Brad Johnson: Welcome everyone to another episode of the Do Business, Do Life podcast. Really excited today to have my friend, a Triad member, Dan DeVerna here on the show with us. Welcome to the show, Dan.
Dan DeVerna: Hey, thanks, Brad. Looking forward to it. Pretty excited about the opportunity.
Brad Johnson: I am too, man. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about you, Dan, what’s crazy? I didn’t know you before kind of the Triad journey a couple of years ago. And really quickly, I know Shawn. Shawn had known you, and he’s like, “Man, you’re going to love Dan.” And you’re the type of guy, meet you and you can go real deep on a conversation real quick. Talk about life. Talk about business. Talk about martial arts. Talk about jiu-jitsu, UFC. I know we got into there for a while, so I’m really looking forward to this conversation.
And one of the things too is as I’ve gotten to know more about your practice, there is a ton of lessons that I’m excited to just share. Besides being one of the top producers in the country, you’re humble and you’re willing to share openly. As you said before we went live here, you’re like, I got no sacred cows. Just throw it at me and I’ll be honest with everyone.
So, with that, let’s just dive in. Let’s talk about your business journey first before we get to the life side. Let’s talk about how did you get into the business. You’ve been in financial services for a long time, but what was the origin story of Dan decided to go down the path of financial services?
Dan DeVerna: So, when I was little, we didn’t have money, and so, I thought I wanted to be a stockbroker. And then fast forward, we go to, I’m like a grown-up. Conceptually, I’m 19 years old. I find out I’m having a baby, I’m getting married, all this stuff is going on. So, I quit school.
Fast forward again, I’m working at Cooper Tire, which is like a factory where I worked eleven at night until seven in the morning. And I hear this commercial for the community college, and I’m standing there. It’s two in the morning. I’m by myself putting these little springs in hoses, and I hear this commercial and I go, “Oh, my God. Dude, you’re going to blink and you’re going to be standing here 20 years from now. This is not what you’re supposed to be doing.”
And so, I left work that morning at seven. I drove right to the college. I sat in the parking lot until they opened. I signed back up, went to school. Eleven at night until seven in the morning, I’d worked, then I’d go to school and do all that stuff. I get done with all of that. I have to do an internship. And I do it with New England Financial. It just become part of MetLife. So, I did that.
Now, I officially have my associate’s degree and I’m talking to the guy that granted me the opportunity to do my internship in the last semester. And he said, “What are you going to do now?” And I said, “Well, I’m going to go get my bachelor’s degree so I can be a financial advisor.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you do that now?” I said, “I can do that now? What do you be? That’s great.” And he said, “Well, I’ll set you up with some interviews.”
And so, I set up, I talked to two brokerage firms and two insurance companies, and none of them called me back. And I’m like, “Oh.” So, I go back to him and I said, “Hey, I appreciate the thoughts, but back to my original trajectory, I’m going to finish my bachelor’s degree.” And Tim says, “Well, I’ll hire you.” And I’m like, “Really? Done. Let’s go.”
So, I go. I quit my job making $67,000 a year. Now, I’m in the financial services. I’m making $2,000 a month, plus I have to pay for my Dell Computer and I have to pay for my parking spot. I have no idea how broke I was going to be. It was just an incredible experience. You wouldn’t change any of it.
Brad Johnson: What year was that, Dan?
Dan DeVerna: That was 1997 and ‘98.
Brad Johnson: ’97, ‘98. So, you get your associate’s. You’re a parent. So, you’re…
Dan DeVerna: I’m a parent now. I’m a parent of two little boys.
Brad Johnson: Oh, wow. So, talk about pressure. So, you leave the 60k, you leave that, which, by the way, is a pretty comfortable salary back then.
Dan DeVerna: $67,000 a year in Toledo, Ohio, checks all the boxes, man.
Brad Johnson: By that, I mean, I remember I graduated college in ‘05. I was making 48k at Payless ShoeSource and that’s Kansas. Obviously, cost of living is not super high, but I was killing it by all standards. So, I mean, that was a lot of money to give up back then. So, you jump into financial services. What was it that pulled you? Because definitely, that’s a safe, secure salary. And the unknown of sales and working on commissions or fees, what was…
Dan DeVerna: I can’t really explain it. If I had to do that again at this age, I don’t think I would have. There’s something about this fearless, instinct thing that I had and it’s still in there. It’s just different. Thirty years later, you’re different. But I just knew. I can’t say it any other way. I remember having conversations with people as I was leaving Cooper and they were literally mocking me. I said, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do this.” And they were just like, “Okay, whatever.”
But that’s part of what drives the train. I remember who those people were, what we were talking about. And I remember that every one of the things I said I would do in my career, I did it when I was 38 years old. I marked those little things that I said and like– so yeah, a gutsy move for sure. No one thought that was a good move. But no one in my family, none of my friends, not one single person thought I was on the right track, except for the guy I was recruiting.
Brad Johnson: Hey, sometimes it only takes one to believe in you. I did not know that part of your story. It multiples a lot of my journey into finance. I left a pretty cushy corporate job at the time. Payless ShoeSource no longer exists today, bankrupt. But Topeka, Kansas, that was definitely a big employer back in the day. And my buddy Shawn Sparks, we were talking and he’s like, “Oh, you should come work at this little tiny, sleepy brokerage company in Topeka, Kansas that no one’s ever heard of, and then just work off commissions for nothing.” But hey, it worked out okay, so.
Dan DeVerna: Well, Lieber Tire doesn’t exist in Bowling Green anymore. And oh, by the way, like another facet of the story is I remember– because you remember these little glimpses, I remember Derek, he’s my oldest son. I was selling my house because I couldn’t afford it. And I remember putting the for sale sign in the front yard and I watched my five-year-old, five, six, whatever he was, punching the for sale sign.
Brad Johnson: Oh, my gosh.
Dan DeVerna: So, it’s like one of those things where I’m welling up right now just thinking about it. But people that commit to this business, I mean, it’s really great how successful you can be. But those moments of like, whatever you want to call that moment. Those things really, like they stick with you. They change you forever.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. The saying hindsight is 20/20. You look at that inflection point in your life, there was like a fork in the road. Here was the safe, secure, certain way. Here was the uncertain way. But I mean, that’s just an inner belief. And whatever it was that took you down that path, I see that in a lot of financial advisors in our space. It’s just that internal drive where you’re going to figure it out. You’re going to– the grind that it took all of us to get there.
And hopefully, at this point, we’re now building businesses that don’t require the hardcore grind, but I think pretty much every advisor in the early days, they’re like, “No, I was grinding, I was the janitor. I was the new business person. I was the cold caller. I was running appointments.” And it just builds that internal, just like a character, whatever you want to call it. And that’s cool. I was not familiar with that story, so thanks for sharing that.
Well, let’s fast forward a bit. So, you’re at New England Financial. And that was, if I remember, primarily, like an insurance-based firm. Is that right?
Dan DeVerna: Yeah. So, we definitely had the blinded– so I was selling variable annuity Roth IRAs for 2,000 bucks.
Brad Johnson: There you go.
Dan DeVerna: And I was selling 100 life insurance policies a year and some disability policies to go along with that. And yeah, I was doing the meeting, the prep. I was doing everything, and then I was doing background stuff for other advisors just to make money to put food on the table. Whatever you got to do, that’s what I would do.
Brad Johnson: So, I think if you go back to your early prospecting, was it cold calling? Was it door knocking? How are you getting in front of people?
Dan DeVerna: So, New England Financial was based in Boston. So, we go down to Boylston Street ahead of big gold dome, Copley Square or whatever. And I remember being in this group of all the top advisors that were in the business for less than two years and they said, “Hey, who in here likes to cold call?” And two of us raised our hands out of 30, and I was one of them.
And the first guy is this cocky kind of douchey guy, and he’s like, “Well, you know, I’m really good at it, blah, blah, blah.” And they said, “Well, what about you?” I said, “I can’t stand it, but if I keep saying how much I like it, maybe someday I will.” And so, it was a matter of between the cold calls and I was an orphan hunter, is what I called it.
So, New England had all these orphan policies, and I would literally just get as many as I could, and I’d call them all, and then I’d call them again. And sometimes, if it was a good opportunity, I would call them three times in the day and I would just say, “Hey, it is my job to sit with you and explain to you all your options. And of course, you have options, like you can pay more, you can pay less, you can reduce the death benefit, you could get more death benefit. There are all kinds of things that you can do.” But yeah, that was how I was doing it.
And all the different advisors, I would do different things for them as well. So, it was just scrapping together whatever I could. I remember one of our favorite things we would on Sunday evenings. So, this is when cell phones, like I didn’t have a cell phone. So, that gives you some– some of these people have no cell phone. What are you talking about?
Brad Johnson: Not even the big bag ones with the cigarette lighter plugged in?
Dan DeVerna: Right. I was so far from being able to afford that. I couldn’t talk now for five minutes a month and afford it.
Brad Johnson: You’re right, not to go too far down this track, but there’s a lot of young financial advisors these days that probably don’t have any clue what we’re talking about. But I remember my dad, so we grew up on a farm in Kansas, right? And I remember, my dad brings home this big old bag phone, cell phone, and this was probably– I was in high school, so late 90s.
And the thing was you would call somebody, and then if you kept the call under one minute, you wouldn’t get charged your minutes, right? So, it’s like literally we’re treating it like a walkie-talkie almost. And it’s crazy, like now, it’s like unlimited minutes, unlimited texting. But back in the day, that is not how it was. It was crazy expensive.
Dan DeVerna: Well, when I needed to get up to get a ride home from football practice, I would call my parents collect and they would deny the collect call, but they would know that I was…
Brad Johnson: It was like a poor man’s pager, basically.
Dan DeVerna: It was exactly that.
Brad Johnson: That’s funny.
Dan DeVerna: For sure. But Sunday nights, people had home phones and I knew they were home on Sunday night. So, I would go to the office. There was a small group of us. I would drink Captain and Diet and I would listen to Kid Rock. So, if you watch Tony Robbins ever and you just see the pep talk that he would give himself before the talk, like that was me. I was drinking Captain Morgan’s and getting excited, if you will, to be able to get, plus I’m drunk enough to talk to him but not too drunk to talk to him.
Brad Johnson: So, it was your courage drink just so I could get on and be loose and basically hammer the phones that evening.
Dan DeVerna: So, I would do it because I really was terrified of doing it. Anyone in their right mind doesn’t want to do that.
Brad Johnson: Yeah, I mean, in our business, cold calling was the way back in the day. And it is scary. But one of the things we say at our house, I’ve got this thing with our kids. What the Johnson kids do, we get uncomfortable. And when you get uncomfortable, that’s where the growth comes from. And my guess is the first week, it was scary as hell. The second week, you’re like, okay, I’m kind of getting this same objection I got all of last week, and a few months in, it’s like, oh, just another day. Is that kind of how it played out for you?
Dan DeVerna: Exactly how it played out with me. And it just became part of the new normal. Like that was what I– and there were a whole group of young advisors probably, I don’t know, 30 to 50 that moved through in that five to seven-year period. And there was two of us that made it, two of us that are still in the business out of…
Brad Johnson: So, you had 30 in that class you were talking about, and then that class, I’m guessing, turned over a few times in those five, six, seven years. And at the end of those five to six, seven, two of how many would you guess in that total span of people that came in on now?
Dan DeVerna: 100 maybe, like in the woods. Maybe one or two more that were different areas that I’m not aware of, but that’s probably pretty close.
Brad Johnson: Well, let’s jump past that. Let’s go to, I believe, 2005, you make the decision you’re going to jump and go be your own boss, your own independent advisor. What led to that? And kind of take us through that.
Dan DeVerna: That’s a great way to tell the story. It’s not exactly the truth.
Brad Johnson: Okay. Maybe you didn’t make the decision, right?
Dan DeVerna: No, no, my managing partner was Tim, who was the mentor, the guy that took the risk on me. And he said he got displaced. So, they made the choice, which is what big companies do, right? So, the Toledo office of New England Financial is going to become part of Cleveland. So, they displaced him. He had done a really good job building it. But it’s just about math, not personal.
And Tim came to myself and to other people and said, “Hey, why don’t we build something where we’ll control it and we’ll never have to worry about this happening again.” So, that’s what we did. We started complete. I think I had 10% or 11%, really small stake and I was way out over my skis, like I was in no financial position to do that. And I talked to my wife and I was like, “Hey, what do you think?” And I had an interview with the bank, and they were going to offer me a ton of money. And she’s like, “How long is the bank going to be happy paying you back?”
And so, we made the decision to go independent, which was a good decision. In hindsight, it was fantastic. I don’t think I could have done it any sooner, which is something that kind of one of the things that I think a theme in my life is things present themselves when they’re supposed to be there. They come about when it’s time, so.
Brad Johnson: What was the hardest thing making that jump from kind of a captive where you’ve got the home office to basically– I mean, a lot of times, the independent world before you have support systems, you’re like on an island. What was the hardest part of that?
Dan DeVerna: Well, all of a sudden, the blinders are off. So, all the things that I was told that was the truth about the company I worked for and their products being the best and these are all the reasons and all the things, I was slowly getting exposed to the fact that that wasn’t necessarily the case. And so, now, you can do use any product you want, any life insurance company, any annuity company. It was just an incredible, incredible expansion of that.
And then we started to build, what I guess you would say, the agency model. So, we started to bring in other advisors who kind of worked under our system. So, it was an independent group, but yet, we still had a lot of shades of those old New England Financial days just with us kind of being in charge instead of New England.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, yeah, and I want to get into that. But it just came to mind when you were talking about that. And this is by the way, I throw zero stones. There’s a lot of great captive organizations out there. And honestly, had it not been for that captive organization, you might not have got your start, right?
Dan DeVerna: Right.
Brad Johnson: But I kept my analogies, like The Matrix, when he takes the pill and wakes up and he’s like, “Oh, this is the real world.” And one of the things I’ve seen just 15 years in this business, working with a lot of advisors all over the country with different backgrounds and different organizations they came up through, it’s kind of like, to your point, the blinders. It’s like whatever religion of finance you grew up in, it’s kind of like that’s the world you know until you’ve got this blue ocean of just like, oh, and then it’s almost a little overwhelming. And now, oh, wait, I’m not even sure where to start because it’s such a much broader world.
But what I do love, like if I look at the Triad community, we’ve got obviously some of the very best independent advisors in the country and you all connect and share strategies for like, oh, hey, did you ever think about this life insurance planning strategy or this tax strategy? And I think the one thing, like if you’re an advisor listening in out there and you’re captive, or maybe you just feel like, wait, I’m not educated on all the options, one of the best hacks in the world that I’ve found is just get connected.
You’re the average of the five people you surround yourself so get connected with other just high caliber, very ethical advisors that do things the right way. And it’s crazy how fast you can learn that way. And I know that’s been you, like that’s who you are.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah.
Brad Johnson: Okay. So, let’s go into– so you’d mentioned, I’m just looking at my notes here. At one point when you formed this new firm, you’ve got multiple partners, multiple founding advisor partners. And then you also at one point had 28 advisors underneath of the firm, some of which you didn’t even know personally. And so, I’m going to kind of label that the old school insurance agency model, kind of a hierarchy, some advisors, whatever you label it. But I think that’s kind of the gist of what you’re doing. As that thing got rolling, just tell me, like, give me the go back, Dan sitting in that chair back in the day. What were you feeling? What were you experiences? And what was going well? What wasn’t going well?
Dan DeVerna: So, you felt very successful, like just saying it, even saying it now, it just sounds like, oh, you’re big deal. You have 28 advisors. And where that happened was in 2018, my one partner, Jennifer Alford, and I had bought out everybody else. And it’s just the two of us. And she ran things. So, she was the day-to-day, and I was the sales teacher and coach and products a little bit, and some of that. And I was coming up– you can’t have 28 advisors without 120 distractions. So, the idea of trying to do your personal production and making that a priority, like I’ve always made that somewhat of a priority, but it’s only a priority with the time that’s left, kind of, if you know what I mean. I’m doing marketing meetings, I’m doing teaching, and I’m once in a while helping on sales calls and just all this stuff that I didn’t really love.
And so, if we fast forward, I’m getting ready to turn 50 and I’m thinking, like, I’m going to be doing this job, silent it, that’s a bad word. It’s not a job. I love what I do. But I’m going to be doing this for another 20 years, I guess. I don’t know why I wouldn’t. And my partner really was building, like we were. She was the primary person building, not me. She was building these advisors. And it was great. I love those people. But I was kind of reflecting and going, all right, so what are we going to do for the next 20 years? We’ve been doing this for 20-ish years. So, what are we going to do for the next 20 years?
And ultimately, I came up with the idea of just like, hey, why don’t you buy me out? You have this vision of something that maybe someday you might want to sell. I can’t imagine selling, like, at least so far away. And who’s going to buy this business in its current structure without me? So, why am I going to have to wear a top? Who am I going to work for? I’m going to wear a tie. What time do I need to be for the meetings and blah, blah, blah?
So, I went to her and said, “Hey, this is what I’m thinking.” And she loved the idea. So, she took on some partners. They are buying me out over the next several years. I kept the building as a down payment, and then I just kind of ported my team. Well, we didn’t have to go anywhere, but kind of said, “Hey.” It was like we were picking a kickball team under the cover of darkness, and we’re like, hey, these are my people and this is what I’m going to do. And so, it really worked out really well and really, really fast, too, which was shocking. But that was at the end of 2021. So, we parted ways.
I mean, in my evaluation and assessment, besides just trying to find my joy, it was also risk reward. There are a couple of guys. Not that they’re not great guys, but we had a couple of guys in Memphis, Tennessee that I met one of them one time and one of them twice. And I’m responsible for everything they do. And it just didn’t make sense. It was a very minuscule part of my revenue and a pretty decent part of my stress was to think about what everybody else is doing instead of focusing on what I’m doing and what we’re doing for my clients, my team.
Brad Johnson: Yeah, that is a good observation. It was a minimal amount of my revenue and a high level of my stress. That’s a bad ratio and this horrible ratio. Yeah, so if you’re listening in, you have that going on, that’s probably, hey, we should look at other options. The other thing you said that I think is really interesting, we were obviously at our launch event down in Austin in January. And as I look back, so much of that was on vision and where we headed. And of course, when it becomes more than just you and you have a team, now, it’s like vision is so important because it’s like, hey, this is where we’re going.
And it sounded like at the partner level, you all had two different visions. She went on this way, Dan was going this way. And I’ll tell you, I’ve had a lot of conversations with partners. There’s a lot of father/son partners, father/daughter, not as many mom/son because there’s just not as many ladies in the business. But there’s a lot of that next generation of advisors going on right now, and then there’s a lot of husband/wives. There’s a lot of just partnership.
And I’ll tell you, one of the missing ingredients I see so often is not having the unified vision. And if you don’t have the unified vision, now, your team’s getting whiplashed and it just depends on who they’re talking to. So, kudos to you, man, to make the tough decision because once again, the easy, comfortable decision is just keep doing what you’re doing, right? Change is tough, but you’re like, hey, I think we need to go this direction.
So, with that being said, one question I want to go back to that I forgot to ask. So, obviously, you do the insurance planning, you also do securities. Now, you’re set up with the broker-dealer, but you also manage assets. When did this come into the picture on your journey?
Dan DeVerna: So, I would say a retail advisor is kind of what I call it, like my buy American funds and pay an upfront load and that, that was my model and what we did for 20 years, and then moving towards the AUM side and we have an agreement with our broker-dealer to be able to do that. And that’s something that we’ve focused on over the last few years. Another pain point with the dividing because that’s a different system. And so, you need to have certain credentials and etc. And so, that was something else that I wanted to lean into was certain systems for those things and models and how we were going to manage all of those things.
And having really, like I’m very process-driven. We had 28 advisors doing things 22 different ways. And now, we have 10 advisors who are doing things, one of Dan’s two ways. It’s not rocket science. And we’re unique and that we work, like we have some wealthy clients and I think that’s great. But I didn’t grow up wealthy. My parents didn’t have much money. And the people in Toledo, Ohio, there’s a large group of people that need help, that don’t have a lot. But if it’s done correctly, they can live well through retirement. And if it’s not done correctly, then they’re screwed.
And so, I feel like a big part of my role is to be there for people, like the people I grew up with. I’m literally growing up, only remember one or two people who actually had what you would say who were well-off, like a couple of people in my whole– and I’m not talking family, I’m talking like anyone I’d ever encountered, like a couple. So, we don’t focus. We focus on the people that I grew up with, and oftentimes in our business and I don’t argue it because they’re extremely successful and I think there’s a great, awesome place for it, but we don’t have minimums. And that’s something I really don’t ever plan to change. I’m going to have a structure and a set of advisors who can handle whoever because that’s my family. And if I start putting the minimums in, Thanksgiving’s going to be tough. It’s going to be very uncomfortable. I have to fire my family members.
Brad Johnson: Yeah, don’t do that. That makes things awkward. Well, you bring up a point that I think oftentimes in our business, you focus at it through the business and the revenue lands or the ROI lands, and sometimes you can lose track of what you actually do, which is help humans live a better life financially. And that’s one of the things that I love so much about this business is, as an independent advisor, you build the business model that you want that serves the people that you want to serve. And I just love the freedom that this business creates and allows you to do it on your terms. And kudos to you, man, build the business you want to build.
Dan DeVerna: Well, we actually title it, I mean, we think about it like this, we love taking care of whales, but we live in Northwest Ohio and I fish a bit, not a ton, but we can take perch and walleye and we clean them faster than anybody. I think we took on 130 new households last year and it is just like with three advisors, including me being one of them, like really advisors, that’s the process, we just have a system for it.
By the way, if you’ve never watched people clean perch before, it’s very fun. When you come up to Northwest Ohio, you just watch the way. I could watch it for 20, 30 minutes and this is what they do. It’s fun to watch.
Brad Johnson: Well, you hit a business lesson. Let’s talk about it. So, we went through kind of the previous model, 28 advisors all doing 28 different things as sheer coincidence would have it this morning. I just finished the book Grinding It Out, the story of Ray Kroc and McDonald’s. And one of the closing lines in that book, Ray Kroc is Genius at McDonald’s, was he took entrepreneurs because he went through the story of all of the early McDonald’s franchise owners. They were like Dennis. They were lawyers. They were like all kinds of random walks of people that said, I want to build a franchise that can set me up. And I mean, he was obviously doing this in the 50s and 60s before fast food was all over the place revolutionized, like the food delivery system.
But he said he took entrepreneurial spirit and he gave them a franchising system that they literally could not mess up. And it delivered the product in a systematized way to where legitimately, like to you’re, like boom, boom, boom. We’ve got to process not 28 different ways. There are two ways to get there.
And so, let’s go ahead and transition to your new model, which I would title more of the way I look at it like a legal firm. You’ve got the founding partners and then you’ve got, hey, the new talent that comes out of law school. And there’s a legal process. It’s not like just wing it as a lawyer. And I feel like the most successful firms, financial services firms I’ve seen that have scaled to any sort of level beyond just the founding advisor follows more of that model. And so, let’s talk about the before and after there, if you’re cool with that. What’s the difference? What did you change?
Dan DeVerna: Everything.
Brad Johnson: Threw all the old stuff away and just started from scratch.
Dan DeVerna: We’re still doing it. We’re like, hey, so kind of my lead advisor, my top guy, his name is CJ. And he has his pilot’s license, or he at least– I don’t know. I don’t think he’s actively flying anymore. But if you give CJ a checklist, he goes through the checklist. If you don’t give CJ a checklist, it could be a problem. He’s not an original. That’s not his magic, right? But if you give him the checklist and I was like, well, gosh, that kind of worked.
Okay, so this works for CJ, works for Dan, we’re improving it, working on it. It works with Abby. Now, we have a new– well, six months or so, Andy, and he’s been in the business for 20 years, but Andy can walk through the checklist. And now, we have another guy. He’s a service advisor for now. And sometimes, CJ steps away, and Liam’s in there, and he knows the checklist, and it’s like, why didn’t I think of this?
And we’re implementing that in every facet. Hey, these are the expectations. They’re awesome people. I work with amazing, really smart people. And it’s just before I left too much for granted and I gave too much discretion. My business coach for 10 years is on me about that. You can’t expect anybody to be in your brain and understand what you’re thinking. So, you really have to lay out this process. And so, that’s something that I’ve struggled with as a leader. It’s very different being truly the sole leader because my partners in the past were very much doing those things and I had a role. Well, now, the role has changed and that’s something I’m still adjusting to, to be honest with you.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. You just nailed in a very simple way, one of the biggest struggles we run into over and over. And you had checklist processes, whatever you want to call them. But we have– and I know you’re familiar with it, we have a framework we coach on a lot, the four stages of scale, and stage one is that advisor in charge. So, go back to young Dan, having the Captain and Diet on his way to making cold calls. The only person that mattered for Dan’s success was Dan. He was the advisor in charge.
And oftentimes, when young Dan had success, oh, I need an assistant to do paperwork. I need an assistant to do this. So, you kind of surround yourself with just kind of helpers and nothing against that model because you’re creating income and creating jobs for people. But what you just nailed is in order for Dan the advisor to grow and empower a team of other advisors, you’ve got to get 20, 30 years of business knowledge out of your brain into other advisors’ heads and that is treating your business like a business owner, not like a financial advisor. They kind of can get away with winging it now because you got 20 or 30 years of experience, right?
And so, that checklist process, I love it. One of the things we say around here is show your work. People can’t read your mind, show your work. So, how did that checklist come to be? Did it start out as three things, and then it just grew over time? Or how did you develop that?
Dan DeVerna: It definitely grew over time, I guess, started off with a couple of things. And CJ is my kind of top advisor. He is a checklist guy and doesn’t leave anything. He would be in my office all the time asking tons of questions. And finally, we’re like, oh, this is what this should look like. Then I’m like, CJ, I really need to get out of these meetings sooner. What’s the best way for me to do that? Because it’s my responsibility to get more people in the building and this is the best way to do it. So, how can we do that? And he’s been honest with me and can tell me like, “Hey, dude, you’re in there too long.”
Or if you just do it for this part and then get out of the way, like you come in for the book part and then get out of my way, that’d be better because you’re kind of ransacking the meeting sometimes when you’re screwing things up. I have something going, and then you come in, like I’m shot out of a cannon. It’s like, whether I’ve known the people or don’t, I feel like that’s my job. I’m a high-energy person. And then, the next advisor couldn’t be more different than CJ, but almost exactly like she’s a female, but she’s 25 years younger than me. But she’s got all the pizzazz.
So, we focus on the checklist as you go back to the checklist. It’s the same checklist for both of them. The hard parts for CJ are easy for Abby. The hard parts for Abby are easy for CJ. And it’s hard to get Dan kind of, or Abby to go by the checklist. It’s harder. CJ looks at the checklist and loves it. Abby can wing it and get away with it, but being consistent and predictable is what we’re trying to do. We want the same experience for everybody.
Brad Johnson: You nailed it, what’s cool about the checklist. So, that’s just Process 101 any entrepreneur knows, like if you do something over and over, it should be a process. And there’s a reason an 18-year-old kid can run a McDonald’s. The systems and processes are so tight. Like now you don’t even have to have a person to order a burger there. You just go to the screen, tap it, and then here’s the number two or whatever shows up. So, as we go through this, I’ve prevailed to say this. So, 2005, jump to independent multiple partners. You brought in about $2 million of assets.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah. And I was a big deal, dude. I was king of the world.
Brad Johnson: Well, and so, now, fast forward. So, that’s 2005, that’s not that long ago, man, in terms of business. That’s 15, coming up on 20 years, but massive transition, end of 2021, you go down more of a tighter process-driven, like here is Dan’s system, here’s the way we do things here, empowering a team, training a team, by the way. I want to give you a compliment because oftentimes, I’ve seen a new advisor, they don’t have to kick the old advisor out of the meeting. They’re like, where the heck is the old advisor? They just run on deep end and expected to swim. So, the most successful firm we’ve seen is they’ve got a founding advisor or a trainer that actually cares about them and pours into them until the time where they can stand on their own. So, I think that’s huge that your advisors are like, okay, Dan, we’re good, see you, because there’s a lot of advisors that don’t.
Dan DeVerna: You should know I’ve done that too.
Brad Johnson: Okay, that’s good.
Dan DeVerna: I don’t want any of my people to watch this and go, he only told half the story because with Abby, she’s just so frickin’ good. She’s got it. And she did.
Brad Johnson: And she had a checklist, at least, man. I mean, trust me, I’ve seen a lot over 15 years.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah, for sure.
Brad Johnson: So, okay, 2021, big change. So, basically, 2022 was your first kind of full year.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah. And I would say it was 10-month year. Realistically, the transition from getting everyone out of the building and the licensing, we had a hierarchy with all of our stuff, even with you guys, like there was a change and all that stuff, and then moving out of the building and us, it all went. We probably didn’t really get back, really back to work until mid-February or March 1st, truly feeling like we were back to our version of normal and it was never back to the old version of normal. It was different, but yeah, it took a little bit of time.
Brad Johnson: Well, here’s what’s awesome about that. When I look at the numbers and brought in approximately $36 million of new assets last year, organically, you’re not out buying firms or anything like that. $36 million in a 10-month year in a massive transition where you just literally shuffled the whole deck and kind of started over from scratch in many aspects, that’s stellar. So, congrats on an incredible year last year.
I want to make sure because I see the clock ticking by. You do a lot of incredible things. We just have processes and kind of the systematizing of the sales process of all of the Triad members and we work with some incredible offices. One of the things that I’ve seen you do really, really uniquely and well is how you’ve incorporated books, writing books into your whole practice. I wouldn’t say it’s like a marketing funnel. It’s like woven into the fabric of your company. So, I’d like to pivot and talk about where in this journey did that come about and give me the Dan DeVerna version, like life before the book. After the books, what did that look like?
Dan DeVerna: Yeah. So, my business coach liked the idea of me writing a book. I saw John Ruhlin, who had this metal business card, and I thought that was great. So, I hired a marketing company find me cool business cards. They were going to cost five bucks a pop by business coaches back to be going to write a book, $5 business cards, and it gives you credibility. It’s better than any fancy business card. So, I tried to write a book of my own, realized I can barely spell, tried to do it with dictation. I can’t put things together.
Finally, I hired this Ivy League guy. And this is awesome. This dude is great. He went to Columbia, great author. He spent some time with me over the phone. We get two chapters done. I give it to three people. I give it to my business coach for one. He comes back. He’s like, “God, you spent some money on this.” I’m like, “Yeah, pretty good. Good deal.” And he’s like, “Yeah. Would you get an Ivy League guy?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “That must have cost you.” “Yep, sure did. But it’s good.” He’s like, “Hey, you want to know the problem?” And I’m going to take out some of the swear words. But I said, “No, what’s the problem?” He’s like, “It’s well-written.” He goes, “But you’re a hillbilly.” And you can’t have a hillbilly’s book be written by an Ivy League guy. You need to find somebody that can capture your hillbilly’s voice. And I’ll take it, like I grew up, I’m a farm country-type stuff. And he was right. And that’s the feedback I got from all three.
So, I found a guy who is local here and I would pace behind him while he was smoking cigarettes and drinking Jack and Coke. He’s just typing away. And so, we get done with this book and it has my voice, it’s definitely me. And then we start to get into– so that was a guide to union workers’ retirement. And then…
Brad Johnson: What year was that, Dan? When did you write that?
Dan DeVerna: I would say, let’s probably take that six years ago.
Brad Johnson: Okay. Not that long ago. Well, okay.
Dan DeVerna: No, no, not really. And then we got the idea that, like, I was spending a lot of time in Vegas. And so, we took the same book and we took the construction part off and we put the Las Vegas because they have very large unions out there. We put Las Vegas, like flashy Las Vegas stuff for the hospitality workers. So, that was just the same book with a different cover.
And then we took the next phase, which was, hey, we’re working with a lot of medical professionals. How much could we get away with this book not rewriting and just taking it? And so, I built that out. And so, we have the same– like I’ve written, I think, six books and there’s at least 70% of this book is the exact same. He changes medical professionals for union workers, and the covers are obviously different and these subtle nuances. But everyone on my team knows there are two books that if you turn to page 37, it’s the same. And my people know. Don’t give out those two. Like, if you have a union worker and a medical professional, give out one of them. We’re not giving both because they’re going to see just too much of the same book, right? So, that’s it. That was kind of how that started to happen.
Brad Johnson: Well, a couple of lessons I take from that. The first one, you don’t have to write a book. And I think that’s one of the biggest hurdles or mindset blocks that a lot of financial advisors have. It’s like, ah, I’m trying to write it and I just can’t write it. And there was the bestselling book in the world ever. It’s called The Bible. Jesus didn’t write a word. He just said some stories that other people wrote down. So, I know there are a lot of companies these days that will actually scribe it, like what you’re talking about, where you can kind of put it in your own words. Now, with that being said, I’m not recommending to have somebody else write a book and then slap your name on it. And what you did was you took what was in Dan’s brain and then put it on paper, but then also, took that second step where you made it your voice as well, which is, I think, really, really important.
Dan DeVerna: Super important because if someone hears me speak, it’s the same words. It sounds like me. It’s not this book written by somebody else. It’s definitely got my fingerprints all over it. And then we learned how to use the book. So, for, I would say, the next three or four years, we didn’t really know all the way how to use the book. We gave them out and I would say, “Hey, how many do you want?” And I’d give them three or four books. And then it just seemed like nothing happened.
And then it still feels cheesy to me to sign my books. I got to be honest. It still feels cheesy, but we’ve made it fun. So, I’ll walk in. We’ve got the client. We’ll do this in the very first meeting. We’ll do it in any meeting, but the first meeting is when it seems like it’s most effective for us. So, Sally will be sitting there and I will come in and I will say, “Hey, Dan, nice to meet you. Did you get one of my books about, especially if they’re in one of these niche markets?” And I will sit there and I will go, “So, do you have any friends that should get one of these?” And usually, they’ll be like, kind of ho-humming. And then I’ll say, “Well, what?” And I’ll start, if they didn’t get one, I’ll write one to them. But usually, they have had one or seen one or whatever.
And then the second move is I will sit there with the pen or the marker right up against, like I’m getting ready to write and I’ll say, “So, who should I be writing this up to?” This is extremely crucial. If I give Brad two books, if Brad’s going to give one to Shawn and one to Jordan, I have to write their names in. I don’t know why that’s so important, but the delivery has gone up exponentially, like a hundred-fold when we did that. So, when I give you a book with Jordan’s name in it, you give it to Jordan.
Brad Johnson: For sure.
Dan DeVerna: When I give you a book with nothing in it or no specific name, I think they end up in the garbage can at the gas station. I don’t know. But they get delivered and I make light of it. So, as I’m waiting for you to say, Jordan, I’m asking you for a referral, like, you get. And then if I can reach them and I usually find a way to reach them, I tap them on the shoulder and I go, “Hey, I’m not selling your books. My mom’s the only one that paid full price for this thing, and maybe the only one that read it. Ha, ha, ha. Now, we’re all good. Did you say Jordan? Is that who we’re writing it out to?” And I have found when we’re tracking it, if I give out two books, I get one new person from those two books.
Brad Johnson: So, hold on, stop there. Okay, so Brad comes in, let’s just use that exact example. My two friends, Shawn and Jordan, you give me two books, you write each of their names, to Shawn, to Jordan. I now…
Dan DeVerna: Retire well, DJ DeVerna.
Brad Johnson: So, I walk out with two books, maybe three if one’s my own. And you have found, if I walk out with two books for friends, one of those becomes a client. That’s your ratio. Wow.
Dan DeVerna: So, the question is, how do you give out more books?
Brad Johnson: So, what’s your follow-up from there? Like if I’m an advisor listening right now, what’s the follow-up? How do they get your office from that?
Dan DeVerna: The follow-up would be, and it’s me. So, we’re starting to work on this because there’s too much Dan in the system. But I think of this as fun. This is like a sport.
Brad Johnson: This is back to your cold calling days, man.
Dan DeVerna: This is back– this is who I am. This is the grittiness of this. And so, they’re probably the only group person or the only group in Triad that I know of that doesn’t do workshops, seminar, like we don’t do any of that stuff. And I’m going to do that stuff because you guys are right and I’m wrong for not doing it, but I want to protect this. I want to go a little further. I think we can, I know we can get a little better with a couple of things and we’re so darn busy. It’s like, all right, how much do we have to expand to be able to do all the things that you got to do? And when someone has that book, you’ve established credibility. The first meeting, it’s already done. It’s a slam dunk when you meet with people for the first time.
And so, that process, we’re still working on it. But my process would be, I would reach back out to Brad and say, “Hey, if you don’t mind, I wouldn’t mind following up with Jordan on the book.” And, “Oh, I didn’t hear from Jordan yet. Just making sure, blah, blah, blah.” I have a bunch of different ways that I’m doing it. And then people when you’re sitting in front of them, they have a hard time saying, “Hey, here’s Jordan’s number.”
What I have found, though, is if I give it a little space and I back off and I say, “Hey, Brad, I know Jordan wants to talk to me, but sometimes, it’s intimidating. They don’t know me yet. So, if I haven’t heard from Jordan the next time we talk, is it cool if you give me your number?” All Brad’s really worried about is that I’m not asking for Jordan’s number right now. So, if I want to communicate to Brad two weeks later on a Tuesday at 10 a.m., asking for Jordan’s number, Brad sends me Jordan’s number almost every time.
Brad Johnson: Okay. So, deconstructing that, I want to make sure, I’m in your office. Shawn has a book. Jordan has a book. “Hey, if I haven’t heard from Jordan or Shawn, it’s cool if I get your number later, right?” Like, that would be kind of a quick version of that conversation. Now, I walk out. Now, it’s two weeks later. Now, you’re going to– step two is, “Hey, were you able to give Jordan the book? By the way, I’d love to reach out, see what he thought of the book, grab his number. Is that cool?” And is that like a text where they’re just shooting over his contact info or like…
Dan DeVerna: Or if I’m talking to Brad or Brad’s in the office or whatever it is, I used to do this, like I called it the Magic Show. I had this piece of paper that was a strange– not strange color but unique color. And I called it the magic list or something or the joke magic clown list or something. And people were like, “What are you doing with that?” “Oh, this is the list of all the people that are never going to call me,” like I’m writing Jordan’s name on it. And they’re like, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “Oh, well, I mean, I’m a scary guy and people don’t want to call me,” like at school. And they’re just puzzled and kind of laughing.
And I mean, I think that’s one of the things why I think I’ll be doing this so long. It’s sporty, it’s fun. It’s like chess, but just trying to figure out the best way because we know, I think and this came from some Grant Cardone stuff and those things, but I think it’s my job to be the best salesman I can be because people are better served when they leave the room. So, I don’t have any guilt. I don’t feel bad about this stuff.
I’m the guy that’s standing in the lifeboats. Titanic’s going down. They’re scared of the water, and they’re scared of heights. And I’m trying to get them in that lifeboat knowing they’re going to be good if I can get them in there. So, whatever I got to do, I’m cool with doing it. I don’t do anything unethical, not even close. So, all my responsibility is just to keep them safe and put them in a better place.
Brad Johnson: At the end of the day, it’s conviction. It’s I know you’re better served because we know, I mean, personal finance is the biggest thing that gets in people’s way, in my opinion, is procrastination. Ah, yeah, I’m going to get to it someday. I need to do that. And unfortunately, I’m guessing at your stage in this business, you’ve got some very sad stories of people that procrastinated and then a life-changing situation happened that could not be corrected financially. I’m assuming that’s a fair assessment.
So, to your point, I love the analogy of the lifeboat. It’s like, hey, what do I need to say to nudge you down the path you need to do anyway? I mean, that’s the whole point. I’m trying to help you. I’m trying to serve you. I’m trying to build a legacy for your kids or grandkids that you haven’t even met yet. But you’ve got to take the first step, right?
Dan DeVerna: Right.
Brad Johnson: I love that. I love that mindset. And by the way, I think more advisors should have that. Our mutual friend, Chris Smith, one of the things that I love that he coaches on, he’s like, advisors are a dime a dozen. You need financial leaders.
Dan DeVerna: Right.
Brad Johnson: And that’s what that sounds like to me, Dan. I love that.
Dan DeVerna: I think that’s the new role of Dan is once in a while, besides the book and the fun and that stuff, is to enter the room when somebody needs that, a little bit of extra, like a little extra nudge, look like, come on, be okay. And I really like that rule. I like that. It’s fun.
Brad Johnson: Cool. So, on the book front, I’m going to consider. We’re going to get into martial arts here in a second. So, here’s my transition. I consider you the Black Belt of books and Triad. So, anything else on the book front? If I’m an advisor out there with the book or I want to write a book, or like, what has it done for your business? I guess we haven’t got to that. Before the book, after the book, what’s it done for your business?
Dan DeVerna: I mean, it makes it better. I think people are coming in if they read any of the book, they hear the voice. It matches. That $5 business card idea is meaningful, but the credibility that goes along with it, nobody writes a book about something they don’t know about. You won’t see me writing a cooking book, like that’s just not happening. So, they know, that just raises you from here to here. And I think that’s a really big deal.
And the next time we talk, I promise you, I will have to develop this more by the next time that I see you post, like we are actively. It’s like priority one for me. Before we start the workshops and the seminars, we will get this to another level. I don’t know what that looks like yet. We’ve got a few ideas, but it is a priority to me.
Brad Johnson: Well, I’ve already made a note right at the top of my notes here. We’re going to dive in on that. We’ve got some really cool ways to incorporate books into live events. So, let’s have that additional conversation offline. One other quick idea, because you’re writing very niche books, The Union Workers Guide, and I know you’ve kind of– I call it the Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning, and then The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs and Real Estate Agents. So, you kind of repurpose the content. But what I love is like, guess what? Financial planning does not change that much. You said 70% the same. That makes sense. It’s probably 30% different based on the niche or whatever.
I did a podcast with Tucker Max and this was cool. I’m going to share it, maybe you’re already doing this. It was a book written for high net worth divorced women, so very niched. And what this advisor did was he went to where are the places these individuals would go. If it was a funnel, where would they stop along the way? And so, what he ended up doing was giving a stack of books to attorneys, divorce attorneys that basically– I know things have changed a lot, but traditionally, a lot of times, the husband is the one managing the finances. And so, when the wife is now divorced, especially if they have a lot of money kind of in over the head, not sure where to turn, he would handle the book and he was like, that was his marketing funnel.
So, with your niche books, I see a ton of opportunity of these centers of influence. Have you gone down that path? Is there anything you’ve tried successfully there?
Dan DeVerna: We have some champions, is what we call them. So, we have like– it’s really hard to get somebody that doesn’t give referrals to give you any. And then if you get somebody that does, lean into that. If they give you two, they might give you 22. And they are centers of influence and there are just a few of them. They’re very special people. Really, they understand us and know what our best interest is in taking care of them and their friends. And so, we will lean into that. We haven’t gotten anybody that’s truly in a system where they’re going to get where there’s repeatable, like somebody that’s a focal point that people are coming to them all the time about that stuff. So, that is on my radar. It’s one of the things.
Brad Johnson: Very cool. Okay, the time is ticking by way too fast, and we’ve got a lot to still talk about. So, I want to go to the life side of this. So, this is the Do Business, Do Life podcast. And I know one of the things that you and I specifically, Dan, have talked a lot about just life, and a conversation that comes to mind is you were at our very first, what I would call our kind of kick-off at Triad. It was the Napa event, beautiful setting. I think we had maybe 15, 16 Triad members at the time.
And then, fast forward a year later, we’re at Palmetto Bluff, the Montage in South Carolina, incredible property and we’re in a pool with some fruity drink in our hand. I think it was a mojito. I don’t remember. It was really hot. And I remember you said something to me that really, there’s certain inflection points as an entrepreneur and on this new chapter that I’m on that just are really meaningful conversations. And what you said to me in the pool that day was incredible. You said something to the effect and if I screw this up, please correct me. When I was in Napa with you all and you had 15, 16 offices, the caliber of humans in the community I was blown away by.
And you said nothing about business. You said nothing about how much business or production or any of this stuff that happens a lot in our space. But humans and people I want to hang out with and do life with and you said I was kind of scared as this thing got bigger, that maybe I’d lose some of that early magic. And in South Carolina, you said, “Wow, you guys have more than doubled. And I think the caliber of humans gone up.”
And that was really meaningful to me because I can tell you this chapter is not about premium or production. I’ve done that before. This is about doing life with people that we can help. And just like I want to look forward to everything we do and you share that with me. I don’t know if I even told you how much that meant in that moment, but let’s talk about doing life. Where did they come from? Because, yeah.
Dan DeVerna: So, if you don’t mind, so I remember that. And as you said, hey, I think we talk more about life than business. I don’t think we ever talk business. Our place, you and I, like that’s not what we do. We talk life. I’m like, hey, I maybe like to get into the cards. We both like UFC. I’m doing this or that. But I just want to say it because I haven’t told you this, well, two parts of that, I loved Palmetto Bluff so much that I extended my stay by two days because I had my kids and it was just magic, right? And I’m like, “This is awesome. Can you change?” “Yes,” and I’m spending a preposterous amount of money a night. The place is just bananas, fantastic place.
And so, when everybody laughed and Chloe noticed that too. So, Chloe’s 21, right? And she’s like, when everybody left, it just feels different. I’m like, “You know, you’re right. The place is great, but it’s way more than that. It’s the people. I feel like we could get together on somebody’s farmland with a barn, with some tents, and it would be probably the same kind of magic.” And “Oh, by the way, fast forward to Austin and it’s getting better. It’s getting better.” And the neat thing is something I never crossed my mind because I’m thinking of, oh, it’s going to get diluted, right? Oh, there are just a lot of knuckleheads in our business. And so, whoever’s doing the filtering is doing a great job filtering knuckleheads.
But the second part is, as it’s gotten bigger, there are more ideas from really smart, talented people because the thing– and I’ve tried to express this to Chloe because I’m slowly trying to coerce her into coming to work with me someday is like if anybody in this room, just know these are literally, the top half of 1% of advisors in the world. They’re part of an elite club that you don’t get granted access to without having certain. So, to get in the room is one thing qualification-wise, and then whatever filtering system. So, I think so far the trajectory, it’s exceeded all expectations. I mean, it’s really incredible but just a little sidebar.
Brad Johnson: Thank you. And what was cool, like that founder’s retreat– by the way, I’ve sacrificed a lot with– I’m married and have three kiddos and there’s been a lot of nights where my wife has been home when Brad’s been on a business trip. And as we looked at the next chapter, I’m like, let’s not do that. That’s dumb. Let’s do business and do life. And so, the whole founder’s retreat was designed to be very spouse, significant other friendly, very kid friendly.
And what was cool is like, I think you were down there a day or two and you’re like, there were more kids on the trip than there were adults. And of course, it wasn’t chaos. We had it organized and there were all kinds of fun stuff going on. You can still have an adult conversation. But I think you actually flew your kids out after the experience started, didn’t you?
Dan DeVerna: Yeah. So, Chloe was with me. Brody was doing band camp, and then he realized he didn’t like band. So, on Tuesday, he’s like, “Hey, Dad, I want to quit the band.” I’m like, “Are you sure?” He’s like, “Yeah.” I go, “All right, I’m booking your plane ticket. So, you’re leaving in the morning to come down and hang out with us.” And so, that’s what happened. And the only downside of the whole trip really was that Brody is now exposed to $84 ribeye steaks. And so, now, he’s trying to order. Every time he hands the steak, he wants that. He wants a big old ribeye. And if that’s the worst thing going on, I think we’ll be okay.
Brad Johnson: He will be very cultured. He will be very cultured. So, let’s get one of the interesting parts of your back story that I love and actually inspires me is your journey with martial arts. And we talked about it a little bit before we went live. I’m going to go high level and then I want you to give me the why behind it. So, 17 years in karate, which is kind of where you started out. I know it was an interesting, a different version. So, maybe you can explain that. And then four years in jiu-jitsu and what’s cool about martial arts, to me, it’s yes, there’s the physical aspect, but it’s the mental aspect. And you were telling me about some meditation practices. So, give me your pitch on this is what it’s done for Dan the human and your martial arts journey.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah. So, recovering fat guy. Anybody that I show the picture to, like I was 240 pounds and no taller than I am now, like it was…
Brad Johnson: 240, just for perspective, for people listening on audio, how tall are you?
Dan DeVerna: I’m 5’9.5, maybe 5’10 in the right shoes. And now, I’m like, 176, maybe 182 pounds, whatever, but 60 pounds heavier-ish. And I said, If I can get down to 220 pounds, I’m going to start martial arts. So, I started martial arts and I did not realize what I was walking into. I just wanted something. I’m a guy that likes the accountability. I liked it when the coaches would yell at me. I like being inspired. And I walked into Sensei Hurtsellers’ dojo and it just felt different.
The interesting thing about martial artists is they’re the toughest people that you know. They are some of the sweetest people you will ever know. They’re not looking for a fight. They don’t need a fight. They know the outcome of the fight. They would talk you out of fighting. This doesn’t have to happen type of a thing. And so, they have a peace and an awareness. And it matches with the Triad community in a really great way and wanting to share and having other people, like the service and sharing those things.
So, I started because of health and accountability. And I just got so much more than that. Like, so much more than that. I learned meditation when Sensei when you start to rank test, you have to meditate with no movement for– I think it starts at like we meditate for two to five minutes every class, but then we would meditate to move up in rank. So, I’ve meditated for, I think, the first one is maybe 20 minutes, and then the most recent was three hours with no movement.
Brad Johnson: Wow.
Dan DeVerna: So, if you move or sneeze or have to go to the bathroom, you got to start over. So, you really don’t want to do that. But if you can meditate for five minutes, you can meditate for three hours. It’s not as hard as people think, but it’s just like running a marathon. You’re not going to do it on your first take. It’s a process, for sure.
Brad Johnson: So, Michael Hyatt was actually the guy that introduced me to meditation. And I think your analogy on running a marathon is accurate. I mean, most people can’t just go out and run 26 miles, but you’re on a few miles a day, then you build up the endurance. And if you look back to where you were truly in a Zen-like place for you, I feel like time just evaporates, like five minutes could be five hours. You just lose track of the space and you found that to be true as well?
Dan DeVerna: I think there’s glimpses of that for me. I think sometimes when some of the other people that I talked to about it, they find this more Zen place for me. It’s like, I have to constantly remind myself that I can’t because I’ll be sitting there and we’re fully focused on the breath. That’s the process. And so, we’re focusing on the breath, the inhalation, the exchange, the exhalation. And then you smell something and it smells like pumpkins. And all of a sudden, I’m sitting at my grandma’s table eating pumpkin pie. And then I realize, oh, back to the breath.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Yeah, the little rabbit trails your mind goes on is incredible. If you were going to give advice to a beginner that’s just listening to this, that’s never meditated in their lives but wants to get started, what advice would you give them?
Dan DeVerna: Give yourself a break. Just relax and sit quietly. Try not to move. And if you move, that’s okay. I think that’s the thing that people are just so strict about it. It’s just for you. It’s not going to benefit anybody else, probably. I mean, maybe you’ll be a little nicer. But I would say just try to relax and don’t be so hard on yourself. Take two to five minutes. I mean, start with two minutes. Close your eyes, sit silent. You can be sitting in a chair, sitting on floor, like however you’re comfortable, and focus on the breath.
And I still do it. So, it used to take me a long time. And now, it’s two minutes of meditation and it’s like somebody hit, you’ve seen that easy button. It’s like the receptor. You have a busy day, and all of a sudden, you just meditate for two to five minutes and it’s crazy. And probably, my favorite thing with martial arts was an analogy that Sensei gave forever ago. And when you walk into our dojo, you bow, your left hand over right and you bow. And he said, “Just have all of your troubles, mount it firmly on those shoulders. And when you bow, they just fall off, and that you leave them at the door.”
In martial arts, you have to pay a lot of attention. You can’t be anywhere else. If we’re sparring or working together and I’m thinking of something, like, what’s going on with my family? I’ve got this something, like I could hurt you or you could hurt me, that’s not something. So, leave that stuff at the door. Now, the neat part is when you go to leave, it’s up to you if you want to pick that stuff up again. You can leave it right there. It’ll be fine. We’ll take care of it. That’s kind of the sense. I was like, “Wow. That one stuck.” Sensei gives a lot of talks and it’s kind of like if you’ve ever been gone to church in the past or saying something, you’re looking around. He’s just talking to me. It happens so much, it’s incredible.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, the thing that I’m hearing from you too, think of it like the– I’ll never forget there was a moment in my life, I was in my upper 20s and this gentleman was a multibillion-dollar asset manager, like a really big deal. And he invited me to his office. And I’m just a kid. I’m just a farm kid from Kansas, right? And he gave me 60 minutes and he was fully present.
And I just remember the power of the presence of somebody like, literally not distracted, not on their iPhone, not texting somebody, but I’ll tell you, that is about the best gift you can give another human. And that’s what I hear is like the martial arts has created this presence where you’re there for that thing, nothing else in that moment. And I’m assuming 17 years of that practice has really helped you there. Is that fair?
Dan DeVerna: Yeah. And it’s definitely helped with that and it really helps with the business because there’s nothing worse than being in a meeting that’s important to somebody and you’re not treating it like it’s important. Well, I mean, there are probably things that are worse, but that’s pretty bad.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, let’s go from, okay, so a discipline in karate. And I know it was like his own version of karate. So, for maybe beginners like me, maybe explain what that is. And then let’s go to jiu-jitsu and maybe compare and contrast the two disciplines and what they’ve done for you.
Dan DeVerna: So, my Sensei doesn’t give out black belts. You see these black belt academies, and there’s nothing wrong with. I think they’re great. I think martial arts as a whole is great. But Sensei create his own curriculum and he left karate, represented the United States back in the day. But he said, “I really want something different.” He was a big fan of Bruce Lee. He had super brown. He was up in Michigan. He’s a really big deal. And he does kung fu. And so, he wanted to blend all these things together. And you can’t do that with just the karate curriculum.
And jiu-jitsu was one of those things. And so, I got exposed to jiu-jitsu from my Sensei. And then as we finally got– we have now three black belts, but there was testing for two of them four years ago, the final test. And they did a ton of jiu-jitsu. And I’m like, “My jiu-jitsu is crap. I can’t be a black belt with Sensei if I don’t get better at jiu-jitsu.” So, I talk to somebody, one of my friends that has done both and he’s like, “This is the place to go. Dante Leon is like a top 10 pound-for-pound guy in the world, and he’s actually in Toledo. You got to be kidding me.”
And so, I go to that and I got a really cool nickname. It’s Easy Roll because I was there with all these guys and I was the new guy. And now it’s a much bigger gym and there are new guys all the time. But I was the new guy for six months and they would literally line up to get with me because I was the easy person to go with. So, the nickname came about because one guy was waiting kind of by me to grab me to let’s go roll. And another guy says, “I got Dan,” and I go, “That’s not the way it works. If you want me, you got to wait in line.” And the other guy goes, “Yeah, if you got to wait for the easy roll.” And that was like– so I have the best and worst jiu-jitsu nickname. That’s Easy Roll.
Brad Johnson: Awesome.
Dan DeVerna: And there’s nothing more, like that is a very different form of martial arts. It’s extremely humbling. I’m in my 50s now, I’m 51 years old, just turned and I’m going against people that would not even be my oldest kid, like my oldest kid is Derek. And he does practice jiu-jitsu. And he was at class this morning and I didn’t roll with him, but I rolled with a variety of other guys and they just always seem to be bigger and stronger and getting better every day. And I feel like I’ve plateaued. But I had a 240-pound man with probably 9% body fat on top of me for four minutes this morning, smothering me. And I’m talking to him. He’s like, “Yeah, this is going to be the worst part of your day.” I’m like, “Oh, yeah, under you, yes.”
Brad Johnson: Everything’s easy from here.
Dan DeVerna: Everything’s easy from here. And it’s just so much fun. And I know you participate in activities with young people that challenge you. And I think that’s what the– love my dad, but the difference between me at 51 and my dad at 51 is just everything.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, there’s a theme I’m picking up from you, Dan. You’ve gotten comfortable with getting uncomfortable in your life. You go back to that early journey as a financial advisor, leaving the sure thing, then going to splitting from a partner because you had two different visions to just even show up at jiu-jitsu this morning. And there’s a lesson there. And from my experience, the most successful people in the world, they have got that common trait. So, I love that in you. Keep doing that. I know you will. By the way, I’m going to commit. We’ve got a little jiu-jitsu club, by the way, going here at Triad. We were talking about Ed, you, Jacob. There’s another one I’m missing somewhere.
Dan DeVerna: Nicko. Nicko told me he’s…
Brad Johnson: Yes, that’s right. So, hey, watch out. We might show up at the next experience, and there might be some jiu-jitsu. Who would be the go? Royce Gracie? So, would that be the go?
Dan DeVerna: I think the Gracie family as a whole would be the go. Right now, Gordon Ryan is king of the food chain for sure right now, but yeah, I think you’re going to the Gracie family for the traditional. And when I was in Chicago with Shawn back in the day, I went down to Carlson Gracie Gym in Chicago and got equally dismantled. It was very…
Brad Johnson: I’m making a note. I’m making a note. So, I know we have a mutual love of UFC and we were talking some of that in South Carolina. By the way, have you bought your first sports card yet?
Dan DeVerna: No, I got to get in. I feel like I need some mentoring in this area.
Brad Johnson: I’m here for it.
Dan DeVerna: I’ll fly to Kansas, and we’ll do it together.
Brad Johnson: I feel like UFC really helped put jiu-jitsu on the map because, I mean, it was just like the guys that had the jiu-jitsu background just started taking over the UFC. Who’s your favorite fighter or two to watch or just admire from a jiu-jitsu standpoint?
Dan DeVerna: Wow, that’s such a big question. Jiu-jitsu and the UFC, I mean, GSP, he kind of brought– so he’s got Danaher who’s the best coach ever. Yeah, Georges St-Pierre was just a student of the game in every way and I think so much more measured. And the thing about jiu-jitsu is it’s not really that makes it so different. If I got in a street fight with a guy that’s a decent fighter, I’m probably going to win. But he could get a shot in and I just go down and that’s the way. Jiu-jitsu doesn’t have those accidents.
The rank in jiu-jitsu is so pure. If you lined up a black belt that’s a legit black belt against all the lower ranks, maybe besides brown, he’s winning every time. Not sometimes, not most of the time, every time. Every time. It is a developed thing. And there are just only so many ways that the body moves. And it’s like a chess board with a master. There are only so many ways you can move these things and they’ve gone and done those things enough. Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that makes it unique because you think of the martial arts people as these big, tough guys, some of the toughest people, look like they could be your architect or your account– they’re just little fellows with big brains.
Brad Johnson: Yeah, well, I love the chess analogy. That’s exactly what I see when I watch it. And the old school UFC, I feel like if you remember the video game Street Fighter, where there’s all these characters, like that was UFC. He came in, he had one boxing glove on and was bare fisted in the other one. But Gracie beat this 250-pound wrestler just because he was able to get him down on the ground. And it was just and he ended up, like won in the first one and the second one, I think, which is kind of what– it was this big kind of like arrival of jiu-jitsu, I feel like in a marathon, so.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah, we’re gee in there. We’re full gee into that, yeah.
Brad Johnson: Well, I’m going to commit to it. One of the things we do at the Johnson house is like, I love starting at ground level with my kids because then I can’t be the guy that’s saying, here’s how you do it. I’m learning right along with them. And jiu-jitsu has been on the list I’m going to commit to. I will do some jiu-jitsu with the kids this year, so hold me to it.
Dan DeVerna: Awesome. Love it.
Brad Johnson: Cool. Well, man, we’ve covered a ton of ground. As we wrap here, I’ve got one last question for you. And we’ve talked a little bit about Do Business, Do Life, but this is the Do Business, Do Life podcast. And I think you embody it, Dan. I love how you show up. That’s one of the criteria.
So, you mentioned how to keep the knuckleheads out, right? Yes, we do have super-elite minimums as far as coming into the community from a production standpoint. And by the way, that’s not to be arrogant or be jerks. It’s just like when you’re going to go boutique and go really deep in a relationship, you just can’t work with everyone. And so, that was a decision we made early, but growth-minded, check obviously in every area in your life. And then Do Business, Do Life, that’s the final criteria.
I want to look forward to the next experience that Triad puts on. Like Dan’s going to be there, sweet. We’re going to talk UFC in the pool or whatever that may be. So, that’s what we’ve tried so far. So far, it sounds like it’s working, but I want to hear what is Dan’s definition of Do Business, Do Life. How would you define that for the listeners out there?
Dan DeVerna: Well, I think for me, personally, I joke and say I’m a recovering fat guy, but I’m also a recovering workaholic. So, to have a community that doesn’t just brag, first of all, it’s really weird that people aren’t really bragging in that community, like you don’t really hear it. It’s all so many humble people, and I know what they’re doing. They have plenty of things to be proud about, but you’re not feeling that.
But the idea that I have a community there that I can lean on, talk to, text with, communicate with, sit with, whatever, that isn’t just about the numbers. And our business is unique in itself, but also, the bigger bragging points on the do life thing is like somebody saying, I want to work less hours and everybody in the community thinking, that’s a great idea. I saw somebody, like, hey, I want to work averaging less than 20 hours a week. That’s not me right now. But wow, who would have thought that that would be something that you guys would be promoting? It doesn’t match what would be a typical FMO approach in style. And the mannerisms are just different. They’re different in every way.
So, I think, doing the business is how we all got here. And no one in that room, if you will, wants to be average and no one is. And so, if you don’t want to be average in business, you sure don’t want to be average in life. That’s just silly. I want to be better at jiu-jitsu, but it doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ve done one tournament in jiu-jitsu. Let me assure you, no one cares when old guys do jiu-jitsu. I won the tournament, Brad, and no one cared.
Brad Johnson: Congrats.
Dan DeVerna: No one cared. When I say no one cared, I mean, no one cared. It’s funny. It gives you perspective. And you’re like, “Okay, I check that box.” But you realize, like, you really, I go to jiu-jitsu for Dan, which is why I tap easy, I tap often, and I just want to be able to go to work knowing I had a great morning with some people and it’s bigger for me to get their victory there. I get my victory. I think it’s like less than 20% of the people in the United States work a job they like. I love what I do for work. So, the work-life balance, I still need to keep working on it. It’s going to evolve, as much as it has the last 20 years, it will the next 20 years.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, that’s awesome to hear. And we’re going to help you get where you want to go. That was one of the things this year in Austin when we define a champagne moment. And by the way, whether you drink or not, that can be something that you pop to celebrate is how we define a champagne moment. But we wanted to do a do business champagne moment and a do life champagne moment for 12 months later.
And now, I didn’t realize you’d lost that much weight. That’s awesome. But one of the things coming out of it that was awesome for me is we had multiple community members. I’m going to drop 60 pounds this year. Two of them are going to drop 60 pounds.
Dan DeVerna: Awesome.
Brad Johnson: 15 pounds, 20 pounds. And to me, what’s all the money in the bank account matter if you’re unhealthy and you can’t enjoy it? I mean, you’d give all that money up to get your health back at the end of the day. So, that’s the stuff that fires me up and that’s what I love about this, being able to build this thing. How we all want to build it together, it’s like, guess what? If we’ve got five members that are into jiu-jitsu, by the way, I want to join that club. Let’s bring somebody in and let’s roll at the summer retreat, so.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah, I have the guy. I have the guys, we’ll travel, throw them on the plane with me. We’ll get them up.
Brad Johnson: There we go. That was easy.
Dan DeVerna: That was easy. It’s already set up.
Brad Johnson: Well, Dan, I just want to say thank you so much. I enjoy every conversation. Thanks for giving your time here. And I know this conversation will make an impact on a lot of advisors out there. So, glad to have you and your crew. Or as we say it, Triad, we run as a pack. So, I’m glad to have you. And thanks for the time. Can’t wait to get this out to the world.
Dan DeVerna: Absolutely. Excited to be part of the pack. It’s unique. It’s different. It’s tough to know until you know and then you know.
Brad Johnson: And I think that pretty much sums it up, so.
Dan DeVerna: Yeah, it’s great.
Brad Johnson: Until the next time. We’ll see you then.
Dan DeVerna: Thanks.