Jul 01 2022 / Round the Table Magazine
Work's a beach
By Matt Pais
A common maxim for advisors distinguishes between working in your business from working on your business.
But the opposite of working in your business, really, is working out of it. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that productivity can happen in different and in more fruitful ways away from the office. Indeed, many MDRT members do their strategic thinking and planning in nontraditional places. Where do they go, and how have they benefited?
Sun and sand
Strategic initiatives and secluded beach usually are not used in the same sentence. Yet, for more than a decade, Derek J. Reed, CFP, CLU, has brought his eight-person team for Beauport Financial Beach Day at the end of the summer (when the greenhead flies are gone) to prepare for a 90-day sprint to finish the year strong. “There’s just something nice about planning and accomplishing a task in your swimsuit,” said the 21-year MDRT member from Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA, noting that a picnic lunch and a dip in the ocean divide the day’s agenda. “It’s a comfortable, open, sharing environment in a nature setting, without the stress of answering the phone, people popping into your workspace or constantly checking email.” The work portion involves planning a client advisory board dinner meeting, a charity-themed holiday open house, a wine-tasting event for clients or a new investment service. The relaxation part includes fishing and a boat cruise. But first, to set the tone, everyone shares a gratitude moment shortly after stepping onto the sand — something the team also does in the office each Monday morning.
Run toward success
When Shawn R. Bjornsson, CPCA, takes his long weekend runs, about 10K to 30K every Saturday and Sunday morning, he isn’t luxuriating in the scenery or counting down the distance to finishing his jog. He’s reflecting on what went well and what didn’t during the previous week, which leads to a great start for the following week. On solo runs, Bjornsson plans new demographics to contact, including pre-retirement clients and young entrepreneurs needing benefit assistance. Sometimes he leaves a message for his office about ideas from a run. On group runs, he learns from friends what their advisors do and don’t do well. In fact, the 24-year MDRT member from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, sees a correlation between the more he runs and his professional success. After joining a friend’s running group in 2019, he increased his run frequency, completed more marathons and qualified for Court of the Table for 2021. He is on target for Top of the Table qualification this year. “I never realized how great endorphins are,” he said. “When you feel great physically and mentally, nothing is impossible. Enthusiasm and being positive is contagious. It’s so important for growth in business. When you set goals and tell people and achieve them, then clients, friends and family take notice and keep encouraging.”
I have an ADD mind, and it works best when I have a lot of stimuli around me, not just sitting in silence.
— Jason L. Smith
Let inspiration flow
When Robelynn H. Abadie, RFC, CAP, wants to brainstorm, she doesn’t sit at her desk. The 27-year MDRT member from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, isolates at her river retreat to find the kind of quiet necessary for deep thinking. “I could stare at the water and really get in the zone of creativity,” she said. “My organizational abilities seemed to take hold, ideas would freely develop, and I would take notes on my thoughts and ideas.” Abadie escapes with a specific project on her mind and finds the structure and organization of the work materializing after a few days of clear thinking. In fact, time away takes the project from beginning to end. “It is extremely helpful to me in my business when setting new goals, implementing new projects and refining the processes
I had in place,” she added.
Jason L Smith didn’t need the caffeine boost from coffee to write his book “The Bucket Plan.” He needed the coffee shop. “I have an ADD mind, and it works best when I have a lot of stimuli around me, not just sitting in silence,” said the 17-year MDRT member from Westlake, Ohio, USA. “I need the smell of the coffee, the people coming and going and the overall stimulation of the environment. I notice it keeps me from getting distracted from other things that come up when working at home or in the office.” Smith goes to his local shop when it opens in the morning and stays at least 30 minutes and up to 2½ hours. Besides creating the routine to write the book before his workday started, the coffee shop visits led to daily journaling, providing reflection, gratitude and intention for the rest of the day.
A husband and wife spending two nights at a hotel usually is a leisurely getaway, not a professional development outing. But that’s exactly what happens when Jeremy Mark Wellington, Dip PFS, Dip CII, and his wife/director, Donna, drive 30 minutes to the coast for a quarterly strategic debrief to review their notes and consider improvements for the company and client services. Since beginning these strategic getaways in 2016, the 11-year MDRT member from Truro, England, UK, has consistently qualified for Top of the Table and made changes, such as reducing overhead by moving from internal staffing to outsourcing, introducing an advanced back-office system, implementing a paper-free client annual review process and establishing cybersecurity measures. “If we find ourselves stuck on a particular idea, being able to gaze at the ocean for a few moments generally helps to unlock the positive, creative side of our brains,” Wellington said.
A work trip and a staycation
Joshua Ketchie, CPA, has two purposes for out-of-the-office work: business planning and staff planning. For the former, the six-year MDRT member from Marietta, Georgia, USA, and his wife, Tegan, who runs operations for his practice, take a long weekend in January to visit nearby sites like Savannah, Georgia, or Ponce City Market, a local, hip place in Atlanta and, yes, leave the three kids at home. While away, the Ketchies zero in on timely topics for their practice, such as onboarding a team member, revamping the investment process and improving client experience, and family goals, such as time off and work-life balance at home. But the first day is set aside for fun through dinner, wine and a board game, with no phones allowed. For staff planning, the Ketchies bring their growing team to their home. “It’s important to bind the team together, eat a meal and just enjoy the time together,” Ketchie said. “You get cozier in a home environment than in an office break room. That intimacy is important.”