Apr 22 2022
My way, your way or the highway?
By Matt Pais
Whether working with a new team member or a client who refuses to adapt to recommendations, advisors always have challenges to handle. During a recording of the MDRT Podcast, our panel discussed difficult interpersonal circumstances and how they worked to resolve them.
Peter Jason Byrne, a 14-year MDRT member from Coorparoo, Queensland, Australia
Danielle J. Genier, CLU, CFP, a 23-year MDRT member from Timmins, Ontario, Canada
Jonathan Godshall Comacho, MBA, LUTCF, an 8-year MDRT member from Puebla, Mexico
Randall D. Kaufmann, a 41-year MDRT member from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA
Kaufmann: I’m a long-time advisor, and I think the challenge that I and others face in our situation is transitioning our practices. I’m dealing with generational changes between millennials and Gen Xers, and it’s been very challenging to convey my values for client service, whether it’s singing “Happy Birthday” or stopping by to see clients unannounced because they have become like friends. I try to persuade some of my other younger advisors to do the same thing, but that has been a real challenge. The numbers aren’t the issue. The date isn’t the issue. Planning isn’t the issue. It’s how we’re going to be touching those clients going forward. I’m very concerned that face-to-face contact and that personal touch ultimately will go away if I’m not there.
Byrne: I think in your situation I’d be asking the client what they want from the firm. You’ve done things naturally because that is who you are, but that doesn’t mean it’s important to the client. What would be important for them to stay with your firm? When my dad left the business, it was harrowing. My dad did it this way, and I do it a different way. But above all, the clients knew that we’ll still help them at claim time. We still have their best interests at heart. It’s the fundamentals of care, and clients know that the business is still there to look after them and their families. I think sometimes I overthink how important I am in the process.
Kaufmann: We’ve started to do that, and I’m beginning to see some positive signs. Opening up and forgetting that my way is the best way and remembering that there are other ways. It’s not progressing as fast as I want based on where I am, but it’s definitely progressing in the right direction.
Camacho: I’ve been in this business seven years, and at the end of last year, my wife decided to join the practice. So that’s been a challenge because I’ve been used to doing things my way, like you said. Now not only do I have a partner, I have a partner-wife, so I don’t have total control at all anymore. It’s been fine. Many things have changed; many things haven’t. I think it’s been 11 months already, and I think everything has been great in the end.
Kaufmann: What’s her role? Is she an advisor as well within the firm?
Camacho: Yes, she’s an advisor. But she’s not going to be an advisor all the time. She will become a developer for new advisors later. But now she’s an advisor because she needs to know the role from the bottom all the way to the top. The whole scenario was difficult because it wasn’t like a new worker or a new collaborator. It was my wife. So, you can’t say things like you normally say to people you pay. It’s different.
Genier: I think it’s not necessarily the information you were going to give her; it was how she was going to receive it. Somebody from the outside is going to look at you as an expert, receive your information and accept it. Whereas with your spouse it’s, “Don’t use that tone of voice with me” or “Why are you talking to me like that?” So that’s where you have to be more careful.
We’re a very process-driven practice, and we do budget sessions with clients. I’d say 85% to 90% of clients accept the budget process and thrive on it once they get rolling. But I have that other 10% who do not, and it drives me crazy that I can’t get them to change. Part of that is they’re people who are really close to me — some of my relatives. If they could follow the budget process, financially it would be good. Sometimes the goal is to educate their children without incurring debt. You have to put money aside, but they can’t get their finances in order. They must realize where they spend the money and the budget process. That part of it I find very frustrating. I try to give them a goal. I work with them weekly. I’ve tried many ways, and I can’t seem to get through to them. I just won’t accept that the answer is you won’t get them all. The process that we bring them through is so simple, but a client has to want to change.
Byrne: It’s like diets and exercise. There are people who will diet, or they will exercise, and we all know what we should eat and shouldn’t eat. But that still doesn’t mean we won’t do it.
Kaufmann: Maybe they need to hear advice from a third party or maybe some outside influence. Sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with some family members or even close acquaintances, the advice you want to give them and the support and help you’re trying to provide is received better from another voice. Same communication, same process, but presented from a different person. Better yet, tell a story of why this person did this and we want you to be on this side. I just found out I’m not the best messenger all the time, and I’ve learned to try to bring other messengers into the process. Sometimes then you can accomplish what we need to accomplish.
Genier: Thank you. I’m going to try that one.
Hear the full conversation at mdrt.org/podcast.
Peter Byrne firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Godshall Camacho email@example.com
Danielle Genier firstname.lastname@example.org
Randall Kaufmann email@example.com