My advice is to find out what your strengths are, focus on them, and delegate everything else to your team.
Michael Morrow is a financial planner based out of Colorado Springs, CO. For over twenty years he has focused on helping clients feel more confident about making financial choices both as an independent financial advisor and as the current President of Aspen Creek Wealth Strategies. Since 2014 Aspen Creek Wealth Strategies has striven to provide customers with true financial freedom by educating them on all areas of wealth management.
Michael Morrow began his financial career in Texas where he was acknowledged as the “Best of the Best” financial planner by a number of local magazines. Before he became the president of Aspen Creek Wealth Strategies, he served as a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual, as a corporate trainer for Prudential Financial, and as a manager with MassMutual. It was during this time that he earned both the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designations. These opportunities helped Michael Morrow learn a great deal about training financial advisors and building successful teams.
Aspen Creek Wealth Strategies focuses on the coordination of six areas of wealth management—asset management, credit management, cash flow management, risk management, tax planning and legal planning. Michael and his team offer creative solutions to business planning, estate planning, retirement planning, and charitable planning to clients who are based across the United States.
Outside of work, Michael Morrow enjoys traveling with his family. He believes that had he not found his passion in the financial services industry, he would have pursued a life as a travel agent. When it comes to traveling, Michael enjoys the thrill of finding the best price for his trip as much as he enjoys the trip itself. Michael particularly likes traveling to different destinations aboard cruise ships.
Michael is a major advocate for the use of alternative forms of transportation, such as Uber and peer-to-peer vehicle sharing services like Turo. While on the road, these services give travelers the ability to navigate new cities with ease. While Uber is the top choice for short trips or travel in smaller cities, Michael Morrow enjoys using Turo during lengthier adventures. Moreover, Michael is fond of staying in timeshares when traveling with larger groups. As Michael contends, renting a timeshare as opposed to a hotel room can offer much more competitive prices and enjoyable living conditions.
When he is not traveling Michael Morrow also enjoys exploring the Colorado outdoors, reading, and being an active member of his church.
Where did the idea for Aspen Creek Wealth Strategies come from?
I started as a financial advisor in 1992. At first, I worked for large companies. One of the biggest challenges of working with a large company was the limited scope of services we were able to offer clients. I found it difficult because most companies don’t have products that fit every client. This type of environment wasn’t ideal for every client since each client is different. After twelve years I took a step of faith and went independent and started my own finance firm. Today I can tell people that we work in all six areas of wealth management. We’re not married to any one company. We are truly 100% independent. Ultimately the idea came from the desire to give clients a service that was in their best interest—and that had to be in an independent environment.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We try to balance each day with two things: production activity and process activity. Each day we typically see 3-7 clients during business hours. We also have weekend appointments on occasion. I’m able to make my day productive because I surround myself with people that are really good. We have advisors who invest their time in building relationships with clients. Then I come in with my breath and depth of understanding of financial products. I peel the onion back on their financial situation and create a custom plan for them. At times I have to take a complex financial plan and explain it in simple terms to clients so that they can understand how it can improve their situation. We also have professional advisors that help. We have experts in operations and systems. Their efficiency helps me stay productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Research. We assist clients in all six areas of wealth management, A lot of our time is spent educating ourselves and researching new products. Asset management is always changing, so we have to keep our swords sharp so that we can help clients and be more effective. To really bring ideas to life we use analogies, stories, and case studies. That helps us take complex concepts and simplify them in order to communicate with clients.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
One trend that really excites me is the efficiency of technology. When I started 20 years ago we kept track of clients with file cabinets and every phone had a cord. Now we’re able to leverage technology to help us with research. Technology also makes it much easier to communicate with clients and market our business. In the past with marketing, you had to consider postage and mailing material—it was expensive. Now social media marketing is much more efficient.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that makes me more productive is remembering to keep the most important things front and center. It’s a discipline to not get lost in the weeds of whatever business you’re in. I’m dedicated to educating our clients to empower them to make decisions. By remembering to always stay dedicated to the client, I use my time wisely and stay productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Keep moving forward. I would encourage my younger self to keep doing what you’re doing. When I first started I was an insurance agent. Now twenty years later I have a much broader service to offer. I would tell my younger self to remember that your identity isn’t just an insurance agent but as a Christian. I’ve come to realize that this isn’t just a business but a ministry opportunity as well. I would want my younger self to realize that sooner.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Most advisors are prejudiced against one or more financial strategies or products. They have strong arguments against certain things. I’ve come to realize that each product is like a scalpel. It’s neither good nor bad—it’s about whose hands it’s in. I’m much more open to new things and less judgment about new products. Most advisors view new ways of doings things as a threat to business. I try to see the good in every product that comes along, and I take a more balanced approach than other advisors. Generally, most financial advisors would not agree with my approach.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’m constantly analyzing my strengths and weaknesses. My advice is to find out what your strengths are, focus on them, and delegate everything else to your team. I believe this strategy will make you a more successful entrepreneur.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Early in my career the only way and the best way to grow your business was through word of mouth. I had success with referrals—more success than failures. But the problem with that system can be the lack of consistency. There are ebb and flows to the referrals that walk through the door. I wanted a more balanced approach to getting clients. One strategy to achieve that goal has been regular client education events and public education events. For example, we have events that discuss the best age to take social security. Events like these provide a constant stream of new people to help.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The reality is that I have had multiple failures. One of my favorite books is Falling Forward. The truth is that we all trip and fall, but it matters if you trip and fall on the right path rather than the wrong path. Many of the “failures” I’ve experienced were actually a trip to the right path.When I started out I didn’t know what I didn’t know. At times I recommended strategies that I didn’t fully understand or didn’t do enough homework. As a result clients or myself lost money. You need to either get out of business when you fail like that or learn your lesson and build in risk management for you and your client. Now I do so much research and thorough vetting of every strategy. We also spend a lot more time educating customers so that they make informed decisions on their own. Clients need to understand the risk that’s involved with each strategy. I like to tell clients about the negative elements of a particular strategy so that they understand what’s possible. I don’t want to hide anything from them. Then I can move on to discusses the positive aspects of the strategy. But I always want the client to see the entire picture.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would say find ways to monetize assets that you have. For example, some people have extra vehicles. Instead of just letting them sit in the driveway, you can rent them out through sites like Turo. Take assets that are passive and make them active. The concept is a powerful idea. Uber uses this concept. Uber is the largest car service, and they don’t own any cars. You have to retrain your mind to see assets that aren’t being fully deployed and monetize them.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
At Aspen Creek, we value word of mouth. If we meet somebody and that person introduces us to someone who becomes a client, we offer gift cards as a way to say thank you. The best $100 I’ve spent has been on showing gratitude.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use software for a number of different reasons: tracking clients, marketing, analysis. One piece that we use is related to social security and finding the best age for when someone should select it. There are 567 different options for when and how a married couple can select social security. What are the odds of choosing the best option? 98% of people leave money on the table when they select social security. We use software to help them make a better decision.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Good to Great. This book helped me define what I needed and how I needed to get there. It has kept me laser-focused for the last several years. Business starts with people, not products. Make sure good people are doing the right thing for the company and understand your own strengths and weaknesses. This book helped me become more disciplined. There are lots of things I can’t do, and this book helped me see that and how important it is to enlist the help of others.
What is your favorite quote?
At one point I worked at Chick-fil-A. I helped train teenagers on how to deal with customers. The quote we always used was “Always do the best thing you can for the customer that’s right in front of you.” Also, another quote that goes along with that is; “Who is the most important customer? The one in front of you.” If you help people get what they want long enough, you’ll eventually get what you want. There’s not only a financial element to helping meet—there’s a spiritual element. If we regularly help people we don’t have to worry about how much we make. 90% of the people who come through our door won’t make us money. But if we did a good job and helped them then we feel better.
Tell us about one friend or acquaintance of yours who we should interview on IdeaMensch? Who are they, how do we get a hold of them and what are they doing?
Richard Henderson runs a Christian ministry called Fellowship of the Sword. It helps people deal with significant heart issues. We’ve all been hurt by friends and family. Life has happened to us. The bottom line is that we’re all carrying around negative baggage. Richard’s ministry has had a profound impact on people’s lives. It’s the most impactful ministry I’ve ever experienced. I had my quote of baggage when I met him, but I went to his ministry, and it was life changing. It brought a meaningful transformation to my life.
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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.