Brad Johnson: Welcome to this episode of Do Business Do Life. Welcome to the show, Clayton Alexander. How are you, man?
Clayton Alexander: Doing good, Brad. Thanks for putting this together. I’m excited about this.
Brad Johnson: Well, I was just joking with Emily, who helps us produce the show. And we’ve already done a podcast. Before a podcast, we’re talking about country music festivals with Niko Moon, Dumb and Dumber quotes, the barbecue that’s apparently directly outside of your office over there. It’s gone. So, where do we even start, man? This is going to be fun.
Clayton Alexander: I mean, this podcast is do business do life. And, yeah, we’ve already done a podcast just before this all about our do life stuff. That’s what I’m really excited about that we’re talking about today. Yeah. My experience over the last couple of years has really had a heightened focus of making sure that quality of life while you’re doing business is there and that’s been a huge shift in thinking for me, for my family but then being able to pass that down to my team members and having that be part of the culture of our firm and the impact that I’ve seen that had on our company. I love it. Yeah, I love it. And if we can people that are listening into this take something like that away from this where it’s been that much of a game changer for me, that’s kind of my hope for today or my goal for today.
Brad Johnson: Well, that’s one of the things I love about you, man. I think a lot of founding advisors, of course, that there’s a focus on do business do life. There’s a focus on, hey, how can I grow this business that creates some freedom in my life, creates financial freedom, freedom of time? All of that I think that most entrepreneurs would say that’s the reason I started the business in the first place. But what I love, we were just out in Chicago where you had 17 of your team count. Was it 17?
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. Almost the entire team. So, we had two team members stay behind to make sure that the office stayed running. But, yeah, like, what I tried to bring as many people as possible, which that’s just a great growing opportunity. They get to learn from the best in the business in different areas of the country but then also help lift others too, right? And there’s some fulfillment from that. When you get to share things like you’ve experienced or things that you know, you help other people and it’s that iron sharpens iron thing that we say all the time. And to have an experience like that, that’s something I can’t create on my own, right? I couldn’t go and say, “Hey, I’m going to put this thing together,” but to be able to say, “Hey, we’re all going to go do this together, that Triad has put together, yeah, that’s opportunities like that, I love opportunities like that because it’s a good team building opportunity and we get better. We get to learn and we also get to help other people.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. I told you this. So, it’s really cool because we had 30 police officers from all over the country there, and this was just a little over a month ago. And the energy, I’ve been to I can’t count how many times advisor founder-focused experiences. By the way, those are awesome too. Iron sharpens iron. That happens there as well. But when you bring the team along, that energy was like amplified exponentially. And at the end, because we kind of did these breakouts and then brought everybody back together in their team. So, the Teton team had 17 in a circle and it was we have these sheets where it was like, “What were your biggest takeaways from your breakouts?” And then bring that back together, right? And just walking around that energy and the vibe, it was contagious. And I told you after Clayton, I was like, “Man, your team is on fire right now.” Number one, you’re investing into them.
I think that’s a huge thing as a founder, as a leader, where you’re like you care enough, you’re flying them across the country, you’re putting them up in a hotel for a couple of days. That by itself most team members have never experienced. But then when they’re surrounded by other people in their same roles of, “Hey, here’s what’s working really well. Hey, I have the same frustration with my advisor, too. I can’t ever get him to slow down.” All of that, it was just really cool to see. And it was awesome to see the culture that you’re born into and that you’re building. And I want to circle back to where we started this. You are one of the most intentional leaders I’ve been around and there’s so much like tune in. Like, if you’re listening right now, like hold on because this is going to be such a fun conversation because Clayton’s one of like the most humble leaders, gets out of the way, empowers others, lifts others up. And you can see when his team is around, everybody feels like this is a career versus a job.
Feels like, hey, there’s upward trajectory where I can grow, where I can be empowered. And that’s one of the biggest struggles, Clayton, I’ve seen with a lot of firms. They’re just fast growing. Like, you’re a great salesperson. You’re running really fast. You’re like, “Oh man, I need help. I need a team.” And then it’s like the struggle of leading a team and turnover and getting people to actually work together. So, what are like some of your learnings or takeaways? Because you started in 2019 with four team members. We were just looking at your numbers, brought in 30.1 million that year, which by the way is pretty impressive. What four team members like that had to be a little bit of a struggle, right? Fast forward to 2022, 77.9 million of new assets last year. Empowered the team. Less than half of that production was you personally. Up to 18 team members by the end of last year. So, drop some wisdom, some takeaways, some learnings. Like, how is that all unfolding?
Clayton Alexander: There’s a few things here, and some of it’s going to come from my background, my story, how I got to be here. We’ll touch on that. But you had mentioned something a couple of minutes ago that I think is really, really important. Using the term investing in your team, right? And we think about investing in our business and a lot of like what that looks is a really good example is firms that are doing marketing, whether they’re doing seminars or they’re on the radio show and they’re spending money every single month to be introduced to families that they can potentially help. But the concept of investing in your team, money is one way that you can invest into them but I think as business owners, it can be really, really difficult to invest in them from a time standpoint. We’re used to spending money but to actually like slowdown, step away from meeting with your clients, meeting with your families. One of the ways that you can really have a positive impact in growing your business is investing your time back into your team members as well. So, taking that time to have the conversations.
We do weekly meetings with the team where we’re talking about different things and on a monthly basis, we’re working on personal development and growth plans with them but then also taking the time semiannually to get out of the office, do some type of like a half day of a planning retreat if you will, and then also couple it with something fun, right? Investing your time to go and do things like that with them. And you start creating these relationships that are more than just, “Yeah, Clayton is the president of the company and I see him at the office,” but I knew from the beginning that I am not the type of person that I want anybody in my office to be intimidated or like not feel comfortable enough to come in like, say, “Hey, can we chat for a couple of minutes?” or, “Later today, I saw that you have a break. Can we talk about something for 5 minutes?” Like, I want that comfort level to exist. And the rationale behind that is if my team members aren’t spending time worrying about those things or stressing about those things, I feel like that they’re going to be better in their jobs and better in their lives.
So, kind of getting out of their way, so to speak, but also letting them know with my time, energy, and dollars what do you need to grow, what do you need to be successful, and to continue to move in the direction that you want to move, and then actually put that time, energy, and resources to developing those. I think that growing your business from that standpoint, that’s when we’re talking about creating something that is more substantial. We can only do so much as an individual, and I’ll be the first one to say that that growth trajectory that you talked about a few minutes ago of what it looked like when we started in 2019 with 14 members to where we finished 2022, I couldn’t have done that by myself. Not a chance. And earlier in my career, I hit a point where I had hit that limit. I had hit that burnout. And I have no idea what I was thinking. But this will give you an example of how burnt out I was.
I actually accepted a job at Goldman Sachs as an alternative to what I was doing, which Goldman Sachs is known for, “Hey, you’re going to log a ten-hour day minimum.” Most of them are 12-hour days averages. And I was willing to go to that versus a smaller, independent firm, more flexibility, more freedom with the independence. But I was so burnt out that that’s the direction that I went. Yeah. And I don’t think I had ever shared that.
Brad Johnson: I didn’t know that. No, I didn’t know that.
Clayton Alexander: That was 2014. Yeah. I went to Goldman Sachs for three months. I knew right off the bat like this is not the place for me. They’re a huge company, super successful. I would have made a ton of money but today we’re talking about do business do life and I knew that my do life section or my do life part if that’s where I was going to work, it wasn’t going to be what I wanted. And so, yeah, it only lasted three months but there’s a lot packed into that story. I was so burnt out that I went there then I knew that, like, “Hey, this isn’t going to be a good solution.” So, I get back into the independent side of what we do but totally restructured, different focus, protecting myself a little bit more of like, hey, my family, my first, my daughter was born in 2014.
Brad Johnson: Did you have any kids? Okay. You’re close.
Clayton Alexander: So, my wife was five months pregnant when I made that switch. But, yeah, to kind of give you an example, I don’t want my team members to get anywhere near that burnout phase. I want them to feel like they’ve got a healthy balance. They’re going to be better in the office. That way, they’re going to be better interacting with their team members, interacting with your families or your clients that they’re speaking with on a daily basis. And your turnover rate from a team member standpoint is going to go down because they actually feel like they work at a place where they’re loved, they’re cared about, they’re valued. I remember learning that lesson at Goldman Sachs where it was like, “This is so large and I am just doing this one single operation for 10 hours a day,” and I have like zero interaction with anybody else. And I was like, “Besides the people that sit next to me, nobody else here knows who I am and I don’t know who anybody else is.” And this is like thousands of employees here, right? I knew I wanted something different and not just for myself but to create that for my team members too.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, this was a really cool learning I had from you. So, it was actually kind of our first big… By big, I mean like we spent some money to put this thing on. There weren’t a lot of people there but it did cost some money. So, our launching experience in Nashville, where we had Tebow in and obviously that was incredible but we also brought Ian Cron in. For those unfamiliar, he wrote a book called The Road Back to You, talks about the Enneagram, nine different personality types. That’s been huge for Triad as far as just helping us understand the lens each team member looks through. And I know one of the things we say a lot around here is your differences are a strength, although sometimes in communication it does not feel that way. And I know that was one of the things we had everybody down there take a very in-depth Enneagram test and you and I are both 7s, which means we like to have a lot of fun. And you know, there’s some downsides to that too but we’ll just focus on the positive today.
And you took that test and then I remember you had your team take that test and there’s a little section on that test where it rates you in different things. It was like I think they call it like a stress level, like there was stress in an area and that was one of your champagne moments that year. Your goals for your team is you said, “Hey, my team took this test,” and I saw a few of them, more than a couple, that there were stress areas related to kind of the work stuff and you made a commitment. You said, “Hey, I’m going to make sure we change kind of the culture here. I don’t want to see that showing up internally on the team,” which is speaking to everything we’re speaking about here. But what big takeaways do you have from that? Any learnings? Because that was two years ago now.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. That was definitely eye-opening and also a moment where I felt like I had this sense of like, man, I have created, I’ve helped create this firm, this place that the people come to five days a week for work. And I felt responsible in a sense, not that I was like, “Hey, 100% this is all on me because I think each one of us we’re responsible for the decisions that we make and what we choose to be involved in, what we choose to be a part of.” But I felt responsible from the standpoint of a lot of these red, high-stress sections that are related to work, it just goes back to what I said earlier. Like, if that’s how they’re feeling, they’re not going to be performing as well and they’re not going to stick around as long. And so, yeah, that was one of the things that learning that was now I’m going to take an intentional approach to investing in my team and a big part of that I know that this sounds, I don’t know, maybe it sounds corny or cheesy but it really is this simple. It really is this simple, the letting them know and having them know that it’s genuine, that I care about them, and that I’m interested in them, I’m invested in them, I want them to succeed.
I’ve had so many of the team members say like, “This is different than anywhere else I’ve worked before. This is different.” And you still have to have those boundaries of what our roles are and things like that. It’s not like everybody is buddy-buddy and we don’t follow the rules and respect the boundaries and stuff like that. I have made a commitment to make sure that each one of my team members feels like I know them individually, I care about them, and I see them and recognize them on the Enneagrams that I have some 2s in the office, I have some 3s, I have some 4s, I have some 6s, some 7s, and that I intentionally interact and communicate with them differently than I do other ones. That means a lot to them but it also helps us work better together because we understand each other and we are far from perfect at it. Yeah. The whole thing about the Enneagram is recognizing that other people communicate differently and then starting to adjust the way you communicate to whoever it is you’re communicating with.
It’s recognizing, okay, this is how I am. Other people are different. And how do I start making adjustments with the way that I communicate so that we’re on the same page with these ones? But, yeah, that champagne moment at the end of, I mean, that was 2021. At the end of 2021.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. That would have been the end of 2021. Yep.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. Going from just the growth and it was no longer, hey, Clayton is driving this thing and you can actually see it in 2021 versus 2022. In 2021, $60 million of new assets, 80% of that came from me. 2022, 78 million of new assets. Less than half came from me. Big shift. Right now, I’ve got a whole team and we’re all moving in the same direction and I’m not having to do as much. I’m more getting out of their way, supporting and they’re coming to work every day in a place where they feel like they’re valued, they feel like they’re cared about. That’s what we’ve been trying to create. And again, we’re far from perfect at it but, yeah, the Enneagram has really helped us see that.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. It’s been huge for us too. In fact, Ian Cron, depending on how this episode goes out, he’s going to come back for another round on the podcast. So, preferably, we’ll drop his episode before yours so everybody can go back and listen and understand the numbers and what we’re talking about so we’re not talking Latin to him.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. He knows. He knows that so well. When he was explaining it to us at that launch event, my neurons started firing where I’m like, “Oh, that’s why this and that’s why that.” And my wife is sitting right next to me and she’s a 6, which is a skeptic loyal. A skeptic loyalist, which a 6 and a 7. And he said this in the meeting. He’s like the best partnership you could have, I think, I’m pretty sure he said 6 and 7. And I was like, “Hey, that’s when I knew, babe, we’re going to make it. We’re going to be okay.”
Brad Johnson: I don’t know if you remember this. My wife, Sarah, is a 6 as well. I don’t know if you remember that.
Clayton Alexander: Hey, okay. So, we’re both on the good.
Brad Johnson: So, when I first met Ian and how I got introduced to him was through Michael Hyatt. When we did the inner circle experience with Michael, we did our last event ever at a Blackberry Farm, and he brought me Ian in. And it was like a one-day deep dive on the Enneagram numbers, like a marriage retreat sort of deal. And I swear I learned more about my wife from that one day than I think we’ve been married for 11 years at that point. And I was like, “Where was this ten years ago? We would have avoided so much conflict and actually understood each other.” Did you feel the same way when you were sitting there?
Clayton Alexander: 100%. It took so many things from a subconscious level to a conscious level, which then once we recognize them, you can address them, you can work on them. You can grow together versus just subconsciously recognizing things and then moving on. Yeah. It was totally eye-opening to the point to where like we teased each other about it a little bit. I was like, “Oh, that’s why you do this and that’s why you do that. And that’s why we’re so good together.” Yeah, It’s good stuff. Really good stuff.
Brad Johnson: The analogy I make on a 6 and 7, same coin, opposite sides of the coin, because we’re always like, almost, we’re almost… What’s the word I want to look for here? It’s always glass half full, almost to a point of like bad things can happen. But the good news is we’re really like 7s are great at reframing and 6 is on the flip side of that tend to be like, “Well, here’s what might be able to go wrong in this scenario.” And so, it’s almost like you balance each other out a little bit. Do you feel like it’s kind of the vibe?
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Like, earlier in our relationship and I’m so glad from this standpoint but earlier in our relationship, my wife used to feel like she would almost paint herself in the light of like, “I’m such a negative person,” because I’m right next to her and I’m always like glass half full on repainting the picture of like, no, here’s the silver lining and here’s what we’re going to do, and we’re going to go, go, go. And we’re going to do all of these things and I’m the dreamer. I am the optimist. I’m the dreamer. But she’s not being negative. She really isn’t. She’s saying, “Hey, like I want to be in that same place that you’re talking about but there’s steps that we have to take to get there.” And it’s important to recognize those steps, right? That’s totally a different mindset and credit to her for being that way rather than just being like, “Oh, that’s not going to work because of this.” That’s not at all what she’s actually trying to do. What she’s actually trying to do is get our family there in a way that’s actually going to work rather than maybe like shooting from the hip kind of a thing, you know?
No, she balances us 100% and she like steadies the ship, if you will. Yeah. That was one of the things that I had at our last launch event in Austin. Chris Smith talked about, he said, “I want you to think of somebody that like totally changed your life, like from a mindset standpoint, totally changed the trajectory of where you were going.” And he was talking more about like a business relationship and I think his story was the story that he told there was the marriage counselor story.
Brad Johnson: Yep.
Clayton Alexander: And I was thinking about that and, yeah, it came back to my wife and like, the things that I was focused on, the way that I was living, all of those things before I met her, and like the lessons that she taught me. Like, right off the bat and we dated. We dated off and on for like two or three years. And I wanted to marry her from like four or five months in and she was the one who was like, “Oh, I’m not sure. I’m not sure if you know you’re going to be who I want to marry.” And I think that, like, taught me these lessons of like certain characteristics or things like that of living your life a certain way. But, yeah, I had that moment where I’m like all of these things that have happened since that point can come back to like some of the lessons that Alex has taught me and how that impact on my life and not just from a family standpoint but from a business standpoint too. Like, caring about other people, investing in them, just trying to help just like, hey, if there’s a way that we can have a positive impact in people’s lives, we want to be involved in that.
Yeah, so many different lessons. But yeah, we just barely celebrated our ten-year anniversary. It took me nine and a half years to figure that out, you know? And I needed Chris Smith’s help to get there but, yeah, so much stuff packed into there.
Brad Johnson: It’s awesome. You all have a beautiful family. Yeah. So, for context, just for the listeners that don’t know you, married ten years to Alex and then you have four daughters.
Clayton Alexander: Four daughters. Yep. Oldest is eight. Got a six-year-old, a three-year-old, and then a ten-month-old. So, life is busy.
Brad Johnson: Not much going on.
Clayton Alexander: Not too much. Just being involved in a financial planning practice, going to ballet and dance competitions on the weekends, and then the other do life stuff that we do, which is we have a lot of fun.
Brad Johnson: Well, I love to surround myself with people. You know, it’s all about priorities in life and I think a lot of guys, myself included, I’m guessing you were similar with a little stint at Goldman Sachs. I feel like finance tends to attract a lot of high achievers and people that maybe aren’t cut out for the corporate mold. It’s like a lot of former athletes where it’s like, “Hey, if I put in the grind, I can get the results and there is no cap on those results,” which is awesome when you’re single, young, really no other responsibilities. But as you start to, you know, you get married, you have kids, if you chase that dream without any balance, I’ve just seen a lot of people, they look up 10, 15, 20 years down the road like, oh my gosh, like I missed all of this stuff over here because I was so busy grinding over here. So, I just love to hear that. I love to surround myself. I know in our community when we talk about do business, do life, those are the people that are attracted to that because they’re like, “I don’t want to grind and miss the important stuff.” I can talk about this stuff. We could make this 100% do life, and I would have no issue with that but it’s cool to hear those lessons along the way. And I think it also takes a humble guy to sit there and let your wife pour into you and not resist it because I know I’ve definitely resisted messages like that from my wife where I knew she was 100% right but my ego, my ego resisted it, you know?
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. And I’ll put it on the record that, no, I’m not great at like just letting her pour into me all of the time. Like, there is a lot of resistance there and like big-headedness and stubbornness. But hey, you let a little bit of time go by, you take a couple of deep breaths, and you actually think about it and you’re like sometimes it’s… Does this stuff like really even matter? Like, do I really need to like stand my ground on this stuff? And it’s no, sh*t you don’t. That’s the dumbest thing to argue about, right? And you know that she’s right but you’re still going to put up a fight anyway. So, sometimes it’s that or sometimes, yeah, it’s just coming around to and figuring out. I can tell you one of the things that is super eye-opening is if you ever try and build a house together. That is so hard. That is so hard because it’s like if you don’t match up on stuff, I mean, you’re talking about your home, right? And every single home that we’ve been in has either been a remodel or right now we’re doing our first, like, build from brand new.
And even like the first home that we bought that was like super rundown, we didn’t have a lot of money and like, “Okay, but like what can we do to at least make it nice?” And I learned pretty quickly that like, “Hey, if we want to have a good relationship through this process, like the only thing that I really get to have a say in is the television.” Like, where does the TV go? What size is it? Everything else like she’s got the eye for it. She’s going to spend more time in the home anyway, so let her make it what she needs to be happy and be comfortable. And yeah, that’s how we’ve made it through four homes now.
Brad Johnson: I thought you were going to say she vetoed the full boxing ring you wanted in the basement or something like that, that just was unacceptable.
Clayton Alexander: No. She said, “Hey, if you’re going to do a boxing ring, you’ve got to go out to the barn.” That’s what it was.
Brad Johnson: Okay. That’s fair. Meet in the middle.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah, exactly.
Brad Johnson: Oh, cool. Let’s start. So, we hit some of your story. There’s some business lessons I don’t want to go through this and miss. So, that’s incredible scale. So, what we didn’t probably hit on very well for those that don’t know Clayton and Teton and what he’s built. So, your first year as really a founder and running the firm was 2019. Obviously, you had experience. You grew up in the business, worked for some different firms along the way, but 30.1 million of new assets in your first full year in the business with four team members. Pretty impressive 49.5 in 2020, 60.8 in 2021, 77.9 in 2022, and you went from four team members to ten team members to 13 to 18. So, pretty consistent expansion of the team. Production going up and to the right. Any big takeaways or lessons? Just more on the business front along the way. Like, if Clayton went back to 2019 Clayton and said, “Hey, here’s a couple of tips, buddy,” what would you tell yourself?
Clayton Alexander: There’s a couple of things there. The first one is it’s okay. It’s okay that there are seasons of the business where you’re relying on team members. And I don’t want to say, “Hey, Teton outgrew certain team members,” but I think it’s important to recognize that as you’re going through growth, different team members will connect and relate and feel like, “Hey, I want to be a part of this at different sizes, right?” So, you can see the growth of the team members but there’s team members coming and going during those years. And I think one of the things for me being a 7 and being like a dreamer and the optimist, there were times where I would be meeting with our team members or interviewing or like doing our regular follow-ups, like, “Hey, how are things going? What kind of stuff can we be helping you with?” And you’d have that impression of like I don’t know if this is the best fit for them or that they’re completely happy here. And I remember having a lot of resistance to that because I’m like, I see it as, “Hey, if they leave, that’s like a bad thing. They’re leaving Teton. They don’t want to be a part of it anymore.”
But as time goes by, you’re like, “No, that was actually the right thing to happen at that time.” And look where we are now, right? And so, I think one of the lessons that I learned is like pay attention to those impressions, those feelings, and it’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s business. And chances are they’re feeling the same thing, too. But a lot of times like, yeah, I would go like months stressing like, “Is this person going to come in and resign this week?” Rather, I could have spent those months training and hiring a replacement that’s a better fit as we’re moving along and growing. So, that was one of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way. The other thing that has really helped in this scenario and this kind of goes back to when I got into the business. So, I’ll tell that story in a second but the principle is being able to replace yourself in areas of the business.
So, think about the hats that when we gathered 30 million of new assets the first nine months of our business, we started in March of 2019. So, March to December, 30 million of new assets and there’s four of us. You know, think of the different hats we were wearing. There’s the advisor, there’s the marketing, there’s the processing, there’s the service side, there’s the administrative side, there’s the business owner side. And starting to, as you grow, starting to replace yourself and then empower those team members that you’ve stepped away from that area and said, “Okay. This is yours now and I want you to grow and I want you to create and this is your space, 100% ownership.” A great example of that is our Chief Operating Officer, Jessica. And just like operating the team, the company, the office, and as a business owner, that’s like your baby in a sense. Right? And like, man, if this goes south, that’s like bad, bad news, right? But allowing them to create in their own space and grow, that’s how you do it, right? You replace yourself and then get out of their way. Give them the tools that they need to grow and create.
And if you have the right people, you’re going to start seeing that growth in that scale. That lesson came from when I got into the industry. So, during my undergrad, I did an internship with a financial planning firm, a large one like national one, all four years, and really didn’t do a whole lot with it. Like, I got a little bit of introduction to it but at the same time I’m playing soccer and I am getting a business degree. So, a lot of things are going on. You don’t really have a ton of time.
Brad Johnson: College soccer? Was it collegiate?
Clayton Alexander: Yeah.
Brad Johnson: How do I not know that? Wait. We’re going to get into that. We’re going to come back to that. Okay.
Clayton Alexander: Okay. But, yeah, collegiate soccer. So, like three hours of training a day. We’re traveling when we’re in season and whatnot. But I really didn’t learn a whole lot. Like, I knew enough and I had my licenses because of it but the planning solutions that they offered was kind of like a one size fits all. Like, this was one of those firms where it’s like, “Hey, life insurance is the king of everything,” and everybody needs life insurance, right? And it’s not that life insurance is bad but it’s a tool, just like everything else is, just like the stock market portfolios or real estate or you like investing in memorabilia, baseball cards, or football cards. So, it’s a tool from an investment standpoint.
Brad Johnson: So, this is the one we’re just talking about, by the way. If you wonder why he brought that up, we’re talking about NFL draft experience. I took my 13-year-old, it was his birthday yesterday, down in Kansas City and also picked up a nice Patrick Mahomes card for myself. So, those that were wondering, that’s how Clayton knew.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. So, anyway, I knew as soon as I graduated, yeah, soon as I graduated I’m like I don’t want a one-size-fits-all like this cookie cutter type plan. So, I actually responded to a Craigslist ad. It’s like Craigslist but it’s more local to Utah. And it was for an administrative assistant and I had a bachelor’s degree in business and four years internship with a financial planning firm. And I was just looking for a place to start. So, yeah, I responded to an administrative assistant position with a single advisor. And from that, he and I grew into 12 team members and that first year when it was just he and I, it was like $6 million in assets. The next year was 11. The year after that was 14 but at that 14 million number, that’s where I hit burnout, took a three-month hiatus, went to Goldman Sachs, came back and said, “Hey, if we’re going to do this,” because at the same time, I’m burnt out and he’s like, “Man, I just lost like my main guy.” Like, he did everything else. He said, “Hey, if we’re going to do this, like, we’ve got to start.” I need help, right? Like, I left because I’m burnt out.
And so, I started hiring different roles in that capacity where I wasn’t the business owner. But I think one of the things that, yeah. So, I got like a rough draft run at it before I started my own firm where I had done the administrative assistant role, I had done the marketing role, I had done the service, the processing role, the junior advisor role, and slowly like replaced myself in those places to the point where I got to, “Okay. Now, you’re a full-time advisor because you’ve replaced the administrative assistant, you’ve replaced the marketing, you’ve replaced client service, so on and so forth.” But that one of the other lessons that helps with the scale is we can only do so much as one person, right? But when you start bringing in other team members, I had a professor in college to find synergy, like people working together as one plus one equals three. And the basis of it is as individuals, we can only create so much but together we can actually create more than just what we could as individuals, right? So, one plus one equals three, which is totally the case in this scenario, being able to write more production, being able to help more families, being able to grow the practice.
It’s hard to give up things that you’ve done yourself for a long time. Like, I remember, especially the processing role where I was like, “Man, I got to make sure that this paperwork is filled out correctly and the experience that the families have is their onboarding.” Like, it’s got to be that 100-day, first hundred-day impression has got to be on point and how crucial that is. I remember having such a hard time giving that up. But once I did and I got out of their way and I’m like, “Okay. Take it and run with it with the training and all that stuff. It’s not just thrown into the lion’s den by any means.” But taking that off of your plate then allows you to do what you’re really good at or what you love doing, which is essentially what we’re creating at Teton, right? I want all of our team members spending their time doing things that they get fulfillment out of doing things that they’re passionate about, that they love doing. I mean, yeah, we all have parts of our job where we’re like, “That’s tough. I don’t like that part.” But being able to replace yourself in some of those areas, that’s how we’ve done it over the years.
Brad Johnson: Love that. And by the way, I don’t think I’ve ever told you this but it’s one of your strengths as a leader. Of all of the firms, and I’ve worked with a lot over the last 15 years in finance, I tell people I feel really fortunate because I had an accelerated learning curve. You know, a lot of offices out there, it’s kind of trial and error. In your own firm, what works, what doesn’t, or maybe you’re in a little mastermind group or something. You’ve got a couple of other buddies you bounce ideas off. My mastermind group like I was sitting at the brokerage level where I had a nationwide view of best practices, what went really well, and all honestly, what didn’t. And then I was just grabbing lessons from both sides. And one of the things that you do really well when I look at all the offices I’ve seen is and I think it’s because you do a really good job of checking your ego. I know we talked about a little bit. Sometimes your wife says something. I’m going to kind of resist that but I’d say overall, checking your ego.
Right now, at Triad, we’re reading a book called Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. Incredible book for those of you that want help there. It’ll punch you in the face a couple of times along the way. But when you say replace yourself, one of the biggest things I’ve seen get in the way is my ego. I’ve got to do this. You know, if you want something done right, you got to do it yourself. And I’ve seen you. I’m just going to list a few roles that I’ve seen you incorporate just in the couple of years we’ve been working side by side. You saw another office that had an appointment center and you’re like, “Wow. That works really well for them.” We should replicate that too. You bring that in-house. An EA, an executive assistant, which still I will stand by, I believe is the most needed role in all of finance that the high percentage of you all out there don’t have. You hired an EA. Director of Culture, that was something we had at Triad. Kenzie here that just does an incredible job. And you kind of saw how her role worked inside of Triad and you’re like, “I think we need a Director of Culture.”
So, I think you repositioned your EA into that Director of Culture because you saw some skill sets that overlap there and they obviously backfilled for the EA. But that’s three roles really quickly I’ve seen where just from observation you’re saying, “Hey, this works for them. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. We should incorporate that into our org chart in our firm too.” And I’ve seen you continue to replicate that as your business has grown and scale. So, what is it that allows you to do that? Is it just like it’s simple, it works there, bring it in. Or what’s your thought process as you go through that sort of stuff?
Clayton Alexander: I think it’s being willing to learn from other people’s experiences without you having to experience the trial and error yourself, which that was a lesson that I learned kind of at a younger age or in high school where it’s like, “No, I’m going to learn like what stuff is okay, what stuff is not okay. I can learn from other people’s mistakes or successes without actually experiencing it myself. Because before that, I was always the type where it’s like, “No, I want to experience maybe I end up differently than you do.” But generally speaking, a bad idea stays a bad idea. It’s not like, hey, bad idea for some people is a good idea for others. But, yeah, with this it was seeing like once you can see the impact that that role would have and then being committed to that. All of those, all of those three roles that you just mentioned have changed our firm for the better in their own specific ways. Like, the appointment center takes the time off of some of the roles of the marketing director may have or some of the roles that the advisors would have framed them up to do more of what they do better.
We want advisors meeting with families, helping families. We want marketing directors creating marketing events, not spending time on the phone or thinking of like, “Hey, what marketing events are going to be most effective?” Not spending time on the phone confirming the attendees for that event, right? So, the appointment center, the EA immediately takes stuff off of my plate, which allows me to focus more on the business and growing the business. Huge game changer. It’s that though, that is not an overnight kind of implementation though. There’s a lot of time that is required to create that trust. And there are things there where it’s like you kind of have to like dip your toe in the water on a few things. I mean, like, okay, how is this going to go? And so, the EA that became our Director of Culture, her name’s Alicia, absolutely amazing. One of a kind. And it’s not just me that knows it but everybody who comes in contact with her knows that, that she is unique and special.
Yeah. She was one of the first four back in 2019, and I had worked with her for like three or four years before that. So, I’ve known Alicia a long, long time. She knows me. She knows my wife, she knows my kids, she knows my values, she knows what I do like for fun on the weekends or in the evenings like what stuff we like. So, that relationship isn’t something you can just say, “Hey, download all of this into your brain over the next two weeks,” and then we’re off and rolling with a new EA. It is this slow building process. But the things that that role is able to take off of your plate helps you be a better business owner and working on the business rather in the business, and can also free you up to not be worrying about certain things when it’s time to check out of the business and check into life, being a better dad and husband. Big role. Yeah, big stress relief there too. The Director of Culture…
Brad Johnson: Real quick. Before we…
Clayton Alexander: Oh, go ahead. Yeah.
Brad Johnson: Before we transition, Clayton, because this podcast is called Do Business Do Life. So, I want to spend a little time there because one of the things I would say the gift of an EA. I remember I was in a mastermind with Michael Hyatt and those that have listened to the show, you know how big of, I mean, he literally changed my life. And I don’t say that in a cliche way like I joined his Inner Circle group in 2015 thinking I was joining for business and 10X what I got out of life was from just my time with him. One of the most important mentors in my life. But I remember one of the first sessions I was talking about all these challenges I had and I was running up the sales team that was doing about $1 billion of annuity business at the time, and those advisors were probably doing billion to 2 billion of AUM depending on their mix.
So, we had a team of six and I just remember saying, “I’m drowning in my inbox. I cannot keep up with the emails coming in. I’m missing important things that matter because I’ve got these work things popping up on my calendar and then I forget my oldest has a baseball game or football game or whatever season we were in. And by the way, I can’t keep track of I’m supposed to be booking this flight for that, this hotel for that.” And Michael’s like, “Sounds like you need an EA.” And my answer was, “What’s an EA?” I didn’t even know. You know, it’s like, what’s an EA? Oh, an executive assistant. And immediately implemented that but I think what’s the biggest aha for me is very successful financial advisors. Founders like yourself. Your most finite resource is not money. It’s time. And if you don’t have somebody to protect your time then you’re basically subject to just being blown around like a tumbleweed in the wind.
And the moment I started to implement that and I completely agree, this is not an overnight snap-your-fingers fix because it’s such an intimate role. Like for me, it is a do business do life integration role. It’s like the overlap of those two. And I believe that’s kind of very similar to how you’ve used it as well. And obviously, as you get more comfortable with that individual, you can kind of incorporate more of the life side from my experience but that was an absolute game changer for me. And if I was ever, I would not be able to do business and do life today without Brooke, who really I joke with her. I’m like, “Brooke, you make my marriage better.” And Sarah would say the same thing because I’m actually showing up present where I’m supposed to be. With her, just like if you’re an advisor out there, Clayton, what advice would you give to an advisor that’s like, “Man, I need help with all of this stuff.”
But it’s very vulnerable like because for somebody to do that job, they have to be like in your inbox and there could be some confidential stuff in there, some intimate stuff and I think that scares a lot of advisors away. But if you were going to give advice to an advisor out there that’s like, “Man, I think I might need this role but I’m just kind of scared. I’m not really sure how I would start the process,” what would you share with them?
Clayton Alexander: I think the first thing that I think about that I think this is so important. Like, tradition would say that you would think of an executive assistant as like a superiority-inferiority relationship. Do not make it that way at all. This is a partner, so to speak, that you’re bringing in to the most intimate levels of your life. Treat them like that and show them gratitude for the impact that they’re having on your life. Like, the way that you speak about Brooke is totally a great example of that. It made my marriage better. It made my life better. I could not do what I do without Brooke. And just like me, I could not do what I do without Ashley or what Alicia used to do, Ashley is now learning to do. I can’t do that stuff without them. I just can’t operate. We cannot operate at that level without some of those roles being taken care of and addressed. So, it’s like a, “Hey whatever I need you to do, you’re going to do like.” Ashley or Alicia or Brooke will take things off your plate and make your life way easier but think of them as a partner. Don’t think of them as like an assistant that’s like, hey, whatever you need, you’re just going to throw stuff at them.
Have there be a much more level of respect and make sure that they know the impact that they’re having in your day-to-day. But like, tell them thank you. Show them the gratitude. I think that’s a really, really important part because if not, they’re not going to feel valued. Even though they’re having this huge impact on, if you don’t tell them, if you don’t show them that, and if you’re treating them not treating them that way, they’re not going to feel valued. They’re not going to love their job. They’re not going to like doing those things or feeling like they’re making a difference for you. And they’re probably not going to stick around.
Brad Johnson: So, Clayton, I love that advice. Couldn’t agree more. The interesting thing we talked about Enneagram earlier, it’s eerie. Almost all of our what I would call kind of servant leadership sort of roles inside of Triad have just attracted Enneagram 2s. So, for those unfamiliar, the Enneagram 2 is a helper. One of their things that powers them up is serving others. And to Clayton’s point, one of my biggest resistances to an EA was like feeling like, “Hey, stop this appointment for me.” And by the way, I would never say that. A couple of things, words matter. I don’t ever refer or I try not to. I’m sure I mess this up along the way but I don’t ever refer to Brooke as my executive assistant or my assistant. I say, “Hey, can you check with Brooke on the team? She helps organize and run the calendar and she’ll take care of that.” So, it’s never this person is below me. Michael Hyatt taught me this on his org chart, Jim, who’s a rock star EA is side by side with him. So, the reason it’s called an executive assistant, it’s like a C-suite level.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah.
Brad Johnson: This is not an entry-level position. They are literally beside you and back to Clayton talking about a 7, one of the strengths of a 7 is we love to get visionary and here’s the future and all the cool stuff we could be doing. One of the downsides of a 7 is typically we’re not great at like follow through and like check the here’s the five to-dos we need to do. I’m not saying that’s every Enneagram 7 but that’s pretty standard. And so, to have an EA next to you in that meeting and say, “Hey, action item one, two, three, by the way, I’ll empower this team member to do this and that,” But it is a side by side and the team needs to view it that way, too, of like in a lot of times, Brooke will kind of hold my place if I’m not able to be in a meeting or something. She’ll grab the action items and make sure she’s feeding those back to me. So, I couldn’t agree more in that. Back to that servant-based leadership, if you’re taking tests, Enneagram 2 sort of personalities, and I always tell Brooke, I’m like, “You’re just one of the most servant-hearted leaders that I know,” and she loves that. Like that powers her up. So, was Alicia a 2 by chance?
Clayton Alexander: She’s a 2 and so is Ashley. They love to help but they also respond very, very well to gratitude and praise. They love to help and they love to feel loved in return. That’s the warm, fuzzy blanket on both sides for them.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Hey, one other quick tip because we did a breakout in Chicago as a founders only and we kind of geeked out on the EA stuff. And there’s a lot of other founders in that meeting that I think it kind of opened their eyes. But we talked about making sure that do business, do life side and I’ll speak for our family. Like, Sarah, one of the things that she loves is to be the keeper of our home, the environment she creates, all the special little rituals and traditions we do for the kids around birthdays and holidays, and all of that. And I know way back when so this is 2015, 2016, when I kind of broached the idea of an EA, there was a little bit of way. Are they kind of encroaching upon my territory? And one of the things I know we talked about, Clayton, was the same thing but one of the things I learned because when we started Triad, obviously, hired a new EA. I brought Sarah into that interview and I said, “This is not just Brad’s EA. This is our EA. This is a Do Business Do Life integration.”
And so, Sarah was a part of that interview. She had a voice in that. And so, we jointly really kind of hired Brooke together and Sarah would utilize Brooke’s services a lot, making sure we’re working things around kids’ birthdays or travel stuff and all of that. So, really, Sarah, through that lens now views Brooke as her EA as well. That was a learning because I had seen some of that kind of resistance like, “Wait, that’s a mom activity. Brad, don’t be bringing in somebody into my mom activities here.” What advice would you give on that front? Because I know we had some conversations around that.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. I think that that’s all dependent on the relationship. Like with you and Sarah, that works. For Alex and I, there are some things that I know are okay and then there’s other things where no matter what, there’s going to be a level of expectation there of like, “Hey, Clay, that’s a dad thing or that’s a husband thing. That’s not something that Alicia or Ashley should be helping you with.” And I learned that lesson the hard way on a couple of things where Alex…
Brad Johnson: Well, you had Alicia like coach in your kids’ sport? So, what you have…
Clayton Alexander: No. It was actually just like, yeah, I just cringe thinking about it. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal but it felt like one to me. Alex was like, “Hey, are you around on this day so that I can go do this, this, and this? I need some help with this stuff.” And I said, “You know what? Can you ask Ashley or can you ask Alicia?” And she was like, “No. That’s something that you and I are talking about. Don’t send me to Alicia kind of a thing.” So, there’s things there where it’s like my wife she deserves the communication straight from me when we’re talking about stuff we’re doing as a family. But then there’s other things where, yeah, like for our relationship, it’s okay if Alicia helps me set up events that my family is going to go and do. Or if it’s something like, “Hey, I want to make sure that on Alex’s birthday that like, some flowers get delivered to the house or that there’s flowers at the office that I can come home.” Like, for Alex, she’s okay that I didn’t go to the floral shop and like pick them out. She’s okay if I bring them home, right? Or if I’m like, “Yeah, I wanted to give you flowers on your birthday but Alicia or Ashley helped you with that.” That stuff’s okay. So, I think that’s going to be part of that learning curve as well of like, hey, what works, what doesn’t work? And being willing to be flexible there but also grateful for what that role is doing for you.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, hey, I’m going to be really vulnerable here. I don’t know that I’ve actually ever shared this on the podcast. I think I’ve shared some private conversations but have you ever actually had to leave your wife’s birthday to go buy her gift before out of curiosity? I have. That’s why I asked. I have. This is many years ago.
Clayton Alexander: My answer is no but that’s also because there are certain things like I actually really enjoy doing, and I don’t want to ask Ashley or Alicia to help me with. I know that for you like you’ve mentioned travel and booking flights and booking hotels actually really love doing that stuff. I like looking at different hotels like where, where could we go as a family for vacation, and I like booking that stuff. And same thing with gifts and presents. I like planning these events. And this is so silly because I get all excited like, “Oh, I’m going to surprise her and all this stuff,” but I’m the type that can’t keep a secret. So, as soon as I have it planned, even if it’s like a month in advance or a week in advance, and if Alex, you know, when she listens to this, she’s going to laugh because it’s totally the truth. But like, “So, do you want to know what we’re doing for your birthday? Do you want to know what we’re going to do for this?” And I can’t keep the secret. But no, it’s because I love doing that stuff. So, no, I’ve never left a birthday party to go get a present.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Sarah, if you’re listening to this, number one, I’m sorry. This was many years ago but it was kind of like that early grind that you talked about. This was… I’m trying to remember. Maybe we had a child at that point but it would have just been one but it might have been pre-kids. But I remember I’d just been grinding and then I looked up and it was her birthday that night on the calendar and I was probably upper, was probably upper twenties, young thirties at the time. And I remember I drove home to our house and I walk in and her whole family’s there and I’m like, it’s her birthday. And I remember just this pit in my stomach of like, “Oh, my gosh. I haven’t got her birthday present yet.” And of course, I was like, “Hey, I got to leave. I’ll be right back.” And of course, everybody knew what I was doing. It’s like sad. But the reason I share this is that EA role I’ve always had the intention to be a great husband and to do special things and I think sometimes if we’re not careful, the business side can just overwhelm us and we look up and we’re like missing things that are really important to us.
And it wasn’t that the intention wasn’t there. It’s the execution was not there. There were not rules you put in place to keep you from going too far one way or the other on the business front. And for me, Brooke, she looks out proactively like I’ve got a busy month of travel coming up in May and she’s like, “Hey, you do realize that’s like three straight weeks, right? You’re going to be traveling.” And so, just proactively protecting and putting boundaries around that or, “Hey, what do you want to do for Sarah’s birthday? It’s coming up in a month.” And Sarah knows that’s going on now but it’s no different than you would add a team member for another business need. It’s like how do you make sure you put things in place that the intentions on the life side are also met? For me, it’s like the key to doing business and doing life without an EA I would fail on that front and it wouldn’t be for lack of intention.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. But not lack of intention. I think Jocko said it really, really well when we were in Austin. One of his lines, one of his like bombs that he dropped on me was discipline equals freedom. And I do that thing that my dog does where like they see something and they go, “Huh?” Like, cock their head and it’s like, “Huh?” Their head tilted like, “What?” Because it’s almost contradicting from a sense but it’s the truth. Right? You talked about that level of protection, setting those boundaries. And for me, like, that’s one of those things where I shared this with you a couple of weeks ago, where it’s like, no, Fridays are a family day for me and like setting that boundary and not compromising for some of that stuff. Yeah, if it was an absolute emergency or something like that, it’s hard to think of an emergency that would be needed like on a Friday afternoon but maybe it comes up. But for the most part, it’s like, no, maintaining that boundary of like, no, we’re going to go do something as a family that day and sticking to it. Right? That’s a good example for me. But that discipline of putting those things in place gives you that freedom of, yes, sticking to those boundaries and not compromising in areas.
Brad Johnson: How long have you been doing family Fridays? Is this a long-time thing? Is it a recent thing?
Clayton Alexander: I had a really hard time with it in 2019 and 2020 because I felt like I was more, “Hey, this is growth, growth, growth.” I’ve got so much responsibility. I haven’t replaced myself in areas yet. And it was like a high level of stress but also knowing that like, “Hey, I’m like sprinting and then I need to decompress and recognizing that that’s like kind of the way that I operate. I sprint Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, decompress Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Monday is team day where it’s just team meetings, nothing with families. But then sprint Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And then having certain goals of like on a monthly basis or whatnot like taking time away from work for either family stuff. But one of the things I’ve learned recently too is like I want to set that example for my kids that it’s okay to go and to go take time with just your spouse. And like what that does for a relationship, like what that does for Alex and his relationship where it’s just the two of us and having four kids, that’s hard. That’s really, really hard. But that makes a huge difference for us. And also setting an example for our kids that, no, it’s okay. It’s okay to do that when you have a spouse or a partner. They’re like, “You guys take time for the two of you as well.”
Brad Johnson: Yeah. I mean, because the truth is if that relationship, if there’s cracks in that foundation, it trickles down and impacts the kids. Like, you could be the best parent, go to all the ball games. And if you neglect the relationship, I’ve seen this happen, unfortunately, where starting to have friends who are unfortunately divorces happen, and you just see like the family dynamic splinters. And these are great parents to their kids but if you don’t keep that relationship at the top intact then it does impact the kids down the road.
Clayton Alexander: Do you remember Michael Hyatt’s priority list? That was one of the things I took away from our time with him, where he talked about this is who comes first, second, third, fourth, fifth. And it’s like if those at the top are not good, the rest of it’s not going to be good. So, like what you’re saying, like those cracks in the foundation, you can be the best dad in the world but if you’re neglecting in other areas, it’s not going to end up working. Taking that for myself, this is kind of tying it back to the team and then like making a real commitment that it’s like, “Hey, this is what I’m trying to do for myself,” and if I’m really committed to my team members improving just in life in general from business and their personal life, it’s like you got to spend some time helping them get themselves in a good spot or else it’s going to affect their performance at work, too. They’re the same that way.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Michael edited his list because I heard it four or five years ago, and what he put at the top was actually himself, which sounds really selfish but the thought process is, “If I don’t love and take care of myself, I can’t do it for others.” And I found that to be very true in life, you know? Yeah. Everybody, I think, has those cycles of going through a rough patch or a season where things are a little harder maybe for you as an individual. And I just love the self-care being at the top because if you don’t take care of yourself, you definitely can’t love others.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. You got to know what works for you for sure.
Brad Johnson: Well, time is ticking. We’ve got a few other things. So, I want to hit another thing here. You hit it but I’ve seen a lot of advisors that have the intention of family time. But then it’s like but what will my clients think? You know, my baby boomer clients are still working and they need a 6 PM appointment or all of this stuff. And I want to get your take but there’s a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and I remember the opening chapter just really it’s a punch-in-the-gut sort of chapter. And he talks about he’s got this big business meeting and he’s having his first child and he’s driving to the hospital to watch his wife give birth to their first child. And literally, she gives birth and he picks up the phone and calls in to a business meeting like in the delivery room or whatever. And they’re like, “Dude, what are you doing? Why are you dialed in? You just had a baby. You should be there.”
And I think there’s this mindset in business for some reason. I think it’s maybe guys, I don’t know, maybe females have this too but I think it’s more of a guy thing where we feel like sometimes there’s this tug of war of, “I got to be there for business, I got to be there for business.” But what I found is the people you actually want to work with like they’re like they want you to be a good dad and a good husband and actually respected. So, what have you found to be true? Do you think that’s just a lie a lot of business owners tell themselves or what are your thoughts there?
Clayton Alexander: I don’t think it’s a total lie because I think there are some people out there that will naturally like give you that expectation. Right? Or they’ll be firm about like, no, like we can only meet like 5:00 or later because we work. And, yeah, there’s a couple of things that are like, hey, if you’re like a new business owner and you’re like, “Man, I’m just trying to grow so like I’m willing to compromise.” But I think you could compare that to a doctor’s office, right? If you really care about your health and you want to get something fixed, you’re going to make the time for it. And so, then it comes back to you. Okay. As this advisor, as this business owner, do you want to work with people that actually want your help? You’re not convincing them that they need your help. They want your help. Is that more of the person that you want to work with and to the point that they’re willing to sacrifice other things to get your help? And that focus of like, no, if people value what we’re doing, they’re going to make time for it.
And I’m not in the business of convincing, I’m not looking for families that I have to convince that they need our help. I’m looking for families that are looking for help. And I’m going to be that leader of, “Hey, here’s how we do it,” versus a salesman, right? Selling them something. I don’t have any interest in being a salesman. I want to be a leader and I want to work with families that want our help. Not only do they want our help but they’re seeking it out and then we’re there to provide that service and that help. So, I don’t think it’s a lie that we tell ourselves but I do think that there’s that group of people that will try and get you to compromise for them but if you set that boundary, if they end up staying with you, then they have that level of respect, that mutual respect for each other’s time. If they don’t end up going with you, then it’s kind of your answer that’s like, that’s not a family or a client that you want long term anyways. Trust me, you’re going to be happier without that because they’re always going to want to meet at 6:00. And that’s one night where you’re not going to get dinner with your family. And it’s not worth it, in my opinion. It totally isn’t.
But, yeah, the other side of it is like, no, I’ve got to be there and I’ve got to keep all these balls juggling. And actually, you don’t. One of the things that we talk about, like when we do are, when we meet with families is we ask them like, “Hey, what are some of the things like you’ve been doing for fun lately or that you have coming up for fun?” And then it turns into a conversation of like what we’ve been doing for fun lately, and they’ll look at pictures of my kids on the beach or I learned that that piece of wisdom from a client not too long ago about like it’s important for my wife and I had to take time just the two of us, and to set that example from our kids. I learned that from a client meeting where I told that client that, “No, we were going to go to a country music concert and take a couple of days just the two of us.” And he talked about how he learned that lesson like 40 years ago and how important that was. And he dropped that truth bomb on me. And that’s something that he and I then connected on and we have an even better relationship now moving forward.
Not only do we make it up but also when you talk about those things with your clients, like you’re being much more relatable because they’re either doing the same stuff or they want to be doing the same stuff, right? And you’re getting outside of, “Hey, every time we meet, all we’re talking about is money and business and planning.” No, they’re people too. Talk to them about the fun stuff in life, too.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. And I’ve found too like you’ve got a beautiful family or little kiddos at home. Like, one of my favorite scripts to share, which, by the way, I don’t even feel like it’s a script because it’s just speaking from the heart with an advisor that’s struggling or maybe they’ve started out and they were grinding and doing a lot of 6 p.m. appointments and they’re trying to like course correct the model that was kind of screwed up in the first place. I’m like just be honest with them and say, “Hey, I made a deal with my wife that I would be home for family dinner at 6.” So, I’d love to meet you at that time but unfortunately, I’d be breaking a contract that’s pretty dang important to me, so I hope you can respect that. And from my experience, everything, “Oh, you absolutely should be there. Yeah, I’ll do a 4 p.m. Let’s do that.” And the people that push back on that, you don’t want them anyway.
Clayton Alexander: Exactly. Yep. There’s a way to say it that’s very respectful but it also shows them your values and what’s most important to you. Then if you want long-term happiness with that like you’ve got to set those boundaries.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, speaking of not missing family dinners, this is back to the business front, though, you actually taught me another thing when it comes to this. I did share this stuff back with you and it teach me stuff, Clayton.
Clayton Alexander: So, these are all new. I have no idea.
Brad Johnson: So, you have a guy named Ethan on your team. He came from a media background. Did he start out as your radio host? How did you guys originally connect?
Clayton Alexander: He did, yeah. He was working for the media station, the radio station that we were broadcasting on. And he started out as our co-host. And then after years eventually was like, “Hey, I want to be a part of this business.”
Brad Johnson: And you just pulled him right over with that culture you’re building, man. So, he was your radio co-host. I know he does TV with you as well now. And what’s really cool, I think there’s another thing and I would have probably fallen into this camp for the longest time that the advisor, the financial advisor, needs to do the public events, the seminars. And have you completely removed yourself from all seminars now or are you still doing some every once in a while?
Clayton Alexander: I haven’t attended a seminar for three-and-a-half years.
Brad Johnson: Okay. So, check this out if you’re listening in, advisors, this is possible. So, sometimes you can take people and like throw away these little called mindset blocks that you’ve got. So, Clayton three-and-a-half years so if we just look that’s from the 30 million-ish range, the 49.5, 60.8, so 77.9. So, you’ve more than doubled in that time frame and not done any of the events yourself. And by the way, you guys do a lot of public seminars. That’s one of your primary marketing funnels. And so, you’ve actually replaced yourself as what I would call the spokesperson for the company when it comes to public events. I think a lot of advisors when they hear that like, “Wait, is that even possible?” We kind of coach to marketing is before, sales is during, ops is after fulfilling the promises that you make. So, kind of that first bucket of marketing, you’ve really I know you’re still obviously active on the radio show, on the TV show but as far as the public events, you’ve kind of replaced yourself there.
Now, Tom, by the way, who will have an episode that goes live. So, go listen to Tom’s episode. He kind of took your model and he learned from you. He actually just hired his local news anchor. I think she’s a weather lady. So, she had a media background. So, if you were going to say, “Hey, here’s the advice I would give another advisor out there that doesn’t want to miss family dinners because you predicted your family dinners. And Ethan knew that getting in. He knew he was going to be doing seminars. He loves them, by the way. I’ve talked to him. He’s like, “Oh, that’s like my favorite thing to do in the world is speaking in front of people.”
Clayton Alexander: Go for it.
Brad Johnson: Just give us a download of like, “Hey, how did you do that? What were your learnings that I was going to replicate that and hire somebody? What would that look like?”
Clayton Alexander: Look, if you want to scale, which scaling is like taking a process, a documented process, and then duplicating and duplicating and duplicating, right? Yeah, you have to start thinking in the mindset that it’s not just me. Brad, we talked a little bit earlier on the show about the ego. And I’m not saying that advisors that do their own seminars have this pride thing or this ego thing where it’s like, “No, it’s the Clayton Show.” No, it’s not. And actually, you don’t want that because I guarantee every advisor’s been asked this question. “Hey, what happens if you die?” Because you’ll talk to families and we’re like, “Hey, if one of you passed away, here’s what happens in the planning, blah, blah, blah.” And the clients will then flip it on and be like, “What happens if you die?” And you already avoid that question if you’re presenting the team approach in the very, very beginning. And that’s why it works, is Ethan is not doing the Ethan Show when he’s presenting. He’s doing the Teton show.
And there’s a team of advisors and there’s a support team that makes sure that these things that we’re talking about from a planning standpoint aren’t just words, aren’t just things on paper but it’s actually happening. Right? There’s teams of people working towards your benefit and that makes that transition of at the seminar, they fall in love with Ethan. But Ethan is presenting the team from day one, and their experience is the team approach from day one, the confirmation emails that they get, the things that come in the mail are the things that we’re talking about at the seminar, that come the first appointment, right? All of that stuff is team approach and what they’re being introduced to. Yeah. I think it’s getting over the fact of like, “Hey, I’ve got to do this myself.” And the reason why people are attracted to this is because I’m involved with it. No, You got to build something bigger than yourself. If you want something scalable, it has to be bigger than yourself and then being willing to let go of it and know that, hey, Ethan is better at it than me. He’s going to get higher ratios than me. And I want that for Ethan. He wants that. I want that for him and it frees me up to do what I love doing.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Yeah.
Clayton Alexander: Is that along the lines of what you’re…?
Brad Johnson: Yeah. And you said a few things. Ego is a big deal as a business owner. It really is.
Clayton Alexander: And it’s subconscious a lot of the time. It’s not like they’re prideful people. It’s just like, no, I’m day one, right? I’ve done the grind, I’ve done the 15-hour days, whatever. And that’s why I’m in this position. But you got to get past that.
Brad Johnson: Well, no business in the history of America or I really think the world has ever grown without people. People are a resource. It’s a form of leverage. And I know there’s capital. I know there’s technology. But until we’re all surrounded by robots that are superintelligent AI, it’s going to be that way for a while. And who knows? It might not be too many years with ChatGPT. We’ll keep our eyes open.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. It might be soon.
Brad Johnson: But at this stage in human history, if you want to scale a business of any substance, it’s going to take people. And if you want to surround yourself with high caliber, talented people, you better check your ego a lot. Otherwise, what you’re going to get is just a bunch of yes men and women that just agree with you all the time. And I can promise I’ve seen organizations like that. It’s not pretty. And so, I just love the lessons in continuing to say, “Hey, how can I surround myself with really intelligent people?” You said it right there. Ethan’s a better presenter than me. And what’s cool is it actually opens up a whole nother world of opportunity. And I saw this happen with Tom. After seeing your example, he’s like, “Wait, where did he find Ethan? He wasn’t an advisor.” Now, he didn’t need to get licensed, obviously, to be able to present financial information down the road. But he said, “Oh, he was a media guy. That makes sense. Goes to school to be trained to talk in front of people, to share an idea to the public.”
You know, if you’re a radio or TV person, you have to be able to contextualize an idea and a concept and share it in words or in video or however. Those skill sets apply incredibly well to public seminars. And so, Tom took that lesson from actually a local lady that interviewed him on TV. And I know he’s going to crush it because he just replicated the amount of he’s going to keep doing some seminars but he’s like, “No, I’ve got two people and soon to be three,” and so back to scale. So, how can I start to replace or clone myself I think is a really good question there. All right. Because I don’t want to eat into all your family day and I know we could just keep rolling and then we’ll kind of get to the tail end of this but I want to circle back to the life side. And one of the things, the first time we met, actually, I don’t know if you remember this but I do. Shawn, business partner here. So, Shawn Sparks, and he’s Episode 2, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to that one. He worked with you. He’s like, “Man, Clayton’s the best. I love Clayton.” So, I just kept hearing the story of Clayton. Never met you before. And so, when you joined Triad…
Clayton Alexander: Is this the snowmobiling story?
Brad Johnson: Well, this is the Dumb and Dumber story is where I’m going but we can tell that one too.
Clayton Alexander: Okay. All right. No, no, no, no. Keep going. Keep going. Sorry.
Brad Johnson: So, you hop on a Zoom and Shawn was really in charge of kind of the new Triad members and handles that side. I handle a lot of the coaching side. It’s great because he’s great at his side. I’m great at my side. We’ve kind of divide and conquer here. And we get on and you go, “Hey, you like Dumb and Dumber?” And I was like, “I love Dumb and Dumber. One of the greatest movies of all time.” He’s like, “I saw that on your website. I knew we’d get along.” I think I had it on, like, a little bio section on my old website or something. And so, the next thing I know, we’re like quoting Dumb and Dumber lines. And I just in life, life’s too dang short to take yourself too seriously and I just love like we hop on and the next thing you know, we’re like two high school kids quoting Dumb and Dumber. And I’ve always appreciated about you don’t take yourself too seriously but you’re an incredibly successful business owner and advisor. And so, I think I just love that balance about you but give me your favorite Dumb and Dumber scene as we go on to do life or your favorite quote from the movie.
Clayton Alexander: It’s going to be where they’re around the fire barrel and he’s rubbing his hands. He’s going on his hands and they’re freezing and they’re freezing in Colorado. He’s like, “Oh, your hands look so cold. Let me give you this extra pair of gloves that I had.” And he’s like, “You’ve had a second pair of gloves this whole time?” “Yeah. We’re in the Rockies.”
Brad Johnson: In the Rockies.
Clayton Alexander: Oh, yeah. I think I was thinking about it a lot at that time because we had just barely watched it. And so, it was like fresh on my mind. But, yeah, it’s just so good. It’s so good and then I saw that for you and I was like, “Oh, we got something to talk about right off the bat.”
Brad Johnson: I will stand by this. I think it’s the perfect comedy ever written. I probably have watched it at least 50 times by now in my life. And so, I remember when I showed it to my kids the first time, and then they just had some buddies over. I’m like, “Have you guys seen Dumb and Dumber?” They’re like, “No.” It’s like, “Well, tonight’s the night, boys.” So, that’s one of my favorite things is like because now there’s a new generation. They don’t know that era. They don’t know any of our music. They don’t know any of our movies. And so, we’ll do Dumb and Dumber showings in our house to the new kids that haven’t seen it and now Nash so he’s our 11-year-old and now his buddies are quoting and Dumber. There’s a couple lines in there that might be a little questionable and I’ve got some parents like, “Wait, what did you show him again?” So, now I have to start checking and just making sure we’re good but, yeah, that’s…
Clayton Alexander: There’s just so many opportunities to quote it where you can fit it into everyday life. The other day, one of my kids, she didn’t know this is a quote but one of my kids was like, “Hey, I got to go to the bathroom.” And I go, “Just go, man.”
Brad Johnson: So, now like my seven-year-old we’re sitting at the dinner table and I said something and she looks at Sarah and she goes, “You’ll have to excuse my friend. He’s a little slow.” I’m like I’ve got my seven-year-old roasted me with Dumb and Dumber lines. So, yeah, that’s how we roll at the Johnson house.
Clayton Alexander: Oh, it’s so good. It’s so good. There’s so much, yeah, your point of, hey, don’t take life too seriously, it’s spot on, right? It’s fun to laugh with people. Yeah, it’s a good way to bond. And we did. That’s when we first met, right? This podcast has flown by because we’re just having a normal conversation.
Brad Johnson: That’s my favorite thing about the podcast format. And I had somebody tell me one time, radio, TV, it’s talking at people. You purchase an audience and you’re kind of broadcasting to them. Podcasting is talking with people. And so, I would just go into these and I’m just like, “This is going to be fun.” I’m going to have a conversation with somebody that I can learn from that I can be curious with and then just let it flow. And that’s like I do these shows that nobody listen to because this is fun, man.
Clayton Alexander: Fridays are my family day but this isn’t work. This is totally a fun do life thing, so.
Brad Johnson: I want to wrap. I’m going to hit one thing because I said it with it and then I want to get to my final question here. So, you were a collegiate soccer player. I somehow did not know that or I heard it and forgot. I played collegiately too. I’m assuming you’re a goalie based on how big you are. You were not a goalie?
Clayton Alexander: No, I was not. I was…
Brad Johnson: Were you a defender?
Clayton Alexander: A center defender. I was in the middle at the very back and, yeah, I think that role – you see every other position, right? They’re all either on the side of you or in front of you. And so, there were times where it turns into a game of chess for me where I’m like directing and luckily my voice can carry across a field something like yelling, yelling a lot, and directing, leading in that way. But, yeah, I didn’t get my size. I was always tall in high school but I was like the 6’4, 170 pounds kind of thing until I was like 20. And then I started going up from like 175 to 225. And like my senior year, peak physical performance, super everything lean muscle because I’m like logging like seven, eight, nine miles every day on the training field. So, it’s all lean muscle at 225.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. Let’s just one or two because I know we’re getting towards the end of our time here. But what did playing collegiate soccer teach you that you still carry into life today on business life, whatever, just lessons that you took from that?
Clayton Alexander: My coach in college that first year, which was right at the same time I met Alex. So, as she’s starting to like teach me these like life lessons, if you will, and she played volleyball collegiately at the same university. That’s how we met. But my coach the first year, she did such a good job of, “Hey, this is the way that we do things.” And these are the type of not just on the field but like in life, like trying to be a better person, so to speak. A person with more character, I guess, is a good way to put it. I’m like this punk kid like this barely out of my teens and think I’ve got everything figured out still. And so, we clashed heads a lot. And it was like for me, it was this growing opportunity where it’s like, “No, following somebody else’s direction and coaching style can help you grow and elevate where it was like no, that’s not how I would do it.” So, I guess the lesson is this. Like, even though that’s not the way I would have done it, it still got us to the place we were trying to go. And it’s okay that you can go about things in a way that is different than the way that you would do it. And I think that’s the case like in marriage, too, right? Alex will say like, “No, this is the way we’re going to do.” And I’m like, “That’s not how I would do it,” but it ends up working out, right?
And at the end of that senior year, being able to like learn how to adjust the way I was interacting and the way that I was operating, and also like the character that I brought to how I’m going to go about things and be committed to training and be committed to his process and going fully invested into that and then what it turned me into on the outside from a player standpoint but from a person standpoint, that was a huge year-and-a-half period of life where I did a lot of changing and a lot of growing, not just on the soccer field but like, hey, this is how life works, right? So, I guess you could put it in a business standpoint where it’s like, hey, you have a boss or a leader that’s like you don’t agree with but you’re going to trust the process kind of a thing. I love John Wooden for that. He’s coined that phrase, “Trust the process,” right? But, yeah, that’s one of the lessons that I learned from collegiate soccer.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. I look back at my collegiate journey. There are some of those lessons in there for sure. You don’t always think the same way as your coaches but from my experience kind of that Chris Smith question you brought up earlier. Who’s the individual that’s had the most kind of mentorship or impact on the direction of your life? And from my experience, the coaches or mentors in your life that had the biggest impact were not the ones that just said, “Oh, great. Yeah, good job, buddy. You’re doing great.” They’re the ones that challenge you. They’re the ones that push you out of your comfort zone. They’re the ones that maybe course correct you a little bit and blindspots you didn’t necessarily see. And so, I love that story.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah. The ones that hold you accountable and can see that you have more potential and they expect it from you. Because I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see those things. And that’s what Chris Smith’s question really was about was like, “Who were those people that saw that potential in you that you couldn’t see yourself?” And then they helped you get there. That’s my wife saw some of that stuff. My soccer coach saw that stuff and then hold you accountable and then you’re faced with the decision, okay, either I’m going to go that way or I’m going to shy away from the controversy, you know? And for me, it’s like, no, well, let’s take it head on if that’s what we’re going to do.
Brad Johnson: Yeah. We say around here a lot, and I know a lot of our offices share this as well, “Challenge you more than you’ve ever been challenged and support you more than you’ve ever been supported.” And that’s a nice little balance there.
Clayton Alexander: For sure. Great way to say it. Yeah.
Brad Johnson: Well, okay. This has been a fun do business do life conversation because we’ve talked about it from so many different angles. But as you know, Clayton, you’ve been through a lot of our experiences. We’ve got the retreat coming up here just in a few months out in Lake Tahoe. So, I’m super excited. You’re bringing the whole crew, right?
Clayton Alexander: The family’s coming. Yep.
Brad Johnson: Awesome. Cool.
Clayton Alexander: Yep. Family’s coming.
Brad Johnson: We will be too. So, that’ll be fun to get everybody together. But if we look at do business, do life, I would love to hear what is Clayton’s definition of what do business do life means to you.
Clayton Alexander: I want to go past just the time portion of it where we talked about like, hey, the finite resource that you have is time. Yes, that’s true. And protecting that time from a life side. Yeah, a little different approach is the do business side. I think it’s pretty rare in life like in the world. I don’t think that there’s a lot of people that have a profession or something that they can provide for their family with, doing something that they love. I don’t think that that happens very often. I think that that’s actually a rarity that a lot of people. I actually think it’s pretty common, like on a Sunday evening, Sunday night, a lot of people start getting ready for the week and they gear up and they start getting stressed. And it may even be to the point where they’re like, “Man, I just dread going into the office tomorrow morning.” Or whatever it is. I got to go to work tomorrow. So, this do business do life, one of the things that I think is really, really important is trying to identify what it isn’t in life that like, I don’t know, maybe you could call it this. Find your calling in life and commit to it. And then you’re almost blending your do business do life like, yes, keep them separated.
But for me, my calling in life, what I feel like it is, at least right now in this stage of my life, is helping people, period. You could summarize it that way, like, how do I lift those around me or help them have a positive impact? And there are so many opportunities for that, not just the families that we help, that the Teton helps. I have an opportunity to have that positive impact with my kids, with my wife, with my extended family members, with my team members, and their family. And there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that. But then it goes back to that lesson that we just talked about from Coach Ortiz, where it’s, “Hey, are you going to shy away from that or are you going to tackle it head-on?” So, this do business do life for me is, yeah, if you’re going to commit to something, don’t commit 80%, 90%. Go all in, all-in commitment on what it is, whatever that calling in life that it is for you. And then it ends up getting fulfillment from those things outside of wife, kids, your do life section, they start blending. And you’re finding that balance, right?
A little bit different approach but that’s kind of what I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years of, “Hey, what does do business do life mean for me?” And I want to create this business experience that has a positive impact for everybody that it touches.
Brad Johnson: I love that answer.
Clayton Alexander: It might sound a little cheesy, a little corny but like that’s legit. That’s genuine from me.
Brad Johnson: Not at all.
Clayton Alexander: It’s so simple. Be a good person and try and help other people. Like that’s how can I help?
Brad Johnson: That’s the beautiful thing about our industry is how can I help to both your prospects, clients. and your team. It’s amazing if you approach life that way and it’s the Zig Ziglar helping others get what they want and you’ll get what you want. And I’ve seen that play out. By the way, you model it. You don’t just say it. That’s another thing we talk about in our houses. Don’t just say it, live it, model it, because that’s what matters how you show up. And it’s like you said, how you show up in front of your daughters, it’s how you treat Alex, your wife. Do you prioritize her, your time with her? That shows your daughters that that’s important. My guess is they’ll find a guy that treats them that way someday.
Clayton Alexander: Yeah.
Brad Johnson: I love it. And I always love our conversations, Clayton. So, I came in today. I was just looking forward to this. So, thanks so much, man, for carving up the time and adding everything that you added. I know the advisors listening to this are going to get a ton from this conversation. So, thanks, my man. So glad to have you a part of the Triad community and look forward to the next time we get to hang in person.
Clayton Alexander: Sounds good. Thanks, Brad.
Brad Johnson: All right, Clayton. Take care.
Clayton Alexander: We’ll see you.