Communication During a Crisis – Lessons from Top Advisors During the 2008 Collapse
Are you ready for action? Let’s get moving right now and lead.
Over my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with several hundred of the most successful financial advisors in the US, UK and Canada. Advisors who built RIAs that manage billions and insurance advisors who are top ten on the major platforms. At that level, those folks aren’t product salespeople, they are more like counselors, advisors, or quasi psychologists. They are exceptional at managing emotions as well as money and know a thing or two about leadership during a crisis. When the markets fell apart in the 2008 crash, I was working with several clients who not only survived – but thrived after the downturn and I’d like to share what they taught me.
1. Communicate no matter what
So, when there is a crisis no one really knows exactly what to say or do. Some act however. Those who take action are viewed as leaders. They don’t necessarily know more than you and I do but they aren’t afraid to stand up and be counted. What I learned during the crisis was that being accessible and communicative during a financial downturn or any other type of crisis is essential. People are looking for your ideas and your resources, but most importantly your support. Get over being the “answer guy/gal” – I know you’ve spent your career gaining status with clients by knowing more than they do about what you do. This is a different play. Right now, just be available and it’s ok to say, “I don’t know yet”.
Example: During the height of the financial meltdown, one of my clients held a weekly “fireside chat” reminiscent of FDR during WII. Each week he’d do an open call and welcome all of his clients to join. They could listen in, ask questions, and he’d do his best to answer. This advisor wasn’t hooked up with Washington, he didn’t have a crystal ball. He often didn’t know what was going to happen next. But he did have the will to serve. Every week, without fail. Most of his competitors were hiding under their desks but he wasn’t. And when things returned to normal, he flourished because of his actions.
2. Focus on your ideal clients
One of the things that gets messy when scarcity creeps in is that you’ll stretch to accommodate everyone. If you’ve found your niche, stick to them. Speak into them, their fears, goals, and needs…and forget the rest. It’s easy to get sidetracked but knowing whom you serve and staying laser-focused is the surest bet you’ll be communicating accurately, empathetically, and with the correct tone. Sure, you won’t make everyone 100% happy or meet their immediate needs all the way but you don’t need to, do you? Empathy and Action are what you need. Target YOUR people and forget the rest.
Example: One of my dearest friends and clients was working with me right before the markets fell apart. We’d defined his ideal client as being a “tech savvy women, maybe even coming from a technology field, who are the financial head of the household”. During the crisis his largest client came in to see him. A couple that was abusive, disrespected his advice and battered him around. He sat with them, soothed their concerns and then fired them. He slid a piece of paper across the table and said, “Here’s a list of other advisors in our area. Today is our last meeting.” Considering the market climate and their relative size to his book of business, doing so was a courageous act he’d taken and it energized him. But he’d also made room for his ideal client. Today his business focuses on his target client and is 5X the size.
3. Create your way out of it
Many of my clients got creative with us during this time and went deeper into new ways to create value with clients. Instead of assuming people didn’t have money to spend or the will to spend it, they created enhanced value for their clients through targeted unique experiences. Yes, it might be an OBA (outside business activity) on your platform but don’t let that slow you down. Serve your ideal client creatively and deeply. They will thank you for breaking out of your mold and leaning in.
Example 1: Another close client/friend of mine is a CPA/Advisor. She has a passion for business leaders and their families and so created a “retreat” experience for them. That retreat cost $4,500 per couple and took place in a private setting so each person could get a better understanding about the meaning of money in their lives. The value of that time was incalculable for those couples and my client was able to better serve them as their advisor following it.
Example 2: Another one of our clients used our video training software to create a program for his competition. He’d built enough of a reputation at Lincoln that his peers wanted to know what he was up to with his clients. And it was successful – almost as much as his first business – and generated a seven-figure income because he’d packaged his approach and made it available to others.
Example 3: And finally, a CPA client of ours, recently built a fractional-CFO business and offers tools and training online with videos of his teaching. He’s been able to generate a passive income stream and a national network of clients because he’s broken the geographic barriers of access with a digital solution. He charges a fee to access one level of the training and another fee to access more. It’s small because he’s just starting but it’s passive income and it scales easily.
A final note
These are just a few examples of the sorts of things you could be thinking right now. Create an online program. Offer a webinar. Package a process. Write handwritten cards. The big idea: NOW is the time to go into the smoke and fire of this crisis. You may not need to know exactly what’s coming our way but taking pains to communicate and create value is critical. Be the leader. All you need to do is stand up and you’re halfway there.
Jon LoDuca is a business strategist and tech entrepreneur who enjoys helping growth mindset companies to move to the next level. Jon is founder of Playbook Builder (2009), a skill accelerator software and consulting services solution that helps companies capture and leverage their best practices, insights, and knowledge. He is also founder and president of partner company, The Wisdom Link (founded in 2002), an intellectual capital development firm where he’s provided strategic and tactical guidance, resources, and end-to-end solutions to over 400 leading businesses in 20 industries.