In the 15 years I’ve been married to my wife Bonnie I’ve learned that my biggest goal is to make her happier each day. Growing up there was another leading lady I was hoping to impress and make proud of me, and that was my mom.
I would like to take you back to July 2006 when I left my job to start my own venture with DB Financial. I was completing 14 mortgages a month and the associated life insurance, I thought I had it all. I took my earnings and organized a dream family holiday to Orlando with my sons, wife, brother, sister and my dad. My mom, however, wasn’t able to join us due to her illness.
She was going through a five year battle with cancer, which meant she couldn’t travel. She succumbed to her battle just five weeks before we left for our trip in November 2006. This affected my dad quite badly, so much so that he went home halfway through the trip. We didn’t quite realize the true affect my mom’s death had on my dad, or how ill he was, and he passed in February the following year. In the span of 12 weeks we were left parentless.
Lessons Learned in Heartache
The experience of losing both my parents in such a short period, made me angry but also taught me valuable lessons as a result, including:
- Take every opportunity to live the life you deserve (and maybe buy a Harley). My mom and dad were only 63 and 64 when they passed away. My dad had two jobs and was already receiving his police and army pension. They had a good life together, but never really lived it fully. In my mind, it was all going to be great when they retired, then they never got the chance.
- Family time comes first. I had been concentrating on setting up my new business in the months before my parents died and hadn’t spent much time visiting them, and now I never can.
- Get your insurance and estate planning in order. My dad had a life insurance policy, but it wasn’t written in trust. As a result, we had to pay $4,000 in Inheritance Tax. Which may not seem like much, but given that I’m a financial adviser it would have been an easy task to get this written in trust. Also, in getting policies in order, make sure your family has enough life insurance to cover, critical illness and income protection.
- Take more photos and make more memories. It’s a lot easier these days, but my family doesn’t have enough photos of my mom and dad. Capture every moment you can because you never know when your chances will end.
From Prosperous to (Almost) Bankrupt
Business was booming so I bought a nice Mercedes and invested in a huge mortgage on our dream house in August 2007. I kept hold of the old house as an investment property, at potentially the worst timing. The biggest crash was months away and once that hit it was like somebody turned off the tap for my business.
The market disappeared in 2008, we completed about 25 mortgages in the whole of 2008, and compared to the 14 a month we were planning prior it was a big hit. We took in lodgers, I gave back the Mercedes, rented out our drive for parking, whatever we could do to stay afloat. But the debts were mounting up.
At the edge of my own financial oblivion, I owed more in credit card and personal debt, than two MDRT Members could earn in a year to qualify for membership. The debt hole was so overwhelming that late in 2010, I seriously thought of giving it all up and going bankrupt. This did not make for a happy wife.
My first cup of coffee each day was in a mug that said “Failure Is Not an Option.” As I stared down at that mug, I knew giving it all up wasn’t really an option and it definitely wouldn’t have made my mom proud.
Going Back to Basics
So I went back to basics, I’d been to MDRT for three years in the mid-1990s and it had served me well, so I went to MDRT UK Day in February 2011. That day was the start of this amazing journey. I had just enough qualification for MDRT, so I made the commitment to travel to the Annual Meeting. With no money it was a struggle to keep up with fellow members, but I also met members who helped me find faith in myself again.
I’d learned years ago to write my goals down and regularly update them. In 2004 I made a list of goals, and realized that I completed 10 out of 11 of those goals. So I figured if it had worked in the past, why shouldn’t it work again. So in 2011, I updated my goals book, and wrote down more goals. The key is to write these goals in present tense.
Write your goals down, day after day, without referring to the ones you have written down the day before. Each day the list will change a little, but gradually after about 21 days, the same goals will rise to the top.
Financial Oblivion to Court of the Table
There were a few sales tips that truly brought me back to life in business and helped me qualify for MDRT Court of the Table two consecutive years. Following are some ways you can qualify, too:
- Get as much data as possible. Before working with a new client get all the numbers. This will give you an indicator on whether they will fit your profile or if it’s a better fit for another advisor.
- Learn your client’s affordability. I share a Budget Planner with clients before a meeting to determine what they can afford and how likely they are to need certain areas of coverage.
- The “Peace of Mind Questionnaire.” I’ve used this for 25 years to gather simple information from my clients about their income, what they would do financially should a loved one pass away, etc. I show them the areas in which I can help them throughout the years of our relationship – the key there is to make it clear it’s a long term partnership and not everything can be accomplished in the first year.
- Make clients prioritize together. I have my clients list their financial priorities together in order of importance to determine which parts of their planning we tackle first.
- Use the Pareto Principle to your advantage. Commonly known as the 20/80 rule, if you analyze your business you’ll see that 20 percent of your clients will produce 80 percent of your income. So what I would suggest is that you analyse your business and establish who your top 20 percent clients are and seek referrals from that top percentage of clients to gradually move your business up market.
- Invest to your client’s risk level. Not everyone will be ready to dive in to the deep end with big investments, while others will. Know that each client is different and you can raise investments by only investing at the levels they are prepared to do.
I have learned a lot over the last eight years since my parents passed away, from nearly losing everything in late 2010, and making a commitment to re-join MDRT in 2011. I barely scraped the MDRT qualification that year, but for the last two years I have qualified at Court of the Table. I put this down to my attendance at MDRT in 2011, the great lessons I have learned, the support from my friends and my MDRT family.
Life is not a rehearsal, seize this opportunity to make a difference to yours and your clients lives, don’t wait for a significant life event to kick you into gear and change your philosophy.
So, take some ideas, make some goals, set time for your family, do it now, take more photos, work hard, earn more money to grow your business. Of course, if you have done all of that, you will have a happier wife and you will have a mom who is very proud of you.
Latest posts by Doug Bennett, MDRT (see all)
- How I Went from the Edge of Financial Oblivion to MDRT’s Court of the Table - September 21, 2016