listening in on your favorite mobile podcast player, just scroll down in the show notes to find the link to tap and it’ll take you right there.
[00:02:16] Brad: First, a downloadable PDF of five things to delegate to save 15 hours this week. It’s a simple matrix you can keep it right next to your workspace to jot down the things you love or hate, and that need to be done by you or others. Great tool to start to simplify what needs to be off your plate as an advisor. Second, once you start to actually understand what to delegate, now comes the execution piece of it. That’s where the next downloadable tool comes in, the executive template. Michelle on our team has actually used a version of this tool for the last few years and I’m not kidding, this one tool will make you a better spouse, a better parent, a better boss, whatever it is, a better leader as it saves us all kinds of time and helps keep everything streamlined. Think of it like your life on a spreadsheet, including important dates like birthdays and anniversaries you don’t want to forget, frequent flyer numbers for booking that next flight, how to order your coffee, the best contacts for your dry cleaner, your hairstylist, literally everything is on here so your EA can execute without constantly interrupting your day. This tool by itself is amazing so go out and get it.
Lastly, Bryan sent me a box of autographed books that I’ll be giving away until they are literally gone. Bryan not only preaches the virtues of having a virtual team. He lives it. And BELAY doesn’t even have an office and all of their employees work virtually. Despite this, they were recently awarded the number one spot in Entrepreneur Magazine’s rankings for best company culture. He covers how in his book, Virtual Culture: The Way We Work Doesn’t Work Anymore, a Manifesto. So, here’s what to do next if you’d like your free copy. First, all that I ask is that you leave an honest review out on iTunes for our show. To make it easy, there’s a graphic right at the top of the show notes at BradleyJohnson.com/60. Once you’ve left a review, just drop us an email via email@example.com with your iTunes username and best mailing address. We’ll drop you a copy in the mail as a thank you. That simple.
[00:04:19] Brad: Also, an apology to our listeners and all the amazing places outside of the US, like Canada, the UK, Australia who have been kind enough to leave reviews for the show. Due to crazy high shipping prices, it just doesn’t make sense to spend $20, $30, $40 to ship you a $10 book so please just go support Bryan and just grab a copy at your local bookstore or on Amazon if you’d like to dive in on his material. As always, all the other things like show notes, books mentioned, people discussed as well as a full transcript of the show can be found out at BradleyJohnson.com/60 as well. So, that’s it. As always, thanks for listening and without further delay, my conversation with Bryan Miles.
[00:05:08] Brad: Welcome to this episode of the Elite Advisor Blueprint. I have special guest, Bryan Miles, here with us today. Welcome to the show, Bryan.
[00:05:15] Bryan: Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here, Brad.
[00:05:17] Brad: This is a fun one. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation. We were introduced by our mutual friend, Michael Hyatt, and I know you’ve done some incredible things with his business and Michael usually is a guy that does some research before he makes business decisions so I know if you are the chosen guy when it comes to virtual assistance and everything then this is going to be a really fun conversation. So, as we get into the conversation, Bryan, you are the co-CEO with your wife, Shannon, of BELAY and I know that’s really three different verticals. So, it’d be cool just if you kind of gave us a 30,000-foot view, who is BELAY, what do you all do and just how that might incorporate into financial services.
[00:05:54] Bryan: Yeah. You bet. Well, first off, thanks again for the opportunity to be here and we do have a great friend in Mike. We joke around and he’s kind of like our Oprah. Back in 2011 he really put us on the map with one tweet, and I’m incredibly grateful to Mike and Gail for helping being an advocate for our company. My wife and I, we started BELAY back in 2010. We did what every financial advisor would probably advise which is to quit your job on the same day and then cash out your 401(k) and use that as your startup capital.
[00:06:26] Brad: That sounds like sound advice.
[00:06:28] Bryan: Yeah. We took that really sage advice and we did that. We actually left really nice jobs. October 1st, we resigned from our jobs, October 1, 2010, during the great recession. It is the best time and with kids that were two and five and we cashed on our 401(k)s which is about $160,000 at the time which is all of our life savings and we used that as our starter capital. On December 1, 2010, we were on our payroll. She left a job working at McKesson which is a rather large Fortune 10 company. She was there for 10 years as a project manager at the time and I was a vice president of consulting for a church construction company and I left that job and that management team to start this company because we saw a need. I saw that leaders after doing a lot of due diligence and after 84-hour workweek the year before, I just saw that a lot of leaders wanted a different type of assistant, somebody that they could actually have a work alongside partner and that could actually serve as an extension to who they were to execute on all things admin.
I have had actually a virtual assistant who was based in Charlotte when I was in Atlanta and I had worked with Tricia for seven years and so I already knew kind of what this was all about. I just didn’t call it a virtual assistant. And so, for my wife and I, we felt like the time is right. We talked to successful businesspeople in the summer before we started even before we left our jobs. We had people who are successful in businesses and said, “Yeah. Now’s the right time,” but our friends and families just thought we were idiots. And that gave me the courage because frankly, I needed successful business people to tell me that this was the right time, a good move to actually enter a market in a down economy and it turned out to be the right move for us and we had a good timing and then shortly after that, we realize there is a bookkeeping need for our business. It does similar but a little bit different. Two different types of personalities, kind of manage books versus admin things and then later on, a few years later we added a webmaster service, but all of those three things equal BELAY today and we’ve grown it to a size but my wife and I did it together. We figured out how to work together as a couple and actually, we really enjoy what we do. We love it.
[00:08:29] Brad: Awesome. I want to get to how you actually came to the name of BELAY because I think there’s a lot of symbolism there but I think one of the things before we get there, this business stuff, there’s always things that you figure out along the way. Some of them are from things you do, some of them are from things that you may be made a mistake on. Do you mind sharing? I know in our last conversation, your original company name and then how you figured out, “Hey, we might want to rename this,” just because of what you found.
[00:08:56] Bryan: Yeah. So, some folks may know us as an organization called eaHELP and that was our first name as an organization. EA just for executive assistant, help. And the problem with that is just we realized it too late after we started branding and everything and the name kind of took off was that Electronic Arts, the gaming company, EA was pretty known, in that sense too for a different reason, for Electronic Arts. And so, for whatever reason, gaming nerds all over the planet thought that we were the tech support for Electronic Arts because of eahelp.com and what made matters worse was that Electronic Arts for a season at a time actually put our website on their website as tech support. They screwed it up. It was supposed to be help.ea.com and they set it up being eahelp.com. And so, our servers went down, we got hacked by gaming idiots all over the country and all over the world that were mad because we weren’t doing a good job with The Tiger Woods release like things that were completely not us.
And then for another reason why we did the change as well is instead of creating the entity of BELAY, we had created our bookkeeping business a separate name and that’s called MAG Bookkeeping and then our webmaster business was called Render. And so, what we were doing unintentionally is we actually were kind of like NASCAR. We kind of have brand on our car but none of it was really an aggregated type of experience. So, we said, “No, we’re doing the same thing, we execute the same way. Let’s go under one name. Let’s start cross-selling better. Let’s start serving our clients holistically,” so that’s when we changed our name to BELAY.
[00:10:27] Brad: It’s interesting. I see it a lot in our space where an advisor would just that’s kind of like your story of quitting your job that’s like, “Hey, I decided to go independent and what should I call my company?” and oftentimes it’s just the first thing that comes to mind, and then they slap over the door and buy whatever website’s available. I think that’s a really important lesson on just you got to think a few steps down the road as a financial advisor as well because we help a lot of advisors rename and rebrand their companies just because they’re running into similar situations like you ran into.
[00:10:59] Bryan: Yeah. A name does matter a lot. I learned that so we decided to switch our name. We hired a marketing agency to come in and kind of guide us through that. I learned a very valuable thing to that. They basically said like there’s a spectrum of abstract on one side of the spectrum and then there’s obvious on the other. And so, for example, the abstract names if you can survive the brand experience of it into a decade or so, the abstract name actually is a very powerful brand. It can drive multiples in your business. So, for example, think about what Uber was. What the heck is Uber? Amazon, Publix like a Nike. These are abstract names, but they mean something whereas something that’s more obvious. And so, we decided to go with BELAY because a lot of people outside of rock climbing and mountain climbing have no clue what that is. And so, we were able to come to define a category of BELAY and what it means for us in our business. So, I totally believe that name is very important and take it from me and the stupid texts I did.
[00:11:56] Brad: Well, let’s go into BELAY because I think it’s just looking on the positive side is I think you got to an incredible name, that actually there’s a lot of symbolism with what you all do for your client. So, can you kind of share how you tied the brand into and then really dive into what is a virtual assistant? Because I think, well, as we are talking before we went live here, our industry is still very brick-and-mortar where assistant to them means the person sitting two desks over. And so, can you share kind of the BELAY and the symbolism, but then how that goes into what you all actually do for your client?
[00:12:27] Bryan: Yeah. Sure. So, my wife is really kind. She lets me mountain climb and I’m 44 but I still like to climb and get on top of tall things and I’ve had the opportunity to climb a bunch of mountains and when you climb mountains or when you rock climb, you belay. It’s just part of that special and technical climbs. And belay is just simply a climbing command that you’re asking the question. It’s a belay question like, “Do you have me?” is ultimately what that means and what that means to me personally is because we work with business owners and pastors and authors and all sorts of leaders today and they are asking us the question, do we have them on the rope as they climb higher? And we’re in support roles to them so we want to help them climb higher. So, belay for me means a lot because I’ve been in a snowstorm and actually not even be able to see my belayer but hear the climbing command, “Belay on.” And if that person doesn’t have me, I don’t come home.
And so, for me, there’s a lot of meaning behind helping a great client that’s trying to dig wells in Uganda or achieve a net profit target or get home to their kid’s soccer game or whatever that thing that’s important to them as a leader of things, we’re there to support them and belay them as they climb higher. So, belay carries a really powerful name so much so like we wreck rock climbing walls and I take my leadership team on rock climbing things so they can actually understand the actual physical power of belay and how you trust each other on the rope.
[00:13:49] Brad: Yeah. No free soloing, right?
[00:13:51] Bryan: No, no, no. I’m no Alex Honnold.
[00:13:54] Brad: I haven’t seen that movie yet, by the way, but I’ve got a couple of buddies that have been raving about it.
[00:13:58] Bryan: Yeah. I highly recommend that movie but I will just tell you, it’s like get ready to like have your hands sweaty and no joke my wife got sick watching it like from motion sickness.
[00:14:10] Brad: Oh wow.
[00:14:11] Bryan: It’s awesome though.
[00:14:12] Brad: I think it’s a good movie. So, for those that aren’t familiar, free solo is climbing without a belay or if you fall, you’re dead and I think the symbolism there is that’s how a lot of advisors, financial advisors out there running their business. It’s them and if they mess up, there’s no support, no backup. Really, where I was introduced to the concept of a virtual assistant the first time was Michael Hyatt and I was in a private mastermind with him for a couple years and I was sharing some of my issues and concerns with my own personal business. I said, “I can’t keep up with my email. It’s like, I hop on a two-hour call and the next thing I know I look at my inbox and I’ve got 100 unread emails,” and so I shared that. I shared, “Hey, I travel and the booking and the registration of all these events and all of the overwhelm of all these things you know you need to do, but you don’t have time for and I feel like I’m stretched too thin.” He’s like, “Do you have an EA?” and I said, “What’s an EA?” And so, basically, he started to walk me down this path of really what you all do except virtually.
And since then, Michelle on my team, we took a cheat sheet that I think actually you might’ve even helped Michael create where it was really my life on an Excel spreadsheet, my birthday, my wife’s birthday, my kid’s birthdays. And the other thing, make sure I never miss an important date, right, to make sure I always got somebody to remind me, “Hey, your wife’s birthday is coming up in two weeks or a month,” then, “Hey, have you got her a present yet? Have you booked something for her?” And so, how do I like my coffee? If I’m in a meeting and she needs to order in food, what would that be? And so, I share all this because I feel like there’s this amazing opportunity for our industry that most of them don’t even know exists. Can you speak to that? Puts a before-and-after picture for a lot of your clients. What are the stresses and what has incorporating a virtual assistant into their lives meant to them?
[00:16:02] Bryan: Sure. Well, I think first off, those are really good examples so I would say you got to take a step back and acknowledge like we already live in a virtual world. For example, since grandma can Facetime her grandkids four states away like we already like leaving voicemail into some digital cloud somewhere like the things we do are already so virtual and automated that just for some reason some people they’re a little bit there’s whole like this whole brick-and-mortar I got to have this person right next to me and that’s dying really quick. In fact, so much so that when we talk of hiring managers of very large corporations, they have a deficit of leadership because there’s people that know friends that work off back debts that are not coming back into an office. And so, that is true of virtual assistants. They have great jobs or they work somewhere with meaning. They just do it from their house. And so, what’s happening is the workforce as a whole is really moving in a direction where there’s more agility and freedom for where they work, but they can execute and produce the results that’s expected.
But as it relates to virtual assistant, I think the word assistant really does a disservice to these types of folks. For my organization, we target college-educated stay-at-home moms and dads of past business and professional experience. So, these are not like people that you would be unhappy with. I mean, these are really vetted people that are our assistants and they do all sorts of cool things that may kind of serve at air traffic control over your inbox, manage your calendar were on point on very critical projects inside your organization. Personally, they may go get gifts for you and help you out there. I mean, my assistant she sees my hair cut and she’ll text me and say, “Hey, you look a little shaggy. I’m scheduling your next haircut.” Awesome because that’s one less thing I have to worry about. So, we don’t put up a firewall between what’s professional and private. We just say no, we’re a leader at homes as much as we’re in the office and it works.
[00:17:55] Bryan: And so, an assistant when done right is not an assistant. It’s work alongside a partner. So, our very best clients get that so that when they hire a virtual assistant, it’s not that they’re getting a secretary. They’re actually getting somebody that’s going to serve as an extension of who they are and it works. When you grease the tracks for your assistant to do the things or to talk your management team and you say, “Hey, listen, if Hope is calling you, it’s as if I’m calling you, or if she’s looking for this thing, just think that’s me asking for it.” And so, it’s creating this extension of who you are as a leader that really moves you forward in your leadership capacity and helps you focus on higher payoff activities which I would imagine a lot of your FAs are looking for.
[00:18:37] Brad: Yeah. I joke with Michelle on my team and she kind of plays a few different roles but really what you just described is a lot of what she does. And I joke, I’m like, “Michelle, I just want you to know, you make my marriage better.” I mean, the stressors in my life before were I would have a meeting coming up and I would forget to tell my wife or block it on the calendar and she’s like, “I thought you were going to be home for dinner at 6 tonight?” “Oh, that wasn’t on the calendar?” and where that’s evolved to, we just did a meeting two, three weeks ago where we just did a double date with Michelle and her husband and sat down and laid out the full calendar for the entire year. We call it putting the big rocks on the calendar and it was amazing. It’s like my whole year is already designed and my wife was a part of that conversation and it really has made our relationship much, much better because you just got somebody there helping, making sure you don’t drop balls along the way.
[00:19:30] Bryan: Yeah. And what’s cool about that, what I’m hearing you say is that like because I see this with a lot of leaders. They’re a hot mess when they come to us. Their calendar owns them, not the opposite way. Yours it sounds very proactive and you’ve got your team now along working with your wife that what’s most important. If you’re very proactive with that, you own your calendar. I mean, just getting ahead of that takes some skill and it takes someone that’s really committed to helping you do that. That’s cool. Well done.
[00:19:54] Brad: So, let’s go into you shared something, Bryan, that I completely agree. So, back in the old days, it was, “Hey, I go to the office 8 to 5 and then I go home and then it’s family time,” and these little things called iPhones that everybody has now, it’s very, very hard to have a clear break or a firewall as you described in between business and personal. So, how do you, you kind of named I think like lifestyle design. I don’t know if I’m putting words in your mouth there, but how have you seen that integration in your best example start to work where there can actually be freedom at home but there’s not necessarily the separation of work and life anymore?
[00:20:30] Bryan: Yeah. You hear the kind of term work-life balance or things like that. Here’s just what we discovered after hiring thousands of people that kind of work in this capacity is that they crave agility and they crave an organization that trust them to be an adult. It’s really that simple. And when you feel trusted and you can be an adult, you’ll work your butt because you love working there and they want to work hard because they’re doing something of meaning and they can also then go pick their kids up from carpool and how they’re measured is by the result, not by the things they do. And so, in our organization we work really hard to say, “Hey, listen, what matters most is a result. You may get there one way. I can get there another but I’m going to support you in how you do that and you come to me if you need help but the reality is this is the result that’s expected. In a virtual environment, I can’t look over someone’s shoulder. So, it fosters this place of trust, like I trust you to execute on my behalf when I’m not there.
The funny thing is and I should’ve written about this, but if you think about corporate America today or really offices globally, how they’re designed is this is you basically you get a bunch of people in a room, you put them in cubicles and then you put the managers around them. That’s a holdout of the industrial age because that is literally the footprint of how we build cars. You put the worker bees in the middle, you put the managers around them. So, we design office spaces today, corporate office space the same way. Industrial age thinking is that if I can’t see you, I can’t control you. The reality is if I can’t see you, I don’t need to control you because I’ve created an expectation and a result, proof, no need for corporate office space anymore. And that’s exactly what we’re up against is now we got people that are like I have a friend that works from home and they love it and it’s a good job and with benefits and why can’t I have that? And they see this person happy because they’re not in some soul-sucking commute or giving 10 hours of their life per week in a car and they would get home in time for dinner and have that really cool conversation with their daughter or son or whatever.
[00:22:30] Bryan: And so, when you look at the aggregate of what work from home actually is and the benefit for it, it outweighs even sometimes compensation. So, that’s what we’re up against right now in corporate America and really in workforces around the world like they’re dealing with this. They don’t know how to move to this next generation what workforce I think will be.
[00:22:49] Brad: Well, and what’s interesting about that is ten years ago to have this conversation that we’re having right now, which feels very much like a face-to-face conversation like you sit on the other side of the desk from me, you would’ve had flown out from Atlanta or I would have to fly to you. It’s even changed how I podcast and one of the things originally when I first started doing Zoom, it was I wanted to be able to see your face so I could, “Hey, when’s Bryan done talking so I can ask a question?” And what I’m starting to see now is the front runners in financial services, this used to be a brick-and-mortar appointment, drive across town, come sit down the office and what we’re starting to see is that might be the call it the first date where maybe that trust face-to-face but as those clients come on board, I mean, it’s like, “Hey, fight traffic for an hour or just pop up a virtual Zoom and let’s just do the quick review. You can be at your kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee. Does that sound better?” And it’s it really starting to shift our industry as well.
You shared something of how you run your team meetings. I love it. I want to share you say – well I’ll let you share it. So, when you’re doing Zoom virtual meetings as far as your team, what are some rules you go to, to make sure that there’s a presence there, even though you’re not in the same physical location?
[00:24:01] Bryan: Sure. So, for Context Art Corporation we have about 700 plus people in it today and we all work from home. We actually have no physical office. I’m doing this from my house, my office. We’ve just chosen that we’re going to eat our own dog food, that we’re going to have a virtual organization and we’re going to live and die by it and it’s worked out. Turns out everybody doesn’t want to come to the office, so it’s worked out really well for us but in terms of meetings like for example with my leadership team, we have a rule that if you’re going to be in a meeting on Zoom, you’re off mute and we’ll have to see you. Because otherwise and we all know it’s true, you’re off doing something else. You’re not paying full attention. So, when you’re in a face-to-face meeting, you can’t be distracted but yet somehow, it’s okay on a virtual type connection and we decided no more of that. And the reason why go off mute is because if somebody says something and you have to go off mute, by the time that they’re done, it’s already like the conclusion’s over and there’s no like natural add to it.
We value a healthy debate in our business. We have conflict norms kind of to suggest that and ask for that. But in terms of like the mute, it’s the devil for communication and really bringing that together and frankly video. I mean, the fact that I can see you right now, I mean, there’s just meaning behind that in the same way it would be face-to-face. I joke around about this all the time with our sales team and I used to say this too like I have prospects that would go, “Hey, I really love this virtual setting,” and they were here in Atlanta and they go, “Can you come by the office and I’ll sign your contract,” and I’d say, “With all due respect, if I have to come see you to sign this contract, I defeated the purpose of my business,” and they crack up and sign the contract because they get it. And so, I would say like even that first face-to-face, man, that wouldn’t even be as necessary anymore as people think like you can do it face-to-face virtual and still have meaning and connection. And what I also found that’s true about video, it’s a little bit more authentic and real. I’ve seen people in their environment. I’ve seen kind of the context of who they are. I’ve seen maybe that there’s something going on behind them. That’s more authentic than the button up presentation of who you are at a coffee table.
[00:26:06] Brad: Yeah.
[00:26:06] Bryan: And so, I’m just seeing that that it really kind of create an authentic environment for communication.
[00:26:11] Brad: Just be careful what’s behind you though, right?
[00:26:12] Bryan: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah, very careful.
[00:26:16] Brad: So, it’s interesting. One of the things that we’ve started doing and we’ve all been on those conference calls that’s like, “I’ll hop on this conference call.” The next thing you know you’re checking emails on your iPhone and you’re fully not present and what I love about Zoom and the video capabilities and this is sounding like a Zoom sales pitch now, but call it any virtual video service is I’ve started doing all of my coaching calls with Zoom because for that exact same matter, the level of connection, I mean, think about all the nonverbal communication that you have in a human conversation and up on things. And like you said, you’re more present. It’s more real because you’re in your own space and so it moved, not entirely, but we’re moving that way on all coaching calls.
[00:27:01] Bryan: I think it’s massively important, especially if you wanted to build a meaningful rapport with the customer. I mean, the face-to-face interaction and just looking someone in the eyes and say, “Hey, this is important,” like let’s get this right. You can have that today like never before. I mean, the technology of Zoom, I mean, we should cue up our affiliate links right now but, I mean, the truth is like Zoom is like rock solid tool for that type of communication and connection.
[00:27:24] Brad: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s go into something that’s I think this is an incredible testament to the business you built. So, Entrepreneur Magazine in 2017 named your company BELAY as Best Culture of All Companies like the grand award without an office space. So, how did you develop that? What were some key things that you did to develop an amazing culture when it’s 100% virtual?
[00:27:52] Bryan: Well, first off, that award was super cool. I mean, we won some other neat awards I’m really grateful for but that one really validated our business model in that virtual. It was done third party so we couldn’t manipulate results. It was really validated in a great way and there were 50 people that were the top 50 companies, and we somehow made it to the top and a lot of people realize like, “Hey, you don’t have an office like how did you do this? Like, are you really a company because you don’t have an office?” I get those questions all the time and so for us, we just realized that there’s actually we’ve come to find that there’s a ton of companies that actually are moving all the more remote, our virtual and this gave them actually confidence to go and do that. I’ve been invited into so many conversations because of that award to say, like, “How can we do this as a hospital?” which sounds weird but like staffs and people and departments and stuff like a lot of people want to work from home that it’s starting to change the way they think about can people actually do this from home. And for us, it was just a really cool award. It validated us and I mean it’s great to be on the list but to be number one was quite special.
[00:28:56] Brad: You just gave me an interesting thought. I mean, one of the things I’ve heard about Uber is when we get to fully autonomous cars what are they going to do with all the parking lots out there because nobody is going to park. You’re just going to summon your car to come pick you up and when we think about office space when everybody’s just virtual, what are you going to do with all this empty office space?
[00:29:14] Bryan: No joke. I’ve convinced hedge managers to get out of REITs because of it and I can point to it. Commercial office space is going to have to be repurposed in our country and I know the struggle that they’re having even in a good economy right now for here in Atlanta or classic commercial space because people just want to work from home. It’s pretty fascinating.
[00:29:35] Brad: How does your vacation policy work, Bryan?
[00:29:39] Bryan: Mine personally or for the organization?
[00:29:40] Brad: For your company. Sorry.
[00:29:42] Bryan: They basically just take off. They’ve got depending on what level of manager role they are in our business, they just have the time off to do what they want. Now, that’s different than our virtual assistants, our bookkeepers, and our webmasters. They have to work all that out with their client that they’re assigned to, but my corporate team, which is of that 700 plus people, 65 of those are my full-time corporate people that kind of run the business in BELAY. They have time off. We also give them volunteer time off as well. We give them a full week volunteer time off to go volunteer where they want to do something if they love dogs or whatever or mission trips, they can do that. But for the folks that actually do the work of working with our clients, that’s just something that they work through with each client on a case-by-case basis.
[00:30:22] Brad: What other things in your opinion led to you winning best culture? Are there some other things you do systemically inside your business where that just create raving employees?
[00:30:32] Bryan: Yeah. One of our core values is gratitude. And so, what we did was we basically built a budget into every year where we give everybody the opportunity to do a frugal well and there’s a budget for it on a per months basis. So, for example, if you’re one of our frontline folks and you see some way you want to demonstrate gratitude on behalf of our company, you have the budget to go do that. So, how cool is it that not only do we say what gratitude is important but here’s the money to go do it and demonstrate it. And it’s not some cookie-cutter type of thing where we have some guy out there that’s stamping out gifts. It’s actually many things to present. So, you like tennis. I’m like so you’d book on Roger Federer or whatever and say, “Hey, I thought you might like this. From your friends at BELAY,” or whatever. So, we’ve baked in gratitude into our organization and actually kind of put our money behind it. So, that’s kind of one example. Our corporate meetings, when we actually do come face-to-face and we get together about once a quarter as a corporate team, our 65 folks, our corporate meetings are better than everybody else’s. They really are. We’d love on them. We bring in guest speakers.
We have them collaborate. We do all sorts of silly stuff like we’ll build Legos and like have contest and open bars, and like just DJs and it’s just this cool thing that people really, so they get the opportunity to see people, connect with people face-to-face but they work from home all the time. And then we just create an environment like that where people want to be part of it. We offer really good benefits. We’ve got 401(k) and match. I mean, we’re the real deal in terms of the corporation and its benefits package. We have wellness benefits to our employees so they can buy a yoga mat or oils or whatever is important to them.
[00:32:05] Brad: How does that work? Is that just a budget, a line item budget where they can go spend or are there actual metrics where you’re tracking and rewarding on results?
[00:32:13] Bryan: Well, we do have that with our insurance plan. So, they have kind of a health benefit if they do that. They’re rewarded with gifts and stuff and that’s via Humana but internally, we actually just have a wellness credit. So, basically, you just reimburse us or you ask us to reimburse you for something that you might buy and depending on the type of role you have in our business, it’s more. So, if you’re a COO in my company, you’re going to get a bigger wellness benefit than say one of our frontline folks. But regardless, we just reimburse it on a quarterly basis and they love that stuff and I think too is we recognize working from home there’s a cost with internet and phone so we cover cost like that where we would have to do that in an office anyway. I’m missing some benefits. My HR manager would kill me right now.
[00:32:59] Brad: So, those are all pretty good.
[00:33:00] Bryan: But I mean it’s good. The benefits is one thing. I think why our culture pulsates so well and actually connects to the heart of our folks is we worked really hard to remind people why we’re here. It’s not about us. It’s about our leaders. It’s about the clients we serve and what they’re trying to accomplish and we’re an extension of who they are and we’ve got to get that right. And frankly, our best way to serve the client really well is to serve our contractors, the assistants, the bookkeepers, and the webmasters, and serve them as best we can, so that they can, in turn, serve our client. So, we know who our customer is and we have to pour into them and remind them of the why on a consistent basis and that’s my job as co-CEO and my wife’s job really as co-CEO is to constantly without giving up, always remind people of our why. And over time, you keep saying that, your team lovingly mocks you in a good way, like, “Oh, here comes Bryan saying that thing again.” Yes, that’s exactly what I want because you know it’s important to me and it creates meaning in others.
[00:34:00] Brad: So, let’s dive into financial services specifically. I know you are saying you’ve worked with a family office in Birmingham and had a lot of these conversations. You’ll find this as no surprise, I think. Our industry, a lot of type A personalities, go-getter, hard chargers like I’m going to sprint. You just try to keep up. And what that leads to is a lot, this is a common theme in our coaching conversations, struggle to find great talent. Once they find them, they quit a month later because of the high demands of the fast-paced financial advisor business and honestly, a lot of our offices struggle the train. It’s like they’re so busy running appointments, how do I even train this new person that I just hired? So, if you really put the lens on and look at financial services based on what you know and some of the offices you’ve worked with, what are some of the struggles with delegation and how have you all helped bridge the gap to where, “Hey, I do feel confident and comfortable to be able to hand this very important stuff off to somebody else.”
[00:35:00] Bryan: Well, first off, I love my family office. Fortunately, I’ve been working with them for 18 months. So far they hired two families a year and I don’t know why they picked our family, but I’m grateful because they help me out in ways that like I’m pro-family office all day long like they’re like that quarterback that just comes around our family with so many different needs, legal and tax course, asset management and so forth but pro-family…
[00:35:21] Brad: Okay. So, Bryan, let’s stop right there because this is really good stuff. Let’s get into your personal psychology like when you were shopping financial offices or advisor, why them? And then on the back end, what services do they do that make your life that much easier? Because there’s a lot of people listening in that could benefit.
[00:35:37] Bryan: Yeah. Well, we got to a place in our business where we saw success and frankly wealth and I didn’t know what to do with that. I don’t know how to run my company and lead my company really well. I don’t know like how to start comparing for tax strategy and be like establishing a state and kind of being proactive a few years out on establishing that or managing a class of assets that I’ve never managed before and how does that look kind of overall picture kind of being a quarterback. You can imagine, my wife and I, we own our company 100% and we’ve hit so many radars. We have private equity asking us all the time to come have dinner with them or talk to them and we just say no and our family office actually is the one that we interfaced with first so that I can remain undistracted from growing our company. So, literally, we found a quarterback that sits on our side of the table that is very important to us and the other thing I really liked about that one is they carried our values but they only hired two families a year so they only bring on two families a year.
Now, when I say hire, I’m paying them a per month to oversee our family and the things we do, but they are slow and steady and they started in ‘99 so you do the math. They’re up to like 40 somewhat families. But they’ve created a powerful staff. They can help us with bookkeeping on our personal level. It’s ironic because I own a bookkeeping company but the truth is there are personal things I don’t need to share with consignment organization so that family office was a beacon for us that’s kind of a safe harbor for our family for us to really think through. Now, that we take our wealth to the next generation of our kids and how are we wise and be a good steward of it. So, I don’t know if that answered your question well but for us…
[00:37:08] Brad: So, I’m curious, how did they get on your radar the first time?
[00:37:11] Bryan: A friend asked me to join his board and one of the board members owns that family office. And so, that’s how we just got to know each other and he explained more and like I played it cool like, gosh, it seems neat and they told me about that, it’s so smart, scarcity wins the day like if you say to someone, “I’m only going to pick two people a year,” you want to be one of the two people, right? Scarcity is amazing how it works and you’re in the psyche of a prospect. It’s just amazing. So, I’m thinking I want to be one of the two families. What do I have to do?
[00:37:40] Brad: So, they literally where most people in our industry, they’re being interviewed to see if that’s a financial advisor. It’s almost they switched the game where they were interviewing you. Will you be one of the two families we’ll accept this year?
[00:37:53] Brad: Yeah. And they had a certain threshold. You had to have a certain amount of assets. There are certain things you kind of had to hit in order to do that. So, I knew I qualified but then I got to know them and their values and like I liked how they approached just interacting with our kids and it just made good sense for us to kind of go to this next level of oversight with things that frankly I don’t have the time or the expertise to do. I’m not an attorney. I don’t want to be an attorney. I want to be a CEO of a growing company and they’ve helped us holistically for our family.
[00:38:20] Brad: So, it sounds like what I’m hearing you say is they integrated, obviously, there’s the financial side of it, the actual assets that show how you’re growing your wealth. Then there’s the tax planning side so how does that integrate but then also here’s the estate planning side and integrating all three of those together.
[00:38:36] Bryan: Yeah. And legal too. And then practical things like bookkeeping advice or, hey, I heard a competitor has got a multiple of this. Are you seeing that in other spaces like is that right? Because a family office is working with families. A lot of these families own a bunch of companies. So, there’s intel kind of with that. A good family office I think will also bring you qualified opportunity and they’ve done that too. So, hey, we have this opportunity. We’re entering this thing. Are you interested or not? That’s kind of cool X factor I think on a family office.
[00:39:07] Brad: How was the process of designing your frequency of interactions throughout the year? Did you choose? I want to do a monthly meeting like what did that look like?
[00:39:16] Bryan: Early on it was just getting to know each other over meals and when we came in. They have an office in Birmingham so we stayed the night. We went into their offices and basically just said here’s kind of the landscape of our family and here are the assets we own, BELAY. I’m starting a brewery. I mentioned that to you before the show. We have real estate in Wyoming and Florida like here’s the asset base that we have. It’s growing so how do we managed and steward this well and we just kind of shared that with them and they help us say, “Okay. Well, the estate planning you did when you first started your company is entirely different than right now,” thinking through the logical steps to create a roadmap for us as they evaluated what families they wanted to pull in every year. It’s really smart. I mean, we do that in our own business. We say, “Not everybody gets to be our customer. We are going to qualify you as much as you’re qualifying us,” and I think that that’s a healthy way to go about business and every prospect I think can really appreciate that. Because then what you’re saying by saying that is you matter and I’m going to make sure that we’re a really good fit for the long-term, not just I want your money right now.
And we do that with our clients like we don’t want every customer. We want the right customer to come to BELAY because we want them to stay and see the value and actually benefit from our hard work on their behalf, in essence, what that family office said too.
[00:40:29] Brad: Well, going back to how do you win best culture awards it’s by also protecting your employees from bad clients.
[00:40:35] Bryan: Yeah. Jerks can go pound sand like we let them go. We fire clients where somehow they were angels in the sales cycle and they turn into mean monsters when they’re a client and we help them out the door as quick as we can because if we don’t, they hurt our people and they wreck our brand. So, we’re just really, “Check your ego at the door if you really want this. We want to help you. And practically to help you, you’re going to have to see us as not some slave but as actually some really true extension who you are as a leader.” And the other biggie for us is our clients they have to be openhanded like one thing you could say about Michael Hyatt, he’ll listen to your advice and we know we’ve gone through this enough time of thousands of customers.
We know what works and what doesn’t in terms of delegation and if you’re tightfisted and you’re going to just hang on everything and you got to be the hero and solve every fire and do all that, you’re not going to work out so you’re going to have to be openhanded and say like, “Oh yeah. I need to start to give this away. I need to delegate this stuff. I need to come in and grow something of meaning. It’s going to be more than me,” and it requires that from people. So, we just try and push as hard as we can in our sales cycle pre-client to make sure that these people will trust us and let us speak into their life in terms of delegation.
[00:41:44] Brad: I think I stole this from Michael, actually, “It’s not a big enough dream if it doesn’t require a team.” A lot of times I see that in our business like it’s the advisor or the guy or the gal that’s the one person show and they think they have to do everything. But what’s crazy is I’ve seen that mindset transform when you can get an A player right next to them and all of a sudden they handed off and they don’t have to double back and make sure it actually got done and then all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, how much more stuff?” and then they start shoveling stuff over there. You know, once it actually starts to work and it’s interesting but you definitely have to have a mindset being willing to hand the things off in the first place.
[00:42:22] Bryan: For sure. I meet a lot of heroes, their thing, and, “I got to do it.” It’s kind of like this cross they have to bear and all that. What I’ve discovered is this. When you look through the lens of stewardship for owning a company or owning your thing, whatever that is, the stewardship element is simply this and I believe this is true for me as well and for my wife is that I am co-CEO of this company for a season a time. Not forever. And if that’s true, and I won’t be the CEO of this company forever then I’m going to steward it, I’m going to manage it as best I can right now. And so, what happens when you look through that lens and you stop saying I’m going to be the financial advisor forever and you start to go, “I’m going to be here for whatever amount of time, but ultimately one day I won’t be. I’m going to hand this place off in a better situation than I found it,” it completely kills that notion of you like, “Oh, I got to do it all.” Because you realize that something of substance takes more than one person and you realize that, like the best way to grow your organization is to pour into other people and empower them the resource and equipment and get out of the way. That’s good stewardship in my mind and I just wake up every morning going…
[00:43:27] Brad: I think that’s such good advice. Number one, I see it so often in our industry, but I saw it in my own team. If I look back what are the mistakes that I made early on, it was just Brad when I started and Brad was basically picking up the phone and cold calling 100 plus dials a day to try to find some good financial advisors out there that we can help and coach and grow their business. And the ego is incredible when you actually step back and look because I’ve got a great team that surrounds me, but I thought that I was the one that had to close the big deals on the big clients. And what I realized is the best thing that could ever happen is Jordan, Zach, Brady on my team. If they become two times, three times as good as I ever was, think at how much more successful our team and organization is and it’s not about me. It’s about empowering my team to be better than me, I hope.
[00:44:18] Bryan: That’s right.
[00:44:20] Brad: And I think so many people at their own personal ego get in the way where that it’s just this fight back-and-forth but what it actually does is it stunts their own growth.
[00:44:29] Bryan: It does. I’ll give you a story that kind of encapsulates this whole thing as like me hero ego thing versus others, empowered, grow. I was climbing a mountain at the Grand Teton in Wyoming back in 2011 with a good friend of mine who’s wildly successful in business and we were, the way you climb the Grand is you go to 10,000 feet, you get there around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and you rest and at midnight you start working your way to the top. So, there’s about eight hours where you’re just chilling out, having dinner and we were in the tent and I was trying to sleep and I couldn’t sleep. And mind you, this is seven months into my business. So, just seven months in. And here’s a guy that’s wildly successful, took his company public just crazy successful and done really well for himself and I mentioned something about owning the company then he stopped me in the tent and he goes, “You don’t own anything,” and I’m like you got to imagine remember from earlier in the story like I just left a great job. My wife left a great job. We put all our money into this thing. Screw you. I own this thing.
And I’m like I’m getting more ticked as we go, and he goes, no, no, no you don’t own anything. I’m like, “Alright. I’m waiting for some sage advice but here comes.” and he is. He’s an advisor to my business and he goes, “Bryan, you currently run a company. You don’t own a company. The day that the business doesn’t need you day-to-day is the day that you own the company,” and I was so pissed off because he was so right. And so, I climbed to the top of that thing with him. We came back down. I talked to Shannon. She was there waiting in Jackson and I said, “Honey, we’ve got to own the company and not run it.” And so, we have this mantra now, owning not running and it’s perfect for us because it forms almost every daily decision we make in terms of leadership because if you own it, you’re going to find great people and you’re going to resource and quit and get out of the way versus have to be the hero and run everything. And so, you got to decide whoever is listening to this right now, do you want to own a company or do you want to run a company? And I know plenty of great leaders that are runners of companies but I actually know most leaders they’ve fallen in love with their business to own it, not run it.
[00:46:28] Brad: Yeah. I want to let that one like sit and sink in because that’s such good advice in our business and what I hear on my side is it’s funny but glad you told that story. What I hear on my side, I hear if you look at the kind of average age of a lot of people in our industry it’s kind of baby boomer like somewhere 50, 55, 60, 65. Now, there’s this new wave of kind of millennial advisors coming in, but there’s this big gap and what’s interesting, I know you run a family office between you and your wife. There’s a lot of our offices that are the same as you where it’s a husband and wife team but also now they’re getting their next generation, their sons, their daughters that are joining the firm and there’s this massive want. I think they look back they’ve been doing it 20, 30 years very successfully to leave a legacy behind like I want this firm that last generations past even my own death. And if you don’t take that advice right there, it’s never going to happen.
[00:47:24] Bryan: Yeah. Agreed.
[00:47:25] Brad: But so many of them are so busy running it, it’s never going to exist pass them because they haven’t delegated those key things on or built the leadership teams and things like that.
[00:47:35] Bryan: Yeah. That’s right.
[00:47:36] Brad: So, going back, Bryan, you have the conversation with your wife when you got off the mountain. What were some of the first things you did to start the transition from running the business to owning the business?
[00:47:45] Bryan: Well, we’re still early so I recognize if you’re in startup mode, that’s a little bit harder. We were at that time too. We just started saying, “Okay. Like what are things even in an incremental small basis can we start giving away to others that we naturally thought we should just own because that’s a cross we should bear?” Because we teach ourselves that startup has to be grueling and hard. You have to murder yourself and you can actually do a bootstrap business and actually still empower and delegate. And we found that to be true. It’s like, “Oh, I’m really only doing this like five hours a week. Why don’t I just get this off to somebody for five hours a week to take care of?” And then we also have to evaluate at the time where wherever you are kind of your stage of business and who you are as a leader you have to evaluate, is this the best use of my time? For example, for me, I held onto every sales deal, every contract from the first 18 months of our business. And that was one of those decisions. I realized this is a lower payoff activity.
While revenue is incredibly important in the lifeblood of an organization, my time is better served getting out and starting to network at a higher level to really get out there and start making our name more famous in the market. And if I have to sit here and have every single sales call and produce every proposal, every contract, log it in the CRM application, it’s not the best use of my time. So, you just start. If I’m going to own the business, not run the business, I’m going to find this thing, make it really clear. I’m going to set somebody up for success that comes in and takes care of this for us. And the crazy thing was, was about three years in where we kept on doing that, we would break up the things that we do and we did that with our leaders too like, “Hey, that seems like you’re doing that a little too much. Is that you’re gifting? Let’s pull that off and let’s give that to somebody else.” I’m convinced that that was the reason why we scaled so fast as an organization because we hit year three is like an inflection point of our business and the most important thing was this, I think around year three our business because we followed this model, it transitioned from everybody in the general practitioner to specialist. Everybody kind of gotten in the groove because they knew the thing that was expected and they weren’t trying to do all sorts of things. They were doing nothing that they were asked to do.
[00:49:44] Bryan: I could see the evidence of it. I can show you on our financial statements to show you kind of an inflection point from going from general practitioner to specialists. That is because we just taught our team, that no, you find what you’re really best at. You basically delegate the rest and it worked.
[00:49:59] Brad: Yeah. We see a lot of general practitioners oftentimes in offices that are just starting to scale where they hired their cousin because it was convenient and they needed help like they hired six months after they originally needed help. You actually get ahead of the hiring cycle. But one of the things that you hit there that’s key is I don’t know how many times I’ve heard advisors literally million plus, 2 million plus revenue and we’ll start to break down what are those constraints in their day-to-day and they’ll be like, “Well, you know, all this paperwork,” and I’m like, “Paperwork? Tell me you’re not filling out your own paperwork.” And we actually have to go back. One of the models we’ll do is we’ll actually calculate what an hour of their time is worth. Great advisor is going to be $500, $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 an hour and I’m like, “Hey, out of curiosity, how much do you think you could hire somebody to fill out paperwork for you? You think the $1,000 an hour employee is the right person to be doing that job?” and it’s amazing when you actually like stop him for a second, go back, do the math like all of a sudden this lightbulb goes off, but they’ve been doing their own paperwork for the last decade, so they just continue to do it and think that they should.
[00:51:03] Bryan: There are two reasons why that is I know for a fact. The first is, one, they’ve been taught or they somehow believe that to have somebody help them with lower payout activities is a luxury. It’s not a luxury. It’s actually a necessity if you want to scale and the other thing the reason why I see leaders still doing lower payout activities is because of this, most leaders are solving problems that are 30, 60, 90, 180 days in the making like they don’t solve the problem that fixes today. So, what happens is they can book their own airline ticket or schedule a meeting or answer that email, they get a sense of accomplishment that they never otherwise feel as a leader. So, what you got to do is you got to beat that out of you and say, “No, I’m going to give that stuff up because and they may make me feel good in the moment to complete that thing and check that box but the reality is that somebody else needs to be doing that but it makes you feel good as a leader. So, you got to train yourself to say, like, I’m going to feel good when I solve this problem. Or that I hit this result versus, “Oh, I booked my airline ticket or I bought flowers for somebody.”
[00:52:04] Brad: Yeah. I made a rule actually Michael Hyatt we’re going to promote him as well on this conversation.
[00:52:10] Bryan: I’ll promote him all day long.
[00:52:12] Brad: He’s a guy worth promoting.
[00:52:13] Bryan: Amen.
[00:52:14] Brad: So, he taught me I should run my own calendar and Del does it exclusively now and I think I broke that rule one time last year and double booked myself. And so, it’s freeing but also, it’s a better experience for my clients because it actually gets done properly, as opposed to me hopping in there screwing things up. Another thing you got to look at is if you do this right, your clients and your team actually have a better experience as opposed to worse. When I think that’s the other thing a lot of advisors why they do their own paperwork, oh, if I give it to somebody else, they’re going to mess it up and then I may have to redo the paperwork. Well, number one, you have to hire the right person, then you have to train them and then your problem goes away, and I think that’s another thing that often is lacking is proper training.
[00:52:58] Bryan: Yeah. Or the patients because you’re like, “Why can’t you just figure this out?” Well, it’s because you didn’t do anything to help them figure it out and train on it like I think a lot of people that think that a lot of the stuff is intuitive. It’s not. You actually got to know what you’re doing and then train them accordingly and then expect the result. Well, I see a lot of leaders jack this up. What they should do is they say, instead of saying, “Here’s the 94 things you have to do,” which is what most leaders do, what they need to just say is, “Here’s actually what’s just expected. Here’s the result I want.” So, delegate result, not the what. And often leaders just they don’t do that because they don’t trust people with the result. The reality is you should trust people with the result. That’s what’s going to help you scale. And when I do talks and I’m with people live and I’m talking about delegation, I say the words, “My assistant manages my inbox.” Half the room there I watch literally their head explodes. They’re like, “Did he just say that like is that really possible?” like I watch, I can see the look on their face like they just witnessed a bad car accident or something and I just tell them, “Yeah. My assistant serves as air traffic control over my inbox because responsiveness is very important to our organization and it has to be done the right way.”
Most leaders, their inbox is nothing more than workflow routing. If it’s coming in, it’s got to be, something’s got to be done with it but 80 plus percent of those things don’t have to be me. And so, I get about 100 emails a day. I maybe reply to 20 and I’ve got a really small inbox all the time because my assistant’s in there working on all the things that she hasn’t been empowered to take care of and you know how many complaints I get? Zero. Not one. It just works. And so, when you learn to delegate who you are and they become an extension of who you are and they have the result, they know what’s expected of why it’s important, you’ll have some of the best employees you’ve ever dreamed of.
[00:54:42] Brad: Well, and what’s the alternative to that? You respond back to an email a week-and-a-half later because you do them all and now, you’re like the least punctual guy ever. Michael Hyatt is a good example of that. He’s got his inbox run, Michelle Hopson to mine and she’ll just simply say, “Hey, Michelle on Brad’s team hopping in on his behalf to help you out.” And honestly, like also email, it’s one of the most counterproductive things in the world. It’s somebody else’s to-do list so how are you actually supposed to proactively get things done if you’re constantly just sitting there packing out email replies all day?
[00:55:13] Bryan: Right. There’s such a math to do it the right way. I mean, you just said it best like you communicate all the wrong things when you don’t respond timely. You think about that. If they ask you a question and they’re waiting for your answer, they’re going to start to fill in the blank until you give them the answer. Are they going to start telling themselves a story about you as a leader or about himself? Responsiveness actually matters still today. And so, it’s important that they go, “Okay. I got it,” or, “Thank you. I’m running point on this. This is Hope, Bryan’s assistant.” I mean, just responsiveness is truly something that sets most companies apart like we are so surprised these days when we have good customer service. I mean, I am. I’m like, “Wow. You said thank you.” Like, when did that become like an abnormality or that someone that I send something to somebody and had a curse and they go, “Thanks for the email. I’m not interested.” It’s just things like that we’ve completely lost sight of because of this virtual thing and these de-personalized things. The reality is just the opposite. If you want to stand out, be responsive, truly.
[00:56:13] Brad: Yeah. That’s the thing. You don’t lose any professionalism. If anything, you gain it because like, “Wow. This guy is so on. He’s got somebody like monitoring like real-time his inbox.” A lot of that stuff is just, “Hey, can we schedule a 30-minute meeting next week sometime?” Your assistant, boom, done. You didn’t even see the email and it’s on there. So, well, cool. So, we never even actually got to, we never got to the finish of your…
[00:56:41] Bryan: It’s going to be a nine-hour podcast.
[00:56:43] Brad: Yeah. That’s fun. Hey. Good conversation goes fast. So, maybe we just covered in kind of the wide-ranging conversation we just hit. Are there any key things in financial services? Maybe it’s the family office conversations you’ve had. Maybe it’s just other clients you’ve had along the way where you’re like, “Hey, these are common themes and issues in financial services.” Email is one of them, obviously, that before us and after us, it was a game changer.
[00:57:07] Bryan: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny because I actually mentioned this to you a few weeks when we spoke. We work a lot of financial services. Our FA is around the country and like in some cases multiple virtual assistants working for the organization. And for some, it’s like this really it’s like a non-issue but for others, it’s a really big deal for these SEC regs and you explained something to me that’s actually very helpful that like actually depending on how you provided communication with each other, that’s a non-issue these days. I went back and researched it and I found that that’s the case like companies that have already solved kind of the encrypted communication between client and FA and the virtual assistants doing more things than just that, that’s where we’re growing in the financial services market. That’s the ones that kind of they approach it through this black and white, very stoic look and my guess is they probably still want to have that secretary outside their office.
They’re the ones that quickly kind of push back on us but I would say the things that can move and propel your organization forward administratively speaking, 99% of it can be done virtually. I mean, someone uses my company or not doesn’t matter. I mean, they need to test the bounds of what’s possible because they might actually create a new market for themselves for new prospecting based that they never thought possible before.
[00:58:19] Brad: Yeah. It’s where our industry is going. It’s just a matter of who takes the lead there because it just goes back to like you said, it’s surprising when you have amazing customer service these days. Think about the old model of financial services. It is no fun for me, your client, to drive across town, fight traffic, Atlanta, there’s a good example. Easy to drive back and forth there. So, do I want to fight Atlanta traffic just for that annual review meeting or is it much easier to just send me a link, pop up in a laptop, have a face-to-face conversation like we’re having now? Life is good. Pull up a screen share, here’s your accounts. Life is good.
[00:58:56] Bryan: A virtual fist bump.
[00:58:57] Brad: There we go. Boom.
[00:58:59] Bryan: And just move on.
[00:59:01Brad: Yeah. And, hey, by the way, if you want to see him face-to-face come to our wine tasting event we’re hosting next month and we’ll get the social aspect, but on the terms you want just like having fun together versus sitting in an office.
[00:59:13] Bryan: Yeah. I think too like just outthinking about this like I’ve got friends that are FAs and like I don’t know that they fully understand how busy people are like a stay-at-home mom is insanely busy like a doctor, very busy, a pastor, very busy, an author, very busy. And so, what you’re wanting to do is like they’re saying like, “Listen, can we come and sit down together face-to-face?” They got to drive to this thing. They got to do this thing. They’ve given up three hours to do that versus this which is like the time of the meeting and they can go back to whatever they were doing. It’s actually doing your prospects a disservice by having them to get in the car to see you.
[00:59:53] Brad: Yeah.
[00:59:54] Bryan: You talk about a win for them, it’s in time. Giving them their time back and just say, “Hey, I’m going to give you your time back. Let’s just do this on a 30-minute Zoom.” I bet you’d be surprised how many folks will actually do that.
[01:00:05] Brad: Like right now I’m going to share this with every advisor that’s listening in. If one of your value propositions as a firm was, “Hey, we’ve got the ability to host virtual appointments so you don’t have to fight traffic and come see us,” I guarantee you gain clients from just that benefit.
[01:00:18] Bryan: Home run.
[01:00:21] Brad: But I look at the evolution of our industry, how they used to overcome that, Bryan, was you look at how most of the advisors got in this business. It was door-to-door sales oftentimes so how they overcame that objection is, “Hey, I’ll just come to you,” but now how do you scale a business if you’ve got to drive across town all these appointments. It just doesn’t work. That’s why many offices have kind of gone the doctor’s office approach. Everyone comes to them and you’ve got multiple conference rooms, but the next evolution of that is, “Hey, don’t go anywhere. I’ll send you a link,” and the cool thing is, as a financial advisor, you can still scale your business because just boom, boom, boom, your appointments back to back to back, but it’s more convenient now for the prospects on that.
[01:01:03] Bryan: Right. Yeah. Like, for example, I mean like today I got to go take care of some stuff that’s on another call right after this is over and the cool thing is like there’s no car involved. You know what I mean? Like I could literally be in my underwear right now and you wouldn’t even know it and we have had a meaningful podcast. In fact, I mean, the point is, is like we’ve been able to have meaningful conversation and hopefully your audience will agree. But like we have meaningful conversation and I can literally without missing a beat go to the next thing and that’s a gift to your prospects, to your clients to be able to give that to them.
[01:01:39] Brad: A hundred percent. All right. So, speaking of, we’ve got five minutes left and if you’re up for it, Bryan, we didn’t get the chance. We can do a part 2 sometime on being a co-CEO with your wife because I think that a lot of our offices that have husband-wife teams that the pros and cons of that but…
[01:01:56] Bryan: I think it would be much better if she was here for it as well. I think they have both of us here would be very helpful, I think.
[01:02:02] Brad: Well, we’ll save that for round two. But let’s go, let’s dive into some philosophical questions if you’re up for it.
[01:02:08] Bryan: Yeah. Let’s do it. Sounds fun.
[01:02:10] Brad: All right. So, let’s go back. The story from the tent is a good example. But if you were to go back, your company was founded in 2010, you said, right?
[01:02:18] Bryan: That’s right.
[01:02:19] Brad: So, let’s go back to December 1, 2010, Bryan, looking back and giving some sage wisdom two years starting the company, what advice would you give yourself?
[01:02:29] Bryan: I would have told myself to dream way bigger. A version of Bryan in 2010 had ideas in his head that were so small compared to the reality of what is today and so I have to remind myself periodically when I’m setting goals or when my wife are setting goals or when I’m thinking about what’s next for the organization, I have to put it way further out in what feels comfortable because I realize the goal isn’t a goal if you already had a way to get to it. A goal is something that actually intimidates you a little bit and I just drained too small in the early days because every time I would arrive at it by working my butt off and some I think just really great people caring about what we were doing and being an advocate for us, but we bust butt.
We worked really hard. And so, for us, we arrived at our goals and I just felt like, “Man, we got here too quick,” and I realized I was just being a weed. I was being too small with the goals that we’re establishing. So, now I’ve got some big goals I’m going after. And I’m still like I kind of throw up enough a little bit, but I’m like, golly, am I really going to get this thing? But that’s the right way I think to approach it. So, I think that that’s one is dream bigger than you actually think because if you know the path to do it, then it’s not a goal.
[01:03:41] Brad: Yeah. Well, guess what, if you set a massive like scary goal and you miss it, you still end up pretty well.
[01:03:48] Bryan: Yeah. You’re going to find your 80% there or whatever that is. I mean, it was just substantially more than if you had that weenie goal. That’s definitely one thing for sure that I really learned about myself as I needed to just dream bigger. And I think it’s because I just never had company. I kind of always had the paycheck and of course, I led people and all that but my family I never knew how to manage an asset. I never really understood like okay this is how people grow wealth is they grow assets and I’m going to learn and research and study and done all this stuff and I get it now. But like for me, I just didn’t know it but I’ve learned I just have to constantly push that lid off of who I am and what I’m thinking to grow me not just with business but my relationships, with my wife and kids and my walk with God and my body trying to reduce my BMI in 44 and realize that weight is not what my target is anymore.
It’s actually body fat or body mass index like getting that down and better and just looking holistically who I am as a man versus being a one-dimensional kind of guy. I’m really great in business but I’m super fat. I have a really great relationship with my wife but I don’t have a relationship with God or like you see a lot of successful people that are one-dimensional. I actually want to be four-dimensional. I want to hit all four of those areas really well.
[01:05:03] Brad: That’s awesome. And it’s hard to balance all that stuff.
[01:05:08] Bryan: It is and intimidating too. You got to dream all four of those categories.
[01:05:12] Brad: Let’s go to you mentioned four-hour workweek earlier but is that a book, maybe it’s that one, maybe it’s another one that you’ve read that’s really impacted you, your business, your life?
[01:05:21] Bryan: Yeah. I tell those too. Of course, there’s Predictable Success. It’s an awesome read. It just helps people really understand I think in today’s language what business stages are and I would imagine a lot of the FAs that you interact with would really value this book because I think it does a good job to help you see, okay, this is the stage where you are and this is what you have to do to kind of go to the next stage and are you willing to do it or not?
[01:05:43] Brad: Predictable Success.
[01:05:45] Bryan: Predictable Success, Les McKeown. Awesome guy, by the way. I had a chance to meet him. He’s super, super cool. You know, you meet some people and they’re just dry balls. He’s not that. He’s the opposite of that. He’s just super cool and he’s started a bunch of companies. He’s actually a great authority on the subject. So, the next book is The Founder’s Mentality, Chris Zook. Awesome read because what happens as you start to grow an organization and you’re the founder, you carry a certain mindset that you just assume your employees carry and the reality is, is most of them don’t because they’re not you. And so, this founder’s mentality, you’ve got to like go back and say, “Okay. Well, what’s the essence of what I’m trying to do as the founder and how do I pour that into every employee that works here?” and it’s just a great read. I tell that book to everybody as well.
[01:06:32] Brad: Awesome. All right. Last one. I know we’re right at the finish line. This has been awesome. If there’s just one piece of advice if we could distill this whole conversation down to one piece of advice that you could share with the financial advisor audience out there that’s led to your success or could help lead them to their success, what would that be?
[01:06:49] Bryan: I think it’s probably that leadership is a stewardship. You’re here for a season of time and then you won’t be and you’re accountable for this time that you’re leading and this position that you’re in. I really do think that that’s probably the biggest thing I could be is that you’re here for a season of time whether you like it or not or want to admit it, you won’t be in this role at some point in your future. So, if that’s true and I’m right then the reality is you got to manage that well and you’re accountable for it.
[01:07:17] Brad: Yeah. It’s a different way of looking at it. That 30,000-foot view perspective that a lot of times people never get to but there’s a lot of wisdom in that.
[01:07:25] Bryan: Yeah.
[01:07:26] Brad: Well, Bryan, this has been fun.
[01:07:28] Bryan: I’ve enjoyed this.
[01:07:29] Brad: So, thanks so much for joining us. I know you brought a ton on of wisdom, a ton of great advice to the audience here so I look forward to the next time our paths cross. Maybe it’s at a brewery in Atlanta.
[01:07:39] Bryan: I hope so.
[01:07:42] Brad: Until next time. Thank you.
[01:07:44] Bryan: Thank you very much.
[01:07:50] Brad: Thanks for checking out the latest show. On to this week’s featured reviews. This week’s first review comes to us from Kurt Stahl who says, “Five stars. This is really great stuff for a new advisor, like myself, or for a seasoned one as well. If you’re in a rut or just looking for new ideas, you’ll find them here. As we draw towards the close of 2018, I am on pace to have an increase in my business by 300% and many of the strategies and ideas that I have implemented this year have come straight from Brad Johnson and from The Elite Advisor Blueprint. The content is full of inspirational thoughts on how to improve not only your business but your life. Thanks a ton, Brad. Kurt.” Kurt, what’s up my man? Thanks for the review. It’s always fun when I see them come in from people I actually know and have worked with and I hope you’re listening in to this episode as I want to give you a personal shout out as it’s been incredible to see both your personal and business growth in the few short years you’ve been at Advisors Excel.
And for those of you listening in, I’ve literally seen Kurt transition from a one-man team with little to no marketing and to a firm that’s literally done a double-double, having grown from 4.5 million a few years back to 11 million last year and now is pacing for 22 million in 2019 and it’s just a testament to hard work and being open minded to marketing ideas and strategies that some of our biggest offices are having success with and Kurt you’re really a lesson. And as Jim Rohn calls it, being an average of the five people you surround yourself with, because you constantly put yourself in the middle of those groups in trainings and everywhere else I’ve seen you go to learn. So, congrats, Kurt. Can’t wait to see what your firm looks like in another couple of years. We appreciate the partnership and we appreciate you. Thanks for listening in.
The next review comes to us from user Crupper cakes, I believe I’m getting that right, who says, “Wonderful, insightful and refreshing. Five stars. Thank you for providing meaningful and relative content. I get so many great ideas and have started my own book collection based on the guests you have on the podcast. As someone who is making the transition to having my own book of business, the gems found in this podcast are priceless. Thank you, thank you! Keep up the great work!”
[01:09:58] Brad: Thanks so much for the kind words and review I’m not going to lie. Since starting the podcast, my book collection has increased exponentially as well. This review made me think of a quote that you Game of Thrones fans out there will love from George R. R. Martin, “A reader lives of thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” And if you think about finding a mentor in today’s day and age, oftentimes we overlook the simplest option that is lying right in front of us, books. And in reality, we all have an unlimited supply of mentors right down the street at our local library for free and we have a saying in my house with our children, “Readers are leaders,” and I have to say with every interview I do, it rings more and more true as it’s a common theme with ultra-successful people. They read and they read a lot. So, I’m glad to hear the podcast is inspiring many of you out there to read more books. It has me as well. Thanks again for listening in and for the review.
And the last featured review for the week comes to us from Bob Lamm who says, “Insightful. Five stars. I always appreciate the guests and the conversations. Both from our industry and out we get perspectives that help stretch how we think and even evaluate our procedures, mindsets, and goals. Very helpful.” Bob, two reviews from clients on the same podcast. Unfortunate, man. So, thank you for the review. I really appreciate it. It’s been awesome to see the work you, Rick Parker, the rest of the team have gotten done in just a few short years, and it continues to inspire me how some of the most successful financial advisors in the country approach their business and are constantly striving to get better and better at how they deliver value to their clients. You all are certainly leaders in that regard. Thanks for all you do and the partnership. We appreciate you and the whole team out there in Michigan.
[01:11:46] Brad: Okay. As we wrap the show, thanks again for those of you who have taken the time to write a quick review. I love reading each and every one. In fact, if you’d like to connect on a more personal level, give me a follow on Twitter. I’m @Brad_Johnson out there. Let me know. You listen to the show, how you found it, who I should have on in the future. I’d love to continue the conversation out there. And for those of you that have interest in diving deeper or figuring out how you may be able to have our team help you implement many of the ideas shared on the show, my day job happens to be consulting financial advisors from all over the US on how to grow their business and design a practice that serves them versus them serving it and I can tell you it’s possible to grow your business and work less. It’s a model we replicated over and over in markets all over the country.
So, if you’d like to apply to see if it makes sense for us to have a one-on-one conversation on how to overcome what may be getting in your way, you can do that at BradleyJohnson.com/Apply. It takes about five minutes to fill out the application so we can understand what your business looks like, what challenges you may be facing, and how myself and my team may be able to help. Taking the first step it’s as simple as applying at BradleyJohnson.com/Apply. So, that’s all for this week. Thanks again for listening in. I will catch you on the next show.
[01:13:01] Brad: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Elite Advisor Blueprint. For access to show notes, transcripts, and exclusive content from our show’s guests, visit BradleyJohnson.com. And before you go, I’ve got a quick favor to ask. If you’re liking the podcast, you can help support the show by leaving your rating and review on iTunes. Not only do we read every single comment, but this will help the show rank and get discovered by new listeners. It really does help. Thanks again for joining and be sure to tune in next week for another episode.
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