In a Nutshell: The largest financial advisory firms have developed consistent marketing programs that deliver a predictable stream of ideal clients…and there’s just a handful of different ways to do it.

Guest: Brad Johnson. Brad is the Vice President of Advisor Development for Advisors Excel. He’s also the host of a great podcast for financial advisors called The Elite Advisor Blueprint.

My Key Takeaway: To get your marketing machine humming:

  1. Understand that marketing is NOT optional. Referral marketing is not enough. Choose from a list of five broad marketing buckets (with an infinite number of tactical ways to execute), and implement aggressively and consistently.
  2. Marketing is math. Don’t let your emotions distract you from the key numbers that will determine how and when a particular marketing initiative will pay off. 
  3. Make practicing a practice. Once you identify the most effective marketing strategy for your ideal client pool, practice and pursue mastery of it. 

Also Learn:

1. Why strong marketing that keeps your business growing double digits each year is one of the most effective ways of retaining top talent.

2. How one well-produced piece of content (like a book) can be repurposed, sliced and diced, and become an evergreen source of more content (like blog posts, short videos, and social media posts).

3. What sets apart a valuable proprietary process from a generic commodity that prospects can get from any advisor.

Complementary Episode: Pair this with my conversation with David Bach, co-founder of AE Wealth Management, where we discuss additional ways Advisors Excel has dramatically grown their assets under management. Listen/read here.

Resources Featured In This Episode

Advisors Excel Visit Brad Johnson and his team.

The Elite Advisor Blueprint Listen to Brad Johnson’s podcast, which is one of my personal favorites. 

Process vs Product: What Financial Advisors Can Learn From Most Successful Pitch Shark Tank History A video blog by Brad Johnson about what Shark Tank can teach you about setting yourself apart from your competition. 

“Way of the Warrior Kid” by Jocko Willink For all you parents out there, Brad Johnson recommends this series of books that teach kids personal development. Check out the podcast too

“The Internet of Money” by Andreas Antonopoulos Brad Johnson says, “If you want kind of a on-on-one on crypto and Bitcoin, I think the audio book is maybe two and a half hours long. And it’s a great breakdown.”

Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.

Full Transcript

Steve Sanduski: Hey everyone. Welcome back to Between Now and Success. I’m your host Steve Sanduski and my guest today is Brad Johnson. Brad is the vice president of advisor development for Advisors Excel and he’s also the host of a great podcast for financial advisors called The Elite Advisor Blueprint. And I am a big fan and regular listener of that show. Brad is a firm believer in this idea that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Now you may have heard that idea comes from Jim Rohn and in Brad’s case he and his company surround themselves with the very best people. And in today’s show we discuss what is in the DNA of a fast growing company, Advisors Excel. We talk about how do you build a marketing machine in your business. And he has some great insights on how they’ve worked with advisors and the different things that they’ve done to help them build marketing machines.

And then we end the show with Brad sharing a few key insights from his own podcast, including a very touching story from one of his guests about the late coach John Wooden. So please enjoy my conversation with Brad Johnson.

Brad, welcome to the show.

Brad Johnson: Glad to be here, Steve. Thanks for having me on.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah, well this is a real treat because you and I have a bit of a background back in, gosh, probably 10 years ago ish. I’m going to say I was able to speak at a conference with your company Advisors Excel and had an opportunity to be a guest on your show. So it’s awesome here to get you on my show. So you have an amazing background. You’ve been riding a rocket ship at Advisors Excel for I guess since about 2007 and so I want to get a little bit of that story, but before we go there, I’ve got a question for you. A little blast out of the past. So are you open to put you on the hot seat here for a second?

Brad Johnson: Let’s do it.

Steve Sanduski: Okay. So let’s go back to college. I know you wanted to be a football player, but you had a pretty devastating knee injury. So tell me about what happened while you were playing football and how did you overcome that and what lesson did you learn from that?

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Wow. You did your research, Steve. I’m impressed. So I grew up playing pretty much every sport that you could play in small town Kansas, which was basically baseball, football, track, basketball, and basically went to JUCO straight out of high school to play college football, small, little tiny, tiny, barely even find it on a map, Highland, Kansas. So Highland Community College. And quite honestly they gave just about everybody books and tuition scholarships. So that wasn’t that big of an accomplishment, but kind of worked my way up the depth chart and ended up all conference in the Jay Hawk conference, which is kind of mainly Kansas schools and decided I was going to try my luck at a four year. So I transferred to Emporia State, which is a division two in Kansas and this would’ve been my junior year of college and I was competing for a starting spot at free safety. And literally the very last day of spring ball, which would have been just the lead up to I guess I transferred my sophomore year, so I would’ve been going into my junior year.

In a scrimmage I didn’t even hit anybody, literally was decelerating and just my right knee just came out, tore my ACL. And really the first injury I’d ever had really playing sports. I’d stayed pretty healthy. And I just remember we had this old athletic trainer that has since passed away, “Doc” Baxter, and he’d been there for, gosh, 30 years. And I mean he was just the guy you would think of when you think of like an old college athletic trainer. I’m over there rolling around on the ground. He’s just walking slowly over to me. Not a care in the world. He’s seen this 100 times before. And I remember he told me, he thought I sprained it, sprained my knee, and I was pretty sure I didn’t. And so I went and got a second opinion and immediately they knew I tore my ACL and “Doc” Baxter’s like, “Yeah I was kind of thinking that you might’ve torn your ACL after the fact.”

And so anyway, that the lesson I learned from that, it was pretty devastating. I mean emotionally sports was a big part of my life at that time and I pretty much made the decision, went and got the surgery and rehab the whole next season. And my coach was kind enough, he let me travel with the team and kind of be an assistant coach. And so I just basically spent that whole year learning. And in hindsight it was actually really good for me because I was transferring into a new defensive scheme. We ran a four to five, which is pretty different. It’s three defensive backs, a strong safety, a free safety, a weak safety. And so that year really gave me, as I was rehabbing my knee, it gave me time to understand the system at a really in depth level and quite honestly just time to really, really work on the physical side.

And by the time I came back I had a better vertical, faster 40 time. And I just really, it gave me a year to mature. So I think really the lesson looking back is, adversity it’s what you do after the fact that really defines you versus the adversity itself. And sometimes that can be a blessing in disguise. And the back part of that story is by the time my senior year rolled around that I had took a medical redshirt. So it actually set me back a year. So I was a fifth year senior and it just so happened that I aligned up with a great senior class. We went to the playoffs for the first time in the history of our school division two playoffs, played a little, they’re actually close to you, you know Winona State in Minnesota, familiar with them at all?

Steve Sanduski: Yep.

Brad Johnson: So that was Winona State was where we played our first round the playoffs. They got us. But it gave me a chance to actually finish on a high note, ended up all conference. And so I kind of made the track back, but it was definitely a lot of hard work to get back there. So that’s a really long answer. But I wanted to give you a little bit of a backstory of kind of the before and after and what that led to.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah, well I appreciate you sharing that. So it gives me a sense of your background, your tenacity, your competitiveness. And I liked how you said that, and I’m paraphrasing here. Basically the event, we’re all going to have events in our life in your case, it was the blown ACL, but it’s our response to that event that really is going to determine the outcome here. So you could have just been pissed off and said, “I’m done with football, I’m going to go whatever.” But no, you had a different response. You came back, you paid your dues and you ended up having a good outcome. So I think a really nice lesson. So again, thanks for sharing that. So coming out of college. So then what happened? And I want to get to where you join this rocket ship. So tell me a little bit about that.

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Brad Johnson: Yes, so it’s interesting. My college football career kind of ushered me into my first career right out of college, at Emporia State, they had just on campus interviews and one of the companies, which is a little bit infamous now, Payless ShoeSource, their corporate offices based out of Topeka. And literally right after one of my biggest games ever, their CTO came down and interviewed me and he was at the football game and he said, “Hey, that last game you guys played in was crazy.” Of course he looked at the resume and saw I was a football player and I had just so happened, made the play of my career where I picked off a pass running in for a touchdown for the winning score with two minutes left. So I mean, you couldn’t have timed the interview lead in like any better.

And so I’m typically a pretty humble guy, but I was like, I can’t really pass this softball up, but he just threw at me. So I said, “Yeah, it was actually me at the end.” And so we just talked about football for the first 15 minutes for the interview. But my major in college was computer information systems. And so that was my first job right out of college. Took me to Topeka, Kansas and worked at Payless ShoeSource in IT for three years. And I just kind of it was a good company, good people, but I just, I was in a cube, I was coding and it just wasn’t me. I was the social person, the guy that liked to connect. And I just really, what took me into finance was I actually started my CFP courses while at Payless.

And I interviewed at kind of the standard where most guys got their start. I interviewed at Ed Jones, Ameriprise, John Hancock, ended up taking a job at John Hancock to be a financial advisor and was just getting ready to relocate when one of my good college friends guy named Shawn Sparks, who’s still at Advisors Excel said, “Hey, if you’re quitting your job anyway, you should come check out this new little startup company, Advisors Excel. You might not have to move out of Topeka, if it works out.” And so I sat down and interviewed with Dave Cody and Derek, the three founders and that was 2007 and became, I think the 12th employee if I remember right. And fast forward to 2019 we have over 700 employees. And it’s just, it’s crazy. I mean how quickly it’s grown and just looking back it seems like just the other day. But yeah, I was just, I was fortunate to right place, right time, have some good connections to get into a great company and then just work really hard once I got here.

Steve Sanduski: So just briefly tell me what does Advisors Excel do? And then I want you to share, what’s in the DNA of Advisors Excel? Because I’m really interested in learning. Is there something about the company from the beginning in terms of the philosophy, the culture that was created, anything along those lines that really helped this company grow as fast as it did? So first of all just what is Advisors Excel, what do they do then we’ll explore that second part of that question.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, so Advisors Excel by definition. When I first started was an insurance brokerage company, we sat in between the insurance carriers that created the product and the independent financial advisors that utilize the product for clients building out their portfolios and their retirement plans. We really started with the focus in the indexed annuity space. And since it’s interesting, I’m guessing probably the opposite of most of your listenership. We started with the insurance side, then bolted on a life insurance division and then have since evolved into an RIA an asset manager. And just for a little bit of perspective, we’ll do seven or eight billion of indexed annuities this year, which makes us the largest distributor of those in the US and then on the life insurance side, about 50 million target or so, which is about top five if you don’t count a lot of the aggregators out there.

And then on the wealth management side, I think we’re right at about four years old and we’re pacing for almost 10 billion of assets under management. So really I guess we just added a MedSup division as well. So most of our advisors, they’re obviously they’re independent financial advisors, 90 to 95% of them are securities license, typically RIAs, although we have a group that are also teamed up with BD still and really just building holistic plans for retirees out there. Typically, the niche most of our advisors are serving. So that’s kind of an overview of the company. I don’t know if you want me to hit the pause button there if you have any followup questions or if you want me to go into kind of the DNA.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah. So I think that’s a great overview. So I want everyone listening to this to just get a sense for what the company does. And so we’re going to go, I think in a couple of directions here with our conversation today. So one is really about the company and I’d love to again get into the DNA. And then the second part is you have your own podcast and you’ve talked to some amazing people and at Advisors Excel, you’ve had amazing speakers. Because I think one of the things that your company does is you really try to surround yourself with the most amazing people. So I really want to learn some of the lessons that you’ve learned both…

Yeah. So I think that’s a great background on what Advisors Excel is. So I think our conversation is going to go in a couple of directions here. So one is I want to learn about what’s in the DNA of the company as I mentioned here just a moment ago. And then I also want to learn about your podcast. So you’ve had some amazing guests on your show. So we want to dive in to some of the lessons and key insights that you’ve picked up from your podcast guests.

And then I think maybe a third one is with Advisors Excel itself. Part of, I think your company DNA is you really want to surround yourself with the most amazing people. And so I know you’ve had a chance to meet some really incredible folks, so would love to learn any of the lessons you’ve picked up from them. And then of course your own insights. So you’ve had some great experience yourself. So I think there’s going to be lots of learning here, but let’s go into maybe the corporate DNA. What is it about the company that you think has enabled it to grow as fast as it has over the past 12 years or so?

Brad Johnson: I think if you go back to the Advisors Excel origin story, one of our four core principles is less means more. And if you go back to really the middle 2000s the insurance brokerage world was very… I’m trying to think of the best way to put this into words. It was basically if you had an insurance license, pretty much any brokerage company would work with you. It was kind of the wild, wild west sign up and see who would distribute products through you. And one of the things that when we started Advisors Excel, it was really focused on, we didn’t want to work with everyone.

We just wanted to work with the top 1 to 2% that were really trying to grow a business, not part timing it. And there were a lot of part-timers back in those. And really look at going back to the DNA of Advisors Excel. It was you took the smartest people in the room, the top 1 to 2% in our space. And it’s kind of the old Jim Rohn analogy of you’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with. Well, we just wanted all of the top players in the space and we wanted to get them around each other and openly share their best practices. And then really what Advisors Excel became was an aggregator of amazing ideas and all we were doing was packaging them, distributing them, complying them, and putting them in easy to consume format. Where if you were an advisor that wanted to grow your business, “Oh here’s an idea from a guy eight states away. He had that same issue. Here’s how he broke through that glass ceiling in his business.”

And really when we kind of defined success in financial services, I mean independent advisors, they’re all truly entrepreneurs at heart. It really came down to the core of marketing. So I guess rule number one was marketing. How do you get qualified prospects consistently on your calendar? Number two, really the client acquisition framework or appointment process, which was once you’ve got them on the calendar, what was the best systematic process to learn how to serve them at the highest level and to convert them to a client.

Brad Johnson: And really number three was once we saw them really clicking on all cylinders on the first two, which was filling the calendar consistently, consistently converting the right people that they could help the clients. It was oftentimes they became a victim of their own success, which meant everything else broke. It was kind of the chaos of a fast growing company. So then we really started focusing on helping turn traditionally sales people that had started out that way into CEO’s, which meant hiring, training, structuring their teams to where they could really to scale. And then the fourth world that once we got those first three worlds really working, it was now how do we make them the only store in town?

So, and typically that was around branding, PR and really just throwing gas on the fire of marketing to where they could really start to expand and franchise if they chose to. So that was really if you look at the DNA, it was find the top performers in the space, get them together on a consistent basis and let them all share ideas. And then we would consistently coach best practices from those top producers and top advisers and share them among the group.

Steve Sanduski: Well I think you’ve outlined a great framework here that we can really dig into. So let’s start with number one there. So marketing and you can pull any ideas from the folks that you’ve worked with, from guests you’ve had on your podcasts, from speakers you’ve had at your Advisors Excel conferences. So what are some of the key things as you think about marketing, financial advisor marketing? What are some key things advisors need to be thinking about?

Brad Johnson: Well, I think the first thing I would say is it’s not an option. It’s amazing to me how many advisors I see out there. They don’t realize that if you want to have any successful business, it starts with marketing. And I see this over and over and I think especially where I’ve really started to see it is as we’ve expanded and as our insurance kind of DNA where we started has merged into the RIA space. There’s many RIAs out there, very successful RIAs the 50, 100. 500 million, billion dollar RIAs where when I really deconstruct and sit down on a coaching call with them, they have almost a non-existent marketing plan. Their marketing plan is go buy other RIAs that have assets and will absorb them versus how do we organically create appointments on the calendar. Because what we’ve found, especially for offices that want to recruit and retain high caliber advisors, the stickiest thing you can do is keep their calendar full.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from many founders and CEOs of, “Wow, just when I get this advisor that they’re just starting to get it. We’ve got them a couple of years in and things are really starting to click. They quit and they go become my competition.” And that’s because they don’t see much benefit oftentimes to being part of your team versus being their own team and that’s where if you look at our upper echelon, these would be firms inside of Advisor Excel capturing 200, 300 million of assets organically on an annual basis through their marketing efforts. That’s a consistent theme is they’re not only putting appointments on the lead advisors calendar, but on every advisor’s calendar on their team where they’re typically booked out one to two weeks. So we can dive in and deconstruct some of the, I’d say more popular marketing funnels if you would like to do this that could be helpful.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah, let’s go into that and I think you start off with a great point there about marketing is we’ve got to make a decision first and foremost that we want to grow, and honestly not everyone does, and I was just on a call earlier today-

Brad Johnson: That’s true.

Steve Sanduski: … Is we’ve been in a long bull markets and advisors, businesses tend to grow 10% in recent years, almost like clockwork because the markets have done well. You get a few referrals and we have very high retention rates at most firms. And so we’re going to see reasonable growth just without having to do a lot of extra marketing effort. And so that’s, I think a key thing is people have to make a commitment that I do want to put extra effort, I want to put disproportionate energy into the marketing side and have a plan on that. So let’s just make the assumption here that the advisor has made the decision, absolutely I want to grow, I’m willing to do extra work to make it happen. Now I need some better ideas and a structure on how do I do that. So what are you guys seeing are some of the most successful marketing strategies? How do you guys approach that and working with an advisor who’s committed to growth?

Brad Johnson: So Steve, you bring up one other point that I think even comes before marketing. And so often I see marketing based on emotions rather than math. And typically that goes back to whatever the previous marketing effort was directly before that, right? So if they did a public event, it could be on a college campus, it could be a dinner event at Ruth’s Chris. There could be a lot of different options. But it’s funny how human beings are just wired to their viewpoint is framed on the most recent experience. And so the first thing to be successful in marketing is know your numbers.

When I look at marketing, I think one of the biggest mistakes that advisors make is they classify it as an expense rather than an investment. And if you just think about the human psychology around that, most people don’t like expenses. Those are no fun. Investments are fun, they grow. And what’s really interesting, going back to the common themes we see from our top producing, our top growth offices is the first thing they do is they understand their numbers. And they know if I spend $1 on a public seminar, here’s $5 on average that I returned for that marketing event. And so back to the slot machine analogy is if you were in Las Vegas and say you and your buddies get into some cocktails on the flight out and you make a bet, hey everybody’s throwing $100 into the very first slot machine and betting it all on one pool, that’d be nerve wracking, right?

But what if $400 pays out on that first pool? You’d be high fiving each other. And maybe the bet is you keep going until you burn through that first 100 well, if you were sitting there just pulling a slot machine and it was a $300 payout, a $400 payout, a $500 pay out and you just kept bouncing back and forth, you would never get up from that slot machine. And the truth is in financial services, when you actually know your numbers and have set marketing events that are done systematically, those are similar to the ROIs we often see. And so it really shifts that advisor’s perspective from, I’m not sure I can afford that to, if they’re in high growth mode, how many of these can I consistently do? What’s my market have the bandwidth for?

And so that’s one of the big things when it comes to marketing, is most of our offices love to market because it’s just a multiplication of how fast their firms can grow. And that’s on the insurance side and on the asset management side. So that’s a core differentiator I see with a lot of our offices when you compare them to, well I’d say the general market that’s out there.

Steve Sanduski: Okay. So in terms of some of the numbers, so let’s take seminars as an example. Very popular. What are some of the numbers that you might track if someone is doing seminars?

Brad Johnson: If I was the marketing director and tracking success? Right, right.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah. So you talk about the importance of the numbers. Okay, I’m doing seminars. What do I need to be monitoring here to determine am I getting the right ROI on this?

Brad Johnson: So we put together a tool on this. In fact, it was a give on one of my podcasts and I can throw you the link if you want to gift it to any of your audience. I’m happy to. Just think of it like start at the top of the funnel. Right? And so most offices, how would they be inviting? When I first got into the business, it was nothing but direct mail or maybe referrals from your existing client base. Today, digital’s a big part of that. So Facebook ads to get people to your public events. So bottom line is it would depend differently based on how you’re actually inviting them to get there. Let’s use direct mail. Typical response rate in our industry is between a half percent to 1% so if you send out 100 mail pieces, you might get one that registers for the event.

And so you start there at the top and then of the people that register to show up, how many actually do show up? And then from there, how many people in the room convert to appointments. And then from there, how many actually convert through your two or three appointment process to become clients? And there’s a lot of other things. I’m really oversimplifying this, obviously the demographics of who you mail to, investible assets, age, all of that. But basically what you do is you start tracking that. And most marketing directors in our offices that we work with, that’s part of their job is this venue, this mail piece was a five to one ROI when it was all said and done. And the hard part about that is that might not be for two, three months after your event because some of that takes a while to actually turn into revenue for the firm.

Steve Sanduski: Right. So we’ve got seminar. So let’s just talk about some of the big buckets here in terms of the different types of marketing buckets. So we’ve got seminars, which people have been doing for decades. What are some of the other big categories of marketing opportunities that you see people doing with some level of success?

Brad Johnson: So seminars and you can even break that down into multiple types of public events. So dinner seminars, college campus seminars where it’s more of an educational based event where sometimes people are paying to attend these classes. You have what I would call client events, where you take your existing client base, do something fun with them. Wine tastings are big. We’ve seen offices run out movie theaters be a super grandparent on us, bring the grandkids, turn those into referral events. So just basically leveraging your existing client base to have fun events where they’re going to invite their friends as an introduction to you. So those would all be all types of different public events. And then if you keep going down the path of other marketing funnels, radio shows are fairly big in our top offices.

Weekly radio show. Some of our top offices have a weekly TV show. Off of radio we’re on a podcast here. I’d say that’s the next frontier in audio is going from a traditional radio show to a digital version of that in a podcast kind of on demand. We’ve got, I can think of one client right now that’s closed over $3 million of assets over the last couple of weeks off of his podcast, so I think that’s going to be really huge over the coming years.

Let’s see, what else? That’s kind of, I guess going back to its kind of you take everything that was traditional and if you just take that into the digital space, that’s where things are going. So public seminars were very brick and mortar at a set location in your local area. What’s the digital version of that? Well, if I can do this in person, I can do it digitally just like we’re doing right now I could do a webinar and I could invite people through Facebook to a digital webinar where I’m covering the same thing I would cover in 60 minutes in person.

It’s just them logging on and watching a live video or some form of live interaction on something like Zoom or some other technology that exists today. So I think if I was an advisor out there today that what I would be asking myself is what has held to be true as far as traditional marketing for financial advisors and how would I look out five or 10 years with where digital and technology is going, to be ahead of the curve before everybody’s doing it? And our upper echelon of officers are doing exactly that with podcasts and webinars and things like that.

Steve Sanduski: So often people will say, well we’ve got the basic strategies and then we’ve got the advanced strategies when it comes to marketing or pick your area. And I think you made such a good point there when you said, when you think about the basics of marketing, it’s things like seminars, it’s radio shows, okay, those are historical media. But your point is well taken when you said seminars still work and radio still works. But now because of technology, we just take the same idea but we have a different way to deliver it. It’s not that the thing has changed, it’s just how we actually deliver that thing is different. With the radio show, that’s a point in time where I’ve got to be on live at 10 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday because it’s a live call in show. Whereas the analogy to that is podcasting, I can record it in advance and it’s available 24 hours a day. It’s on Demand Radio.

So the concept is still the same. But the way that we do it is different because of technology. So I think that’s such a key point that I’m not sure that I really make a distinction between basic and advanced strategies because to me an advanced strategy is simply the basics done really, really well. Because if you’re not doing the basics well, you’re not going to get anything advanced done either.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. What’s interesting is its more assessable with technology. So the question I’ll ask my advisers that are on radio, imagine if a radio show you did five years ago was still driving leads for you today. That’s a podcast. I mean you’ve experienced it, Steve. I’ve experienced it or one of a handful in our space that’s been on this podcasting train for a while. I’ve got episodes that are a year plus old that people connect with me through an old podcast. And so that’s the beauty of it is you can be out walking your dog, you can be on the treadmill and it could be 2:00 AM in the morning. You could be consuming the content and the advisors that get ahead of that. I think the other benefit is the compounding of information over time. The bigger library you have out there, different from radio, it’s gone. It’s one and done. And if they missed it on Saturday morning, sorry, on the podcast, it’s this growing body of work that just tells your ideal prospects more of who you are and what you’re about. And it just grows over time.

And so I just, I’ve just keep pushing my advisers. I’m like, “Come on, I see where it’s going. You got to go with it.” And the ones on the leading edge are definitely running down that path pretty hard.

Steve Sanduski: Well, and another example along the same line of thinking is let’s talk about email. So I’m a huge fan of email, but email has been around for many, many years. So I’m doing a couple of things with my businesses. One is I send out a weekly letter, not a newsletter but a letter. It’s more personalized, it’s got some curation in it. It’s got my insights from a recent conference I went to for example. So I’ve got different categories but it’s very personalized. It’s just, I’m sending this one to one to the reader and it’s very high open rate so I get nice response to it. But then a second thing with email that we do is we’re creating email courses and this is something that’s been around for a number of years, but we take a topic and we say we’ve got a 7 day or a 14 day or a 21 day course on how to learn whatever the particular topic is.

And then we create three to five minute videos we can use go to meeting to create a video, or we could create it on our phone. We put it in a email system, people sign up for it, and then they automatically get these emails once a day for seven days or what have you. So it’s using the same original technology, which is email. But now we’ve added recorded video to it. We’ve added an automated email system to it. So we’re taking it a little step further, but it still works the same. And so I think there’s a simple example there as well. So there’s so many things that advisors can do. And we just have to pick which ones we want to try. So one thing that I’d really love to get your thought on here is let’s say we have a firm that’s 100 million in assets under management.

So let’s just say they’re $1 million in annual revenue. So what kind of firm like that do from a marketing standpoint, they don’t have an unlimited budget. They’ve got to pick and choose what marketing activities do I want to engage in? Do I want to do seminars? Do I want to do a podcast? Do I want to do email marketing? Do I want to do a radio show? I mean, there’s lots of different options. How would you approach a firm of that size to help them identify what’s going to be the best one or two or three marketing strategies that we should apply to get us from say a million to two million in revenue within say let’s say three years?

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Solid question. One that we get a lot. So I’m going to take this a little different path because it’s funny, the podcast I’ve started, I mean it’s been really interesting because an audience that wasn’t my typical target audience has started to seek out this type of coaching. And it’s those big RIAs, right? They 100 million, 500 million, billion dollar asset managers. And I think the first thing you have to do is figure out what the heck you’re selling. And sometimes even these very, very successful firms. I mean, when you look at the assets they’ve gathered over the years and the revenue they’re generating on an annual basis, if you ask them a simplistic question, like 30 seconds or less, tell me why your clients pick you. You’ve never seen more deer in the headlights looks than if you asked that question. And the issue is financial services is very commoditized.

It’s one of the most commoditized industries out there. I mean it’s like a hamburger stand. And the analogy that I’ll make a lot to our clients as we’re coaching them is, imagine you’re hungry and you basically go online and you’re like hamburger. Look at all the options that pop up. And that’s a lot like financial services and there’s a reason McDonald’s doesn’t sell a double decker hamburger. There’s a reason that they sell a Big Mac and there’s a reason that that’s trademarked. And there’s a reason you can only get it at Big Mac or I’m sorry, at McDonald’s. And that is because they’ve turned the commodity into a proprietary product.

And so the first thing we coach on a lot is, 30 seconds or less, what is it you do for your clients? And if you have a commoditized answer, which most offices do the first time we chat with them, which is, “We do risk and fee analysis. We do income planning, we do social security optimization.” You’ve got the whole list. Steve, and most of the audience knows has the whole list because it’s on their website when you pull up services. So what you want to do is you want to package that and you want to de-commoditize yourself, you want to turn you into a one of one in your marketplace. So most of our offices will help them name and trademark their process. Most of them. It’s pretty simple. It’s built on a CFP standard, a holistic planning approach where they do some income planning, some investment planning, some tax planning, really modeled off of kind of a family office approach, incorporating some estate planning in there as well. So they might have four or five worlds when it’s all said and done, but now they’ve named and trademarked that process.

They might say, hey, in our 40 years of financial planning experience in this marketplace, we found there are five core areas that most retirees struggle to have a plan built around. And guess what, even if they do, typically there’s a CPA on one side of town they go to see for their tax planning. There’s a financial advisor on the other side of town that’s 30 minutes away. And then, oh, they’ve got their estate planner that they’ve worked with over here and he’s another 45 minutes across the other side of town. And guess what? All three of them build really important plans and none of them talk to each other and know what the other one’s doing. So what we’ve done is we’ve just combined that into one holistic plan so that we’ve got everything under one roof. So it all talks and it works together to serve you in retirement. And so that’s where I’d start is really defining how you help clients and how you’re different from the advisor down the street and then I would take that in market.

Steve Sanduski: Well I think that’s such a key point. And the most popular podcast. Well, and I don’t know if it’s the most popular podcast, it’s the most popular blog post on my website is one that’s titled, Why Should I Choose You? And it’s a podcast that I did with a gentleman up in Canada who wrote a book, I think the book was called, Why Should I Choose You? And he said, the key is you’ve got to be able to answer it in seven words or less. And so that is such a great evergreen podcast and blog post. It’s consistently one of my top post each month, even though I’ve got new stuff coming out every week or two. So that is so critical that we’ve got to be able to answer who I am with great clarity. And then your other point here about being different is also so critical.

I think of the Grateful Dead. I think it was Bill Graham who was a music promoter and he made a comment about the Grateful Dead years ago. He said, “They’re not the best at what they do. They’re the only ones who do what they do what they do.” And so if anyone knows anything about the Grateful Dead, you know that yeah, they played music, but it was a little different than any other kind of music you would hear. It was a fusion of different musical genres and they just did things differently in their concerts. And so they were the only ones who did what they did.

And so as we talk about here with advisors in this somewhat commodity business, how do you distinguish yourself? And I think you gave some great points here on what can we do about trademarking our process and figuring out ways that we can show that we are different so that if a prospect reaches out to you, they look at you and they can say, “You’re the only one who does it that way. Or the other advisors that I’ve shopped, they don’t speak like you do, they don’t communicate these ideas in the way that you do. And I really like how you do it.” So if you can get to that point, then there’s no other place that that potential client can go to but you, because you’re the only one who does what you do in the way that you do it.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And the very best in our business, financial services is complex and we’re in it all day, right? We’ve lived in this space. It’s still complex. Imagine if you’re some retiree that’s just trying to make sense of this million dollar nest egg and what they should do with it. And now they go to your website and under services there’s 18 bullet points of all the things you do. You didn’t simplify anything. If anything, they’re more concerned now than they were before. And so the whole beauty of packaging and naming that process is you simplify the complex. Tony Robbins has made a business out of that for years. Just simplify the complex and you’ll do pretty well in any business regardless of what you’re in.

So the other thing, just imagine you’re going onto an episode of Shark Tank and this is your 5 to 10 minute pitch. Is Mr. Wonderful, based on your current pitch, is he going to be impressed? Is he going to ask for a sample? Or is he going to say, how are you any different than any other financial advisor out there? And that’s just a good metric to just say, “Hey, I’m going up on Shark Tank. I’ve got to take a really commoditized business and stand out and show up differently.”

Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And this is such an ongoing process. I mean, I still struggle with it as well. How do I clarify exactly what I do? How can I be succinct about it? How can I have a turn of a phrase that is memorable so that people can understand it, that it can sink in? So I think that’s key. So, okay. So we’re still working with the say 100 million dollar firm. We want to get some clarity on what it is that we offer, how we answer, why should I choose you? And just a few short words, having some kind of differentiation strategy. Maybe we’re naming our process. What are some other things that that firms should be thinking about as they figure out what kind of marketing activities I should be doing here?

Brad Johnson: Okay, so let’s go down that path. So let’s say become the opposite of a commodity, however you define that, I don’t even know what the opposite is. De-commoditize right? Let’s just use that word for now. So create your proprietary process. So imagine you’re a McDonald’s franchise, you created your Big Mac, now you have your product to sell. Step number two is systematize. There’s a reason that McDonald’s can have an 18 year old kid with pimples behind the counter and can basically run the whole store there. Their systems are at such a level, they just, you can’t really mess it up. The other thing, if you think about top performing financial services, basically if you look at those firms, imagine the guy at the counter at McDonald’s, that’s the financial advisor interacting with potential clients. So as soon as that advisor takes the order, let’s say that’s a first or second appointment, now they have the order.

Does that guy at McDonald’s turn around and walk to the back and say, “Hey, I’ll be right back.” No, he punches it in a system. There’s somebody in the back that’s a highly trained person that assembles the Big Mac or whatever else they ordered, sends it down the shoot, they reach back at the bag, they hand it across the counter. Well, there’s a lot of financial services firms where the individual taking the order does walk to the back and make the burger themselves. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. All I want to say is if you want to scale to the most efficient levels, if you truly look at how a financial advisor maximizes their hourly wage, they pretty much just interact with people and that’s it. And so you might have a paraplanner to use that analogy. They’re the person in the back that’s building the hamburger, you’re sending it off and you’ve got four or five models however, your Big Mac is assembled and really the financial advisor, the lead advisor that’s interacting with clients, they do about the first 10% and the last 10% of the work.

They take the order, they ask the questions to understand what the prospect wants, they punch in the order and then they deliver it and make sure it meets the client’s satisfaction. Did we get this right? So that’s the systematization, but now you’ve got to look at all of the other parts of a financial services firm that that comes into play as well. So I would say systematize is step number two and then scale the step number three, and that could be back to the McDonald’s analogy. We’ve got one cash register. Well as long as there’s demand there, why wouldn’t we have a second or third register taking orders to keep up with demand?

So that’s adding advisors to the team. If you reel it back to your point earlier, Steve, some offices want to grow. We work with a lot of high growth offices. Not only do they want to build one McDonald’s, they want a franchise, they want to own their market. So if they’ve got a radio show that’s blanketing Miami for example, guess what, there’s a population there where they could kind of surround Miami and take greater advantage of that same radio spend to basically meet with clients more conveniently in their market.

So once you’ve systematized, then that allows you the freedom to scale, which takes us back to marketing. And the one thing I would challenge the audience, just because I’ve heard it so many times over the last 10 plus years, seminars, if you think seminars don’t work, and if you think your market is different, you have to be honest with yourself because seminars do work and your market’s not different. Because what happens, and I’ve had this conversation over and over, one of our top clients that will bring in 300 million organically this year, his go-to saying is, “Seminars aren’t broken, you’re broken.”

And so he says that and yes, that’s kind of tongue in cheek way of saying it, but our industry has trained people horribly when it comes to presenting publicly and speaking to motivate people to action. So most of the times we over-educate we get way down in the weeds back to the 18 bullet points on services. That’s typically what the seminars look like too, to where if you create a product and a story and here’s the two or three types of people we help and how, and here’s how we make it simple. Most of our offices are converting between 50 to 75% of the people in the room to appointments. So I just wanted to kind of throw that on the tail end. We can take that wherever you want to go, Steve but-

Steve Sanduski: Yeah, well I would absolutely put an exclamation point of what you just said there about the seminars because I can go right down the list and I can look at some of the most successful advisors I’ve had on my show and just advisors that I’ve known over the past 25 years. Many of them grew because of seminars and they’re still crushing it today. And so seminars do work and your cash register example I think is a perfect one is it relates to seminars, if I’m doing one seminar a month, that’s my one cash register. Well, if I want to double my growth, I’m going to do two seminars a month, I’m going to add a second cash register and then a third cash register. I mean, some of the folks I work with, they’re doing 50, 60, 70 seminars a year.

You may be working with people who are doing triple digit seminars per year, and so if you want to grow fast, you’ve got to have these kinds of strategies that gets you in front of a large number of targeted ideal people on a consistent basis. I mean, that’s where you see this fast organic growth that you’re talking about here.

Brad Johnson: And I almost wished that because seminars or workshops, they have this negative connotation, just call it a group first appointment because that’s really what it is. You’re just getting in front of a group of people and saying, here’s how I might be able to help you. You’re just talking to 30 or 40 people all at once. And so if you just kind of eliminate the limiting belief of seminars and I don’t like that sales practice or whatever it is. And I think a lot of times especially I see it heavy in the fee only or the RIA space where they’re like, “Oh, I don’t do seminars.” Like it’s a bad word. Well, would you like to help more people all at once? Is that a yes? And if that’s a yes, then maybe you might want to change the framework and the lens that you’re viewing a seminar through.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah. I think another key part along those lines is not everyone is cut out to do seminars. Not everyone may have the kind of stage presence and the personality and the verbal communication skills where a seminar would really fit for them. And that’s totally fine. There are other ways, like the written word instead of the spoken word, maybe you’re a better communicator via the written word. And that’s where things like the email letter or the email courses or writing books, I mean, you’ve probably seen a lot of advisors successful with writing books and some people might think, “Well, if I write a book, it’s kind of a slow burn thing.” Well it is, but the book itself is not going to generate all the clients. It’s what you do with the book and it’s all the spinoff activities related to the book that you can use for marketing and repurposing content that once you create the book content, once, there’s all kinds of multiple ways that you can create smaller pieces of that content in other forms of media to really leverage that and communicate it.

So I’ve seen people had really nice success with writing books and sending out free copies with personalized letters and so on and so forth. So, yeah. So I don’t want to give people the impression that, “Hey, you’ve got to do seminars.” Okay. They work. But there’s also other strategies if seminars are not your thing that you can do as well. But the key is you’ve got to be able to get in front of a large group of people in your ideal market and communicate them in a consistent way, in a way that can be done on a scale basis.

Brad Johnson: The beauty of long form content, like a book, like a podcast, like a YouTube video, you can slice and dice it. Gary Vaynerchuk is huge on this Document, Don’t create and so the nice thing about a book, you’ve got hours of content there. I mean a book could be a little five minute YouTube video if you’re comfortable with rather than being in front of an audience of 40 random people that may or may not heckle you. Right. I mean I know a lot of people before they do a seminar that that’s one of their big concerns. Okay. We’ll just get, just like right now, Steve and I are having a one to one conversation, but quite honestly if you think about it, we’re doing a seminar, an audio version of a seminar in front of a very large audience. Some podcasters are in front of stadiums with every episode. And so-

Steve Sanduski: There’s millions of listeners to this show.

Brad Johnson: Millions of millions. And so, but that’s the beauty of it is if you like a one to one conversation, maybe it’s a radio show, maybe it’s a podcast because it’s a lot more natural conversational way, but you can get the same benefit of a seminar over time. It’s not the instant gratification of a seminar. It’s kind of the long game. And so there’s other strategies of how do you promote the podcast and all of that. But yeah I feel like we could go a lot of different directions here Steve.

Steve Sanduski: We could, yeah. So we’ve kind of been working with this idea of a firm say 100 million in assets under management, maybe a million in revenue. And thinking about, you went through several steps here of how we should think about the marketing. We’ve got some ideas here. Of course seminars. We talked about the book idea, the written content. So someone of that size, should they just pick one marketing thing and do that or do you suggest, hey, try three different things and see what works? What’s been your experience on what’s the best strategy from that standpoint for someone of that size?

Brad Johnson: My experience is perfect one thing first. I think my experience with advisors over the years, we’re all type A personalities. Little bit of ADD, let’s just be honest. And adding more options to kind of do it 50% capacity is not typically a good thing. So one of the things we do is we do a day and a half coaching specific on how to structure your presentation and how to book appointments at a seminar. That’s a day and a half on just how to give a 60 minute presentation, right? And so what I recommend is go deep on the one. And the other thing I recommend is success leaves clues. So don’t be the advisor out there that thinks you have to figure this all out on your own. Just look at, okay, if these top 100 clients at Advisors Excel who all capture north of 20 million of assets organically, if the common theme is they all do public events, that’s a pretty good clue.

Maybe I should perfect that. And maybe it’s not the lead advisor, maybe it’s one of the advisors on the team that’s a better public speaker, a more natural in front of people, but let them own that funnel and get really good at it. We’ve had offices that have grown their entire business off radio. So maybe radio’s your thing. We produce north of 100 radio shows every week. And so that might be, hey, get in front of a mic like Steve and I and share your story for a 60 minute episode and here’s our version of the Big Mac. So here’s how we help people. And hey, here’s a few examples. Here’s some case studies. They came in with this problem. They went through our process. I use the analogy, it’s like the infomercial analogy. It works before and after, right? Fat, unhappy guy buys a Bowflex. Now he’s skinny and has six pack. Right?

So the same thing works in your marketing is they came in and they weren’t sure they could retire, they had $1 million, they just weren’t sure because they didn’t have a plan. Well, after going through our five step process, the cool thing is now they can spend with confidence. Now we’ve worked into the plan, an annual trip to check off the bucket list trips because that was part of the things that was really important to them and money’s just a tool. How are we going to put that tool to use for you? So just some simple frameworks like that. It’s really not that complicated if you really simplify, most people are confused and not sure what to do. So have a simple process that walks them through that where they’re confident and they know what they can do at the end. And so-

Steve Sanduski: Yeah. This idea of spending a day and a half on the training, I don’t want that to slip by because that’s so important because everyone needs to realize that doing seminars, there is an art and a science to it and the science is that there is a specific sequence or a structure or a framework in how you want to create an educational persuasive presentation in terms of behavior and psychology. And I’m sure you guys are totally deeply steeped in how that works. And so the organization of the presentation, how do you open the presentation? What’s in the middle of the presentation? What’s in the close of the presentation? What stuff do you want to weave throughout the presentation? Do you have people ask questions and make it interactive or do you wait for questions at the end?

I mean, there’s all these little nuances in how you can do things like that. And so that’s where I think someone like your firm, you can be really helpful in a lot of ways. But that’s an example with your experience of you understand how to design a presentation that can persuade in an ethical way the audience and get them to sign up as opposed to, “Oh, I think I heard someone say we should do seminars. So I’m going to put a presentation together and we’ll see what happens.” And you don’t get the results you expect.

Brad Johnson: Which is typically how most advisors do their first seminar. Hey, go pay a direct mail company, 5 or 10 grand, go find a really nice restaurant in your local area that has some sort of a conference room. And then they’ve done no training. And here’s the deal. Our industry’s done a horrible job. I’m not going to blame the adviser. It’s some guy that says, “Oh, you want to grow your book, go do a seminar.” And that’s about the advice he gives them or she gives them. And so I think the key thing, one of my mentors, a guy named Michael Hyatt, he said, “Hey, anything you want to get better at in life, if it’s, I want to drop 20 pounds in the gym, if it’s, I want to become a better public speaker, go hire a coach and shortcut your learning curve.”

Right? And that’s the thing is if perfecting this one thing, I mean, look at all of the keynote speakers in our industry and all of the conferences that get paid somewhere between 15, 20, 25,000 plus for a one hour presentation. That’s all just doing one talk really, really well over and over. That’s what in financial services, and I don’t want to turn this into a go learn how to do a seminar podcast is what it sounding like, but why wouldn’t you take the time to train and if you know that perfecting that can exponentially grow your practice over the next three to five years, why wouldn’t you take the time to get good at it if that’s what you’ve chosen to do as a marketing funnel? And I just see a lot of people throw a lot of money at things and never actually take the time to perfect them and get good at them.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah. And just to reiterate what you said there about the importance of picking that one thing. So you can’t be all things to all people. So get clear on your focus, get clear on where you can really add the value, get clear on the one marketing activity that you want to do and you want to get really good at it. And if it’s seminars, if it’s radio shows, if it’s podcasting, if it’s writing books, if it’s doing videos, whatever it is, just get really good at it because those are proven ways to grow your business. And if you can be really good at it, you’re going to be in the top. And the example about the public speaking another spot on example that a professional speaker comes up with a presentation and they give that 50, 100, 500 times. They know every word that’s going to get a laugh line. They know if I need to take someone through a certain emotion, this is the phrase or this is the story that I need to tell. So they get so good at it that nothing is left to chance.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. And on the flip side of that, I see a lot of really, really amazing advisors where all of the CFPs out there, all of the designations that are out there where you…. I mean, you have to just be hungry for education to be really good in our industry, I see a lot of those people and what you also have to realize is all of that is great, but if you don’t have people that know how you can help them, you’re the best kept secret and talent and you’re just, you’re going to struggle. And so I think the biggest thing is marketing is just helping people understand how you can help them. It doesn’t need to be a dirty word or and the more you start to understand that, I mean you could track one thing as a metric and it’s qualified first appointments on your calendar in 2019 and if you want to double your practice, it’s really easy.

Just double that for 2020 and all things being the same you will double your practice this coming year and just track that one thing. How many people that I can help showed up on my calendars but per week on average this year, my goal is to double that in 2020 assuming I want to grow and then just pick that one thing. Like Steve said, pick that one marketing funnel to double down on in 2020 and I promise you, I see it work over and over and over. It really can be done. You don’t have to complicate it.

Steve Sanduski: So then the tricky part is if I want to double my number of first appointments, it’s like, okay, well what is going to drive the doubling of those first appointments, the leading activities, so just like you had Mr. McChesney, I believe his name on the four disciplines of execution. It’s like, okay, we’ve set the metric, now we’ve got to identify what is that leading activity that is going to drive an increase in the first appointment. So maybe let’s just go off on that tangent here for a second using that as an example because that obviously is an important metric. How many first appointments do I have? What are some of your thoughts in terms of what can an advisor do or how do they think about that framework of, well, how do I identify? What is that leading activity that is going to drive 20 new or 40 or 100 first appointments next year?

Brad Johnson: Yeah, so obviously back to your example it’s going to depend on what the firm is, what’s the staff size, what their current marketing plan looks like. But let’s just say that the marketing plan is kind of not real existent. Let’s just start there. Bare bones. Let’s use your 100 million AUM example. You already have a large group of individuals that like and trust you. Assuming they’re all sticking on the books, they’re staying there for a reason is they value your service. So the first one I would do is create activities that are easy for more people like that to meet you. And so it’s also a really good way to tip toe into maybe that idea of, do I want to give a public seminar? So it’s a lot easier to talk sometimes in front of people that already like and trust you and you have some rapport with.

So maybe say, hey, I’m going to do an activity once a month. And the issue in our industry, I see a lot of with these client events is that they feel as if there’s this thing in our industry where you feel like if I’m in front of a room full of people, I have to be like a president giving a speech behind a pulpit and some sort of educational thing, right? The truth is you could just go have fun with your clients and guess what? A lot more of them are going to show up. So if you create these client events that are all based around the idea of, hey, most of our clients work with retirees, so I’ll use that as an example. You did all the hard work to get to retirement. Now your work with our firm, we want to make it fun now that you’re here.

So we’ve got a calendar of events, one per month where we’re going to have all of these monthly activities designed to have fun. They’re social events and so a social event to us, it’s designed to hang out with people you like, so bring your friends. And so I think there, when you look at it is wine tastings, movie events, cooking classes, dancing classes. A lot of times we’re like, “Oh, would you like to show up for a 2020 economic update?” Steve, if I come to Wisconsin, I’m like, “Hey, what are you guys doing? You want a Friday night economic update?” What are you thinking?

Steve Sanduski: I’m thinking I’m going to the fish fry.

Brad Johnson: Exactly. So don’t overcomplicate it. Your clients are humans just like you. Host fun events and guess what? A lot of them will show up. And once you’ve kind of trained them that hey, I’m not going to do an impromptu seminar where I whip the projector out of my briefcase and I tricked you and now your friends are here.

And the key thing that I love to do is I love to work with offices where these events cross-pollinate each other. So you do a fun event. It’s kind of like a first date where your clients show up that already love you. They’re bringing their friends that typically as you know, wealthy people hang around other wealthy people and so make sure you know who you want on that list. But now at the close of that you say, “Hey, for those of you that were here that this was your first event with our firm tonight. Thanks for showing up. We had a lot of fun. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about why your friends work with us, some of the planning that we do for them to help them with retirement, we’ve created a special VIP event. Here’s when it is in fact, bring your friends along as well if you want to have a double date on us, here’s how you can learn more about our firm.”

Back to the Big Mac analogy, if you have a proprietary process, you can speak very high level about that’s simple. That’s a nice caveat and hey, we’ll talk about our process that we do that walks retirees into developing a plan custom built for them. And so back to that 100 million RIA firm I would look at, and you don’t have to do one a month. Say you do every other month, start with the fun event. The next month you let that fun event feed into more of an educational event. You let the educational event cross feed into the next fun event. Hey, if you book a visit to come and see us tonight, you get a complimentary invite to our next month’s wine tasting, right? So you can let those two cross-pollinate each other. And that’s a really cool framework we’ve seen a lot of our offices run.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah. So I think these are all great ideas Brad, so thanks for sharing them. And I think also wrapped around all of this is some type of accountability system to make sure, as you talked about, we’ve got to be tracking the numbers but we’ve also got to have a meeting process so that we’re following through, we’re holding people accountable, we’re making sure that these things are happening the way they’re supposed to happen, people are doing what they’re supposed to do. So I think having that reporting system wrapped into all this is going to be critical as well.

So, all right, Brad. Well, why don’t we maybe switch gears here for just a second. And I know you have had some amazing speakers at the Advisor Excel events. And as you think back, is there anyone that stands out and if so, is there maybe an idea or two from one of the past speakers that you’ve had the pleasure of hearing anything that’s really stuck with you?

Brad Johnson: Oh, that is a really tough question because we’ve had a decade plus of amazing people come across our stage. I’ll tell you what you motivated me to do, Steve. It was a project that was on my to do list. So I actually put together a little something for your audience. I went back and as you know doing a podcast. There’s just these little three to five minute snippets of just pure wisdom depending on who the guest is and what the topic is. And I know you’ve got a lot of those on your show from the amazing guests you’ve had on. So what I did was I kind of went back through my guest list, many of whom have been speakers on our stage. You mentioned Chris McChesney, he was amazing. Four disciplines of execution.

But I pulled little clips and there was a saying the good stuff sticks. And so I find like I go back, I’m like, oh that was such gold, where I’ll go back and I’ll reference past guests. And so I went ahead and I pulled some past clips. We put them out on YouTube, the Elite Advisor Blueprint clips, but I just took a list of them. Brian Miles was one of them. So you’ll appreciate him. The name of his company is also BELAY. Are you familiar with what used to be EA Help?

Steve Sanduski: No, I’m not.

Brad Johnson: So, BELAY, he’s a climber. That’s where, of course it came from. But so he started a company which was executive assistants, virtual executive assistance and which has done very, very well for itself. And he told a story on the podcast where he was climbing a mountain with a mentor of his that had taken a company public, very, very successful CEO. And this was not too long after he formed his company and he said, “What was it that excites you about your business?” And Brian’s like, “Well, I love that I own my business.” And they’re camped up the side of a mountain like thousands of feet, right? And this mentor is like, “You don’t own your business.” And Brian’s like, “What are you talking about? That’s the whole reason I quit my job was so I could own my business.” And this mentor was like, “You don’t own your business. You still work for your business.” It’s like the moment you own your business is when you become a shareholder and you no longer have to show up. That’s truly owning a business.

And so just like that little nugget of wisdom, this chat that happened between the CEO of some fortune 500 company and Brian as he was starting his business, that little chat impacted the future of his business. That was a nugget of wisdom that I loved on the show

Brad Johnson: This one, I just, some of the very best come at the end of the conversation when I just throw out some random questions. Steve, I don’t know if you feel the same, but-

Steve Sanduski: So that’s going to put some pressure on you then.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. I hope I don’t let you down here.

Steve Sanduski: You better save the best for last here.

Brad Johnson: So Cameron Herold, who was the COO for 1-800-GOT-JUNK, grew it from a few million to 100 million plus, he runs his own podcast. He runs a training for 2nd-in-command COO Alliance. He told a story of going to Burning Man the concert, and he just shows up his first time ever there and he walks out and there’s this half naked tuba player. It’s like dirty and grimy. Probably most Burning Man. People that hang out there for very long hours, and he said immediately he passed judgment on this person. He’s like, “Who’s this loser playing the tuba like a Speedo.”

And anyway, somehow they meet, they cross paths later he finds out it’s a billionaire that was literally there just relaxing, being himself, whatever, getting out of the chaos of whatever his day to day was. And he said that taught me a really important lesson to never judge a book by its cover. Don’t pass judgment before I know. And so that was just a really cool nugget of wisdom from Cameron. He has another saying that I strongly believe, and your network is your net worth. And I don’t just mean that monetarily. I mean that just the caliber of people, which as you know podcasting just, it’s this awesome platform where you get to have a lot of interesting conversations with a lot of very successful people. And so I’ve found that to be very true, especially podcasting where just the connections you make and make all the difference in the world based on what you’re trying to do.

I’ll close with one that was just life changing on a podcast that I did, a guy named Don Yaeger, he was the assistant editor for Sports Illustrated before he broke off and started, he’s written multiple New York times bestsellers, he lived with Walter Payton on basically this last year, wrote his biography, but just really successful author, speaker. And he shared a story. When he was working for Sports Illustrated, he kind of heard through the grapevine that John Wooden like 85, 90 year old John Wooden famous UCLA coach was mentoring Shaq who was a rookie. So it just, let’s see his, it when he was at the Magic, the Orlando Magic when he first got in the league.

And so Don flies out, gets permission to cover the story and he’s thinking it’s just going to be a basketball story, is going to be coaching them on how to survive in the NBA. And he just sits in on this mentoring session and John Wooden’s not talking anything about basketball, he’s telling Shaq how to be a better team mate. How to be a better dad, how to be a better husband. And he just said, he sat there and he was just in awe of this whole conversation. And at the end of it he said, “Hey coach Wooden, what would a guy like me have to do to be mentored by a guy like you?” And coach Wooden said, “Well, you’d have to ask.”

And that was the first part of that story because he did ask. And that led to him flying out every two months to mentor under coach Wooden for 12 years. And the rule was he had to come prepared with questions and as long as he made a good use of the time, coach would keep clearing time on his calendar. And Wooden told him later, he’s be like, Yaeger was like, “Hey, I’m sure you get that asked all the time. Right?” And he’s like, “You’d be surprised how few people do ask.” And so lesson number one to me, right there was the worst thing that can happen by seeking out a peer or a mentor is you ask and they say no. And the best thing that can happen is you take somebody like a John Wooden with years and years of wisdom and you’re immediately just tapped into this just this fountain of knowledge.

And that just, I found the very best in everything I’ve run across there. Those type of people they ask and they get connected in the same room with top performers and the way that wouldn’t story ended. So Don Yaeger had gone out now for a handful of years and he said coach Wooden was getting old like in his 90s upper 90s and he said that he thought that might be the last time that he saw him in person. And so he said, Coach Wooden, I just want you to know every time I leave your presence I feel like I’m a better man.” And coach Wooden, didn’t say, “You’re welcome or thanks, that means a lot.” He said, “You should make that your standard.”

And I remember in the moment in the interview, just saying, “Wow, that was powerful.” And then I remember kind of digesting it after the interview and just rewinding in my life, we’ve all been idiots in college before and just, and I remember, “Wow, what if I made that my standard that whoever I interact with, they’ll always leave a better person, a better man or woman.” I pour something into them without any expectation of anything in return. I just make that mission to just always help people however you come across them. And that little nugget from a podcast literally changed the whole lens that I interact with people through and I’ve definitely screwed it up. But since then I’m definitely not perfect and I’m always trying to improve. But that was definitely a nugget of wisdom that just completely changed how I interact with people on a day to day basis, Steve. So that’s the beauty of a podcast. And I know you’ve had a lot of those experiences yourself, but.

Steve Sanduski: Yeah, well John Wooden was certainly one a kind. So I appreciate you sharing Don’s story there and Brad, you’ve made me a better person as a result of our conversation here today.

Brad Johnson: Well I appreciate that, likewise.

Steve Sanduski: All right, so why don’t we wrap up here? Just a couple of things. So one is, is there anything else that you want to share here that we haven’t talked about yet and on folks, if they would, why don’t you share how people can reach out to you? For starters, what’s, if folks do want to reach out to you, what would be the best way for them to connect with you and how can they access your podcast?

Brad Johnson: Yeah, so just website’s bradleyjohnson.com so B-R-A-D-L-E-Y johnson.com podcast is out there. Pretty much all my social handles. I’m fairly active on Twitter, which I find a lot of, what is it? FinTwit, I guess is the community. So @brad_johnson, if you want to connect out there and the Elite Advisor Blueprint is the podcast. So if you search for that in any podcast player, it should pull up.

Steve Sanduski: Great. All right. So let’s just go into a few rapid fire questions. So the first one I want to ask is do you have a daily habit or regular habits that you think has helped lead to your success?

Brad Johnson: I think if it’s, you look like just kind of more business focused. I’ve always, not always, I guess, I’ve developed a fairly consistent morning routine that involves working out most days of the week, not every day. Typically, some reading in there as well. I went through a solid year of the Daily Stoic, which is a great reader. I would recommend for anybody, just kind of more of a mindset thing and then tried to, I don’t know, I try to put work in before everybody else does. So worst case scenario, it can be 7:00 AM and I know I’ve got a pretty good start on the day compared to the average individual out there. And I also just find when you get in the gym and bust a sweat, you typically need less coffee to get going for the day. So that’s pretty usually a pretty good way to get fired up.

Steve Sanduski: All right. How about a book or two that you recommend frequent?

Brad Johnson: Yeah, there’s so many. We have a saying in my house, so I have three kiddos, nine, eight and three and one of our mottos, is readers are leaders and so I’ve really encouraged them to read and I try to model the same thing. So with my kids, a favorite book for the parents out there, Jocko Willink wrote a series called Way of the Warrior Kid and there’s now three of them and it’s kind of like personal development if you’re under 10 years old. So I highly recommend that. I’ve gifted that to a lot of friends that have kids and all of their kids love it. So that’s definitely high on the list. He also has a podcast, Way of the Warrior Kid podcast. We listen to that sometimes on road trips, that might be a good pickup for the parents out there.

The most interesting book I’ve read lately that’s kind of in the finance genre, it’s called The Internet of Money and it’s by Andreas Antonopoulos who’s kind of one of the foremost bitcoin experts out there. If you can spell his last name, search for it on YouTube, but you’ll find all kinds of interesting speeches he’s given. But it was a really a very great breakdown of not just Bitcoin but cryptocurrency. And I know that’s something that’s definitely gotten on the radar of a lot of advisors where your clients are kind of coming in and asking about it. So if you want kind of a one on one on crypto and Bitcoin, I think the audio book on audibles maybe two and a half hours long. And it’s a great breakdown.

Steve Sanduski: All right, so last one here. I’m going to start a sentence and I’d like you to finish it. So the sentence begins with, what I know to be true is?

Brad Johnson: Giving without expectation always comes back.

Steve Sanduski: Excellent. Well we will wrap it up right there and what a great way to end. So Brad, thank you. It’s been great. Really enjoyed having the conversation here today. Congratulations to you and the entire team at Advisors Excel. You guys are just doing such a great job. You’re really impacting so many people’s lives, helping your advisors reach more people and deliver solid advice and investment management services. So thank you for all that and appreciate you being on the show.

Brad Johnson: Thanks Steve. And likewise, it’s the work you’re doing. Speaking at one of the very first conferences and I know at the time you were partnered up with Ron Carson and since you’ve ventured out on your own, and it’s funny how we got reconnected. Dave Callahan, who’s one of the founders of Advisors Excel. I think you had somebody on your podcast and he was like, hey, that one struck home with me. I want to connect with them. And then we got teamed up. So just going back to putting out great high quality content for our industry, likewise back at you. You’re a good testament to someone that’s been doing that for a long time. So thanks for all you do, Steve.

Steve Sanduski: All right, appreciate it Brad.  

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