Ep 005

Leadership, Language, & the Path to Preeminence


Chris Smith

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Inside This Episode

If you want to avoid looking like every other financial advisor on the block, you’ll need more than a catchy tagline!

Today, I’m talking with my good friend and Founder of The Campfire Effect, Chris Smith, who will teach you how to become the preeminent financial advisor in your market through his identity-driven leadership model.

I see so many advisors who are exceptional at what they do but struggle to communicate their unique value proposition to the world.

In this episode, Chris will show you how to fix that, so you can build meaning into your brand and create an identity that scales far beyond yourself.

3 of the biggest insights from Chris Smith 

  • Why the greatest risk as an advisor is to be commoditized. Avoid the “rip off and duplicate” model 99% of financial advisors use and learn how to differentiate yourself. 

  • Chris’s framework to uncover your firm’s true identity, so you can finally scale your business without burning out or losing your freedom. 

  • Pre-game rituals for running the most effective client discovery meetings of all time.


  • 05:06 Why most financial advisors are unintentionally commoditizing themselves without knowing it.
  • 07:58 Your clients are NOT looking for advice; they’re looking for bold leadership. Find out how to give it to them!
  • 17:17 Growing your business doesn’t have to come at the cost of losing your freedom. Learn why the identity that’s tied to your business is holding you back from scaling.
  • 25:14 Client Case Study: How Chris helped the Arcadia Financial team uncover their true identity and build a brand with a much more meaningful purpose.
  • 34:52 How to unlock your clients’ true potential and inspire them to see a bigger vision than they ever thought was possible for their lives.
  • 39:30 The 3 ingredients true leaders use to transform the lives of both their team and clients.
  • 43:14 Pre-game rituals for running the most effective client discovery meetings of all time.
  • 51:11 Why being a leader has nothing to do with where you sit on the org chart. Learn how to inspire everyone on your team to see themselves as leaders.
  • 58:29 Hear how Chris’s identity-driven leadership model was used to mold the foundation for Triad Partners and the unstoppable movement that has ensued.
  • 01:03:12 Why Chris sold everything he owned to move to Hawaii with his family.
  • 01:10:06 Ditching work-life balance for work-life integration!




  • One of the biggest risks as an advisor is if you’re the same. The minute you’re perceived as being the same, you’re a commodity.Chris Smith

  • Before we change the way that prospective clients see us, we have to change our own perception of ourselves, because a prospective client will not be able to see you any differently than how you see yourself.” – Chris Smith

  • Advice only informs, but leadership transforms.Chris Smith

  • You will only be able to scale your firm to the size of the identity that surrounds it.Chris Smith

  • Don’t be so busy building a business you forget to build your family.” – Chris Smith


Brad Johnson: Chris Smith, welcome. Glad to have you, man. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. It’s such an honor to be here. I’m stoked. 


Brad Johnson: Well, I feel like this conversation has been a long time in the making. For those not familiar with Chris, I was introduced to him by our mutual friend, Garrett Gunderson, who said, “Hey, I’ve got this guy that you need to meet. He’s like a master when it comes to just how to message. He knows financial services, and I just think you guys will hit it off and you should definitely come on your podcast.” And so, that was our original introduction, Chris. And then fast forward three or four years later, we’ve worked side by side. You’ve really become a strategic partner to a lot of our clients that we work with. And I’m just so grateful for Garrett and that intro. Seems like just the other day but I guess it’s been years ago now. 


Chris Smith: Yeah, for sure. Now it’s been amazing to see, yeah, the evolution of just the industry, what you’re creating, what you’re up to, and it’s, yeah, super inspiring. 


Brad Johnson: Well, what’s fun about your background for those that didn’t hear our original conversation in my prior life, that conversation became one of my most downloaded episodes ever. It was one of those episodes where in the middle that I’ve liked, I’m like, “Man, this is just absolute gold that I wish every office that I work with could hear a piece of this,” because this is just not, you know, it wasn’t anything too complicated. That’s the beauty of your message is you’re just really good at simplifying things that I think oftentimes financial advisors have just a tough time that it gets really complex when you’re in it. And the cool thing about this chapter is being able to bring you into a community and serve at an even higher level. And I know you say something a lot of times, “Hey, you don’t want to go a mile wide and an inch deep. You want to go an inch wide and a mile deep.” And just seeing you do deeper work and iterations of session one, session two, and how you’ve been able to do that, just I’ve really been able to see you unlock a lot of office’s messages. So, for those that have no clue what we’re talking about, I think that might be a good way to kick off this conversation is you’ve got this concept around being a preeminent advisor and what that means. So, could you kind of unpack that a bit for the audience here? 


Chris Smith: Yeah. You know, that’s what we want to be known for is helping advisors become the preeminent advisor in their community or in their market, and the definition of the word preeminent is kind of interesting. It means that you have surpassed all others and that you’re very distinguished in some way. And it comes from a Latin word “praeeminere.” Prae means before. Eminere means to stand out. So, when you’ve become preeminent, you just stand out before everyone else. And it doesn’t mean that you’ve surpassed everyone because you’re the biggest maybe. You know, oftentimes we have clients who they are the preeminent advisor in their firm or their, or sorry, in their firm, in their community, their market, and not because they’re the biggest but it’s just because they’re the best. And what I mean when I say they’re the best is they just add the most value to their clients and to the families that they serve. And I think one of the biggest risks as an advisor is if you’re the same. Because the minute you’re perceived as being the same, like if there’s nothing preeminent about you, if there’s nothing that is distinguishable about you, then the minute you’re the same, you’re a commodity. And oftentimes advisors are inadvertently commoditizing themselves without knowing it just because they look and sound like everyone else. And I think it is the greatest risk as an advisor is to be commoditized. And so, we just want advisors to stand out. You know, we believe that you deserve to be preeminent. You deserve to win.


And I think a frustration a lot of times is we work with a lot of advisors who they are preeminent in the sense of their approach to the industry and how much they care and how the quality of like advice and leadership they provide. But they’re frustrated because they still feel like they’re the best-kept secret or they’re this hidden talent. So, like, they know they’re preeminent but they haven’t done a good job of letting everyone else know. And it’s like, man, I want to go from this go-to, I want to go from this hidden talent like best-kept secret to the go-to most sought-after advisor in my market or my community. 


Brad Johnson: It’s interesting. We just hit that right off the bat. That, you know, being really fortunate being in this space since the age of 26 so I’m now 42. So, I’m starting to become the old season vet, I guess, but I saw so many times that exact issue, Chris, where it was the level of the planning that was done, the level of the service that was provided to that client was like very high level, very in-depth, deep work done really well. It was the packaging around it where it looked the same as everybody else. And I mean, the easiest way to see this, if you’re a financial advisor out there right now, just go to your website, click services. And from my experience, 95% of all financial services firms look the same. It’s the same ingredients but there’s no packaging. There’s no actually saying this is how we’re unique and different and special and how what you get here is different than what you get down the street. So, maybe I know you’ve worked with a lot of offices kind of deconstructing that, packaging it, and one of your hidden talents is you’re a great question-asker. You should host a podcast because you’re really good at questions. And it is a distillation process that I see you do really well where you like pull it out of offices. So, maybe speak to that a bit if you wouldn’t mind. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. I mean, I think the biggest challenge when it comes to this idea of how do I stand out, right? Like, how do I become preeminent, which is to be very distinguished in some way? The approach that most advisors take to try and just to be different, to try and be preeminent or distinguish themselves, in my experience is a very surface-level tactical like let’s try to come up with a good tagline, let’s come up with like an elevator pitch. Like, it’s just putting lipstick on a different pig. I mean, if I can just be bold and direct, it’s really not about like having the right messaging. It’s actually a step before that, which is like really looking at your identity. It’s like who are we like really, like at a really deep level? And I have this real desire to have advisors and firms change the way they see themselves. So, before we’re going to change the way that prospective clients see us, before we’re going to worry about their perception, we have to change our own perception of ourselves because a prospective client will not be able to see you any differently than you see yourself. And that’s a concept that people are like, “That’s a deep concept.”


So, if you see yourself as another advisor who gives great advice and does good planning, well then every prospective client out there will see you as a good advisor who gives good advice and does good planning. The problem is that’s hundreds of thousands of advisors that fit in that category. So, when I say change the way you see yourself, I really, really strive to help our clients not see themselves as advisors giving advice, but leaders providing leadership. And that’s actually where this all starts. We’re creating this identity around leadership. Because if you’re an advisor who gives advice, that’s okay. You could even be giving great advice. The problem is advice just informs. But if you’re a leader providing leadership, leadership transforms. And so, you ask yourself, “Well, what industry would I actually want to be in? Would I want to be in the advice-giving, informing business or would I want to be in the leadership-providing, transforming business?” And the other thing you have to recognize is the minute you go into the advice-giving business, you’re commoditized. You can get advice anywhere. But what’s really rare, especially in the world we live in today, I think, is leadership and people are desperately searching for leadership now more than ever.


And so, we’ve had so much success and help firms have success by just starting to actually change the way they see themselves as like, “Yeah. We’re not advisors giving advice. That’s part of what we do but we’re really leaders providing leadership.” And so, that’s the first place that I would actually that I would start, that we do start is we have a conversation around identity. And a lot of times advisors are like, “Well, I thought we were to talk about messaging. I thought were going to talk about like taglines and elevator pitches and presentations.” It’s like, “Yeah. We’ll get to that. But all of that is actually driven by your identity if you want it to matter, if you want it to be sustainable, if you want to stand out, if we can have this deeper conversation around identity like who are you? What do you want to be known for? What do you stand for? And how do we create in your organization this culture of leadership?” Because if you can change the way you see yourself, you start to show up that way more and you start to be experienced as a more confident, bold leader. Because, look, I just don’t think that most prospective clients going to sit down with an advisor, I don’t think the reason they’re there is for advice. They could get that anywhere. And they don’t even know it but the reason they’re there is they’re looking for leadership. They’re really looking for someone to guide them and their family.


So, that’s really what this is about for me is we have to help them first change the way they see themselves. And I think that’s a massive opportunity in this industry is to realize like we’re in an industry that can have a profound impact on people’s lives for generations. But I think sometimes we don’t see it that way. 


Brad Johnson: So much there. So, spot on. I completely agree with that. To me, the word that comes up is a belief like leadership takes a belief system that you can inspire other people to follow that. And you just brought one of my favorite people in the world and a client that their firm will bring in north of 200 million this year. So, I mean, when you look at the numbers, incredibly successful. And we were having this exact same conversation, Chris, the other day, and I see what happens a lot of times is there’s this I call it R&D, rip off and duplicate in our industry. And it’s like, oh, you look at one financial advisor’s website, they’ve got X, Y, Z blueprint or fill in the blank for whatever the name is. “Oh, that sounds good. We’ll do that, too.” And it’s kind of like if you were going to compete with McDonald’s, you’re like, “Oh, we’ll sell a Big Mac, too,” and then you think that differentiates yourself. And the biggest thing I’ve seen that you just hit, it’s one thing to kind of rip off some packaging and, “Oh, that worked for that firm, so I’ll use that too,” but then I had this conversation with their team and I said, “What’s the name of your financial planning process again?” And they all looked around the table at each other and they couldn’t even remember the name because there was no belief system, because they knew it was kind of an imposter that they just kind of ripped off from somebody else and hadn’t actually put the thought process into it, how it applied to their firm, how they’re different, that belief system, that leadership. I’m curious, you do this work all the time. How frequently do you see that sort of thing play out when you do? 


Chris Smith: Oh, yeah, every time. I got off a call earlier today with an advisor who the name of their planning process is, you know, ABC XYZ Lighthouse Blueprint Roadmap. You know, it’s just like, and again, there’s nothing wrong with that. Like, it’s better than not having a name, right? The problem, though, is that most advisors when they’re thinking about standing out and differentiating themselves, it’s being driven from a place of what do I think will work and what do I think will be successful? It’s not driven by their identity. When you start creating identity-driven messaging, when you start creating identity-driven marketing, when you start creating identity-driven culture, when you start creating identity-driven leadership, now you’re onto something because no one can rip off your identity. There’s only one of you. But most of us don’t pause long enough to actually go deep enough. And to put this into terms from a planning perspective, it’s like no good advisor who’s really a leader would sit with someone for 10 minutes and then start making recommendations on like products or investments. They would spend time really getting to know who that person is, what’s most important to them and their family, what their long-term goals are, what their dreams are. Basically, they would uncover that person’s identity then they would make recommendations in the planning phase that are in alignment with their identity.


Well, we know how to do that in planning. We do the exact opposite when it comes to marketing. We just start taking products off the shelf and solutions and start throwing stuff. And it’s like, well, if we plan first, right, if we did real like true planning and then let that dictate and determine what we choose, it’s just more likely to be an alignment that’s driven by our identity. Same thing when you go into like you can go to a lot of firms. I’ve been into like really large organizations and ask them what their values are and the core values are written on a wall somewhere in the organization, and not one person can actually tell me without having to go out and look at the wall. It’s like it was a creative brainstorming session, an exercise that they did and they landed on some cool-sounding values, but it’s not who they are. And so, yeah, this is deeper work. It takes more work but the sustainability of it, especially if you’re a founder of a firm, you now create a situation where you can actually have something that grows beyond you. You can actually have something where it can grow while your personal freedom grows because most advisors or most founders are like those are at odds with each other. Right? Like, if my firm continues to grow, my personal freedom diminishes but it’s like, no, you can create something bigger than you. And I think it would be interesting if you want to, Brad, I think it’d be interesting to like talk about what does this idea of leadership actually mean. Like, when we say like, you know, not just being an advisor but being a leader but I think that’s where it has to start. It’s like this has to be identity-driven. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, let’s hit one thought, and then I would love to get into some of the verbiage because I know you’ve got some really cool verbiage and how you start to make that transition from advisor to leader, financial leader in their life. But you just spurred a thought. Michael Hyatt spoke at – he’s a fellow strategic partner as well. And I love, by the way, surrounding myself with all-stars. It works on the football field. It also works in business. So, I’m really thankful that you are aligned with kind of the vision and the journey here. And Michael Hyatt, I remember him saying, “One of the biggest problems I see in finance that’s kind of a widespread problem is most financial services firms are built on a personality.” And, I mean, just look at how most financial services firms are named. And this is nothing against any advisor out there if it’s, you know, Joe Smith Financial. That’s completely cool. But if the whole value proposition is built on Joe Smith, Joe Smith does not scale. And this is the thing we’ve talked about, Chris, where it’s this tug of war of, well, I want to grow my business but now I feel like I’m losing my freedom as I grow my business. It’s this trade-off. And a lot of what you coach on is once you take and unlock this identity, now it becomes a value proposition that’s not dependent on just Joe Smith delivering it. That can be transferred to the team and that is what really starts to unlock the scale. So, maybe just freestyling that thought and give me a download where that really hits home with your work. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. Like, you will only be able to scale your firm to the size of the identity that surrounds it. So, if the identity you’ve created is no bigger than you, then that’s the ceiling at which you can scale to that capacity. So, like your ability to scale a business has everything to do with like the identity that it’s scaling to. So, like, you have to create an identity that’s bigger than you. You have to create an identity that’s bigger than any one person at the firm. Because if there’s this identity that’s created and it was co-created by the team that’s bigger than any one person, then it’s like it can grow beyond any one person. But if the identity is really tied mostly to you, you can have some growth and some scale and you can have some team members that support you but the majority of the weight and the burden of growing it and like coming up with innovative ideas and like scaling it will largely rest on your shoulders. But it is possible to create success beyond yourself but it has to be an identity that’s bigger than you, that’s bigger than your biggest producer. It has to be an identity that the entire team can see themselves like growing into and like really feeling aligned like, “Wow. I’m part of this.”


And again, it’s just not a conversation that’s had a lot in this industry. You know, it’s like, hey, go be really successful as an advisor yourself. Start to build a small team of people who can support you. Grow that up. Maybe then if you’re really lucky, you get one or two other advisors who can start to do some client servicing so you don’t have to do as many reviews. Then if you get really, really lucky, one of them can even maybe step in to start taking some client discovery meetings once in a while. So, you’ve scaled out of that. And then that’s kind of the dream like you’ll still do a lot of client discovery meetings. You’ll still have a handful of client reviews. But it’s like, well, what if more was possible? What if you could have a team of advisors who actually can do all of it? And you… 


Brad Johnson: Which is possible. You and I know it’s possible. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. We’ve seen it happen. It’s rare. 


Brad Johnson: That first model you just described that’s limited to the kind of the founding advisor or maybe a couple partners, sometimes we see that model as well, we call that the advisor-in-charge model because it’s kind of phase one. And what’s interesting that getting to phase two and phase three, which is business owner/CEO level, it’s actually counter-intuitive to everything that got them to success in that first phase. It’s actually the exact opposite as you transition into phase two and phase three. Because now most super successful guys are like, “If you want something done right, you got to do it yourself, and let’s just grind it out.” And all of that, that got them there is like actually completely deconstructs and blows up the scaling piece of kind of the next phase. Share some thoughts around that, Chris. Like, if you were speaking to an advisor out there and you’re like, “Well, I’ve seen somebody in this exact spot,” and then we start to deconstruct that to get them to that next phase. What are the key missing ingredients there? 


Chris Smith: Yeah. I think my experience has been that most advisors have a team, whether that’s administrative support or other advisors. I rarely encounter advisor whose team isn’t like super stoked to be there. So, in my experience, most advisors, they’ve assembled a team who like they love being there. They want to be all in. They want to feel like they’re super connected to the mission and like the identity. The problem is the founder has never actually been able to articulate to them what that is. So, they can’t get behind it any more than they know what it is. But if a founder can go to them and say, “Hey, look, let me tell you about who we really are here, and it’s bigger than me. Right? Let me tell you about the mission that we’re on. Let me tell you about our identity and what we’re going to be known for,” then people can really like, I call it going from having to manage your team to it’s like hardwired into them. And they naturally, like my experience of most people is that they want to do more. Yeah, again, sure you have that team member occasionally who wants to do less but my experience of most good firms that have attracted good people, they want to do more. They want to feel like they’re making a bigger contribution because that like feels really fulfilling and rewarding.


And so, I think a lot of times it’s like giving them the opportunity and having the capacity to like grow into an identity. And what’s interesting about this idea of identity that you can’t grow beyond the identity that you have of your firm but even think about it for yourself as an individual. If the identity that you have of yourself as an individual is like filled with limiting beliefs, you’ll have a hard time scaling beyond that identity personally of what you’re capable of. But if you can start to see yourself as more capable and have more belief and confidence in yourself, you’ll grow into that identity. And so, so much of this is identity-driven. But I’ve seen advisors who they don’t think it’s ever going to be possible that anyone could ever even do a client review other than them. And then they create this identity that’s a little bit bigger than them. They get an advisor who says like, “Yeah. That’s exciting. That’s inspiring to me. Like, I want to be part of that.” And then they actually train them and coach them and then that person’s like, “Hey, I’m ready to step up and take on some client reviews,” and they slowly start there. Then all of a sudden, they look up a year later and that advisor is taking 95% of their client reviews. And then that advisor now has the confidence of like, “I want to do more,” and, “Hey, can I start doing client discovery meetings?” Like, my experience is there’s way more that’s possible for advisors’ teams than most advisors believe or think there is. 


Brad Johnson: Oh, 100%. Yeah. The biggest disconnect I see is its lack of a roadmap that exists out there. And that’s I know one of the things that you and I are both really passionate about is taking the disconnect between from here to here and deconstructing, “Hey, here’s the simple steps,” and it’s actually a lot easier and you can do it a lot quicker than you think. And we’ve seen this. We’ve seen firms like 12 months or less like literally with just deconstructing the brand. I know one of the things we talked about, most financial services firms in our space when you look at revenue, I mean, the upper echelon that you and I are working with, top 1% in the industry, the revenue is there, you know, often like really big revenue. But they haven’t actually taken the time to build a brand like a true business where you have a brand guy that’s the logo, the color scheme, and then taking the verbiage of the DNA of that brand and how do you now message that across seminars, across whatever marketing, radio shows, TV shows. And it’s really interesting because if you were some Fortune 500 company and you were going out to do an ad campaign, no firm in the country, no ad agency in the company would work with you and tell you had a brand guy. That’s step one. That’s foundational.


But in financial services, we skipped that step and were like, “Hey, let’s go drop 10,000 mailers in our backyard and see if some people will show up.” And so, there’s missing segments in like just how you market, how you brand 101. And it’s just slowing down to do the actual deep, intentional work that it takes to actually build a legit, as you call them, preeminent brand in your marketplace. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. I would say it’s just as applicable to the advisor who because, look, there are some advisors who are like, “I don’t want to have a big firm. I don’t want any other advisors like I know that what I want is a really amazing team of a small support team and I want to have a lifestyle practice.” So, whether you’re that or it’s like, “Hey, I want to have at least one or two other advisors helping bear some of the load,” or you’re like, “I want to grow a massive firm with multiple locations,” you still reap the rewards of creating identity that’s bigger than you and having an identity that can be like, like you said, put into the message that has scalability in it and consistency across all the different platforms. So, regardless of what aligns for you from a business model perspective, it’s really important that you create a culture of leadership and an identity that can be bigger than you. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. Let’s go to real world. I mean, it’s fun to talk conceptual but one of the most rewarding moments in our short two years in existence, good friends, Mike and Jess in New Hampshire, and they had a brand. They were bringing in I think north of 40 million of new assets per year and a pretty small marketplace. And then they did a couple of sessions with you and they kind of threw everything away and started from scratch. So, maybe let’s share your perspective because you helped them create one of the coolest taglines I’ve heard in the space. So, maybe deconstruct kind of the before and after there. And I’m happy to share my side but I’d love to hear your version first. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. You know, I love Mike and Jess as just people and as leaders and it was so awesome and such an honor to get to work with them. When they came to, I think, it was pressing for them because they wanted to launch a new website and so it was kind of like, “Hey, whatever we got to do, let’s do it to launch this new website.” And then we ended up kind of blowing up, blowing open a lot more than that. And again, we started with the first question of like, “Well, who are you?” like questions that they just couldn’t readily answer, right? But they had all kinds of messaging and taglines and different themes and stuff but when we started asking some of these deeper questions, like most advisors, it was like, “Wow. I’m going to have to think about that.” Like, they’re confronting questions on purpose because you can’t change what you’re not willing to confront. So, it’s a confronting process intentionally. But we just started asking like, well, what do you actually want to be known for? Like, what’s this work that you do? What’s it all about? Is it just about financial planning and wealth management or is there something deeper and more meaningful?


And at the time, I think they kind of had this train theme. Like, they had a train engine on their website, you know, keep your retirement on track. Their colors were like light gray, dark gray, and orange, which I don’t have any judgment or bias in. I just am like, you know, “Hey, is this who you are?” And when we first started asking these questions around their identity and challenging them with it, what came out was like for Mike and Jess are like, “No, this is way bigger than just retirement planning for us. This is way bigger than just wealth management and financial planning. This is like we really want to see people live their absolute best life in retirement. And like, we’d love it if the goal that people were striving for is if they could live every day like it’s Saturday in retirement.” And the minute they said that to me after some digging, I was like, “I think there’s something to that.”  


Brad Johnson: That’s it. Right. 


Chris Smith: And again, you know, and it is their tagline but the thing I would say is it’s so much more than a tagline. It’s like this is their identity. 


It’s a belief system that you help them. Yeah. Yeah. 


Chris Smith: And if you go on their website now, I think it’s Arcadia.financial, you’ll see that and you’ll see how different their website looks and feels from a train theme with kind of like some pretty bland, plain colors on it. And I think for Mike and Jess, it was like, for them, it felt like, wow, for the first time ever in our career in this industry, we actually have an identity and a message that feels like it’s us. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. And they’re proud of. It’s like one of those I call it the kitchen junk drawer. Many times, what happens in our space is you kind of collect these brochures, these logos, these random taglines, or the name of your planning process, whatever it is. And before you know it, ten years later, your brand is like a kitchen junk drawer. It’s just kind of like thrown in there. I got this one from this firm. I stole this one from my buddy at a conference I ran into him. And, obviously, Mike and Jess were a lot more intentional than that but it was kind of something that was on a website that it wasn’t actually who they were. And the biggest thing I’ve seen you unlock, Chris, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this, yes, you’re amazing at the questions you ask and distilling this out, but you’ve actually unlocked something a lot more powerful in the offices that you’ve served for us. And it is actually a belief system where they’re actually inspired about the work they do again, where they were kind of like, “Eh, you know, I just kind of say this thing in a meeting because, you know, we got to figure some way to kind of frame it what we do.” But when they actually do the deep work that does take time and to your point, asking questions that you actually have to think about.


But if you’re willing to do the work, the beautiful things that can come out of that, that you can actually get excited about, that to me is like the, besides simplifying it so the prospect knows how you can serve them, it’s what you do for the advisors and their teams are like, “Let’s go. Let’s go help some people.” And that’s really cool to see that unlocked with a lot of teams you’re working with. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. Like the word I use for that a lot of time is conviction. You know, like we want people to be convicted by our message but as advisors, we rarely speak with conviction. Like, we say things but we don’t take control of like a client discovery meeting and like a powerful, bold leader. And like, we don’t speak with conviction. And I think when you unlock your identity, I don’t even have to tell you to go now start speaking with conviction. I don’t have to tell you to go start being more bold or be more confident. You just will because it’s so true. It’s like the truth. So, when Mike and Jess talk about like, “Yeah. What we’re known for is helping our clients live every day like it’s Saturday in retirement.” And then you see that identity, that DNA show up in everything they do and you can see it all throughout their website. It’s like this real conviction. And that’s another thing that I feel so called to challenge this industry with is I would love to see more advisors being way more bold. And I always give this funny analogy with financial advisors. I’m like how would you like to work with a humble heart surgeon? You know, you’re about to go under, right? The heart surgeon comes in. He’s like, “Hey, I know this is really scary. We’re going to operate on your heart and I just want to let you know that I think you’re going to be okay.” You know? 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. 


Chris Smith: “Like, I’ve done this before. You know, I’m pretty good at it. And we’ll see what happens but I think you’re going to wake up and be better.” Versus a heart surgeon who comes in who’s like, “Hey, I know this is really scary and I just want you to know I’ve done this hundreds of times. I could do this in my sleep. I’m one of the best in the world at what I do. You’re absolutely in good hands. We will have you back up and running in no time.” And it’s like, well, yeah, you’d want the second one but most advisors show up like the first heart surgeon. And it’s like that’s not what people want. People don’t want a humble financial advisor. They also don’t want, you know, sometimes people will push back when I say that like, “Yeah, but they don’t want an egotistical, narcissistic one either.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, of course. So, just don’t be that. That’s obvious.” But don’t you think they want a bold leader? They want someone who looks at them and says, “Yeah. Like, we’re one of the best in the world in what we do. We know who we are. We know what we stand for. We’re really great at what we do. You’re in good hands here, like you’re going to be taken care of. Like we will help you and your family achieve what’s most important to you.”


But like that’s almost impossible to unlock in someone, Brad. Even if I taught him how to go say it, if we don’t unlock the identity around it first, though, they’ll say it for a while but they won’t believe it so they’ll stop or it’ll wear off. But it’s like once we unlock their identity of like who they really are, I don’t even have to go tell them. I never have to remind them, “Hey, go be bold. Go speak with conviction.” They just do because it’s their truth. And like that alone, talk about someone recognizing a difference, like talk about being preeminent, being distinguished. I could use the exact same words that I’ve always used in a client discovery meeting but now I just start showing up with a different presence and a different energy and a different confidence and a different conviction. You know, that alone, people sitting across from me would like, “Man, there’s something different about him. This is unlike any other advisor I’ve worked with.” You couple that with the language so it’s like I say it’s language and leadership. It’s those two things combined that have people be like, “Wow. I’ve never talked with someone like you. This is a different experience than I’m used to having with an advisor.” 


Brad Johnson: What just came to mind for me, like if you’re out there listening, I’m assuming pretty much everybody on this planet has played some form of a sport sometime growing up. And I look at the best coaches that I was ever associated with. They sure weren’t the easy ones. They sure weren’t the ones that let me loaf through practice. They were the ones that pushed me, that challenged me. And what the visual that just came to mind for me, Chris, is Bill Belichick. Everybody knows the famous saying, “Do your job,” the path, the sign as you walk out on the game field. What just came to mind is you’re giving them that belief system, not just for the leader on the team, but for the entire team that, “This is what we stand for. This is what we’re about. And you as our client, this is what we’re going to hold you accountable to, to where we’re going to make sure we build a plan so you can live every day in retirement like it’s a Saturday and we’re going to stand behind that. And if you start to veer off, we’re going to hold you accountable.” 


Chris Smith: Yeah. 


Brad Johnson: And I think it’s that like two-way street of you’re going to expect this from me, but guess what? We’re also going to challenge you to live this as well if you’re going to be a great client to our firm. 


Chris Smith: I think this would actually be the perfect time to talk about what I said earlier about leadership. So, it’s great to talk about this idea of leadership, right? But then it’s like, what does that mean? Like leadership can be such a loaded term and means so many things to different people. So, we’ve come up with our own definition of leadership. And the first definition that we have of leadership, when we’re challenging advisors, “Show up like a leader,” the first definition of leadership is your ability to enroll people into a bigger vision of what’s possible than they can see for themselves. And if you think about that, what’s so interesting as human beings is as a human being, I can’t see what’s actually possible. I can just see what I think is possible. But there’s always something, there’s always more that’s possible than what I can see for all of us. So, then you start, “Well, how do I get access to that? How do I see what’s actually possible when I can only see this?” It’s always through another person. And every single one of you listening right now could probably think of a coach, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a boss at some point in your life that helped you see more that was possible than you could see for yourself at that time.


It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give another person, to help someone see what could be possible when they think that this is only possible. It’s one of the greatest gifts that you could be given or you could give. And like talk about some of these coaches, that’s what some of these probably great coaches, they inspired in you and instilled in you a bigger belief than you would have ever had on your own like, “Hey, we can actually do this.” And so, one of the things I ask advisors all the time is when you’re in a client discovery meeting with a client, are you doing that? My experience of most advisors is people just, “We do a really good job in this industry of asking the prospective client of what they think is possible,” which is a great question. It’s great to ask someone, “Hey, what are your goals? Tell me what you think is possible.” The problem is, though, that’s just what they think is possible. So, we start there but imagine if we actually started saying, “Hey, let’s assume we accomplished all these goals. I’m curious to know what’s beyond that for you. Like, if anything was possible, what are your dreams?” That’s where you’ll get people who will actually open up and share with you things they wouldn’t have shared with you before because they either don’t think it’s possible or they’re worried about bragging but that’s where the meaning and the inspiration lives. The inspiration isn’t usually in what my goals are because I already think that’s possible. It’s in what I don’t even know, right? But that’s what like are we doing that for our clients? Are we doing that for our own team members? Are we helping them see a bigger vision of what’s possible than they can see for themselves? 


Brad Johnson: Chris, what sort of questions? Because what I’m picturing is the fact finder, you know, the standard fact finder that every advisor goes through in that first meeting. What is a question or two that comes to mind that’s like, okay, they gave me kind of the black and white, “Here’s my assets. Here’s my hobbies,” that sort of stuff? What sort of questions unlock that at this level? 


Chris Smith: Yeah. Well, actually, one of the things I would actually encourage you to do, and I encourage all of our clients through this is take your fact finder and divide it into two columns. And on one column put connection and possibilities and then the other column put tactical and financial. And my guess is you probably have way more tactical and financial questions in your fact-finder. But you’ve got to have questions also that are like around connection and possibility, like they’re just about being a human being, you know? But I don’t ever recommend you jump right to dreams and possibilities because you got to meet people where they’re at. And people, where they’re at is they’re thinking in terms of their goals and what’s possible, right? So, if I asked you some of your goals, Brad, you might say, “I want to retire by 65. I want to make sure I never run out of money. I’d love to go on a nice trip once a year.” Okay. So, now a possibility question would be, “Man, Brad, that’s awesome. And let’s say you accomplished all of that, right? So, we check those three boxes. You’re retired by 65, made sure you’re never going to run out of money, and went on a trip once a year. But what’s beyond that? Like, if anything was possible, if you could just dream and be even outlandish, what is that for you? Or if money was no issue, what would you be doing?”


And my experience is that if you get people talking about that and if you’re the one that helped them start to see it, they naturally then look to you to help them achieve it. But here’s the second definition of leadership and you actually brought this up, just because you help someone see what’s possible doesn’t mean they’re going to go do it. That’s actually sometimes a really sad thing as a leader is you help someone see what’s possible. You know that they see it but yet they don’t go after it. So, the next definition of leadership is your willingness to challenge people more than they’ve ever been challenged but support them more than they’ve ever felt supported. So, it’s like, first, I enroll you into the vision of what’s possible. So, let’s say a client comes in who’s like, “Well, I’ve always wanted to retire by 72,” and you start looking at, you know, preliminarily, you start looking at everything and you’re like, “I think you could retire by 65,” which is actually this is a common thing. Advisors can always see more that’s possible for their clients and usually, the clients see but we don’t make it obvious and point it out. And he’s like, “No, there’s no way I could retire at 65. Like in my mind, I’ve always had…” Right? So, then that challenge, the support might have to come in, which is like, “Well, look, I’m going to challenge you.”


But the reason leaders challenge us, effective leaders, isn’t to be challenging. Like those coaches you mentioned, it wasn’t like they woke up that day and like, “I’m going to challenge Brad just because I want to make his life difficult.” No. It’s like, “I’m going to challenge Brad because I know what he’s capable of. I believe in him. I see his potential, and I want him to realize everything that’s important to him. So, I’m going to challenge him, but I’m not just going to challenge him. I’m also going to support him with any of the tools and any of the resources that he needs to accomplish that.” So, again, ask yourself, man, am I really challenging my clients to see what’s possible? Am I challenging them to really live in to like what’s most important to them? Am I also supporting them? And if you can back it up, a really powerful thing to start saying at the end of every first meeting if it went well and you have a second meeting, imagine the power of at the end of a first meeting, Brad, you look at a husband or wife and they’ve shared with you their goals and their dreams and what’s possible and some of the risks and challenges and it went really well and you set a second meeting.


Imagine the power of looking at that husband or wife and saying, “Hey, I’m really excited about our next meeting and I just want you to know what you can count on from us throughout our process and if we end up working together, and that is that you can count on us to challenge you more than you have ever been challenged by another financial advisor because we want to help you accomplish everything that’s meaningful to you. And you can also count on us to support you more than you’ve ever been supported in achieving everything that’s important to you.” It’s like advisors don’t talk to people that way. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. And then listen for the pin to drop, right? 


Chris Smith: Yeah. But it’s like really asking ourselves, you know, because it’s so easy just to fall into with our team too, and clients. It’s just so easy to fall into just the tactical fact-finding type stuff. Where are you at? What’s important to you? What are your goals? And granted, those are useful conversations but going back to our earlier conversation, if you ever want to have a team who can have success beyond you, who wants to like grow the firm beyond you and feel like they’re part of it, you’re going to have to enroll them into that vision because they won’t be able to see that on their own. You have to help them see a bigger vision of what’s possible then you’ve got to be willing to challenge them and support them to live into that vision. And then the third definition of leadership is you have to be willing to be a demonstration of what you teach. So, it’s not a do as I say, not as I do. It’s like the whole more is caught than taught and you won’t be perfect at it. But you’re really saying like as a leader, I will do my best to like try and live everything that I teach. And I think sometimes the mistake we make in teams is we skip over the team. We think all of this is designed for the clients but it’s like we’ve got to do this for our own team members, too. We have to be living this internally. Yeah. That’s the frame in which we talk about leadership, enrolling them into a bigger vision, challenge and supporting them to live into that vision, and then trying to be the demonstration of it ourselves. 


Brad Johnson: I love that. I just wanted to let you finish your thought there. There are so many different ways I could go. One of the things that came to mind. Have you seen, I’m sure you have, have you seen the Tony Robbins, it was on Netflix streaming, I think it was where they kind of deconstructed one of his live events. It was like a documentary. There’s a piece of that where it shows his pre-go-out-on-stage routine. I don’t know if you know what I’m talking about. He’s got like a little mini trampoline And he’s, you know, motion creates emotion. That’s a Tony saying. And so, he’s jumping on the trampoline and he’s like, you know, it looks like he’s going out to play at a sporting event, had a pre-game ritual. And to your point on kind of this, it’s a habit that even the very best, most intentional financial advisors I’ve ever worked with, I mean, it’s repetition creates like these just you get desensitized to the importance of a meeting. I kind of compare it to the emergency room doctor, where somebody comes in with their arm cut off gushing blood and it’s like, “Oh, another day in the emergency room. No big deal.” Not so much for the person with their arm cut off. And I think what you’re hitting on is something that’s like it deserves a pre-game, a pre-appointment ritual to where you as a financial advisor take a second, whatever that is, take a deep breath.


Think about the importance of the work you’re about to do because every individual you sit down with, you’re talking about decades of work to create this nest egg, whether it’s hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars that they poured their entire working years, like raising kids, you late at the office, get up early, run kids to practice. There’s a whole lifetime behind that little nest egg of money. And if you sit in an appointment and you don’t realize that you’ve completely missed so much of what it is to be a great financial advisor. What you’re saying right there is just like it’s hitting so dead on with me because it’s like, dude, you got to go so deep and like show up as a partner in this deal because that’s what great financial advisors are. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. It’s like it is easy to become desensitized because you ask most advisors, they have hundreds, if not thousands of client discovery meetings and it’s easy to just be like, “Okay. Check. Next client discovery meeting. Next client discovery meeting.” And so, we actually have this kind of pregame ritual that we talk about in our enrollment narrative, which is it’s another word for sales training but it’s way more than sales training, but we call the enrollment narrative and we teach advisors how to actually show up and what to say in the first meeting, the second meeting, the third meeting. And the most important part of the enrollment narrative is step one, which is called the mindset for enrollment. It’s everything you do from a mindset perspective before you even walk into the room. And we’ve had advisors say, “I didn’t apply anything yet from the enrollment narrative other than step one because I didn’t have time. And just that alone, I’m literally walking into the room as a different person with a different presence and a different energy and it conveys. And I’m having the most effective client discovery meetings I’ve ever had.”


And it’s just a three-step and we call it kind of a grounding exercise that before you walk into that conference room, before you jump on Zoom, it’s the very first thing you say is, “I’m a leader here to provide leadership.” Like, you’ve got to snap yourself out of that frame of, “I’m an advisor here to give advice and talk about the markets and talk about plannings.” Like, no. It’s like do not be that person. There will be nothing distinguishable about you. You’ll just walk in sending a clear message right off the get-go that, “Hey, by the way, I’m just the exact same as every experience you’ve ever had.” And it doesn’t mean you still can’t get them as a client but if you just pause and say, “Okay. I’m a leader here to provide leadership.” The second thing we have them say is, “I have arrived.” And that doesn’t mean like I’m this perfected body of work and I have nothing left to improve on. It’s like I’ve arrived and have a long ways to go. But what it’s saying is I have arrived at this place in my life, in my career, and I’ve put in the work and made the sacrifices to where I know that I can make a profound difference for people. And it’s not about me. I just know I can’t. I know that I can make a profound difference for people that’s meaningful.


And then the third one, and most importantly to me is the third thing you say to yourself is I have no place to get in this meeting other than to serve this person. Because what’s so limiting is a lot of times we go into a client discovery meeting, we have a place to get whether we even are conscious of it or not and the place to get is I got to get him as a client, got to get the second meeting. And that’s not bad, especially if you believe in what you do. It’s just limiting because the only thing you’re going to hear them say is what you need to hear them say to get them as a client. The only question is you’re going to be inspired to ask or the questions you need to ask to get them as a client, right? But if it’s like, “Well, I don’t know if they’re going to be a client. How could I know if they’re going to be a client or not? I haven’t even met them, so why would I be limited by that?” But if I go in like, “Hey, I have no place to get other than to serve this person,” I’m free in that meeting. Like I can ask any question, I can go anywhere with them. And by having no place to get, you can go anywhere. That’s what’s so beautiful about it. And when I started really practicing this myself in my own enrollment “sales calls” when I would be like, yeah, I’m a leader here to provide leadership, I know that I’ve arrived and I can make a difference for this person, and I have no place to get other than to serve them, whether we work together or not, I never started getting places with people faster by having no place to get.


But it is this like kind of wake up like some advisors have been doing what they’re doing a long time. Like, they’ve done thousands of client discovery meetings. They’ve become very desensitized to it and they’ve kind of lost, like you said, the power of like what’s actually happening in that room is really, really like powerful, just to get awake to that a little bit. Your presence matters. How you walk into the room and the way you see yourself and your energy matters way more than you realize before you’ve ever even opened your mouth. So, if you walk in with the presence of a leader there to serve, and then you have language that matches it, well, yeah, it’s like almost unfair. You’re like a force of nature. 


Brad Johnson: And I’ve seen a lot of specifically younger advisors. They put this pressure on themselves and it’s the Zig Ziglar saying help enough other people get what they want and you’ll get what you want in life. And the moment you take the pressure off and like, “Hey, I’m just here to serve and let this conversation go where it goes,” what I’ve seen is it’s counterintuitive in our space. It’s the young advisor swinging and missing because they just seem desperate. And not always just young advisors. These can be seasoned advisors too. They’re maybe on a rough patch. But the moment these advisors get to a certain level of success where they don’t actually have to take the client on sitting across the desk away from them, the moment that pressure’s gone, then everybody comes on. And it’s like so counterintuitive because it should work the other way around but everything you just shared there is like how to naturally create that environment before you even walk in the room. So, I love that. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. And sometimes people are a little bit nervous. Like, wouldn’t that like confidence and that leadership intimidate people? And it’s like no. You want to know what really intimidates people is being an advisor who walks in like wanting to get them as a client. That’s intimidating. That feels like a lot of pressure to me as the prospective client. But like, if you walk in free like you’re just free and there to serve me, it sets me free to like actually really be in the room too and I can be really present and honest with you and authentic. So, I think that’s a huge part of this like really embodying this leadership and really reminding yourself before – be an amazing thing to do before everything like client review, “I’m a leader. I know I can make a difference as a person and I’m here to serve.” Team meeting, “I’m a leader. I know I can make a difference for my team and I’m here to serve.” But we walk into so many things with agendas and places to get not knowing it, and it just limits what’s possible. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, let’s transition. We’ve danced around this topic and one of the things I’ve seen this work also unlock is we’ve talked about team, team, team. And our industry is so advisor-focused like you look at the vast majority of conferences all over the country, it’s, hey, advisor, fly out, learn this thing. And then the team, in my opinion, gets left behind a lot of times. And it’s a game of telephone where the advisor has to go back and share two days’ worth of a conference. And you’ve brought up team. I’m going to circle back to another real-life story. So, you’ve done obviously one-on-one work with our clients to unlock the identity. And then we do group calls, which is more how do we distill this across the team, this messaging? And those have been some of the most powerful calls I’ve ever been on because the one that comes to mind and then I want you to kind of share some more stories, there was a girl in an office we work with out in California. She was what I would call kind of a follow-up. Here’s the pending cases. And her normal Friday was here’s like a spreadsheet of names that I call out and give them a status update on, “Hey, you know, this account’s going to fund next Monday.” And there was a conversation in their firm. It was kind of the, you know, we want to encourage you to live every day like a Saturday sort of a theme. And she does her normal phone call on a Friday and then back to that leadership.


Now, keep in mind, this is just a girl that in the standard day is just checking boxes. Just going down a list calling people and she just changed how she ended those calls and said, “Hey, I want to really encourage you to get the most out of your Saturday. What are you doing this Saturday? Any big plans?” All out of the work, right? Then this distilled to the team and what I started to see is how this worked because we think the financial advisor sitting there, you know, in a sales appointment, this is where it really matters but how that same work translates across all different team members. And this completely changed this girl’s perspective on a Friday check-in call and the power behind that. So, what other ways have you seen this work translate and really inspire the team to do kind of a different version of leadership in their roles? 


Chris Smith: Yeah. So, it’s like I love this because… So, I ask every when we do the call with their entire team. So, usually, I do some calls with the advisor, the founder, maybe a couple of key team members, and then we’ll eventually do a call with the entire team. And I kick off the call by saying, “Hey, just so I know, who’s on the leadership team?” And it’s a trick question. They don’t know it. And they’ll be like, “Oh, you know, I’m this head of marketing.” And someone will be like, “I’m the head of service and I’m the head of advisors or whatever.” And I’m like, “Okay. Well, all of you failed because all of you are on the leadership team.” And they’re like, “But I don’t have the title.” And I’m like, “Being on the leadership team and being a leader has nothing to do with where you sit on the org chart. It has nothing to do with your title.” Now, granted, is there on an organizational chart a “leadership team”? Yes. Is that useful? Yes. I think it’s useful to have department heads and leaders. But why have we created in so many organizations this belief that, like, you’re only a leader if you have a certain title or if you sit in a certain spot on the org chart? It’s like this massively missed opportunity. It’s like, what if we help the person upfront who greets people walking in really believe that they’re a leader because they are, like what if we help them really believe that?


Like, what would change for that person who greets people when they come in? Versus I’m an office receptionist or I’m a leader. What would change for the person who does Friday follow-up calls and give status updates if they’re just the person who does status updates or their normal leader? And like that’s where you talk about and think about this, Brad, like, where would you rather work? Would you rather work at an organization that just is good? It’s a good organization. They pay you well and they value your role. Or would you rather work in an organization where you’re encouraged to see yourself as a leader or you’re seen as a leader where you’re inspired? It’s like, look, if I’ve got to go to work, right, which for a lot of people is not an option, I got to go to work, I think most people would rather go to work somewhere where it’s inspiring, where they’re seen as a leader, where they’re encouraged to see themselves as a leader. And I think we forget that part of our role as advisors and founders, we haven’t been taught how to do it. It’s not just to like give people guidance and direction on how to support you as the advisor. One of your biggest jobs is to inspire them. Like, that’s in your job title whether you know it or not. And there’s ways to do it but we’ve just seen so many situations where people and they don’t even ask.


Like this girl like she didn’t ask for permission. She just did it because she was like, “Oh, yeah, I’m a leader.” You know, we articulated, we had this discussion as a team of leadership. She knows the identity of the firm because, see, that’s another thing, though, that unlocked her leadership was, one, we had a big discussion about it and she heard the founder himself say like, “Yeah, everyone’s a leader here.” And you would think that for a lot of people that would not be as big of an idea but for a lot of people, it’s like… We had a woman recently who was like, “I’ve worked at this firm for 23 years and I’ve never thought of that. But you’re right, I’m the first person they see when they walk in. I’m the last person they see leave. If that’s not a leader, I don’t know what it is.” I want to start showing up differently. She’s been at the firm 23 years. Never once occurred to her that she’s a leader. No one’s ever told her she’s a leader. No one’s ever helped her see what leadership is. And so, people start showing up differently but what unlocked that wasn’t just that we told them, it was we also shared with her the identity of like, “Hey, here’s who your firm is.” So, our three-step process is called uncover your identity, unlock your message, unleash your team but it’s in that order. Like, I can go do some things to inspire your team just like you could. I could go do some things to motivate your team, not share any of the identity or the message.


My experience, though, is it’s very short-lived and it has a kind of short shelf life and the inspiration wears off because it wasn’t rooted, again, in identity. But if I spend some time with an organization and we uncover their identity like live every day like it’s Saturday then we take that identity, we unlock really powerful messaging but, again, in that order, right? So, it’s like the identity serves as this key, Brad, that you then go in and you unlock the message, and now you end up with a scalable message that’s actually aligned with who you are that you start to use everywhere. People get really inspired by it, and then you take the identity and the message, it’s almost like you go to the team and you’re like, “Here’s a gift. Yeah, this is who we are. This is our message.” And your team if they’re the right fit, which most times they are but sometimes it also helps expose that maybe someone’s not supposed to be on the bus. 


Brad Johnson: Right. 


Chris Smith: My experience, though, is they’re like, “This is what we’ve been waiting for and we almost didn’t even know it.” But like so that she was so proud. No one told her to have that part in. She was just so proud of the organization she worked for and the identity and the message and the mission. And like now seeing herself as a leader, she just started showing up differently. No one had to tell her to. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, here, I wasn’t planning on talking about this but I’m just going to. One of the things I love being is just transparent with the audience here and the advisors listening in. I’m very much a guy. I know being a dad is a really, you know, our number one job, the way you and I see life and the way we approach our lives and there’s one thing to say something as a parent, there’s another thing to model, like do it with your actions. We worked with you, Chris, as Triad Partners, the whole vision. Everything was coming together. I was like, “I know a guy. He does damn good work. I’m calling Chris.” And so, as we started to explore what that means, if you look right back here, those that can see video, we did something cool because we’re like if you’re going to create a company with the fun experience, let’s do fun things so we do shoe drops at our summer event just like Nike does a shoe drop. And one of the things, as we talked about, what sort of advisors would be a great fit for Triad? Well, obviously, upper echelon. We want to work with the very best when it comes to straight business. Growth-minded because obviously, you can’t coach anybody that’s not willing to be a student, that’s not humble.


And the last one, though, which came out of a conversation with you as we kind of talked, we’re like, “Well, what would be a sort of business that I would love showing up to whether I’m 42 years old or 65 years old?” And what came out of that conversation was we want to do business with people we want to do life with, you know, people that I break bread with at my kitchen dinner table, whether I was doing any business with them or not. And just speaking to the power of actually doing the hard work to get to the core of like who you are, what you’re about, what your company believes. And this do business, do life thing has taken on a life of its own. Like, we’ve got clients now that are using it in their social posts. They’re like, “We’re just DBDLing, you know, we’re doing business, doing life,” and it’s like so fun to see. And I think sometimes when you do this work, you don’t realize what’s going to hit with your prospective clients or our team that’s now like, “Hey, we’re DBDLing,” and it’s really cool when you do that work and it is truly what you’re all about and then see it like take on a life of its own. And I wanted to speak to that because I’ve seen it and it’s like wow. Like, I can’t believe kind of one of our clients said, she said, “You’re not creating an F&O or a brokerage company. You’re creating a movement.” And that’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten in my life.


And so, anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox but I’m telling you, this isn’t just conceptual. This stuff works when you really do the work and ask yourself what you’re all about and how do you want to show up and how you want to make decisions as a company. Because guess what? It leads to not just working with people based on a premium-based relationship or transactional. It’s like actually doing business with people you want to do life with. So, anyway, I’m just sharing a little bit of the Triad story because I’ve seen it play out exactly very similar to how you’re talking about. 


Chris Smith: Well, I love that story, Brad, because I think you guys are a demonstration of it. Like you’re not just teaching advisors, “Oh, hey, you should do this with Chris and it’s important,” like you yourself. And what’s so cool about that is you guys have created an identity that’s bigger than any one person. And the evidence of that is it’s spreading beyond just you. It spread to your team and then now it’s spreading to your clients and it’s spreading to their family and their clients. That’s an identity. You couldn’t do that if it was just all around one person’s identity or it’d be much harder. I saw a post because I followed the Triad Instagram handle and you guys all went and did a family event celebrating one of your team members who got inducted into their high school hall of fame athletically and it was all under the identity of DBDL. So, again, I really hesitate to call those things like a hashtag or a tagline. I mean, they could be used as a hashtag. They can be used as a tagline. But what you really created there, and it’s important to recognize it, is you’ve created an identity that can scale. You’ve created an identity that can grow, that could turn into a movement. So, this idea of identity, I know I keep talking about it, but it really kind of is everything if you want to create the kind of income and impact you’re capable, if you want to become preeminent, if you want to go from that kind of hidden talent, best-kept secret to like a sought-after advisor or firm, you got to create something bigger than you. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, on that note, I want to close with one closing thought, because one of the things that’s really cool is to work with people, to bring people into your circle where obviously there’s the business value side of it and bringing value to clients. And then there’s also the do life side, which is, hey, like this person is the type of people that I want to be around, that I want my family to be around, I want my kids to be around. Jim Sheils calls it the fun uncle, right? They don’t listen to anything dad says, but they listen to Chris. And so, I know that’s really important to you, your wife. You’ve got five kiddos. This is more the adventurous question. So, for the advisors tuning in, this probably won’t apply to financial services but I think it will definitely apply to life. So, COVID’s going down, and obviously, we’re friends on Facebook and we keep in touch. And then I see this post from you that’s like, “We’re moving the whole family to Hawaii,” and obviously you’re from Arizona like kind of country Arizona. And I would just love to, you know, we’ve talked a lot about just like getting the most out of your business, being really intentional about that. But in my opinion, business is just to serve, living the life that you want to live because we all have a short amount of time on this earth. So, maybe deconstruct that decision as a family. You were there, what, over a year, correct? 


Chris Smith: Yeah. 


Brad Johnson: So, let’s talk about Chris moves his family of seven to Hawaii and what are some life experiences or lessons that came out of that for you guys? 


Chris Smith: Yes. For sure. You know, I just posted the other day on Facebook and got a lot of people commenting on it, sharing it, talking about it, and created some cool discussions. But I just did this post that said, “Don’t be so busy building a business you forget to build your family.” And I think it’s one of the greatest risks we have as entrepreneurs and business owners is it comes more natural to most of us to be intentional with our businesses than our own families. And a lot of times our families are getting what’s left of us, not what’s the best of us. So, we give the best of us to our business and our team and our culture, which is great, and our family just kind of gets what’s left. And that was a risk for me in my own family. You know, I could see like as a hard-charging entrepreneur who loves to grow and build. And I never wanted though. I didn’t want to someday at the end of my life be like, man, I’ve built some really successful businesses, but I did okay with my family. And so, one of our family values is Mr. Adventurous. And so, we have these core values as a family and we’d been saying Mr. Adventurous for a long time, not necessarily because we thought we were, but it was one of the more of those we want to like more of an affirmation we want to live into this. And my wife and I were walking down the street one night during COVID, and my business was completely virtual so we could live anywhere.


And all of a sudden, I just felt this calling like we’re supposed to sell everything we own and move to Hawaii. And so, I mentioned to my wife kind of as a joke, half joke, you know, and she’s like, “Yeah, let’s go.” So, literally, it’s a crazy story because we never talked about it to then all of a sudden, a ten-minute conversation. That was like the end of August. We had sold everything we own and we’re living there by December. 


Brad Johnson: Wow. 


Chris Smith: And then it was just the only way I can describe Hawaii, people ask us about it all the time and it’s just like I don’t have a better word than it was just magical. Like, hard for sure, you know, challenges. But like all of us learned to surf. So, now we’re a surfing family. My wife and I just last week went down to Puerto Vallarta with some couples and we rented surfboards and got out there and surfed and caught waves because my son just got back from a two-week trip in Hawaii with some families out there that keep him anytime he wants to come. But it was a cool experience because when we first went out there, we didn’t know anyone so all we had was each other. But I would just say that, like, you want to apply the same level of intentionality to really building your family’s identity. Because we have a similar framework for families. So, my wife and I started this business for families. That’s basically what I do for advisors. We do it for families and we have a podcast for that and different things, but it’s the same framework. We help families uncover their identity. Who are we really like at a deep, meaningful level? We help them unlock their message. Like, what is our family’s story and the narrative we tell ourselves? And part of that is the seven core values. And then, you know, how do we unleash our family team? Like, how do we really be a team, not just a family, you know?


And so, it’s actually the thing I enjoy talking about probably the most. I love business. I love this work with advisors. But just I feel so called that just, you know, you talk about that idea to try to be a demonstration of what’s possible. Nowhere is that more apparent than in, you know, families, right? You can teach your kids all day long through words but it’s what they catch you doing that’s really going to teach ultimately. But it is interesting, it’s the same principles. It’s the same framework. Like, can I really unleash my family team? Can I help them achieve their full potential? Can I enroll them into a bigger vision of what’s possible? How do I challenge and support as a parent, as a spouse? Who are we as a family? So, that’s kind of just our experience with it has been just really fun. I would highly recommend you take an adventure with your family and whatever that looks like. And I’m always like if the longest vacation you’ve ever done as a family is a week, then do two weeks next time. And just do it and you’ll realize like, “Oh, we can do that.” If the longest vacation you’ve ever taken is two weeks, do a month. You know, and we have some families that are like, man, we’ve gotten comfortable going away for a month in the summer. I’m like, “That’s awesome. Go for the whole summer.” And you just start realizing like you can do more than you think you can, right? And you can still run your business and your business can still be successful. But, yeah, we’re big proponents of going on adventures as a family and like a lot of people, I think, use their family as an excuse not to, though. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. 


Chris Smith: It’s like, “All this and this and this,” and it’s like, no, you can do it if you really want to create it. 


Brad Johnson: Or they use their business as an excuse that’s why they can’t. 


Chris Smith: Yeah. Yeah, like in… 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. Go ahead. 


Chris Smith: Well, I was going to say the number of people that actually was interesting that told us, literally, probably into the hundreds, “Oh, we’ve always wanted to do something like that. Oh, I wish we could do something like that,” and I would be like, “Let’s do it.” It’s like it’s so possible. They can’t see it, right, because of their business or because of their kids or because of whatever. So, that was an interesting thing to observe, the number of people that were like, “Oh, I’d love to do something like that or I wish,” and I know their circumstance and I know their business. I’m like, “You totally could.” 


Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, that’s what’s cool about this next chapter for me is I went through some of that same thing where I felt like there was a piece of my family I was sacrificing for the business side of it. And as we laid out kind of what’s a year in the life of a Triad member, a Triad advisor, the launch event, our January event, which we’ll see you there, that’s going to be fun. That’s more business-focused. I think a lot of people, you know, as they kick off January, that’s kind of the jumping-off point for a new year, new goals, all of that. But oftentimes, I mean, I’ve been to a number of these conferences and a spouse comes and the spouse is like, “When’s this business part over?” And your wife was at our last launch event, too. And we’re like, “Wait, what if we had some do life sessions where we brought in Ian Cron around the Enneagram?” And obviously, it really serves business and communication on the team front. But guess what? The Enneagram has made me a better husband and me better understand my wife. So, we kind of have done some joint sessions where it’s the best of both worlds. And one of the most magical things I saw, just to kind of reinforce what you’re saying, it’s not work-life balance anymore. It’s work-life integration. It’s all together. And we did our DBDL founders retreat, and I took a page out of our mutual friend, Jayson Gaignard’s book because I love how he framed it at his MastermindTalks events. He said, “Hey, as an entrepreneur, guess what you love, the freedom to make your own choices.


So, if you want to go to a conference solo because it’s business, cool. If you want to bring your spouse and it’s a couple’s getaway, cool. If you roll with your whole crew and you want to bring all your kids, cool.” And that was the most magical part of the event we did in August was I had my kids surrounded by great humans, both adults, and other great families where they’re off playing and just creating this atmosphere where it’s all cool. You know, if that’s your thing as you roll with your whole crew like Sarah and I do, let’s create an environment where we can embrace that and make that possible. And I just love like throwing the business playbook out the window and saying, “What could this be? What could be possible?” Anyway, man, you’ve inspired me on that front. I’ve learned from you and I know we could keep going but I just want to say thanks, Chris, as always. Just I learn something new and you always push me to new heights and kind of what we’re doing here at Triad and just what I take back home to the family as well. So, looking forward to hanging here in a few short months, and thanks for being a part of the community. We’re better because of it. So, thanks for all that you’ve given to the community as well. 


Chris Smith: Well, no, thank you. And I tell people all the time when you talk about like what’s possible, it’s really I feel so fortunate and blessed to be part of what is being created with Triad and to see what you guys are doing. It’s like no one thought that was possible. Right? And it’s really cool to see just the whole DBDL and how much it’s not just a tagline for you. It really is your identity and that there’s really something special being created here. And I say this all the time but every advisor I’ve had the opportunity to work with from the tribe community, there’s a reason why they’re attracted. They’re just, you know, they’re amazing, amazing human beings and amazing leaders. So, it’s been awesome. 


Brad Johnson: Yeah, it’s awesome to work. It’s really cool to have a work conference that doesn’t feel like a work conference. One of our advisors he’s like, “Man, the caliber of people that you’ve attracted into this community is like…” He actually extended the August event. You know Dan? 


Chris Smith: Yeah. 


Brad Johnson: He extended. We’re in the pool, he’s like, “Man, I don’t want to leave. This is too awesome to leave.” I’m like, “Well, don’t, Dan. Just stay.” So, yeah, that’s fun, man. That’s fun. Well, Chris, thanks as always, man. And look forward to the next time we’re hanging in person. 


Chris Smith: Likewise. 


Brad Johnson: All right. We’ll see you.



These conversations are intended to provide financial advisors with ideas, strategies, concepts and tools that could be incorporated into the advisory practice, advisors are responsible for ensuring implementation of anything discussed is in accordance with any and all regulatory and compliance responsibilities and obligations. Any references to Triad Member experiences reflect their unique experience which may not be representative of all Triad Member experiences; results will vary. TP03232814910


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