Ep 036

Streamlining Ops, Protecting Your Culture, and Scaling to $1B AUM with Michelle Short


Triad Member Michelle Short

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Inside This Episode

Today, I’m sitting down with Michelle Short, the COO of SHP Financial — a Triad member firm that manages more than $1B in assets.

In the years leading up to Michelle’s hiring in 2014, SHP was generating about $10M in annual new assets. Fast forward to 2022 and SHP was bringing in more than $250M in new assets, with roughly 32% of those assets coming via referrals. As the operations architect, Michelle has plenty of insights into how SHP scaled — and advice for those who want to do the same.

In this episode, you’ll hear how SHP streamlined its operations to allow for such rapid growth while easing advisor workloads. You’ll also learn about how to save team members from their personal “Drudge Zones,” how to evaluate both team members and clients for culture fit, and how to build referrals within your own practice.

3 of the biggest insights from Michelle Short

  • #1 How identifying the roles and responsibilities each team member is best suited to handle can help you build your internal operations and scale your revenue.

  • #2 How to construct a client experience like SHP’s that has led to more than 33% of its new business being generated from referrals.

  • #3 Advice for hiring and retaining talent that creates an internal culture you’re excited to do both business and life with.


  • Michelle’s background in financial services
  • Improving efficiency to scale from 8 to 9 figures
  • How to find and fill operational gaps
  • Solving headaches with complementary skill sets
  • Overlooked areas for optimizing a practice  
  • How to filter for great talent
  • Tips for infusing fun into your company culture
  • How to wrangle and vet your flow of ideas
  • Can it make sense to try to raise fewer assets?
  • The 3 mantras that guide SHP
  • Building a sustainable model for scaling revenue
  • How to navigate clients who aren’t the right fit
  • The value of hiring a team based on culture fit
  • Finding fulfillment through business and life







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  • For the first time, we were thinking about the future. We were thinking about who was going to be with us long term. If we take it to this level, who is going to join us for that ride? So, I think that’s when the culture really started.” – Michelle Short

  • “It’s about growth as a firm, not just growth in numbers.” – Michelle Short

  • “It’s one thing to attract great talent. It’s another thing to keep great talent.” – Brad Johnson

  • “Don’t be lazy. Do the right thing for the client. If the client needs and deserves a phone call, pick up the phone and call the client. Don’t just hide behind an email.” – Michelle Short

  • “The market can go up and down, and clients can call in and be a little frazzled by it, but keep calm and carry on for our client.” – Michelle Short

  • The fact that we’re building this community of clients that are friends with clients and team members, we just can’t let that impact that culture that we have with our internal and external culture.” – Michelle Short

  • [Do business do life] is about incorporating my family and my family’s mindset into our business and being with people that are like-minded. That fulfills me as a person.” – Michelle Short

Brad Johnson: Welcome back to another episode of Do Business Do Life. We have the one and only Michelle Short with us here today. Welcome to the show, Michelle.

Michelle Short: Thank you for having me, Brad.

Brad Johnson: Well, I’ve done an episode with your partners there at SHP, and actually, I think it was the very first Triad Member Spotlight Episode 4 with the three guys there, Derek, Keith, and Matt. And as I was thinking through that episode, I’m like, “Well, it really wasn’t the full story,” because we have the founding partners, the advisors, but we didn’t actually have you, the one that really… Because I knew them pre-Michelle and I knew them post-Michelle and we really didn’t have what I would say is one of the true keys that unlocked all the potential there at SHP Financial. And just for context and anybody that wants to go back and listen to the prior episode, I highly encourage you to do that. Episode 4 was a great one, but it wasn’t the full story. So, now we’re going to get the other side of the story, and that was really three sales guys that had big hearts and had a want to serve but they were sorely lacking in execution and follow through and operations and the ability to build out a team to build something bigger than the three themselves. And I know you’re very humble and you’re going to downplay this because that’s who you are but that’s my very objective third-party opinion because I saw the whole thing go down.

So, anyway, Michelle, as we get into this conversation, we’ll have a little fun just because we always have fun when we chat. And right before we hit record, we’re like Emily, who produces the show on the back side, we were talking about you also knew Brad pre-long hair and post-long hair and you have very strong opinions on this subject. So, anything you would like to share with the audience who many of which saw the old show where it was very clean-cut, parted, and all of that. Now it’s not. So, go ahead. Lay it on me. What have you got? Let’s just get it out of the way.

Michelle Short: Yes, with plaid with a shorter haircut. And I think one of my questions was, when are you cutting it? But you seem very happy. So, I guess it’s starting to grow on me a little bit.

Brad Johnson: I think if I really dive into my own psychology, and I’m curious if you felt this on the female side. Definitely, the guy side that’s like kind of the young financial advisor. I think it’s almost like you’ve got to act the part before you know how to play the part. And I remember going to Dillard’s, the local mall here in Topeka, and getting my first like three suits right when I got in the business and I had to get a tie. And then the next thing I know it’s like, “Okay. I got to get a pocket square and some cufflinks and a nice pair of dress shoes.” And I like to dress nicely but there’s a little bit of pretend game being played because I’m a pretty chill dude. I grew up on a farm. I’m an athlete and so I like athletic wear. And I think the hair is like just the next evolution of that of just like came out of COVID, threw it out a little bit like everybody. And then as I left my prior life where I felt like I kind of had to be buttoned up all the time to wear this, it was like startup mode, “Let’s go change an industry. Let’s like kind of be a little bit rebellious,” and the hair just kind of fit that season of my life and who knows how it all play out if I keep it long the rest of my life or not.

Michelle Short: Plus, you got a cool vibe and the way you share your vibe, it just seems to take it down from the corporate America to like more of a chill vibe. And that’s kind of the ambiance you give up and I love it.

Brad Johnson: Cool. Well, enough about me. This episode’s about you. Many are unfamiliar with SHP. They didn’t grow up alongside you like I did in the business. So, let’s give, you know, you’ve got the three-partner story. For those that want to hear it, go back to Episode 4, but I’ll kind of set the stage and I’d love to hear your side of the story. You know, like I said, actually at the time, it was four partners when I first met the guys, very kind of insurance-focused practice. This was 2011-2012 era, call it 8 to 10 million of assets a year among four selling advisors. So, I mean, decent numbers but nothing that’s going to blow anybody’s doors off, right? And a small team, maybe five or six, is what I remember as far as on the upside or basically non-selling advisor side and there was an inflection point for them. I remember the conversation where they just realized, “Hey, we’ve got to get somebody kind of on the thinking and the responsibility of operations.” They did really the same thing on marketing, so we coach a lot on three businesses within a business, marketing, sales ops. Enter Michelle Short and no other framing than that other you were coming into, let’s say, a little bit of chaos or a lot of chaos. So, let’s hear your side of that story and how that all played out.

Michelle Short: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Brad. You know, so years ago, my prior life, I entered a workplace that was very corporate, you know, starting off as an executive assistant and really wanting more for myself and my career. You know, this is pre-marriage, pre-babies. We’re working hard 14-hour days just grinding. And I did, I worked my way from an executive assistant level all the way up to a senior vice president of a firm. That’s what drove me every day. I grew a firm from 12 to 52. I was told, “You know, the next level for you would be the COO role.” Fast forward, the person went from a private-held company, sold, and now a publicly traded company. So, that was a big mind shift for myself. I went through a lot of acquisition, learned a lot, and that’s a pivotal part in my career. I really learned a lot then but then my position was eliminated once the sale happened, which was devastating to me. Right? I’ve now grown myself as a person. I started having a family. We were married. We had our first daughter. I was like, “Wow. I don’t feel like I belong anymore. What am I going to do?” And those days of grinding, the corporate America, the traveling, I was just burnt out completely.

So, I decided to take four months off and try to figure out what I wanted. I interviewed. Got some really great opportunities and offers but it just didn’t feel right to me. Fast forward, Keith Ellis, one of our partners, his wife was my hairdresser, and I’ll never forget a conversation. We had kids the same year and she said, “You know, my husband could use somebody like you. I wish he could have somebody like you. They just need to take their business to that next level.” And that was intriguing to me because I had spent the last ten years of my life building a company, and I know that I can do it. So, I was like, “Well, if you want to connect us, that would be great.” So, we did. We met. I had an interview with Matthew Peck, one of our founders here, and I really didn’t even understand what the role was. You know, I kind of knew that they wanted to grow it but I don’t think they knew what they wanted to grow and where they wanted to be. I could just see that they needed my help. So, the rest was history.

You know, I started. I still joke with them to this day. You know, my offer letter made my compensation package. I did not even fully understand it at all. You know, now I do but it was just like a funny moment in time because we do look back and laugh on it. But, yeah, when I started, there were probably like six or seven employees and I always say this, but they were like running the roost, right? They were like coming and going as they pleased. None of them had a job description, a compensation plan. No one even knew their position within the firm really. They would disappear for days. And I’m like, “Well, are they coming back?” You know, it’s just Derek, Keith, and Matt were just grinding and producing and producing but they didn’t have a handle on the actual business. So, that’s where, you know, they’re great leaders and sales producers but they weren’t good at management. So, that’s where I had the opportunity to kind of come in.

Brad Johnson: God bless, Moira. It’s all I can say.

Michelle Short: She’s still looking for her…

Brad Johnson: Keith’s wife for those that don’t know her…

Michelle Short: She still wants to recruit me.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, SHP’s headhunter at the time was Keith’s wife. That’s cool. So, very, very common growing up in this space you see a lot of hard-charging, great salespeople that are financial advisors that when it comes to, it’s kind of like the marketing feeds the flow into the office, which most great salespeople are pretty decent marketers, right? You can put them in front of a room and they can say something that convinces people to come into the office. They come into the office, they start to have some success. They are converting. Where things start to fall apart is, “Oh, wait, we actually have to deliver on the stuff we said we’re going to do,” hence, operations. Let’s even dive in a little deeper. And what I’ve always loved about you all, which by the way, I didn’t give the back end of this story. So, if you haven’t listened to Episode 4, fast forward. So, you came to the firm in 2014, correct? That was your first year? So, about a couple of years after I met the guys originally at that kind of 8 to 10 million mark. And fast forward and we’ll unpack this as we go.

Last year, north of 250 million of total assets, or as I like to say, a quarter of a billion because it sounds better. A quarter of a billion assets gathered organically last year, not mergers and acquisitions rolling firms up, which is very uncommon in this space, and now have built the team. What is the official team member shipmates as you call them? How many?

Michelle Short: Yeah. We call them shipmates and our 44th employee is starting Thursday of next week.

Brad Johnson: Cool. So, that is less than a decade after you’ve arrived, which is insane to go from like 10 million-ish a year to 250-ish and there’s a lot of evolution that happened along the way. But let’s go back to the very early days because I promise there are some advisors right now like, “That’s me right now. I’m kind of running in. I’m the advisor in charge. I’m getting pulled in 500 different directions. There’s not enough for me to go around. I’m kind of starting to burn out.” And I’m like, I’ve heard advisors say, “I don’t want to grow.” In fact, that was part of your old story. At one point it was like, “We’re actually going to decrease our goal next year because we are tired of redlining out, missing family dinners, and all of that.” So, let’s go to Michelle walks in the office the first day. Tell us some real-life unfiltered stories. Like, what was the experience? What were you walking into?

Michelle Short: Yeah. So, I walked into a room where there were seven of us sitting in one room together and Derek, Keith, and Matt were literally picking up the phone and answering the phones. So, that was appalling to me. I’m like, “What are you doing?” So, they were literally picking up the phone. They might disguise their voice and say, “I’m sorry. Derek is not in right now. He’s at the client.” But it was just like, “Whoa, we got to get you guys off the phones.” They’re preparing for their own meetings, right? So, they’re setting up their conference room themselves. It was like, “No. You need to have that done for you.” The bills, they’re scanning in bills to be paid. It’s like, “No, you don’t need to be doing that.” We had no – I remember asking the question one day like, “Hey, you guys get client referrals?” And they were like, “No. What’s that?” And like, “Wow. That’s an opportunity.” So, there were just so many like I wouldn’t say red flags, but just opportunity for change. So, yeah, I mean, they were just, you know, we have three office locations and they would literally take a meeting north of Boston with traffic here that would take an hour and a half to get down back here to this headquarters office or flagship office in Plymouth, Massachusetts and then some days might go back up to Woburn.

So, they were on the road all day long, just grinding. And by traveling so much, they weren’t able to take as many meetings, right, because they’re just driving, driving, and then they might do a workshop that evening. And their kids were really little then and I remember us sitting in a room saying, “You know, some things got to change. The kids aren’t going to be this age forever. I don’t want to be there in the office 9 to 5 every day, even longer.” And it’s like they weren’t able to sit back. So, it was nice to just be able to start coming up with a plan with them to get them maybe out of the seminars. You know, back then they were all doing the seminars together. So, it was Derek, Keith, Matt giving up a night. So, there’s three families that are impacted, you know, and they’re driving and doing the workshops at night. It was just a grind.

Brad Johnson: So, the theme I’m hearing there is just, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, three sales guys running around all over the office, running around all over, driving around all over the multiple office locations with no plan in place, lack of structure, lack of organization, and kind of like lack of thinking about how do we actually want to design this. It was happening by default versus design.

Michelle Short: Absolutely. And at that point, cue to back up, and again, you may have covered this in Episode 4, Matt at that time was the only one that was Series 65 licensed. He was the only one that was licensed. So, Derek and Keith would show up to a client meeting and maybe take the insurance side of things but they had to bring Matt into the meeting too. It was so inefficient. So, now we’ve got two advisors just because they had to be in the same room together. So, in 20 I think it was like 15, ’14 and ’15, Derek and Keith ended up getting their license so it worked out. So, we slowly chipped away at it but they were just grinding, grinding. Yeah. And it was not pretty.

Brad Johnson: What was the culture like back then and what was the…? Because there is a culture. I mean, there’s good culture, there’s bad culture. So, walking in that first day or two or a week or two, what was the culture? What was the experience? What was the vibe in the office?

Michelle Short: Beautiful office, gorgeous office. And like I said, you enter the door of a room with seven of us and it wasn’t so glamorous, right? So, you could just tell everybody was just grind, grind, grind at their computer, on the phones all day. They had some camaraderie because with a small firm, you can have that. However, I can tell you, I felt like everybody there, with the exception of one, you know, she was our very first employee, she’s wonderful, but the others were just there to collect a paycheck. You know, they didn’t really care that Derek, Keith, and Matt were driving all over the place. They didn’t care about the piece of paperwork that they were processing. They didn’t care if, you know, they didn’t come in or took an hour and a half lunch or they just took advantage I felt like. They didn’t have Derek, Keith, and Matt in their mind when they were making some decisions throughout the day. They were just like there to get a paycheck. “Oh, it’s 5:00. Let’s get out of here.” It wasn’t like I’m going to stay and help them because I feel bad for them. Like, there was just no, I don’t know how to explain it but there was just no, they weren’t bought in. They weren’t sipping the Kool-Aid.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Like, a job versus a career.

Michelle Short: Absolutely.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Just clocking in and clocking out and when can I get out of here sort of mentality.

Michelle Short: And they didn’t know what they should be doing, right? Because, remember, now, as I mentioned, they’re not great like managers, right? So, I don’t think they had the luxury to sit down with their employees at that time and be like, “You know what? This is really in the whole process we should be doing for the client.” It was just like do, do, do. There was poor vision. They didn’t have time to create the vision. They just didn’t even know what their vision was.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. What I see oftentimes, Michelle, it’s not from lack of want to. It’s lack of time that there wasn’t enough for them to go around. Like, when you’re manufacturing appointments and sitting with appointments all day, show me on the calendar where there’s time to like, Hey, let’s really pour into and train a new business person. And a very common problem, which is why you need to hire somebody and maybe this is a good time. I heard you say on a podcast, I think it was your old podcast. SHP has your own podcast and the guys brought you on and you said a phrase that just struck me. You said, “I see my client is our team.” And like those early days, here just sharing, I promise you, Derek, Keith, and Matt, even if they would have thought that, they didn’t have the time to execute on it, right? So, share that because I saw a massive shift once you got there and it took time. It wasn’t like an instantaneous thing. I saw the culture start to go from, let’s just say, neutral to negative is where it kind of was when you were there when you first got there to, all of a sudden, it was like, “Wait. There was some pride. There was some, no, we’re part of SHP.” Like, now, like even the word you used ‘shipmates’ you’re not saying ’employees’ or ‘team.’ You’re like shipmates. SHP, obviously, it’s a play on the name of your company but you’re creating that culture, drinking the Kool-Aid, per se. So, give me how you start to turn, steer the boat in a different direction.

Michelle Short: Well, it was more like, you know, we would have meetings very early on and it was very hard. You know, I’d sit down with a whiteboard with Derek, Keith, Matt and I’m like, “Hey, tell me where you want to be. You know, you guys tracking numbers.” They weren’t tracking numbers. “You have a CRM. What are you using it for?” “A Rolodex.” You know, we’re not giving any reportings from the CRM. We don’t know what our ROI is. We don’t know why we’re doing some of the things we’re doing. We just see them as, you know, sometimes they go to a conference and it was like a shiny object and marketing and like, “I need to do that,” right? So, they come back and be like, “Hey, Michelle, let’s implement this,” and I didn’t understand the why, how, or who we were going to do this with. So, very early on, Brad, based from you, I mean, you were allowing me to attend certain conferences that was just a mind-blowing experience for me because I got to see it hands-on. So, I’d go to these events and be like, “You know what, we really shouldn’t do that yet because we have to do these two things before we can do that or…”

You know, so we sat down and whiteboarded and I literally said to Derek, I remember, “You know, what don’t you want to do anymore? Matt, what don’t you want to do anymore? Keith, what don’t you want to do anymore?” And I made those my goals in the first year. It was like, “I’m going to take everything you don’t want to do anymore and I’m going to own that or I’m going to find out a way that we can get that off your plate.” So, we sat down with the team and we kind of just said, “This is kind of the direction we’re going in.” Some employees we did let go and some employees left on their own because they didn’t want structure. They didn’t want to be exposed, if you will, of what they maybe weren’t doing. So, we really cleaned house and we slowly started adding folks. We added somebody to come in and just do paperwork, new business paperwork. Her name was Katie. Katie is still with us today and she worked with me in my past life. Very attention…

Brad Johnson: Oh, really? Very cool.

Michelle Short: Yeah. It’s still her. She’s awesome. So, she’s an Enneagram 1, super detail-oriented, follows the rules, doesn’t like to steer away from that. So, Katie is just perfect for this role, right? So, she’s coming in, doing all the paperwork, calling the clients. You know, you said earlier on it’s like this commitment that we make to our clients and we weren’t even upholding our end of the bargain. It’s like we tell our clients we’re going to do a client review. I didn’t know that we were really doing a formal client review then. We tell our clients we’re going to deliver this particular plan, and I don’t think we did the best job that we could. So, it’s like slowly adding in the right team members to do what we say we’re going to do is very important to us. And they felt nervous about that. You know, it’s this commitment you make to your client. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get new referrals, I don’t know, but it was something that needed to change. So, Katie came in for sure and then we had Dave come in and he was just like a catch-all, not licensed, just a service guy. So, like there was a limitation to what he could do but he could certainly help us service our annuity contracts. He could call on clients to see if they needed anything. He could execute beneficiary changes, help Katie if needed.

So, those were like the two first new hires and then we didn’t have anybody qualifying leads. I actually did that role at that time. We had a marketing director at that time too. So, she and I would take turns and I would literally call on qualified folks and I am Enneagram 2. I’d love to chat. The gift of gab is just there for me. And I love talking to people but I feel very uncomfortable asking them like, “Hey, what’s your asset level?” So, I was not a good fit for that role but I did it because we had to. I was mailing out packets in between appointments. So, I think the third hire we made was Tasha on our team, and she came in a part-time position because we didn’t know if we could afford it. We didn’t know what the capability would be with her. So, she came in part-time, worked to promote, and she would just help call-in leads. She had that background recruiting for doctor’s offices. So, she would come in and just talk to folks and just see if it’s a good fit for SHP. So, that’s when we started really qualifying some of our leads. And then from there, we added Joe Anderson, who is one of our producing advisors.

So, at that point, Derek, Keith, and Matt were like, “You know what, maybe I shouldn’t drive from this office to that office. What if we had somebody else to help us there?” And then Joe came in and they did some training with Joe. They’re very good at training, obviously, a producer. And then I worked closely with the others that I just mentioned. So, that’s kind of how the evolution started and then we can keep talking, of course.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, a lot there. I want to go back. So, the three guys when you first got there, were they doing all their own paperwork, all their applications?

Michelle Short: Everything.

Brad Johnson: Wow. I didn’t even realize that. I must have been a poor coach. Michelle, I must have been a poor coach to them in the early days. That’s my bad. Sorry for that. Well, so there’s a lot you hit on right there. So, just going back and taking what you hit, so marketing, sales ops, you actually made a hire in every single one of those worlds, right? So, Katie comes in, takes the paperwork off their plate. And to me, that’s kind of like the front end of ops like client has committed. So, now, you’re starting to engage there. And that’s like, to me, that’s the window into the operation side. So, marketing we call before, sales during, ops after. So, that’s right in that during and after phase then you’ve got Tasha that comes in, appointment setter, qualifier. What’s the title? You’ve got a sexier title for that position now. What’s it called now?

Michelle Short: Tasha’s title right now is the Director of Business Development.

Brad Johnson: Much cooler than appointment setter which she’s developing business. I love that. So, now she’s on the front end on the marketing side. How do we do the before and get them to the during which is into the office and make sure it’s the right fit, people you can actually help. And then you’ve got Joe that’s now coming in to expand on the sales division so the guy, basically, they can be more efficient with their time and stack a calendar versus have an hour and a half, 2 hours of windshield time that could be appointment time.

Michelle Short: And I’ve worked and as Tasha is now qualifying these folks, maybe they don’t meet our threshold and now Joe is taking those appointments, which is a perfect way for him to train and level up. Yeah, exactly.

Brad Johnson: Yes. So, yeah, go ahead. There’s a lot here so I’m trying to like hold back but, yeah, keep going.

Michelle Short: I know. Gisele was the other one too so Gisele was at the front desk. She was like our Director of First Impressions, greeting everybody, making the cookies, sitting everybody down. She’d help out with seminars, but it was like she’s going through the motions. It’s like, why were we doing what we were doing? So, now we’re starting to build our little story of what we want to do as a firm.

Brad Johnson: So, I want to just share an exercise you reminded me of that might help a lot of advisors out there that feel like they’re kind of the advisor in charge running all over the place like a wild person, like the three partners were when you got there. Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach, big fan of his. He has this phrase, “What if procrastination was a form of wisdom?” And think about all this stuff we put off. If you put it off, it’s probably something most likely you don’t enjoy. We call it drudgery zone activities here. And my guess is Keith, Derek, and Matt weren’t just like, “Oh, we love all of this paperwork once a client signs.” Is that fair?

Michelle Short: That was on the board that we don’t work anymore.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Were there stacks of paperwork when you got there? Because that’s pretty common.

Michelle Short: I got to try to find a picture but, yes, there were stacks of paperwork and it was somewhat alphabetized, but that’s about it.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, what you did, you took Katie, an Enneagram 1, that love structure that loves like, “If I do A-B-C, it’s done. Move on. Next,” which is actually a desire zone activity. And so, this is one of those things that’s crazy because everybody’s, as we say around here, your differences are your strengths. And so, you took something that was a drudgery zone activity for the three guys that was somebody like Katie enjoys structure and at the end of every day, she’s like, “I got stuff done today,” right? And now you took a drudgery zone activity that was actually keeping you all from fulfilling promises and put somebody in that spot that can crush that, own it, high attention to detail. And basically, you just repeated that playbook. What’s the stuff you don’t want to do? Let’s find somebody, either me or who can we bring into the firm to now expand and build out these three different divisions. That was really what’s crazy is that was the early days. Now, we’re at 44 and you’ve just continued to build out and expand. So, are there any other inflection points? Because I kind of want to go back to the sale side here in a second. That’s the sales guy in me. But any other as you were building out the ops, like let’s say you’re speaking to Derek, Keith, and Matt when you got there because that’s some advisors listening in like, “I would do this, I would do this, I would do this,” to get out of this kind of red line behavior.

Michelle Short: And they were like, “Go for it.” We don’t know what you’re talking about but go for it. We need that. We wanted to do it. Drudgery is a perfect word. They didn’t want to do that. You know, one of the other item is don’t plan for my client anymore. It’s taking too much time. They’re sitting at the computer just typing away. So, then that’s when we hired Nick Nelson. You know, it was like Nick’s going to be our power planner. Fast forward, he spent with us probably seven or eight years now. He’s now the Vice President of Advisory Solutions. So, we’ll talk a little bit about the internal plan but we’re giving him a career path, too, and that’s something they took off their drudgery zone back in the day. Yeah. No, that’s exactly right.

Brad Johnson: So, just to expand on the sales side because this is another you hit it, actually, let’s fast forward now. I think this was 2016 and correct me if I’m on the wrong year but you guys really quickly when you got there, there were like two like if I’m just like speaking to advisors do these two things and it will change your world. Number one, they found Michelle, who at the time you were Director of Ops, high attention to detail, and you were like, “Let’s build this thing out and let you guys just build relationships, which is what you’re good at and which maximizes revenue to the firm so we can hire more people down the road.” So, they hired you, they empowered you, and I know that took a little while. Any tips on building trust? Because I know there was some trust time that it took before they just said, “Hey, here are the reins go, Michelle.” Anything other than time and delivering?

Michelle Short: You know, I get that question all the time, Brad, with folks across the country that are like, “How do I earn their trust? How do I get there?” So, yes, I think when I looked back at it, they were like, “Okay. It sounds good. You’ve done it in the past. I want to see it, right? I want to make sure it gets done.” I think it was easier for me because in the past, they were used to handing off tasks to people and they weren’t getting done, so the trust was never there. So, for me, I earned trust quicker because I actually got the task done, you know, whatever the task would be. Keith is an Enneagram 9. He is very can make decisions. “Yeah. You want that? Great. Go do it.” So, he was very easy. Matt saw my structure and it was very easy. Derek and I, you know we took probably the longest and Derek was, he’s like the more financial side of things, more the marketing, the TV face. But no, over time I earned his trust and I think it just stemmed to the fact that I actually execute on everything that they asked me to do and I did it in a timely fashion. I asked great questions. I asked for deadlines. I was very much, you know, they weren’t used to that. They were like, “It will just get done whenever.” It was like, well, this a Q1, Q2, Q3, maybe punt it to next year. And I think they liked that organization of it because they hadn’t thought about their business in that way.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, real quick, because we’ve said Enneagram about 17 times, I love it and we’re throwing numbers around. If this is the first episode you’re listening in to and you don’t know what that is, go back and search Ian Cron, C–R-O-N. We’ll put it in the show notes. Just scroll down the show notes and you will get the Enneagram at a high level from the master, the guy that wrote the book on it. And speaking of Enneagrams, and I found this to be very true, an Enneagram 1 often called the perfectionist is a very high attention-to-detail person. The joke Ian Cron says is they’re the person that if you load the dishwasher at home, they come back by and like, “Oh, you really messed this up,” and they re-sort it, right? Because they have a system, this set system that they prefer. So, it only makes sense. I’ve seen Enneagram 1s oftentimes have the hardest time delegating because if somebody does something a different way than they do, sometimes it’s, “Ugh, I’m not okay with that.”

Michelle Short: And that hurts. So, it makes total sense. And now having gone through the exercise, if any of you have gone through that exercise, but it makes sense to me. And when I read about him, he can’t help it. That’s just the way he’s wired. And now I respect that and I feel more proud of myself because I overcame that with him, you know?

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Really cool. So, I love the deadlines. I’m going to get into part two because everybody’s like, “Well, Michelle is part one. What’s part two?” So, we’re going to get to part two and that was building out a very structured proprietary process trademark. Basically, you created instead of, I call it like productizing what you do for your clients because a lot of people are like, “Oh, I do a financial plan or I do this,” or what do you actually deliver to your clients? Well, you guys took that, a financial plan, and you productized it and systematized it. So, we’ll go into that here in a second. But going back to just anything else before we go to that, on just the ops empowering you, empowering a team, anything on that before we jump to the part two there.

Michelle Short: I would say that for the first time in SHP’s history, we were actually hiring folks that wanted to be there and that we thought would be a good culture fit. Culture wasn’t even a word that I think Derek, Keith, and Matt thought of. They just needed to get through the day, right? They needed somebody to just take this off their desk and do it. So, for the first time, we were thinking about the future. You know, we were thinking about who was going to be with us long term. If we take it to this level, who is going to join us for that ride? So, I think that’s when the culture really started. You know, we joke about the Kool-Aid but it’s more about hiring the right people that want a future with SHP.

Brad Johnson: Because also, you said this earlier, nobody had a job description when you got there. So, it’s like how do you have a culture if I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do on a daily basis? Right? So, you kind of took a couple of steps backwards before you took a step forward. And so, did you kind of go in and do some clean up there and say, “Okay. Here’s like kind of the very beginnings of an org chart. Here’s the job descriptions that go along with it,” and kind of I’m guessing that’s when a few left and then a few stayed and then you filled the gaps in?

Michelle Short: You got it. And that’s exactly why a lot of them left because they didn’t like that structure. A lot of them were reporting to the partners and the partners are like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” because they’re so busy, right? But now they may have to report to me and a lot of people didn’t like that because they knew they were going to have somebody watching over them and making sure that they were hitting their goals. So, they had no job description so we implemented job descriptions. I did a roles and responsibilities exercise where I went through the whole firm and identified every role or everything that goes into each role. You know, from the lead comes in, we’re entering them to the CRM, then we’re qualifying them and then we’re sending out a packet. Then we’re booking a phone call or a first appointment, then sending out another packet. We’re creating them. So, we listed out every single thing that goes into a day for everything from marketing, operations, the sales side, the power planning, technology, you name it. And then I would color code, “Okay, who owns that?”

And I think that was enlightening for a lot of people because they’re like, “Wow. Now, I’m seeing, okay, I own this, they own that. Great.” And it was neat to do that was we hired new people so they were like, “Oh, okay, I know who does what.” So, these little exercises just went a long way. I don’t think anyone understood their compensation package. Derek was under the mindset, “Oh, you’re doing a great job. Here’s like a $1,000, you know, a little bonus or something.” And not just Derek, all of them.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s very common where like say the advisor opens up his wallet. It’s like, “Hey, here’s a couple of $100. Great job this week.” That was, you know, that’s a lot of compensation problems.

Michelle Short: “Here’s your holiday card. There’s some cash in it.” But there was no rhyme or reason and as you grow, that’s just not sustainable because then they’re expecting that every year and the minute you go to change that, there’s some argument with the employee. So, coming up with compensation packages for everybody. We never had employee benefits so that was definitely hard for us to recruit some good talent. So, that was my past life. So, I quickly got a broker in and we got some employee benefits, a medical plan, a dental plan. You know, we implemented a simple IRA at that time. You know, little things paid time off. I don’t even think they really tracked it. It was like, now we’re going to start tracking it. It’s almost like we inserted HR into the firm. And I did rub a lot of people the wrong way but that was important for growth. We need structure. So, that’s where it kind of started. And then we did a lot of whiteboarding with I mentioned Nick and Joe, like this is the sales process and we trademarked that.

That’s what you were kind of getting to. It’s like if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it the right way. We’re going to document it, we’re going to trademark it, and we’re going to do what we’re telling our clients that we’re going to do. We’re going to differentiate ourselves from Joe Schmo Advisory Firm down the street. You know, we want to make ourselves different and that’s where it all started.

Brad Johnson: The question I’ll often ask like back to the benefits package and back to job descriptions, ask a founder and if they answer this honestly, it tells you everything you need to know. Would you work for you? And it’s like when you look like most top performers, it’s like you want to work at a company that has at least some benefits or decent benefits or at least like market average benefits. And when you look in financial services, there are so many out there that just flat out have nothing, no benefits. And then they wonder why they can’t attract great talent, man. It’s like, well, great talent is not going to work for a company with no benefits. I mean, that makes no logical sense. So, I love that you identified that early on. One last question, back to great talent, because that’s one thing I’ve seen you are very gifted at. I feel like Michelle is like a filtering system that prospects come in and then you’re like, “Okay. Yes, fit, skill set, culture, probably a few other things,” or, “No, not going to be a good fit for the team.” Are there other tips you would give let’s say COOs, ops sort of people, HR sort of people of like here are ways that I filter for great talent, and here’s where I either say, “Yes, this one’s a potential opportunity,” or, “No, they’re not.” Are they questions? Are they thought processes? How do you do that?

Michelle Short: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think too you know having Derek, Keith, Matt and they had a fourth partner, as you mentioned, you know they did all the recruiting at first and then these folks are no longer there. So, I think they quickly realized, “Maybe we’re not the best at selecting talent or maybe we’re not looking for the right traits in a candidate,” right? So, for me, I’ve been an HR for over 20-something years so I’ve always recruited so I’ve learned a lot and I think one thing for me is I use Indeed. There’s nothing fancy about it. I just use Indeed. They have some pre-filtered quizzes or questionnaires that you can ask a candidate beforehand, but I’ll post, it used to be free, post an ad and now you have to throw a little ad spend in there but I would post the actual job description. I literally took the job description and posted it on Indeed. Just full disclosure, this is the role, this is where it is. I usually do phone interviews with candidates before they actually come in. So, a candidate might send their resume over. I’ll take a look at it. I’ll go on social media and I’ll look at Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and really check out the candidate and see if I can see anything. You know, do I think they’re going to be a good culture fit? I hate to say it but even looks-wise if they’re going to fit in with our culture here and our internal client.

So, we’ll take a look there. And then from there, I’ll do a phone call. I had one candidate, he looked fabulous on paper, and the minute I spoke with him, he interrupted me throughout the entire phone interview and I’m like, “Wow. He’s going to do that with a client.” So, he was, you know, while he looked great on paper, it was just that initial phone call that saved me a lot of time and I didn’t have him come into the office. But from there, I usually have them come into the office and I never interview alone. I always interview with my team. Our team is it’s not just my hire, it’s the whole team’s hire, and I need it to be a good fit with everybody. So, I usually pull in different folks. I have a nice little questionnaire and give it out to everybody. I say, “Hey, pick two or three questions that you want to ask,” because some folks are like, “I don’t know what to ask.” So, I kind of prepped them with that and they ask a couple of questions and then I wait for the response back. Usually, if a candidate doesn’t respond like a thank you, I put them lower on the totem pole. You know, I do not bring the advisor, the founding partners, Derek, Keith, Matt. I do not bring them into the interview process until the very last minute.

Very early on, there weren’t many of us. There was like maybe ten of us. So, if I thought the interview was going fabulous, I might step out and say, “Hey, Matt, can you just pop in for like 5 minutes just to get like a gauge?” Now, as we’re bigger, I had the luxury of having more people in the interview with us but I do have them come back for a second round if I feel like they’re great. And in between the first and second round, I usually give them a quiz of some sort, “You know, we just did this. Actually, we’re hiring an Advisory Solutions team member right now. So, yesterday I just administered a quiz to them, gave them a fictitious client experience, a client situation, and I said, “Take your time. There’s no wrong answer but come back with what your recommendation would be on their plan.” And I want to see how they write to me, how they address it to me, and I want to see what their thoughts are on it. So, we do these little quizzes to them in between their interviews, just to kind of gauge if they’ll be a good culture fit, etcetera. And then I usually have them back in and then the rest is history.

Brad Johnson: Love that. Back to let’s just focus more on like the story you said of the guy that was just interrupting you non-stop, some people you look at skill set and you’re like, “Wow. This is like a Harvard MBA.” The knowledge is there. The skill set may be there on paper, but then the culture fit isn’t there. Are there questions or specific things you do during the interview process to figure out are they culture fit or not?

Michelle Short: Yeah. I mean, a lot of times we ask, “Tell us about a situation that maybe was difficult for you in the firm or where do you work now and how did you overcome that? Tell us your leadership style. How do you like to connect with your leadership team or your boss? You know, how do you like to be communicated with?” We ask these questions. Mallory in our team who’s now our Director of Ops, she has a fun question, “What do you like to do for fun?” That’s the very last question we ask every candidate because as we’ll get to, we’re doing business and doing life together, right? So, it’s like how do we make sure that it’s a good culture fit? What do you like to do for fun? Some candidates freeze up and they feel like they can’t share and some of them just open their mouths and just start talking. So, those are some questions we ask.

Brad Johnson: Really cool. Okay. Thanks for sharing that. By the way, if you’re listening in and don’t grab like a number of those things, I can’t say, “Michelle, you’re so humble. You don’t brag on yourself.” If I look at the quality of human that SHP attracts, number one skill set-wise because that’s what it takes to follow through on the things you promised in finance but just a fun-loving group of people. You guys love each other. It’s really like we just did our scale summit in Kansas City. We did some business, we did some life, but when I look around the room, you guys truly do have a vibe where you like you crushed it on the business front but you also have a good time when you’re outside of business doing life. And then I also know your culture isn’t perfect. Our culture isn’t perfect. There’s always things you got to adjust and adapt. And when you have people, you have personnel issues that come up but if I look at the theme and the vibe, you guys always when you walk into a room, the room lights up. It’s like, “Oh, SHP’s here.” It’s a fun group to hang out with.

Michelle Short: Thank you.

Brad Johnson: So, good job. Keep doing what you’re doing is, I guess, what I’m trying to say there.

Michelle Short: And it was very early on, Brad, to add to that, we were trying to come up with like my goals, you know, and I’ll never forget. They were like, “Just make everybody happy.” And I was like, kind of laughing like, “That’s really my goal to hit a bonus target?” But I really took that seriously. And I was like, “You know what, we’re going to make everybody happy here.” And that’s the fun part of your role. In any COO’s thing, like that’s the fun part of our job. It’s so easy too.

Brad Johnson: Well, back to as you started as the Director of Ops, now the COO, when you said, “My client is the team,” if the team does not enjoy being at work and doing what they do on a daily basis, like everybody’s going to kind of hate going into the office. It’s going to suck. Let’s just be honest. So, part of that is how do I infuse happiness into the culture? And let’s go there real quick and then I want to get to the second part, which was the process around the proprietary process and how we kind of structured that or you all did. What sort of activities? How do you all do life? Like, what are the fun activities more the team-facing stuff versus the client-facing stuff?

Michelle Short: Sure. Yeah. So, and to explain a little bit or elaborate a little bit on what you mean about like the internal client, you know, that’s my client. You know, I’m now a COO so I’m more behind the scenes. And, yes, I see our clients every day. I’m hugging them, saying hello, but I’m more behind the scenes now. And so, my client is the team. You know, I want to make sure they’re happy. I want to make sure that they feel like they’re communicated with, that they have a job description, that they know what they’re doing, they know what’s expected of them, they know where their career lies. I want to make sure they’re healthy. I want to make sure their family is happy. I want to make sure we can support them in any way we can. So, that’s kind of why I say they’re my internal client. I always refer to them as that. But, yeah, we do a lot of fun things together. So, we have Monday morning meetings every single Monday and we share our numbers. What new business do we bring in? You know, we have it every single Monday.

And it used to be back in the day where I ran these meetings in front of everybody and just showing everything but now it’s so neat because it’s evolved into every team reporting in their information and they feel so empowered and feel so happy to share everything that they’re doing. So, the new business team will go for – I go in first and say, “You know, this is everything fun that’s happening this week. You know, this is what we might be doing with Triad or we have a seminar tomorrow night. Oh, did you see Nick just had a baby?” And I put pictures on there and like I just give the State of the Union of SHP for that particular week. Then we go into the new business section. So, Zack on his team, our Director of New Business, and his team put together all the numbers. They’re tracking all of our new business, life, annuity, AUM, and we have some fee-only clients too. So, he’s tracking all that. And we set target to the beginning of the year of our goal and then our stretched goal. So, we’re reporting in every single week how everybody is doing. How is the sales team doing with their goals? What are their closing ratios? What are our closing ratios as a firm? So, we’re sharing all of that.

And then we’ve got the marketing team. They’re sharing, you know, “How is our podcast trending? What were our TV results this week? Radio, we’re back on radio. What’s that look like? What events are we having?” Jamie will give a nice update on what events or seminars we’re doing, what she needs from the team for that. Mallory is our Director of Ops. She’ll give an ops update. “You know, this is what’s going on with technology. This is what’s going on with this. We need to start doing this with the client experience.” She’ll give like a nice update there. Tasha and her team with business development will give an update on the leads for the week. You know, we have X amount of first appointment, second appointments, connection visits, all that fun stuff. So, she gets everybody real excited about the week ahead. And then we’ve got Erin in compliance. She’s giving a compliant update. If there’s anything we need to know from the SEC standpoint or whatever, she’s giving us nice updates. And then we’ve got the investment committee is giving some updates. So, we give everybody a chance in the firm to really showcase what they’re working on and share.

And from that meeting, we track, like I mentioned, our goals and stretch goals, but if we hit our goals as a firm, then we’ll close the office in the summer and we’ll have a really nice, fun summer outing with the staff. We’ll go off-site for the day and they get a free day off. We give away some really cool swag. We’ve done like custom Nike sneakers for every employee where there are employee numbers on the back of the Nike sneaker, which is really fun. Last year, we had a Maui Jim representative there. We revealed the curtain and he was there with all these sunglasses and everybody got to pick out and fit themselves for the perfect pair of Maui Jims. So, we do real fun things and make it really a fun experience for the team. And then if we hit our stretch goals as a firm, we actually do an incentive trip with each team member and a loved one or guest. We’ve had the luxury of hitting our stretch goals three years in a row, sort of taking them to Nashville and we’ve taken them to Cancun, Mexico, and the last one was in Aruba. So, fingers crossed we hit this year but we work really hard.

It’s not just the producers that are producing to hit these numbers. It’s the new business team that’s processing the paperwork. It’s the ops team that’s supporting the client experience. It’s Tash and her team qualifying everybody. So, it’s a team effort. So, everything here is team, team, team but we have fun days here. We have like chili cook-offs, turkey tosses, holiday strolls. We do a lot of charity…

Brad Johnson: Turkey Toss?

Michelle Short: Turkey Toss.

Brad Johnson: This must be a northeast thing. You guys are in the backyard of the Pilgrims. So, this must be a pilgrim thing.

Michelle Short: Yeah, that’s it.

Brad Johnson: Did Matt come up with that one?

Michelle Short: No. That was on me and this is our, I think, our ninth year doing it. So, we have some repeat winners. But yes, we back up, throw a turkey, and Hail Mary across the lawn.

Brad Johnson: So, hold up. So, hold up. Now, I’m curious because I’m not familiar with this in Kansas. So, you take like a frozen turkey that you would cook for Thanksgiving?

Michelle Short: Yes, but now we don’t do it frozen anymore because some people have gotten injured from the frozen. So, we do like a thawed turkey and we stand in two rows across each other and just like do a toss and then we take a step back. And then we do the toss and then we take a step back. And we keep stepping back until it’s quite a distance.

Brad Johnson: So, the frozen turkey became a workman’s comp issue so now you toss a thawed turkey. So, it’s a partner activity. It’s not like just chuck a turkey as far as you can throw.

Michelle Short: Yeah. Exactly. It’s a shipmate activity. Yeah.

Brad Johnson: Nice. Thank you for enlightening me. I was unfamiliar with this.

Michelle Short: This is fun. And the turkey costs, what, 20 bucks. So, it’s just something you can do. We implement all these fun and inexpensive things that we’ve just done. We do a lot of charity work in the community. So, we do charity teams when we get out. They get the day off, we get to go to lunch after, and we do a lot of fun charity activity to help out the community. We do a Thanksgiving Day parade where we participate and walk along the Santa float and our team gets to do that. So, we do do a lot in the community, but we celebrate everybody’s birthdays. We celebrate everybody’s anniversaries.

This afternoon, someone on our team’s getting married. We have a mainly big bridal shower for him this afternoon. And we celebrate every single happening in everybody’s life here. So, we do do a lot of fun together.

Brad Johnson: I love that. I noticed something when you were going through the Monday meeting. I didn’t hear a lot of Derek, Keith, and Matt get up on the pulpit, and I know that can be a thing where the founder kind of, let’s just say, monopolizes the weekly meeting. By the way, guilty. Shawn and I have done this at Triad before Kenzie kicked us off. But why is that? Give me your reasoning of why it’s not just the founder sitting up there kind of directing the troops.

Michelle Short: Not their meeting. It’s our meeting. It’s for us to keep the charge and keep going and really showcase our peers. So, that’s really what it’s about. That’s where the culture change, I think, is for us, it’s more about the team. The guys have their limelight with their TV and their radio and all that fun stuff. But this is like a neat time for the team to bond and really share what we’re doing each day with our workload. Derek, Keith, and Matt sometimes to come to it, sometimes they don’t. They have other things to do too, and sometimes they sit in and sometimes I’m just emailing them, this is this week’s numbers. But they do chime in every once in a while. But for the most part, it’s just our meeting. It’s not required. One more meeting off their calendar.

Brad Johnson: Tell me if this is fair, because this has been an awareness thing. Prior life, I led a small sales team, five or six people. And then as Triad has gone from zero to approaching 70 team members now in three years, what I realized when you go from a team of five to a team of 10 to a team at 15, it would almost get to the stage where like Shawn and I would be like, “Oh, it’s Monday morning meeting. What are we going to talk about?” And we were like, on demand, figuring it out a day or two. And I know a lot of founders have been there where they’re like, they know they’re supposed to do some form of a Monday meeting. They’re the one in charge of it.

And then with busy schedules, it’s like they haven’t prepared or maybe there’s travel, so the meeting doesn’t even happen at all. And what I saw for you all, there was this big shift where it’s like, “No, the meeting always happens.” This is a recurring meeting and you remove them because it actually, to your point, wasn’t serving the team. It was kind of almost like a politician getting up and making a speech sort of deal. And I know we were guilty of that. So, what is the blowback from the team like, if you look through the team lens and every Monday, it’s like, here’s the founder saying whatever he came up with the prior weekend. How did that impact the team prior?

You said it right. I mean, it’s like the guys were just checking off the box, like, “Oh, we got to have a team meeting.” So, I think consistency is key, so we do. We have them every Monday and everybody knows that they’re here and it’s mandatory. And if they’re not in this office, we have other offices that call in because we have some folks work remote. We have some in a different location. So, it’s mandatory. Cameras are on, it’s mandatory. I want to see them. I don’t want to see a black screen.

And yeah, I mean, it’s just consistency. I think that’s the big thing, doing them, say you’re going to do them. And I don’t want them knowing like they don’t– how do I say this? I don’t want them knowing everything because they have the right people in the seats to run everything, if that makes sense. So, it’s like I want to tell them this is the numbers this week, but they don’t need to know it, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Mondays, I want them to come in and be like, “Here’s your debrief.” You know what I mean? It’s almost like our report card to you of what we’re all doing.

Brad Johnson: You relieved them of those duties back to the Drudgery Zone. It was their Drudgery Zone before. Don’t pull yourself back into the Drudgery Zone. You wanted to get back out of in the first place. I love that. I want to hit one other thing. You keep spurring other thoughts just going back through your journey. It kind of goes and it kind of bleeds into this Monday morning meeting concept.

So, when you first arrived on the scene, you were coming in to three partners. One partner oftentimes can create enough chaos on their own, but then you got three personalities, sometimes running three different directions. I believe it was pretty quickly after you got there, there was a weekly founders’ meeting because one thing I know about visionary hard charger founding advisors, the brain’s not going to slow down. The idea factory is not going to slow down.

And so, sometimes it’s this organizing the chaos or like riding a bucking bull sort of concept. And you very quickly, and I think this is also how you built trust, created a system to where the ideas could still be shared, documented, but organized and executed on. So, can you share how you did that?

Michelle Short: Sure, yeah. So, we call it a leadership meeting. We have it every single Monday. I mentioned before, it’s consistency, right? So, it’s having the team meeting, and then right afterwards, we have leadership. They may grab a lunch, come on in. We try to not use our cell phones, put that down. And I literally pull up my email box and I have a folder that’s called– there’s nothing crazy to this. I want to keep it stupid simple, right? So, it’s the folder called Leadership.

And during the week, I’ve given permission to Derek, Keith, Matt like, “Send me any thoughts you have.” So, they send me, Derek yesterday, “There’s a new TV spot. We should look at this for Leadership” And I just dragged the email into that folder. I used to prepare agendas and all that stuff, but by the time that Monday came around, sometimes it wasn’t a shiny object anymore. So, I don’t want to waste the time. So, to value my time, I literally just pull it and drop it in there.

And then Mondays, yeah, I pull up my email box, pull up that Leadership folder, and we go through one by one. “Derek, what are your thoughts on this?” And then we have the conversation, make a decision. “Matt, what’s your thoughts on this conversation?” We may take vote. The Monday meetings are for making decisions. We talk about, I come with my agenda, which is like personnel updates. Every week, I’m giving them the what’s going on behind the scenes that they don’t know about. I’m giving them the anniversaries that are coming up, “Hey, guys, it’s almost bonus time. I’m going to send you my calculation,” or maybe I’ll bring the calculation to that meeting and we’re approving bonuses.

Year end, we do comp increases, that type of thing. Marketing spends, Jamie might sit with me and say, “Hey, I think we should do these three events. What do you think?” And then I need get approval from them to do it if I need to, or whatever it might be. So, those are the decisions we’re really making. I mean, meetings, we’re making decisions in, if you will. And usually, I’ll come with some stats for them. This is maybe what’s pending. This is what’s pending with each source. We just kind of go through, like the life of SHP in a week, we do it every Monday.

Brad Johnson: Love that. By the way, borrowed that idea from you. So, thank you. Shawn and I at the early phases of Triad, it was absolute. Just not enough of us to go around chaos, like, we need internet, we need printers, we need computers, all this stuff we never dealt with, of course, business owners. And yeah, people, we need some people that actually do stuff around here.

Michelle Short: And we do that. We talk about that. In that meeting, that’s what we talk about. And I may pull in team members to that meeting. They may have a spotlight that week in leadership. If they have something they want to talk it over or there’s something pressing that we really need to come in, I’ll be like, “Hey, Mal, come on in for 20 minutes.” And she carves out 20 minutes of that meeting and we just focus on Mal or whatever. I do that quite a bit.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, so here’s the advice Shawn and I got because, and I know you’ve dealt with this, and by the way, if you’re an advisor or a partner advisor and there’s friction or chaos among partners, congratulations, you’re normal. Happens in every single partnership. It’s like marriage. It’s like, “Oh, nobody has a perfect marriage. No, they have a marriage they’ve worked on to grow and continue to live together and be happily married,” right?

So, on that front, I love one thing you just, I guess, I’ll finish my tip. Michelle hit it. This is a mandatory happens every week meeting to where the partners come together and communicate. It’s all about communication. At one point, there was so much going on in our business, Shawn and I did that meeting three times a week because it was moving so fast and there were so many decisions to be made. And I’ll tell you, the friction, if you have that as a partner, typically comes down to lack of communication. So, amp up the cycle of communication if you’re struggling there. And I’ve found that to be very helpful.

You shared one other piece of advice there, Michelle. You said sometimes, the shiny object idea is not such a great idea a week later in that Monday morning meeting, and most advisors are quick start visionaries, which is a blessing and a curse to a business. So, I love that there’s a holding container for ideas. And now, a week later, “Oh, yeah, that was just my crazy idea on a Saturday morning. It’s actually I don’t think we want to go with that.” So, how has that played out to keep you guys from kind of the whiplash of crazy ideas or quick start ideas?

Michelle Short: You’re exactly right. It’s like a placeholder. I talked earlier on about earning trust, like you want to earn trust with somebody because if they say, “I want to discuss this,” it doesn’t just go anywhere. I actually bring it up on Monday and we discuss it. And you’re right. Sometimes, it needs further research, or sometimes, it’s not an idea anymore.

And sometimes, when they send that to me and if it’s something that, I’m trying to get an example, like something needs a cost, I might do a little research for it so that when I come into Monday, I can be like, “Hey, I looked at that to see the commitment is this and the cost is this.” And Derek may be like, “No, forget it,” or “Yeah, let’s move forward with it.” So, they’re sending this to me and I’m doing a little research, I’m vetting it out. And again, that just equals trust because I’m getting it done because he can dump off his brain and focus on something else.

Brad Johnson: Yes. Well, I’ve seen where most founders struggle. It’s like a fire hose. You can’t just cap it because it’s just going to explode. It’s like the idea is don’t stop. But now, if there’s a place for the ideas to go where they know they will be addressed later, Shawn and I are the same way to where it’s like, okay, we’re going to– man, in the early stages, there’d be like an endless texting on the weekends. And now, you’re not doing life because business never turns off, right?

Michelle Short: We used to do that. We used to do the texting exactly. I’m glad you just brought that up, Brad, because we used to do that. And then it was like, “Oh, it’s Monday morning, I don’t even feel like I’m rested.” So, we try to eliminate the weekends and the emails. So, we do a really good job of that now. It wasn’t always pretty. But we’ve gotten to that point, involved with that for sure.

Brad Johnson: I love that. Okay, this time is flying, so I’m going to move on. But this is such an amazing episode. By the way, if you’re an advisor listening to this and you want to get somebody to help execute the ideas and organize the ideas, if you have a director of ops or somebody you think can be a director of ops or a COO, share this episode right now. I promise, like I’ve seen this play out inside of SHP. This is game-changing stuff Michelle is talking about.

Okay, so let’s go to a time and I believe it was 2016. So, this is now going into part 2 that we talked about like a half hour ago. So, around 2016, I believe the number you all hit. So, you’re around three Michelle around 10 to 12 million with the four guys kind of run around selling stuff. You get there in 2014 and start to build some structure and make some hires to build out the marketing, the sales, the ops divisions.

I believe it might have been in the year 2015 going into 2016 where I think you all had just hit about 60 million of total assets gathered as a firm, and I remember doing a goal-setting conversation. And it was well, we hit 60, but we think we’re going to shoot for 50 this year, and permission to get like brutally real right here with you because I believe also, part of that was the guys, the three guys that were selling with Joe. Was Joe Anderson there yet, your first guy?

So, he had just kind of come on the scene, but there wasn’t a lot of service team. So, the guys were still like, it was actually the more you sold, the more service you created on the back end. And they were like, “We’re drowning a little bit. We’re doing a lot of seminars. We’re missing family dinners. Kids were a little older, missing some sports,” all that sort of stuff. And it was like, “No, thanks, cry uncle. We’ll just make sure we stay. We’re going to take a step backwards because we don’t want to sacrifice the do life side.” And I believe I want to go to your part in this story.

I think it wasn’t too long after that. You’re a talented individual on the team. And I believe, obviously, there was a headhunter or somebody. And at one point, you’re kind of like, “Hey, guys, I need to know if this is a long-term thing.” And I’m just curious because I found great talent on a team. You need growth. You need to be going somewhere. And I’m just curious, I’ve never asked you this before. So, now is the time on a podcast, I hope it’s okay. But it was kind of the three founders were like, “Well, we were at 60. We’re going to go to 50 because it’s just not worth working that hard again this year.”

And I don’t think it was too long after that conversation. You kind of sat the guys down and said, “Hey, is this going to be my long-term place or do I need to start exploring other options?” So, whatever you want to share open in the public domain, I would just love to hear your thoughts there.

Michelle Short: Yeah. I remember your face during this conversation to me. You said, “No, we’re just going to keep our goal down.” Yeah, it was like we’re building, building, building. But are we really giving our client the service that we say we’re going to do? I keep saying that because very early on, it’s tough. You don’t have this many people, a lot of people wearing many hats, right? So, we kind of just stepped back and we were like, “We’re going to decrease our goal” because we want to make sure everything is ticked and tied and we have people in the right spots. And it’s not all about– I mean, it is about growth, but it’s about growth as a firm, not just growth in numbers, like getting more client households in. It’s not about that anymore. Yes, and there was frustration to me, like, “Where are we going? There was not really a vision.” We didn’t have, like, we didn’t know where we were going. It’s like I’m just plowing through every day and I’m taking more off their plate. But I wanted to know what my future was. So, yeah.

And I think, that kind of leads us into, I think, 2017, ‘18 is when I got promoted to COO and it was very enlightening for the guys because they were like, “Oh, gosh, don’t leave.” I’m approached quite often with other opportunities. And there was one that kind of sparked my ear and I was like, well, I wonder, but it didn’t feel right for me because I loved what I was building. So, it worked out great. And I’m glad we had to go through that exercise. We talked about it still now, but it was very enlightening for the guys because they were like, “Wow, you’re just going, going, but we’re not giving you what you need,” right? So, yes, you’re taking stuff off our plate in your doing, but we need to give you, like, and that’s when they kind of like, here’s the full ring, like go, you pull the ring and do it.

And I think that was a pivotal point for SHP because from there, we’re just rocking. We’re at 165 million today of closed business in 2023. We’ve got 45 million pending. I think we’re going to hit our stretch goals. I’m hopeful, right? So, it’s like from there, it was just like, okay, we’re going to go. We’re going to go on steroids and we’re just going to run this and rocket. So, I hope that answered your question.

Brad Johnson: No, I appreciate you. And I probably should have checked before we hit record, but I remember, I think it was Derek called me, kind of like in a little bit of a panic and what it hit, number one, first off, great talent on any team, you better put something in front of them. They’re going after that serves them on the business front and life front because at the end of the day, we show up to work. You said it earlier like, you were having a young family. And I know that’s something I love about you and Greg and your girls, it’s like that’s really important to you.

And so, if it gets to a point where it’s like, well, this isn’t serving where I need to go on the life front to support that, then great talent’s going to leave or listen to other offers. And I love the integrity of you, where you just sat the guys down and just had a real conversation and were like, “Hey, what’s the plan here?” And Derek called me. He’s like, “Hey, dude,” I remember the advice I gave him. I’m like, “Do not lose Michelle.” You need to sit down and have a real conversation because I was fortunate enough, I was sitting in a chair where I was seeing hundreds of top-performing financial services firms all around the country. And I knew, unfortunately, for those guys, and very fortunately for you, there’s not a lot of Michelle Shorts out there that care this much, that are intelligent, that are going to love on the people. And I love that that was the next evolution of you, like I call it renewing the vows of SHP. And that was really cool to see what’s happened since then.

So, I think good lesson, if you’re listening to this and you’re a founder, it’s one thing to attract great talent. It’s another thing to keep great talent. And you said the word, so let’s go into vision. I remember Cameron Herold came on. My former show hasn’t been on this one yet, probably need to hit him up again. But he wrote a book, Double Double, and there was a chapter in there called Vivid Vision, and I remember that was shared with a whole room of advisors. And you were one of three firms that I think actually followed through and actually did the exercise, which was kind of the three-year vision. So, let’s go to that because that kind of takes us into this next phase of SHP I feel like where you’ve gotten to today.

Michelle Short: Yeah. And I agree, like thanks, Brad, to let me share that too. And it’s part of our story now, right? So, Derek, Keith, and I, we reflect on that a lot. So, I’m really proud of where we are, and I’m so thankful for them for giving me the opportunities they have. But I’ll tell you, Cameron Herold is a star. And I became a quick student of his books. And I think around then, Matt Peck thinks a lot like this, too. It’s like, “Where are we going as a firm?” And that was a good exercise that we had to go through because I didn’t know where we were going, right? So, it’s like if I don’t know where we’re going, the team doesn’t know where we’re going.

So, we sat and literally came up with, “This is what the next three years are going to look like.” Matt kind of spearheaded this. He loves this stuff too, so it was really nice to see what was in Matt’s head. And then we brought it to leadership and we worked on it together. It was like a little project that we had together. And each Monday, we would chip away at it. Derek would give his input, Keith would give his input, myself, and we would say, like we came up with, it’s called our three-year vivid vision. And we do it every three years. This 2024 will be our third one. So, we’ve been doing it for a while now and we’ll outline like, in your business, this is how many people we think we’re going to need to support this. We kind of have this calculation of what we think we need.

Last year was like, we want to acquire a CPA firm. We haven’t done that yet, but we’ve had some conversations with firms about it. We talked about hitting $1 billion of assets under management. We thought it was super hard to get to and we just hit that milestone, which is pretty exciting, I know. So, it’s like, you put goals on paper, it happens. And the team sees that and they buy into that. And I sit with all new hires here and just talk about what our vision is. And I’ll tell you, they’re like, “Wow, my firm that I came from doesn’t have this.” It is very important and it shows that we care and we want to make sure everybody is a part of that vision. It’s very important to us.

Brad Johnson: Language creates, as we say. And I think one of the biggest gaps for most founders is actually a lot of them have some form of a vision or where they want to go up here. The problem is it’s just up here and the team can’t buy into it, and to your point, know where the team’s going. And I remember, if you don’t mind sharing, you had three– I don’t know if you call them core values or principles, but I remember three came out of that. Do you mind sharing those because I think, it can, at least if it’s an advisor listening in out there, can kind of start the wheels turning a bit?

Michelle Short: Yes, we call them mantras, right?

Brad Johnson: Mantras, okay.

Michelle Short: So, they work with like an Etsy shop to develop the coolest looking logo for our mantras. And we have them posted in all our offices. So, they’re on the wall. So, everybody walks by them every day. They’re at the bottom of their compensation schedule so they can be reminded of it every quarter when we’re reading on bonuses or annually. But the first one is do your job. I know it could be a little Bill Belichick back when the Patriots were good, right? You just throw it out there.

Brad Johnson: Yes. I’m going to let the joke opportunity just go by because I don’t want interrupt your flow. Keep going, yeah.

Michelle Short: My daughter, by the way, said I love the Chiefs last night because Taylor Swift is that whole thing. So, that was funny. But yeah, do your job.

Brad Johnson: I’m proud of her.

Michelle Short: Yeah, I’m sure. It would be, yeah. So, do your job, come in. Just come in and do your job. There’s no drama. There’s no need for drama. Check that at the door. Just come in and do what you’re here to do. Don’t get all up in somebody else’s business. Just focus on what you need to get done. Yes, you’re a team member and you can help out team members, but just come on in with the mindset. You’re just going to come in and rock your job that day.

Another one is don’t be lazy, no shortcuts. This is huge, especially from a compliance standpoint. Don’t be lazy. Do the right thing for the client. If the client needs and deserves a phone call, pick up the phone and call the client. Don’t just hide behind an email. So, just do what’s right for the client, always. Don’t be lazy. Here at SHP, if you want to go talk to a team member, don’t hide behind an email. Just go over and talk to them. So, that’s a big one.

And then our last one is keep calm and carry on. The market can go up and down, and clients can call in and be a little frazzled by it, but keep calm and carry on for our client. Just be that calm voice for them. And same with our internal client. If somebody is having a really bad day, just keep calm and carry on throughout the day and make an appointment with whoever you need to make an appointment internally to kind of talk through things, but just stay calm and always be a leader, so.

Brad Johnson: And what I love about your culture that nobody is immune to that. I’ve heard Derek, one of the founders, called out on that. I saw one time. I was fortunate enough to see this one where– and by the way, what I love about all three founders is incredibly successful. But unfortunately, sometimes, that leads to growing egos in our space. And they’re the same three guys I met back in 2011, 2012 before all this success happened, and I love that about them.

But I was fortunate one day where Derek kind of took a little shortcut on a referral and kind of changed the normal appointment process. And Laura, on your team, who’s on his service team, called him out on it, and I was fortunate enough there to watch the roasting live. But I love that about your culture. Nobody’s immune. Nobody’s above this. All of us need to live by this.

Michelle Short: That’s like our language, right? So, we call people out on it. Derek, in that particular instance, it was a client referral. He thought it was a layup. He kind of half-assed the appointment, if you will, kind of just went through with a minimal, and like you said, you witnessed it. But those are our core values and we believe that as a firm, it’s posted in our office and we talk a lot when we’re recruiting too, we’re bringing new team members on. We talk a lot about that with them too.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, the vision is for your existing team and where they want to go. But what’s crazy, when you pull that into the recruiting of like, here’s where are we going to go, they’re like, “I want that. My firm doesn’t have anything like that.” So, it’s cool how it applies to the other side, too. Okay, so, man, this has gone fast.

So, let’s go back to, let’s rewind to that 2015, ‘16 where we did 60 and our goal is 50. The thing that I remember from that phase that was eating the selling advisors alive was we make this McDonald’s analogy a lot, so I’d be missing an opportunity if we didn’t. But so, marketing brings them in. That’s the people lined up at the cash register. You had at the time, I think, four cash registers, right? Because you had the three founding partners, Joe. Was Mark there yet? Mark might have been there. So, maybe you have five selling advisors. Yeah, maybe four or five selling advisors.

So, think about McDonald’s if you’re listening into this and you’ve got people at the cash registers, that’s the sales, like the transaction is happening. You already talked about Nick in the back building the plans. That would be the version of the Big Mac. But what was eating you guys alive was this service thing where you make the sale and back to fulfilling promises. My analogy is like the free refills back in the day when we were growing up, McDonald’s, you never went in the paying customer line. You always had the little like side where the drive-thru person would just kind of like throw you a refill when you needed it, but you would have been the equivalent of a McDonald’s where the free refill people were jumping right back in the paying customer line.

And so, now, half of Keith or Derek or Matt or Joe’s or Mark’s lines were free refills. And they’re like, “I can’t even bring on new revenue because it’s just taking care of people that are already a member of the firm.” This led to the service build out and really structuring this proprietary plan, your version of the Big Mac, and also, how do we not only onboard a new client, first appointment, second appointment, third appointment? But the cadence of service and reviews and strategy sessions afterwards. So, really big idea concept. Just I’d love to hear from the upside, how did you start to fix that problem for all of your advisors that were driving revenue in?

Michelle Short: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, we have the advisor team. So, we used to call them service advisors, but no one really likes that term service. And quite frankly, you’re doing more than just servicing, right? So, we now call it Advisory Solutions. So, if you hear us saying that, it means the same thing but in a blown-up way. So, we would have power planners and then we’d have a service team.

So, we were like separate, separate, separate, and we just weren’t keeping up with it. So, then we’re like, what if we cross-trained everybody and they were all just an Advisory Solutions team member where they did the power planning and the service work? How cool would that be? So, we implemented that and that person would be on a team.

So, now, we’ve broken it up like Derek has needs. This is his team. Keith has needs team, Matt team. The other producing advisors that are non-founders, once their book hits about 80 million, we’ll give them a team. So, now, they have a team. And then with the next threshold, we’ll give them another team member, right?

So, Derek doesn’t go into a meeting now without his team lead, and then there’s a team behind him to support it. So, they’re in meetings with everybody. They’re doing the recap emails and the meetings for them. They’re following through with any deliverables that come up in the meeting. And if it’s a certain client level in our firm, they’ll end that relationship going forward. So, that team lead has taken that relationship off Derek’s plates that Derek can go produce and bring somebody else on.

So, it wasn’t a sustainable model because we didn’t have enough Derek to go around. I’m picking on Derek, but we didn’t have enough of the advisor to go around, so we needed a team underneath them. It took us a couple of years to build that out. It’s hard, and cross-training is hard and it’s a lot to learn with. We’re still not perfect with it, but we have carved out a nice team for each group and we call, everybody has their own distribution email, just like an own email box. So, it’s teamderek@shpne.com.

So, whenever a client is emailed, it’s from that Team Derek email. So, that way when the client reaches back, it’s not only Derek that has to respond to that client. The team picks up that email and responds back to them. So, that way the team’s building that trust and camaraderie with the client and it’s not always on Derek shoulders. So, that’s kind of what we built now. And that’s just a goal we set for each other a couple of years ago and we’re perfecting it each day.

Brad Johnson: Well, you hit another thing there, too, and we’ve covered pieces of this. I think this was Episode 2 with Shawn and I. We call it the Triad Advisor model, which was a lot based on some of the learnings we got from SHP and other firms. But you really broke the advisor. So, most firms, an advisor does all of that. They do the selling, they do the servicing, they do the planning, and you really took those three and broken into three separate, more specialized roles.

And now, we were just talking about this, Tom Jacobs episode. We’re just referencing a bunch of past episodes. But it’s cool because you poured into a lot of firms here. He had a rule that he borrowed from you, I’ll never do another appointment alone because you go back to the stuff that is Drudgery Zone, a lot of great relationships, selling advisors, they actually don’t really like the follow up and aren’t very good at it.

So, now, there’s all these gaps that get missed from the notes. So, you’re like, “Well, just bring the service advisor. That’s actually going to be the one following through and let them do the recap.” And now, it’s all about relationship building, asking questions while it’s all getting documented. And then you do another thing that we coach on a lot at Triad, which is a recap email, which– is it a 24-hour rule in your firm? What’s your 24 hours…

Michelle Short: Absolutely. And usually, people just want to check it off the list. They do it right away, which has Spiegel stressed, right? So, it works, yeah.

Yeah. So, imagine this, you come in as a prospect. There’s not one advisor but two. We take a team-based approach. And now, within 24 hours, often within hours, there’s a very detailed recap in that prospect’s inbox that he’s now like, “Oh my gosh, this is a whole ‘nother level. They actually heard me, they documented it. Professionalism, a whole ‘nother level.”

And also, back to your planning team, that’s like the McDonald’s order that goes to the planning team so they can start to prepare the order, right? So, it’s so cool to see how that’s evolved. We coach on that a lot, the Triad Advisor model. If you hear this, okay, I want to go back and dive in a little deeper. Check out Episode 2.

I want to hit something because we’re getting limited on time here. And by the way, that also allows back to your team inbox. I’m missing an opportunity. Now, your advisors can actually take a break, go on vacation. If every single email, which back in the day went to Derek or Keith or Matt, now, the moment they come back from vacation, they either ignored emails the whole time and they’ve got two weeks of emails or they’re on vacation with their iPhone answering emails. How has that been a game changer, not just for the advisors, but the team with some of these team-based system? So, people can actually unplug and do life every once in a while.

Michelle Short: And you said it earlier, it’s like, we were texting all weekend. It’s like, there’s none of that on the weekend. You can take a deep breath. These guys, they do a lot of coaching. Their kids are doing a lot of sports. They’re able to be there for their children and we’re able to do what we do best. And we’re in the plans all day. So, we’re in the nitty-gritty, so better to talk to you than the team, right?

We had a conversation recently coming off the summer break, and the guys took probably the most time off they’ve taken since I’ve been here and it’s been about 10 years. And I was so proud of them. And I said, “How did you have that feel? How did that go?” And even Matt took two or three weeks off in a row. He’s never done that. And they were like, “We did must be,” like everything just kept going. And it felt so good, like everybody’s doing their job. And that to me is my review, like, I know that I’m doing my job because the team, we’re all pulling our weight. And that just is like best thing I could hear. So, it does work if you have your team involved from the get-go.

Brad Johnson: Not a big enough dream if it doesn’t require a team, right? Okay. So, we talked about this, this morning actually as we were prepping for this conversation. And I’ve seen this, we’ve experienced this at Triad. Sales, so making the promise, selling, right? Transferring the trust, the belief of like, here’s how we’re going to better serve you than where you’re currently at now, and then op, which is following through on those promises.

And one of the biggest disconnects I see in finance, whether it’s our world, the world of insurance brokerage or RIAs, or your world where it’s the retail and retiree, oftentimes, there’s this gap of what gets sold versus the people that actually have to follow through the ops, and honestly, sometimes how they get treated by maybe not so nice people. You all have done a really cool job as you laid out the vision, said, “Here’s what we’re about and here’s what sort of clients we serve,” how you actually kind of like hold the line or have a standard there. Triad, and I’ll share maybe a story if we have time a little later, we want to be very true to our mission and what we’re about as well.

But let’s talk about what happens when there’s a not right fit client. I don’t like the word fired because I think there’s ego tied to that, like I fired them. We just call it transitioning, like hey, maybe this partnership wasn’t meant to be in the first place. No fault. Let’s just maybe, you need to go somewhere else that’s a better fit for you and we’re going to hold the line of who’s a fit for us and we don’t believe this to be the right partnership. How do you navigate that on the upside? Because I’m sure you’ve had a few of those, maybe some of those early clients that weren’t the best long-term fit.

Michelle Short: Yeah, and I would say we do a really good job with that here in our first meeting, having that conversation as we’re trying to see if there is any connection. We call it the connection meeting. Is there a connection here? And the guys, if they’re not vibing with the client or the client just doesn’t seem open-minded, if they’ll have no problem, not really forcing the second meeting, they’ll just be like, “You know what? We’re good.” So, it’s like we don’t push the second meeting, I should say, if we don’t need to.

But I think they do do a good job in their verbiage. And I think we do a good job training. Chase on our team, he’s been on the Advisory Solutions team. He’s now becoming a producing advisor, which is so exciting to watch. And I even saw him doing it the other day. He had someone come in and they were just like wild. And he’s like, “I just don’t know it’s going to be a good fit.” And he did it, just like he identified it. And so, we’re all talking that language.

But there have been times, I have one instance that I’m thinking of, Derek had a client that was just talking poorly to Laura and his team, whether it be through email or on the phone, just a little aggressive. And he called him out on it and said, “We don’t treat our team like that. So, if it’s not a good fit, we have no problem parting ways.” That’s like our language. Transitioning is a great language too that you just mentioned, but we have no problem saying that. It has to be a good fit.

We just had a boat cruise on Tuesday night this week in Boston. We rented a big boat and had 200 clients on it, our top clients, just to thank them. And it’s funny, the feedback we’ve been getting is great, but one woman, like she’s on Derek, seems a client of ours, wrote to us yesterday and said, “Sorry for the delay. I just want to let you know we had the best time. And I saw all of my friends on the boat that I’ve met at previous experiences.” So, the fact that we’re building this community of clients that are friends with clients and team members, we just can’t let that impact that culture that we have with our internal and external culture. So, we have to have those conversations. It’s just very important to us.

Our clients are like family to us. They’re like my grandparents or whatever. They’re just families. We just don’t allow it. And luckily, we don’t have a lot of it, to be quite frank, I think, because the language in the first appointment, it really solidifies. Keith had somebody come in recently from Cape Cod who was just a very stern person in the first meeting, didn’t really push it, and Keith just kept going. And then he’s just like, “I don’t want to work with them.” So, we’re like, he’ll choose not to follow up as much as he might with another first appointment or something, but that’s very important too.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, I think there’s a couple things there that you hit. First off, back to your team, one of the learnings that I’ve had over a few years now in business is, if as a founder or as an executive at SHP, if you actually move the client above the team, you will not keep and retain great talent because that’s really easy to see. I mean, I remember one time that, honestly, like probably a little still scarred from where I was asked like, hey, what’s my opinion on this client? I’m like, “Not a good fit.” And I have many real examples. Not emotional examples, but like X, Y, Z, not a good fit.

And I remember my leadership at the time was like, “Oh, we’re going to bring them on anyway.” And then immediately, I knew where I stood on the priority stack, right? And there was a choice of revenue over team and the people that help you actually served the client. And I believe it to be very true that team should always come above client. Not that we shouldn’t have a heart to serve client and take care of them and follow through on our promises, but if we don’t have a great team, we can’t deliver on serving the client, right? And so, if you mix that around, you’re not going to have a great team because we don’t know, like, well, what I say here doesn’t matter or I’m not poured into and there’s like higher priorities on the list than me. And so, I love that stance of standing for your team. I think that’s huge.

The second one that I love that you hit is how now, and by the way, let’s get to the referrals because this is really fun, these two tied together. You’ve got a community you’ve created of clients that you’re serving at a high level, so you’re following through on those promises and they’re good humans that you want to create fun experiences for, like harbor cruises. And I know you guys do a ton of different things to pour into your clients. And now, your clients are like, “These are some of the best relationships I have as other SHP clients.” And guess what leads to referrals? Do people talk about that? What percentage of your business last year came from referrals at SHP?

Yeah, 32% last year. And I would say we’re on target. I mean, right now, we’re at 33 as of Q2 and I’m about to close Q3. I’m confident it will be in the 40s, if not even more. I mean, it’s just something. We had a client write yesterday, too, or talked to Mallory and said, “Everybody on this boat, they’re all happy. There’s all happy people.” And it’s like we do business with happy people. We want to be with people that we want to be with. It’s just super.

Brad Johnson: And by the way, that’s fun. We’re on a podcast called Do Business, Do Life. That’s really fun when those two come together. So, what was your actual number? So, we’re recording in 2023. 2022, what was the total assets that the firm gathered?

Michelle Short: Yeah, we had 255, I believe. 255.

Brad Johnson: Okay, so I’m just going to do this quick math. Oh, gosh, I completely screwed this up. Sorry.

Michelle Short: You’re good.

Brad Johnson: So, 81.6 mil-ish last year came from referrals. And I know you also drove a ton of business from existing clients too that have more money come in, 401(k)s rolling over, all that sort of stuff. And so, I think, oftentimes we forget in this business, obviously, we’re in a very marketing-driven business. You forget if you just like love on your clients and actually follow through on the stuff you say you’re going to do and serve them at a high level. Your clients become your own marketing. So, I love that.

Michelle Short: And remember I said earlier in the podcast that we didn’t even have this program started back 10 years ago, so how cool.

Brad Johnson: At most and I am bragging on you a little bit, but most firms out there won’t do 81.6 million in a year if they’re just marketing like crazy. And you turn loving on your clients into its own form of a marketing, like this is awesome. Come join this really cool club that I’m a part of, right? So, cool.

Well, I want to share something like, I literally just had this conversation this week with the team and same thing at Triad, what I love is all the similarities. This is why there’s such a great synergy with SHP and Triad Partners and everything we’re all building together, but we’re committed to the same. And it’s very not common in the insurance brokerage world, the FMO space to actually say no. It’s like, “Oh, you do 5 million, 10 million, 20 million, 40 million, cool, move the contracts over.” And it’s a very kind of transaction based like do the business, we’ll throw you some marketing, all that.

And one of the things that I’m really proud of our team on, we fortunately haven’t had to do this very frequently, but we’ve had a couple like not great fits, where maybe we didn’t communicate it right up front, like we’re not perfect. But when you say you work with a certain production level but also want growth-minded, Do Business, Do Life people, I think the cool thing that I appreciate, I’d love your take because you’re a part of the community. We now have 57 official offices that have joined Triad.

And you were in Tahoe at the Founder’s Retreat that we did back in August. And back to your client cruise story, I felt the exact same way. I was looking forward to this because I was like, “These are my people. We’re doing some cool business stuff together. We’re doing some life together.” But when you get somebody that’s not a fit, maybe they’re not DBDL. Maybe they’re like bad to the team. Maybe they’re like not super straightforward and transparent and doing things that aren’t a fit in the community. What I’ve come to realize is it’s not just about that individual and transitioning them out because you want to curate and stay hold to what this community is about. It’s actually about those members that are great members and making sure you stay true and keep the community what you said it was in the first place.

So, what are your thoughts on that because I know you’ve experienced a few different financial services things over the years? And some people in the room are like, “I love this person.” Some people are like, “Oh, I wouldn’t invite them over to my house and have them around my kids.” So, what are your thoughts? I’d love to just hear your take on that.

Michelle Short: Yeah, and it is true internally, too. This is a year of uncomfortable conversations. We made that commitment, like you guys asked what our champagne moment is. This time next year, what is it going to be? It’s uncomfortable conversations. And we’ve had to let go some team members that weren’t a great culture fit this year. But you’re totally right. You said it best when you’re in a community like what you’ve built at Triad and you’re looking around the room, it’s like, “I want my kids to be around these people.”

I have two daughters. When you have the girls, you’re like, I’ll go, “Mommy’s going to another business trip,” they’re like, “Have fun.” That’s what they say to me now. It wasn’t always like that because they know the people that I’m around and they’re happy people. And it’s like, they’re not upset with Mommy leaving to go to another business trip anymore because they know what I’m doing in the community and that type of things. So, I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for, Brad, but it’s super important to me, family. Just to be around like-minded folks is just powerful and it makes me want to level up as a leader, too, to be around people like that.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, and the cool thing because we, back to mom, dad’s going to be gone. I’ve made that sacrifice. You’ve made that sacrifice over the years. And part of Triad was like, well, maybe let’s not always make that sacrifice. So, we had more kids in Tahoe than we did adults. And by the way, we all survived that the hotel was standing when we left, like we organized it.

But one of my proudest moments since Triad started, I know you’re a huge Nico Moon fan, as I am now, too, and he’s been to a couple of our experiences, was seeing my daughter. Your daughter is jamming out to Nico Moon. For many of our founders’ kids, that was like their kid’s first concert experience. And so, it’s like, how do you facilitate experiences that are both doing business and doing life and not make that sacrifice? You can actually integrate the two if done intentionally. And that’s been really cool to see how that’s been embraced because quite honestly, Shawn and I were a little scared because that’s uncharted territories in our space where it’s like, wait, you’re designing a business retreat where kids are welcome. And because it hasn’t really happened, at least not in finance that I’ve seen. And so, it’s been really cool to see it play out.

Michelle Short: I don’t know if you agree, but I feel like it deepens the connection with people. Even if we’ve got Zooms and stuff, everyone’s asking how my girls are, how is school. Oh, my God, she got braces. How is she feeling? They know me as a human being. It’s like we’re here to work. We’re here to, of course, hit goals, targets. But we’re here to like, we’re only on this planet for a certain period of time, right? So, it’s like everything is family. And to have them be a part of my business is so important. And we try to do that with our team, too, in doing SHP Family Day and little things like that where family is included. I know you guys do a lot of that too.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, well, my goal is to convince your husband to buy his first sports card. I’m almost there. It’s on like the one-inch line. It’s going to be a Tom Brady card, I know that for a fact. So, we just have to buy the right one.

Michelle Short: I texted Keith last night on that, like, “You want go to a card show?”

Brad Johnson: Yes, I love it. Okay. Well, I know we’re a little over. Thank you for continuing our conversation. So, we’re dancing all over this. So, I’m just going to ask officially, we’d love to finish this conversation with what is Michelle’s definition of doing business, doing life.

Michelle Short: Like, I just talked about it, it’s about incorporating. For me, personally, it’s about incorporating my family and my family’s mindset into our business and being with people that are like-minded. It’s just that fulfills me as a person.

Brad Johnson: Well, you’re awesome at it. So, the playbook that you just laid out, just keep running with it. I’m really excited about where SHP and everything continues to go for you all, and I just want to say thank you. I was so excited for this conversation. I woke up this morning, I was like, “Yes, I got to talk to Michelle.” And by the way, this is a very not normal topic because it’s typically founder’s view. And we probably need to do more of these.

I was joking before we went live. I’m like, Michelle, you’re like the COO whisperer. You have menteed. I’ve seen receptionists, I’ve seen directors of marketing. And you are the most giving Enneagram to helper to where you do it selflessly, sometimes to your own detriment because you just say, “Yes, let me help. Let me pour in.” And I’ve seen so many firms across the country impacted by just your open sharing, giving, just your approach. And so, I know a lot of them are probably going to listen to this episode and share some love. And you deserve all of it. So, just super grateful to have been on this business journey alongside you. I’ve learned so much from you over the years. And thanks for carving out the time today to share everything that’s in your playbook.

Michelle Short: So welcome. Thanks for having me, Brad.

Brad Johnson: Till next time, Michelle. See ya.


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.


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