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Dec 23 2021 / Round the Table Magazine

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Setting intentions for a successful year

Establishing annual goals and tracking productivity lead you to achieve more.

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When December comes and you look back at the year’s achievements, how do they compare with your expectations? A February 2021 webinar hosted by the U.S. and Canadian Community Leaders featured Stephen Kagawa, FSS, LUTCF, a 28-year MDRT member from Monrovia, California, USA, moderating a discussion with John J. Demboski, CFP, a 16-year MDRT member from Santa Barbara, California, USA; Jennifer P. Mann, MBA, CFP, a 17-year MDRT member from Chicago, Illinois, USA; Dana Mitchell, CFP, CLU, a seven-year MDRT member from Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and MDRT Second Vice President Gregory B. Gagne, ChFC, a 22-year MDRT member from Exeter, New Hampshire, USA. They shared tips for establishing goals to bring success throughout the year.

Kagawa: What do you do at the beginning of the year to define your goals and your objectives?

Mitchell: Going into the year, I used to set goals based on new assets under management or insurance that we wanted to sell. I’ve stopped doing that because I can’t really control a new prospect’s assets or insurance needs, and I found it discouraging. Now, we count how many ideal clients we have, those perfect clients who we serve, who we want to replicate again and again. We know that not every client is perfect, but I know that if we bring in enough ideal clients, we’ll have the right assets under management and the insurance will come. 

Mann: Several years ago, when my study group was forming, we hired a business coach because we had very different practices and needed common ground. She turned us on to Jim Horan’s book “The One Page Business Plan.” It really helped each of us define our businesses. It’s a workbook that helps you nail down your business plan. It starts with a longer-term vision and breaks it down into action items. It’s something that each year I tweak, but it shouldn’t really have big tweaks because my vision is for the long run. 

Gagne: I used to track all kinds of different numbers just for the sake of trying to track the numbers, like assets under management and top-line revenue. I’ve been able to kind of synthesize it all the way down to one major dial that we really need to pay attention to. My KPI is referrals — the right kind of referrals. I know that if I have the right amount and the right kind of referrals coming in the door, the rest is going to take care of itself, and it always does. It’s allowed me to get laser-focused on just checking that pipeline, making sure it’s filled and not worrying so much about the other minutia that we sometimes get ourselves caught up in.

Demboski: It’s always been helpful for me to use MDRT qualification levels as a relative metric of financial success. I know there’s been a consistent theme here of not setting a quantitative dollar goal, because that would be putting the focus on the wrong thing. But at the end of the day, I think it is helpful to have a quantitative end “results” goal that will help us set our sights high. One of the big benefits we receive from MDRT over the years is from going to the meetings and meeting people who are no different from us, but who are doing triple or even 10 times the production that we are doing. It causes us to think: I could be helping so many more people, I could be doing so much more. You can’t help but get excited about this. Look at your big quantitative goal, but then figure out how to translate that into qualitative activity that will result in attaining the goal. I suggest using these qualitative activity metrics as an accountability tool for ensuring that we are on track toward eventual achievement of our quantitative financial goals.

Kagawa: What has to happen in your business to make this your best year ever?

Mann: For this to be the best year ever, I have to bring in more clients who I enjoy working with and who energize me. My goals are bringing in more of those people, finding more balance in my life and being able to attend more learning opportunities, whether it’s through the MDRT Annual Meeting or things like this webinar that provide me with great ideas to continue to grow and change my business.

Demboski: First, I need to put on blinders. I see myself as a racehorse running down a track, and I just have to keep running. That’s been key to our success during this challenging time of COVID, and social and political unrest. There are just so many distractions that can take us away from the critical work we need to stay focused on of serving, giving and lifting others up to make their lives better.

Second is mastering the digital side. Our business is so emotional. We need to be able to look someone right in the eye and have them know they can trust us. They need to know that we’re recommending this planning strategy or giving product advice because it’s what’s right for them. Unfortunately, digital interfaces are very poor at conveying human emotion, so we each need to figure out how to adapt, so as to achieve a digital “translation” of our authentic care for another’s well-being. People in other industries have been communicating in the digital world for years, and we now have to figure that out as soon as possible! I don’t think this digital interface for communications is going to go away, even if COVID-19 were to just disappear tomorrow.

Mitchell: I learned two years ago from my business coach to carefully track my top 20 list, those relationships that are going to become the great clients. Every morning, I need to open that top 20 list and move some of those cases forward. I need to pay attention to it every single day because that really boosts my revenue. I block time in my calendar to do it so I never forget. So much other noise happens. That list of cases is where all the revenue comes from, so I’m going to open it every morning.

Gagne: There are several things that’ll make this year the best year ever. One is not waiting for the pandemic to end and carrying on regardless of the circumstances that surround each of us. One thing I’ve learned during this time from MDRT and its members is that they’re forward thinkers. They lean into the challenges, the obstacles. In March 2020, my study group started getting together and brainstorming every single week, just talking about what was working well. We were not waiting for something to change; we were making change happen ourselves.


John Demboski john@dcfis.com

Gregory Gagne gregmdrt@gmail.com

Stephen Kagawa skagawa@thepacificbridgecompanies.com

Jennifer Mann jmann@lenoxadvisors.com

Dana Mitchell dana@basiswealth.com

View the full archived webinar or short videos from this conversation at mdrt.org.