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41 Bold Moves for Building Superior Service: Supernova Teams with Curtis Brown

Steve Seid & Kurt Dupuis
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41 Bold Moves for Building Superior Service: Supernova Teams with Curtis Brown

 

Kurt Dupuis:
Welcome to the Whole Truth, where two wholesalers help financial professionals build great practices and thrive in a rapidly changing industry. We'll bring you the stories and voices from those on the front lines of this change, and we'll have some fun along the way.

Steve Seid:
This is more than a podcast. We're building a community of financial professionals who are growing forward thinking and want to get better. Thanks for listening and contributing to the discussion.

Disclosure:
The views expressed herein are those of the participants and not those of Touchstone Investments.

Steve Seid:
And welcome everybody to The Whole Truth from the Bay area, California. I am Steve Seid.

Kurt Dupuis:
And from the city of champions, the reigning world series champions, Atlanta Braves. I'm Kurt from-

Steve Seid:
You're Brooklyn's Nets, no? Okay, sorry.

Kurt Dupuis:
No, dude. They're so bad.

Steve Seid:
Horrible.

Kurt Dupuis:
How is such a good team so bad?

Steve Seid:
So bad.

Kurt Dupuis:
The Athletic just wrote an article. When The Athletics are writing Brooklyn Net's articles you know things are bad. So RIP to your team there.

Steve Seid:
Oh God, we can't have anything happy. This is all fake. Go ahead.

Kurt Dupuis:
Can we have a discussion? Can we have a talk?

Steve Seid:
Sure.

Kurt Dupuis:
I need a therapy session a little bit here. So I've been reading how much information we're exposed to. And so apparently the subconscious mind can process 11 million bits of information per second, but the conscious mind, the real part of the mind can only process like 40 or 50. So that's my framework for this rant because I know you like frameworks. I love talking about signaling the noise and I've just been having a lot of conversations with clients, with management, with strategy type people. Everyone's talking about net new. Everyone wants to grow. And I just can't help but feeling like there's nothing new under the sun. It's like pick a strategy and execute it. That's kind of it. Is that oversimplification? You have to have some sort of niche and then multiple ways to go after that niche, right? It's kind of that simple.

Steve Seid:
I think that's true. I think conceptually you're right. What come to my mind as the new way of thinking about it, the two things that come that I think are a little bit more new is one, the technology that you can utilize now is improving. You've got this target market. How do you service them? How do you get their attention? But I do think the experience of people understanding what Amazon's done, what Apple has done, what really these tech companies have done with client experience that have completely disrupted whole industries. And as being in financial services, financial professionals, we have to start think a little bit outside the box for being able to elevate those types of experiences. But you're right, it's all coming back to something simple, which is that you've got to service a target market better. There's nothing new there. I agree with you on that front.

Kurt Dupuis:
Yeah, and even the elevated service thing, we talk about Buc-ees as an example to take a commoditized thing and kind of have the Amazon effect, meaning an elevated experience with a commoditized service. That's fairly new. That's not fully ingrained in the DNA of how financial professionals think, I don't think.
I think that's more cutting edge. Not a lot of folks are thinking or doing that. But I mean, if your goal is really just net new, there's just template on top of template on top of template on how to do that. Well, what got me going down rant was the weekly email from Julie Littlechild who runs Absolute Engagement, who we had on the show.

Steve Seid:
Love Julie.

Kurt Dupuis:
She talked about the referral gap, one of the most powerful things I think we've talked about. But in her weekly blog post, she references a Michael Kitces. Am I saying that right? Kitces?

Steve Seid:
I think so. Everyone knows who that guy is.

Kurt Dupuis:
Yeah, he's everywhere.

Steve Seid:
He's got epic photos. If you ever see him in his LinkedIn or on a picture, he is always sort of like, no one could see this is a podcast, but he's always holding his chin and thinking dramatically.

Kurt Dupuis:
Like a high school graduation picture.

Steve Seid:
Mike, I hope you'll come on our show, but we love your pictures. Continue.

Kurt Dupuis:
And always the blue shirt.

Steve Seid:
Yeah.

Kurt Dupuis:
So the article is why now? One question financial advisors should ask to convert prospects to clients. That's the title of it. And I was like okay, that's interesting. I mean, if Julie's writing about it, it's going to be interesting. And I thought what this was going to be was a hook, right? You've got some sort of lead gen process. You've got these prospects, but this was like the why now, to really establish a sense of urgency. Completely wrong. The why now was really getting... So we've talked recently about the coaching work we do is really just asking questions, right? It's being able to ask good questions, Colby, it's all about asking better questions. Par analysis, all about being able to ask better questions. What they're getting at is the why now question is, hey, Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, we've engaged at some level for some reason before. Why now? What's going on in your life? What's the experiences that you have had? What are the experiences you are hoping to have? And completely flipping it back on the prospect of why are we sitting here and have this conversation? I thought it was a great way to flip the script because that's how I approach this whole coaching thing, is I just want to be able to ask better questions and really I wanted to get root cause stuff. I forget who that was that just said ask deeper questions. It's like oh, what's your target? What's your niche market? Dentist. It's like no, do better. Go deeper.

Steve Seid:
Yeah, why?

Kurt Dupuis:
Yeah, what's your expertise there?

Steve Seid:
But connect the dots here for me, because you started saying there's not a lot of new-

Kurt Dupuis:
I'm not sure I will be able to do that.

Steve Seid:
Well, we're going to try. So connect back to me and I guess what you're reflecting on is there's not a lot new, there's the simple ways to go about growing your business. But connect me to the article. So did you find this to be something new or revolutionary or?

Kurt Dupuis:
I think the takeaway is go Google search this article and then think, put yourselves in your prospect's shoes, right? Don't come hot and heavy about how your investment management is elite or whatever your value proposition is. Really be empathetic and put yourself in the shoes of the prospect. That's the point of the... That's the why now. That it's the prospects why now? Not your, why now? Not your catalyst for change.

Steve Seid:
I see.

Kurt Dupuis:
It's like, you're talking to this person for a reason, get down to that root cause, go deeper and understand what's really going on under the hood. Is that adage that people don't care what you know until they know that you care. And I'm just trying...

Steve Seid:
It's a reminder of that.

Kurt Dupuis:
New relationships. As quickly as possible show that, yes, I know my stuff, but I want to give two craps about what's going on in this conversation and in your world. That's the why now.

Steve Seid:
That's it.

Kurt Dupuis:
That's me attempting to put myself in that person's shoes.

Steve Seid:
So the takeaway for our audience is one, Google the article. Look at your process for prospecting business development, even client service and say, is there any way I could make this more about them and less about us? Is that your challenge to the audience?

Kurt Dupuis:
Great summation of my rant, yes.

Steve Seid:
Look at that, I'm useful. I'm not always useful, but I feel like I'm starting to speak Kurt. I think I could speak Kurt. I think I can.

Kurt Dupuis:
Careful what you wish for.

Steve Seid:
Speaking of clients and client service and engagement and new business, we have Curtis Brown on from Supernova Consulting and we did a couple of episodes on Supernova. Essentially, a guy by the name of Rob Knapp who heads Supernova saw a challenge that financial professionals just had too many households and they couldn't provide the experience. And so he wrote and created a process called Supernova Merrill Lynch, implemented those process, saw an amazing results of FAs that would shrink and then grow with better experience in their target markets. And then he wrote a book about it. He has an organization now, but there was a second book called Supernova Teams. And that was written by our guest today, Curtis Brown. Curtis spent 30 plus years at Merrill Lynch, some very, very high level positions including not just managing complexes, et cetera, but reporting directly to the chairman of Merrill Lynch. So he's been around a long time. He wrote the book on Teams. He's now-

Kurt Dupuis:
Literally.

Steve Seid:
Yeah, it's a great book. And by the way, if anybody wants that, reach out to us. If you like Curtis's interview, we can absolutely get you a copy of the book. Maybe even get him to sign it. But anyway, that's who's on our show today and it was a really, really fun interview. The concepts that we covered are the classics, are about the evolution in the industry, about why client experience is important, how to effectively team, about the modern wealth practice. We hope you enjoy it. And without further ado, here's our interview with Curtis Brown. So welcome Curtis. We appreciate you joining us on the show.

Curtis Brown:
Well, it's good to be with you Steve. So thanks for having me.

Steve Seid:
We're excited to get to talk to you and we're going to start at the beginning. I spent a lot of time with your Supernova Teams book. And I didn't realize when I was talking to you that you were actually the author of it, but we'll start with the beginning. And you talked about in the intro to that book, your father being a military man, and I know that had a big influence on you and shaped how you view the world. So talk a little bit about that.

Curtis Brown:
I would refer to him as a military man, but I refer to myself as a military brat because I reported into the first Sergeant until I was almost 19 years old.

Steve Seid:
Wow.

Curtis Brown:
... And living on my own. And while my father did command a lot of respect and discipline, he had a soft heart and was a lot of fun to be around. And if you saw the movie with Robert Duvall, The Great Santini, there were some similarities regarding family and moving around from place to place. And so we would all pile in the station wagon and we would go from place to place. In 1962, and I know I'm dating myself a little bit, he gets his orders to go to Vietnam. And I had no idea where that place was. It wasn't in the news, it wasn't in the media, but he came up to me and said, "Look, I'm going to a place called Vietnam. And you're going to move up to Yakima, Washington. And I want you to take care of your mother and your brothers and your sisters, and I'll see you in 13 months."

Steve Seid:
Wow.

Curtis Brown:
Okay. So he goes off to Vietnam and then when he returns, we hop in the station wagon and we go to Fort Benning, Georgia.

Kurt Dupuis:
There you go.

Curtis Brown:
And I'm thinking where in the heck is that? And at that time, I go through the seventh and eighth grade and then the ninth grade. And by that time down in Georgia, it was like school integration. Myself and 35 other students we integrated Baker High School. And we matriculate through the high school. And then in my junior year, my father says, I'm going back to Vietnam. It's in 1968. We hop in the station wagon and we drive to San Diego, California to live near an uncle who had just retired from the Navy. So we moved about eight times as a kid.

Steve Seid:
Wow.

Curtis Brown:
I remember in terms of some of his teachings was that before I could go out to play, I had to do my chores. And my father being the military man that he was used terms, I would ask him, look, can I go out and play? And he said before you can go out and play, you needed to get your room “squared away”. And then you needed to clean the bathroom, “police up the yard” and then help washing the car. I got used to being very disciplined and he would also come in and inspect my work before I could go out. So that's what it was like being in a military environment with the discipline and everything that goes along with it.

Kurt Dupuis:
I mean, that's how I hope my kids would describe me one day. He's firm, but fun.

Curtis Brown:
Right.

Kurt Dupuis:
That's what I'm trying... Which is a tough balance.

Curtis Brown:
I wrote a dedication in the book to my father and this stems from a conversation we were having. We were together and he says, You know, I wish I had done more for you. I'm thinking what else could you have done? I said, you gave me some important attributes that have stayed with me for all of my life and these were attitude, having the right attitude that I could go out and succeed and the belief, the belief in myself and what I could accomplish. And then of course the sense of commitment, knowing that if I started something I needed to finish it. And so I said, you gave me those three things and that's what I expressed to my father. So a lot of kudos to the way he brought me up.

Kurt Dupuis:
You were the first African American Branch Manager. And well, as you were describing it, you were the first in all of your roles at Merrill Lynch. So can you kind of take us back to your professional upbringing? How did you get started and what did your career in financial services look like?

Curtis Brown:
Okay. I spent six years as a producer in a large office in San Francisco, California, and enjoyed it, developed a decent clientele, had some recognition, made the recognition clubs. And then I asked if I could take a shot at management. And at those times you had to go through a very rigorous assessment center process to get into management. Well, there were 20 people that went through this process, which was a series of management games and exercises secluded on Glen Cove in Long Island. And I felt like I was going into black hole. I didn't know what the outcome was.

Kurt Dupuis:
Sounds like a CIA or something.

Curtis Brown:
Yeah, it was pretty quiet, but very nerving. And at the first night you're there, you start getting evaluated and going through a series of games. This lasted for about three and a half days. And I was one of 10 that made it and got accepted to go into a management career and start my management career as a Sales Manager in Washington, DC. I stayed in Washington approximately three and a half years and was successful there, probably hired over 45. After three and a half years, I was asked to go to Ann Arbor, Michigan. So I go to another assignment and these assignments were go in, fix it, make them productive. And the two places I said in my career I would never want to work, one was Michigan and the other was New York city.  And I ended up working in both those places. So after I spent four years in Michigan and doubled the size of the sales force as well as the assets and the revenue during that time. After having some success there, I was asked to go down to St. Petersburg Florida and run initially two offices. And then there were seven, spent four years there doing some of the same things, build it up, fix it, move the operation forward, establish that vision. Was asked to then go to Princeton, New Jersey and become the national sales manager for Private Client. So that was my first kind of role at the headquarters of Private Client and working in that kind of corporate environment and without being out in the branch world. So after performing in that role, I received a phone call to come to New York and meet the chairman and the president of Merrill Lynch. Dave Kamenski called me and he's deceased now, but Dave had called me and said, "Look, we have an interesting role that we would like you to fulfill. And that would be to come up and be the chief of staff, working directly with me and the president and the other members of the firm's Executive Committee." And so in that role, I got to see a lot of the strategic side of Merrill Lynch. And it was just an awesome strategic learning experience. We made about five acquisitions during that time. And so you get a firsthand knowledge of how the firm was expanding its global footprint and making strategic acquisitions. So I did that job for about two years, went back to the Private Client world, which I loved and ended up running another large branch, which I more than doubled in terms of FAs and assets and revenue. And then I was promoted to come out to the west coast to run the Pacific west region. And then in 09, I retired from Merrill Lynch.

Steve Seid:
That's one heck of a career. So I've got a couple of questions for you. I'm glad the audience gets to hear that because we're going to be pulling a lot of wisdom out of you and I want them to understand who it is that we're actually talking to and the deep experiences you've had. You talk about going to these branches and a lot of times turning them around, growing profits, growing assets. Clearly you had a method when you went into these places, what were you looking to improve? How did you diagnose? What were the levers you were pulling to make these improvements at the branch level?

Curtis Brown:
The first thing you do when you go in you assess the people, you spend your first 60 days going out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner with every single person trying to get to know them as people. And you've got your yellow pad in hand, and you ask them questions like, what would make this just the greatest place to come to work? And you're writing it down, you're taking notes and they're giving you an earful. They're telling you that management is not very visible, management isn't helping my career. I need to be developed. I want to make more money, but I don't want to kill myself in the process. We need to gain more knowledge. We need to be better educated in terms of our platform. And so you're learning a little bit about morale. And so you're writing all this down and you're taking these notes and then you come back and you say, hey, look, I listened. I heard you. These are some of the things I'm going to be able to fix in the first 30 days. These are some of the things they're going to take me 60 to 90, and these are some of the things we're going to have to work on together over the course and scope of the next year or so. And so you get a sense of people's attitudes and what their needs are. And then you start working with them immediately, being very hands on and focusing in on their development.

Steve Seid:
As you reflect back on this Merrill career, what are you most proud of?

Curtis Brown:
Wow, that's really a great question. I think mostly the business for managers and leaders is about the psychic income that you receive based on seeing people take off and do well and feel good. And so I'm proud of the lives that I touched, the people that I coached. You see marriages, you see birthdays, you see milestones. Sadly, you see funerals. Making a difference and the joy, the psychic income seeing people achieve. And I hired a very diverse population, and I was really, really proud of that. There was one female I hired in Washington that came up from the Carolinas. She didn't have any money. I gave her a job. She had taken correspondence courses to develop some acumen in terms of financial services. So I said, I might be crazy, but this woman has a lot of drive, a lot of ambition, a lot of motivation. And I was inspired by her story. Well, do you know she ended up becoming a million dollar producer, sending one kid to Dartmouth, the other one to NYU. The one at Dartmouth ended up coming to work for the firm and becoming a million dollar producer.

Steve Seid:
Wow, that's fantastic.

Curtis Brown:
And these are the kind of stories that you just can't make up, that make you feel good, make you feel proud that you did something.

Kurt Dupuis:
It always comes back to people, doesn't it? At least for me.

Curtis Brown:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Kurt Dupuis:
So want to kind of pivot to your coaching wisdom and having literally interacted with probably hundreds of teams. I'm just curious if you've noticed kind of that “X factor”. Is there something that separates truly elite teams from those that are not?

Curtis Brown:
Well, earlier I spoke about attitude, belief and commitment. I think you've got to have those three things first of all. You've got to have the right attitude. If you're coming in and you want to be complacent, rest on your laurels, then you are not going to get to elite status. They're always learning and always trying to get better. And they focus on several key niche markets and they become experts at them. They're all on teams. It's almost like they have a stopwatch and they're timing themselves on the race. They got that goal that they're focused on and they're relentlessly pursuing that goal. A lot of your elite advisors develop more of what I call a concierge practice and they deliver this unparalleled client experience. They have a vision for what they desire and they execute extremely well, and they seem to get things done through others, and they're not afraid to invest money and time and energy in themselves and their practices.

Kurt Dupuis:
I just got the visual as you were describing that. There's a show with a guy named Marcus Lemonis, who takes struggling businesses and turns them over, but he's always hammering people about knowing their numbers, knowing their business. And the person you just described, I think is the type of person that Seid and I gravitate towards is like, I know where I'm at and I'm not comfortable where I'm at. I want to get better, whether... And that's part of why this exists, right? For people that want to advance themselves personally and professionally. But that's always a personality type that I'm drawn to. So that's funny to hear you say that.

Curtis Brown:
Right. They're like entrepreneurs inside an entrepreneurial type organization, and they regard this practice as a business and they take ownership in it. So, you're right, absolutely.

Kurt Dupuis:
How would you describe your style of coaching?

Curtis Brown:
Well, my coaching style is one of communication. And that means just listening and hearing where people are, what frustrates them. And we'll go into this later when we talk about pain points, where are they experiencing the pain? Where do they want to go from a productivity improvement standpoint? So you start off asking a lot of questions and you're taking notes. And in Supernova, what we try to do is we try to focus in on all the key areas where people experience pain. Part of that is segmentation. Many advisors have way too many relationships. And as a result, they got to deliver a kind of a commodity service approach. There's a lack of organizational process. And so we try to help them with that. Client acquisition, they've stopped growing the upper end of their practice, of their business. So we try to help them with that. And then the other has to do with leadership and the delegation of duties and responsibilities and creating process so that the rainmakers have time to grow their practice. So that's what we try to focus on in Supernova.

Steve Seid:
Can you give a little bit of the background of Supernova and then talk a little bit about why you decided to join that organization specifically?

Curtis Brown:
Well, I've known Rob Knapp, who is the founder of Supernova for a long time. He wrote a book called The Supernova Advisor, but Rob was one of these Branch Managers that was excelling in almost every strategic initiative, but when it came time for the client experience, he was looking at his numbers and he was suffering. So while they were doing great in asset gathering, clients were going out the back end. He and his sales manager got together, a guy named Jim Walker who I actually hired in Washington, DC. And they were in Indianapolis together and they started to pick apart the problem areas associated with productivity improvement, and also teamed up with Harvard who did a study on Supernova. And as a result of improving processes, understanding how to create a concierge practice, Supernova was born. And when Rob retired, he decided to build a consulting practice around those concepts. I decided that look, I've been working and implementing a lot of those practices myself. And so I decided after I retired to go to work with Rob Knapp.

Steve Seid:
As you think about the teams you're working with right now, where are you spending most of your time lately?

Curtis Brown:
Well, the common problems that we see have to relate to segmentation, too many clients. You can't deliver a concierge service if you've got 150 relationships. The studies that we did indicated that clients wanted someone to speak to them, whether or not they always agree, but they do want the client contact once a month. So what was born out of that was this concept called 12-4-2, where you deliver a monthly call. You have four reviews. Two of them are telephonic, two of them are in person. A one-hour response to problems with a 24-hour resolution and an eye toward planning and intergenerational planning. And so we found that a lot of the folks that we were coaching just didn't have those kinds of processes in place. And so that's the one problem. The other was basically winging it with no plan. They show up every day, but they're winging it. They don't have a plan. The lack of organizational process, finding that out. The final thing is just complacency. A complacency happens over time where people become overwhelmed, don't think that they can really make a move to improve. And so they get used to doing things the same way over and over again.

Kurt Dupuis:
We had a previous guest on our podcast that had the saying niches get riches. And Seid and I have battled over whether it's a niche or a niche. So I'll let you weigh in on that. I know it's important, but why is it important? And how do you define a niche?

Curtis Brown:
Well, if you had a shotgun, you're taking this scatter approach and if you have a rifle and you've got to scope, you're aiming specifically at something. So the question becomes, do you want to become a master of 20 different markets? Or do you want to master a few and know everything there is to know about those markets? So one of the markets that I love is the business owner, the small business owner. And the reason I like them is they understand risk. They know how to make decisions, and they got lots of issues to deal with, whether it's retaining key employees, looking at cash flow management or looking at tax minimization strategies. Now, that's a wide and vast market. You could decide that within that subset of entrepreneurs, that you're going to work with folks in a service capacity, folks that are contractors, plumbers, engineers. You can decide what subset of the niche markets that you want to work in. So let's take the financial advisor market for Supernova. Where do I get my information? I get it by looking at Advisory Hub, Trust Advisor, Investment News, Financial Planning Magazine, so that I can develop a wherewithal about what is impacting the market that I work in. Well, financial advisors have to do the same thing. They have to understand by reading, looking at journals. If you're going to go to work with lawyers, have you picked up an ABA Journal to really figure out what's going on in that market? Can you highlight an article and send it to one of the lawyers that you're working with?

Steve Seid:
Right.

Curtis Brown:
So you've got to discover what are the pain points in each of the markets you decide to deal with. You can't do that with 20 different markets. You can do it with maybe three. When I have large teams that I coach, one of the things that I do is I get them to narrow their focus on specific and particular markets. I mean, it's a big deal for a team to become an expert in three different markets. We live in a world of mass commoditization of products and services. So narrowing your focus as a financial advisor so that you're not rendering yourself as giving a commodity experience is important.

Steve Seid:
You mentioned before, and you mentioned a couple times about commoditization of the experience and how important it is to deliver an elevated experience. Talk about how you work with teams on that. What does an elevated experience look? Just some general thoughts about client experience broadly.

Curtis Brown:
Well one of the analogies I like to use is if you're traveling and you want a good night's sleep, you've got a lot of choices out there, okay? And I'm not bad mouthing any particular hotelier, but let's say you decide, you want to sleep at a Motel Eight and you arrive late. You check in and you're hungry and you want a good night's sleep. And you're hearing the trucks and the cars go through all night long. And you call the front desk and you ask yeah, I'd like to get something to eat. And they tell you there's a vending machine on the third floor.

Kurt Dupuis:
Thank you for helping me relive my childhood.

Curtis Brown:
So that is a type of experience, okay? And then there's the Ritz Carleton experience. You arrive late, your bed is turned down. They've got the water available for you. You called the front desk and said, I'd to get something to eat. The chef is on duty and there's multiple choices.

Kurt Dupuis:
The lights turn on when you walk in the room.

Curtis Brown:
Yeah, that's right. The light is turned on when you walk into the room and it's like, what would you like? And it would be my pleasure to serve you and to help you. I hear those words. It'll be my pleasure. It'll be my pleasure. So the concierge service is what we are trying to build within the practice where that experience is bar none better than the experience that the client might get elsewhere, or with another team.

Kurt Dupuis:
In some of your work, you've talked about this emotional connection with prospects. Can you tell me more about that?

Curtis Brown:
If you ever tried to position a product or a service and you walked away and that person didn't seem to get it or get you, most of the time it's because you really didn't establish that emotional connection or rapport. That's why face to face meetings are so critical because you can make some observations about people. I remember going into this owner of a huge furniture store and he had a collection of Civil War and World War II memorabilia. Being the army brat that I was, I was very interested in that. So I started asking him questions about how he acquired that and his interest in history. And just really getting to know this individual as a real person. And so what we have to do is we can't always come out, pull out our six shooters. I got this solution for your problem. Get to know the person as a human being, find out what their likes and dislikes are, find out if they got kids. How important is that to them that their kids go to college?  Or find out if there's some altruism in their background where they want to do something for a foundation. Find out what they do in their spare time. Do they like to fish? Where do they like to vacation? You are trying to get to know people as real people. And that's what establishing that emotional connection is really all about.

Kurt Dupuis:
Put the six shooter away. I love that. Do you find that a lot of financial professionals struggle with that? That they spend some time there, but then they're right into the solution. Do you find that people don't spend enough time there?

Curtis Brown:
Yeah, in the mind of many clients and prospects they're thinking, you don't know me, you don't know who I am. And they may buy from you, but the first person that comes around that establishes a rapport, creates client turnover…

Kurt Dupuis:
A connection with them, yeah.

Curtis Brown:
Connects with them, it creates turnover.

Steve Seid:
I want to get into some topics around your book, the Supernova book that you co-authored, the Team's book. And in fact, anyone that's listening, we're going to buy a bunch of these books. Reach out to us, we'll get you a copy. Before we get into some of our final questions, Curtis, where can people find you? How do people connect with you or tap into Supernova?

Curtis Brown:
They could go on to supernovaconsulting.com and they'll be able to find us there. They can get in touch with us via email, Curtis, C-U-R-T-I-S.brown, B-R-O-W-N@supernovaconsulting.com. That's my email address. So they can get in touch with me that way.

Steve Seid:
Let's get into the Supernova Teams book and start with a pretty straightforward question. Why is teaming so beneficial or so important?

Curtis Brown:
The size of the platforms at these firms have grown exponentially. They're huge. So how can one person... One person could say, hey, look, I got portfolio management, but now all the permutations of portfolio management that resides with these firms, the holistic approach to wealth management, the complete plethora of their platforms, products and services, both on asset management and liability management have become so enormous that one person can't do justice trying to meet the needs of a client. So the age of the sole practitioner in my opinion is so outdated and has given rise to fully functional and dynamic teams.

Steve Seid:
Excellent. And here's a challenging question. I'm sure you've seen this in your time at Merrill Lynch and your coaching career afterwards. How do you address and deal with team conflict, team dysfunction? What's your approach there?

Curtis Brown:
Oh boy.

Steve Seid:
That's probably a whole podcast in itself.

Curtis Brown:
So let's just take one of the dysfunctions, which is there's this elephant in the room and nobody wants to address it, okay? It's a problem. And the person who wants to address it is afraid to address it because if they speak up, they will get lambasted. And so guess what? They don't speak up anymore. They keep their mouth shut. Interesting, I was at a manager's meeting once led by top leader. And he was talking about planning and the question, so somebody raised their hand and asked a question about execution and he got blasted for asking the question. Then the leader says, okay, who else would like to ask a question?

Kurt Dupuis:
Crickets.

Curtis Brown:
Well, the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. And so what we're talking about here is the free spirited dialogue if done in a respectful way that can help improve team dynamics.

Steve Seid:
Yeah.

Curtis Brown:
That's what we're really talking about. And so teams have dysfunctions like that. The absence of trust, the absence of accountability. We've got performance numbers that we want to hit, but Joe's not paying attention. Joe's off the radar. We've got to talk to Joe, why is that happening? How do we get accountability? Because if we can't get that accountability, it impacts the rest of the team, okay? If you don't deliver the proposal that we need in a timely fashion, Mary, it impacts our ability to make an effective presentation. So every team member has a role and a responsibility and every team member has to feel that their role and their contribution is valued. And if it isn't, it can lead to team dysfunction. So, great question. And then of course, just the one team I was working with, they really didn't like each other.

Kurt Dupuis:
That's a problem.

Curtis Brown:
That's a problem. They were going on and lots of conflict and it was appropriate for the team to separate into two different pieces. And now everybody's happy.

Kurt Dupuis:
That happens all the time.

Curtis Brown:
Yeah, absolutely.

Kurt Dupuis:
Well, Curtis, thank you for your time today. You've been great.

Steve Seid:
Fantastic.

Kurt Dupuis:
Like we mentioned, if anyone wants access to the Supernova Teams book, reach out to us at thewholetruth@touchstonefunds.com. We'll be sure to get you a copy. Final question, if you're on a team and you're interested in just kind of beginning to assess where you are as a team, where would you recommend teams starting?

Curtis Brown:
Well, one of the things in the book, as a matter of fact, on teams is there's a checklist in there. I'm a big believer that every team needs to have a business plan and strategy document that they pay attention to. First they develop and then they pay attention to it every quarter. And we have a template for that, that we take our teams through. But in the book is a checklist where they can look at that checklist and say, is our team doing these things to be fully effective? And if they aren't, then we're ready to help them and support them.

Steve Seid:
That's great.

Curtis Brown:
So contact Supernova.

Steve Seid:
Excellent. Well, Curtis, thank you so much for coming on. Costanza Corner's next. This is The Whole Truth, stick with us.

Steve Seid:
And welcome back. We are in our Costanza Corner, our final segment where we leave on a high note.

Kurt Dupuis:
You know what I keep reminding myself? I could almost live my life with the analogies of Seinfeld and The Office. I'm not sure what that says about me, but.

Steve Seid:
It says you're a great person. That's what it says.

Kurt Dupuis:
It says I like cheap humor. Well, so really quick one. So tons of stuff going on in the world, particularly in Eastern Europe right now. I saw online on Twitter there's a guy that's posting updates of what's going on in Ukraine. And he just posted that thousands of people are using AirBnB to book places that they never intend on actually using so the hosts-

Steve Seid:
Oh, I know where you're going with this.

Kurt Dupuis:
... So the hosts don't take a bath. So a lot of, I think people are... A lot of money's moving to philanthropic needs-based efforts over there. And this was just another angle that I hadn’t even thought of that I thought was really thoughtful. And it just really shows how a lot of people are rallying around this cause. So I thought that was pretty uplifting.

Steve Seid:
I saw that during the pandemic too, by the way, supporting various venues that weren't open. So certainly not as dire as what's going on in the Ukraine by any means. I don't mean to compare the two, but regular listeners and friends may know, I see a lot of live music and those venues were really, really struggling during the pandemic. And several of them sent out like, hey, buy tickets now, we're not open, that can be used in the future, but it'll keep this place open. And so I did some of that during the pandemic. Now, it's certainly uplifting to see people support the Ukraine in that way. What a wonderful way to sort of support something you want to support from afar.

Kurt Dupuis:
That's it.

Steve Seid:
Thanks everyone for listening. We'll see you next time.

Kurt Dupuis:
You can find The Whole Truth and subscribe for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. We'd love it if you took the time to rate and review the show on Apple Podcast. It helps others find the show. And for more episodes of The Whole Truth, go to www.touchstoneinvestments.com/thewholetruth. That's touchstoneinvestments.com/thewholetruth, all one word.

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Please note that this content was created as of the specific date indicated and reflects views as of that date. It will be kept solely for historical purposes and opinions may change without notice in reacting to shifting economic, market, business and other conditions. Touchstone Funds are distributed by Touchstone Securities, Inc., a registered broker dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC.