The Team Concept: The True Story of How Bill Good Created the Modern Team in Financial Services

by Bill Good Marketing on July 6, 2011

Author’s note: If team development is vital to your survival in this industry (hint: it is), you will want to read my white paper, “Surefire Team Development.” This article is an excerpt from it.

When Research Magazine made its debut in June 1978, the #1 song on the Billboard® Charts was “Too Little, Too Much, Too Late” performed by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams. Just a month earlier I had edged into the financial services industry with a public seminar called “Telephone Prospecting.” Among others, one EF Hutton® “account executive” attended. I called and asked, “Who buys training for Hutton?” The rest, as they say, is history.

Johnny and Deniece are still performing. Research Magazine is still publishing. I am still speaking, teaching and writing.

The Team Concept

For the 25th anniversary issue of Research Magazine, Gil Weinreich, Editor of Research, asked me to focus on team development because, as he put it, “you are identified with that topic.” Identified is correct, but let me go further. In all modesty, I was the first kid on the block to see the coming decades would be dominated by teams.

I saw it because I was driven there by forces then (and now) in the marketplace.

In the early to mid-eighties, I sold training seminars to firms. We literally trained tens of thousands of rookies to cold call.

Beginning in 1982, the industry consolidation started. Kemper® started buying regional brokerage firms. Shearson® took over Hutton. Drexel® imploded. Bache® bought Thompson®. Watching this was far more than a spectator sport. As the bigger fish ate the smaller fish, my marketplace was shrinking, providing a guaranteed income reduction plan for Yours Truly. I made up a name for the firm I imagined would be the last standing: AGMerrillWebberWitterBros. I will refer to this mythical firm hereafter as AGMWFB. (If I had called it Wachovia, I would now certainly be at the head of the prognosticator class.) As I researched what I could sell to individuals, I discovered that FAs were worth $1,000 an hour in gross revenue when they were meeting with and talking to clients and prospects. This figure ultimately lead me to the “team concept.” That was 1985.

I got it right 20+ years ago. So I’ll stick my neck out and say: the future landscape will be dominated by large teams, especially partnerships as the Boomer advisors move into retirement years. And as the Boomers fade to black, the new generation of FAs will embrace virtual teams.

Origin of the Team Concept

To understand team evolution going forward, you should understand its origin and the natural laws that govern its successful operation.

Back then, I needed something I could sell to the individuals spared from the rapidfire firm gobbling. There were a lot more individuals.

I started researching. Because too many of my “graduates” were telling me, “Bill I don’t have time to prospect,” I started with a few studies of what brokers did with their time.

I soon learned that the $250K producer spent slightly less than an hour a day in contact with clients and prospects and the rest of the time doing other stuff. I immediately thought, “Ridiculous. That would make his or her time worth $1000 an hour. Absurd.”

I repeated the study and ran it for three weeks instead of a week. Same results. As a final check, I ran it again in 1991. To my knowledge, no other firm, consultant, guru or seer has repeated these studies.

That lead me then to what I now call LAW #1:

A financial advisor who has survived a few years in the industry and knows the craft is worth at least $1000 an hour in gross revenue to his firm.

This discovery raised an immediate question: how can we get more of those $1000 hours and less of the other stuff?

Work harder?

Longer?

Delegate?

Too many were already working 50-80 hours a week.

Conclusion: get some help so you can delegate the other stuff.

To find out how an assistant could handle more or even all of the “other stuff,” in early 1986 I hired a Sales Assistant (SA), and put her on my payroll and convinced the local PaineWebber branch manager to let her work as an SA and report to me. For months, I tried to get her to perform both sales support (cold calling, setting up seminars, calling clients to set appointments) as well as service duties. I failed for months to make this work. One day the skies parted. One of those blessed epiphanies that can mark turning points of a life or a career had revealed itself.

One person could not, indeed must not, do both jobs. A broker needed two assistants.

The “team concept” was born and became an integral part of what I now call the Bill Good Marketing System when we launched in 1986.

Today, I express this as LAW #2:

When Sales Support and Service Support are performed by the same person, Service Support will instantly cause the immediate disappearance of Sales Support

What is a Team?

In its very early formulation, the team I conceived had three people: financial adviser, sales assistant, and service assistant. After seeing horrendous mistakes in data entry and other computer operations, I quickly added a part-time computer operator to my team configuration, making the full minimum-sized team 3 ½ people.

Can a team only be two people, FA and assistant? You can call it that, but do you have a “team?”

Consider this definition of “team” from BusinessDictionary.com.

“Group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project. Team members

1) operate with a high degree of interdependence,

2) share authority and responsibility for self-management,

3) are accountable for the collective performance, and

4) work toward a common goal and shared rewards(s).

A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members. (Emphasis added)

Do an FA and assistant meet this test?

The only definition I could find that referred to a minimum of two is in Webster’s 1913 unabridged: “Two or more horses, oxen, or other beasts harnessed to the same vehicle for drawing, as to a coach, wagon, sled, or the like.”

We ain’t talkin’ horses, folks.

More Team Building Laws

I then researched how many hours of work it took to produce $1 in gross revenue. In several different offices, I came up with a range from 110 hours a week to 140. Two people? This research lead to LAW #3:

To make it to high six or seven figures, you have to have a team.

To which I now add, going forward, Law #4:

To survive today and earn a six figure income you better get on or create a team.

Competition will be more intense. Fees will further decline. For survival purposes, bigger is better.

{ 5 comments }

Overworked N Confused July 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Unfortunately, most firms don’t consider one FA and 2 SAs a team..thats just a solo FA with more overhead . Nice try.

Bill Good Marketing July 14, 2011 at 5:13 am

That’s actually not true. The vast majority of firm consider 3 or more people a team. There are many different kinds of team ranging from one FA with Sales Assistant, Service Assistant and Computer Operator to 2-way partnership all the way up to 6 or more FAs and many support staff.

Overworked N Confused July 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm

That may be so by your definition, but at MSSB or ML a team is not one FA and a bunch of support staff. The comp schedules now specify a team as more than one FA. Your definition of a team is from the prior decade.

Bill Good Marketing July 21, 2011 at 11:24 am

Actually, my definition of a team is from the dictionary.

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