Ep 040

Leading by Reading, Owning the Pharma Niche, & Strengthening Your Team


Triad Member – Wayne Wagner

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Inside This Episode

Today, I’m talking with Triad Member, Wayne Wagner. Wayne is the president of Vizionary Wealth Management, a firm that’s focused on building legacies for pharmaceutical executives.

In this episode, Wayne shares his story of scaling a financial advisory business that’s highly specialized – and how carving out a niche allowed him to add enormous value to his clients lives and differentiate himself among the competition. 

3 of the biggest insights from Wayne Wagner

  • #1 The Law of the Lid and how weak leadership can limit success – not only for you, but for any member on your team.

  • #2 How to identify niche markets as a financial advisor, so you can differentiate yourself among the competition – and how this makes it tougher for AI to steal your job!

  • #3 In business, your differences are your strengths. Learn how to build and empower a high-performing team that compliments one another.


  • 00:00 How 50 books changed Wayne’s marriage and life
  • 08:17 Getting your kids to read
  • 16:16 When weak leadership limits potential
  • 20:29 Escaping the self-employment trap
  • 26:29 Should you be a generalist or have a niche?
  • 38:18 How did Wayne find his niche?
  • 44:46 Helping clients build a future that doesn’t exist yet
  • 50:47 Avatar clients VS. avatar prospects
  • 55:31 AI and the future of financial planning
  • 59:35 Building a complementary team
  • 01:07:52 The inspiration behind a giver’s mindset
  • 01:15:51 The link betweenstewardship, life, and business







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  • “It’s not what we leave to our kids, it’s what we leave in our kids.” – Wayne Wagner

  • “You will be capped by a limited leader and you will limit the growth of the people behind you if you cap their growth because you can’t lead people where you haven’t been.” – Wayne Wagner

  • “Bigger problems, bigger pay. More complexity, more compensation. We don’t shy away from that stuff. We just help the client figure out how to do it.” – Wayne Wagner

Brad Johnson: Welcome to another episode of Do Business Do Life. Really excited today. We are joined by Triad member, Wayne Wagner. Welcome to the show, Wayne.

Wayne Wagner: Thanks, Brad. Appreciate it. Appreciate you having me.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. I will say we’ve done a number of Triad member interviews but your business model might be the most unique because you’ve done a really cool job of going really deep in a niche that you know really well. I know we’re going to get into that today.

Wayne Wagner: Yeah, for sure.

Brad Johnson: But as we kick this off, there’s one story that I was thinking would just be the perfect foundation for today’s conversation, and it’s a story you actually shared at the launch experience we hosted down in Austin earlier this year, 2023. And I believe I’m trying to think that was the conversation… Who was on stage during that conversation? Was that Chris Smith that was leading that one or was it Michael Hyatt? I was trying to remember which session it was.

Wayne Wagner: I don’t recall. I don’t remember who was on stage. That’s a good question, though.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, I know Chris Smith actually ended up telling a story about your story on his podcast.

Wayne Wagner: Well, when each of those guys tell the story, they’ll each take credit for being on stage and pulling that out of the audience.

Brad Johnson: Yes, yes.

Wayne Wagner: And neither you nor I will contradict them.

Brad Johnson: So, I’m pretty sure it was Chris because I think we were talking about just personal growth and kind of the stories we tell ourselves. You hopped on the mic and you shared a really cool story. Younger Wayne and your wife, May, and I think it’s a perfect foundation to today’s conversation. So, if you don’t mind, would you share that advice that May was given from a mentor that then really impacted your trajectory?

Wayne Wagner: Yeah. It’s interesting. I actually just posted something on social media I think yesterday or the day before where it was talking about people who sponsor others. And I was talking about and it was the idea of taking your spouse along with you was what the TikTok or Instagram video was about. But for us, May was the first one to be self-employed. May was the first one to have a mentor. May was the first one to start reading personal development and business development books. May was the first one to have a vision board or a vision list of goals, things like that. I had tripped into the financial planning world, which really a sales role, working for an insurance broker-dealer, selling insurance, carrying a business card that said financial advisor on it. And if you happen to pick up some assets under management by accident, okay, we’ll take it but the primary thing they were measuring you for was how much in insurance were you selling. And May started, got involved in this network marketing organization, Herbalife, which is still around. It’s weight loss nutritional supplements, protein shakes, that kind of stuff. And I ended up in Kansas City with her at an Herbalife training, and we ended up in the suite with this guy who’s like two or three layers above her in the organization.

This guy, his name is Brad Harris. And Brad’s got, you know, he’s got 30 people there and Brad’s like a former airplane mechanic who’s now making at that time, 25 years ago, he was making half a million dollars a year selling Herbalife. And so, he’s kind of got this team that’s been built under him. We happened upon this meeting in his suite and he comes up and he just pulls me aside. I’m not on the team. I’m not part of the business. You know, my wife’s there. I’m just kind of an add-on. I’m hoping maybe I can find a couple of people to sell insurance to while I’m here. You know, Brad makes a half million bucks a year. Maybe he needs some whole life insurance or something like that. So, I’m hoping to maybe get a couple of business leads or something. And Brad pulls me aside and says, “Hey, Wayne, I wanted to share with you that I’ve got a lot of respect for your wife. I spent some time with her. If she stays with this business, she could go a really long way. She could be really, really successful. There’s no reason she couldn’t be where I am down the road. But you and I kind of have a shared faith, a shared Christian faith, and that kind of thing. I just wanted to counsel you that in the context of our faith, we’re encouraged to not be unequally yoked.”

And the idea in the context of faith is don’t marry someone who has a different faith because the war for the House is going to start in the church and how do you raise the kids and those kinds of things. And so, when you’re raised in one faith, it’s kind of a repetitive thing that’s taught. But Brad said, “You know, I’m just concerned that I’m asking your wife to commit to read 50 books a year. And what I can tell you definitively is that three years from now, if your wife reads 50 books a year and you don’t read any of the same books, you will be unequally yoked with this woman. She is going to be a fundamentally different person because of the books that she’s read and because of the person that she’s become. And we see it in Herbalife all the time.” It’s again Brad speaking. “We’ve seen it in Herbalife all the time where one spouse is growing and the other one isn’t, and growing in capacity, growing in vision, growing in mission and purpose and the other one’s not growing and not keeping up.” And so, he said, “You know, ultimately marriages blow apart and it’s not good for the business. So, pragmatically, I want to protect the marriages of the people in my downline because it’s good for my business if May’s business does well. And so, I want to challenge you.” And he handed me a list of 50 books.

He said, “I want to challenge you to read the same books that I’m asking your wife to read.” And I went out. I was at a point where I was kind of frustrated with the sales environment, the culture I was functioning within. And so, I started devouring those books. I read that 50 books, those 50 books faster than they did. And I still, you know, she probably reads 20 to 30 books a year. Today, I still read 50 to 75 books a year today, mostly listening these days. But that started what’s now a quarter-century-long just gorging on books and gorging on content to be able to continue to improve. But what’s happened along the way is that May and I are on this journey together. We really are growing together at every step along the way and I learned a couple of things in that session. First of all, I kept my wife. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been and continues to get stronger. We’ve been forged in the fires of building multiple businesses. Some have failed and some have made it. May is no longer in Herbalife but the other really important thing was Brad Harris didn’t have to have that conversation, the idea of reaching back and sponsoring someone else. Brad’s one of two or three guys in my world who sponsored me at a point in my journey and poured into me and spoke life into me at a specific point in my journey that I literally wouldn’t be here today.

And part of the mission and mindset demand I have is to live as stewards, stewards of the time that we’ve been given this side of the earth or the side of we would say glory in the context of our faith but the side of eternity. So, we want to be good stewards but we want to be good stewards because of the God that we serve but we also want to be good stewards because other people have poured into us and we want to be good stewards of that investment and we want to be able to pour into others in the same way.

Brad Johnson: Well, it was a powerful story when you shared it, and I was like, “We have to capture that on this podcast,” because it says so much about who you are, who your wife is, who is an amazing person, had an opportunity to meet her a time or two. And I think it’s just a good life lesson in general. It’s how we have tried to really curate the Triad community and our Triad members. Principle number two is growth-mindedness and checking your ego at the door. And I’ve just found that the most successful people in life are the people I want to surround myself with. That’s a very common characteristic. And reading is a great way to continue to level up. In fact, at our house, we say readers are leaders. I tell my kids that all the time. I’m like most, if not all the leaders I’ve been around are very well-read, educated, and it’s almost like that education started after their formal education oftentimes, and it never ended.

Wayne Wagner: In our house, we go for reading. So, since the time our kids were in middle school, we put a dollar amount on the books and so they read anything off a dad’s reading list. And today, our kids are 19 and 22, and each of them is working on five streams of income by the time they’re 25. And one of those streams of income for each of them is what the amount of money that they can make reading books each year because we’ve had to adjust how much we pay them per book to compensate for what they could earn, making money in their regular jobs. And so, today they owe me two books a year but after two books a year, we will pay $300 per book for up to 30 books per kid so if they read 32 books a year, they’ll walk out with $9,000 in cash. And so, now the beauty of that is they have to read the book and then they have to give us a two-page book report. And so, our son loves the reading. He hates reading the book report. So, last year he read 23 books, but he only wrote two book reports. So, I got an 18-year-old to read 23 leadership and development books for free, which that’s like the biggest win I had last year was like I got an 18-year-old to read 23 leadership books. And I didn’t have to pay him to do it.

Brad Johnson: At what age did that start and what was your price that you originally started at?

Wayne Wagner: Originally, it was like $50 a book. And they were 11, 12, 13 years old. And as they got older, we started some businesses that they were working in. So, we have a Ben and Jerry’s, Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Jamba Juice, some other businesses down the Jersey Shore. And so, they started working in those businesses at 14, 15 years old. And so, we had to jack up the price. By the time they were 15, 16, we got to the $300 a book because I had to pay them enough to offset, you know, to pay them more per hour, to read the book and write the report than they could make just go on to work in another shift with salary and tips. But what that led to was the year of COVID, my son would have been, what, he would have been 16 that year and he read 16 books that year. So, I think they owed me three books that year. And so, I had to pay him 13 times 300 so about $4,000 that year. And he was dating a girl and we ended up at her graduation party a couple of years later and I was telling that story to that girl’s grandma. And grandma has been singing the praises of my son and that kind of stuff and talking about what an amazing kid he is and he’s so well-read. He’s constantly reading and this kind of thing.

And I told her that story and she said, “Well, you didn’t give a 16-year-old like $4,000 or $5,000?” I think it was $5,000 what it ended up being because I guess I had to pay him 16 books times 300. Yeah. So, it was like $4,800. And I was like, “Of course I did.” And she’s like, “Why would you give a 16-year-old $5,000 in cash?” I said, “I didn’t just give it to him. I gave it to him in hundreds so he could like throw it up in the air and set it on fire if he wanted to.” And she’s like, “Why would you do that?” I said, “Because first of all, if I don’t, I have zero credibility with him and I’ll never get him to repeat that. He’ll never read another book. And it’ll be because he’s got a dad who didn’t show up and do what he said he was going to do.” Secondly, I can’t get 40-year-olds to read 16, 18, 19 books in a year, right? I mean, you can hire people. You can’t get them to read that many books in a year. I got a 16-year-old to do it. And you know what? Do you know how many millions of dollars that kid’s going to make over the next 30 or 40 years of his career because of the things that he learned?

I can tell you in the middle of July that year, my 16-year-old son was critiquing the leadership of my business partners because he just got done reading John Maxwell’s book on teamwork, and he was critiquing the leadership of my business partners saying that they’re not following John Maxwell’s laws of teamwork. And I don’t think I want to be working for them long term if they don’t know how to at least do these rudimentary things to build and manage the team. My 16-year-old said in that conversation, right? And then I reaffirmed. I said, “Listen, by the way, I really hope he literally set some of this money on fire and just burns it and just goes through it in the stupidest, most frivolous way.” And she’s like, “Well, why would you want that?” I said, “Because when I was 16 years old, I went to Great Adventure. I went to Six Flags and I put close to $300 in quarters into those slot machines trying to get quarters so that I can win a teddy bear. You know, I can walk through any casino anywhere in the world today and you know what I have no pressure to do is play any slot machine anywhere. Why? Because I smoked $300 when I was 16 years old. It fixed me. It solved the potential long-term flaw, and I’m richer because of it.” So, yeah, we want that for our kids. We want our kids to give them opportunities to make mistakes when it’s stubbing their toe, not breaking their leg. So, I’d rather they stub their toe financially than get a head wound financially.

Brad Johnson: Well, it’s just as you look at that system you built, number one, it’s for the benefit of your child. I think pretty much anybody out there would have a hard press time saying reading more books is not going to benefit your children long term. And now you’ve created a positive motivation system monetarily, obviously, to encourage them to do that. There was a parenting book. I don’t remember what it was. I read it many years back when my kids were much younger, but it talked about paying kids to eat their vegetables and it was the same dynamic there. It’s like, hey, reward system for good behavior. And yeah, so it just makes sense. Okay. So, I want to rewind. So, when you and May were sitting in Kansas City in this hotel room suite and Brad, the mentor, gives you this list of 50 books, are there any of those books… And how old were you at the time, Wayne?

Wayne Wagner: I would have been mid-twenties, 26, 27.

Brad Johnson: Okay. So, yeah, right in those formative just after college years. Do you remember? Are there any books on that list, that list of 50 he gave you, that stand out that are like, “Wow. This changed the trajectory of where I was going?” And then did any of those books make it on the list that you then in turn handed to your children?

Wayne Wagner: Yeah. And I would say it’s more authors than it is individual books but like one of the first five books I read was John Maxwell’s seminal work on leadership, Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. And one of those laws was the law of the cap, where you will be capped by a limited leader and you will limit the growth of the people behind you if you cap their growth because you can’t lead people where you haven’t been. I was working for a financial planning firm and I had this vision to work with people in the pharmaceutical industry because we were told to go sell insurance, go sell annuities, go sell disability insurance, that kind of stuff. But what I had identified was that there were folks in the pharmaceutical industry that, gosh, they made a great income and the folks I was talking to at the time were making $150,000 to $250,000 a year in base salary. But then they were making another 100,000 a year in bonuses and they’re making another hundred thousand dollars a year in long-term incentives. And so, these are folks that between their bonuses and long-term incentives, they had $100, $150,000 a year in after-tax cash to invest. And so, in my mind, I was like, “Well, they only need to buy insurance once, at least right now, but if I could find 100 households to give me $100,000 a year of new assets under management, it’d be $10 million at 1% fees. That’s $100,000 a year in recurring fees. That’s stackable. I do that for ten years and I’ve got $1,000,000 a year of recurring revenue, not commission revenue, recurring revenue.”

So, that was kind of the mindset that I started out with. Well, then I went to my boss and said, “This is what I’d kind of like to focus my time on.” And he said, “You know, that’s not what we do. That’s not our business model.” All of a sudden, I ran into the cap. And so, it was less than a year from the time Brad Harris had that conversation with me to the time I left and went independent on my own so I was out. That 50 books and I was gone within a year.

Brad Johnson: Was it that clear, Wayne? And the hindsight is always 20/20 but in that moment, were you literally kind of like your son was like calling it out in the moment? Were you like, “Oh, this is the cap John Maxwell was talking about. I’m out.” Was it that crystal clear or just not so much?

Wayne Wagner: Yes. So, you have these moments. So, what happened was I had that conversation. He said, “Well, that’s not what we do here.” And then but I was also doing research because I was in a business model where there was a certain payout percentage, contracted payout percentage, and that was here. And I was talking to the guys on the independent side and their payouts were like here and now those guys have to pay for their own office. They got to hire their own staff. They got to do a lot of their own things. But I quickly went back and did the math. And so, I went back to my boss. I said, “All right. Well, if I’m going to stay not able to do what I think I have a vision to be able to do, if I’m going to stay in this business model, I at least need what’s the vision for me moving from here to there? And maybe it’s not all the way there because you still got to make a profit and that kind of thing but what’s the vision for me going from here like higher than that?” And without blinking, he said, “Wayne, you’re not a big enough fish to ask those kinds of questions.” That was the moment my heart quit. That day, that moment I knew. I went home and I told May, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I might be going back to landscaping like I was doing in high school and college but a year from now, I won’t be working for this guy,” because that’s the moment I hit the cap. And I knew it and I could articulate it and I could define it.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, there’s a leadership lesson in that moment, and I’ve seen leaders with two different mindsets. I’ve seen the leaders that it’s kind of they actually try to create that cap and like, “Hey, you’re at this level and everything below this.” It’s almost like smashing you down from the top. And then I’ve seen leaders where it’s like, “Hey, my goal here is to grow you as much as humanly possible. And if that means someday you outgrow this and do your own thing or take your own entrepreneurial journey, that’s okay because we had a season here together.” And imagine had he taken that second route and who knows how long that would have lasted there but I promise a high performer like yourself would have stayed a lot longer.

Wayne Wagner: Yeah, absolutely. What’s crazy is I can name half a dozen guys today who are running $200, $300, $400 million businesses, assets under management businesses in the financial planning space who all worked for that guy. That guy has birthed probably a dozen major competitors just within 20 miles of his office. Now he’s retired. That guy is retired at this stage. I believe his son is taking over the business. I wish the son well. But at the end of the day, I mean, that limitation and inability to see a future and to cast a vision, because in that moment, he had a specific decision. It was a specific decision for him to say, “You’re not a big enough fish,” as opposed to, “Hey, Wayne, you’re not a big enough fish today but here’s the vision as you grow.” If he had given me a vision for that, you’re absolutely right. Heck, I might still be there today but that was an early one. The other, so Maxwell stuff was really important early on. A lot of the Kiyosaki stuff was really important early on. I mean, I got Kiyosaki’s, that his cash flow quadrant was really helpful for me to go from employee to self-employed. I mean, I got stuck in self-employed for so long, right? I got stuck in self-employed, not just in the financial planning business. We took over private school and I got stuck in self-employed because I did not build the team to run that. I didn’t help that school become a functioning operating business separate from me. And that’s some of the long-term lessons that May and I have learned along the way.

Brad Johnson: Wayne, for those unfamiliar with that quadrant, can you walk through them?

Wayne Wagner: Yeah. So, look, the 70%, 80% of the world operates and will always operate as W-2 employees but you see this a lot in the trades, you’ll have people jump from being an employee to being self-employed. It’s like the plumber who gets his license and recognizes, “Hey, I’m getting paid $30 an hour or $35 an hour. My boss bills me out at $150 an hour. So, if I just put my name on the side of my truck, now that I’ve got my license, I can go bill out $150 an hour.” What you miss in that leap is that you’re now chief cook and bottle washer. You’re now not just doing the plumbing, you’re doing the estimates, you’re doing the billing, you’re doing payroll, you’re doing HR, you’re doing benefits. You’re doing everything that your boss was doing for you because now you’re self-employed. The leap from being self-employed to being a business owner is to build systems. And that’s really what Triad does is helping advisors scale their business. And it really is helping advisors move from being self-employed to being business owners while we’re building and scaling the business so that the business is less and less dependent on me showing up.

And so, when I show up, when I showed up for years, it was me and two staff people. And now one of those staff people was spending 70% of his time with me over at the school. And so, I literally was operating a $100 million plus advisory business with me plus one person. And she’s still with me. Wendy Is still a rock star. She’s amazing. And we wouldn’t be where we are because she literally carried us for a decade. But that mindset of building the systems like Wendy didn’t do anything unless I told her to do it. Mark didn’t do anything unless I told him to do it because I wasn’t creating a growth culture and I wasn’t building systems. So, that shift from self-employed to business owner and then business owner to investor. Investor is now where you listen to other people’s stories. And that’s where I’m at today. So, I have business partners in half a dozen different businesses where they bring me ideas, they bring me, and then we go put together the funding, we go put together the ideas on how to help that business morph and mold and become. But I’m an advisor on that. I might be an investor on that but I’m not showing up every day. So, we just completed the acquisition of an eight-location sunglass retailer in June this year while I helped put the deal together.

In fact, my 19-year-old son put that deal together in a couple of hours in a car and brought it to us. And then I took it to my business partners and they said, “This makes sense. This would fit within what we’re doing.” And then I helped put the deal together and put the financing together. But I don’t show up and sell sunglasses on the weekends, right? That’s not my job.

Brad Johnson: Thanks for running through that. That’s cool. The self-employed, what we tie all that at Triad is the advisor in charge because to your point, that literally they’re doing everything, which is what is that constraint that’s keeping them from growing and scaling a business. So, thanks for running through that. Okay. So, I want to go, you mentioned it kind of in passing earlier, and this was, I think in almost two decades of being in this business, this was a first for me. So, we’re out in Lake Tahoe. Beautiful property, the Ritz, and we had our DBDL, our founder’s retreat out there. You brought your team out early to do an offsite kind of pour-into-them sort of meeting. We’ll get to that later because I think there’s another lesson there. But we’re out there and you have gone very deep into a niche, the pharmaceutical niche in your financial services business. And I think it was day two or day three, you realized or one of your team members realized there actually was a pharmaceutical conference going on at the same hotel at the same time. And being the small world and well connected that you are, you’re like you put some connections together, you’re like, “Okay.”

And I believe you, literally, I think it was during our conference, you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to do a couple of appointments or a couple at least high-level business meetings with some high-end pharmaceutical reps.” And it was very much because of that niche that you’d specialized in. And I know there’s a lot of equity packages and things like that that you’ve become really familiar with, which obviously that’s important if you’re going to go in that niche. So, really big setup there. But if you were speaking to other financial advisors out there on being a generalist versus being a specialist in that niche, what advice would you give them? Not necessarily pharmaceuticals, but like any niche in a financial services firm.

Wayne Wagner: Well, listen, and, Brad, you see this in every industry, in every business. And we’re not going to get political here but even the big misses that companies make, the Bud Lights of the world, the Targets of the world, even the big misses are really them trying to go deeper in the individual niches. So, the big mega companies see that the riches are in the niches. And so, what now? Sometimes they really step in it because they define a niche and try to go after it and they end up alienating so much of their standard clientele that it shoots them in the foot. But the bottom line is the riches really are in the niches. And when you can become a specialist in working… Now, look, if you call me in and you got $5 million to invest and you’re an avatar client for us, whether you’re in the pharmaceutical industry or not, we’re going to have a conversation and we’ll serve you really, really well. But for our clients in the pharmaceutical industry, where we’ve been able to add enormous value, is in those one-off conversations. So, I mean, just in the last week, I have had conversations with three different clients in the pharmaceutical industry, actually four, who one was laid off and he and I are having conversations about what he wants the next stage of life to look like. And I’ll be able to connect him with a couple of clients who are running teams that may be looking for somebody with his expertise.

Another one, another fella, his daughter was in a tragic accident last year. He actually quit his job to go help her rehab for eight months. And now he’s trying to get back into work and he’s having some trouble. I was able to connect him with a couple of consulting firms in the pharmaceutical industry who need people like him. Another one called me and he’s just been fired unreasonably irrationally. You know, it was a death penalty for what should have been a speeding ticket situation but talking through strategy with him, talking through what the legal approach is going to be, now he’s in touch with an attorney, those kinds of things. And then another client who they hired a new head of XYZ at her company. And over the past year, some things have changed and she’s gone from golden child to pariah. And so, now there’s an adversarial situation and so she and I are now talking about how to position her in a way that she’s protected and manage her exit from the company. So, go to the company and say, “Look, some things have turned against me. I’m not sure why. I think this is what’s going on. There probably needs to be an investigation but at the end of the day, I think me even raising this probably makes me the enemy. And so, it is acceptable to me for you guys to offer me a package and I will leave,” but helping frame that language.

And then we have two other clients who were working for a major pharma company who we’ve been actually have trying to manage their exit, trying to get them a package for like two years. And last month actually, while we were in Tahoe, we got confirmation for both of them that the beginning of October is the end of their career and it’s like, “Score!” Both of them have got the package and we’re talking high six-figure packages to leave to retire, and it’s time for both of them. So, all of those are literally within the last couple of weeks. And those things only happen. That’s not an atypical week for us to have half a dozen different conversations with people across the industry. But it’s because for the last quarter century, I’ve been working with people in the pharmaceutical industry. You don’t have to wake up one day and say, “Hey, we’re only going to work with people in this niche,” because you will starve trying to do that. You’ll starve trying to change your whole. But it’s just like anything, if you can change how you’re thinking, how you’re focusing your marketing, how you’re thinking your positioning, asking existing clients for referrals in that direction or in the direction of your niche, you just start bending gravity in the direction of where you want things to go. And over time, ten years later, you’re an overnight success.

Story after story I could tell you, I cold-called my way into a chief information officer’s office one time. Like, literal cold call, “Hey, Brad, this is Wayne. I run Visionary Wealth Management. Would you be open to a conversation to let me introduce you to some of the work and services we provide?” “Sure.” I get in the door. I’m 29 years old. I’ve been on my own for like 18 months. And I was with him for like 8 minutes. And he says, “Wayne, I’ve got 5 million with a firm I’m happy with. I’ve got 5 million in cash because I oversaw the merger and they invested all my stock and options and everything. I’m looking for alternative investments, consistent returns, and non-correlated performance.” I had read an article that Halle Berry, a very rich person, had opened a steakhouse, and I literally looked at him and said, “So, you want to open a restaurant?” And he laughed. He laughed almost a belly laugh. Not quite that. He said, “No. But, Wayne, the fact that that’s the answer to my question tells me you don’t have the tools to be here. Thanks so much for your time. My assistant is going to show you out. Have a great time. Have a great career.” I went back to my office and started calling everybody I could, “What the heck is an alternative investment, non-correlated performance, consistent return? What’s that guy talking about?”

And it was about nine years later that I got referred to the chief medical officer of that company. And I walked into the executive suite and it was the same office. And so, I walked into the same office I had sat in. It was literally the same furniture, the same chair I had sat in. We spent an hour talking about what we were doing. And at the end of the hour, the guy looked at me and said, “Wayne, I get pitched for financial planners all the time. I mean, there’s a half a dozen calls a week to this office. Why should I hire you?” And his name was John. I said, “John,” and I told him that story. “I spent the last ten years earning the right to be here and today I was referred here. I didn’t cold call my way in here. I didn’t slick marketing my way in here. I was referred here by your boss, who’s also a long-term client at this stage. And so, you should hire me because I’ve spent the last decade earning the right to be your financial advisor because of that experience I had ten years ago.” And he became a client. And then about three months later, the guy who was the chief information officer of that company, also became a client. So, within three months, we picked up the guy in the office.

Brad Johnson: Wait. The guy that told you no ten years ago before or a different…?

Wayne Wagner: No. A different guy. Different guy, same title. So, I picked…

Brad Johnson: That would be quite the turn of events.

Wayne Wagner: So, I picked the guy who had the title and the guy who was occupying the office, both in about three months.

Brad Johnson: Wow. Well, let’s go. There’s a few lessons there that I want to pull out. The first one, as you were kind of listing your last couple of weeks in the pharmaceutical niche where my head went was that as a perfect example of Zig Ziglar, one of his most famous quotes in action is, “Help enough other people get what they want and you’ll get what you want,” because at least four of those examples were not, “Hey, they retired, they had a million bucks. What should I do?” I found this to be very true in life. The biggest impact you can have on another human being is not during the good times. It’s during the bad times, the layoffs. My daughter had a serious health issue and I had to step away from work and now I’m looking to return. And what I heard there is a lot of your heart, which you’ve been very much that same guy in the Triad community. I’m so thankful that you’re here in our community because you’ve made a big impact, but you were just there to serve. You’re like, “Hey, let me open up my Rolodex. Let me get you this connection or that connection.” And I have to thank…

Wayne Wagner: Do I have to explain what a Rolodex is to most of your listeners?

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Do those still exist? Am I dating myself now? Your contact, your iPhone contacts, is that what I should be saying? I should be saying iPhone contacts. But I have to think like, obviously, a very large small industry is the pharmaceutical space. Has that been part of your playbook? Because to me that was just the network effect in action of, “Hey, I’m entrenched and I’ve got a lot of different connections here. Let me open that up to you to serve you,” which in turn, it doesn’t have immediate payoff. But I’m sure when that time comes, it’s like I’ve got one guy I’m going to call, and his name’s Wayne. Do you have thoughts or do you have any other ways that that’s played out or lessons?

Wayne Wagner: No. We want to be able to and we’ve built long-term relationships with clients intentionally because of that. Early on, one of the evolutions of the business that I didn’t really recognize upfront because, remember, what I was looking for was I was looking for 100 people in the pharmaceutical industry who would be able to give me about $100,000 a year of new cash flow so we could build $10 million a year of new assets under management. That was my mentality.

Brad Johnson: May I ask how it was the pharmaceutical industry? Like, how did that become the niche?

Wayne Wagner: Oh, how did the pharma become– so May, my wife, worked in human resources at what was Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, which was at the time the largest pharma company in Delaware. I came out of college with a bachelor’s in secondary math education, so I could do– and it was a really fascinating degree for this industry because there was so much psychology about teaching and how people learn as part of the education component. And then the math taught me the thinking and the critical thinking, the ability to do the math side. So, I was really interested to have that degree and then end up tripping to this industry.

But before I tripped into this industry, I tripped into a temporary job at Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, putting together spreadsheets and PowerPoint projections. And I literally slipped up a couple of times and helped people along the way. I walked into a meeting and they had 15 executives, all of them looked really important. And I’m literally, this is the first time I’ve had to wear a collar on a shirt to go to work. And they’re having this conversation about, hey, they were trying to launch a drug and do drug forecasting, but their data was all messed up.

And so, I stood up in the middle of the meeting, just said, “Hey, can I have a whiteboard for five minutes?” And I showed them, I said, “Look, there’s no logical way to clean your data, but here’s the best you can do.” And I just wrote a little formula for them and showed them kind of how they could take their data, pull it apart, put a couple pieces back together, and get something that would be more reliable.

Of course, my boss at the time was staring daggers through me because she was like, “You’re not supposed to talk. You’re supposed to sit in the corner, do the spreadsheet, put together PowerPoint, like no talk.” But they ended up lowering the forecast by about 70% on that drug. And then when they launched it two years later, they marginally exceeded our revised forecast.

So, had they stuck with their forecast, most of people in that room would have been at risks of losing their jobs because they would have been wildly off. And it was a 23-year-old kid who’d never had to wear a collar on a shirt with a whiteboard marker that helped change the perspective. That gave me a little bit of buy-in to be able to go back in and meet some of those folks early on.

But then, I got a few of them as clients, then it was starting to look at these folks who make great clients. And if we can build long-term relationships with them and then I would get a phone call, “Hey, Wayne, I’m getting an offer from another company to jump ship. I have no idea what to ask for or how they compare/contrast because their benefits are completely different than what I’ve got here.” And so, well, now, it’s just building spreadsheets, right? So, let’s take here, let’s learn everything we know about your existing benefits and compensation structure. Let’s go ask the recruiter for all of that information on the other side. And let’s build a 10-year comparison, compare/contrast with certain assumptions.

And then we can know whether, hey, let’s go back and ask the recruiter if they can increase this line item or that line item. And then clients would get to a point where they’d ask me for the data. I’d give them a data and I’d say, “Hey, would you sit in on a call with me so that you can help explain?” And then, I’d have a couple of people say, “Would you do the negotiating for me?” I’m like, “Well, I’m not a lawyer.” “Yeah, but you’re my financial advisor and I can just introduce you as that.” So, that leads into weird ones where, for four and a half or five months, we negotiated with this company. And this is a small startup. My client is going to go be the chief medical officer for the company.

And they had increased every area, every line item compensation. They had just moved remarkably much more than I actually thought we would get. We would ask for a lot and we would get way more than the 50% I thought we were getting. But they didn’t give us a change in control. And a change in control clause basically says that if a company folds or a company gets sold off for parts, that everything you have on the table vests and there’s some kind of a payout, there’s something that determines, there’s 6, 12, 18 months, 24 months worth based on bonus compensation. And so, that’s the only thing that hasn’t been addressed over a five-month negotiation.

Well, the CEO is already going back to his board twice. It’s the CEO and the general counsel we’re negotiating with. My client really wants to take the job. We’re there. But it was a small startup and my client was coming out of a big company. And so, I said, “This is really a nonstarter. You guys have not given us that.” And we said from the beginning that that was a nonstarter.

And the CEO just came on glued on the phone and let out a few expletives and said, “I don’t have a change in control. I’ll be goddamned that I’m going to give one to my chief medical officer who answers to me.” And I just said, “Guys, I apologize. Maybe we wasted your time and hours all this time, but we said it was a nonstarter on the front end of this negotiation. I’m sorry if you feel misled,” and I hung up the phone.

And my clients are looking at me like, what the hell? But I said, “Listen,” it was like 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I said, “At 4:30 tomorrow, you can call and take the job without it, but do not message them. Do not email them. It’s in their court. Next person to talk loses. Now, it’s 4:30 tomorrow afternoon, you can surrender, you can lose, but not until 4:30 tomorrow afternoon.” At 2:30, they call them back and give them the job with the change in control. And so, when the company ended up getting sold off for parts two years later and my client walked away with $3 million in cash and the CEO walked away with nothing, I had bought credibility with that.

Brad Johnson: That’s called street cred right there. You got some street cred on that negotiation.

Wayne Wagner: But you build it by being too young and too dumb not to ask the questions. I had a VP of sales walk into my office and hand me a stack of paperwork, like nine inches thick and said, “I’m getting screwed on my pension. I just don’t know how bad.” Well, he’d worked for the same company in five different countries, and every country had a pension plan, but they restarted the pension plan every time he changed countries.

And so, I ended up negotiating. I ended up getting somebody in each of the countries in human resources that spoke English, figured out just how bad he was being screwed. And then we built the model for what ultimately became the international pension plan for that company for all of their international seconded employees worldwide. But it was because I was less than 30 years old and this guy was a big catch. And I was just too dumb to think, I mean, you’d like to think that somebody would have told me, “You can’t ask that question. You can’t just start calling the human resources department in Belgium and start asking questions about their benefits. Who are you?”

But it’s too dumb not to think this is a thing. And I want to continue to be that curious, exploring, challenging, live life with a heart wide open. And why can’t we? So, Simon Sinek, he wrote Start with Why. But in his book, The Infinite Game, he gets into this idea that you’re building towards a future that doesn’t exist. And The Infinite Game for him is talking about you’re really stewarding a business for a season.

But in my mind, that idea of having a vision of the future that doesn’t exist today, I want to build towards that and I want to live like that. So, when my son and I are getting off of a tuna fishing trip after 24 hours out at sea and we’re exhausted and sweaty and slimy and all that, we’re walking through the driveway and there’s an 89-year-old woman and her husband in a car and she literally can’t see how to get around the corner. She’s got this big old Buick and she can’t see around the corner. And there’s two or three people lined up behind her, honking at her. And she’s really frazzled.

And I set my cooler down and we go over and knock on her window and say, “Hey, I’m going to guide you through that.” It takes me 20 seconds. And then my son goes, “Dad, what are you nuts? What is the matter with you?” And I’m like, “Hey, son, I want to live in a world where the 89-year-old woman doesn’t need to be afraid because someone’s going to take the 20 seconds it takes to help her fix this problem. That’s the world I want to live in. And if I want to live in that world, I have to be willing to act like it, act what we want to show up and live like it.”

And that’s really what we want to do for clients every day is show up in their moments of weakness, show up when something’s going wrong, and show up on the opportunities. My next activity tonight is I have a dinner with clients here in Ocean City, New Jersey, and we’re catching up, but we’re going to be in the upstairs of the duplex that they own. Well, they own the upstairs. And I got a phone call from her a couple of years ago, “Hey, Wayne, I work with so-and-so at this company we own in Ocean City, New Jersey.” I’m like, “Well, great. I know the boardwalk. We’ve got multiple businesses down there. I know the city,” that kind of thing. And she’s, “Yeah. So, the guy below us is saying he’d like to sell us the other half of the duplex and we don’t know. Can we afford it? My husband’s got a million dollars in his 401(k). Does it make sense for us to just liquidate that and buy that cash? We’re in our mid-40s. We don’t know the financials.”

And so, we just spend 20 minutes. They’re not clients. We’ve done no business together. We haven’t done a fact finder. I did a quick and dirty fact finder, “Hey, where are the assets? What are we doing?” That kind of stuff on the back of an envelope. It’s sitting at my desk. And we just ran through it. And I said, “Well, if you take money from here and money from there and money from here, that’ll give you your down payment. And that should get you enough money to be able to rent this thing year round, but then there’s some strategic tax advantages to you.” And I sort of walk them through the tax advantages. From 20 minutes, we went from, we don’t know if we could do this to you absolutely should do this. There’s a significant financial advantage for your families. And here’s the game plan for how to do it.

Now, the next conversation is who’s managing your money? And that’s always your conversation to have at that point because we’ve already made huge investments. So, that’s where when we pick up seven-figure clients on a regular basis because they get to a point where, and by the way, in that situation, that conversation have been going on for a year and a half. And the guy at Northwestern Mutual who had all the money wouldn’t engage the conversation, wouldn’t have the conversation, wouldn’t talk about it because it’s just outside the nine dots, because these financial advisors, we help people invest in stocks, bonds, and annuities. We don’t help them buy real estate, even though that for people who are going to finish their careers with $3, $5, $10, 20, $30 million net worths, a significant chunk of, virtually, every one of those net worths is either a business or real estate. Rarely, do you have people who have $30 million net worths and real estate’s not a part of the conversation.

Brad Johnson: So, a couple of things there, number one, I hear a focus on value creation first and up front, which the real estate conversation you just had there, but I also hear a personal growth. I’ve heard it a couple of different ways. Number one, the story of the two different experiences in the same office 10 years apart. The observation you just made there is, I’m seeing a trend here for, as the network grows, real estate becomes almost a certainty for some portion of portfolio.

And it’s almost this overused quote of Wayne Gretzky’s, “Skate where the puck is going.” I’m curious, how did you develop that? Because it’s very obvious, it’s not that tough to put it together. Like, hey, if wealthy people need help with this, I should learn how to do that so they want to work with me. But was this something instilled at a young age? Was it that conversation on the 50 books of like, I’ve got to grow and continue to grow into that and never stop growing? Where did that come from inside of you?

Wayne Wagner: Yeah, I think, for me, it was the books, it was the mentors that I’ve sought out over the years, consistently looking for people who are at or significantly above me and where they are with their business or where they are in their thinking, how they’re functioning and showing up where they are. And we’re doing this ourselves. But our avatar clients, our ideal clients, we punch one out of a cookie cutter, they’re families who are building first-generation wealth and its first generation of what we hope will be multigenerational wealth.

And frequently, our avatar prospect is someone who’s kind of 42 to 52 years old with a $1.5 to $3 million net worth now and they don’t realize they’re going to be worth $5 to $10 million when they retire. And these people aren’t dumb. These people get MBAs or run in billion dollar drugs for pharmaceutical companies. They know what they know and they are specialists. They’re really deep in knowing what they know.

But for me to walk in the door and say, “Hey, listen, you’re worth $2 million today. At the rate that $2 million is going to accumulate over the next 10 to 15 years and then your ability to put away capital and accumulate capital, you’re going to pick your head up when you’re 60 years old and you’re going to be worth $6, $8, $10 million. And you need to be thinking and functioning differently and operating with a different business model mindset today to accelerate that.”

And how do I know that you’re going to be there? Because I’ve done it with our existing clients. And we were working with Triad. One of the challenges that my team was having was you guys were challenging us and saying, “Well, who’s your favorite client?” As though the word favorite client and favorite prospect were interchangeable. When for us, they’re not. Our favorite clients have been clients for 15 to 20 years and they’re worth $5 to $15 million, some of them north of that.

And they’re our favorite clients because they’re families and they’re delegating and we’re working with two and three generations of their family tree at this stage because we probably picked up mom or dad’s money along the way. And now, we’re working with their kids as they’re getting into their careers and helping their kids and maybe having conversations with mom and dad and saying, “Here’s what we want you to do. We want you to gift your kid $20,000 a year so that your kid can afford to put $20,000 in their Roth 401(k) at work, like now, when they’re 22, 23, 24, first job, and the kids put in 20, maxing out his Roth 401(k).” Why? Because over the next 50 years that is a grand slam home run for accumulation and wealth building and tax-favored wealth building.

But that’s not a conversation anybody is having. But we can go in and have those conversations. But for us, the favorite clients are the people who are already doing all those things with, and we’ve been doing it for the last 10 years. Our favorite prospects are the people who are 42 to 52 years old who are on the front end of that, and we get to help them accelerate up the curve. And so, our avatar clients are different than our avatar prospects.

Brad Johnson: Okay, I want to hit something on the niche that we’ve been all over, but it’s almost a philosophical belief, and I want to combine a couple of things that are trendy right now, AI and everything that’s happening on that front. But I remember I had a conversation with Michael Kitces and he has this philosophy where the future is going. It will not be the local advisor, it will be the best advisor to solve the problem.

And as you went deeper in that pharmaceutical niche, you’ve talked a lot about, okay, well, now as their wealth grows, I’ve got to have experience with real estate, I’ve got to have experience with tax planning, and obviously, all of the different benefits packages and bonus compensation, equity compensation, all of that, I look at that as a really nice moat around your financial planning castle. And I also look at AI and the way it learns and will in the not-too-distant future surpass our human ability of problem solving. And I look at a nice moat around the castle is the more complex the problems you solve, the tougher it is for AI to steal your job, right?

And so, I’m just curious on just, let’s get a little philosophical here, the future of financial planning. I see a lot of moats that you’re starting to build around your financial planning castle that protect you more than what I’d say the average financial advisor that’s just working more as a generalist. But what are your thoughts? As you look forward, what are the things you’re thinking about on that front? And is there anything you disagree with on kind of that take?

Wayne Wagner: No, I think that AI is going to be incredibly useful. Now, listen, we can learn where we’re going to be with AI by where we are with the Internet. And we know that the proliferation of data, the proliferation of content doesn’t necessarily lead to better decisions, right? So, the ability for AI to solve problems when people don’t know what questions to ask or don’t know how to even often articulate the problems that they have, there’s still going to be a disconnect there. And that’s where the value creation is.

What happens is it gets easier to solve the problems because as advisors, if we become students of the game and use AI, I mean, we’re using AI on a regular basis, not for the financial planning world, but I mean, I started equipment financing or equipment leasing business this year. Every one of the contracts for that business have been written by Jasper.ai. We’d plug a few things in and they make a model of the vehicle releasing or the asset releasing and it spits out a contract specific to the state that I needed to be written at. I mean, we just go proof it and print it and sign it.

So, it’s saving us thousands of dollars and massive wait time because, I mean, when you hire an attorney to do that and you wait weeks to get it done and pay a couple of thousand bucks every time you’re doing a contract, I mean, it just doesn’t make sense. So, I think the power of AI is incredible for us. I mean, we do have clients in about 24, 25 different states and we have clients who go on secondment in other countries for periods of time and things like that. Sometimes, it gets a little weird when you have a client who is going to go, be the president of a pharmaceutical company in a country that’s on the OFAC list. It prompts some conversations with compliance.

But you work through that. That’s where the complexity comes in, right? The bigger problems, bigger pay. And I mean, that’s the more complexity, more compensation. So, we don’t shy away from that stuff. We just help the client figure out how to do it.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Okay, I got my eye on the clock here. And I want to shift to something else. We haven’t worked together super long, right? We’re coming up on a year. But what I’ve seen in that year, I’ve seen you of all of the advisors that I’ve worked with over the years or just been in the presence of, you’ve taken a very intentional approach to your team and investing into your team.

We mentioned earlier, you flew your whole team to Tahoe, which is not cheap. You put them up in the Ritz, which is also not cheap. And I’ve also just seen how you talk about your team. And kind of the boss we talked about earlier, the one that smashed you down versus the one that built you up and empowered you, what have you learned as you rolled out of that self-employed, the Kiyosaki self-employed to business owner and building and empowering a team? What lessons have you learned there and what could you share?

Wayne Wagner: Yeah, well, and we’re the beneficiaries. Some of what we’re the beneficiary of is the Triad model as well, right? So, you guys have been a model for us to aspire to. And we’re quick studies, we want to learn. But you’re also complementing some things that we’re already doing internally. Yeah, I was in that self-employed mindset for a long time.

And I had hired a professional coach, guy named Trent Booth, to come in and work with me. We worked together for a little while and then we parted ways and I brought Trent back to work with Mark because Mark and I both burned ourselves out when we had the private school that we were responsible for. In 2008, I hired Mark and we took over the private school on the same day, and then three months later, the markets crashed. So, we kind of nudge, nudge, nod, nod, wink, wink, blame Mark for the market crash in 2008.

But I hired Trent to come in and help us figure out if Mark was the right fit, and what we identified early on when Trent started coaching Mark, I went out and I read Rocket Fuel and that model and then I shared that with Trent and Mark, and that really gave us some vernacular because Rocket Fuel talks about the innovator and the integrator. And when you can bring those two together and aim them properly, you get rocket fuel, you get lift off.

And so, there was no question from Mark and I that I’m the innovator. Mark has a little bit of innovator in him, but when he’s in an environment where he can trust the innovator, he can really own the integrator piece of that. And so, he’s having Trent guide him through that process of, hey, not only do you belong here, Mark, but you’re actually going to help us catch your lift-off when we put you and Wayne together as innovator/integrator. Then we’ve got to figure out all of the other aiming mechanisms on this rocket. We need a Wendy, we need a Rebecca, we need a Brielle, we need an Angie.

And one of the things, you guys do a lot of work on the Enneagram. Trent uses the CVI, the Core Values Index, and one of the most valuable things my team has ever done is what I mean by the complementary nature of some of the stuff we’re already doing with Triad. So, Ryan Sparks was in our office last week. And Ryan’s going through this exercise where he called it the Freedom Compass, which I’m sure you guys have been through 50 times.

But for the first time, we’re literally putting every person on the team up there with their CVI description and their Enneagram number and their list of these are the areas of my job that light me up and fulfill me and these are the areas of the job that drain me and I just want to go jump off a cliff. And what we’re seeing is that, first of all, we did that. We saw the CVIs are all different. They’re complementary. The Enneagrams were all different, which means they’re all complementary. And in every area of the business, there’s somebody who’s like, yep, this is what I love. This is what I hate. No, that’s the part I love. And so, we’re going through this.

Now, I had a huge breakthrough with one of my team members in that environment because we’re getting ready to start our own podcast in the next few months. And I thought, hey, she really loves this aspect of talking with people, and so, she’s going to be the scheduler and this is just going to light her up. But what comes out is the scheduling piece of that terrifies, intimidates, and completely drains her.

And so, literally, two days before Mark had been in my office saying, “Hey, we need to hire for this position,” and I’m sitting here going, “We need to hire for that position force. She’s going to love that part of that.” And so, I’m sitting there live with Ryan leading my team, having this short circuit in my brain. Like, wait a minute, you hate that part. Oh, that’s why it was on the job description that I saw two days ago.

And it was literally the short circuit and breakthrough for me and for the whole team. Now, Trent and Mark had already identified that, but I hadn’t caught it, so the innovator hadn’t caught it. And so, when the integrator is coming to me, Mark’s coming to me as the integrator saying, “Hey, this is the next job and here’s the job description,” and I’m seeing 40% of the job description is something I think we already got somebody on the team that loves that part of the job and I’m going to hurt her by taking that away from her as opposed to no, no, no, no, no, I’ve gotten sandbags off for her by hiring somebody else to do that. That makes that a much easier decision, does up time to hire the next person.

Brad Johnson: You would be surprised, Wayne, I love hearing that story, by the way. So, as soon as this is over, I’m texting Ryan and telling him that because he’s so passionate about this business. I mean, I’ve known Ryan since college. I was like, Ryan needs to be in this business 10 years ago. So, I love hearing that just personally, but as Michael Hyatt told Shawn and I as business partners, because we’ve been friends since college as well, and being business partners and being friends are very different. I know you know that. And some days, those different styles, those different Enneagram numbers, those different lenses you view your business world through it creates that friction. But Michael said, “You can’t forget your differences are your strengths.”

Wayne Wagner: Absolutely.

Brad Johnson: Because you would not want a clone of a bunch of Wayne Wagner’s rolling around in the office, right? But it’s incredible when you take the time to work on your business, when you take these simple frameworks and just ask the question. We had another one, Dylan, who I think you’ve met in our community. He had a director of ops. And he was just struggling, struggling, struggling. There was just some lack of follow-through, some lack of accountability, same freedom compass, which, by the way, I have to give credit to Michael Hyatt. That’s where we got it from.

And he finally asked the question. She’s like, “I can’t stand all this.” And three years of frustration got solved in five minutes because he had the wrong person on the wrong seat on the bus. The right person, wrong seat on the bus, they just moved the position. And it’s crazy how just these simple tweaks sometimes with the right frameworks can make all the difference in the world and those frustration just free up in five minutes of a conversation. So, I love hearing that.

What gave you the mentality of, because I know one of the things that’s really important to you is this generational legacy and wanting to pour a ton back and give a ton of the money you make away. What created that in you? Because I also see you pour heavily into your team and invest into your team. Was this a book you read? Was it how you were brought up in the church? What has created this giving side of Wayne and May?

Wayne Wagner: Yeah, it’s a good question, Brad. I think that there’s a lot that goes into it. Certainly, my faith is foundational. But I guess one of the other authors I didn’t mention, I mentioned Kiyosaki and I almost said Falwell, not Falwell, John Maxwell. It was a guy named Jim Rohn. And Jim, I don’t think he’s alive anymore, but Jim’s just a fountain of, he did a lot of work with Herbalife, and so, he was one of the earliest guys…

Brad Johnson: Did you attend a live Jim Rohn conference?

Wayne Wagner: Yeah, we attended a couple of and it was incredible.

Brad Johnson: Wow. That’s one guy. I won’t take this off track, but I was first exposed to his audio, so I listened to a ton of his CDs back in the day. And he’s almost like a preacher for businesses, like his voice inflection, but I’m…

Wayne Wagner: You and I can both hear ourselves. You listen to his CDs, I listen to his tapes.

Brad Johnson: Here we go. But you saw him live, which is awesome. It’s kind of like you saw the Beatles in concert. That’s like Jim Rohn for thought leaders. He actually birthed Tony Robbins. He was a Jim Rohn guy. Darren Hardy was a Jim Rohn guy. So, yeah, but anyway, go back to Rohn, please.

Wayne Wagner: Jim Rohn had the saying, he said, “Listen, man is the only of all of God’s creatures that doesn’t do all he can. You never see a tree grow half as tall as it can. You never see a cheetah chasing gazelle half as fast as it can. You never see a gazelle run from the cheetah half as fast as it can. All of creation brings honor to its creator by doing its max and becoming all that it can be, except mankind.” And so, if we mix that with a mindset, kind of a faith-based mindset on stewardship that we’re given one life, we’re given one time, one season, and our lives are a mess, they will one day be gone and they will end quickly. But we stand as stewards. And as stewards, we should be becoming all that we can as an act of service to our Creator.

Now, whatever that is in your vernacular, in context, but whatever the greater is in how you articulate your own path and own faith, but if we’re going to give an account one day, I want to be found a faithful servant. And there’s no empirical evidence that leaving money radically improves our kids. And I heard it’s put this way recently. It’s not what we leave to our kids, it’s what we leave in our kids.

Chris Smith and I are having some conversations about Family Brand and that kind of stuff. And increasingly, we’re going to be including that vernacular and the Family Brand work in our work with clients because ultimately, what’s happening and we’re doing this for our own family is how do we build and manage wealth to give. Now, we had a private school that we were responsible for. And we joke in our family that, hey, by 2008, we had kind of a fast-growing financial tree in the backyard and we started using a chainsaw to trim it to get so that we could go give the ministry. And we picked our heads up 13 years later and we had a 15-year-old three-foot high financial stump in the backyard, but what we didn’t have was a 40-foot tree that was bearing fruit that would have been ultimately exponentially bigger than what we were giving every year.

And so, I think that’s part of the stewardship is to know to responsibly prune and give. So, the mission and the vision that we have with our kids today is that we want to build businesses and we want to train our kids to be tree farmers. If every business is a tree and every tree is being grown and groomed and pruned so that for decades to come, those trees can be pruned and opportunities given to the least of these, and money can be given to mission and ministry and organizations that are improving lives of the frailest among us.

This year, we did a big matching contribution to a group called Foster the Family that works with recruiting, training, and supporting foster families. And that was really against the backdrop of what we see coming down the pike, and again, we’re not going to get into the politics of this, but when abortion gets pushed back to the states, it’s going to be the red states that kind of put the kibosh on abortion. And so, you’re going to have those inner cities. They’re already broken foster care systems where kids won’t have young people trapped in an unexpected pregnancy won’t have the option to have an abortion. And so, there will be more kids born into those unsupported situations and more of those kids will end up in the foster care system.

So, we want to partner long term with Foster the Family to help recruit, train, and support foster parents so they can step into that void because we see that as a, hey– my wife and I went to a private Christian school. And so, once a year they said, hey, next Tuesday, you can either go to school all day or you can get on this bus and go down to Washington, DC, and go to the March for Life and go, hey, we need to end abortion. And so, bus ride down to DC it was to avoid a day of classes.

So, for 50 years, Christians did that. Well, Christians can say we won the war. It’s now back at the states. The Supreme Court ruled that game’s over. No, no, no, hey, Christians, don’t go home, don’t put your checkbooks away because now, there’s going to be kids born that would not have other bitwise been born, which in your context, your faith, it’s supposed to be a good thing, right? But now, those moms need support, those kids need support. So, let’s step in and step up.

So, the vision that we’re casting with our kids is to start businesses, grow those businesses, train our kids to be tree farmers, and not that we would die with the biggest net worth, but that we would die with the biggest impact and be able to give more and more way to causes that are impactful. And then, ultimately, what May and I would love to be able to do is to be able to duplicate ourselves and about 30 other entrepreneurial families where they’re starting businesses, they’re running businesses, and we might be mentors, we might be sponsors, we might be partners, investment partners, or otherwise. But we want to duplicate ourselves 30 times before we die should the Lord give us enough breath and enough time to do that.

Brad Johnson: Well, thanks. Thanks for sharing that vision. And it’s cool. I mean, the name of your company is Vizionary Wealth. So, you’re living in to the name of what you’re all about. And I’ve just seen it to be very true in how you show up every time we’re at the same experiences together and how you pour into the community.

You’re the first guy. I know we’ve got the private Facebook group. You’re one of the first guys every time we have a new member join to welcome them and say, “Hey, welcome. Excited to get to know you.” So, thank you for just being a pillar in our community. And I think this is a good time, we’re getting a little philosophical here. We’re talking business, we’re talking life. That’s what this podcast is all about. So, I would love to hear Wayne Wagner’s definition of what it means to do business and do life.

Wayne Wagner: I’ve listened enough to these podcast episodes. I should have known this one was coming. So, I probably should have put some– and Brad, for me, there’s not a deep, hard separation between doing business and doing life. I mean, we want to be in business with people we can help, people we like doing business with. We don’t want clients who when we see their phone number show up, it’s like, oh, gosh. We try not to hire those clients. We try not to have them hire us. We’ve offloaded a couple of clients. We’ve encouraged a few other clients and a few clients to go elsewhere over the years.

But doing business and doing life for us is really all about stewardship. And so, one of the lines we’ve got in our family is we’re Wagners, we do big things. And what we mean by that is we’re not afraid to take on big stuff. And that’s not just big stuff on a business front, it’s also big stuff on the home front.

So, this past year, we spent two weeks in the Maldives as a family, which is it’s like a 19-hour trip to get there and three airplane rides. So, it’s not easy to get there, but we do big trips. So, when my daughter graduated high school, we spent three and a half weeks running around Europe. My son graduated high school, and he and I and Trent Booth and his son Jake all went to Kauai, Hawaii for two weeks and did hike and man stuff for a couple of weeks. And so, for us doing business and doing life is do business, add value, create great opportunities to expand the way our clients view life and do life. And then, on the life side, travel all over the world and do amazing things.

Brad Johnson: Well, I think that’s a great definition. I’ve seen you live it.

Wayne Wagner: Thank you.

Brad Johnson: As always, I enjoy our conversation. They’re always deep, they’re never surface level. It’s always about stuff that matters. And so, just thanks for showing up how you always do, Wayne, and thanks for carving out the time today to share your wisdom and knowledge with the listeners. So, until we cross paths, hopefully here in the near future. Thanks.

Wayne Wagner: My whole team’s coming to Lawrence, not-too-distant future, so we’re…

Brad Johnson: Well, tell them to get ready for the sandbar, and they can Google it and they’ll figure out what that means. But it’s a nice little hole in the wall. Well, we’ll introduce you to when you come to town.

Wayne Wagner: Sounds great. Look forward to it. Thanks so much, Brad.

Brad Johnson: All right. Until next time.


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

The Triad member statements reflect their own experience which may not be representative of all Triad Member experiences, and their appearances were not paid for.

Copyright ©️ 2023 Triad Partners. All rights reserved. TP11233252252


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