Jul 01 2022 / Round the Table Magazine
Seeing with fresh eyes
By Matt Pais
“Stubborn.” That’s how Domenick D’Andrea, AIF, CRC, describes his past outlook about an established system of caring for clients and autonomous operation that meant only being accountable to himself and his family. Why would the six-year MDRT member from Westbury, New York, USA, want a partner stepping on his practice’s flexibility and revenue?
That was until he attended a meeting where his contemporaries raved about how partnering with a younger advisor freed up their time and helped service more clients in more ways, among other benefits. So D’Andrea decided to take up an advisor on his interest in joining forces. Four years later, that now-partner, two-year MDRT member Stephan Shatarah, CRC, CPFA, has helped reconfigure the practice while setting it on course for the future.
“Everything I was worried about ended up being false and turned into a positive,” said D’Andrea of Shatarah, who is 20 years his junior. “Some of our top clients are here because of him cultivating business I never would have found.”
In fact, the increased perspective and performance in the business — which handles retirement, investments, life insurance and more for about 600 family and individual clients — are so varied that it’s best to take the advantages one by one:
D’Andrea selected Shatarah in May 2018 because his skills and personality fit. Then he tasked the younger advisor with reaching out to 90 clients whom he’d had trouble reaching. Through persistent phone calls, letters and online searches, Shatarah found and rekindled relationships with more than enough clients to prove his determination and abilities.
His specialty became database mining, going through client books to find opportunities D’Andrea may have missed while his partner goes out to network, prospect and attend conferences. In August 2020, the two advisors fully combined their books, increasing D’Andrea’s roster of 350 to 400 by more than 50%. Plus, now Shatarah can tell clients he’s working with a more experienced advisor, and D’Andrea can tell clients he’s working with a younger advisor who will be there if he decides to retire. (D’Andrea plans to add another younger advisor in the next five to 10 years.)
Some of our top clients are here because of him cultivating business I never would have found.
— Domenick D’Andrea
Early in the partnership, the two advisors went on appointments together in person, after which D’Andrea would ask for Shatarah’s take on the “good, bad and ugly” of the meeting. It was then that Shatarah identified how quickly D’Andrea sometimes spoke, not giving the client the chance to understand everything.
“If he saw something he felt I could improve on, that’s teaching him also what can be better,” D’Andrea said. “If I didn’t take that opinion and listen to it, we were never going to work as a team.”
Shatarah’s fresh perspective also helped D’Andrea realize that his enthusiasm might sometimes come across as pushy or lead to interrupting the client. With Shatarah’s input, D’Andrea has been more conscious of that in the last four years and has seen better results from clients who feel he is listening to them. Likewise, D’Andrea has helped Shatarah realize that presenting
a large quantity of printouts and data can be overwhelming for the client, who just needs to hear the passion in your voice and understand how what you’re presenting will benefit them.
During the pandemic, any appointments together have been done via Zoom, but the opportunity to provide constructive criticism in both directions remains.
If he saw something he felt I could improve on, that’s teaching him also what can be better.
— Domenick D’Andrea
Shatarah’s knack for finding elusive clients can’t be overstated. In one case, a retired client moved to Florida, and D’Andrea wanted to introduce her to new products that could help her. But her phone number and email changed, and D’Andrea struggled to track her down.
Not only did Shatarah find her, he communicated with her, handled all the paperwork and helped her finalize a better retirement vehicle.
“Many times clients say, ‘Oh, I thought you had my new number,’” D’Andrea said. “This client is happy because we’re in contact with her again, and she knows how to contact Stephan or me. And she has.”
In addition, Shatarah’s knowledge of investments has allowed him to build the practice’s financial models, freeing D’Andrea to work more on the insurance and relationships side of the business.
A different personality
Another reason not to hire a version of yourself — beyond the increased skill set discussed above — is the possibility that a client might not mesh with you but would connect better with the personality of your partner. D’Andrea acknowledges that he may have taken it personally when a client left after eight years to work with another advisor. But that relationship was repaired by having Shatarah’s more positive, laid-back personality there to reconnect without any of the baggage from the previous interaction.
Having multiple advisors with different personalities obviously works with new and current clients as well. If D’Andrea has a client relationship that could be better, it might be a sign that they would have a stronger connection with Shatarah.
“Five years ago, I would have just kept butting heads with the client until he gave up calling me or I lost them. Instead, it’s a chance for me to step back and put my ego aside,” D’Andrea said. “Clients like it because they don’t have to look for another advisor at another company, and something clicks where it didn’t before.”
Plus, Shatarah has been more able and interested in working nights or weekends, dividing the time and work so D’Andrea can have dinner with his family or see his daughter perform in a show.
Becoming like family
As a business relationship develops, it’s important to show that work isn’t the only thing that matters. D’Andrea has been happy to meet Shatarah’s friends and family members and hear about how his partner talks about him, establishing value and trust right from the outset.
“He tells them that he feels like I’m his big brother and that he knows I take care of him and that I helped him grow,” D’Andrea said. “It’s been a wonderful growth experience for both of us.”
Setting the course
This, of course, isn’t to say that this partnership didn’t bring along some growing pains. When first working together, D’Andrea and Shatarah had to identify how they would divide the workload. D’Andrea now realizes he unintentionally gave his new partner — who was reluctant to speak up — too much to do. This led to D’Andrea inviting more open dialogue. Now the practice is, he says, “as close to a well-oiled machine as can be.”
“You know the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” he adds. “I’ve learned and grown so much because of how Stephan has helped me to become so open to everything. He’s turned me into a new dog.”