I have made it a habit to delegate everything I can to my staff except for my personal contacts with clients and prospects. By having them do everything else, I can spend more of my time doing what I am best at, which is calling or getting in front of people or corresponding with them through emails or letters.
Juanita Causey was a hardworking, honest, and dedicated bank employee who wanted more from life than just an 8:00 to 5:00 job with a steady but limited paycheck. She liked helping people with their financial decisions, but wanted to chart her own path to success. In 1994, she made a big decision to change careers and went to work for John Hancock where she was trained to be a financial planner.
After six years of hard work and more intensive training, Juanita Causey decided to start her own company, which she named appropriately as the Houston Financial Center. Through this company, she was able to be completely independent and shop for the best products for her growing pool of clients. Early in her career, she hired a full time assistant and soon after starting her own company, she had two and then three full time employees and one part time bookkeeper. Her list of clients has grown to over 1,000 over the years and nearly all her clients have come from referrals.
Juanita Causey is a holistic financial planner and works with as many as three generations in some families. One of her most valuable traits is always doing the right thing for the client, regardless of the cost or compensation. She continues to further her education through continuing education and professional designations in various aspects of business, estate, and financial planning. She currently has more designations than most people in her industry, holding seven important professional designations. She has been recognized as being in the top 2% of all insurance and financial services professionals. She says that her most important accomplishment is all the wonderful relationships she has developed with her many clients. She credits most of her success to surrounding herself with quality assistants, hard work, and extensive education through her many professional designations.
Juanita Causey is unselfish and has spent many hours doing volunteer work for non-profits as well as pro-bono planning for those less fortunate in our society. She likes to spend time with her children and grandchildren as well as making trips with her husband to many places around the world.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
My Trainer/Mentor and I spent several hours searching the web and business directories before we came up with the name “Houston Financial Center”, which was not already taken in the area. I wanted a name that would describe the many financial products and services that I am able to provide to my clients, which include: business and personal financial planning, tax forecasting and estate planning, investments and wealth development, personalized money management, asset protection planning, risk management, employee benefits, business succession planning, education planning and college savings plans, retirement planning, life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, long term care and elder care planning and charitable giving (philanthropy).
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I generally start my day at 8:30 a.m. by going over my emails and correspondence. Responding to clients and sorting through my correspondence can take up to an hour of work. I generally schedule appointments with clients from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. or later. If I don’t have appointments continuously throughout the day, I spend time contacting clients by phone or email so that during each three-month period (quarterly), I contact each of my active clients either by phone or email. Part of my day includes reviewing plans that my case writer has prepared and making suggestions on recommendations. I also spend time reviewing insurance products and investment proposals that my staff has prepared due to any recommendations. I currently try to leave the office at 5:00 p.m. so I have time to attend a class at my gymnasium.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I encourage my staff to provide ideas that may make our firm more productive and valuable to my clients. I often prepare more than one scenario for my clients so they can see the results of more than one idea. I try to put myself in their shoes and think about what I would do for myself under the same circumstances. I then show my clients what I would want to see before I made any decisions.
What’s one trend that excites you?
More and more people are starting to see the importance of having a financial advisor to assist them with their financial decisions. More colleges and universities every year are offering degree plans in Financial Planning, which was very rare only 15 or 20 years ago.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have made it a habit to delegate everything I can to my staff except for my personal contacts with clients and prospects. By having them do everything else, I can spend more of my time doing what I am best at, which is calling or getting in front of people or corresponding with them through emails or letters. My clients like me contacting them regularly and enjoy having the ability to speak with me whenever they feel the need.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would put more balance in my life. Early on in my career, I was all work and no play. My children hardly ever saw me except for a few minutes here and there. I worked from early morning until late at night six or seven days every week. While it got my career off to a fast start, I missed spending time with my family and had no time for hobbies and/or just relaxing. If I had more balance in my life, I may have been even more productive over the long term.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Hiring an assistant very early in my career and having three full time assistants to handle all administrative tasks and customer service requests, including personally answering every phone call, completing applications, paying bills, running errands, etc. Almost all advisors think that only one assistant is all that is needed. I have found that I am most productive by being in front of or on the phone with clients and/or prospects. I am not exceptionally talented, yet this business model has helped me be in the top 2% of all advisors in my area as well as worldwide.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I personally contact every active client each quarter to update them on their investments and ask them if there is any way I can be of service to them. Clients love to feel they are important. They understand how important they are to me through me contacting them personally. I never use an automated phone system, but have a real person answer every phone call or email. Old-fashioned customer service is something that every client appreciates and that every advisor should provide.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Not charging a fee for my planning and education services has helped me grow my practice. Most people are reluctant to do their planning if it means committing to a fee up front. I tell my prospective clients that I get paid two ways for my work. The first is what I call product loyalty. As I do their planning, if I discover a need for any financial products or services, I will make a recommendation. They are not obligated to act on them, but if they agree and purchase the product or service, I expect them to purchase them through me, rather than through their old advisor, brother-in-law, or neighbor. In other words, I don’t want to do all the work and have them give my paycheck to someone else just to take the order. The second way I get paid is called Active Goodwill. If they are happy with the work and benefit from the planning, then I expect them to introduce me to friends, family, or associates that can also benefit from my work.
If a prospect is willing to commit to these two ways I get paid, I do the work and never worry about getting paid. It all seems to work out in the long run. I have done planning by using the above strategy for nearly 25 years and almost always get paid. If someone just can’t afford any products or services or chooses to take their business elsewhere, that is OK. I would always like to work only for honorable people who keep their word.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early in my career, before I learned about fee-based investments, I sold many clients’ investments that were commission-based and had sales and/or surrender charges. As we experienced the recession of 2000 through 2003, many of my clients were upset that they could not get their money out without experiencing surrender charges. By that time, I learned about fee-based investment products that had no sales or surrender charges. I started recommending these products whenever possible. The clients only pay a quarterly fee for the management of their investments. This helped me overcome the problems with most clients and I only lost a few. Since then, I have had almost 100% retention of clients.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have found that many of my clients have parents or grandparents that are not computer literate and as a result, are not comfortable using emails, searching the web, or accessing the incredible amount of knowledge through computers. A business idea would be a service that supplied a basic computer (nothing fancy), delivered and set it up for an elderly person and helped them learn the basic skills to set up an email account and use it, access Facebook and YouTube, getting information from Google or other search engines, etc. This would offer some basic skills while not being too fancy and not making the user uneasy. I feel that many children and grandchildren would be happy to share the expense of this service to their parents and grandparents, so they could better communicate with them, send pictures, etc. This would also help to stimulate the minds of an ever-growing elderly population to keep them sharper into old age as well as give them something interesting to do with their time and talents. This business would be a complete service that included the delivery and set-up of the computer, subscribing them to basic internet service and training them to use it. There could also be a small monthly charge for keeping them subscribed to this service so they could call any time for follow-up questions and guidance on the phone. Like Silver Sneakers is a senior exercise program, this could be called Silver-Tech, Silver Computing or Golden Computing, or something like that.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I read a great book on investments and making the adjustment from working to retirement called “The Story of Rich” by J.D. Joyce. I purchased several of these books (about $100 worth) and sent them to several of my good clients who were recently retired or almost at retirement age. I received several good referrals because of these gifts. A great investment!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
For many years, I have used financial planning software called “Financial Profiles Professional”. It has great illustrated pictures, graphs and charts that are very user friendly for my clients. They all like the Financial Analysis I provide to them from this software. It is generally from 55 to 95 pages in length, depending on the complexity or items covered in their planning. It makes the process very easy to understand.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley & William Danko. There are many excellent books on financial planning. The reason I like this book is the emphasis it makes on not trying to keep up with the Joneses and living on less that you earn. This enables you to invest the difference so that you accumulate a nice nest-egg for the future. So many other books place their emphasis on how to invest money once you have it rather than how to get it first.
What is your favorite quote?
It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you and how many generations you keep it for. – Robert Kiyosaki
• It made me think about what I have done and why I am where I am.
• It inspired me to be a better person.
• I learned what I could have done to make my life better.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.