There is a lot of attention focused on First Financial Security. You seem to have turned things around. What has been the difference?
The fact that we are still here has a lot of people talking. I was told by one of the large recruiters in our industry that he and many others were standing on the sidelines waiting for FFS to fail. We were given virtually no chance of succeeding simply because we were a company run by outsiders, and our leaders were yesterday’s bench-burners.
I’ve learned over the years that business is a full contact sport and like boxing (or MMA in today’s vernacular) it’s about the last man standing. People tend to forget that everything and everybody has a life cycle. We are a determined bunch here at First Financial Security and it appears that, quite simply, it is now our turn and many who were on the sidelines are now taking a serious look at our value proposition.
Why did you buy this company? What drew you into First Financial Security?
Lack of information, I guess (just kidding). Seriously though, had I known what we were in for, I most likely would have taken a pass on the whole thing, even knowing the powerful potential of the business model.
Business opportunities to business men and women are like waves to surfers. If you miss one you just have to wait for the next one. I have always tried to conduct myself in a way that would position me for that next opportunity “wave”.
In this case, I was contacted by someone who thought I could help them out of a problem and that’s how I became involved. I had been familiar with the business model for almost 10 years and had been intrigued by the spectacular successes of similar companies in an industry that prides itself on controlled and predictable growth. One of the serious challenges that the insurance industry faces is recruiting new people into the business. It’s a tough sell, unless you have an exciting and innovative value proposition and marketing system, which FFS has.
Anyway, I was given the opportunity to examine the business model from the inside, P & L’s, pro forma, that sort of thing and I guess I was drawn in at that point. After working with our incredible field leaders and internal staff, I’m hooked.
What has been some of your other business ventures and experiences?
Right out of college I went to work for the auditing division of a mid-size bank holding company. It became clear early on that to get anywhere in the corporate world, someone above you had to die or leave or you had to leave and go to a different department. So I transferred to the Investment Division of the bank to get my promotion and spent time learning the bond markets. While I enjoyed my jobs I found the corporate environment rather restrictive for anyone with ambition.
My father-in-law convinced me that owning my own business was the only way to build and accumulate long term wealth and it was best to try it while I was still young. We bought a small manufacturing business and ran it for four years until we had lost what little we had. But the lessons learned about people, integrity, perseverance, the IRS and business in general prepared us for what we are doing today.
From there I took a job selling life insurance to the customers of a small Savings & Loan and from then on I have been in the insurance industry in one form or another.
What do you find different about networking?
In the context of insurance and financial services, there really is not much of a difference between “traditional marketing” and “networking marketing”. In fact, and in both worlds, there is a strong positive correlation between one’s level of success and one’s ability to network. The first thing my sales manager told me to do with my first sales position is to write down the names of everyone I knew. It clicked with me right away. You naturally begin networking with those you know – your warm market! That’s networking and that’s FFS.
How is the networking experience different from what you thought it would be?
Prior to my involvement with First Financial Security, my opinions about the networking business were formed by my limited observations of other people and their experiences in non-financial services MLM opportunities such as direct selling or party plans. While the networking “experience” here at FFS is different due to the regulatory environment of our industry, everything good about the networking industry – the energy, the people, the enthusiasm, the values – was consistent with my expectations. And I love it. It’s deliciously contagious!
How do you react to the recent criticism about networking, and the public attacks on some companies, were stocks were sold short?
My reaction is this, it goes with the territory. While going public has its’ advantages, the transparency and reporting requirements that come with being a publically traded company open you up to short selling and all of the media and propaganda that goes with it. While most of the time the criticisms are unfair and overblown, I think overall it’s healthy for any industry to be open to legitimate scrutiny and criticism.
Bear in mind that the shorts don’t always win. The current high profile grudge match between Ackman and Icahn over Herbalife is great theater but has little impact on the fundamentals of the company. I’m in the camp that believes that eventually, the market is always right. Free markets are a wonderful thing. I voluntarily sell a company stock short because I think it is going down and I voluntarily go long on the stock because I think it is going up.
The big story here is that your sales team was demoralized and now it has taken a 180 degree turn. How did you win the trust of the First Financial Security sales team? How did you motivate them?
Trust is earned. And in our particular case, most of our leaders had been disappointed in the leadership of prior companies. We simply needed to do what we said we were going to do. Sometimes it was hard and it took longer than anyone thought. Early on we were fortunate enough to have a few early “converts” that took the good news of the FFS opportunity and spread it around completely on faith.
As for motivation, this model attracts people that are already highly motivated and are looking for the right opportunity to channel that energy. Compared to the other options out there, the FFS value proposition is pretty strong and the fact that we have delivered on the “Equity Share” promise seems to keep everyone energized and focused. Oh, and did I mention that our annual Dream Destination trips are some of the best in the industry? Our people fight for those.
How does networking fit in this new hyper government run economy? Is the old free enterprise concept outdated? Will business of the future be joint ventures with the government?
First Financial Security gives everyone who wants it the opportunity to participate in the American Dream of owning your own business. Since ours is and has been a highly regulated industry, the recent round on government intrusion has had little impact on our business. Networking is good for people, for business and for the country. You simply cannot have a viable free economy where everyone works for the government in one fashion or another. I reject the idea that the US economic system is headed for a future of joint ventures with our government, like China for example. I believe that it is an inevitability that China will continue to migrate to more of a free market like ours. As the Chinese people increasingly are exposed to free market principles via the internet, the call for market and government reform will only get louder. I mean, how do you deal with a billion ticked off peasants?