Ep 048

Mastering Educational Events vs Dinner Seminars & the Impact of Building a Firm vs an Agency Model

With

Triad Member - Stephen Stricklin

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Inside This Episode

Today, I’m chatting with Triad Member Stephen Stricklin, who is the president and founder of Wise Wealth LLC, an independent, full-service wealth management firm.

As a former teacher, Stephen took his passion for educating others and adapted it to the financial services industry. His firm’s motto, “First Wisdom, Then Wealth,” says it all – they’re focus is on helping clients achieve financial peace by teaching, not just selling stuff.

In this episode, you’ll hear how Stephen shifted careers and built his own RIA from the ground up – including the major pivots he had to make in order to properly scale the business.

What I love about Stephen’s story is his willingness to evolve and adapt. Even after building his firm for 15+ years, he had the humility to let go of what wasn’t working and completely restructure how he was building the business.

3 of the biggest insights from Stephen Stricklin

  • #1 How Stephen borrowed Dave Ramsey’s platform (and other people’s programs), to build an audience and business from scratch – and the importance of diversifying your marketing funnel to reduce the risk of your prospect pipeline drying up.

  • #2 Stephen had built a team that wasn’t aligned or moving together in the same direction. Find out how he completely restructured the company, built a collective vision, and created a business that could finally scale.

  • #3 Learn to use Champagne Moments in your business to uncover your team’s personal and professional goals – so you can hold them accountable, help them succeed, and create meaningful experiences that they’ll never forget. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS: 

  • From high school teacher to financial planner
  • Blending your background with your practice
  • Quality vs. quantity with seminar attendees
  • Diversifying marketing as you grow your team
  • How to be a true fiduciary
  • Turning independent advisors into a team
  • The impact of Champagne Moments
  • Why to ask your team to share their goals
  • Transform your mission into a viral movement!
  • How Stephen paired his firm with a coffee shop
  • Why to write your own book

BUILDING A UNIFIED TEAM WITH A COLLECTIVE VISION | STEPHEN STRICKLIN

REVEALING TEAM VALUES WITH THE CHAMPAGNE MOMENTS EXERCISE | STEPHEN STRICKLIN

TRANSFORM YOUR MISSION INTO A VIRAL MOVEMENT | STEPHEN STRICKLIN

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE: 

PEOPLE MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

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MIC DROP MOMENTS WITH STEPHEN STRICKLIN

  • “You can’t fake authenticity.” – Stephen Stricklin

  • “Our experience was: The fewer people in the room, the higher the net worth, the higher the qualified clients.” – Stephen Stricklin

  • “The only way to get objective advice is to go to somebody or go to a firm that offers both [insurance and investments].” – Stephen Stricklin

  • “How you get clients is how you keep them.” – Stephen Stricklin

  • “The mission of Wise Wealth is to guide families on a path that makes work optional and to empower them with the freedom to give, serve, and enjoy a life like never before.” – Stephen Stricklin

  • “Write your own book. You have something to say. You believe in something. You know something. Don’t borrow someone else’s book and put your name on it.” – Stephen Stricklin

Brad Johnson: Welcome back to another episode of Do Business Do Life. Excited to have another Triad member spotlight here today with Triad member, Stephen Stricklin. Welcome to the show, Stephen.

Stephen Stricklin: Brad, it’s great to finally be on the podcast with you, man. Appreciate it.

Brad Johnson: I’ve been looking forward to it. You were kind enough just being right down the road from Lawrence, right there in kind of the Kansas City metro. Last year, we had a Triad meeting at the end of the year and I think it’s always really important if you’re going to stay member-obsessed, you got to have your members actually come in, your clients come in, and share what you’re doing well, share maybe where you’ve got some opportunity for improvement. And you were kind enough to come down and I think we had an hour-long conversation on what Triad was doing for you, kind of how you got in the business. And it was a really fun conversation. So, we already did kind of an impromptu version. Now, we’re just going to record it and put it out to the world. So, I’ve been looking forward to part two of that.

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate that. That was a great event. I mean, Lawrence is a fun town and, hopefully, one of the people listening, watching, have been to Lawrence but it’s a cool place to go and hang out. You guys have a great team there. It was actually cool to do it like in front of a live audience. This is just me and you, but when we’re asking these questions, you could see people’s feedback and reaction. And it was a lot of fun.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, as we kick it off here, one of the goals on member spotlight, obviously, you’ve been in the business a while. You’ve had, you know, it’s the school of hard knocks sometimes in financial services where here’s all the mistakes I made that I won’t do again. Here’s all the stuff that’s actually worked. And this show has always been a really fun mix of both of those. But I think you can always learn a lot from your path into financial services, and you have a really unique one that started more down the educational lane. So, would you mind just sharing with the listeners here kind of your track, like what led you into financial services?

Stephen Stricklin: Absolutely. When you first started saying that, I thought of this quote that I heard before. It said something like, “It took me 15 years to become an overnight success.” You know, something was, “Hey, man, this guy has just a silver spoon in his mouth, overnight success,” but they don’t see all the things that went in there, all the mistakes that you made to get to where you are. So, yeah, just for me real briefly, I would just let everybody know that before I became a financial planner, before I got into this industry, I was a high school teacher and a coach. I was at a private Christian school in Rhode Island, of all places, moved out to the Midwest. We got to Kansas City and really thought that I may actually follow my dad’s footsteps. My dad was a pastor of a church and I thought I might go into like full-time Christian service, ministry, and things like that. And so, I came to Kansas City. When I got here, you may or may not even know this but I came here to go to seminary. When I got to the seminary here, the philosophy was, “Hey, we do classes on nights and weekends, and you work a regular job during the week.” And so, I’d always be interested in money and finances.

So, during the week, I started selling insurance to teachers. I got my insurance license. I had been a high school teacher and a coach, so I felt like comfortable talking to teachers. And basically, what that meant was you buy Krispy Kreme donuts, you sit in the teacher’s lounge, you wait for the teachers to come in and you sell them auto and homeowner’s insurance and things like that. But that’s what got me into the business. So, I’m doing this during the day. I’m going to seminary classes at night, trying to figure out what God wants us to do. And someone handed me a book by Dave Ramsey, and at the time, I never heard of Dave Ramsey in my life. This was 2003-2004. It was probably Total Money Makeover. When I read that book, a light bulb went off in my mind and I just felt like after reading that book that, “You know what? I need to get myself straightened out financially and my wife and our family.” And then what I really want to do is help other people do this. I literally all of a sudden felt like this was it. This is my calling. I had to go all the way in Kansas City, Missouri to just figure out this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

My passion, my calling is not necessarily serving in a church, serving the church. I mean, I want to help people be free, to give, to serve, to enjoy life, to get out of debt, to be able to retire with confidence and freedom. And so, literally, it changed the whole direction of my life. And I’ll tell the end of the story real quick. I went from this teacher insurance company to A.G. Edwards, where I got all my securities licenses. I have been working for a few years on the Plaza. So, I’m duly licensed. I have insurance and investments. And then I was able to start my own firm called Wise Wealth back in 2007 as an RIA. So, I started right away from day one. I really didn’t know anybody, didn’t know anything. I had no clients, no assets, but I started the firm in 2007. But I called it Wise Wealth. And pretty much that tells everybody kind of what our philosophy is here. We always tell everybody we are an education-based financial planning firm. Teaching is who I am. Teaching is what I’ve always done. Teaching is what I do here. It’s just not math and history and all these other things I was doing before, and some, you know, planning for retirement.

Then Wise Wealth, the name Wise Wealth came from Proverbs 24:3-4, “Through wisdom is a house built by understanding it is established and by knowledge are the rooms filled with pleasant and precious riches.” So, I saw our principle in the Bible when I was studying that. Wise Wealth, first wisdom, then wealth. So, that’s like the cornerstone of our firm. And we do that all through education. So, yeah, I was a teacher before. I’m a teacher now.

Brad Johnson: That’s such a cool story. Fun fact, A.G. Edwards was the very first investment account I ever opened, I ever got, that we went to church with back in the day in Minneapolis, Kansas or to the A.G. Edwards in Salina, Kansas. And so, there wasn’t much in there but that was my first investment account. So, you said a lot there. I want to go back to you did something really interesting. And this is what I love about financial services, Stephen, is you can build the firm that’s almost like a unique version of you, your own DNA. You were a teacher. Obviously, faith is really important to you. You’ve integrated both of those into your current business model. But one of the things, it’s funny, you started your IRA the exact same year I got in the business, 2007. So, one of the things, as I grew up in this space, I saw a lot of different marketing funnels and different ways to approach getting qualified appointments on the calendar. And there were a lot of what I would call instead of dinner seminars, educational events, but you as a teacher, you kind of naturally gravitated towards that. So, let’s go down that journey because you started doing and if there’s anything before that, feel free to fill that in but you started doing these educational events, and I love the unique spin that you’ve put on them since you kind of created your own version, not somebody else’s version. And there’s a lot of somebody else’s versions floating around the industry. But take us down that path of how you got into it and then how you arrived where you are today on that.

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah. So, the one advantage and not everybody has to be a public speaker. One thing that I would just say that a lot of my training, even in college, was speech and drama and public speaking. So, one thing I’ve always been comfortable with is speaking in public. And so, I realized early on that as I think the way to be successful is not one-on-one. I didn’t have a natural market in Kansas City. I was not from here. I didn’t grow up here. I lived 28 years in Rhode Island before I moved here and started a financial planning firm. So, for me, it was going to have to be one-to-many marketing. I knew I would have to stand up in front of a group of people and not do this one-on-one relationship, referral type of business, especially to get started. Certainly, as we grow, there’s a lot more of that than there was at the beginning. At the beginning, it had to be me standing in front of a group of people. And so, what I did at the beginning, I think this is important is I also didn’t necessarily have my own audience, so I borrowed someone else’s audience.

So, what I mean by that is for whatever it’s worth, I mean, I got connected to Dave Ramsey at the time. He was doing Financial Peace University classes all over the place. So, I would look up all the churches in town. I was holding Financial Peace University and I would say, “Hey, I’m a Dave Ramsey guy. Can I come in and talk to your class on this day or wherever?” So, I borrowed someone else’s stage, borrowed someone else’s audience, and went in there and taught. And that’s why I brought in a lot of clients early on. And I think there’s ways to do that if you don’t have your own platform to stand on. But then, in the industry, you start finding out these things like, “Hey, people are doing dinner seminars.” So, I got started doing dinner seminars in and I’m going to come back to those later on because this year in 2024 is the first year I’m doing dinner seminars again. So, I want to get ready to say I don’t want anyone to think that I think dinner seminars is not the right way to do it because this year I have 32 on the calendar already. But when I first started doing dinner seminars like 2009, 2010, 2011, I just was uncomfortable with it.

I felt like it turned me into a salesperson. I’m not a salesperson. I’m a teacher. I was a certified financial planner, by the way. It’s one of the first things I did. I wanted to be credible as a financial advisor. So, I went out and got the CFP. So, when I was doing these dinner seminars, I felt like, “Hey, I’m spending all this money on people that I don’t know. I’m trying to get them to like me. Trust me. I’m giving them extremely what I feel like valuable information, offering them a free consultation, and then half the room would not come in.” So, I just personally wasn’t used to that system. And it was like it really bothered me the people that didn’t show up more than the people that did show up. Certainly, we got clients, we got assets. People were coming in the door. We were growing but I personally, as a speaker, as an educator, I was not comfortable doing this. And I think you’re going to be successful with the things that you’re comfortable doing. And I think somehow it comes across. So, if you’re standing up there and you feel like you’re a salesperson, they think you’re a salesperson. And so, because it was in my mindset that I’m here to try to get these people to sign up for an appointment because I was desperate, you know what I mean? They can sense that, you know what I mean?

And so, I was trying to figure out a way to get out of the dinner seminar thing, and all of a sudden I found out, “Okay. There’s a couple of programs out there, like you said. They found out it’s education. People would pay to come take the class. It was not sales. It wasn’t a one-hour dinner seminar. In fact, there was no food. It was two days. It was five hours. People paid to come. And what I found out when I did that, it’s not necessary because it was that. It’s because it fit more who I am. All of a sudden, I became even a lot more successful because this is what I wanted to do. I felt like the people in the room and people that wanted to be there, they were serious about it. They weren’t there to get something free because they paid. And so, really, from that point forward, I feel like my business took off. I did a couple of different programs that were out there and like 2015, 2016, and maybe part of 2017. But then I wrote a course in 2018 called Simplify Your Retirement. That’s what we’ve used ever since then, but I liked the format, the two days, five hours where people pay, but then I just wanted to make it my own and really use that course.

It’s almost like buyer conditioning. I would condition everybody on what to expect when they came into our office and what they thought they needed when they came in, that kind of stuff. So, we just teach them. And so, when they came in, they knew what to expect. They knew. We knew. They knew what to expect, what they wanted to get from us, and all kind of stuff. And so, it really took off from there. And I think more than the fact that it was dinner versus the course, it was more of it fit who I am better, who I felt about myself of what I was standing up teaching and educating, that kind of stuff.

Brad Johnson: All right. I love that. There’s a ton of insight there but the thing that sticks out in my mind the most, obviously, Chris Smith has been a big part of our community at Triad and he says something to the effect of, “It’s not what you say. It’s who you are while you’re saying it.” And it makes natural sense with your background in education, a dinner seminar and only setting half the room would be like, if you’re teaching a class and half the students walked out. You may be like, “What’s going on here?”

Stephen Stricklin: That’s right.

Brad Johnson: And so, it makes a lot of sense that you naturally gravitated towards that. It fits who you were. And I’m going to make an assumption, but I want you to come back and tell me the truth because you, it’s funny, I’ve heard the term ‘rip off and duplicate’ a lot in our industry, and I think there’s a lot of merit in that, especially when you’re just getting started. You borrowed Dave Ramsey’s platform, then you went to education, you borrowed somebody else’s program, and then you said, “Wait a sec. I’ve kind of got this down. I understand the system. Now, I’m going to create my version of an educational class.” And you did that, and we’ll get into this a little later, but then the class became a book. And now fast forward to 2024, now, you’re going back into dinner seminars. My assumption is it’s because you’ve now grown up in the business. You’re much more comfortable in your own skin. You’ve got some school of hard knocks, some wisdom acquired along the way. I’m assuming going back into the dinner seminars is now you’re doing dinner seminars on your terms and here’s who we are when we’re doing a dinner seminar. Like, what’s the thought process behind going back into them?

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah. And again, just like as you’re talking, a lot of thoughts are in mind, too. It’s like you can’t fake authenticity. And I think, like you said, when you stand up, you know how it is in a dinner seminar, you know, as circuit as it were, you have to kind of like work the room and all those kinds of stuff and make you tell the jokes and all this kind of stuff. And so, when I started teaching the class, I didn’t have to do that. I was the professor. They paid to take the class. We didn’t have any food there. I’d walk in the door. I really didn’t have to do small talk. No college professor is going to do that. You didn’t have to start with a story. You got right into it, that kind of stuff. So, that made me feel really uncomfortable doing that and, like you said, yeah, you want everybody to win. If you’re a true teacher, you want them all to get it. You want them all to get wisdom. And this is one of the things that’s important to me. It’s not just knowledge. It’s not just educating, education. People can get that online. So, that’s how I would start my class. “Hey, if you come here and you only get more information, great.” You know what I mean?

But if you don’t get wisdom, this was not going to be the best use of your time. You got to do something with this. And so, fast forward this year, you’ve been around in the business, Brad, you know, like you said earlier on, it’s like there was a time where dinner seminars were really strong, and then all of a sudden education courses came in. I was kind of ahead of that curve. I mean, I started doing education courses before a lot of other people were. Now, all of a sudden, that kind of has run its course and I’ve seen this over time. Sometimes things come and go. I don’t know if it’s because of COVID or whatever. Less people are responding to that sort of method, having to come into a room for five hours, two days. Life is busy. And so, if you’re going to be successful in this business, you cannot get stuck. And that’s one thing I’m not going to do. I’m not going to say, “Hey, this is the only thing that works for me. I’m only going to do this one thing.” And times change, and I need to change too. So, that’s one of the motivations. I’ve seen the numbers decline. They’re not in terms of the number of people that become a client versus who attend. It’s just the total number of people that attend.

And so, I’ve got to change. And so, the dinner seminars, the difference now is that I think I can go into a dinner seminar as a teacher and as an educator and not as a salesperson. I have enough confidence in myself and my team in what we have available, we have to offer that it’s extremely valuable that they need to take us up on that offer or really, they’re the ones who are missing out. Not me. So, it’s almost more like a different mentality where before maybe I was more of a scarcity mentality. I needed them. Now, it’s kind of like you’re coming in there and I know they need us.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, I think it’s just like what I see with a lot of our Triad members, obviously, we work with some really successful advisors all across the country, like a quiet confidence. And because you’ve earned it. You’ve figured your way out. And one of the things I think when I look at just the topic of live events, which could be educational, it could be dinner seminars, and there’s a lot of different flavors in between there, people, the general population has all different types of personalities that respond to different offers. For some, a night away from home to learn about finance might be a steak at Ruth’s Chris or Capital Grill in your neck of the woods, right? And for others, it might be, “You know what? I don’t want a steak. I want to go invest in myself in my wisdom.” And neither of those are wrong. It’s just two different ways to meet people you can help in my book. So, I love – that shows a ton of growth mindset just in you. Like, you’re not stuck in your ways, “I’m going to look at the marketplace. How can we serve it? I’m going to constantly evolve.” And I do tend to see like if I did a really broad blanket across the industry and I want a challenge,

I want to ask you because you’ve done both, what I’ve heard from offices doing educational events, less people in the room with typically more money where dinner seminars, more people in the room with maybe a lower average investable net worth, but more appointments, more numbers. I know you’ve done both, Stephen. So, what has been your experience as far as when it comes to results, when it comes to education, or when it comes to dinner seminars?

Stephen Stricklin: I would say definitely 100% that was the actual things that happened, the results in our meetings. I did feel like from day one, as far as the educational courses that we were getting higher quality people in the room, more qualified clients, more people that we would identify as top clients. And I know this is one of the things I like to look back on. And I encourage you, advisors, when they’re starting out to look at that is go look at your top client list. Obviously, see if there’s any similarities between the number one. Also, see where they came from. Also, see any marketing you’re doing. Would they have ever responded to something like that? And so, certainly, back at that time, I looked at the people that came from our dinner seminars. And I thought, “Well, I don’t know. I consider most of them a top client in terms of asset size or attitude or the case of you, the ones who came through these education courses they have bought in. You know what I mean? They come in the door already with a sense of trust, and then they spend five hours with you. They know if they like you. They know they can trust you.

They know if they want to move forward, they know there are no surprises when they get into your office. You told them exactly how you do business, exactly the recommendations you’re going to make on every aspect. And so, that’s why I called it earlier, buyer conditioning. So, I like that aspect of it. And certainly, it doesn’t ever have to be all or nothing. Certainly, some people could still do both or we may still need to do that. But yes, I felt like it was higher net worth people, the people that are going to come to a course and pay for it, normally are people that are high net worth. Some of the highest net-worth people may or may not come to a free dinner but it doesn’t mean they won’t. You know, they certainly could. They certainly might. But, yeah, to go back to answer your question, yes, our experience was less people in the room, higher net worth, higher qualified clients. That being said, you have to keep producing. In our case, we want to help as many people as we can. We can’t help the fact that you’re still going to send out, you’re still going to spend $5,000, $10,000 on a mailer.

And so, if you’re willing to get, you know, if you’re going to do a 10,000-piece mailer and you’d like to get at least ten people in the room, and that’s ridiculous numbers, but that’s the reality. It’s very difficult, we’ve noticed the last year or so, to get a lot of people in that room. Is it still worth it? It was still worth it to me to do it, whatever, how many times we did it last year, 12, 13 times. But you just kind of want to see, can you get more people in a room, get more at that, you know, get more results, but just maybe a lower asset size clients.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And the other thing, because I know, because I’ve watched your firm grow since you’ve been at Triad, as you have a team to serve with multiple advisors, I think that’s oftentimes where I see an inflection point where maybe one firm was built on kind of one really pillar marketing firm or marketing method, right, where for you, that was a lot of these educational events. And as you add more advisors, you have more mouths to feed, right? And so, that’s oftentimes where I’ll see like, “Okay. Well, it’s time to add a second, third, fourth, fifth marketing funnel.” Because the cool thing now is, you know your philosophy as a firm. I mean, 2007, you’ve had going on almost two decades, here is the philosophy. That’s clear. Here’s what we’re about. Here’s how we serve people. And now it’s just a different way, a different road to Wise Wealth for people to get there. And now, if you give people multiple ways to get to Wise Wealth, that gives you the opportunity and not just obviously you be the solo advisor but have multiple advisors on the team. So, I love that approach. It makes a lot of sense. And now your dinner seminars are going to be that much more impactful because of all that work you’ve done.

Stephen Stricklin: Absolutely. What you said is a great point, and I think that’s part of it. So, for a lot of years, even though I had support, I had operations people, I had support people, I had other advisors who were out there getting their own clients, doing their own educational courses, doing their own marketing. So, still everybody that was coming to these courses, part of the deal was they got to meet with me. It wasn’t, “Here, I’m going to let you talk to somebody on my team,” or they wanted to be with me. And so, you’re right about that. I think over time it’s like, well, now it’s not just me. I need to get more at bats here for my team, and they’re all ready to go. And so, I think reorganizing the firm, the operational structure of the firm definitely lends itself to saying, “Hey, we need more people in the funnel. We need more people in here,” even though it may not be 100% the top high net worth person that I personally would deal with. If it was just me, myself that I, absolutely, I should just do education seminars because ten people in the room, A, that will come in and meet. I’ve got time to deal with it. It all works. But now when you’re saying, “Yeah, you got other advisors that are not doing their own marketing, they’re dependent on the firm marketing,” that does change everything. Yeah, that’s a good point.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And it just, obviously, I mean, COVID wasn’t that long ago. I remember I was in Dallas, Texas at an actual industry event at the Four Seasons, beautiful property. It was spring break, so I was there with my whole family, and I remember I was sitting having a drink at the bar at the end of the night with one of my clients at the time. And I looked up on ESPN and the NBA season got canceled. And that’s where it went from, “Hey, there’s this thing going on in China,” to, “Oh, there’s something going on here.” And I remember literally that whole next day, everybody was walking around like zombies, like, what are we going to do? Because all the dinner seminars, all the educational events just went out the window. So, I share that story just to make the point. The cool thing about being an independent advisor is you’re an entrepreneur. That’s what you are. You’re running a business. And the more diverse your marketing methods, the more bulletproof, you know. Whatever thing we don’t know that’s right around the corner, the more you’re going to be able to evolve and adapt. And so, I love the fact that you’re continuing to diversify your marketing as you grow the team.

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah. That’s the keyword. As financial advisors, we all say, “We believe in diversification.” And then sometimes you meet a financial advisor where in the old days they do one thing. Other entire business is built on one marketing funnel. And I would just say, I think that’s a dangerous thing to do because of COVID and things like that. So, I believe in spreading out the different marketing funnels. Sometimes we find out that one is more successful than other during certain seasons of the year. We don’t know. All we know is that success comes from activity and so we’ve got to be doing multiple things. And so, yeah, we’re going to do the radio ads. We have radio ads going on. We’re in a magazine. We are in, yeah, we’re doing things online and digital media and Facebook and YouTube, and we’re also doing dinner seminars. Which one of these is going to work? Yes, we believe that all of them work. We don’t know which one. They all kind of go together. And I think sometimes all of a sudden we’ll get 100 tons of quiz leads from the radio from something else, we don’t know, YouTube, but then maybe it’s the dinner seminar.

So, I think it’s a very strong point to not get stuck, especially when things happen like COVID. But just in general, I don’t think it’s a great business strategy that only have one method of marketing. You have multiple streams of marketing things that are out there and that’s just what I’ve learned over the years. Sometimes one’s working better than others. Sometimes life insurance, we do tons of life insurance business. Sometimes we do tons of annuities. Sometimes it’s AUM. It’s the same kind of thing. In kind of the business, just as well do them all. I would just say the same thing. It’s the reason why I believe everyone should be registered and insurance licensed. You know, sometimes there are times where everyone wants to keep their money safe, and then sometimes everybody wants to have their money in the market. You’ve got to be ready and able to do both, I think.

Brad Johnson: I’ve heard the term on that last point you made, Stephen, because the word and we’ve hit this on a couple of paths but I’m just going to hit it right now because you just brought it up. The word ‘fiduciary’ has been weaponized a bit in our industry, right? I’m a fiduciary. Well, it’s been turned into a marketing term because to its truest sense, you know this as the Series 65 guys, a CFP, a financial planner. Fiduciary means you’re legally obligated to serve your clients first, right? And to your point, if you, because of licensing, have removed a number of the tools from your toolbox, now it’s like you’re building a house with half a toolbox, right? Like, how solid of a structure are you going to build? And I think oftentimes in financial services and it’s kind of the church you grew up in. You started at A.G. Edwards. I think, were they like pro insurance and asset management? Or what was kind of their philosophy at the time?

Stephen Stricklin: Investment mostly, investment only. So, I kind of came from both schools. One place I was at, insurance only, no investments. Next place I went to, investment only, no insurance. And I was like, thankfully, I realized that, “Hey, you know what, there’s a place for both.”

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, that’s a solid point. Like, you grew up in the church. Different churches have different religions, right? When you got into the world of finance, your first religion at your first firm was insurance only. The next one was asset management only and you’re like, “Wait, this is kind of silly. I’m just going to do everything because clients just want the tool that’s going to most efficiently accomplish the goal.” So, I love that.

Stephen Stricklin: And it’s definitely one of my big soapboxes. And I think it’s one of the things that the consumers, in general, this is what confuses them. They’ll turn on the radio and some guy on the radio will be talking about how the stock market’s a casino, it’s gambling, and all these things. You should protect all their money. And someone else will get on there and say that insurance companies are a rip-off. And it’s like I always have to pull back the curtain when I’m teaching my classes. I say, “Look, the only way to get objective advice is to go to somebody or go to a firm that offers both. It doesn’t mean that the insurance-only guy or person is bad. It doesn’t mean that the investment-only girl is good or bad. They may be good people. They may be doing the best they possibly can. It has nothing to do with them personally but you cannot possibly get objective advice from somebody who only offers one thing.” And so, I said from the beginning, we’re going to be objective. We’re going to be full-service. There’s no right or wrong. It comes down to fit. And so, we really wanted to be objectivity is one of the core principles of ethics. It’s one of the core principles of being a financial planner, being a fiduciary.

And so, what bothers me about is the consumers get confused by it. They think if you’re a card-registered rep, you know what I mean? Like, my card used to say when I was an insurance guy that I could sell investments. Well, no, I couldn’t. Well, my business card used to say financial advisor, you would think, “Okay. You can do insurance a bit.” Well, no, I can only do investments. And so, the industry gets confused. I think us, as planners, I would just say to anybody who has a bit one way or the other, whether you personally want to get licensed or not the other way, bring someone else in who is so your firm can be objective. And like you said, I believe personally the other way to be a true fiduciary, to act in the client’s best interest, because the reality is sometimes it is investment, sometimes it is insurance, is to offer both your firm or partner with somebody who does.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, so I want to go back. You hit something and you talked about evolving. And I think in any business, if you don’t choose to evolve, you’re dead. It’s like over time, as things change in the world. I mean, ask Kodak, ask some of the biggest brands that were out there that no longer exist if you don’t evolve. And one of the things, Blockbuster’s another one. You know, my wife and I’s date night was go get the video off the shelf at Blockbuster back in college. So, one of the things that as you built your firm and when we first met, you had a model and you put it into your words, but I’ll use my description of it. You had a model that kind of like if I look at when I first got into insurance, there was a lot of what I would call agencies, which were here’s the head of hierarchy and then they called the term sub-agents, where people were kind of stacked underneath them. Some people had like 100 sub-agents, and it might mean I make a little bit on them and the value brought depended on the firm.

But oftentimes, it was kind of like, okay, here’s this, and then I’ve got this level and then I’ve got another level. I mean, I saw some hierarchies where there were like six levels. It was super confusing. And I’d call like that the old school life insurance agency model. And what I saw the industry evolved to over time because when I talked to those guys, they’re like, “Oh, I just trained my competition. He’s down the road now. And he didn’t stick around,” and I saw the firm or the industry kind of evolve to more of a model. What I would say the top scaling firms are their people didn’t leave every year or two was more of what a law firm would do, more of a firm where, you know, at a law firm, you hire a young go-getter, they earn their stripes, and eventually, hopefully, they make partner and they’re part of the firm. And obviously, they’re not over-practicing some legal practice that the firm doesn’t approve of either. So, it’s all kind of congruent with here’s our approach. And I’ve seen your firm over the last few years really make that change.

And I’m not passing any judgment on like the model you had when you got there but I know there was a lot of thought. We had a lot of conversations. But if you were talking to advisors out there listening in that maybe kind of have a, “Oh, I met a guy at the country club. I threw him under my hierarchy,” versus how you’re now building the firm today, what are the lessons you learned along the way?

Stephen Stricklin: It’s a great question. One thing that keeps coming to my mind is one of these philosophies that I have that I teach my team about is just the statement that goes like this, “How you get them is how you keep them.” So, I’m going to think about this in terms of the advisors that you bring in, but also the clients that we bring in. I always tell my team how you get them is how you keep them. So, if you got them through education, you’re going to keep them through education. If you got them through service, you’re going to keep them through service. If you got them because, excuse me, your portfolio is better than someone else’s or your rate of return is better than someone else’s, it’s going to be hard to keep them. If that’s how you got your client, by selling against somebody else because you’re better than them for the last five years, then it’s kind of built on a sinking sand. And so, how you get them is how you keep them. What is your value proposition? So, I would just say early on, same thing with bringing on new advisors. As we all grow in the business, we’re going to bring out all the people that can produce.

And so, if you bring on advisors and the way you brought them in was, “Hey, you’ve already been out there or you’re already a financial advisor, you already have a book of business, come in and do that same book of business under my firm name. You’re going to get paid more because we don’t have all the structure and compliance and overhead, all these things. But keep doing what you’re doing, just do it here, and I’m going to get paid an override on this.” And so, that was my philosophy when I first started bringing on new advisors. “Hey, there’s a Merrill Lynch advisor over here. She’s successful as a Merrill Lynch advisor over here. He’s successful. They’re not, you know, major big yet. We can help them grow. This can be a win-win. They can grow their business here. Bring over whatever assets you can. We’ll pay you a certain amount on that and just keep growing there.” But what happens is, over time, you realize, “Hey, they’re out there doing their own marketing.” They’re doing their own, you know, they’re building your own business.

Their clients that they brought over, and their new clients are kind of looking at them as they’re the advisor, not the firm, you know, their clients, not the firm’s clients and all this kind of stuff. And so, it’s hard to build a firm where everyone’s on the same team. And just to be very transparent, what happened here is I had four what I’ll call independent financial advisors. They were all responsible for themselves. They’re all responsible bringing their own business. And they were all very good financial advisors, successful in their own right, and that kind of stuff. But for the portion of the override that we got, we had to figure out, okay, how much of our office space do they get to use for that? How much of my team’s resources do they get to use? How many copies per month is that worth? How much of our tax plan? You know what I mean? It just got difficult because they were part of the firm under the umbrella, but not really on the team because they had their own clients, that kind of stuff. And so, it just became a situation where as we continue to grow and as they continue to grow, and we met some guys at Triad who pointed out to me that, “Hey, man, this is not a business model that is scalable. This is not a way to build an actual firm value and these kinds of things.”

And so, I was feeling it and didn’t know but you guys, talked to you guys, and you had this other model. I said, “You know what? That’s the way to do it.” So, I’ll fast forward. I went to these independent advisors we have. They all understood it. They were entrepreneurial. And so, we were able to over last year toward the end of this year, get them all out to be fully independent so that we could say anybody under the name Wise Wealth is no longer an independent advisor. You’re an advisor of the firm. Everyone, full access to everybody. All of our clients get full access to you. You get full access to everything else. And that’s just a model that puts everybody on the same page, the same team. It’s scalable. It’s exciting. It’s empowering. And really, the way that you guys teach people how to build their business is the right way to do it.

And so, now, we’re in a situation where we have what we’ll call lead advisors and then service advisors or relationship advisors. All of these financial advisors, there’s four total, two lead advisors, two relationship service advisors. All four of them could try to go out there bringing their own business. All four of them are very good financial advisors, qualified. But we brought them in differently. We didn’t say to them, your job is to go out and get new clients, your job is to go out and bring in business for the firm. No, your job is now when we get a lead, the lead advisors, here’s what your role is. You take them through the first meeting. You take them through the second meeting. You get to become a client. That’s your strength.

Now, we have these two relationship advisors over here. Their strength, the service, relationships, love, and all that kind of stuff. And so, now, we’ve got this set up where we can bring in more prospects. The funnel can be larger. No one has to meet with me. And so, now, all of a sudden, we have four financial advisors, including myself. But all of them are what we call team advisors. They have a role on the team. They’re not responsible. They’re salaried. They’re bonused. They’re not required to go out and try to bring in their own business for the firm.

And so, there’s just a difference in unity. There’s a difference in how we’re all reaching for the same goal. I can stand up in a team meeting like I did yesterday to start this year and say, “Hey, here’s the goal for the team for the year. It’s not on you as a one person. It’s on all of us together.” And so, at my firm now, there’s five of us of advisors and we have tax and legal, these things, but there’s 11 people total on the team.

Brad Johnson: Couple words come to mind, alignment and congruency. Alignment on your team, not a bunch of individual players all under the same roof that are kind of playing their own games, but one collective team, all with a collective vision. And then when I say congruency, congruency for the people because if you think about it, Wise Wealth, the founder, you, had a vision. You articulated that already earlier in this conversation. But guess what? If you’ve got four other independent advisors kind of as roommates under the same roof, they don’t have that same vision of Wise Wealth. They have whatever their individual vision was when they became advisors. So, now, if they’re out in the marketplace messaging that, there’s confusion, right? And so, I love that you realize that.

And by the way, I want to give you credit because in almost two decades of coaching, sometimes when you’re down pathways as an advisor, it might be painful to stop and turn around, go back, and take another turn. A lot of advisors are like, “I should have done that, but I’m not going to mess with it.” But testament to you, to having the courage to be able to like, you know what? As I think about it, and you spent time, we had multiple conversations that you were kind of unpacking the problem, but you had the ability to say, “You know what? I don’t think this is congruent with where I want to go as a firm.” And you made the change. And it’s involving probably a few conversations and some internal restructuring. So, congratulations to you.

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah, I appreciate it very much. And credit to you guys, credit to you and Shawn, I think anybody who, if people are listening, the part of the Triad community, they get this. If someone’s listening who’s not, I would just say that a lot of us in the industry you’ve been around for a while have had success, you’re used to talking to an IMO or business coach and you’re used to going in and then giving you a pat on the back and letting you know that you’re wonderful, you’re great, nothing should change. We’re just going to help you do more business, whatever you do better.

I was not expecting in my first visit with you guys at Triad to be told, I mean, I had already been doing this for 15 years. I was not expecting to be told, “Hey, you’re kind of going down the wrong path, buddy. I mean, you’re not doing this. You could do this better. If you really want help…” You know what I mean? It was like no one had told me that, being honest to me. And so, it was like it was almost refreshing for someone to finally have the guts, the courage, because I wasn’t signed up. I wasn’t on board. I wasn’t with Triad, yet you guys told me this before I ever joined the community, “Hey, man, we’re just going to tell you right now if you’re going to join us, we think you need to do this different.”

And what I appreciate of that that really made a big difference to my team, the other thing I’m going to go back to is, what I said earlier for teaching versus selling, being true to your authentic self. I think if you want to be a business owner and have a team and you buy into what you and I are talking about today, the people that you need to let go that are not under that same philosophy, you’re going to be better off when it’s said and done. They may be feeling the same thing. They may agree with you that that’s how you should do it. So, just have the courage to make the move or give them the opportunity to come in on board.

I gave all the advisors that were independent a chance to come back in and say, “Hey, here’s how we’re doing it going forward. You either come in under this umbrella, under this new approach, or you got independent. If you got independent, we’re going to be for you, we’re going to support you, we’re happy for you. But here’s how we’re doing this going forward.” And then, now you’re authentic again. Now, you can do this again and build a team. I decided that I’m not going to be an RIA to where I’m bringing in other IARs. We’re not built like that. We’re not the infrastructure for that. We’re built to build this team and make it scalable and grow.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. As you were explaining how kind of early on, you had kind of added different independent advisors. And the term I use in the industry on coaching calls is it’s like roommates, they’re roommates, but you can have very philosophical differences but still live under the same roof. But there’s a scene out of the founder, and I think we’ve actually talked about this, the story of Ray Kroc in McDonald’s, but it’s when Michael Keaton in the movie, he’s a milkshake machine sales guy and he drives to the original McDonald’s when it first opened because they’ve gotten the biggest order he’s ever gotten. And he’s like, “I’ve got one word. Franchise.” Now, we’ve already tried it. It didn’t work. And he said, “How could this fail? This is like fail proof.” He drives to the first franchise in Arizona, and there’s a McDonald’s selling burritos and tacos.

And basically, what you experienced was a different version of that, right? You had these other advisors, but they had completely different stuff on the menu. And if you’re going to build any brand or any business that can scale, I mean, McDonald’s is a prime example. They have systems and processes. This is what we do. This is the menu. They do not have anything on the extra value menus that are not profitable to the company. And just there’s a philosophy that goes along with that. So, I love that you shared that story.

So, I wasn’t planning on going here, but it aligns very much with kind of the realignment and the vision and getting everybody on board with it. So, Ryan and Nick, they sent me a couple of texts yesterday. And you had the team meeting that you were talking about. And our guys came down and I don’t know what all sections they did, but what they shared with me was how powerful the moment on champagne moments was, where you did those with your team. And I think that speaks to the alignment that you’ve got going on right now. So, any takeaways from that? And maybe describe what a champagne moment is, the way you define it in your firm for the listeners out there.

Stephen Stricklin: Absolutely. I told that Nick and Ryan, if they came to Australia, I was actually shocked at the way that my team responded to that. First of all, I’ll go back to what you said as far as the alignment, the unity. So, every year, we have an annual kickoff meeting where we lay out the goals and that kind of stuff. And so, all day long, we had our kickoff meeting start the year yesterday. Everything was great. You can tell that there’s a great sense of unity. We’re all in the same mission. All have the same vision, all have the same purpose.

I would just even use the crispiest word, the calling. All of us feel called to be here. You guys at Triad, we talk off a lot about the right seats and then the right people in the right seats. I walked across that room yesterday, and I was able to say to everybody in my team, “None of you were my second choice. Every single one of you, I wanted to be here. You guys are the ones I wanted. I would have been disappointed if you didn’t choose to be here,” because they’re all telling me, “Hey, this is great. We love being here.” I’m sitting there looking at them, thinking, “I know what you guys could be, where you could be” and all these kinds of things. So, I love having them there.

I finally feel like we have the right seats. I know we have the right people in the right seats. And so, this whole sense of this stuff and so, going through a champagne moment, Nick and Ryan, invited these guys to come out because I spent time with them. And you coaching with me, but my team doesn’t really interact with them as much. And so, I thought it’d be great for these guys just to share whatever you want to share and start in the new year. You guys come in, whatever you think my team needs here. And so, these guys decided that these guys, we should share. We should have your team go through the exercise of Do Business, Do Life. What are some things that you could do in your business professionally that would make it feel like you accomplished something this year? What could you do in your personal life that make you feel like you accomplished something this year?

And when you first hear about this, it’s like, okay, we’ll do it this January. Let’s have the team go through this. They’ll like this. It’s going to take up 30 minutes. And I was not expecting this. I have to do this all the time and I get to do it with you guys. And like I said, my team never gets to do this. I know you guys have encouraged us to do this, but I was shocked when we got done with this, when Nick and Ryan asked everyone to go in the room and say, “Why don’t you share what your Do Business, Do Life goals?”

And I’m telling you, just as the owner, just as the founder, when I heard what some of them wanted to do, it really got to me, and what they want to do in their personal life. And some of them, even yesterday, literally could not get through what they wanted to accomplish. And so, I’m sitting there listening these things, and it really hit me. So, that was a great exercise. And I think what these guys did to set up two things that I think were important, and that is the reason why it’s good to share these things is, yeah, there’s some accountability. This is not pressure. But hey, there’s some people if you’re doing this up on the wall, that other people can be like, hey, man, have you taken that trip yet? Did you do that thing? Maybe that class. So, there’s accountability there, which I think is good, number one.

Number two, it’s more about what can everybody else on the team do to help you do that? Hey, man, if that’s what you want to do, what can I do to help you get there? And I thought those two reasons for doing it were powerful. I thought what had forced my team to think about what they want to do was powerful, too, so I really appreciated it. It’s something that impacted me more than I thought it would. It’s certainly something that we want to put up on the wall so people can see that kind of stuff here, too.

Brad Johnson: Thanks for sharing that. That brings tears to my eyes hearing it. It’s interesting as business evolve, how things come to be. And we did our first champagne moments at Triad, our very first launch experience, which was in Nashville. Now, I got to go back, 2022. And we wrote all of them down, and then we hung them in the lobby so that our team could see your all champagne moments. And the first year, we didn’t say Do Business, Do Life, we just said, what’s the champagne moment? Which is something you want to pop a bottle and celebrate a year from now.

And then last year, so 2023, we said, “Wait, let’s go. We’re about doing business and doing life here. Let’s make sure you’ve got at least one do business and one do life.” And then, so Jana on our team, she came back and we had our team meeting following that and she said, “Hey, well, you guys do champagne moments at launch. Why wouldn’t we internally do champagne moments?” And we’re like, this light bulb goes off like, “That’s a no brainer.” That’s like, why did we not think of this? Because guess what? Your team wants this stuff too. They want to win in business. They want to win in life.

And it was the very similar experience that you just explained where like, there were shares where people literally tears rolling down the face. And you also, I think, as a leader, what’s really cool about that experience is you learn who your team is, like, what are they about? What matters to them? And as you know, that’s why people stick around. Yes, paychecks are amazing, but if they know you actually care, that’s why they want to be there. So, I love that you share that. Were there any other ahas for you as a leader/founder that just kind of came out of being like what came about when you have those conversations?

Stephen Stricklin: Well, I think you do realize then what is important to them as individuals. We don’t sit around and talk about that. Here, we’ve got a job to do. We’ve got work to do. We like each other. We have fun together. Everyone is excellent. Their job is, so what we normally do is we’re going to work. I’m not asking them what’s important to you in your life, that you spend time with your kids and wife or whatever the thing may be. So, to hear that and how intentional they want to be about some of these things or exercise or whatever it is and what they want to accomplish, it does feel like you’ve got to know who they are, what’s important to them.

As a founder, sadly, I would say that what hit me was I never asked them that. You know what I mean? I feel like I know them, I feel like I know what’s important to them. But I never asked those kinds of questions like that. And so, that’s why it was shocking for me to hear in a good way. I was pleased as the owner. As the founder, I was pleased to hear what some of them want to accomplish in business. Think about that as the founder of your firm, when you find out what your team is saying, I mean, we had guys in our team. I had a guy in my team yesterday who said, I want to close, I want to bring in five new households per month. We have a goal for this year, and personally, I want to close five new units. That was, whoa, it’s amazing.

All right. This one over here wants to do a certain number of annuity cases this year. He’s new to the area. So, you start hearing these things as the founder. And I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that would be a goal they would have. No one did ask them. So, that was huge. It was a blessing to me as the founder to find out what they wanted to do in business, their business goals because that’s going to impact me. It’s going to impact this whole firm. So, that was awesome to hear.

And then certainly, your reaction to that is I want to help you do that, whatever you said there. One guy said he wants to get us certified. He’s close to being a CFP. He wants to finish that this year. You better believe I want to help him do that. So, there’s things like– then there’s the do life things where you find out, okay, and some of them were very personal, but it’s like, hey, if there’s anything that I can do, you can do as the founder to help them get that done, you realize how impactful that’s going to be more than your monthly lunch you do or whatever the case may be, there’s some things that they said that would make a difference to them. And now, all of a sudden, now you know what you can do.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I’ll tell you something that came out of a conversation like this by sheer accident. The Maya Angelou, I’m probably mispronouncing all this. The Maya Angelou quote on people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel. It was a conversation like that with a former team member. And I found out they had some college loans still. And I don’t remember the exact number. I think it was three or four grand and maybe five grand, and they were chipping away at them. And I thought to myself, you could write a check for an end of year bonus for four grand or you could write a check for the exact amount of those college loans and say, “Congratulations, your college loans are paid off.”

And knowing those dude life goals, it could be trips, that could be CFP, it just unlocks this whole other level as a leader where you can actually put the money you’re spending anyway to support your team and have great talent around you to actually a more meaningful use where it’s like, now it’s tied to an experience or a memory or something that they’ve been striving towards. And I remember in that moment when I handed this girl the check and tears started flowing. I was like, wow. How can I do more of this? This is the most fulfilling thing as a human, I think, you can do, which is give someone else that’s obviously earned it and it’s the most meaningful thing. So, now you’ve got all of these other tools in your arsenal for this upcoming year of how you can reward your team.

Stephen Stricklin: And that truly was like the most valuable part of that exercise. And that is finding that out, exactly what actually makes a difference than we think a lot of times here as the founder, we have the answers. We’re going to do a great thing in a day and looking stuff and you find out what actually would be meaningful to them is that. And so, it reminds me of the show, you probably have seen that. I always use the Undercover Boss.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, I love that.

Stephen Stricklin: It’s one of those shows that you cannot watch it out, just bawling your eyes out at the end because all they do is just they get to know their team members. They find out what they need. They meet that need and the reactions to what you got and that is that team member, you did what they said they needed or wanted. And so, I’ve always felt like that show made a great impact. I mean, I always love watching that. That’s what this sounds like, like this. But we don’t have to go undercover. You don’t have to put on the fake money.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. That’s a great example. It is. It’s kind of a version of Undercover Boss with your team sharing whatever they’re open to sharing and how you can more impact them on the business side, on the life side. Well, speaking of DBDL, another thing I wanted to make sure we got into today. You came and I think it wasn’t too far after the first time we met, you said, “Man, I kind of love what you guys did with Do Business, Do Life. It’s your mission. That’s what you’re about at Triad.” I think Wise Wealth needs its version of DBDL, which led to GSEL. So, please share your takeaways, like how you came up with it, how you put it into action, what you’ve seen since you’ve run with that.

Stephen Stricklin: Absolutely. Yeah, what’s great about this industry is sometimes you go, you hear something, you see something, it’s always great when someone doesn’t just go take it and copy it exactly. They come up with their own version of it. So, I heard DBDL, man, it’s like one of these things, hashtags are popular. So, I saw that. Made sense to me. I love what it meant. And so, we started thinking about here, what are we all about? How can we take this mission, which is sometimes wordy, and get it to something that people that this is all they need to know? So, we came up with the hashtag GSEL, give, serve, enjoy life.

So, our mission, I’ll just say it, the mission of Wise Wealth is to guide families on a path that makes work optional and to empower them with the freedom to give, serve, and enjoy a life like never before. I can either say all of that or I can say hashtag GSEL, give, serve, enjoy life. So, we put on everything. It’s strategic. Yeah, I told my clients and you guys did the same thing. I think this of you guys. So many do too. If it’s important to you, you trade market. So, I went out and got, I tell our clients, if no one else is using the hashtag GSEL, this is us. This is not a thing. This is the Wise Wealth thing. We went and trademarked and copyrighted this thing, number one.

Number two, I always tell my team, there’s not a lot of things on a wall in our office. When you come here, there’s pictures and things like that. There’s not very many words. Okay. One statement when you walk into our conference room is treat others the way you want to be treated, the church, the golden rule. So, our clients see that. The other words we have on our wall and it’s a massive wall in our conference room, when you walk out the door of our conference room, there’s a huge wall there and you can’t miss it, it’s hashtag GSEL. So, we know that everybody who comes to our office, they can’t miss seeing that. And so, it’s just ingrained into them for their very first visit. This is what we’re all about. Giving, serving, enjoying life. Why do you need a retirement plan? So, you can give, serve, enjoy life. Why do you need Wise Wealth? And we talk about it constantly. It’s really where we’re wanting to get everybody to as soon as possible.

Brad Johnson: Do you have any fun stories? Our experience at Triad has been DBDL was a very organic thing. It wasn’t some master plan. It came from a hike Shawn and I took at Blackberry Farm back as I was transitioning out of my old business into what became Triad. But one of the things that’s been really fun to see how DBDL has shown up from you all, our Triad members, it’s like, hey, I’m out here. It’s become like a verb. I’m out here DBDL and it’ll be like a family picture on the lake or something. Have you seen any fun stories yet from your clients where they’re starting to take on that language and kind of use it among themselves or where they’re interacting at events? What are some fun things that have come out of it?

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah, I think you got to be intentional with it. So, we’ve got a great marketing director. So, she is constantly putting it out there for our clients. So, if you take a trip, if you’re on vacation, if you’re doing these things, let us know. Hashtag GSEL. Put it out there. Use this hashtag. So, she does a great job of following up with people after they go on trips. If they’re doing a giving project, if they’re doing a service project, hey, take a picture, let us use that. So, she’ll put it out in social media.

And so, our clients, anybody who’s familiar with us, they’ll see it. It’s not just us doing it. Anytime we’re doing it, we’re going to take a picture and do it. But anytime our clients are doing it, we’re proactively asking them to send in the pictures, tell us the story so we can put it out there. So, I mean, I think you guys just have to be intentional with it. We haven’t gone so far is to get the clothing line yet. You know what I mean? You guys have got. You’re taking this one step further. I like the shirt you’re wearing, but I love it, man.

Brad Johnson: There you go.

Stephen Stricklin: My son was out there in one of the trips, and it’s like his favorite shirt. He loves his outfits. He likes how it holds up. But we haven’t gotten there yet. I know you guys have some ideas in mind for clothing. But yeah, GSEL is the culture. I told my team, I looked at them across yesterday in our training, I said, “Look, I want everybody on this team to be free to give and to serve and to enjoy life.” This is not just for them. This is for every single person on this team. I want all of you guys, like you guys do at Triad. You want everybody on your team to Do Business, Do Life. We’re very intentional about it for our team. We have dates in the calendar for our team to give, serve, and enjoy life. So, it’s not just for our clients, it’s for our team. It’s for us as individuals. And certainly, we’re going to model it for the clients.

And then even with our clients, we’re not saying to them, go out there and GSEL. We’re saying go out there and GSEL, but here’s three events we’re going to do this year. If you need an opportunity to serve, here’s a service project, those kinds of things. It’s just a part of everything we do.

Brad Johnson: And what I think a really important distinction you just made there, Stephen, that I think, unfortunately, a lot of founders miss it. Not on purpose, on accident. It’s like, here’s all the stuff we’re doing for our clients. We’re going to give them a better retirement, give them a better life. And then you’ve got this team surrounding you, and they’re like, “Well, what about me?” And you’re like, “No, we want that for you too,” but you don’t always message it properly, right? So, I love that you took the intention and said, “No, it’s not just for our clients. Yes, we do want that for them, but we want it for you too. And here’s how we’re going to help you deliver on that.” And just, I mean, back to the champagne moments, you don’t know how you can deliver on that if you don’t ask. So, now, you’re asking. And I love that you incorporated that this year.

Well, I’m looking at the clock. Our time is ticking down. I want to, you have a really fun side project, but it’s also, as I think about it, it creates a really cool vibe because it’s right next to your headquarter’s, your office. You actually opened up a coffee shop named Frost. And it’s, I believe, right next door. I haven’t had the chance to come down and visit it yet, but…

Stephen Stricklin: Just up the street.

Brad Johnson: Oh, it’s a block away. So, it’s a block away. And so, tell me about that. Was there any like, call it masterplan of hey, we’re going to bring a lot of people into the coffee shop and hey, obviously, I run a financial services firm a block away? Or was it just, no, it’s a fun side project in a different business I run all together?

Stephen Stricklin: Right. It’s funny. I’m glad you brought that up. So, Frost Coffee and Tea has been a fun project. It’s been open just a little bit over a year, and I’ll just talk quickly how it got started. The location where Frost Coffee and Tea is now used to be my office. It was the headquarters of Wise Wealth for a few years. And so, when we outgrew that space, we’re in a neat little downtown Main Street USA type of area, lots of little shops, restaurants and bars, and studio, all these kinds of things. It’s really cool down here.

So, when I moved to a new location in this downtown Main Street area, I kept that one. It has all these windows in it. It’s right on the corner. The whole time I was in there as an office, I used to think this ought to be a coffee shop. This is a great location for that. But I don’t know anything about a coffee shop, so I rented it out. I moved to where I’m at now. But then towards the end of a couple of, I guess, a year and a half ago, I’m looking at that spot again. I had the great location, and I had a guy in my office who happened to be a coffee– we called him a prosumer. And this guy would go to coffee shows. He loved coffee. He knew people in the industry. He knew the roasters. I was like, “You know what? I’ve got the location. I’ve got the guy. We’re just going to do it.”

So, this was never a dream of mine. It wasn’t like a life goal. But I definitely am a coffee drinker. I found myself being in afternoon coffee every day, so I find myself a lot of times in coffee shop. So, this worked out great. Downtown community. It’s not necessarily to– it’s great for the community. It’s a great place for people to go to. I’m going to come back to my clients. I heard someone gave me a quote one time, a seasoned business owner. And he said to me, he said, “The great way to make a lot of money, owning a coffee shop, is to have a lot of money before you start the coffee shop.” The margins are great. So, I would not sit here and tell everybody, “Hey, open up a coffee shop because the margins are going to be incredible.”

But we opened it. But for us, it is a community thing. We’ve always offered our clients, like, we’ve always customized bags of coffee for our clients. Just something that’s always been important to us. So, now, we can give away their coffee. So, a lot of times, we will order in coffee from down the street, bring it in here for when our clients come to meet. A lot of times, we’ll finish the meeting here. We’ll say, “Hey, you want to go up to Frost and grab a coffee?” We have a conference room there so we can always meet there to begin with anyway.

Brad Johnson: That’s cool.

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah. So, we were intentional when we opened that place up. I made it a conference room so I could always be there if we wanted to. But more times than not, our clients are coming here. We’re either pre-ordering it when they come in or we’re saying, “Hey, that’s right up the street, grab a coffee.” So, it’s worked out really good. And by the way, the client of Wise Wealth, the keychain, just inside of operation, there’s a keychain that has the Wise Wealth logo on one side, Frost on the other. If you’re a client of Wise Wealth, you always get a discount when you go there, I mean, those kinds of things.

Brad Johnson: That’s cool. That’s a fun little perk. And I think there’s– was Paul your coffee connoisseur?

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah, Paul is our coffee guy.

Brad Johnson: Okay. I thought it was. So, if you look at that, number one, there’s a few lessons there. You took one of your team members’ talents and passions and you put it to work. And I’m sure Paul is super jacked about everything going on down the road. And then you’ve got the community, which, by the way, give, serve. Right there, you created that cool experience in your community and environment, coffee shops where all these connections work, business conversations, catching up with friends. And you create an environment. And so, there might not be a direct, like we got five referrals from Frost coffee shop this month, but there’s a goodwill brand ambassador sort of feel that you get from that. And I love that. And then the perks, who doesn’t love a perk of like, oh, I promise Wise Wealth’s clients their coffee shop is Frost because they get a discount, right? So, they probably drive right by Starbucks to go right to Frost because they’re like, well, I get 10% off here.

Stephen Stricklin: One of those things, yeah, it’s a membership type of thing and exclusive love. Not everyone has the keychain. And so, yeah, it’s been really cool.

Brad Johnson: That’s cool.

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah. It’s fun.

Brad Johnson: Oh, cool. All right, well, one more thing if we’re good on time here, because I know you’ve got a book about ready to– a revised, updated version of your first book, Simplify Your Retirement. And as we were talking just before we went live, and I know a lot of financial advisors out there have written books, use books in their business, their marketing. We’ve got a lot of Triad members that have done that. But your road to a book was very different because it came through your educational classes, the curriculum that you really refined over multiple years of doing that. And you said, “Wait, let’s put this into a book.” So, give me your learnings of like, life before the book, life after the book. How has it impacted your business?

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah. I would just say, yeah, I was teaching this class. It was the two-day, five-hour course, and I was like, “You know what? I’m talking for two days, five hours. This is going to be enough for a book.” So, literally, the book that I wrote called Simplify Your Retirement is really that course in a written format. It’s just everything, all the things we taught there. And so, a lot of people can write a book if you’re teaching, if you’re educating, take what you’re saying and teaching, put it into a book.

And so, certainly, like everybody probably knows, I mean, when you write a book, certainly you become an authority. When you write a book, you become credible in people’s eyes. And so, it doesn’t matter, you know what I mean, how you get the help done. I would just encourage everyone to write your own book. I know in the industry, I used to see things where, hey, I’m going to write this book and you can put your name on there as before or whatever. Well, no, don’t do that. Write your own book. You have something to say, you believe in something, you know something. So, I would just say, don’t borrow someone else’s book and put your name on it.

I think clients, personally, that’s just me see through that, I decide I’m never going to do that. I’m going to write my own book. And so, it just gives you something else to put on every single thing, all your branding, all your marketing. Why should they go to your dinner seminar versus the other guy’s dinner seminars? Because you wrote the book and you’re going to be there and you’re going to give them a signed copy. So, it just adds to the credibility, it adds the authority. It gives you a reason to stand up and speak. And people just respect it. And that’s what I found, too.

And it certainly is a lot easier to hand out a book than a business card. So, I haven’t carried around business cards for years. If somebody needs to know who I am, what I have, here’s a book. I don’t carry around business cards. I just give out books. Certainly, for your clients, it’s the same thing. We have copies of these books, these are for you. These are for anybody that you know. So, constantly, in our meetings, in our review meetings, it’s not, hey, if you know somebody, invite them. You know what I mean? Give a business card. No, we don’t say that. If you know somebody, here, take two or three books.

Anytime, anybody says something and be like, “Oh, man, I was talking to your buddy at work about you guys,” like, here’s a book. So, you have something tangible to give them that will educate them on who you are, what you believe, and hopefully, they’ll call in after that. So, extremely valuable to me, to my business, for sure.

Brad Johnson: Awesome. And how did you go about writing it? You just transcribe, like recorded your classes, and then had a writer for the book? Was that the writing process?

Stephen Stricklin: No, I did it through a system. You guys are using that. You’re basically. I had someone, like a ghostwriter, but it was a series of interviews, so it took me like eight or nine months. Basically, he interviewed me for an hour in a month and did that chapter. So, we just kind of put it all together. I didn’t write the whole book. So, it was still someone else sitting there typing it, or it wasn’t just me talking and then transcribing it. It was an interview type of process. He took what I said and tried to write it down in the book then I would just edit it, making sure it sounds like me.

Brad Johnson: Well, the bestselling book in the world was not written by the author. You knew this, right?

Stephen Stricklin: Right. Yes, yes, I knew that one. Several authors.

Brad Johnson: You know this?

Stephen Stricklin: Yes. That’s right. I know this.

Brad Johnson: The Bible. The Bible were just stories that were shared and written down.

Stephen Stricklin: Yes, that’s right.

Brad Johnson: So, you do not have to be a writer to write a book, just the lesson out of that.

Stephen Stricklin: That’s right.

Brad Johnson: Well, Stephen, I’ve really, really enjoyed the conversation today. Unfortunately, the time went too quick. I just have one final question. As you know, here on the Do Business, Do Life podcast and being a Triad member, that’s what we’re all about. So, I would love to hear what is Stephen Stricklin’s definition of doing business, doing life.

Stephen Stricklin: Yeah. I always love that question. To me, it really does, I guess, I would just have to say my calling, my passion in both business and life, they align. And that is helping people be free to give and serve and enjoy life. So, I love to do that in business. That’s why it’s what energizes me every day. I had a, you want to call it a crisis a few years ago, I’m thinking myself, should I be helping people retire? Should I be helping people make a lot of money and amass all this money? For what reason?

But when I realize, you know what? No. If I can help people be free to give, serve, enjoy life, I want to do that for as many people as possible, as many times as possible, all those kinds of things, for having a mission, a passion, a purpose is number one. So, in business, it means helping people do that. But then also, just in life, I want to do this personally. I want my family to be able to be free to do this, give, serve, it’s not just about us. It’s not about all the things that we can have and attain and do, and the trips, all these things. It’s about giving back financially, it’s about giving back time, service. It’s about doing some things that in life that we should be able to enjoy. So, I’m kind of the same person in business and in life, the same passion, the same calling, the same desires. Hashtag GSEL.

Brad Johnson: Well, hey, there’s nothing better than alignment on both sides there, right? And I remember when your crew was out in South Carolina when we did the the Founders Retreat at the Montage, you’re a bowling alley over. And that to me, I mean, that’s why we re-imagined what used to be called an incentive trip in our industry. And I’m like, “No, let’s make it a retreat where if you’ve got a family, you don’t have to pick business or doing life, you can just integrate it and just do it both all together.” And it’s just been cool to see that thing, how the community, you, and other members have embraced that. And now, I see the kids getting excited about seeing each other, and it’s just so fun. So, I love that you…

Stephen Stricklin: Jiu-jitsu and that kind of stuff. You had a great time, yes. And you took off with Ryan on a hike one time, left me in the dust. It’s awesome, yeah.

Brad Johnson: Very cool. Well, my man, looking forward to connecting in about a week in Scottsdale. And we picked the right location because it will be much warmer than Kansas and Missouri right now.

Stephen Stricklin: Absolutely.

Brad Johnson: All right, my man. Well, I enjoyed the conversation. Until I see you in a week or so.

Stephen Stricklin: Thanks.

Disclosure

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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