Kristin Shea: Sup, Brad.
Brad Johnson: What’s up?
Kristin Shea: Welcome to Financial Advisor Evolution, sir.
Brad Johnson: It’s good to be here. It’s long overdue.
Kristin Shea: Yeah. There’s been a lot of rumors about where you’ve been. I think one of the craziest ones that I heard was that you actually died. So, it would appear as if that one wasn’t true but it could be time to set the record straight. Right?
Brad Johnson: That is one I had not heard. I had heard quite a few different ones, but that’s the first.
Kristin Shea: What’s the favorite rumor that you heard about where you’ve been?
Brad Johnson: The favorite one I’ve heard. I’ve started about 18 different businesses in the last two years with a number of different business partners and a number of different investors.
Kristin Shea: How are they going?
Brad Johnson: Well, that’s a good question, because as far as I know, none of them exist. They’re rumors anyway. So, yeah, I think it’s just a lesson in this industry. I mean, at the end of the day, this is a really big industry and it’s really small. And so, one of the things that’s always I think it’s part of my small-town upbringing is just treat others as you want to be treated. And I find that the rest of the story works itself out. And so, maybe this is a growing-up maturing thing but I remember I really used to worry about what other people thought and conversations being had, and at the end of the day, you can’t control any of it. So, maybe it’s the stoic in me. I just try to worry about the things I can control and that’s me. If I’m at my best and if I’m lucky, that’s a big undertaking by itself, and not worry about the rest. The rest will play out and just show up how you want to show up, be who you want to be, treat others as you want to be treated. And I find that’s taking care of me to this point. So, I plan to stay on that path.
Kristin Shea: 100%. That’s a great place to start. So, that’s kind of the big question, right? Where have you been? Where have you been? You had an amazing last chapter. I can’t imagine it was an easy decision to move on from that chapter. Amazing life, amazing success. What happened? Where have you been? What type of decisions have you had to make and what does the future look like?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. I mean, everybody that I guess knows me and then who knows who’s listening to this show so maybe there are some advisors that listened to my prior podcast, the Elite Advisor Blueprint, maybe there’s some tuning in. This is their first time. I was in a really good spot, really fortunate, really grateful. At the age of 26, I left the corporate world, worked for a little company called Payless ShoeSource that’s now no longer around, and jumped into the world of finance and was fortunate. I worked for a cool company based out of Topeka that went from a really small thing. I started as the 12th guy on the team so I think today over 1,000 employees and it became one of the biggest and best that’s ever been in our space. And I feel really grateful, really thankful that I was along for that journey. Still have a lot of friends in that building, and that’s why it was so hard to leave because it was a really good thing. And at the end of the day, those that know me, advisors I worked with over the years, friends, whatever I do, my wife jokes I’m all in or I’m all out. Maybe it’s the Enneagram 7 in me. We’ll call it the addictive personality or whatever you want to call it. But if I’m in on something, it’s like a light switch. It’s on or off. And it just reached a point to where I knew there was something calling for me for that next chapter. And that’s not discrediting anything from that chapter because without the previous chapter, it wouldn’t have set up this chapter for me. So, just really grateful.
And it took a lot of conversations with my wife, a lot of reflection, a lot of figuring out what do I want to do with my short time on this planet. And I’ve never been a guy that stays complacent and I just felt like I’d kind of reached the ceiling of what I could achieve. And so, for me, it was really scary and it was really, it was hard. A lot of friends and people I knew for a decade plus as clients, coworkers, and I’ll tell you who really helped me make the decision was my kids. That’s the truth. We have a little ritual and it’s called What’s It Mean to Be a Johnson Kid? It’s a little nighttime ritual that I’ve done with all three of my kiddos, and I think my daughter, Nellie, was two. And I said, “Hey, what’s it mean to be a Johnson kid?” And I wrote down everything they said, which was pretty cool. That was some pretty cool wisdom.
Kristin Shea: So, your kids defined what it meant to be a Johnson kid?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Like, for me, it’s one thing for me to tell them.
Kristin Shea: Right.
Brad Johnson: It’s another thing for them to say, “Hey, here’s what we believe it is to be a Johnson kid.” And not that you can’t nudge it a little bit right or left.
Kristin Shea: And how old were your kids, by the way, at the time that they did that? That seems like such an amazing exercise to do with your family.
Brad Johnson: Nellie was two, so she’s our youngest. She’s six now. So, two, seven, and eight.
Kristin Shea: Amazing. So, what kind of words do they come up with?
Brad Johnson: Well, as a two-year-old, that’s Johnson kids love their mom, love their dad. But there were some really cool ones.
Kristin Shea: Or princesses.
Brad Johnson: Right. Get uncomfortable. Do hard things, are readers. One of the things that I believe to be true, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a spouse, whether you’re a leader on a team, is it’s one thing to say something.
Kristin Shea: Yeah.
Brad Johnson: It’s another thing to model something and live it.
Kristin Shea: Right.
Brad Johnson: And by the way, very imperfect at all of that. Definitely screwed up that on all fronts but I keep trying to level up. And one of those nights I was doing this with our kids and I was in, at the time Braun and Nash shared a room, and I remember saying we basically there were like 25 things on this poster and I’d say, “Just name one. What’s one thing it means?” And I remember I think Braun said, “Johnson kids do hard things.” And Nash said, “Johnson kids get uncomfortable.” And as I was contemplating, “What does the rest of this look like for me?” and hopefully, I mean, if there’s any advisors out there listening to this that are going through that, whether in their career, business decisions, family decisions, I think it’s really hard when you look short term. It’s really hard because then it gets messy. But, wait, I’d walk away from this money or that money or what about this? And you think of all the reasons why you can’t and why it’s uncomfortable to make that decision that you know in your heart is right. And where I went to as a parent and I hope someday when this life is over near its end for me, I just pictured Covey’s Seven Habits. It talks about writing your own obituary in advance and how you want to live your life so that that’s the obituary you want written.
And I just pictured, in that moment, like being there with my kids, hopefully surrounding me, hopefully, my wife, Sarah, surrounding me and then them looking at me and saying, “Did dad do what he told us to do?” And that’s where a really, really hard decision got much easier for me because I knew in my heart what I needed to do to get uncomfortable, to grow, to learn, and it took my kids to teach me that lesson. You know, looking at things kind of through their eyes as a parent, you know, them seeing their parent and how they kind of played it out in their story. So, that’s at least a piece of what led to the decision. There was a lot of other things, this podcast, my prior podcast journey, this new podcast, just being able to continue to add more value, do it on my terms, control my own narrative. There was just so much of that that I learned from kind of that prior chapter that really inspired me like it was time for that next step, that entrepreneurial journey.
Kristin Shea: Absolutely. It’s amazing how your kids were the ones that motivated you to do it. Was there any fear for the sake of your family, right? I mean, you think a lot of advisors can probably relate to making tough choices with the hope for a better future long term, knowing that there would be short-term sacrifice. What was the conversation like with your family when you said, “Hey, I want something else and I don’t know what it is, but it’s time for a new chapter, and just bear with me.”?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, I owe a lot of credit to my wife, Sarah, who obviously you know. And had it not been for her support, the first chapter, when I left my corporate job, I was 26, gosh, this was 2006 and I’m making a very comfortable $55,000, $60,000 a year salary in Kansas, which is, yeah, I was making 150,000 in DC, right? And so, she’s always been just really supportive. I think in life it’s really important to have people that believe in you and see more in you than maybe what you see in yourself. And I remember telling her at the time I was going to be a financial advisor, interviewed with Ameriprise, Ed Jones, John Hancock, all the usual suspects.
Kristin Shea: When was this? After Payless?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. This was why I was going to leave Payless.
Kristin Shea: Got it. Okay. That’s interesting.
Brad Johnson: So, I was going to leave my corporate job to go be a financial advisor. I was studying for my CFP, and at that point in time, my buddy, Shawn Sparks, says, “Hey, there’s this new little company in Topeka, Kansas. They’re interviewing. If you quit your job anyway, I mean, you should at least interview.” And so, that was how it came to be and that was how I got into the insurance brokerage world. And I think day one, I was reading a brochure on annuities. Day two, it was, “Here’s 100 advisors to call on these lead cards,” that were back in the day little note cards that they mail then. So, that was how I originally got into kind of the distribution brokerage side of finance versus the financial advising side.
Kristin Shea: That’s awesome. Do you mind sharing what your favorite? Because it’s important, right, as you look to the future, also celebrate what you have and you expressed your gratitude. You, I know obviously, fell in love with the industry. What were some of the things in your last chapter that you loved about advisors and added to your life and things that you learned that made you so passionate about the space to dream bigger?
Brad Johnson: The people. I mean, at the core, and I know a lot of business as you would say. It’s the relationships and the people. But if you really look at financial services, I personally believe the only career that could potentially have more impact on human beings and their lives is potentially like heart surgeons or a doctor that’s saving like physically saving lives. And if you look at the next step from that, it’s how do you take people and empower them around money decisions that, quite honestly, can have generational impact, you know, not just the individual you’re sitting across from but their kids, their grandkids. A great financial plan is one of the most powerful things, in my opinion, that you can create for a person. And it was really I just fell in love with the advisor. I fell in love with the industry. I saw the impact that great financial advisors can have and it was that every day was different because I had entrepreneurs I was coaching. So, there were business problems that got in the way of that.
There was, well, how do I market to the right prospects so that I can truly help them? How do I, once the right prospect walks through the door, what process do I walk them through to simplify something that’s really complex that a lot of people have a tough time getting their hands around? And then once I do that, once they say yes and I build the plan, how do I love on them? How do I take care of them? How do I shepherd them through all of those changes in retirement as they lose a spouse, as they have an illness come up that nobody can predict? And I think it’s the most noble work out there. I think it’s awesome that I can come to work every day and help great advisors build great businesses that can help more people because, at the end of the day, that’s what great advisors do. It’s not about some product they’re selling. It’s not about some new asset management strategy. It’s about great advisors help create clients and inspire them that they can do more in retirement. Creative freedom, really. That’s what it’s about.
Kristin Shea: I’m not surprised to hear you say that about the relationships. I know there have been relationships where you would go on joint vacations with the advisors you worked with and bring your kids together to Disney. So, I can imagine it was an easy decision with all of it coming in consideration. So, let’s go to the day that you quit, right? Did you know that you were going to have to stop the podcast? Did you know what your next step was? Did you know where your next check was coming from? Did you know what the future looks like?
Brad Johnson: Interesting. I mean sure.
Kristin Shea: Wasn’t it great before your 40th birthday as well?
Brad Johnson: It was the week. It was June 9th of 2020 was when I sat down and said, “Hey, I think it’s time for the next chapter for me.”
Kristin Shea: COVID year 2, right?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. That was right. And I think COVID was part of it. COVID I think gave everybody space that was used to flying all over the country. It interrupted the normal business pattern for everyone, good and bad. And I think it just gave me some time to reflect. Obviously, those of us that had families, you got really comfortable with being around your family for a while.
Kristin Shea: Something like that.
Brad Johnson: Or uncomfortable. One of the two. So, the thing with me, I’m a real person. I mean, my good friends will say, “Hey, one of the things I love about you, Brad, you’re authentic. You’re just who you are. You’re real. And I had to be the same way in my professional life. And I said, “Hey, guys, I think it’s time.” And the next obviously logical question is, well, what are you going to do?
Kristin Shea: Right.
Brad Johnson: And in truth, I didn’t know. I love podcasting. So, to get to the podcast question, podcasting became a part of me. I’m a curious person. I love people. I love to learn. So, what better format than to bring interesting people into your life and ask them interesting questions and listen? And so, the podcast for me, it started as a way to serve my advisors and it was supposed to be I don’t know that I’ve ever shared the story but the original podcast idea was I was in a mastermind with Michael Hyatt. I was trying to solve a business problem. The business problem is get a bunch of successful financial advisors to show up at the same place, same time, and get on a live zoom call.
Kristin Shea: How do we herd cats?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Good luck. Good luck, right? And so, I give Michael full credit. He’s like, “Why don’t you turn these conversations into podcasts so advisors can consume them on their own time, airplane ride, jogging, working out, whatever?” And so, that was the birth of The Elite Advisor Blueprint. And then 75, 80 episodes later, I just got addicted to it because it was originally a way to have a conversation to serve my clients. But at the end of the day, I would have done this if nobody was listening because I was sitting there interviewing some of the most brilliant people in the world, some of the most interesting people in the world, having complete imposter syndrome of like, “Wait, why are they talking to me again?” And just getting super curious and learning. And my network expanded. You know, I became friends with many of my guests. I was learning. I was growing. I could bring a lot of those lessons back into my own business. And then just the added benefit is it’s helping a ton of advisors out there. And so, to circle back, I didn’t know. I was like, “I might podcast for a couple of years,” and I took time. So, August 14th was my last official day, the day after my 40th birthday, 2020, I took two-and-a-half months. It’s like the first time I think I can legitimately say I was like lazy. Like, I really didn’t do much. I hung out with the family. We did some cool little experiences. But I really wanted to not jump into the next thing. I wanted to be really intentional. And I got a lot of clarity.
I had some really great conversations. Guys like Ron Carson, I went up to see him. He’s definitely helped me. I know he’s helped a lot of advisors out there. John Bowen of CEG, had some good conversations with him and I just want to get really intentional about the next chapter. And the crazy thing is something that I loved, which was the podcast. It was a season where that went on a two-year hiatus because I just didn’t have the bandwidth helping build this new business, Triad, and all of that took. In hindsight, one of the things I learned is how dang tough it is to be an entrepreneur. As I was joking with one of our offices the other day, I go, “You know what I learned? It’s a lot easier to coach entrepreneurs than it is to be one.” And I’ve got so much more empathy now for the advisors out there getting pulled in 50 different directions, where they’re trying to meet with people, drive revenue, make sure cash flow is up for the firm, while at the same time being the head marketing guy, trying to do seminars on this hand. And then, oh wait, we’ve got a service issue over here. We dropped the ball. And I really have so much more empathy for that advisor now because now I felt what it feels like to get pulled in 50 different directions all at the same time where you’re like, “There is not enough for me to go around.” And so, I think one of the lessons from that is I’ve become a better coach because I now understand more where before leading a small sales team, yes, you experienced pieces of that, but you definitely don’t understand to the level until you’ve lived it.
Kristin Shea: Absolutely.
Brad Johnson: So, yeah, I literally didn’t have enough of me to go around to do the podcast. So, that’s the short version.
Kristin Shea: Yeah.
Brad Johnson: But I missed it.
Kristin Shea: We’re going to bookmark that, the diff, what you’ve learned along this journey because it’s been one heck of a ride and we’re all constantly leveling up based off of what we’ve watched you do, make that transition from an incredible salesperson to an incredible CEO and founder to the podcast. One thing if I had an imaginary business like yours for every time, well, now, okay, we’ll just put it this way. If I had a dollar for every time you said, “Man, I want to podcast. I miss podcasting,” I’d be a pretty rich lady. It’s like, do you remember what you said your vision was for the future when we talked, I guess within a week of you quitting? I don’t think you and I have ever talked about this. You painted a visual picture of what you wanted the next chapter to look like.
Brad Johnson: I remember pieces of it, which I think what’s interesting is pieces of that have definitely played out. But the piece that I remember is I wanted a community, I wanted to create a community. Because when I really look at the value where I see like magic happen in our space. And there’s a lot of different models, right? Brokerage models, RIAs, BDs, mastermind groups, all of that. One of the things that I always challenged myself to do, I read a book called The Richest Man in Babylon. This was I don’t remember the year but it was take 10% and invest it back in you. You know, everybody is like, “Hey, take a percentage and invest it in this investment and all that,” but it was invest in you. And that was one of the driving reasons why I paid kind of really big check to get in a private mastermind with Michael Hyatt, who that’s paid off exponentially, made me a better husband, made me a better businessperson, made me a better parent. And so, there are shortcuts in everything in this life and if you’re willing to invest. And so, I invested in that, and I had friends all over the country. In Canada, there were some amazing entrepreneurs in that group, and then obviously led by Michael Hyatt that he speaks for himself. And then the next thing was I was in Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan. I know many financial advisors have benefited from Strategic Coach and Dan’s frameworks and teachings and then Mastermind Talks with Jayson Gaignard, 250 entrepreneurs from all over the world.
And one of the common themes in all of those groups was the curation and the magic that happens when you get very intentionally the right group of people together to share and level each other up. As Jim Rohn says, “You’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with.” So, what if we looked at doing that very intentionally in our space? And I’d seen pieces of that where some of the times it was done intentionally, sometimes it was done unintentionally. But one of the things I hadn’t seen was the ability to say, “You’re not a fit.” You know, oftentimes it was premium that drove all decisions in this business.
As an IMO inside of the annuity.
Brad Johnson: Exactly. It was. And honestly, a lot of groups would say, “Hey, we only work with groups at this level,” but the truth was they worked with anybody that had a case, right?
Kristin Shea: Yeah. For sure.
Brad Johnson: And the question that I remember, high level, this is very infancy stages. So, tell me if I’m misremembering any of this was what if that wasn’t the, I think it’s important, but I think it’s important to get great business people in a group because like if you’re not hitting a certain level of business, then it’s kind of like they’re not leading out a portion of successes. But on the flip side, what if you intentionally curated a group based on the caliber of people and human you want to be around? Like, who do I want? We did a summer event at the Montage. Who do I want my children to look around the table? And when they say, “Dad, I know you tell me that all the time,” but now their fun Uncle Derrick or Anthony or a number of the other amazing people that we work with say the same thing. And now it’s cool because the fun uncle said it, right? And so, for me, it just was like, what if we looked at this from all types of different angles on what sort of community we could create if it was done really intentionally for the right reasons to where everybody is just proud to be a part of it? And I do remember the beginnings of that conversation. I think it was more ideation but it’s been really cool to see pieces of that already start to play out in the magic.
Kristin Shea: Yeah. This is kind of crazy because the mental picture that I had while I waited for you to figure out what you were doing because I had hitched to your bandwagon was the mental picture that you painted. The vision is amazing. Talk about the power of a vision. Now, it’s going to be something we can talk about. You said, “I don’t know what I want to do but what I want to be able to do,” right? “I don’t know what I want but I kind of know what I want. I feel really convicted about this,” is exactly what you just said. So, it’s really cool that it’s the same. You painted a picture of renting a villa in Italy for a month. You said, “Where I can bring in some of the best, brightest, smartest people on the planet, the Michael Hyatts of the world,” and this isn’t a promissory. This was a vision from 2020, of course. And advisors can come with their families, come and go. We’re all staying on the same property and we have intimate access to these experts and an amazing opportunity to do life together. Do you remember that, that vision in Italy?
Brad Johnson: Yes, I do remember that. And by the way, I still want to do that. The word you just said that I think is a really important word is access. And I think there’s a lot of really cool events in our industry. I’ve been to a number of cool ones that I’ve learned so much from. And the thing though that I see a lot is you have some amazing keynote. They come on stage for an hour, they blow your mind, you scribble notes as fast as you can scribble them. And we’ve all been there, right? And then you’ve got all the intention in the world to go home and feed this to your team or, “Hey, I’ve got my top three action items to implement.” The biggest thing I’ve found, though, yes, that’s important but the accountability on the back end and the one thing I found with access. So, you mentioned Michael Hyatt, strategic partner in the community, like in the community, not like keynote disappear into the green room, never to be seen again is when you can go deep and do repeated reps. It’s like going to the gym, go do one one-hour workout and see how fit you get. Or if you’ve got a trainer that’s literally showing up and you have a training regimen that you’re on, the breakthroughs don’t come in the first workout. They come in the first month, the second month, the third month of repeated reps. And so, access to me, Chris Smith is another example of that. All of these were from the podcast, right? It’s, “Oh, I heard the Chris Smith episode. That was insane. I learned so much.” I had people that listened to that episode three or four times and I’m like, “Well, what would it look like then if you brought a guy like Chris Smith into the community to teach, to help lead sessions, and to go deep, not with just the advisor?”
Because the whole other aspect is we forget about the team like any advisor I’ve ever seen that scaled any business that’s worth anything, it becomes less about the advisor over time. It becomes more about the team and empowering the team and leading the team. And that’s a whole nother conversation is how often our industry leaves the team behind and does these amazing events for advisors but then it’s like now they go home and now their team’s like, “Whoa, buddy, hey, we’re trying to run a business and you just tried to get me to change our entire business model in the next week.”
Kristin Shea: That’s interesting.
Brad Johnson: And so, yeah, to me, that’s the beauty of bringing awesome people, awesome frameworks, leaders into a community and not just for the advisor’s benefit, but for the team’s benefit as well.
Kristin Shea: So, this feels like a really great transition. We’ll summarize first, right? You’re at Payless, 26 years old, fell in love with the industry. Joined an amazing company that you’re extremely grateful for, built incredible relationships. You probably grew up with it, right? And you fell in love with the industry and saw that there may be opportunities to potentially improve it, or at least just opt for you to operate in the industry on your own terms. So, you take the leap, right? Take the advice from your kids. You go completely AWOL, AWOL meaning like radio silent, grow your hair out. Everybody freaks out. “What have you done with your hair? Please cut it.”
Brad Johnson: Little did I know how big of a conversation piece that would be, by the way.
Kristin Shea: Oh, my goodness.
Brad Johnson: Hey, advisors, if you’re listening out there, if you just really want to shake things up with your clients and team, just don’t cut your hair for two years. It’s going to create some incredible conversation around just that by itself.
Kristin Shea: Right. Very UX start-up like San Francisco tech vibes. So, you make the leap, made the incredibly tough decision. You jump ship on your podcast, which I think by the time you left was one of the top podcasts in the industry is iconic. You would never say that but I will say that for you. Advisor Blueprint was iconic. It’s an amazing show. Radio silent. Took the time to figure out what you wanted and you went through this evolution to do hard things and get uncomfortable as a Johnson, right? So, we rename the show, right? Show’s a little bit different than it was last time. New podcast is Financial Advisor Evolution. It feels like a great time to talk about the name and you’re really intentional about the name of the show. Can you, in the spirit of talking about focusing on the team and intimacy and being able to scale and what it means to be a leader as an advisor, can you talk a little bit more about the concept of the Financial Advisor Evolution and some of the challenges in the industry that you’d like to solve?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, the name wasn’t by accident. We put a lot of hours into it. Thank you. Thank you to you, Kristin, one of your gifts, and those that have followed you on LinkedIn. You’re as passionate as anyone I’ve ever met about this industry. And so, it was really cool to go into ideation mode and kind of just talk through like, what is the vision for this show? I mean, the truth be told, the financial advisor blueprint, yes, I did put some thought into that. In fact, I used Dan Sullivan’s unique name and guide to get to that. And that was – how old was I? Probably 34, 35 when I started that show. So, it wasn’t like I was a newbie but it’s just jump in and figure it out, right, which is a whole nother like get uncomfortable. Like, all my growth personally has come from just getting uncomfortable. I thought there was an idea there that could add value to the advisor community that I was directly working with. And I found out over time it added value to a lot more advisors. I had one gentleman in Sweden that connects with me on Facebook, advisors in Australia, advisors in Canada, and like it blew me away that the value it created with me just like I’m just a small-town Kansas kid with a $60 mic off Amazon just trying to have interesting conversations, right? And as I thought about the next evolution of the show, what I’d seen play out my own personal evolution, yes, but also COVID happened. A lot of advisors had to evolve.
Kristin Shea: Yes.
Brad Johnson: Literally, that threw everybody’s marketing plan out the window. Then I saw this other evolution happening in our space. One of the biggest things that advisors struggle with that we’re facing head-on right now is like if you go back to 2007, when I got in this industry, most of my clients were solo advisors trying to figure out how to market dinner seminars, radio shows, TV shows. Now, that’s evolved into podcasts, YouTube videos. So, there’s been an evolution there by itself. And then it was, “Hey, once I get these people to come in and meet with me the first time, how do I actually like say the right thing to help them understand I can help them so they say yes and become a client?” And then, wait, once I do that a couple of times, how do I like hire a team so I don’t go crazy because I’m doing everything here and I can’t keep up? So, it was like very advisor centric, solopreneur-focused, and I feel really fortunate because that first chapter I was right there alongside of them as a student, like just scribbling notes, being humble, being curious how that work, “Yeah, bet that will work for this other guy I work with on the East Coast.” And so, so much of my growth came out of that journey but then I saw the next evolution of that, which is these advisors have now reached this success to where this founding advisor, this bar, a lot of advisors that we work with are partners, and now they’re like, “Wait, now I’m capped out.” How do I take 10, 20, 30 years of knowledge and train the next generation of advisor? And that’s really tough. How do you distill all of that wisdom into a 25, 26-year-old kid that just got licensed that’s eager, willing to work their butt off, but that’s a lot.
And so, for me, the Financial Advisor Evolution, I didn’t want to limit the conversations that could be had on the show. So, a lot of what worked on the prior show I plan to do. I have incredible guests, have incredible conversations, long-form, just like last time because I feel like the gold comes out once you’ve settled in to a conversation. But to me, evolution is big enough. We can tackle all kinds of things. We can tackle the digital evolution of from brick-and-mortar to digital that’s happening right now. We can tackle the face-to-face appointments to Zoom appointments that’s happening right now. We can tackle the solo advisor trying to become a CEO that’s happening. I mean, I’ve got advisors where they don’t do appointments anymore because they don’t enjoy them. They want to go be the face. They want to be the brand, the TV, the radio, and they want to manufacture appointments for their team. But in order to do that, you know this, Kristin, you’ve got to have a scalable financial planning process, ideally proprietary and trademarked that they can only get from your firm. You’ve got to have a systematized appointment process, a first, second, third. You’ve got to have a systematized service model. And you look at any company that’s ever scaled to any level, how they did it is they had to put systems in place that allowed that to happen.
And so, I see all of these evolutions happening and not just a handful off the top of my head, but to me, the only constant is change, and the very best advisors that I work with constantly evolve and they’re constantly challenging the status quo. And I was like, “What if we just did a show where that’s all we did was challenge the status quo of how you evolve as an advisor? What that means today will mean something very different five years and ten years from now. And to me, that felt like, “Okay. I’m on board with that.” You know me. I like to geek out on that stuff. You do too. And so, to me, that felt on brand and something that I can sign up for, for the long term.
Kristin Shea: You’re not going to take any more like two-year hiatuses, right, in the Financial Advisor Evolution? Is that on the plans? Grow your hair down to your knees?
Brad Johnson: I can’t predict the future but what I can say, the format of the new show, one of the things I’m excited to do is have you on the team because I know one of the things that really did not allow me to get as many shows out as I would have liked to was I was the constraint. I was the one that was getting in the way of getting the shows out. And obviously, I had a great team, you know, Charlie and a lot of the team behind the show. So, shout out to you, Charlie. Couldn’t do it without you. And he’s obviously on the team for this round but I’m really excited that I can just have incredible conversations with incredible people and now I have a team where we can start dropping episodes just on a much more consistent basis because to me that’s fun. And we can just add even more value out there in the advisor community if we do that.
Kristin Shea: 100%. No doubt about it. You mentioned a couple of things in a quick rapid-fire about some of the big opportunities you see in the industry. One of them, I think, all relate based off of a business analogy that I’ve heard you share and I’d love to revisit that with you. You mentioned a proprietary process. You mentioned systems. You mentioned trademarking. But can we unpack that a little bit? Can you talk about why that matters and exactly what advisors should be thinking and what next steps they should be considering in regards to trademarking? I mean, trademark for what? Processes for why?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. I did an episode on my prior life that was just kind of like on a whim. It was titled Process Over Product. And one of the things I think is a talent I have and I’m not like an arrogant person that’s like I’m the world’s best at this or that. But one of the things that’s been shared with me by just a number of coaching clients is like, “Brad, one of your strengths is you see all of this stuff happening out here and you pull themes out of it and identify, ‘Wait. This is a core thing that should be a thing that can make a massive impact regardless of marketplace.’” And it’s Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours. At this point, I think I’ve done 30,000 plus hours of one-on-one coaching calls with financial advisors flying across the country, different team sizes, different, you know, how they build a financial plan. But one of the core themes that I’ve seen is we are in a very commoditized industry. I think no one would argue that whether it’s the insurance world, life insurance, annuities, the asset management world, and I don’t care if you say, “I’m fee only.” Guess what? So do thousands of other advisors. So, if you’re flagging the ground as, “I’m a fiduciary,” guess what, so is every other Series 65 licensed advisor in America. So, if that’s your value prop, to me, that’s like a hamburger stand that says, “We have lettuce, tomato. We’ve got sesame seed buns.” And like a hamburger, you can get that anywhere in America, just like you can get a financial advisor anywhere in America.
Kristin Shea: How dare you.
Brad Johnson: I know. Hey, I said I’d be honest, though. So, one of the biggest breakthroughs I saw is the advisors that got really intentional and built a great financial planner. It all starts there. You’ve got to have the proper ingredients to a great financial plan. But, you know, income, investments, tax planning, health care, legacy estate, kind of a CFP standard plan. But the next thing is, how do you package that? The thing I saw happening because I feel like this trend has already passed in finance. It’s like, hey, you need to name and trademark your financial plan. That was like a new thing five years ago. I feel like that’s kind of gone through the industry in a wave like a lot of advisors have heard that before. But what’s happened is it’s kind of like if I was, I’ll just use McDonald’s. If I said, “Hey, I’m going to open a new hamburger stand,” and then I just go to McDonald’s website because they’re my, you know, leader in my space and my marketplace. And I just basically took a picture of the Big Mac, copied it, and said, “Hey, we do Big Macs over here.” Well, number one, you get sued by McDonald’s because they trademarked it.
Kristin Shea: 100%.
Brad Johnson: But you just ripped off somebody else’s recipe. And I see that happen so much in financial services where you don’t actually take the time to do the deep work and say, “Wait. Why are we different? What is unique and special about us?” And then figure out what your secret sauce is. Right? And then make sure you name a product and create a product. Productize. We’ve talked a lot about this as chief product officer of Triad. So, how do you take the unique things you do and turn them into proprietary products that only your company, your firm offers, but more importantly, not rip off somebody else’s website and theirs is XYZ Financial Blueprint and yours is XYZ Financial Roadmap and it’s like a different color paint on the same thing. But how do you get really intentional, really serious, and actually get a belief system, not just for you, the advisor, but for your team, where you say, “Hey, you want to know why we’re special and why clients choose us? Let me tell you.” Because the biggest thing is when you rip off somebody else’s, you can’t fake belief. I can’t create something when in the back of my mind, I’m like, I actually just went to my competitor’s website and just ripped off their deal and called it something slightly different. But where you can really inspire belief in your team, we’ve seen this happen with Do Business, Do Life. It took on a life of its own where our clients are now saying we’re DBDLing. And we didn’t know.
We didn’t know the things that we would do that would really inspire our clients and our team. But we were really serious and intentional about what was important to us, and it was really cool to see how that’s transferred now. So, sorry. That’s a bit of a soapbox, but I think the biggest thing is if nothing else naming it. But even more importantly, one of the reasons we went really boutique where we’re not working with everybody is we wanted to go really, really deep on that work because that is the absolute only way you can do it is putting in the hours and the effort and that is not a 30-minute phone call. That is a process to go through. And I know you’ve been instrumental on our first 100-day journey as an advisor at the firm. And so, that’s like super intentional real work, and most advisors have never slowed down long enough to do it.
Kristin Shea: 100%.
Brad Johnson: So, I’m very passionate about that. In case you can’t, if there is a belief system, I believe that is a game changer for every advisor that is not taking the time to do it because I’ve seen it work. In every market, at every size of firm, whether you have two employees or 40 employees, it works over and over.
Kristin Shea: And to clarify what works over and over no matter how many employees you have is having a product that is not an investment. It’s not an annuity, it’s not a life insurance but it’s your experience packaged into a product as the thing that you’re selling. Is that what you’re saying?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. I mean, look at it this way. So, productize, systematize, scale. Most financial services firms the first time I talk to them, they say, “Hey, what’s working for marketing?” So, they’re trying to go directly to scale when in reality they don’t even know what their product is. So, if you’re listening out there and you’re an advisor, here’s an easy way, and do this quiz with your team, too. In 30 seconds or less, why do your clients choose you? Why do they choose your firm? And if you’re honest with yourself, you’re going to see a lot of advisors squirm. You’re going to see a lot of team members say, “I don’t know. We’ve got good customer service.” And if that’s your answer, you are a commodity. And I’m not being a jerk. I’m just like, really, like being truthful because I hope I can serve some people listening. And so, when you get really in like Apple didn’t roll out an MP3 player. They weren’t even first to market. They rolled out an iPad or an iPod, sorry, an iPod. And then what they did was they made it sexy and they had some really cool marketing around it, but they really got the product right first. They did the same thing with the iPhone. And if you remember the first tagline to the iPod, it was, “10,000 songs in your pocket.” That’s inspiring. That’s like, “I want that.” And every other MP3 player was like, “We’re an MP3 player.” They didn’t have the product down and they didn’t have the inspiration down behind the product. And when you slow down and do that, one of our firms, “Live every day in retirement like it’s a Saturday.” That’s inspiring. Not like, “We build financial plans.”
Kristin Shea: And they’re definitely not saying or at least Steve Jobs didn’t say, “We’ve got a thing that you can carry around in your pocket. It’s about four inches long, and if you open it, you can scroll with your thumb,” just like I think a lot of advisors say, “Well, you can come to us and we can talk about taxes and we can do rough conversions. And when you come in, we’re also going to do some risk management and do the income planning.” It’s a completely different dynamic. It’s a completely different conversation. The productize thing is a massive, I think, opportunity for our industry and it’s been really interesting to explore.
Brad Johnson: And starting with the financial plan and then going from there to what is that client journey just like for productizing the first 100 days inside of the firm, once you do it one time, you realize how it applies to everything. Everything. There’s so much that can become a product.
Kristin Shea: Your approach to beneficiary reviews, right? Like, anything.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, I just think it’s a very untapped opportunity in the space but if you’re really intentional about it, that’s where like all that is the, to me, productize. Once you productize, think of the Big Mac. I know we overused this analogy. I’ve got the recipe. Now, I can systematize the creation of it. Once I systematize the creation of it, now I can scale. And so, as soon as you productize, that’s what unlocks everything. But most advisors never slow down and do the deep work to get there.
Kristin Shea: All right. So, speaking of naming, I don’t even think you said the name of this new chapter. So, you did start a business. True or false? And if so, does it have a name?
Brad Johnson: So, Triad Partners is the new venture.
Kristin Shea: Triad with the T?
Brad Johnson: Tried with a T. It’s right here. In fact, funny story. We’re actually just talking about the intentionality behind the brand. And so, Triad Partners, if you deconstruct the name, three parties interconnected. A-players only on the team. Strategic partners in the community, full access. We already talked about Michael Hyatt and Chris Smith. Obviously, it’s easy to see A-players like yourself. The difference between… Look, here’s the key with A-players to me. An A-player is always free.
Kristin Shea: What?
Brad Johnson: An A-player pays for itself.
Kristin Shea: Oh. Okay.
Brad Johnson: Well, here’s a really big thing that I’ve learned. A lot of financial advisors are great salespeople, but they apply all of the sales side to prospects, potential clients coming through the door, but not necessarily to talent acquisition and recruiting a best-in-class, world-class team. And one of the things, an A-player is always free because an A-player does the work of three C-players. And also, the other thing is if you have one A-player, then you want to drive them off, team them up with the C-player and watch how frustrated they get. Watch when they have to do the follow-up. They have to check on the email they sent three days ago. Did that thing get done? And so, if you want to build a high-performing team, you need to attract high-performing talent. No different than if you are going to win a World Series or a Super Bowl. It’s the same concept. But if you look at the talent acquisition that most advisors focus on in this space, oftentimes what they miss is they’re looking at it as an expense versus an investment. And if you look at it as an expense, “What’s the least I can spend to fill this gap on my team?” you’re going to get people that don’t have jobs that are out there searching for jobs all day. Best-in-class people already have jobs, which means they need to be convinced your company is a better alternative than the one they’re at, and that is sales and that is recruiting. And that’s like a massive thing.
So, sorry. Off track here but Triad Partners, A-players only on the internal team, strategic partners, and then lastly, world-class advisors, the most elite top 1% from a production standpoint. Growth-minded because you can’t teach a student that doesn’t want to learn. And number three, we’ve already talked about it a little bit. DBDL. Do business, do life. Life’s too short for me and our team to work with people we don’t want to hang with and do life with. And so, what’s really interesting is we got really intentional about what is the future of this community that we want to build and we want to build it like a community and a community is curated. A community is not just whoever walks through the door. And as we thought about how do we want to visually represent that fun story behind the scenes, this little triangle, I don’t know if you can see it on the video.
Kristin Shea: Little triangle cause so many problems.
Brad Johnson: But here’s what’s cool, you know? You know what’s cool about A-players? They’re passionate.
Kristin Shea: Yeah.
Brad Johnson: And there was a lot of passion in what is the logo that represents that to the level of damn near a fistfight in our conference room right over here.
Kristin Shea: Basically, flip the table, all of it.
Brad Johnson: But what I loved about that, when you get A-players together and ideally you’re communicating in a healthy, challenging way, not to throw punches sort of way, it is amazing the magic that happens. It’s like I heard Steve Jobs tell a story one time. When he was a kid growing up, he had a neighbor that was like the grandpa of the neighborhood. And he said he told the young Steve Jobs to come over. And these days you wouldn’t be like walk into this random dude’s garage, right? But he walks into this guy’s garage and he has this old-school cement mixer. He tells Steve Jobs to go get a handful of these rocks from the driveway. He has them throw the rocks in to this little cement mixer, he throws like some dust in there, and he says, “Come back tomorrow.” He says to young Steve Jobs.
Kristin Shea: Young Steve.
Brad Johnson: This is a real story, by the way. It’s a real story. Young Steve Jobs comes back the next day and this guy reaches in there and pulls out these beautiful, polished rocks. And Steve shared this analogy. He said, “That’s what happens when you get A-players together is the friction of them kind of, let’s say, debating a healthy debate around topics, they polish each other.” And I’ve seen that play out and that like, honestly, this logo was a piece of that. Now, there could have been a potentially healthier debate.
Kristin Shea: Potentially.
Brad Johnson: But the passion in that room, you can’t fake that. And that’s what happens when you get A-players together and magic happens. And so, we’re going to do our very best to continue to attract the absolute best talent in the business, pay them a fair market value, which is higher than… Guess what, A-players are expensive.
Kristin Shea: Yeah. I was going to say.
Brad Johnson: But they’re worth it.
Kristin Shea: A-players are free, but they’re expensive.
Brad Johnson: But if you look from a business sense, one A-player is three C-players.
Kristin Shea: 100%.
Brad Johnson: And C-players turn over and quit and aren’t there when the going gets tough. And so, anyway, that’s been a lesson. And by the way, we’ve screwed that up and screwed all of this up along the way but that’s the pursuit that we’re very aligned and passionate about here.
Kristin Shea: So, we’re going to wrap this up. I’ve got two last questions for you but first, I feel like we can do this forever but two last questions after this. It’s so funny that you talked about some of the heated passion. Sounded like a true wordsmither. It’s definitely, well, actually, you know what, an Enneagram 7 way of referring to it is the passion, right? I think that I would love to hear your thoughts. I think that’s been one of the most interesting things as you look is really understanding the dynamics in between people and the journey that we went through to understand that storming during team development is natural and something to be embraced, right?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Put three strangers together in a room and expect they’re just going to have this eloquent conversation is probably not going to happen, right? I mean, human nature is it takes a while to build relationships. And we’ve definitely gone through our storming phase, which is there’s four phases of growth, and it’s forming, storming, norming, performing, right? We talk a lot about that. We coach to it. And we went from 0 to 35 team members in about two years. So, if you go into that thinking there’s not going to be some storming, you’re naive. But the cool thing is when you get intentional about here’s the role I need you to play on the team and we’re getting better and better the longer we do this at empowering and as Ron Carson told me once in an interview, “Hire great people and get the hell out of their way.” Not easy. We’ve got frameworks that can help. We talk about the 10/80/10 rule a lot. But I’ll tell you if you hire the right people of skill set and culture, other framework we talk about a lot, skills can be learned if they’re students, if they’re willing to work hard.
Culture is hard. Like, you kind of know like these are the type of people I want to be around. So, if you don’t have the type of people you want to be around on the team, that’s a tougher leveling-up conversation. But for me, it’s like get great people on the team, DBDL sort of people, and the rest if the attitude and effort is there can be learned and taught. And like I said, we screwed plenty of that up along the way but we’ve tried to learn and get better. And I think a lot of our clients have experienced the same thing, which by the way, if you’re an entrepreneur building a company that involves people, which is just about every business model out there, you’re going to have people issues. People are people.
Kristin Shea: It’s so natural. If they don’t have issues, then you have issues.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, embrace it. So, just embrace it and say this is part of the journey and know that the other thing is you got to invest into your people. They need a voice. And by the way, we screwed a lot of that up along the way because we were just running so fast. But we’re getting better and we’re learning and we’ll still screw plenty up but the heart is there and the intent is there and…
Kristin Shea: Grow then the passions crisis.
Brad Johnson: We’ll grow. You know, just like all entrepreneurs and all businesses have to, to survive.
Kristin Shea: 100%. So, two last questions to wrap up. Okay.
Brad Johnson: Okay.
Kristin Shea: We’re knocking them out real quick. I don’t know if anyone has ever asked you this before. It’s a question we ask all of our advisors. I can’t see it. For those of you watching on video, up on the wall, we have all of our advisors’ answers to this question hanging in our foyer. What is your champagne moment? You look out into the future and you can use the cliche, wave a magic wand over Triad Partners, your family, your relationship with Sarah, the friendships that you’ve built in this business, and with the advisors that you serve, your health. Based off of that leap that you took, everything that you gave up, what is that champagne moment? You made a lot of hard decisions, right?
Brad Johnson: The first thing that comes to mind because there’s not really, you didn’t attach a time frame. So, I’m just going to say, as I look out into the future, I want Triad Partners to be a business that makes our advisors and their team’s lives better. And I think most of our industry focuses on the monetary side of that, the business side, the revenue side, the more money in the bank account side, which by the way, I’m not saying that’s not important, but I want to create a community that blesses lives, creates more freedom, because we create sustainable business models, that it’s not this tug of war in order to grow my business. I have to sacrifice my family because truth be told, done intentionally in the right way, a great business can be grown that blesses your family and enhances your family life and makes you a better husband, allows you to get in the best physical shape of your life.
And so, there’s so much that we have not even scratched the surface of but what if you created a community that not only helped advisors grow great businesses that serve more people but also they’re in better shape a year from now, better physical shape. And we did some sweat challenges. We’re going to do more of them. What if they had better relationships with their spouse because they learned the Enneagram? And I know we brought Ian Cron into the community and now we’re doing a DBDL session where they’re leveling up their business communication with their team because they better understand all of the different personality types. But they’re also leveling up their relationship at home because guess what? How many husbands and wives do we work with where it’s all interconnected?
Kristin Shea: We have so many. It’s amazing.
Brad Johnson: And so, I just think oftentimes our industry looks kind of narrow. And my champagne moment is to have work-life integration versus work-life balance and make all of it better together, my own included. I want my children and my wife to be better off because Triad exists and they made sacrifices. You know, building a business over two years, definitely they made some sacrifices. And so, I want to continue to grow it in the direction that it just enhances all aspects of our – and our team too. I didn’t talk about our team. The same thing for our team because that’s where it starts. If we don’t pour into our team, they can’t pour into our clients. And so, it all works together at the end of the day.
Kristin Shea: That’s awesome. I didn’t hear anything about the little villa in Italy for a month, but, you know.
Brad Johnson: Let’s do it in Italy. Let’s do it in Italy.
Kristin Shea: Okay.
Brad Johnson: That’s where we can go.
Kristin Shea: All right. Last question. This is where we’re going to get fun. Brad’s usually the one asking questions. You guys really got to know Brad’s amazing heart. Let’s throw a fun one out there. Brad is known, for those of you that have not had a chance to sit around a dinner table or a happy hour with Brad, Brad loves to bring, as the podcast interviewer curious person that he is, a list of table topics and ask them of random questions and have really deep conversations about them. This one’s for you. Last night, we had dinner at Sean’s house with two founders inside of the community and members of their team because it’s the team training. The guitar came out. One of our founders crushed it on the guitar. It was missing a string. It was amazing. I should have paid to be there. It was quite the show. The idea came up of Triad talent show. I’m putting this on the air because I’d like to hold us accountable to doing it because I think it would be very fun. We do a Triad talent show. What are you coming out on stage and working? What is your secret talent?
Brad Johnson: Oh, boy. Well, I’ll give credit to a guy you know named Jordan.
Kristin Shea: Oh, okay.
Brad Johnson: I can solve the Rubik’s Cube, now not quite as fast as he can. I think my best time is like 2 minutes to solve a Rubik’s Cube. So, I can solve an old-school Rubik’s Cube. That’s one of my claims to fame, I guess.
Kristin Shea: You build killer music playlists. You have great taste in music.
Brad Johnson: I’m a great deejay. I can deejay a party.
Kristin Shea: The guy on the Aux cord. This is the real MVP.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. That’s probably boring.
Kristin Shea: No. Football coach. You could coach all of us with your son.
Brad Johnson: I do like football coaching.
Kristin Shea: Have us do burpees. That would be a talent, getting all of our advisors, all of our staff to do burpees.
Brad Johnson: CrossFit, talk sports cards, talk wine. The beauty of an Enneagram 7, we have all kinds of interests for our energy. So, yeah, if you’re out there and haven’t taken Enneagram, read up on Enneagram 7 or the life of the party.
Kristin Shea: Yeah. Something like that.
Brad Johnson: We enjoy a nice wine as well.
Kristin Shea: Well, cheers to that champagne moment, man.
Brad Johnson: So, Kristin, cheers. I enjoyed the conversation.
Kristin Shea: Financial Advisor Evolution.
Brad Johnson: Here’s to our cabernet moment.
Kristin Shea: Yes. Let’s go.
Brad Johnson: Cheers.