Ep 055

The Advisor Transformation & How Financial Advisors Can Build a Legacy That Outlives Them

With

Shawn Sparks

Listen Here

Inside This Episode

Well, we’ve got a special one for you today! Triad’s very own, Shawn Sparks is jumping on the pod to talk about his new book, The Advisor Transformation.

Now, if you’ve been following my journey, you’ll know that Shawn isn’t just my business partner; he’s been by my side through thick and thin, and has been a trusted friend for years.

Shawn’s expertise is undeniable. He’s worked with hundreds of advisors throughout his career, not only showing them how to be better business owners, but to level up as spouses, parents, and individuals.

In his new book, The Advisor Transformation, Shawn unpacks the mindsets, strategies, and tactics designed to help growth-minded advisors scale into unlimited joy, freedom, and significance at work and home.

It’s not just a book; it’s a culmination of Shawn’s life’s work and dedication to redefining success for financial advisors everywhere. Coming March 22nd. Join the waitlist & get an exclusive look at the first three chapters instantly RIGHT HERE.

3 of the biggest insights from Shawn Sparks

  • #1 Hear how one advisor went from $80M of annual new assets to $250M within 3 years while reducing 90% of his workload – and identify and defeat the enemies of scaling!

  • #2 Why focusing on bottom-line metrics might be holding you and your business back – and how prioritizing significance could be the key to uncapping your ceiling.

  • #3 Actionable advice for becoming a calm, confident leader — and how to inspire your team to execute your vision

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • What inspired Shawn to write books
  • How one FA 3x’d his business with less workload
  • How to build a business that grows beyond you
  • Scaling both a growth and lifestyle business
  • How to create a company culture of significance
  • Improving on corporate America’s issues
  • Aligning your team with your vision
  • The right vs. the wrong way to build a team
  • Why it might be a mistake to chase numbers
  • Stepping aside to unlock your team’s potential
  • How to be a calm and confident leader
  • Building a business that enhances your life

THE #1 REASON YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR BUSINESS WON’T GROW | SHAWN SPARKS

THIS IS KILLING YOUR COMPANY CULTURE | SHAWN SPARKS

STOP MAKING THIS HIRING MISTAKE | SHAWN SPARKS

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE: 

PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

THIS WEEK’S FEATURED REVIEW

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MIC DROP MOMENTS WITH SHAWN SPARKS

  • “The moment you give up on growth and progression in business is the moment it takes away all the joy and fun.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “The pursuit of success and ambition is not the path. It is to pursue significance and to build a business that’s going to give you more freedom, more joy as it grows, as opposed to it just becoming your life.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “You should build your business around what you value. You should build a business to where the more successful it becomes, the more freedom you have.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “If we’re not careful what we’re trying to build, where we’re trying to go, you may not like where you end up.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “If it’s you that’s no longer having fun, that trickles down to everybody else.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “One of the biggest enemies of scale is division.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “Hiring great people is not a side project. It is the main project.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “Freedom is not about the founder. It’s about the whole team.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “The more comfortable you are, the more careless you become. The more careless you become, the more chaos that will ensue.” – Shawn Sparks

  • “We underestimate how much our business and life can change if we are intentional.” – Shawn Sparks

Brad Johnson: Welcome back to another episode of Do Business. Do Life. I have an extra special one here today. I have my friend, my business partner Shawn Sparks here with us. Welcome to the show, Shawn.

Shawn Sparks: Thanks for having me, Brad.

Brad Johnson: Well, hey, dude, this one has been a long time in the making. I know, you helped me relaunch the show right at about a year ago as we record this. And you were Episode 2, where we really told each of our journeys in this business and what brought us to Triad and and launching a business that was just really close to our hearts and a mission that we believed in deeply with doing business, doing life, obviously, the name of this podcast as well. And what’s been really fun that most people don’t know that are watching or listening in, is you’ve had quite a project going on behind the scenes, which is your brand-new book that’s soon to be released. It should be dropping literally right as this episode drops. So, tell me, what drove you to write the new book? And then I know we’re going to get into a little bit of the first chapter, but if we just say, why book number two? What drove that passion project behind the scenes?

Shawn Sparks: Well, yeah, thanks for having me, man. The thing with me is I have just learned that your brain is very flawed. You forget a lot of what you learn if you allow yourself to. And I have just got been in a habit of always just taking notes of my experiences, what I’m learning, knowledge I’m gaining, key stories that really have influenced me. So, I basically have a full road map of lessons and ideas that I think will be a reminder for me, but also, I know they’ll help others, which is what we’ve used a lot for our coaching framework.

So, I’ll tell you, in life, there are certain times where you start questioning your own existence, what is your goal? What is your purpose? And that decision for me was about three years ago, where I realized that the pursuit of success and ambition is not the path. It is to pursue significance and to build a business that’s going to give you more freedom, more joy as it grows, as opposed to it really just becoming your life. And that has been my mission. Now, I say, personally, it’s the mission of significance that I wanted for myself. That’s also what we wanted to coach and help others to do. So, I ended up having what I would say is just an obsession over understanding how you can build a business to create that where it gives you more freedom nonetheless, to grow. There’s no limit to your success and what you can achieve. And eventually, I was like, “My goodness, I’ve got to share this.” There goes the book. That’s when we decided I need to push this out and help others.

Brad Johnson: Well, fun fact behind the scenes, because I’ve been fortunate enough, I mean, we’ve known each other since college. You actually were the guy that helped get me into the brokerage space, the RIA space that we’re now in. And I remember listening to a Jim Rohn audio for those that go way back to Jim Rohn and kind of the early thought leader before Tony Robbins and then Darren Hardy’s of the world. But I remember there was this audio, he talked about carrying around a little notebook in his pocket. So, anytime he had a great idea or somebody shared something he wanted to remember, he wrote it down. Well, that was essentially you. I remember we were literally back to back cold calling. This is, I guess, close to 20 years ago now. And you had this notebook where you’d just be scribbling ideas down. And that actually became your first book, The Advisor Breakthrough, kind of version 1.0 is we were sharing here before we hit record, which was just like, how do you build a successful financial services firm?

And I was fortunate enough, you gave me an early copy, which is always dangerous when it’s your friend because if it’s not good, you’re kind of like, scared, like, “Uh-oh, how do I tell him?” I remember reading the early copy of that first book. I was like, “Damn, this is good. Like, really, really good.” And I know at this point, thousands of that book have either been sold or downloaded or listened to via audiobook, and it’s changed a lot of advisors’ lives and businesses. But with the new one, which I was also fortunate. So, the new one that’s just dropping the advisor transformation, you kind of shared, “Hey, this is kind of the evolution of my thinking back to significance that you’re talking about” in version 2.0, and one of my favorite sections of that whole book is right out of the gates, Chapter 1, which you title The Price of Success. And I believe it’s actually a story from a mutual friend. We haven’t actually confirmed that, but dive into that. And what kind of shifted that thinking where you’re like, okay, this deserves a second book?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, the first thing is like, this is my life’s work. This is you gain some maturity in life and realize, like, “Wait a second, what do I really want and what do I want to do?” And I was like, I believe for my own life, I’m going to give you just the selfish truth is, I want a business that I never want to retire from. I want to build a business that I love. I want to build a business that when I look around, everybody who touches it says, “Man, this has been a blessing in my life.” I never want to build my own prison to where I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to go to work.” And I mentioned this in the book, but it’s like, man, if I wake up one day and say, “Man, how much more can I take? I want to retire in three years. I just can’t do this anymore,” I believe you built your business wrong.

You should build your business around what you value. You should build a business to where the more successful it becomes, the more freedom you have. You should build a business to where your spouse says, “My goodness, I love the business we’re part of.” And that is completely against the traditional thinking of what work is. So, I ended up, and I am pursuing this, and it’s like a parallel. This is what I want, what I want do for my life. I know you want it, Brad, but I’m like, “If we’re going to go on this journey of a transformation, why wouldn’t we coach others through this?”

And the truth is, the knowledge it takes, what it takes to build that is a complete different way of thinking. And unfortunately, nobody’s written about it. Nobody’s given you. As a financial advisor, I think it’s 89% of advisors work on the weekends, the founders. And I’m like, when I saw this, I was like, we’ve got to solve this. Not only for us because we’ve been through it, but why wouldn’t we solve this together with other people who have their heart focused on the same thing we do? And they don’t want to wake up with regret.

So, that led to the book. That’s the next iteration. Now, the story of the price of success means a lot to me. It’s why I open the book. Brad, we’ve got a mutual friend with Anthony. This story and what happened, number one, it encouraged the whole mission, and it validated it. And I learned things through one of our first people, Anthony, as we partnered together, that it was one of those moments for me where I’m like, “Aha, this isn’t just a dream. This isn’t just something we think will work. This will work.” And he proved it, not us. He proved it. So, we open that story, the price of success around him, where he started and where he ended up. And I will also say that it was a tailwind behind our mission. And it only accelerated by 10x knowing the outcome we were after is truly not just possible, but probable if we give the right guidance, the right knowledge, and if the other party is willing to go forward and do the work along with us.

Brad Johnson: Well, the story just for context, because I believe it’s the same story that Anthony shared when we had a podcast with him, which we’ll just link. It’s the story where he walks across the stage, right? And basically, finished the best year of his life as a financial advisor, the highest producing year, the highest revenue year to that point. Maybe just give a short version for those that haven’t caught the episode, and then we’ll link for those that want to hear it directly in Anthony’s words, because it’s one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever had shared with me from an advisor.

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, Anthony, a good friend, somebody we care a lot about, he is kind of a good example of top producers in our space, top advisors. And I would say he’s ambitious. He has that attitude where he wants to take over the world. And he’ll do anything to hit his goals. And a lot of people, successful business owners, share this. They’re competitive. Oftentimes, the more successful we get, the more we realize we might have a screw loose or two because we become so obsessed with a mission that we miss a lot of the rest of our life.

And Anthony would be the the guy that, from my eyes, looking at him and watching him, the whole industry, myself, we’re like in awe, 80 million of new assets per year. And on the outside looking in, we saw an icon, somebody who was just crushing it, increasing his business productivity. But as you got to know him deep inside, what you realized was he was prioritizing this production, this success, and it came with a sacrifice of things that were more meaningful.

He had three young boys. He told me a story and he went out and played catch with his kids. He’d have to run into the house to take a call. His kids would be trying to open the door. He had to almost lock them out just so he could finish the work call. So, it really got to a point that his success was awesome, but he was consuming something he wouldn’t get back which is time with his family. So, when he walked across the stage and everybody applauded him and it was like the whole industry was going for him as a producer, he went to the bathroom, he washed his face and said, “I can’t do this again.”

And what I’ll say is, for me, if we’re not careful what we’re trying to build, where we’re trying to go, you may not like where you end up. And had he just kept on pushing and pushing and pushing, he would have lost something in his life that was not worth the price of the success that he received, which is why we open this up. With Anthony, I want to give you there’s some good news in his story. And I’m going to give you a little bit of a lesson here. He said that he hit the breaking point. He said, “I have to change.” And as that skill set, that mindset he had that allowed him to be so successful, what I learned through him is that same drive. When you point your skis in the other direction of significance and growth, that’s not dependent on you. The same drive carried over as a parallel to allow him to build a business of significance where it’s less dependent over time in record time.

In three years, he went from nonstop business, 80 million of new assets. Within three years, he was doing 250, and 90% of the workload that he had before, 90% was off his shoulders. This opened up an opportunity with us in the way we’re thinking and watching that happen where like, my goodness, the same mindset, drive, skill, the focus that it took to achieve success is the same thing it takes to achieve significance. We’re just pointing it in a different direction, which long term is way more meaningful.

Brad Johnson: So, being familiar with Anthony, 100% your take there, very driven guy, very successful guy, very smart. I mean, he’s a student of the game. And this isn’t just him wanting to build a business so he can put more money in the bank account. Like, he loves people. He wants to serve clients at the highest level. And I think sometimes, like if I was an advisor listening into this right now, I think sometimes advisors get put on this pedestal of like, oh, well, yeah, Anthony can do that because he’s this golden boy, but not me. I’m just another advisor. So, if you were going to kind of break down that kind of mindset block there, what are the enemies to scale or what are some of the lessons along the way Anthony or other advisors that can create those breakthroughs?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, we’ve got a lot of enemies of scale within the book, which is just common enemies we’ve seen. And I’ll say, the first one, first off, the reason a guy like Anthony does so well and the reason other advisors do so well is, honestly, they care about the people they are serving. I’ll tell you, if you have a business that you don’t care about, the people, the clients, you can have a short-term success, but it’s not going to be long term. It’s not sustainable. But what happens with us is we gradually build the business. And I’ll tell you, just imagine yourself or the audience sitting down with a client and for the first time they trust you and they believe in you and they say, “Yeah, I want to work with you,” as an entrepreneur, you carry the weight that you have to deliver. You will fulfill this promise.

And what got you going early was the promise that they bought Shawn, they bought you. And then over time, you say, “This is what I do. This is how I can help you.” Over time, you have so many relationships that bought you and you’re stuck because the more production you bring on, the more demand that is now on your time. So, the first enemy of scale is I. I will tell you that your clients, the people you serve don’t buy you personally. They’re buying who you are, which represents your company, what you stand for, representing your team and how you can facilitate this. It’s amazing, but most of our clients, a lot of them are business owners. They understand how businesses work, but we are locking ourself in a box to say, “This is what I do.”

And the first enemy here is you’ve got to realize that it is not about you, it is about us and we. And any time you’re an individual with that mindset of me and I, you may have the right intentions, but you are setting yourself up to something you cannot control later, and you’ve got to, day one, bankrupt yourself with the idea that you can do this. You cannot do it. Anything you build that you want to build to an extreme level, which is a dream business, it’s going to take a team, and we are going to have to share the weight of the business with them. And that is the only way you can build a business beyond you.

Brad Johnson: Why is that so hard for most financial advisors? Because conceptually, they’re all like, yeah, that makes sense, but why is it so hard?

Shawn Sparks: Because they look at, I was talking with a guy two days ago and we’re working through this, and he looks at that client and he says, “They trust me. They want me to be here.” And it’s a good heart that causes the problem. But I will tell you, we’ve been through this. Everybody we work with has the same problem. But what your clients want is they want you to fulfill the promises. They want to know you’re there, but they do not expect you to do all of this. And then the other thing is the guidance. I believe that a lot of people are taught the wrong way. There is a headwind in this ever being possible if you look around. Ninety-nine percent of advisors will never reach a business of significance or scale. The bigger it gets, the more work it’s going to be on them. They have not been taught all of the little things it takes to build this.

And this is where you’ve got to take your eye off of your own goal. You got to put your eyes on your team and the company as a whole. You’ve got to look at your business as a fiduciary to the business as opposed to the individual you’ve built it with. And you’ve got to say, what do we have to do to orchestrate a well-oiled machine where people who are part of our business love being a part of it and they care for the client as much as I do. Because that’s the only way you’re going to scale your time. So, I believe it’s good intentions and a positive heart that causes it. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to be real with yourself. You are not going to fulfill all your promises to your client. There is going to be a breaking point if you do not have a team that helps you, or you’ve got to just give up on growth.

And the sad part is this. The moment you give up on growth and progression in business is the moment it takes away all the joy and fun. And that’s why with the book, I say it’s unlimited growth, because I don’t believe you should build a business that has an endpoint of growth. I don’t believe you should ever build a business and say, “Oh, now we’re just going to maintain.” I believe the fun in the journey. Fun is the progression. And if it’s you that’s no longer having fun, that trickles down to everybody else. If there’s no excitement, inspiration, progression, your team is not waking up excited to build, and they want to. So, I think there’s a lot to it and just being self-aware in what we want to build and then trying to manufacture it and then finding the resources and guidance to do it.

Brad Johnson: Let’s dive in. You bring up a really good point, and I know both of us have seen this a lot over the years working with some incredibly successful financial advisors. It’s like this teeter-totter, where it’s this trade off of I’m either going to grow my business crazy and sacrifice my life or the badge of honor of like, I just have a lifestyle practice. I’m just going to kind of hit cruise control and go to all the ball games, be at all the family dinners, but my business is just going to kind of stagnate on this side. So, what’s the breakthrough right there for advisors that think it’s one or the other?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. Well, so, the truth is, the way we’ve been taught to build businesses leads to that inevitable outcome. You have a choice. Anthony had that choice. He said, “I can’t do this anymore.” So, what are we going to do? We’re going to give up growth and just maintain, which takes all the fun out of it for you. I mean, I’ve had advisors do that over the years, and three months later, they call me and they say they’re miserable. It’s like their purpose is gone. Or are we going to buy into the lie that the industry shares? And it’s like, oh, it’s the lifestyle business that we have. And give up on growth, have a lifestyle business, in my opinion, if you give up on growth in your business and you have to in order to have a good lifestyle, you built your business wrong. And that’s not an outcome any of us want. Regardless of how much money you make, you will not be fulfilled. That is not a sustainable motivator.

So, then the other side of the coin is you just keep pushing by brute force and then you end up finding that you sacrifice your family, you sacrifice time with your kids. That’s not good either. So, you’ve got two options here and none of them are good. That’s where this book comes in. There’s another way of doing it. It’s building a better business, not just a more productive one, to where we’ve put all the inner workings with the team, the culture, the vision to where you actually have a team come together with excitement and say, “Let’s do this.” Those are the little things, all the little details that people don’t teach.

And the first thing is it’s not about you. If you want a great business, you’ve got to have a team that are good business people. The industry loves to just focus on the founder because that’s where the relationship is. But I’ll tell you, that’s 10% of the equation. Ninety percent is everybody else. How do we become a better leader? How do we build a culture of inspiration and excitement? How do we get the team aligned to say, “Let’s go forward, let’s build this”? And I’ll say, there’s a big test here. If you got to ask yourself, like, is our business’ best times before us or behind us? Ask your team that.

And I’ll say that if you’re living in a state of reflection, if you’re thinking about the past in the good old days, if you’re thinking about all the things you’ve done in the last 20 years or 30 years, you’re not excited about what you’re building. Your team’s not excited about what you’re building. You and everyone of your team should look forward and say, “With excitement, our best times are before us.” And inspiration, excitement is everything with culture. If you’re not waking up excited to go to work, if you’re dragging your feet trying to find time off and just everything you cannot to be there and that’s trading your time for money. Why wouldn’t we flip that and enjoy the time, wake up excited with the pep in the step? Like, a lot of our people, a lot of our advisors have as they walk in, they’re excited because they do what they love and they’ve got great people who are aligned with them. But that has to be manufactured. That is not something that is going to, by default, happen unless you choose to manufacture that within your office.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. You just reminded me of a past episode with a founder named Leore and he wrote a blog post. He said, “Basically, I want a jog to work” because it was like, if I’m that excited that I cannot wait to get there. And you hit a really solid point, if you’re going to build any business that’s bigger than you, that removes the constraint of everything. When I go on vacation, so does my revenue. Nobody wants that business. But if you’re not excited as the founder, there is absolutely no way your team can be. They’re not going to be more excited than the founder, right?

So, as you start to– let’s go a little further down that path. I think, right now, if I’m an advisor listening and I’m like, well, that makes sense. Now, it’s like kind of the how to a bit. So, you hit one of the enemies of scale, but what else can you share, like, true tactics that can take an advisor from an I-focused business to a we in a team-focused business?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, the first thing is, with a team, we’ve got to view everything from the team at lens. And there are certain pillars within your company that everybody has to agree on, and they have to understand. Oftentimes in business, as change comes, the head guy or the head gal changes something and everybody’s like, “Well, I never heard about this. Why is this happening?” You’ve got to realize that for this to happen, we’ve got to water the plants, we got to nurture those team members. They are not an employee. The corporate mindset, they are a partner in your business and your mission. And we’ve got to say, “Wait a second. My success going forward, my significance comes down to how well I develop them.” And there’s a lot of things people do wrong and we’ve done it wrong as leaders.

You’ve got to look at these people that you’re working with and you’ve got to say, “Man, what can I do to develop them? What can I do to make sure that their personal dreams, the personal goals, that our business is a conduit to help them achieve that? What can I do to create unity among our company?” I will tell you one of the biggest enemies of scale is division. The more team members you have, you go from 5 team members to 15, you’re going to have different personalities, different communication styles. You’re going to have different skill sets, different types of people.

And so often, if we don’t train our team and help them understand those differences are greatest strength, if we don’t teach them how to communicate, then what happens naturally with people is we find those differences and look at them as negatives. And in your process, you should have a process to help people to understand our differences are strength. Let’s not focus on them because what we have in common is way more important. Doesn’t matter what our differences are, we have one thing in common, and that’s to build the business to where it’s exciting. It’s a place we want to come to work.

I ask, Brad, when we have advisors come visit, we’ve got 10 people sitting around, 15, I’ll say, I’ll ask the question, “How many of you want to wake up excited about the mission you’re on? How many of you want to wake up excited about work? How many of you want to wake up where you realize your team has your back? They’re willing to step in and help you. How many of you want to be a part of a business like that?” Everybody, every single time says I do. And then we say, “Well, do you want it so bad that you provide that for your neighbor?” Because that’s a responsibility that if you provide for them, you’ll have it too.

And so often, we don’t even talk about this stuff. We don’t even arm people. We allow the needs of the day, the emotions of the day to carry us forward, and we drift away from significance. And we say, “Man, what’s going on? Why does our culture suck?” It’s because if you are not intentional with building unity and culture within your company, if you’re not intentional by default, it is not going to happen. And this is what I would say is a training that needs to be a part like, Brad, you know, but we do a 90-day onboarding with people. We leave nothing to chance. What’s unspoken is where all the problems are going to happen. Every single time, they’re like, “Thank you so much for helping us understand the expectations. I never would have thought this.” And the remembering nightmare has examples where nobody taught the team. So, I believe you have to manufacture this for it to happen.

Brad Johnson: Well, you hit something that was a learning. We were both really fortunate. We really grew up in the business. And it’s almost like as we were growing in the business, so were the firms we were coaching where, early on, it was maybe a founder or two and maybe a small team of one or two. And then you look up 10 years later and they’ve evolved into teams of 10, 15, 20, 50. And so, we saw a lot of these lessons along the way, good and bad. And to your point, on sitting down with a team at a time back to the industry screwed a lot of this up. For the vast majority of our entire careers, all of these trainings and coachings were founder focused. And so, then the founder would come back from this two-day retreat, probably in an amazing property. So, the team’s already a little like, “What the hell, bro? I’ve been working my butt off while you’ve been hanging out, having these cool experiences.”

And then, the founder is like, “Hey, by the way, we’re going to do this, this, and this.” And the team wasn’t in the conversation. So, there’s already a disconnect. The team is not bought in, the team feels left behind. They’re probably a little upset because they didn’t get to go have the fun. So, let’s talk about just even the conversation to start when you do team changes, like the fact that most of the time, the team gets left behind, they’re not even in the conversation. Let’s talk about the problem with that.

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, ultimately, that’s what we have to prevent. I think, with this book, and we talk about Do Business. Do Life, it’s a whole new way of thinking. We’re redefining the way you build a business. I think that corporate America, over time has built based on a lot of foundational issues, fundamental problems. I mean, thinking the idea that they work for me, they’re my employees, the idea that we’re limiting the knowledge and growth to just the founder at events and experiences. Every single person that’s an A-plus person, every single one of them wants to make the most of their career. They have professional goals. They want to grow. They want to build a business to where– they want to be increased responsibility. But you know what? It’s like we’ve kind of been taught, like, just do your work. We don’t bring them along.

So, we don’t use the word employee. Nobody’s an employee. We don’t do reviews of employees. We do development meetings. Like, nobody, I nor the person wants a review. We think about it, we take a list throughout six months, and we write all the things we want them to change, and then we drop it on them in a meeting. None of us like that. Instead, let’s build a culture where every single, we’re all pursuing, we care about them, and we want to develop them. We want to help them grow. And I’ll just say, like that stuff can’t be faked. Like, if you care for your people and you build a business around transparency, ways to help and improve and grow, the better they grow, the better business will be. And that is a proactive path that we take them down as opposed to a reactive, trying to respond because somebody wants to be this or wants to be that. And so, I really believe that it’s just really a proactive method to really throw away that corporate mindset and instead, build a business where we have partners.

I’ll say that we know when we do development meetings, Brad, with our team and I know we’ve heard a lot about this in the book, but it’s like, the words the leaders use is how can I help you? How can I help you? What obstacles do you have? It’s not the other way around or we’re barking orders or saying they need to change because we already know they’re aligned with our vision. We already know they want to get better and improve. And you know what? It’s my job to help them and their dreams come true. And we have built a cadence in order to help do that. So, that’s my take.

Brad Johnson: Love it. So, let’s get to vision and culture, which we’ve danced around a little bit here, and I know that’s a big piece of the book. But I think one of the learnings, like you and I personally had, and I think this is a big blind spot for a lot of founders out there. So, we’ve talked a lot about team, and a lot of business sports analogies work really well. And I know we were fortunate enough to have Bill Self come out at one of Triad’s early experiences, and he actually shared something I thought was really cool. He said, “My most talented teams have not been the ones that won the national championships. It was the teams that had talent, but more importantly, that played together and basically complimented each other.” You said earlier, our differences were our strengths.

And I think one of the blind spots I see when it comes to talent acquisition and finance, I mean, we’ve been surrounded by great salespeople our entire lives. We’ve learned a lot from great salespeople. But I think there’s a singular focus on the prospects and the clients that they’re trying to bring in the door as their financial planning clients, and there’s this big blind spot that a lot of those same skill sets actually apply directly over to how do I use the vision that I can create? Here’s what we could do together to acquire great talent on my team internally. So, share some thoughts. I know you hit a lot of that in the book, but what are some of the big breakthroughs or ahas from that?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, I think that once again, we’ve kind of been trained wrong. But I’ve been through meetings years ago where it’s like, there’s a list of questions you ask in interviews. And it’s like, we’ve hired 75 people in three years. We haven’t had a questionnaire once. What we’re trying to do is get to know them, kind of like an advisors discovery meeting. What would they like? Because here’s the worst thing that can happen. You hire somebody for the wrong reasons and then you deal with turnover. We want every single person to understand the vision and the mission of our company and what we’re doing, and if that excites them, together, we go for it. All of the other details are easy to work through. Are they a skill set that we need? Are they a culture fit? And are we aligned on the same vision and mission?

And I’ll tell you that we’ve had people that I’m surprised we were able to get, but they’re not buying the benefits, they’re not buying PTO, they’re not buying a salary range. They’re saying, “I want to be a part of this. I want to be a part of an exciting company.” When you create that, all of those things become easy. But it’s not going to happen if you’re putting out a job on Indeed and you’re putting all your benefits down, and then they come in and you do an interview with a questionnaire. You’ve got to share the mission, what we’re doing, and if they are excited and say, “Heck yeah,” then guess what? You’ve got a perfect fit. But if it doesn’t excite them, I’d rather them not join because we’re going to have a culture over time with less excitement, less alignment, less unity.

So, basically, even when hiring people, we’ve thrown all the corporate tricks away. And we identify who is the best based on skill set, culture, and then we share the mission and we find out whether it’s a fit for them. And you know what? If you are really clear on your mission and your vision and if you wake up excited about it, your team will. But if you’re not clear, I guarantee your team is not excited. So, you’ve got to be so excited about what you’re building and you’ve got to share that with your team, and your team has to be excited as well. And then all the the friction, all the issues that occur day to day are much less because we’re locked in.

Now, you said sports, but just imagine, like the 90’s Bulls, I was a big fan. The reason we’re able to take a point guard who gets zero points a game and just feeds the ball to MJ is because he knows his role. If he does it well, we’ll end up getting them as a team, a championship. The moment we had BJ Armstrong trying to score 30 points a game, we were not aligned. We as a team, it’s how well we work together and being aligned for the end goal, the mission that we’re on. And that represents way more than numbers. You ask an advisor, their goal is production. It’s not the case. There’s so much more.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, I just think of and I’ve seen this over and over just to to hit that home. So, vision is tough because it takes work. I mean, you mentioned the 90-day onboarding. That’s one of the biggest, actually, Michael Hyatt, we’ve done a lot of coaching with him. He shared the stat and it blew me away. He said 99% of entrepreneurs have no vision. So, imagine trying to get a team aligned and all running in the same direction. You don’t even have the destination of where you’re headed, which is why we’ve spent a lot of time in that first 90 days helping founders kind of distill that out of them. But I still see this almost like– it’s like one of the biggest roadblocks I see. It’s like the advisor, the founder is so busy because oftentimes, they’re the primary revenue driver of the entire firm until they’ve added more advisors to the team. It’s almost like hiring is a delegated outsourced to where it’s like the founder that formed the vision of the whole company is not even involved in the how do we bring talent and how do we sell great talent on where we’re headed? So, talk about that because I see that all the time where a founder’s like, “Oh, yeah, my team just hired him.” And then a month or two months later, they’re super upset about this person’s not the right person. And it’s like, “Well, you weren’t even involved. You weren’t at the conversation when it was going down.” So, what are thoughts around how to do it the right way versus the wrong way?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, the path to success is the done for you concept. Let’s just put out an Indeed ad. Let’s put out some ads and see who responds, and my team will interview them. That’s the path for success. The path to significance and the team understands, the founder understands that hiring great people is not a side project. It is the main project. I will tell you that your next hire as a founder is more important than your biggest prospect on your list to bring into the office. Because if done right, hired the right person with the right expectations to where they’re excited, they will do more long term for your business than any one client ever could. And I’ll tell you this like you personally have to have great people, or you are the guy or you are the gal.

So, I think we are so busy trying to be successful. We missed the priority of how important building that team is, building processes among them, building a culture. I think what’s kind of interesting is, people think onboarding a new employee is the goal, like we got to onboard them and usually, it’s pretty bad, like ours is 90 days, like we are all in. When you onboard a new employee, it’s not onboarding the new employee, it’s onboarding the team. Again, about the new employee, you know how often the team doesn’t understand. Who are they? What do they do? What’s their role? What’s this mean to me?

And oftentimes, with small businesses, bringing in new assets into your team to help build the mission creates problems. Why is that? It’s because we haven’t manufactured this. So, when you hire the right person, you have to set them up for success. I’ve seen so often that you have a great person. It just didn’t work. And I’m like, okay, so what are the resources thing to be aware of? Who are the people that you need to build a relationship with? How do we help them inform them of everybody’s role? And how do we have a culture where everybody steps in and treats them like their own teammate, like their own employee, right? It’s not me. This is a team. We’re all working together because our army got bigger and better. We’re able to accomplish our goals because we brought in great people.

So, that team has to see all this. They have to understand this. It’s so often, it’s like one of your best team members. It’s like, I didn’t even know we were hiring for that person. I didn’t even know the role was because we almost kept it a secret. And I believe, with culture, you have to have a cadence of communication when you lead people. You’ve got to go above and beyond and help them be in on the mission and all the things we need to do, the development, how that will change. And I believe that’ll minimize a lot of the problems we have.

Brad Johnson: All right. So, I’m looking at the clock here. And I was just thinking like, if I was an advisor out there, because I’m like rewinding. We’ve talked about how to acquire great talent, vision, culture, which are completely, if I rewind to our early days in the industry and all of the conversations we had over the tens of thousands of hours over coaching calls on phones, I never heard these. These terms were missing. You know what I heard a lot of? Hey, what’s my next marketing funnel? Hey, this sales tactic, what’s the script I need to use to get them to close in the second? And I know you’ve termed that in the book kind of red line behavior versus green line behavior. So, those advisors that are kind of on this continuous hamster wheel of more marketing, more sales, I’m burned out. Oh, shoot, I need to take a break and lifestyle out for a while. Okay, more marketing, more sales. Like, let’s talk about that. We haven’t touched on it. And I know that is basically what most advisors get fed from the industry is more marketing solves all my problems, more sales solves all my problems. So, dive into that topic if you would.

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, the hamster wheel, as you mentioned, red line behavior is we are equating our growth, we are defining our growth based on a production number. And the truth is, if we’re just chasing a number, you’re talking about the more marketing you do, the more people you see. The more people you see, the more clients you get. The more clients you get, the more revenue you make. That is an incorrect focus because you can only do that so long before you say, “Wait a second. What about the operations of my business? What are the processes I need to build?”

And what’s really interesting to me is like, we say, it’s unlimited growth and freedom. In the book, that’s the subtitle, Unlimited Growth and Freedom. That freedom is not about the founder. It’s about the whole team. There becomes a point when your right-hand person, you just keep filling this business with more and more production, more and more relationships, more and more services, and that right person, the founder, might do a great job delegating. But guess who it falls on? And then you’ve got this incredible person who wants to do a great job, and they can’t even take a vacation for three days with their family, four days without coming back to two weeks of work. The better you build your business, the better you build the operations, the culture, the vision, that stuff is required for you to build a business that allows you and your team to have freedom.

And we teach that in the book. This is not the proper design to just have my guy or my gal or me to where the weight falls on. And the worst part is this, I think, like the frog in boiling water. The problem is, it happens little by little. If I were to just tell you, with an advisor, say, “Hey, look, one of these days you’re going to be wildly successful. You’re going to have all your production numbers, but I’m going to tell you right now, you’re going to work 60 to 70 hours a week. You’re going to live in stress. You’re not going to be able to sleep. You’re going to be mentally exhausted, and you’re going to be counting the days till one day you can throw in the towel.” Or flip it. You’re going to be super successful, you’re going to have all the freedom in the world. But I’ll tell you what, your team is going to be going crazy. Their lives, their families, they’re not going to be there at dinner. They’re not going to be able to spend time with their kids because they’re always going to be worrying about the business. If I were to say like, that’s the outcome if you just follow this path, how would you feel about it? Every single person would say, “I don’t want that.”

But it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over time and little by little becomes a lot. And that’s where we say I’m trying to– this book, it’s to reveal, it’s to create self-awareness for people, so you don’t just keep slipping and drifting away from the quality of business and life that you want. And instead, you take awareness clearly and say, “Wait a second. I’ve got to take the proper steps now to build a better business that will enhance the quality of life for me, my team, and everybody who touches it.” And that is a complete course correct.

But the thing is it can happen if you point those skis. Like I said earlier, my greatest surprise through all of this journey, it can happen in so much less time than you ever could have imagined. I’ve seen people completely change their business in life, in their team in nine months. It’s not that we can’t do it. It’s we weren’t aware and we didn’t take the proper steps to achieve that. And it’s not about me. It’s about us, right? We’ve all got to be focused on the same thing, and everybody wants it.

Brad Johnson: You just reminded me of we were just out in Scottsdale for launch, and we’ve got a great father/son team Tom and Jordan up in Chicago. And Tom said this. So, the dad, he’s kind of phasing out. Son is about our age coming into the business and kind of really taking it over. And you mentioned like just not having the right playbook because the industry has very much trained on red line, right? More marketing, more sales, sell more of this product, whatever it is, whatever school you grew up in. And Tom’s words were, “I wish I would have known about this 20 years ago.” And that was such a powerful little statement because it was just like he had the wrong playbook. He just didn’t know it. He always was just following this playbook.

And to your point, it’s almost like a calling and a commitment because you can’t be an absent founder that just says, “Hey, yeah, we’re going to build a business of significance. See you later, team. I’m going to go on vacation for three months.” It does take work and commitment and to your point on culture and vision. But I’ll tell you, once you put those core pieces in place to your point, we’ve seen these breakthroughs happen. And my most rewarding thing, and I know you love this too, it lights you up, is when you hear spouses say thank you, I have my husband back or I have my wife back. And I just want to echo that because that is like this mission that we’re on and that’s why we’re both so passionate about it, but it’s super meaningful work. And it’s not easy. It does take work. There’s no magic wand that just grants this business of significance, but I will say it’s some of the most rewarding work that I’ve seen and the after stories just light me up. So, what’s a favorite story or two? I know you share a lot of case studies, but what are some that hit home for you that you share in the book?

Shawn Sparks: Well, I’ve tried to put a lot of stories that people can relate to and things we’ve actually seen. But I’ll say one of– well, first off, this whole mission is for us. It’s for us too. It’s like, I think, we would be dishonest to say it’s something we want for others. It’s the wife I want. Like, man, I’ll tell you, I want my kids to have memories that the business had brought to us. And we say Do Business, Do Life and I’m sitting here with it on here, I’m going to give you guys, everybody, a little tip. If you’re a top producer, I know how important business is, I know how you want to make the most of your life and your potential. And I am the same. I have found that even me personally, that I have allowed the business needs to consume me, which is sacrifice a lot of other things.

What I’ve found personally is I have to have a signal to remind me when I get a little off track to come back. I don’t believe that overnight, it changes everything. I believe it’s intentional effort over time that changes everything. So, Brad, like we’ve got these Do Business. Do Life shirts for our community. To me, it’s a signal and a reminder. And you know what? When my wife looks at me and she points at DBDL or the wristband, that reminds me and that gives me the signal I need to get back on course.

And here’s the cool thing, if you have the healthy Do Business. Do Life-type approach, you will produce more than you ever could have. I’ve got a good friend leading to the story, like a story for you, but a good friend, Tom, he is incredible. I will tell you that in our industry, he is the very top tier. And the first night I met him, I was hanging out with him and his wife and we were at dinner and we were just kind of talking. We do a one conversation rule where we talk to the crew and we’re just a small group, maybe six to eight people. And his wife, it was her turn to speak. And I will tell you that if you look at the production numbers, every single person was in awe, like this guy is the best in the business.

And she said, this has to change or he’s going to end up killing himself. He was so stressed, so exhausted pursuing success, and he reached it. We turn to Tom. And Tom says, “I would rather give up all of the business I do, not bring a single client on, and just have my life back.” And this gentleman, a good friend, it could not have happened to a better person, doubled his business in nine months, like the production clip. And he went from 24 appointments a week to four. Fast forward another year, he doesn’t. He walks into the office, spends time with his team, leads them, and it is not required at all for him to sit in meeting after meeting after meeting.

And this is where I believe the mission is life changing. It was life changing for me. And I know it’s been life changing for you, Brad. It is life changing for a lot of people if they believe they can do it. And I think a lot of people, like you kind of said earlier, but it’s like, I don’t think that would work for me. I’ve heard everything, but we don’t have great team members in my little small city. There are great people everywhere. And there are people who want an exciting, inspiring mission to be on. And you know what? They want to lock arms with a great team. And you can manufacture this. You get the right guidance. You get a full commitment. I’ll tell you, it’s not going to happen if you get stuck in your own ways. If you just kind of dabbled forward, it’s not going to happen. You got to say, I’m going to go all in.

And at the end of the day, what I love about it is there’s no risk here. It’s like go all in to build a business of significance, and if you’re wrong, you just have a little bit more significance than you have before. The risk is very low because you can always go back. You can always be successful. But I would say little by little over 9 months or 12 months, the whole world could change. And just imagine a career the next 20 years, imagine sacrificing one a year to try to build it right. In the next 19 years, you, your team, your clients benefit from that. That’s really cool.

Brad Johnson: I didn’t know you were going to share the Tom story, which obviously, this one we’re both very close to. Proud moment in my life and career. And I share this because it piggybacks on your story, Shawn, because I think sometimes as a founder, there’s almost this guilt of like, if you build this business that creates more freedom for you, your team will kind of hold that against you. And Tom has a COO named Amber that obviously, we both know. And we were actually, your brother and I were up there for his dad’s funeral and obviously, a milestone moment in Tom’s life, and we wanted to be there to support. But I’m having a conversation with Amber, and she goes, “Tom is going to be–” this was January-ish, so it’s cold in Michigan. And she’s like, “Yeah, Tom’s going to be in Florida with Shelly, his wife, for the next month.” And she was so excited because Tom had helped. He had changed a lot. He had put the pieces in place to actually create more freedom.

But I think what we often forget as a founder is when we create more freedom, that leaves space for your team to grow and fill and advance. And so, by doing that and continuing to evolve and grow, he had actually freed up room for his team to have career tracks. Amber went from basically reception when she started the COO. Obviously, she put in the work. And I think that’s the cool thing too that’s often missed as founders is by scaling and being intentional, you actually create these career tracks for advancement for your team that they can get excited too. And so, that freedom does not have to be a bad thing. It’s actually a beautiful thing when done right. So, what are other thoughts you have around that? Because that was like one of my proudest moments, how excited Amber was for Tom’s freedom, but it was also creating all these for their team.

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, I think as you mentioned with Amber, I think everybody wants to make the most of their career. The founder has to take their eyes off themselves and they got to focus on growing them. And if you’re able to do that and you spend the time to grow those people and manufacture that, they will step up to the right people and they will be more fulfilled. And by the way, they’ll gain more freedom. I think freedom is earned, it’s not given. An office that is very successful for where the leader just takes off and it’s like, oh, I’ve got freedom now but the business isn’t built right, that will create resentment and issues all day long.

But if you build a track based on your vision to where everybody there, the culture is better, the freedom is better for all of them, we’ve reinforced the infrastructure where they each have more freedom. That’s the price. And I’ll say, one of the big keys here, I had an advisor maybe a month ago, Brad, but he said, “If you can do that for me, if you can help me, if you can give me a business of significance, man, you guys, that would be awesome.” And when you’re working with somebody new and you’re just getting to know them, it’s like they want you. Oh, yeah, we can get that.

The truth is the outcome cannot be promised. And I stopped him right there. I said, “No, no, no, no, no, I can’t provide that for you.” He’s like, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Because I’m only one third of the equation here. Me and my team are all in to help you achieve this. But I will tell you, you as a founder, your mindset has to shift. And I’ll tell you, if we give you all the guidance and all the road map and all the steps, but you aren’t committed to take the action needed, I can’t be that.”

And then the other third is the team. If you’re committed, I’m committed, and your team is not committed, it’s not going to happen. And that’s why we tell people like, no, no, for us to bet on a relationship, we’re betting on this happening. That is not going to happen if we don’t have the crew, everybody here together and say, let’s go. So, the point would be is we’ve got to be willing. Each of us within the company, five people, eight people, 10 people, 25 people, we all have to be committed together to build this and we’ve got to be clear on what that is. And that’s why I gave this book to Derek, our buddy. Before, I gave him a prerelease copy. He said, “Can I please provide this to my executive team?” That’s the right way to think. And it’s not about book sales, I don’t care. We’re going to give you guys a link to help. But you have to arm your team with this information. You need to teach them, give them the knowledge so they can perform and that they understand it. We’re all on the same page. But that’s what I think is really, really important. It’s like, it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about us. And we all have to be aligned for the probability of the batting average to go up for it to happen.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, I love the story around sharing the book with the executive team. I think that’s one of the things. My term for it is just absent founder syndrome. And to your point on the three parties that have to be involved, this vision and culture stuff can’t be delegated to where it’s just like, “Hey, yeah, team, just take care of all this while I’m gone. See you later. I’ll be gone for the summer.” And I think that is one of the biggest gaps I see a lot of times is this, hey, here’s the stuff, do it while I’m gone to where you truly do, like you said, you can’t do this for someone. It has to be a commitment and you have to grow the team.

Simon Sinek just shared at our launch experience. He sees a lot of times where the founder leaves the team behind, like they’re running so fast, the team can’t keep up, they’re not growing those leaders. And I love this story from Derek, who, by the way, those not familiar with Derek, they’ve got a firm that will bring in north of 250 million of new assets this year and manage over $1 billion of assets. So, they’re doing a pretty good job. But success leaves clues, that’s that’s the thinking of, like, I’ve got to imbue this leadership, these qualities into my team. And that’s how some of the most successful founders I see, that’s how they think. So, I know we’re getting towards the end of the conversation here. Any other big frameworks, case studies, anything else in the book? I know, there’s one last story we want to close with. Let’s save that for a little bit. But any other, like, just hey, you could share this with an advisor and it can make an impact?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. So, I’ll give you a little tip. If the culture is right, the significance is inevitable, meaning it will get there. I think culture is something that people talk about, but people don’t go through exactly how it’s done. The people are determined to create the culture. It’s not the founder. And I’ll say that this is a hard lesson for a lot of people. It’s like, oh, I’ll just manufacture it. No, no, no, we manufacture together. There’s got to be a process to do it.

And one of the biggest attributes of a great cultures leadership, having great leaders, including yourself, look in the mirror. And what I’ve seen, and I’ll give you a little story, a little example of this. But many years ago, I visited an office and we had somebody else visited prior, probably a decade ago. And they said, “Hey, I just want to give you a warning. That office is very toxic. The leader is pretty direct. I don’t know how the employees do it.” So, I sat down and I was in the office and I was kind of experiencing this and I was seeing it. And we had the door closed and I said, “Hey, have you ever considered professionalizing your approach within the office, being able to control yourself a little bit better on the emotional side? And I just want to just talk through that with you.” And he goes, “Yeah, I’ve been told a lot of times.” And he goes, “But the truth is, I just can’t control it.” He goes, “When something happens, I’m just not patient. I need things to get done.” And he goes, “Shawn, I’m so busy. I don’t have the time.” He goes, “So I’ve just come to the agreement. I can’t control the emotions and the feelings.”

And what’s interesting there, I asked him, I said, “Well, who’s your number one client?” And he said the name. And so, tell me about him. It was like a client with a lot of money and just really great person. And I said, “Well, I just want to ask you a question.” I said, “If your client, the number one client, was sitting here in this room, would you act that way in front of them?” He goes, “Oh, no, of course not. I would never want them to see that carelessness and the lashing out and all this.” And I said, “Well, so you can control it.” Because no one ever thought about that. And what I found, and this is really a lesson for relationships, not just business, the more comfortable you are, the more careless you become. The more careless you become, the more chaos that will ensue.

Think about your family. You’re so comfortable. You’re impatient. You lash out quickly. Think about your team. There’s a reason we’ve got this brain here that allows us to think things through. I think culturally, those emotional bursts will kill a culture more than anything positive can ever help. And I have seen it personally with teams, but there have got to be boundaries to say, you know what? These are the people I’m comfortable with, these are people I care for. I’ve got to find a way for them to control myself and think through how I can best lead them. And I can’t use that excuse.

And I’ll just say that oftentimes, when we think of significance, those are the things we have to consider and we have to teach because I’ll tell you that a very comfortable but careless team is going to have a lot of problems. But if everybody commits to each other to show up their best self for them, for each other, that’s a requirement for this to ever happen with a positive culture. So, these are all the little things that I think people don’t talk about, don’t understand, and don’t speak on. But you’d be amazed at how much you can control yourself if you commit to it and care. And it’s amazing how much your team will too. But if you just allow yourself to run carelessly and things that happen in life, that turmoil you’re creating, nothing you do is going to overcome that. You are going to be defined by that more than any of the positive things you do. So, we’ve got to find a way to anchor back to our commitment and creating that culture, and that’s what we teach. There’s a lot of that in here, but it is literally a mindset shift.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, I mean, we’ve both seen this over the years. Finance is known for high turnover on teams, right? And I know one of the phrases we have on repeat at Triad is leaders are calm and confident. And so, to your point, if you’re a leader that’s calm and confident, you’re not running around the office like a wild man or wild woman just throwing stuff at people, yelling at them. And by the way, if you are that founder or that leader that can’t control it, you will not build a business of scale. There is absolutely no way. And so, I love that you shared that and I know it’s one thing like, guess what? It gets chaotic. Like, I guess, let’s be real here for a second. You and I have had really rough days. I think as an entrepreneur, that’s what you sign up for.

And I think you shared this the other day. I wasn’t planning on sharing this. But if you have a business with people, you are going to have personnel issues. No matter how amazing your culture is, no matter how much you pour in to create great communication, people have emotions and people will have conflict. And you shared this the other day. And I think it’s been a big growing process for each of it. And I share this because I hope it helps a few advisors out there. You said, you know what, man? We’re going to do our best, but sometimes I’m just a little bit, just like I can get a little callous to personnel because I think we’ve just, all of us face it as entrepreneurs. And so, I share that for an advisor because we were talking the other day. He’s like, “Man, when does this end?” The truth is, as an entrepreneur, it doesn’t, so just get comfortable and put this stuff on repeat and do your very best. And if you can remain as a leader, calm and confident, your team will follow suit. Go for it. Yeah, jump in.

Shawn Sparks: That’s a responsibility that you give up the luxury. When you decide you want to be an entrepreneur and leader, you give up the luxury of being able to just carelessly lead yourself, carry yourself. You give up the luxury of being able to act on your emotions. I have yet to see something positive come from somebody acting on their emotions. And that is something we have to develop because I’ll tell you, like if you’re leading people, nothing good is going to come from that, the way you speak, the way you frame. I’ll tell you if you’re stressed out and everybody else sees it on your face, you just now gave stress to everybody else.

And to be a leader, you’ve already given up the luxury of just being able to be careless. You have to be intentional with your behavior. And that’s part of it. There’s infinite challenges. There’s infinite problems that will occur. But there is a lot of things outside that incident that really manufacture a safe, fun place to be. There are so many things you can do with your culture that when we do have a problem, it becomes less. And more to the point, Brad, with our company, like, okay, there’s a problem going on, there’s an issue. Instead of people being really worried and scared, they say, “Man, this is part of the process. This is just part of the process because we’ve taught them that if you develop, there will be storms over time, but it’s how we handle those as a team.”

I’ve found personally, Brad, and I don’t know that I was planning to share, but it’s like, man, our toughest times have developed us the most. People seek comfort. Entrepreneurs, man, you have signed up for challenges and eventually, you say callous, you have challenges, and you start to realize this is part of the process. I had a really tough time. I had it last summer. One of our best advisors was struggling. I could see it. We could talk about it. But at the end of the struggle, we said, “Well, wait, what can we do now, this feeling you have, to make sure this struggle never happens again? How can we get better through this? What are some things we can do creatively to make this less?” And I will say that challenge is struggles. Entrepreneurship, the reason this is fun is because we are overcoming these. We are constantly going to have them. I’ll tell you, if this was just a smooth sailing deal or just easy, easy, easy, it would not be enjoyable.

But the fact that it comes with the struggle, and overcoming that becomes a part of life and becomes a part of business. And then having a team attack issues together and overcome them, there is so much excitement in that journey. And I don’t look at problems, I look at those as opportunities now. My goodness, what will this lesson teach us that’ll make us better in the next year, the next two years? And that’s a reframing, which is really mindset. What will we become because we dealt with this? And I’ll say, like Brad, I think you’d agree, but our team, by attacking challenges and problems together, it has created such an alignment and a bond for them that they never would have had had they not dealt with some of those problems. So, that’s my take.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, I love that. I completely agree. One of the things Arthur Brooks mentioned a couple recent speakers that came out to one of our experiences, but Arthur Brooks, like, he actually a Harvard professor, he’s written a number of books on it, but he says happiness, it’s like, oh, I just want to be happier. Most humans think it’s like this promised land that someday I can arrive and I will just be happy all the time. And to your point, like, kind of the shared suffering of a team battling together, he shared like it is, actually, if you try to do eliminate unhappiness only to have happiness all the time, it actually you’re sacrificing your happiness because it’s the difference. It’s the I battled through it that actually leads to the happiness. And I think, that was one of the things I took away from that. I’m like, those shared struggles, even though they’re tough and they’re difficult, that’s the bond that creates that team and that culture, so that you can be even happier once you’ve struggled and battled through that. And so, I’m glad you hit that.

And yeah, there is no perfect business. If that’s what you think you’re going to create someday is the perfect business with no problems, you should just go work for somebody else and just clock in and clock out. And that’s what I love about this space, is we work with really great humans that all have tough days. And I love that you put that in the book. It’s a real book. It’s not some flowery make-believe stuff. It’s like tested in the trenches, like real stuff that happens on a day-to-day basis. So, as we wrap here, I think, you share one final story in the book that I love because it’s real. It was a real life story. And there’s a lesson that comes out of it that really helps encompass the whole point of the book in the first place. So, can you share that story, if you don’t mind?

Shawn Sparks: Yeah. I chose to close the book with this story, and sometimes your best experiences are unexpected. And this meant a lot to me. And I had, probably two years ago, we’re on this mission. We’re going all in and kind of obsessed about helping increase the probability of significance being developed for others and ourselves. And I had a random call coming, and it was from a good friend I’ve known for a long time. And he said, “Hey, Shawn, I’ve got a favor I need to ask of you. There’s a younger advisor who needs some help.” And he said, “As a friend of mine, could you just– I’m going to connect you. You guys can talk.” He wasn’t somebody I think would be like a business, wouldn’t be a business connection. It’s more just trying to help them through a tough time. I didn’t know much of the details. I was like, “Friend of yours, friend of mine, let’s talk.”

So, he connected us. And it was a young guy. He’s about my age. And I said, “Well, how can I help? We’ve got a connection here. Let me know how I can help.” Just kind of lead him down the path. And he said, “Well, before we get started, could I tell you what’s going to happen?” I’m like, “Sure.” And he said, “Well, a couple of years ago, because I work with another advisor and I’ve been kind of the right hand, me and another advisor, and working with him.” He said, “Shawn, his business has just taken off. We have done so much and hit all the numbers and we had all the accolades. It’s like top producer.” And he worked for a gentleman named Joe. And I didn’t know him, never heard of him.

And he said, “But two years ago, we set them as a team. It was a team of maybe six or seven people. And we’d sit down on the table and Joe dropped some news to us.” And I said, “What? What news?” And he said, “He had terminal cancer.” And he said, “We were in shock. He had less than a few years to live. And he said to the team, he goes, ‘Guys, I’ve built this company around me.’” He had the best relationships. He was involved, and everybody else was behind the scenes. Man, I looked at his website, it’s still up. And it was a lot of him, his bio as an individual. And Joe asked him, he said, “This is the most important favor, the most help I’ve ever asked of you guys.” He said, “We’ve done well, but not well enough. His wife needed this business to stay up when this time were to pass for him.” And he said, “I need your guys’ help in record time to be able to run this business for whenever I’m no longer here.” And financially, it was required. They needed it and the team said, “We’ll do this. We can make this happen.”

So, Joe and the team over about six months went all in to completely change the way they do business, to where Joe was not the front man and everything was about him, but the client relationships, everything, within six months or so, they’re like, “We’ve got this.” Everybody changed their focus and stopped just with their role and said, “We can do this together.” So, about a year later, year after the news broke, Joe ended up passing away. The team, they didn’t have to go hire new people. They didn’t have to worry about the clients. Within 6 to 12 months, this team was running the business fully. And what I love about it is it’s not just sustaining itself, it was growing. And those are the conversations I was having with him about how they can grow and improve.

And here’s what I learned from that. The same team he had for 15 to 20 years as they built the business, the same team where it was all about Joe, he was a workaholic, the same team within 12 months was able, when Joe no longer was there, to be able to build this in a way that was growing without him. And I was like, think, now, this was the worst news you could have gotten. This is the worst thing that could have caused this. But you know what? When it came down to it, it worked.

I hung up the phone call with this young guy. He had been working under him for years. And I will be honest with you, Brad, it was emotional for me. Listening to the story, about a half-hour conversation, I had never heard of such a thing. And I said, “How much more, how much better would Joe’s life have been had he built it that way in his first year of his career instead of his 30th or 20th?” He would have spent 19, 20 years to where his team, how much better would their careers have been? Had he armed them in the first year or the second year and the third year instead of the last?

And I think what I learn from that is we underestimate how big of a difference, how much our business and life can change if we are intentional. And I think so many people, man, they just go with the flow, just do things the way they’re supposed to do. And unfortunately, with Joe, it took a complete change of his health to cause it. Why wouldn’t we do it in another way and say, you know what? Your life does depend on your business. Because I’ll tell you what, if your business consumes you, you don’t have your life. You don’t have the time with the kid. You don’t have the time with spouse. Build your business like your life depends on it because it does. And you don’t have to have an illness that changes that. Build it so that your team who wants to perform and wants to build the career with you, alongside of you, not just behind you. Build it in the way that they’re more fulfilled. And then see what happens.

And I left that story at the end of the book because I will tell you, it just hit me hard and I go, “Let’s not just leave this to chance. Let’s be intentional. Let’s build it right. And let’s build a business that enhances the quality of our life, not one that becomes it.”

Brad Johnson: Let that set for a second. It’s a great way to end it, my man. And this stuff does matter to your point. Like, because your life depends on it, it does. It’s a really bad tradeoff if you trade our limited time on this planet for money and success in the definition you shared today. So, I just want to say congrats, man. I know this has been a labor of love. It’s been about two decades in the making, because it is a lot of those stories that you’ve documented over the years, that you’ve lived over the years. And that’s one of the things I love about you, Shawn. As a brother, we’ve grown up in this business together. You’ve always done it with a really big heart, man.

So, I love that you’ve captured this for the book. I cannot wait to get this. If you’re an advisor listening in and you are not, well, I think, we’ll put it in the intro, but it’s going to be really easy to get a copy and a bunch of other bonuses, 100% take advantage of it. And I’m not just sharing that because Shawn’s my business partner. Like, he really wrote a book that will change your life if you let it. So, with that, my man, thanks for the time. Thanks for sharing. And it’s fun to be on this mission with you, man.

Shawn Sparks: Same. Appreciate you, buddy. Thanks for having me on. And good luck. To everybody who’s listening, pursue the life that matters, not the life that just you become accustomed to. It would be amazing what happens there. And I really do hope that you enjoy the book and I hope that it makes a difference for you even more so.

Brad Johnson: All right, brother, till next time.

Shawn Sparks: All right. Bye.

Disclosure

DBDL podcast episode conversations are intended to provide financial advisors with ideas, strategies, concepts and tools that could be incorporated into their business and their life. Financial professionals are responsible for ensuring implementation of anything discussed related to business is done so in accordance with any and all regulatory, compliance responsibilities and obligations.

The experiences of Triad member shared are unique and may not be representative of all Triad Member experiences.

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