The Reinventor

Guy Baker, CLU, ChFC, CFP, RHU, a member of the Million Dollar Round Table for 46 years, and Top of the Table Member for 40 years, was at a career crossroads. He had just finished his year as president of MDRT and was tuning back into his own practice. Given the demands of the position, he hadn’t been able to market to new clients very much and realized that he had “a blank slate.” So he looked at it as an opportunity to reassess what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

This man of reinvention went back to school to get a Ph.D. in money management. Now, instead of a “lone ranger,” as he called himself, he built a team of more than a dozen advisors doing money management, and wealth and legacy planning at the Wealth Teams Alliance in Irvine, Calif., where he is the founding partner and managing director.

We talked to him about what it takes to stay in this business, and also how to take your practice to the next level.


What is the biggest mistake you see fellow agents and advisors making?

They lead with solutions, instead of problems. When I speak to groups, I ask the audience, “Do we sell problems or solutions?” And at least 95% says, we sell solutions, because that’s the way we are trained to think.

It’s not that focusing on problems means we don’t sell solutions; instead it means that we lead with the problem. We listen to the client and wait until we understand what keeps them up at night. Essentially what we do is help them understand the pain of the problem and the fact that their solutions aren’t going to work, and when they come to that realization, then they will usually ask, “What should I do?” …

It’s far better to begin without an agenda. For example, I might say, “I’m a wealth coach. I’ve worked with people like you for years. I have no idea if I can help you, or what you’re interested in doing. But I’d love to sit down and talk with you and share some of the ideas and strategies I’ve learned, and see if any of them would help you.”


What can agents or advisors do to improve their business?

The first thing is to take a step back and be brutally honest with yourself and do a clear assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, what you like to do and don’t like to do. Find out how much time you’re spending on what you like to do versus defensive time, time that is often wasted.

I saw Alec Mackenzie, the author of “Time Trap,” speak at a Round Table meeting. The first thing I did when I got back to my office was institute a time-in-motion study. I did a five-minute incremental calculation of how I spent my time for two weeks. I wanted to find out how much time I was spending on the phone, whether I was calling people for appointments or calling people to solve problems, or pushing paper and doing $10 an hour work.

At the end of the two-week assessment, I saw how much time I was wasting on doing things that were unproductive and could be delegated. I then made changes in order to free my time up, so I could do the things that were most profitable and were the highest and best use of my time.

After you’ve done the time assessment, start talking to the people you need to be talking to—and find two people every day who will talk to you about a specific problem.


What about established advisors who want to take their business to the next level?

The problem for those who haven’t been able to break through their “glass ceiling”, is they are doing way too much of what doesn’t produce any tangible results. They do this to the exclusion of those things that do result in business, even if it is a few months in the future. I see agents who don’t think like business people, they don’t have a balance sheet, profit and loss. There are two books I recommend everyone read, Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth” and Jim Collins’ “Good to Great.” Both of these books will help establish the right mind set for growth.

Keep in mind, there’s only one thing in our business that you can control, and that’s the number of people you ask to sit down and talk with you. Unless you have a system for finding people to talk to you, and you keep track of that metric and force yourself to stay on track, your business is going to die.


What the best piece of advice you’d like to pass on?

Be grateful. And do what you need to do every day, and NEVER, NEVER give up.