Welcome to the Top Advisor Podcast brought to you by Proud Mouth’s Influence Accelerator Academy. I’m your host Bill Cates. In each episode, I interview one of the financial service industries, top performers to learn their secrets to sustain success. These short interviews will get right to the heart of what each top advisor is doing to acquire more right fit clients.
You’ll be reminded, renewed, and inspired to take powerful action. You’ll impact more lives and increase your income at the same time. Now onto the show.
BILL: With me today is Al Fox. Al has been a financial advisor for 27 years. Al’s firm managers over 1 billion in client assets. So clearly he’s doing something right when it comes to client acquisition. In this episode of Top Advisor Podcast, I want to talk to Al about how he works to boost his engagement with his clients and maintain truly authentic connections and how he leverages those connections into new clients.
Al Fox. Welcome to Top Advisor Podcast.
AL: Bill. Thank you so much for asking me to join you today.
BILL: You bet. Al and I go way back. Al I think you heard me attend the session of your company or deliver a session to your company. What? 15 years ago.
AL: Yeah, probably. Probably more than 15. And that sounds about right. It’s been a long time.
BILL: We’ve been in touch ever since. So, Al I like to start each of my shows, asking my guests the question, which I believe is central to being successful in this business. And that is, why do you believe in the work that you do? What is the “why” that keeps you performing as a top advisor?
AL: Bill, Thank you. We believe every day our mission is to make a critical difference in the lives of the people that we have an opportunity to be fortunately involved with and in front of, and our “why” is their goals and objectives become our marching order and our mission. We get an incredible amount of enjoyment and self satisfaction and of course, reward in all sense of the word, out of making someone else’s goals and objectives our own mission to help them get over the finish line.
BILL: Hmm. So what’s best for the client always comes first. It sounds like.
AL: A hundred percent.
BILL: Yeah. So before we get into the topic at hand, give us just a quick glimpse of your business to give everyone a bit of context on what your business model looks like.
AL: So today we have three partners, myself included. We have a total of 15 folks or teammates that work in various capacities between our different business units. And we specialize in people that are going through lives in transition. And so people will sometimes say, well, what’s a transition. Selling a business, retiring, losing a spouse, a marriage, breaking up any type of transitional event in life where you’re going to need a new lens to look at your long-term goals and objectives and really making sure that you’re on target to land safely at your destination, whatever that destination is.
BILL: Yes. So, I know that you have a fairly large team compared to a lot of folks who are listening. How was it managing that team? Is it tough finding new talent, is it a constant engagement on your part?
AL: It’s always difficult recruiting and retaining great talent because everyone that’s passionate about anything puts their heart and soul into that. So you’re always looking for someone that’s going to be as passionate as you are. Myself, my partners, the founders, so to speak, but we believe that as we develop talent and as we manage our team, if we do it correctly, we’re in essence going to be able to satisfy every promise we’ve ever made to every client.
And we look at the next generation of team members as will they be able to deliver that message and will I and my family be able to be a client in my own practice. And if I’m bringing you in to work on our team, are you going to satisfy our needs the way I would satisfy my own needs today? And that’s maybe a high bar. But that’s the bar we strive for, nevertheless.
BILL: Yeah. Would you be willing and able to be a client of your own practice based on the folks that you hire? Well, that’s probably a whole interview in and of itself, but I do want to get on to this concept of client engagement, authentic connections. It’s kind of a big possibly a morphos type of topic. What does that actually mean? So what does authentic client engagement mean to you? Why is it a topic, do you think worthy of our attention today?
AL: Well, there’s a lot of ways that I could respond to that, but if you’ll allow me with your audience, I just want to share a message that I received from a client not too long ago. Someone that lost their spouse about four years ago. Someone that we see a few times a year annually, and I’ll read verbatim Bill, if you’ll allow me.
AL: “I always love when you and Ed come to town and I love where all of our conversations go. You’re both so much more than financial advisors. It’s actually what we talked about least tonight. I truly cherish your company and I’m always grateful for your advice and continued feedback. Thank you for everything you do. But most of all, thank you for caring.”
I share that cause there’s probably not a greater compliment we could receive from someone that we’ve helped for a lot of years, that then really went through a very difficult personal situation. And when people are at their lowest or at their weakest that’s frankly, when we get an opportunity to be our best and serve their needs to the best of our ability to make sure they don’t miss a beat in every aspect of their life.
So I thought that that’s worth sharing this morning. And thank you for allowing me to do that.
BILL: Yeah, I think that’s what we mean by authenticity in the sense that when someone is at their lowest, not everyone feels comfortable dealing with clients, dealing with people in general when they’re having tough times, right?
It’s easy to be around folks when all is well. But when our clients are struggling and we have to really be there and be authentic. Be a good listener, not always easy.
Talk about that a little bit and how you’ve worked with your team perhaps to make those types of connections and help everyone in your firm be available for your clients under those circumstances.
AL: We always start with the premise of do more listening than you do talking. And, you know, that’s often thrown out there by many professionals but practicing it is a lot harder to do than just using the words. And we believe everyone should have an experience the way you yourself would want to have a personalized experience that begins with a deep emotional connection.
And it begins with listening. What’s most important to you. And why is it most important to you? And we find that if we stick with some very basic questions. That we usually get at the heart of that. And then the other thing that perhaps, maybe your listeners will find valuable in any of those that know me, know that I’m about as subtle as a Mack truck driving through your driveway.
BILL: It’s true.
AL: Um, just get comfortable being uncomfortable and get comfortable saying that thing that no one else wants to say. If it’s truthful and if it’s from the heart and you mean it with passion and intention. No one can fault you for caring. And that’s the way we run a practice. And that’s the way we communicate with our clients that entrust us with their lives. And that’s what we insist and ask all of our team members to keep working on.
BILL: You know, it’s interesting. Some advisors who I interview, who do a billion dollars or more in assets, and you know multi-million a year in revenue. They’re like prospecting machines, they’re driven in a way to acquire clients you certainly acquire clients.
So we’re going to get into that. But to me, you’re a client engagement machine. You’re an authenticity machine. I think that’s why you’ve been able to grow the way you have. Not by being a marketing acquisition machine, but by really doing the right thing and caring about your clients, would you agree with that? Any challenges to what I just said?
AL: No Bill, I don’t think there’s any challenges to it. Clearly. We’re not satisfied with the number of lives we’ve touched. So that’s our modus operandi for why we want to continue to grow. However, we just believe in good quality engagements with human beings that have needs.
And by doing that, it’s led us to really phenomenal success about in your words. Not keeping that experience a secret and who else do you know, love and care about that we could make this kind of impact with? And we believe that with every fiber of our being, so it isn’t difficult to just share that message and continue to grow by word of mouth and by purposeful, meaningful asks.
BILL: So I know that one of the decisions you made recently to enhance this engagement, these authentic connections with your clients, are video messages, and you worked very hard for about a year to get your company to approve you to do the video.
Tell me the why behind this. Why did you decide you wanted to put video out? What are you trying to accomplish using video?
AL: So the why on that one is simple. An additional way to be connected. And an additional way to deliver value and deliver a message to clients, frankly, that we think is relevant and necessary in today’s digital age.
So sorta like how would you like to hear from us? Well, here’s another way you have an opportunity to hear from us. And we looked at it as client driven communication. So that’s how we thought of it. It was our why. And, you know, it’s like today we can’t just be trusted advisors, but we need to be trusted relevant advisors.
BILL: I know that we’ve talked a little bit about, uh, your experience of having scripted versus unscripted videos, teleprompter versus going from the cuff. What have you found to be the best for you?
AL: So contrary to what many would think, I prefer to be unscripted and just talk, but in a compliance regulated world where every message is subject to the gleaning eyes of scrutiny, what we found is we write unscripted and then it needs to be in very scripted language so there’s never any miscommunication.
So for those of you that are thinking about doing video recording, and our freestyle folks, which I think most advisors would prefer to be. I would encourage you to freestyle out of the gate, record in a script, tighten it to the point where you’d be proud to have it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, because then there can be no misinterpretation as to what you’re saying. And you’ll add the humor, the facial expressions, the voice inflection, the color commentary, if you will, so that it will be authentic and won’t be a message that you read directly. Yeah, that would be my advice. Yeah. That’s what I do with my videos and I think what you’re saying is write conversationally, right?
AL: Absolutely Bill.
BILL: Belting it out to someone, you know, incomplete sentences, whatever it takes to make it authentic, real conversational. And then that becomes your script and then you read it the way you wrote it.
So, in a minute now, I want you to talk about referrals, especially your perspective, how it’s changed over the years.
But first let’s listen to a quick word from our show sponsor.
SPONSOR MESSAGE: This podcast is sponsored by ProudMouth, the influence accelerators. If you’re like our clients, you want to spend more time educating people and less time selling. That’s why we turn mainstream experts like you, into trusted mainstream authorities. We help you amplify your influence over a growing audience of magnetically attracted fans who will chase you down instead. Visit ProudMouth.com to learn more.
BILL: With me is Al Fox and as promised, let’s talk about how we leverage this great client connection into new clients through referrals and introductions. You didn’t use to ask for introductions, did you? But now you do. So what has changed? Talk a little bit about that journey and transition for yourself.
AL: Many years ago, we made a critical decision. That was, if our work was really valuable, then that work shouldn’t be to again, use your words, kept secretive. And so we simply said to folks, if this is helpful to you and your family, then we would ask you to just not keep us a secret. Very, very simple. And we almost feel inappropriate if we don’t remind people that while this is customized work to you, there’s other people that haven’t had the experience that you’ve had. So give them a chance to have that experience.
And it’s really about the client caring about other people. It’s not about us. It’s about the client. And so when we were able to wear the glasses of it’s about someone else, it just became part of every fiber of our being. And it’s just very natural for us. Just very natural.
BILL: That’s great. I mean, it seems to me that if you have these types of authentic relationships with your clients, where you truly care, then you truly care about other people they care about and bringing the value to others. I know you’re like you said, you’re pretty direct. You’re pretty straight forward with this. How do clients react to this? How do they react to your bringing up the possibility of introductions?
AL: Thank you for letting me know that you’re open helping other people. That’s great!
They don’t think anything of it actually. In some cases it’s on their mind because they’re thinking about the experience they’ve had and they’re thinking about someone else that they know might be going through it.
And maybe they’re even bashful to ask if we’re open to talk to other folks, and we’re not a fit for everybody, but we’re a fit for everyone to have a conversation and to help them vet out what’s important to them and really decide what kind of help they need. And are we, or someone else the right fit for that?
Everyone needs to go to the doctor. Well, everyone needs to seek help from a financial advisor.
BILL: So I do have one last question for you, but I understand you have a question you’d like to ask me.
AL: Yeah, Bill I do, you know, you have a lot of exposure to a lot of really successful advisors and in a couple of sentences, what have you observed as the most common denominators really amongst most successful advisors?
BILL: Yeah, I guess it depends on how you define success. Obviously it could be income assets, lives touched, lifestyle, a lot of different things. And with that said, there probably two common denominators of most of the successful advisors that I’ve interviewed and coached over the years, one is they’re driven, but they’re driven in the way that we talked about here today.
And that they’re kind of missionary, to touch more lives, but not in a marketing, salesy kind of way. More in a, from the value and the importance of the work sort of way. So a lot of advisors, as you know, will often have a particular niche, whether it’s medical practices or employees in a specific company, business owners in a certain industry.
So sometimes that’s part of their mission to serve that industry, to serve employees in that company or those types of folks. Who maybe has an affinity for those types of folks, but it’s missionary and the clients feel that, and it’s passionate and we can feel your passion come through here.
And most clients like that, or at least the ones you want to attract like that. Right? So you be authentic, you be on this mission to touch more lives, and guess what, you’re going to end up attracting other people who identify with that. And you may not attract the ones who don’t identify with that, but that’s fine, right? We all want to work with the best fit, right fit types of clients. So that’s one, that mission, driven way of being and the other is good leaders for their teams. Being on a mission to bring the best out of their team members.
I like the way you said, “Would you want to become a client of your practice? Have you hired the types of people that inspire you? That are inspired by the work that you do that buy into the mission of serving other people?” And so that’s what I mean by being a good leader, there’s a lot of qualities to a good leader, but the one I’m talking about here is the one where the they’ve gotten the staff, everyone in the team to buy into the vision and mission of the firm. And most people like working for a company that has a bit of a higher purpose. There is a bit of a higher calling there. It’s not just about making money. It really is about touching more lives. And most of the top advisors that I’ve interviewed and coached come from that camp of being driven in a missionary way and being good leaders, not so much on the salesy client acquisition, where they do that of course, but all of that success comes from how they approach the business.
So that’s, that’s what I’ve observed anyway, that’s my perspective. And I appreciate you asking, so, my final question to you is this, think back over the last 12 months or so. What have you learned about this business about yourself? Meaning how was Al Fox grown over the last year?
AL: So thanks for that question, Bill. I think now in a post COVID world, I think what I’ve learned more importantly, is be more crystal clear about what you need, want and expect from your team, from your clients, from yourself. So that everyone’s expectations are aligned.
You know, when you take away an element of communication and that in our world would be human interactions. You have to fine tune all the other areas. So, that’s what we learned most is fine tuning all the other areas. When a method that we relied on maybe too heavily, and I don’t know that people would argue too much that in-person face time is a bad thing, but when it was taken away from us, it allowed us to really hone in on all the other things as human beings, we need to work on developing which also by the way, included our writing. We need to write more, even though we write a lot, we need to write more.
BILL: So you’re right. As tragic as COVID and the pandemic has been for so many people’s lives, economy, et cetera, we all, I think have gotten better or those of us who have endeavored, we’ve gotten better. We’ve emphasized other areas and we realized, wow, we should have been doing that all along.
AL: That’s right.
BILL: So Al Fox. Truly one of the more successful folks I know, more passionate folks I know, truly one of the more direct people I know.
AL: Thank you, Bill.
BILL: Yeah. I’m not sure they really got all the full brunt of your directness here today, but if they got a chance to know you they’d experience it.
So thank you so much for spending time with us on the Top Advisor Podcast today.
AL: Well, thank you for having me.
BILL: Thank you for listening to the Top Adviser Podcast brought to you by ProudMouth’s Influence Accelerator Academy. Click the subscribe button below to be notified when new episodes become available. Visit my website, ReferralCoach.com for links to my books, courses, and online tools, and to register for the Cates Academy.
Do you know someone Bill should interview (including yourself)?
Do you have a topic you’d like to see covered?
Contact Bill Cates directly: BillCates@ReferralCoach.com