If a prospect asked you, “Why should I choose you?,” could you persuasively answer it in seven words or less? In this competitive world, you better be able to.
The rap on financial advisors is they all look and sound the same. In the past, you could get away with that because there was so much business to go around and consumers were less discerning. Today, it’s a much more competitive world and this means you must find a way to become “uniquely remarkable” or else resign yourself to commodity level income.
Ian Chamandy is the co-author of the incredible book, Why Should I Choose You? He joins the podcast today for a fascinating look at how to answer the “why should I choose you” question in, get this, seven words or less.
In fact, Ian says this is the most important question in business because answering it will shape every area of your business, not just sales and marketing.
Financial Advisors Sound the Same
I randomly looked up five financial advisor websites to see the words they used to describe what they do. Here’s what I found.
- “At ________, we are committed to building strong client relationships.”
- “One of our primary goals is to develop a long-term, trusting relationship with you.”
- “We help people make financial decisions, grow their wealth, protect their assets, and create legacy through the advice we give.”
- “We can provide you with the guidance that can help you understand and better define your financial objectives.”
- “_________’s mission is to help clients make and implement decisions on investments, retirement planning and taxes to protect and grow their wealth and reach financial independence.”
To make matters worse, when I googled one of the phrases above, I found it on multiple sites—the exact same language! Not surprisingly, those sites were developed and hosted by the same website outsourcing company—they didn’t even bother to customize the language! I can go on but I think you get the idea. There’s very little differentiation among most advisors.
And while this is a bit off topic, none of the websites above clearly listed their fee schedule. Today’s consumers want openness and that means you should post your fee schedule plainly and clearly on your website.
Here’s another reason why this lack of distinction is such a big problem for advisors–Research shows that up to 60% of the decision to hire you has already been made BEFORE the prospect contacts you.
Prospects are gathering their decision-making info by checking out your website, your thought leadership, your social channels, reviewing any other info they can get their hands on, and asking people who may know you.
Now, if I was a prospect and reviewed the websites of the five firms mentioned above, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with one that stands out and makes me want to contact that one over the other four.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Ian and his colleague Ken Aber developed a framework they call “Blueprint.” Blueprint consists of three elements.
1. Core Proposition: This is your seven words or less that articulates your corporate DNA. It answers the questions, “Who are you?” and “Why should I choose you?” Ian said, “The purpose of the core proposition is to give your organization a total focus on the one thing that makes it uniquely remarkable.”
2. Business Architecture: This describes everything you do and how you do it. You use your Core Proposition to guide everything you do within your Business Architecture.
3. Core Story: Your Core Story contains all the high-level information on your organization that guides everything it says both externally and internally. As with your Business Architecture, the development of your Core Story is guided by your Core Proposition.
Chamandy and Aber’s process is solid and deep. Almost all of their clients describe it as “psychotherapy for the company.” And frankly, you’ll need to go that deep and use a process like Blueprint to really get at the innermost core of what makes your firm unique. It’s not easy but it can be done.
Ian Chamandy on Why Should I Choose You?
So how do you get to your Core Proposition?
Ian said when working with a company, there are two key questions they explore in great depth to uncover the Core Proposition.
1. What does the company really do as opposed to what it thinks it does? This gets to the Core Logic of your business. It’s about what do you do, how do all the pieces of your business fit together, and what tangible problem does your business solve for your clients.
2. How does the Core Logic satisfy a deep emotional need? This question is important because what you do has to solve a deep emotional need or else you won’t get true buy-in from clients and your team. This part should be no problem for financial advisors because what you do definitely solves a deep emotional need for clients—but you have to articulate it.
You have to spend a substantial amount of time uncovering your Core Proposition because, unlike a tagline or positioning statement, “it has to endure for the next 15 to 20 years.”
I run into financial advisors all the time who struggle with trying to articulate what makes them different and how to answer the why should I choose you question. Fortunately, Chamandy and Aber have created a roadmap to help you figure it out.
And click here to learn more about how financial advisor coaching through Belay Advisor can help you become “uniquely remarkable” and attract ideal clients.
– Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.
Steve Sanduski: Hello, everybody, and welcome back. You are listening to Between Now and Success. Steve here, and joining me today is Ian Chamandy. Ian is the co-founder of a company called Blueprint Business Architecture. Ian, it is great to have you on the show.
Ian Chamandy: Thank you very much, Steve.
Steve Sanduski: Ian, I first heard about you not too long ago. I was listening to another podcast where you were a guest. It was Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation, which I’ve talked about on previous shows. It’s a great show, so all of you listening here I would encourage you to subscribe to that one as well. You came out with a new book recently that really caught my attention as I was listening to you on that other podcast. The book is called “Why Should I Choose You?” and the subtitle is, “Answering the most important question in business in seven words or less.” Why don’t you just take a moment here and tell us about why did this book come about? What’s the importance of this question that your book is based on?
Ian Chamandy: We didn’t actually start out there with our business; we started wanting to create a strategic planning business. When I say “we” I’m talking about my business partner Ken Aber and I. We were very frustrated with the traditional strategic planning process, you know, going away on a two-day retreat, grinding through the same old boring agenda year after year, and people go back to work on Monday, ra, ra, ra, new plan, new plan. By Thursday they’re back to the same old, same old.
Ian Chamandy: We knew that traditional strategic planning was broken, and we had to figure out how it was broken before we started this business so that we didn’t recreate the flaw ourselves. This is a bit of a roundabout answer to your question. When we stripped planning down to its simplest element, it really just answers two questions, which is where are you going and how are you going to get there? What that made us realize is that those are Questions 2 and 3 in what should be a three-question process.
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Ian Chamandy: The first question, which is, “Who are you as a company?” either nobody either asks or the process they have for answering it is so superficial that it renders the answer meaningless. When you fluff the first question, you suffer from what we call the five-degree rule, which is that if you’re off by five degrees coming out of the gate you’re going to be off by 45 degrees by the time you’re a couple miles down the road.
Ian Chamandy: We actually created Blueprint, our company, just to answer the question, “Who are you?” What we found, whether you really, really nailed the answer to that question, is the figuring out where you were going and how you were going to get there. It became self-evident to the CEO and the leadership team. It was like the veil lifted and the fog cleared, but the problem that creates is if you get a bunch of smart people sitting around the room discussing the question, “Who are we?” it’s a little esoteric, and it leads you running around in circles.
Ian Chamandy: Separately from that, we started having a conversation about the question, “Why should I choose you?” which on the surface seems to be a marketing and sales question, and for sure it is, but when you think about questions like, “Why should I invest in you?” “Why should I work for you or continue working for you?” “Why should I be on your board?” “Why should I be your strategic partner?” even, “Why should I be your supplier?” these are all, “Why should I choose you?” questions that have nothing to do with marketing and sales and everything to do with every other area of your business.
Ian Chamandy: What we found when we really, really nailed the answer to … Sorry, I missed a step here. What that made us realize is that if you could come up with a clear, concise and compelling answer to the question, “Why should I choose you?” it would actually shape every area of your business, not just marketing and sales. What we found when we really, really nailed the answer to that question is two things. One is, “Why should I choose you?” could always be answered in sever words or less, and the second thing is it actually also answered the question, “Who are you?”
Ian Chamandy: Our conundrum about how to answer the question, “Who are you?” was solved by having a discussion around the question, “Why should I choose you?” That’s why we say that it’s the single most important strategic question in business because that’s the conversation that we have in our clients in order to form their strategy.
Steve Sanduski: When you talk about answering this question in seven words or less, is that essentially like a seven-word value proposition or do you consider what you’re doing here to be different than a value proposition?
Ian Chamandy: It’s sort of a value proposition and it’s sort of not. A value proposition is typically linked to a product or service. For any product or service you have, you have a value proposition or you may have a number of value propositions depending on who the audiences are for them and that sort of thing.
Ian Chamandy: The thing about value propositions is that they change over time because market conditions change. Customer attitudes change, so you’ve got to reshape your value proposition every now and then. There is one proposition that is core to who you are as an organization that never changes, and that’s why we call that seven words or less your “core proposition.” It is the articulation of your DNA as an organization, and just like the DNA in your body it never changes, which sounds a little strange, I know, because we’re taught to be constantly adapting, constantly evolving as businesses, constantly keeping up or even staying ahead of where our customers are, but this is really a deep definition of who you are.
Ian Chamandy: When you think of who you are as a person, Steve, now, and you think of yourself as an eight-year-old, obviously you’re older and wiser, but you’re still who you are or who you were as an eight-year-old. You just feel like an older version of that, and that’s what companies are. If you can define your DNA, that is something that never changes. How you implement that, how you execute it, that will be constantly changing, but who you are at your core as a company, that never changes.
Steve Sanduski: Let’s talk about some examples, then, of these core propositions for some of the companies that you’ve worked with. Can you give us an example or two and perhaps the process that one of these companies went through, the angst, I think, that they had to go through to really get to this DNA of their business, their core proposition? How does that process work?
Ian Chamandy: It’s typically six sessions of a half day each with up to four key decision makers from the company. One of whom has to be the CEO. This is really the leader’s project. We’ve worked with companies large and small, from companies that have like 70,000, 80,000 employees to startups and everything in between, and about 25% of our practice is in the world of philanthropy, so doing hospitals and universities and other kinds of charities.
Ian Chamandy: The company that I’m going to tell you about is the one that we actually lead off the book with. It’s a company that does retail shelving. Home Depot builds a box. This company goes in and it puts up all the rack shelving, and when they’re done the store opens. When the CEO came to us, he said, “I know we have a secret sauce. I know there’s magic to what we do, but every time I open my mouth to talk about it, it just sounds so banal, so generic, and so much like whatever one of our competitors could say.” We said to him, “John, that’s because you don’t know what business you’re really in,” and he said, “You’re right. I don’t know what business I’m really in.”
Ian Chamandy: The way John would typically describe what business he’s in, he’s in the business of retail shelving, but that’s not a business; that’s a category. All of his competitors play in that category or that sandbox. The question is, within that sandbox or category, who are you? What makes you uniquely remarkable as a company? He had no clue.
Ian Chamandy: We were doing sessions with him and his executive team, and where the conversation got interesting was when they started talking about how they had been in business for three generations. Most of their competitors had been in business for five or ten years, and because of that longevity they had developed techniques and processes and systems and procedures that allowed them to get finished significantly faster than their competitors.
Ian Chamandy: You can imagine if they get a Home Depot done a week or two faster than their competitors then the store gets to open a week or two sooner and it’s generating sales a week or two faster. For a Home Depot that’s well north of $1 million a week, so it’s serious money, and at the end of the day, that’s the only metric that matters to us is money.
Ian Chamandy: As we’re having this conversation about getting finished faster, one of his executives said jokingly, “You know our signs where it says ‘Opening Soon?’ I want ours to say ‘Opening Sooner.'” We just went, “That’s brilliant. That’s really brilliant.” We have this process that we go through to bulletproof a core proposition to make sure it’s right and it survives that bulletproofing process. That became their seven words or less, “Opening Sooner.”
Ian Chamandy: The thing about the core proposition is that it is just the starting point, so a core proposition in its own right doesn’t have a whole lot of value; it’s what you do with it. That’s Parts 2 and 3 in our process. Part 2 is to hold that core proposition, “Opening Sooner,” up to all the parts of the business and say, “Is this part truly committed to or aligned with opening sooner?” If the answer is “yes,” then we just leave that part of the business alone. If the answer is “no,” then we say, “How does this part have to shift in order to be aligned with opening sooner?” That’s how we got all the parts of John’s company working in lockstep toward the same goal, which is opening sooner.
Ian Chamandy: The third part of our process is we say, “Okay, now that we’ve got the company, the substance and operations of the company fully aligned with opening sooner, how do we tell that story in the most compelling way possible?” We use the core proposition, “Opening Sooner,” to construct that core story, and those are the three parts of the blueprint: the core proposition, the business architecture, and the core story.
Steve Sanduski: All those make great sense to me, and I want to just continue to dig a little deeper here on this first part, this core proposition, because I think a lot of the people that are listening here, that’s the piece that they really struggle with because many of the people listening are in services businesses, in particular financial advisory businesses. Just like in the example you gave there, talking about the company that provides shelving for Home Depot, you said technically they’re in the business of providing retail shelving. I think you said that’s a category. Then you talked about how their core proposition was “Opening Sooner.”
Steve Sanduski: Then you used the phrase, “To focus on the one thing that makes them uniquely remarkable.” I really liked how you phrased that. I’ve got your book. I’ve read your book. I think it’s great. I’ll be linking to that in the show notes, and I know in the book you gave another example of a financial services company called “Ameritas Financial Strategy.” Tell us, if you would, what happened with them. What was the core proposition that you came up for them or with them, and just how that developed?
Ian Chamandy: This is actually a really fascinating story. I’m glad you reminded me of that. We’ve done a lot of work in the world of finance. We’ve done a bunch of work with financial advisors but also with banks and even with stock exchange, which is the equivalent of the New York Stock Exchange. We know that in the world of financial advisors that they are essentially seen as commodities, and it’s a huge challenge to make a compelling argument for why a person should come to you and become your client.
Ian Chamandy: The companies that a lot of these financial advisors work for don’t really provide them with the tools to provide that compelling argument, so they all come across as very generic and very commodity-like. This financial advisor used to work for one of the big companies, and he got disillusioned with the fact that the primary vehicles for helping their clients move forward were the company’s products as opposed to the best thing for the clients, which might be instruments that are outside of the company’s product base. He wanted to start a company that was really agnostic in terms of the kinds of investment vehicles that it put its clients into.
Ian Chamandy: The other thing is that he did not believe in the standard buy and hold investment philosophy. What he described to us is two broad market cycles that run approximately 20 years. One is a constantly increasing market, which we experienced from, let’s say, 1980 to 2000ish. The other is essentially a sideways market or a flat market that we’ve been in for the last 15 years or so. If you’re in a constantly rising market, then buy and hold makes sense. If you’re in a flat market, it doesn’t make sense because if you start out with $100 at the beginning of it you’re going to have $100 at the end of it.
Ian Chamandy: His other point is that how you then draw down that money in your retirement, if you don’t plan for that effectively in how you set up your retirement plan, then you’re going to lose a lot of the money that you gained during the drawdown phase. What he said is that the really, rich people have their own private teams of planners. They’ve got rooms full of people with spreadsheets, and they figure out the right thing to do, and they understand these two broad market cycles. They tailor their investment strategies to these two broad market cycles, whichever one they happen to be in and their drawdown strategies.
Ian Chamandy: What we did in the blueprint is we defined these people as the smart money because they’re not picking things that are particular to a certain company. They’re not ideologically inclined to any type of investment. They’re just doing whatever the data says is the right thing at the right time for these rich people. That’s what they’re going to do, and we defined that as the smart money.
Ian Chamandy: What our client did is he mirrored their investment strategy. He learned their investment strategies and he mirrors them. It’s almost like he’s a divining rod for what the smart money is doing. Although you’re not super rich as his client, or even you might not be rich at all, or just quite modest, but you’re getting the same investment strategies as the super rich people are. His core proposition just became, “Following the smart money.” That was his whole story was built around this idea that you as a modest, middle-class investor are going to have the same strategies and the same advantages as the really rich people do who have their own private teams planning their investing.
Steve Sanduski: Can you think of some other potential core propositions in the financial advisory business? I know you have to go through a whole process with firms, and I was just thinking about this as I was reading your book and preparing for this conversation with you. I think there was another core proposition in your book called “a greater degree of certainty.” That might have been another company that you worked with.
Steve Sanduski: Then I was thinking instilling confidence. I was trying to think, what are some of the things that financial advisors do that could make them uniquely remarkable? Any brainstorms here off the top of your head that you could think of?
Ian Chamandy: No because the blueprint process doesn’t work that way and not just because it actually takes quite a bit of time to figure out what your core proposition is, but because it’s actually based on your methodology, and every company, every investment advisor, every investment advisor company has its own unique methodology. Most of them don’t know it but they actually do, so part of what we have to do is we have to tease out of our clients what their unique methodology is.
Ian Chamandy: For instance, with this investment advisor who was following the smart money, he explained what his whole process was to us, and we defined, we sort of crystallized that into an easy-to-explain methodology, and that methodology is just sort of captured in the headline, if you will, of following the smart money. What you need to do is you need to figure out what your unique approach is to guiding your client’s money. Once you do that then you can start to get at, “Okay, how do I articulate that in a very short phrase?”
Steve Sanduski: As you go through this blueprint process, I think you said that it’s like six half-day sessions, how much of that, of those six, is spent on this first part, coming up with the core proposition?
Ian Chamandy: The short answer is usually it takes two to three sessions to get there out of six. The longer answer is when I describe the process to you I say, “We figure out your core proposition. We run it through your business architecture, and then we develop your core story.” It sounds linear, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, but the reality is that we jump into the middle, and what we do is we start tearing your existing business architecture apart. The colloquial way describe it is that we tear the business apart so it’s lying in pieces on the table.
Ian Chamandy: At some point during that conversation your core proposition is going to pop out, and we have to go through the process of both perking it to make sure it’s right, but then what we do is we start reconstructing the company from those pieces, from the pieces that survived this Darwinian process. We start reconstructing the company around the core proposition.
Ian Chamandy: When you say, “How long does it take?” it takes two or three sessions to come up with a core proposition. The conversation that we’ve been having in those two or three sessions is already moving towards building your core story and your business architecture, so it’s not like three sessions to do your core proposition, and then we start your business architecture from scratch, and then we start your core story from scratch.
Steve Sanduski: Right, got it. During this process when you’re coming up with the core proposition, can you give some examples of questions that you’re asking during that process? I think you mentioned that you’re really trying to get into the methodology that the firm uses in order to come up with the core proposition. Are there other things that you’re looking at or other questions that you’re asking to help people come up with what their core proposition is?
Ian Chamandy: There are. What we ask our clients to think about before the first session is, “If everything that you do is a means to an end, what’s the end purpose?” The reason that we ask that question is because if I was to ask almost any business, “What are all the things that you do?” they would have no trouble describing that to me, and they see that as what the value is to the client. They see, “Here’s the things that we do, and that is what is of value to the clients,” but when you think back to our retail shelving company the thing that is of value to the client is that they’re getting open sooner, not anything that the retail shelving company actually does in order to get them open sooner.
Ian Chamandy: That sends people for a bit of a loop because when we say, “Everything that you do is a means to an end,” that’s usually where their conversation about their business stops. Then when we say, “What is the end purpose of if?” that’s something that they’ve never considered. When you’re thinking about the answer to that question, “What is the end purpose?” you need to thinking about it from the customer’s perspective. You need to get out of your own head and into the customers’ head.
Ian Chamandy: Here’s the example: The person who is the VP of construction at a Home Depot, that person has two things at the end of the day that they care about: staying on budget, staying on time. Staying on budget, they’re accountable to the CEO and the CFO. Staying on time, they’re accountable to the CEO, the CFO, the VP of operations, the VP of marketing, the VP of HR, the store manager, plus all the external suppliers who have project management timelines going into that opening day.
Ian Chamandy: If the VP of construction has to push that back a week or two, that goes click, click, click, click, click back to everybody’s project management timeline, and now they’ve got hundreds or even thousands of people angry at them because they’ve thrown their schedules into disarray. It’s arguable that staying on time causes the VP of construction even more anxiety than staying on budget, and when you have the supplier who is most important to hitting that opening day, “Thank you. I’m not only going to beat your deadline but I’m going to beat it by so much that you’re actually going to be able open the store sooner,” you can just feel the sign of relief coming out of this anxiety-riddled VP of construction.
Ian Chamandy: For your client, as an investment advisor for your clients, you have to understand what the deep emotional need is that you’re satisfying, and it’s not going to be something like, “Oh, I want to be rich.” That’s very superficial. You have to understand what the deep, emotional need is.
Ian Chamandy: When we ask the question, “If everything you do is a means to the end, what’s the end purpose?” that end purpose has to satisfy a deep emotional need inside the client. You really need to understand what the emotional drivers are of the client as they relate to, “What do I do with my money and how do I make it grow?” or, even more importantly, “How do I not lose it?”
Steve Sanduski: Right, and I’m glad you brought up this idea of the emotional component in all of this because as advisors work with their clients, of course emotions often times come to the forefront because we’re dealing with money, and we’re dealing with family issues, and we’re dealing with legacy, so a lot of things where emotions can really get mixed up into it.
Steve Sanduski: Earlier you talked about the three components or you talked about the core proposition, which we spent a lot of time talking about, which then you have the business architecture you use the core proposition to help shape everything that you do in the business, and then that third piece was the core story. I want to spend a little bit of time here talking about the core story in particular. This is really where you’re using the core proposition to guide everything that you say about the company both internally and externally helps guide the creation of the branding, the marketing, and just all that communication about the company.
Steve Sanduski: Again, I think this is an area where a lot of financial advisors can get hung up, and again, what I really like about your book here is just you cut to the chase here and you’ve created a process that allows people to come up with their core proposition in seven words or less. If you can just really articulate that and really get to that core, that makes you uniquely remarkable then you can get to this core story piece and figure out how can I now incorporate what makes me uniquely remarkable and then go out and communicate that to the marketplace? Talk a little bit about the process here with the core story and how do we take the core proposition and use that to shape our story.
Ian Chamandy: A lot of times that is the starting point for our clients. They come to us and they say, like the opening sooner client, they come to us and say, “I just don’t know what to say,” or, “I’ve got a whole sales force and they’re angry at me because I don’t know what to tell them to say and they don’t feel like they have any substance to their story.” What they’re not realizing when they say that is that that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. They’ve got a whole bunch of other problems with their business structurally and operationally that need to be sorted out first before you can get to the story. That’s the part that we deal with earlier in the blueprint.
Ian Chamandy: Once you know your core proposition there are six questions that we have to answer in order to construct the core story, and all six of those questions are in the book. There’s one chapter on each question. I’ll just run through it. The first question is who are you? That’s all we’ve answered with the name of the company, which I would say in about 30% of the cases of us doing blueprints the name of the company changes. It’s the name of the company and the core proposition. The six questions at that point, that’s the easiest one to answer.
Ian Chamandy: The next question is what does that mean? The purpose of a core proposition is meant to cause intrigue. When you think about the example that we gave before the financial advisor following the smart money it’s like, “Ooh, that sounds interesting. Tell me more.” Question #2 is what does that mean? We have to very succinctly describe what following the smart money means. At the end of that answer, and I’m talking about anywhere from five to seven bullet points, so we’re not talking about paragraphs and paragraphs of information here, just like five to seven short bullet points. Wrap it up in a nutshell.
Ian Chamandy: At the end of that Question 2 your listeners should be sitting there saying, “Okay, I get it. That makes a lot of sense to me.” The next intuitive question that they may ask is, “I get that that’s what you’re about but why are you qualified to do that?” What we need to do is we need what are all of the qualifications. In or book this financial advisor, his list of qualification is one of the longest that we’ve ever done in the blueprint. He’s a very, very accomplished guy. That’s Question #3: What is your qualifications?
Ian Chamandy: Question #4 sort of says, “Okay, I totally understand the logic of what you do. I get why you’re qualified. If you’re truly good at this, what’s your methodology? What is your unique methodology?” This is probably the hardest question in the core story to answer because, as I mentioned to you before, every company has a unique methodology. Most of them don’t know it so we have to tease it out of them.
Ian Chamandy: Question 5 is what are the beliefs that have led you to this core proposition, following the smart money or opening sooner? A little bit of background on that questions: We don’t believe in core values because that is something that is, in the development of the core values that’s usually something that’s really sort of abused by companies. There’s a list of maybe 15 words and every company in North America picks from that list of 15 words, and it’s usually things like honesty, accountability, reliability, those sorts of things.
Ian Chamandy: As an employee of a company, how do those values really guide my behavior? If I already think, and I think most people do think that they’re honest and accountable and responsible, how does the core value of honesty, accountability and reliability guide my behavior? Beliefs are one step below values and their far more tangible. When you see a list of beliefs, and again, there’s a whole chapter on that in our book, but when you see a list of beliefs you see how, “Oh yeah, I get how that’s a specific guide to behavior that is also specifically relevant to this business and its core proposition.” Those lists of beliefs become sort of an operating model and a culture design guideline for a company.
Steve Sanduski: What I like about the beliefs there is to me that’s more personal in that when I think of beliefs you may not agree with my beliefs, whereas with the values, like you’re talking about, those are pretty much universal and it’s like, who’s going to disagree with those values? You’re not going to put, most likely, something down that a lot of people would disagree with, but if you state your beliefs we’ve got a lot of political stuff going on here in the U.S. and people have a lot of different beliefs. But if you agree with a certain person’s belief then you feel very strongly about that often times and it helps you bond to that person, so I like the fact that as part of your process here you’re talking about beliefs because I think that helps personalize it and gets people to feel more attracted to you if they agree with that.
Ian Chamandy: The opposite is true too actually, Steve, which is very interesting. You actually want people to disagree with your beliefs because you want to know who is aligned with you and who isn’t. The mistake that you don’t want to make is in hiring people who are not aligned with you. If you state what your beliefs are and someone says, “I don’t agree with that,” then you just want to shake their hand and say, “Totally understand it. Nothing wrong with that but you’re not an appropriate person to work here.”
Steve Sanduski: Yeah, and it’s not just people that work for you, maybe you were going to say this, but also potential clients. I think that’s something that certainly is not unique to financial advisors but a lot of service providers don’t want to turn away business. They don’t want to do or say anything that might possibly turn away potential clients, but as I say to people in my coaching, I’m like, “Hey, you need to be clear on who you are, what you stand for, and if you turn away people that’s fantastic because you don’t want the whole world to be knocking on your door.”
Steve Sanduski: If you believe in everything and think, “I’ve got an open door here and I’ll take on all comers,” you’re not going to be of interest to anybody because no one will feel like you completely understand what their needs are and you have the specific program or service or core proposition, as we’re talking about here, to meet their particular needs. I agree 100% with that, that you need to be in the business of standing for something that is going to repel people, not necessarily repel but at least be neutral but on the other hand will also strongly attract people that believe in what you have to offer.
Ian Chamandy: The reason that people don’t want to turn business away is because they don’t have enough. If you were overwhelmed with business, you would start trying to figure out ways to weed out the bad business from the good business. The reason why you’re not overwhelmed with business is because you don’t have a compelling story that is representing a compelling service offering. We describe the blueprints as being like a magnet, and everybody knows that a magnet attracts. What they forget is that a magnet also repels.
Ian Chamandy: If your story is like a magnet and it stands for something, as you were saying, it’s going to attract far more people than it is now, but the other thing it’s going to do is it’s going to repel people as well, and the people that it’s going to repel are the people that you don’t want as clients. The thing is, if the attractive part of your magnet is working as effectively as it should, you will be very happy about the people that it’s repelling because you won’t have time for them and they’re a pain in the ass anyway.
Steve Sanduski: Right, and if you go through this process, if you come up with your core proposition, your business architecture, your core story, you’ve really nailed it and you’re going to attract those people that really could benefit the most from your services, and it will help differentiate you from the other folks in the market place and likely, I would imagine, enable you to charge a premium price.
Ian Chamandy: Exactly. Here’s something that I’m often shocked about, and I don’t normally like to us an example, but I can’t believe how many new business pitches we go into where people don’t ask us what our fee is. We hear that from our clients all the time. They get so caught up in the story and in talking about the story that the meeting is over and there’s a next step, but at no point in that our did anybody say, “And what’s your fee?” I would say probably in half of our new business meetings we don’t get asked in that first meeting what our fee is. Normally that’s the first thing people ask.
Steve Sanduski: Right. Good. You’ve gone through I think five parts here of this core story, and I think you said there’s six. What’s the sixth one?
Ian Chamandy: The last question is, “What do I get?” That’s always from the perspective of a stakeholder. We make a list of all the material stakeholders of a company. Obviously their clients are one of those material stakeholders, but there’s other ones like employees and maybe board. There could be regulators or whoever. We ask the question, “If what you’re about is following the smart money, what do I as a customer get at that? What do I as an employee of yours get at that? What do I as …”
Ian Chamandy: What that does is it says, “Okay, following the smart money is going to resonate with all the stakeholders but it’s going to resonate with each one differently, and we have to figure out how it resonates because obviously following the smart money is going to resonate with our employees, clients much differently than it is for their clients. For their clients it’s all about earning wealth. For the employees it’s not about earning wealth because it’s not their money. It’s their clients’ money.”
Ian Chamandy: What that question does is it takes the core proposition and it says, “How are we going to flavor that? How are we going to tell that story to this stakeholder? Then how are we going to tell that story differently to this stakeholder, and that story differently to this stakeholder?” That’s what enables you to tell the story slightly differently depending on what audience you’re in front of so that you’re doing it in a way that resonates with them most powerfully.
Steve Sanduski: Ian, I know we’ve got just a few minutes left here before we wrap up. Let me go back to the beginning here a little bit. You mentioned that you started out thinking you were going to be in the strategic planning consulting business. I know after reading your book that you’re not a believer in mission and vision statements. As we were talking here you also mentioned that you’re not big on companies putting together their values statement or what their values are.
Steve Sanduski: Tell me a little bit more about this idea of not putting any faith in mission and vision statements. Are you saying basically that your blueprint methodology essentially takes the place and is a better way to accomplish what we traditionally think a mission and vision statement is supposed to do for us?
Ian Chamandy: Exactly. There’s nothing in theory that’s wrong with mission and vision statements. It’s just how their done. If 95% of the mission and vision statements in the world are just self-congratulatory, narcissistic, gobbledygook statements about the company they are virtually incomprehensible. Once the company has spent all that money and all that time and energy developing them they’re forgotten, so they actually have no material impact on the running and operation of the business.
Ian Chamandy: Ken and I said, “Well, we have one of two choices here. We can either try and do a better version of the mission and vision statement or we can just throw it out and recreate something from scratch.” The core proposition is sort of the vision and mission statement rolled up into one in that we do believe the role of the vision and mission statement are supposed to do is provide like a North Star for a company, to define the purpose, to provide the guiding light. We do agree with that notion, and that’s what the core proposition does in the absence of the vision and mission statement.
Ian Chamandy: We you know that what you’re about is following the smart money, that provides really tangible guidance for you in terms of how you operate the company going forward. You have to be constantly abreast of the new strategies and techniques that the smart money is using to guide their mountains of millions of dollars in investment, and then you have to figure out how to mimic that for people of more modest means.
Ian Chamandy: There’s a whole bunch of decisions that are involved in running the company but it’s always following the smart money that is the strategic filter that this client looks through in figuring what’s right and not right for his business and for his clients. The core proposition fulfills that role of being the North Star or the strategic filter. You don’t need a gobbledygook mission and vision statement.
Steve Sanduski: Again, I really like how you’ve laid this whole process out in your book, “Why Should I Choose You?” I’ll link to it on my website, which is belayadvisor.com. You can also go to Ian’s website. Ian, why don’t you tell us what your website is for folks if they want to order the book directly from you guys. I think they can get it from your website too.
Ian Chamandy: Yeah, sure. It’s 7words.biz, and that’s the number 7words dot B as in Bob, I-Z.
Steve Sanduski: Great. We’ll link to that from my page as well. Ian, this is great. I appreciate it. Is there anything else that you want to add here before we wrap up?
Ian Chamandy: I just want to thank you, Steve. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to your audience, and I had a lot of fun talking to you. Thank you.
Steve Sanduski: Thank you. I appreciate you writing the book, great content. I recommend all the folks listening to this, pick up a copy of it, and just love this idea of getting to the core proposition in seven words or less. I think that will help everyone listening to just really zero in on what it is that makes you and your company uniquely remarkable. Ian, thank you and wish you continued great success in all the work that you do.
Ian Chamandy: Thank you, Steve.