Will your estate come with an Owner’s Manual?



Create your own personal what-to-do, who-to-call, where-to-find-it family information organizer.

In your absence, would your family know which bills need to be paid, who owes you money, the passwords to your computer, your final wishes, or even how to care for your orphaned pets?  The Beneficiary Book is a practical, no-nonsense, fill-in-the-answers guide is the perfect way to organize your life-and leave a caring, practical legacy for your family.

The Beneficiary Book Interactive e-Book is a book of questions designed to provide those all-important, must-have answers and vital information in times of crisis, death, incapacity or other family emergencies.  All you have to do provide the answers to questions only you can answer.

The Beneficiary Book is the best way to tackle this most important task and leave your important information organized and instantly available.

The Beneficiary Book includes:

  • Fill in forms on your computer and print the completed forms… or… print out blank forms to fill in by hand.
  • Detailed forms to record personal and medical information for ALL household members, including people with special needs.
  • Medical Information ID Cards to alert medical professionals where and how to obtain vital medical information about all household members.
  • Inventory forms to record both tangible and intangible assets… Checklists: Priority checklists for first things to do in the event of an emergency – A checklist for settling an estate – a Disaster Preparedness Guide and Checklist… There’s even a detailed form to record information about “who will” and “how to” care for your beloved pets.
  • Because this program is in PDF (Portable Document Format), you are literally a few mouse clicks from backing up and retrieving your data from any media source from a thumb drive to an offsite subscription backup service

To check out and demo The Beneficiary Book, please click on the following link:


For more information about The Beneficiary Book and The Gift of Answers Workshop, contact:

Ed Howat, Jr., CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, RCC



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Imagine building your dream house and forgetting to build the closets. The house looks great from the outside, but inside a major piece of functionality and convenience is missing.

The same could be true with your financial and end of life plans. You may have a wonderful plan and everything looks great, but have you forgotten anything.

Are there any unintended consequences? Are you sure that all your wishes will be fulfilled? Have you made your wishes known? Who will inherit what, when and how?

Are you 100% sure that every dollar and piece of property will end up where you intend it to go? What has changed since you last reviewed your plan? What changes do you foresee? What have you overlooked?

Click on the link to view and print a few more questions to help you make sure your plan will work: Building Your Dream House



Have you experienced only minimal success when conducting seminars?

  • Did you experience low attendance and high costs?
  • Were you discovering new needs and developing new sales as a result of your seminars?
  • Were you then, and are you now, having some difficulty obtaining high caliber referrals?
  • How is your client retention?
  • Have you lost some really good clients?
  • Do you need something new to talk to your clients about?

The Gift of Answers Workshop may be your answer. It is a topic that will catch the attention of everyone in your audience. It will help you build fences around your clients so that they won’t stray away. It is about helping your clients do the things they just haven’t got around to doing. It is not just about financial products or services; it is about life.

Take yourself, for example; have you done all the things you tell your clients to do? If you recall the pledge of the Society of Financial Service Professionals (FSP):

In all my professional relationships, I pledge myself to the following rule of ethical conduct: I shall, in light of all conditions surrounding those I serve, which I shall make every conscientious effort to ascertain and understand, render that service which, in the same circumstances, I would apply to myself.”

The question is: have you applied all those things that matter to you? Have you been able to keep all the promises that you made to yourself, your family and your clients?

I have found that advisors are actually more exposed to risk than their clients. If your client dies, his/her family still has you as their advisor, but who does your family have to go to when the time comes? I don’t know if you have ever been sick for a week or two, but think about all of the issues that would come up in your absence. Do you have a succession plan? What would happen to your business if you died tomorrow?

In order to do a better job for your clients, you should take better care of yourself first. You probably have taken a commercial airline trip. At the beginning of the flight one of the instructions by the flight attendant is: “Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”

It is so much easier to help others with what matters when you have taken care of your own matters. Shouldn’t your spouse be your best client? Is s/he prepared to do whatever comes next if you are incapacitated or dead? There is an excellent poem that was written by Edgar Guest (1881-1959). It is entitled: “Sermons We See.” Would you say that you can help people more by example than any other way?  Click here to read the poem.

Perhaps it is time to reevaluate your practice and your own situation and do more of the things you know, but just haven’t done YET? The key question is this: If not now, when?

The Gift of Answers Workshop is a complete package.  It includes a fully scripted PowerPoint presentation and attendee workbooks. You can conduct the Workshops, or we  can provide the speakers to make it very simple for you to set up.  We can also help you create a marketing and follow-up plan for your workshops.

Final Thought: You can’t change the beginning of your life, but you can change the end.

Action Step:

Click on this link: The Gift of Answers Questions to view and print some questions to ask yourself.  Give me a call and let’s talk about how The Gift of Answers Workshop can help you and your clients.

Ed Howat, Jr., CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, RCC; 651.405.6644; ed@addiewoods.com.


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Financial Rules of Thumb


One of the first orders of business with a new prospect/client is to learn about their cash flow.  What comes in and what goes out.  The next step is to match the cash flow numbers against some averages.  Below are some general ideas about what people do with their money.

(I would be interested in hearing from you about your thoughts and experiences with these rules of thumb and any changes or suggestions you would have about modifying or enhancing them.)

The basic cash flow model is called the 10-20-70 formula.  The formula suggests that you save 10% of income (guarantees); limit debt to 20% (excluding home mortgage); and allocate 70% of income to living expenses, (including home mortgage and taxes).  This is a starting point for a conversation about financial rules of thumb.  Keep in mind that rules of thumb are widely used principles with broad application, but they are not totally accurate or reliable in every situation.  If you would like a copy of the worksheet, send me an email at ed@addiewoods.com.

Here are a few basic rules of thumb to help you with the conversation about money:

  1. John D Rockefeller’s rule: save ten percent and give away ten percent.
  2. Bankers recommend that you allocate no more that 20% of net income to debt reduction (excluding home mortgage).  The home mortgage should not exceed 3 times income.  The monthly payment should not exceed 28%.
  3. Total debt service including home mortgage should not exceed 36% of gross monthly income.
  4. Car loan payments should be under 10% of income and for no more than 4 years.  Total transportation expenses should be under 15% of income.
  5. Insure your life for 10 to 25 times your income depending on your age and obligations.  For more information, go to: http://www.lifehappens.org/insurance-overview/life-insurance/.  The life insurance premium should be between 3 and 5% of Gross Income.
  6. Liquid cash reserves should equal the larger of $25,000 or six-month’s income.  Some people suggest that the number of months should match the current unemployment rate.  E.g. rate is 7.2% unemployed; months liquid should equal 7.2.
  7. Have at least 70-80%[1] of your income covered by disability insurance.  For more information, go to: http://www.lifehappens.org/insurance-overview/disability-insurance/.
  8. Purchase long-term care insurance with a daily benefit equal to the average daily rate in your community and a benefit period of at least three years. For more information, go to: http://www.lifehappens.org/insurance-overview/long-term-care-insurance/.
  9. Insure your property for 100% of replacement value.  Collision deductibles should equal one week’s take home pay.  As you build your cash reserves, increase your other deductibles to $1,000 or more.
  10. 401 (k) contributions should be at a level that maximizes any employer contributions.  If your employer has a policy to match 50% of your contributions up to 6%, then contribute 6% of your income to take full advantage of the match.  If no matching program is available, contribute at least 5% to your retirement plans.
  11. Base your retirement needs on 110% of your pre-retirement expenses.
  12. Expect to safely withdraw and spend 4% of your retirement fund value every year.
  13. One thought is to save $150 per month per child and then double the amount when the first one starts college.  You may not have enough to cover the entire cost, but you will minimize school loans and the amount of time it takes to pay them off.  For more information on saving for college, go to http://www.savingforcollege.com/.
  14. Net worth[2] should equal ten percent of your age times your income (e.g. Age 45; 100,000 income = $450,000 net worth) – Thomas Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door
  15. Save from your income and invest from your savings.
  16. Use 3.5% as the inflation rate per year. (The average rate since 1914 is 3.30%; http://inflationdata.com/inflation/inflation_rate/historicalinflation.aspx.
  17. Have X% of your portfolio invested in stocks, where X is equal to 100 minus your age.  With the increase in longevity; some experts suggest that you use 110 or 120 instead of 100.
  18. Invest no more than 10% of your total savings in your employer’s stock.
  19. To determine how long it will take an investment to double, divide 72 by the annual return.
  20. Consider refinancing your home if interest rates dropped by 1-2%.

Go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/cex/ to find tables that will help you appreciate how the average person allocates his/her income.  It will help you counsel your clients and help you help them deal with their money more effectively.

Some Sample Cash Flow Tables in PDF Format:

Take a look at http://www.sharesavespend.com. You will find some great ideas there that will help you create more talking points when you are working with your clients on cash flow issues.

Ed Howat 651.405.6644

Neither Ed Howat and Addie Woods Consulting Co. LLC, nor its representatives give tax, legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney, tax or financial advisor for such advice.


[1] With a “Catastrophic” rider you can replace 100% of earned income. For example, if you earn $100,000 and have a group disability plan that pays 60% of your income, you would receive a taxable monthly benefit of $5,000 when disabled.  Additionally, you can purchase approximately $1,400 of individual tax free disability income which brings your total coverage to 77%.  With some insurance carriers, you can also add a catastrophic rider which would bring your total coverage up to 100% replacement.

[2] The formula is used to define an “Average Accumulator of Wealth (AAW).

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On Becoming A “Scratch” Financial Services Professional


Have you dreamed of becoming a “scratch” financial advisor?  In golf a “scratch golfer” is someone who has a handicap of “zero.”  Effectively he/she is playing PAR golf.  In 1911 the US Golf Association (USGA) defined PAR as perfect play without flukes and under ordinary weather conditions, always allowing two strokes on each putting green.”

For example, a par-3 hole is short enough that one shot is expected to put you on the green, with two putts to follow; a par-4 hole requires two shots to reach the green.  PAR, as stated in the definition above is based on perfect play, in other words, it is someone who is an expert at the game.

In the financial services business, “scratch” or “PAR” would be defined as an advisor or agent who has $100,000,000 or more of Assets Under Management (AUM) or $1,000,000 or more in Annual Revenue.

I am not suggesting that every financial services professional strive to reach the “scratch” level.  There are more important things in life than production and money.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I would think that most golfers enjoy the game and the challenge; they do their best to compete effectively against themselves and with their peers.

I think the key word is plateau.  What happens when people hit a wall and reach a plateau?  Some would probably just cope with it because they enjoy the game, some might feel a little frustration and would try a driving range, or putting green to see is they could improve beyond the plateau; some might decide that they could benefit from a few lessons and at least have someone critique their swing and their game.  Others, who are more serious about the game, may hire a swing coach to help them get to the next level of golf.

If you are already at PAR, congratulations are in order.  If you are a handicap player in the financial services business, it may take time to get to PAR.  For some it will take a change in thinking and attitude.  It will also take discipline and perhaps a coach who can help you make the right adjustments and hold you accountable.  For others, it will also take some changes in systems and processes.  In this case, you may need a practice management consultant who can help you install the right systems, processes and procedures and help you build an effective support team.

There is an old saying that “practice makes perfect.”  This has always been a flawed statement because the reality is that only PERFECT practice makes perfect.  There is no sense in repeating the wrong behavior over and over.  Most sales people do not spend enough time on the practice field to really sharpen their skills.  Hiring a qualified coach will add a measure of accountability and ensure that you are doing the right things right at the right time.


A golfer who knows the game, but can’t perform at PAR would not be considered an expert.  To be considered an expert as a financial services professional, it is not just about how many professional designations you have after your name.  It not only requires knowledge, but it also requires a performance at the “PAR” level.

A financial services expert then is someone who has the knowledge, the skills and the mental toughness to play consistently at the PAR level or below.

There are a couple of old sayings to keep in mind: (1) the person at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there and (2) everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.  Are you really willing to do what it takes to perform at the PAR level?

The Million Dollar Question is: Do you really want to be a “Scratch” financial services professional?

The second and more important question is: why do you want to be a “Scratch” financial services professional?

When you have clarity about the answers to these two questions, you will be on your way to wearing your own green jacket.

From Bogey Advisor to Scratch

It all starts with your thinking.  First, you need to know who you are and assess your capabilities?  How clear is your vision of the person you could become?  Do you have a crystal clear vision for yourself and your family?  Do you have a vision of what your business will look like when everything is working perfectly?  Do you really know why your goals are important to you?  Do you have the mental toughness to reach your goals?  Are you paying too much attention to some things and ignoring others?  Do you have the right people around you who can help you get there?  Will you be able to live your dream?

Long-term change in behavior and results starts with your thinking.

  1. Do you know how you decide what is good for you?
  2. How sharp are your people skills? Are people naturally attracted to you?
  3. What kind of systems and processes do you have in place to manage a $100,000,000 practice?
  4. At what percentage of your capacity are you currently operating?

There are assessment tools that can help you answer the above questions.  If you give me a call, I can help you with each one of the assessments.

Depending on the findings, we can determine what needs to be done to reach PAR and set your priorities.  If you are currently a Bogey Advisor (under $250,000 of revenue), then you have a lot of work to do to get to scratch.  You will probably need to start with building systems and processes and improve your service capabilities.

If you are a mid handicap advisor (over $250,000 but under $750,000 of revenue), then you have a shorter trip than the bogey advisor towards a scratch practice.  You probably need to review your “short game” by working on a detail here and there.  You will also have to work on your concentration and do a better job of setting your daily priorities.

“Consistency thou art a jewel” is a quote that many attribute to William Shakespeare.  Consistency is the key.  In golf it is the money players who can stay out of the rough and the traps; they are the ones who avoid trouble with one hole on the course.  For many, it is the one double bogey or triple bogey that sneaks up and ruins their chance at scratch golf.

In order to play at the scratch level, you will need to make more birdies and pars than ever before.  The Birdies are the clients who have over $1,000,000 with you, or who can pay premiums of over $50,000 per year.  The scratch financial services professional knows how to clone his /her top 20 clients.  PAR is about your activity level; it is about the right mix of networking, new prospects, telephonics, face to face meetings closes, and service work.

Par is activity based, but par is not achieved by everyone.  Here are the activity levels that are necessary to get you to PAR:

  1. 60 Prospects. You should have 60 people in the mill.  These are referrals and other leads that you have received.  These are people who have not done any business with you.  They are basically the raw material of your practice
  2. 60 Phone Calls. Each week you should talk with 60 people on the phone.  These are actual two-way conversations (not voicemail messages) including requests for meetings and service work.
  3. 60 Appointments. Each month you should strive to have 60 face to face meetings.  These meetings include first time meetings, discovery meetings, presentations and closes as well as service work.
  4. 60 Cases in The Mill. These are situations where both you and the prospect/client have agreed that there is a specific problem that needs to be solved.  You expect that these cases can close within 60 days.
  5. 60 Appointments Booked Ahead. Getting 60 ahead is the hard part.  Maintaining it is easy: all you have to do is replace the appointments that have taken place or cancelled.

Just like in golf, you are not going to hit par very often, if at all, but it is something you shoot for.

Each day’s activity must be deliberate.  The sooner you focus and set your Daily Five Most Important Tasks, the sooner you will become a scratch advisor.  Make sure that you are practicing good habits and you are consistent with your routines.  Without a strong routine, you will never become a scratch advisor.

If you think 2017 is the year you want to achieve PAR and become a scratch advisor, give me a call and we can create the blueprint, break a few bad habits, get you out of your familiars and ruts, and then take the action steps to make it happen for you.

Receive a free MindScan profile and a 45-minute consultation.

The MindScan; an incredible assessment tool that measures how you think.  If you’ve ever wondered why you’re not reaching your potential, this assessment will give you clear insight as to why.  And better yet, reviewing your MindScan with me will provide you practical tips and strategies to break free and achieve more – NEVER LOOK BACK.

Imagine the advantage you’ll have with the awareness and strategies to leverage your thinking strengths and overcome your weakness.


Motivational seminars are wonderful, but after a few days, the enthusiasm wanes, the good intentions get crowded out by the urgencies of life and we find ourselves still wishing we could do it better!  Professional coaching picks up where the seminars leave off.  Founded on the principles of awareness, intentionality, accountability, synergy, commitment and momentum, coaching is about empowering individuals to achieve their greatest potential.

Potential to Actuality” is about understanding the gap between what could be and what actually happens.

Are you reaching your potential?  If not, then when and how?

Your outcomes are a result of your choices and your choices are the result of your thinking patterns.  So, in order to change your outcomes and circumstances, you have to change your thinking.  Albert Einstein said it well, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

How much longer are you prepared to work in your business without really understanding the way you think and why you “DO” or “DON’T DO” the things needed to achieve your desired outcomes?

To take the MindScan, go to: https://mindscanhvp.com/take_mindscan.php?usr=howate or

go to http://www;addiewoods.com/mindscan  for more information.


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I’ll Meet you at the Beach


D-Day (June 6, 1944) was one of the major turning point in World War II. In spite of all the planning that took place, everything did not go as smoothly as hoped.  There were over 10,000 estimated allied casualties including about 2500 deaths.  The weather was bad; many of the landing crafts didn’t make it to shore because of the rough water; soldiers drowned before they had a chance to reach the beach.  And some of them that did make it, landed at the wrong beach.

Shore bombing that preceded the invasion missed the target.  The holes that the bombs were supposed to make for the invading troops to take cover in did not exist, subsequently many German defense positions were left intact, leaving the allied troops unprotected.  It was a combination of circumstances and execution that caused most of the problems.  The plan was good.

But, how bad would things have been if there was no plan and everything was left to chance?  General Eisenhower did not just call up a few allied commanders on Friday, June 2nd and say: “hey, would you guys like to meet me at the beach on Tuesday, we are going to take on the Germans.”

A plan that doesn’t work is better than no plan at all.  General Eisenhower did say: “The plan is useless; it’s the planning that’s important.”  So herein lies the lesson for today…Develop a plan.  Some things will go great and other will not, just like the D-Day Plan.  You will learn many things during the process.  You will be further ahead with a plan than without one.

Planning is about the conversation and the learning that takes place during the planning.  It’s about people, their feelings and thinking.  It is about building trust and relationships.  It is about possibilities, about finding the best alternatives and planning for contingencies.  It is about focus and practice to make sure the plan will work. It is about thinking and believing that you can do better on purpose.  It is about team building.

Real success is not an accident; for many it starts with a defining moment; a moment when a decision is made to change.  Something finally clicks that triggers a change in thinking and a belief that goals can be achieved.  It may be a point in time when you just say to yourself: “I can do this!”  Greatness is not an event; it is a thinking process.

Greatness starts with thinking; you have to think it before you realize it.  A clear, focused vision of greatness leads to deliberate actions that create the need to plan, which creates the habits, systems, processes and procedures to make it real.  It is taking deliberate action.

The number one word for today is “INTENTIONALITY.”  Is everything you do deliberate?  Do you have a vision and a plan; are you tracking what you do every day?  Do you have the right systems, the right processes, and the right people to execute your plan?  How are you spending your time?

What may be missing is your clarity about who you could be and the desire to be and do your best.  What most likely is missing is a clear vision, motivation to be better, a practical plan, a coach and accountability.  General Eisenhower believed in his plan, it didn’t all work out the way it was planned, but they took the beach.

Action Plan.

  • Decide that your next 12 weeks are going to be your best 12 weeks.
  • Make a short plan for 12 weeks. Buy a copy of the 12 Week Year by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington at www.12weekyear.com.  Follow the plan.
  • Hire a coach to guide you and help you take ownership of your decisions.  be accountable.
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The Initial Interview (Part 4 of 4)


The Initial Interview (Part 4 of 4)

So far in this series we discussed scripting your story, networking and your brain.  In Part IV the topic is building trust and stronger more durable relationships.

The main goal of the Initial Interview is to earn the right to a second appointment, if you choose to do so.  It is about deciding if there is a value alignment.

The first meeting is usually about 30 -45 minutes; it is kinda like a first date.  The initial interview is not a sales meeting; the intent is not to sell a product or a specific service.  Fundamentally the outcome is to determine if there should be a next meeting.

Connecting mentally with the prospect means that you are aligning with topics that are important to the prospect.  What is more important to the prospect than him/herself, their business and their family?  To avoid sounding like an interrogation session, you need to create a conversation, a smooth exchange of information that focuses on the prospect and allows them to tell their story.  You also need to tell your own story as the conversation progresses.

  • It’s about preparation and sharing information.
  • The topics for discussion are to learn about the history, current transitions, values and goals of the prospect.
  • It’s about connecting at the human being level and differentiating yourself from every other person who has ever called on them.

The first meeting is the compatibility interview.  It is a two-way evaluation.  Does the prospect have the characteristics of your Ideal Client?  Does he/she have the capacity to be one of your AAA Clients?  Is this a transactional buyer, or someone looking for a long-term relationship?

Are you the right match for this prospect?  Are you the type of person that they can trust and work with?

Morrie Shechtman, author of Working Without a Net and Fifth Wave Leadership, refers to this meeting as a “Value Dance.”  It is a meeting where each party is matching their value system with the other.  Do both parties have similar views of the world?  Do they share some of the same concerns?  The closer the value match, the better the chances for a long-term durable, meaningful relationship.

In the last Part, we talked about the brain.  The amygdala is the oldest part of the brain.  Its function is to protect you.  It monitors variances in the environment to determine whether a situation is friendly or a threat.  Your first task is to reduce the relationship tension and put the prospect at ease.  Being likeable is one way to reduce the tension.

There are two great books on the subject, the first is called The Likeability Factor by Tim Sanders and the second is called The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey.

The Agenda for the initial meeting is short.  It is designed to answer three basic questions about the advisor and three basic questions about the prospect:

About the Sales Person:

  1. Does this person have similar values? Will he or she deliver on his/her promises?  Is he/she trustworthy?
  2. Does he/she have the necessary education, training, skills and wisdom to be helpful?
  3. Does this sales representative have my best interests in mind?

About the Prospect:

  1. Does this person have many of the characteristics of the Ideal Client?
  2. Is there a good chance that this relationship can build into a long term, mutually, beneficial relationship?
  3. Based on this prospect’s prior experiences, how difficult or easy will it be to work with this individual?

Initial Interview Techniques

Your initial task is to begin establishing your credibility.  Credibility is not something you have; it is given to you by the prospect after you earn it.

Three Components of Credibility

  1. Propriety/Candor is about how you conduct yourself socially; how you look from the prospect’s point of view; your speech and mannerisms. Do you appear professional?  Do you appear honest and straightforward?
  2. Competence is about what you know. Do you understand the business; your products and services?  Do you know what is going on in the financial services world?  Are you viewed as a knowledgeable person?  Are you a solution provider and do you really have the capability to help the prospect?
  3. Intent is about whose problem you are trying to solve – yours or the prospect’s. Are you there to uncover needs and provide solution that will really help the prospect?  Are you asking the right questions?  Are you a win/win person?

When all is said and done, does the prospect trust you?  Are you trustworthy?

Mirror what you see and hear

Try to match the pace of the prospect relative to yourself.  If the prospect appears to talk faster than you, then you should speed up.  If he/she is slower than you, slow down.

Should you jump right into business or should you socialize first?

  • Here are a couple of clues.
  • People who are more monotone (not much voice inflection), formal, and have few gestures are more likely to want to discuss business first.
  • People who appear to be more relaxed, causal, open, friendly and with more gestures would prefer to get to know you first and then get to business later.

Whatever you do, watch your prospect’s body language.  Whether you socialize too long or get to business too soon, their body language will tell you.  Stay alert.

Have a conversation

As you gain more experience with the process, you will get into a routine and the questions will just flow during the interview and you will be able to spend more time observing and thinking about the prospect rather than your response or next question.  The key is to have a written plan, practice it, and then rehearse it in front of someone.

Here are some general questions that can keep a conversation fluid for an extended period of time.  In some sales training circles, this technique is referred to as “Testing the Extremes.”

  • What do you like most about…?
  • What do you like least about…?
  • What would you change….?

If the response is going in a direction that you feel is positive, a good listening statement is:

“That’s interesting, tell me more…”

If the response is not going in a direction that you feel is positive, a good listening statement is:

I am not sure I understand what you mean…

Keep in mind that you may not be able to get into a deep personal conversation at the first meeting.  Moving toward that level depends on both the trust level and your willingness to share information about yourself.

Getting the Prospect’s Story[1]

Stories are one of the best ways to engage people.  Stories reveal what facts cannot:  Who your prospect is, what matters most to them, what and whom they love, where they would like to be.  By getting their story, you will find out if you have a value match.  You want to hear about their “movie”, the story of their life.

You are looking for alignment with the prospect:

  1. Alignment brings daily/hourly affirmation
  2. Alignment causes a sense of purpose to flourish and multiply (the opposite is also true)
  3. Alignment creates enthusiasm for the tasks and mission of each day
  4. People are fully energized because of the people they work with. YOU WANT TO BE INCLUDED IN THIS ALIGNMENT.  (This is called affirmative association.)

The Story Outline – hearing about the prospect’s “movie.”

Your questions should address each of the four areas to the left.  You want to hear the prospect’s story – the movie of their life.  You want learn about the cast of characters, the plots and subplots.  You want to hear the story from the beginning.

History:  Where has the prospect been?  What has been their experience?  How did they get where they are?

Current Situation and Transitions:  What is going on today?  What’s working?  What’s not?  What transitions are taking place?

Goals:  Where are they headed in the short run?  In the long run?

Values:  What is the driver behind all of their actions?  What is their purpose in life and in their business?

The Future Story – how do you visualize working with this prospect?

  • What is the win/win payoff for both of you? How will you win if you get involved in this “movie?”  How will your prospect win if they include you in their “movie?”
  • Value Proposition – is it tailored to the prospect’s values, wants and needs? If you are going to spend your time with this prospect, what will be the reward/payoff for both of you?  The most effective value propositions are created at the point of sale.

Here are some interview questions that will help with the story

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What was it like growing up?
  3. What did your parents do?
  4. What schools did you attend? What were your major fields of study?
  5. (If meeting with a couple) How did the two of you meet? Or how did you meet your spouse?
  6. How did you meet the most important people in your life?
  7. How did you end up doing what you are doing today?
  8. (If meeting with a woman) Do you have family in the area? (this is better than asking them if they are married or single)
  9. Tell me about your work history. What would you like to be doing at work in five years?
  10. What part of your day do you enjoy the most?
  11. What is important to you about money?
  12. What did you learn about money as a child?
  13. What is your first memory about money?
  14. What was your first opportunity to make and manage your own money?
  15. What is the best and worst experience you have had with money or investing?
  16. Who have been your chief sources of information/advice when making financial decisions?
  17. Have you had any experiences with other financial services providers good or bad, that you think would be worth your time to tell me about?
  18. What is your biggest accomplishment in life so far?
  19. What do you like to do when you are not at work?
  20. What concerns you most right now?
  21. What is your biggest concern or roadblock you face today?
  22. What would you like to accomplish in the next ten years? How will you get it done?
  23. What would you like to be doing twenty years from now?
  24. How do you visualize your life when you are in your 70’s and 80’s?
  25. How important is nutrition and exercise to you?
  26. Based on all the things we just talked about what matter most to you?
  27. Is there anything particular that you want to discuss with me?

To improve the conversation, script out your own answers to the questions.  Put yourself in the prospects chair and feel what it is like to answer these questions.

The first interview is an exchange of information.  At the end of the meeting does the prospect know as much about you as you know about them?  If both parties are comfortable, set up the second meeting.  The second meeting is about learning about what the prospect has and what they want.  You job will be to help them get there.

Ed Howat 651.405.6644

[1] Used with permission and adapted from Your Clients for Life and Your Client’s Story by Mitch Anthony.

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Getting Out of Your Own Way (Part 3 of 4)


Several years ago I read an article that summarized the ten reasons why people don’t perform:

  1. They don’t know why they should do it.
  2. They don’t know when to begin and end.
  3. They don’t know what they are supposed to do.
  4. They don’t know how to do it.
  5. They think they are doing it.
  6. They think your way won’t work, or their way is better.
  7. Something else is more important.
  8. They aren’t rewarded for doing it – punished for not doing it.
  9. They are rewarded for not doing it – punished for doing it.
  • They think they can’t do it

What do these statements have in common?  They all are about maintaining the status quo. I guess I would classify them as “excuses” not “reasons.”  Excuses are about blame and not taking accountability for what happened; it was not my fault.  A reason is a fact for which you take accountability, learn from it and make changes.

Why is the first response to a new situation usually negative?  Why do people resist change?  Why do we use the above excuses so often?  Part of the answer is our desire to keep things the same and minimize risk.  To understand why it is so difficult to change, we have to take a look at how our brain works.

Your brain

Your brain is pre-programmed to resist change.  You have an inner voice that discourages you from doing anything different.  You are programmed to defend and protect your positions and viewpoints. It’s logical; if you can’t defend what you are doing, you probably should think about changing something.

Do you ever find yourself arguing with yourself?

Your brain has two parts that conflict with each other, the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.  One part of your brain, the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system, is determined to maintain the status quo; it will do everything it can to resist change, growth, and action. It triggers a fear response as soon as it encounters any variances or interferences with the status quo.  It will fight flee, freeze or appease.  It will do whatever it can to deal with fear.  This resistance part of your brain protects you and as a result, in many situations, prevents you from doing the things you should do.

The other part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, sometimes referred to as the Executive Brain, is the thinking part of your brain.  It has the ability to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social control.

The amygdala has two companion resistance mechanisms: procrastination and rationalization.  Procrastination is about moving things or ideas forward so that they don’t have to be dealt with now and rationalization, a form of logic that provides us with reasons why we shouldn’t do something now.

How many things do you move forward or ignore so that you don’t have to deal with them now? How many times has your gut told you that something is good and then you rationalize your way out of it?  We are victimized by our habits, our familiars and our natural resistance to change.  Your prospects and clients are going through the same process as you.  If you learn how to deal with change, you can help your clients do it too.

The need to maintain

The need to maintain is so much stronger than the need to gain.  Your brain is instantly ready to resist and secure the status quo.  Your brain does not like change; it likes things just way they are. If the amygdala is draining your energy, there is less fuel to engage your prefrontal cortex to think and change.

Resistance is what keeps you from growing and becoming the person you could become. Resistance keeps you in the world of the familiar, it prevents you from moving forward.

The status quo is a familiar place, although it may not be as comfortable as you would like. You probably are familiar with the phrase about insanity: “doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.”  In actuality, if you keep doing the same things you are not going to maintain, you are going to go backwards.  The only way you can get ahead is to make changes in what you are doing.

What could your life be like if you dusted off your vision and added some clarity and focus to it?  What if you were to engage your prefrontal cortex and start thinking more about the life you could have.  What if you went on the offense and starting thinking in terms of what life could be like it I did ______?

What are your unfulfilled dreams, what is the alternate life that you never adopted?  My good friend, Morrie Shechtman said:  “It’s comforting to believe that success is just something that happens to the lucky few.  If we believe this, then we don’t have to deal with the painful realities of why we are not among them.”  If you deal with resistance and make better choices, you will enjoy a higher quality of life for a longer period of time.

Understand that your brain is going to resists change and fight with you.  Resistance has won many of the battles over the years and resistance is used to winning.  It will take mental strength, determination and clarity of purpose to override resistance and get out of your own way.

When you are faced with a choice, have an open mind, think about the outcome you really want and make the growth choice.  Practice overcoming resistance; face the fear and status quo; turn your dreams and aspirations into reality.  You will have to choose pleasing results over pleasing methods.  Keep asking yourself:  “Why am I saying no to growth and a better life?”  Why should I settle for so much less than I deserve?  Another thought from Morrie Shechtman: “Mediocrity is choosing to live with disappointment?  Morrie had it right when he said it’s about accountability, responsibility and need payoff.

The Achievement formulas:

Change = awareness + effort + commitment to action.

Overcome your fear, become aware of the possibilities, build a plan, make the effort, realize that it won’t be easy and take action.  Overcome your fears, create new habits, keep raising your “status quo” to new heights.  Don’t live in the past; make your dreams a reality by being more intentional in all you do and take action.

Give me a shout and let’s talk about what’s on your mind and make some changes for the better.  You may be in the way of your own success.

Ed Howat 651.405.6644

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Part II – Networking & The Planning BluePrint


In the last blog I talked about the Seven Questions that you should answer for a prospect. In Part II we are going to discuss building a visual aid of your services and developing a network that will provide you with high quality prospects.

Most restaurant customers are given a menu prior to selecting their meal. The menu describes the food and beverages that can be ordered. The menu may be the most important internal advertising device used to sell the customer once they are inside the restaurant. It is the only piece of printed advertising that you are practically 100% sure will be read by the guest. The menu directly influences what they will order and how much they will spend.

Do you have a menu of services? Do your clients know how you can help them? Click here to view The Planning BluePrint. The BluePrint could be your version of a menu. The chart is divided into nine categories and 72 topics.

You can request a Microsoft Excel version of the chart so that you can manipulate it to meet your needs (send me an email). After you revise the chart, the next step is to determine which items will be managed by you and your team and which ones will be outsourced.

Here is where some strategic planning must take place. Who are the outsiders, such as attorneys, accountants and bankers who will work with you and your clients? These outside professionals should become close friends and understand the scope and detail of your work. This is your opportunity to use the seven questions as the framework for your initial meeting with them. As you answer the questions, ask them for their answers to the seven questions.  You are attempting to create a mutually beneficial relationship.  You will need to be comfortable recommending these professionals to your clients and they must be comfortable with you.

Your network prospects are more likely to refer you to others if they are comfortable with you and know what you do. You are looking for professionals who match up with your philosophy and who will add value to your practice. The needs of the client must always be the primary focus.

It is suggested that you have two or three people in place for each topic in the BluePrint. When inviting professionals to your network, keep in mind that you are looking for people who have all of the following qualities and characteristics: Integrity, Objectivity, Competence, Fairness, Confidentiality, Professionalism and Diligence.

Positioning the BluePrint with client prospects and network prospects will take some thought. When working with other advisors, discuss who “owns” the client. If you are controlling the BluePrint, the clients are always yours. You are kinda like a general contractor; you are responsible for getting the structure built. The subcontractors work with you to complete the building according to a plan and they work on your timeline. For some clients you may want to set up a Client Board of Directors for them and use the BluePrint as a discussion tool.

Many attorneys and accountants receive new client referrals from financial advisors and insurance people. In some cases, it will be unlikely that these “subcontractors” will refer you to any of these clients. For this reason, you should develop an expanded network of “subcontractors.” Review the BluePrint to identify people who may become good sources of new clients.

On a regular basis you should host client events and invite two or three of your network members to speak.

Ideally, you want to sell the other advisors on using the BluePrint with their clients. In this way you become one of their subcontractors. You are effectively building a network that should generate a continuous flow of new clients in both directions.

In addition to the BluePrint categories and topics, there are a few other areas where you might find people to cultivate for your network:

  • Business Succession Brokers/Appraisers.
  • Marketing/ad agencies
  • Management consultants
  • Trade associations/professional organizations
  • Travel agents
  • Fund raisers/charitable foundation professionals
  • Recruiters/career counselors
  • Sports agents
  • TV anchors/Newspaper columnists/magazine editors



Get to know your client’s other advisors; find out how excited they are to work with these individuals.  Sometime you may be able to invite their advisors into your network and other times you may be in a position to recommend someone from your network to your clients.

So far we have covered getting your story right and finding people who can help you acquire new clients. In the next segment, we will talk about why you and your clients haven’t taken any steps to implement anything we have talked about so far.

Ed Howat  651.405.6644 


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What do you plan to change this year? (Part 1 of 4)


You can change without growing, but you can’t grow without changing.”- Larry Wilson


  • You have the ability to provide expertise and service consistently at the highest levels to your clients.
  • You want to insulate your clients from competitors.
  • You want to convert a steady flow of prospects to new clients.
  • You want to differentiate your practice in a meaningful way.
  • You want to free up your time to have a better blended life.

The first step is to make sure you agree with the above assumptions, or have you own list of objectives and secondly, that you can articulate your story to your various audiences so that you can emotionally and effectively connect with them.

Leo Pusateri in his book, mirror mirror on the wall, am I the most valued of them all, suggests that you develop clear articulate answers to seven questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why do you do it?
  4. How do you do it?
  5. Who have you done it for?
  6. What makes you different?
  7. Why should I do business with you?

The next time you see a friend or colleague, ask them: “what do you do?” The odds that they have a clear, articulate, differentiating response is very low. Their response should reinforce the need for you to work on your own answer.

Spend some time making sure your practice is attractive, functional and focused on delivering the highest quality products and services and then make sure you can convey your story to others. We call this Strategic Planning. According to the authors of the 12 Week Year, Brian Moran and Mike Lennington, you should spend a couple of hours a week working on your business. We will talk more about this in a future article.

Jim Rohn said: “To attract attractive people, you must be attractive. To attract powerful people, you must be powerful. To attract committed people, you must be committed. Instead of going to work on them, you go to work on yourself. If you become, you can attract.”

You must be able to tell your story in a way that “wows” your audience. If you aren’t impressing people, you need to make changes either in the way you do things or by improving your story; maybe both.

Tom Stanley author of The Millionaire Next Door, said: ‘You can’t be an expert unless somebody knows it.”

Between now and the next blog, validate your assumptions and then work on your seven questions. This is no easy task; it is kinda like writing the script for a movie.  It will take a few rewrites before you are satisfied with the answers.

Give me a shout if you would like some help with this. It would be a good idea to buy a copy of Mirror, Mirror too.

Ed Howat

In part ll we will talk more about what you do. 

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The Beneficiary Book – A Gift of Answers


The Beneficiary Book

Have you ever given thought to how important you are to your family?  Consider all of the knowledge and answers you provide on a daily basis.  Now imagine they no longer had access to your knowledge or gift of answers.  What about the big questions like, where is the will?  How are we doing on finances?  What is our tax attorney’s phone number?  Even questions like, how do we shut off the water to our house in case of an emergency?  Now imagine they need these answers during the emotional time of your passing.

Unless you provide your heirs with a list of instructions and answers to questions they generally ask — but often too late — you leave those you care about most with the needless burden of helplessness, frustration and anxiety — and sometimes anger.  It doesn’t have to be that way… The chaos surrounding death or incapacity can be avoided by using The Beneficiary Book.

A book of questions only you can answer for your loved ones…

Professionals tell us that The Beneficiary Book represents the completing link to estate planning and family wealth management in that it incorporates strategic planning with their client’s personal wisdom.  They have found that in giving this book to their clients it not only says, “I care” but has shown to help them maintain long-term relationships with them.  Individual users tell us that the book has allowed them to face their own mortality by invitingly giving them to write down important information that may otherwise evaporate when they are gone.

Right now, The Beneficiary Book, Digital Download Edition is available for only $10.  Consider this gift for your clients. It is a great book which will give them peace of mind… for just $10.

I am so certain the value you will see in this gift for your clients, I am giving you your own personal book with this email for FREE. Open it, read it, fill it out… you will see its immense value.  http://beneficiarybook.com/free-gift.html

To discuss how we could make this happen for you and your clients, please contact me directly at (512) 931-1822 or email bob@beneficiarybook.com.

Bob Grant

The Gift of Answers Workshop

The purpose of The Gift of Answers® Workshop is to attract new clients and provide valuable information to existing clients.  The Workshop’s objective is to help people do the things they haven’t done.

The Workshop is not about investments or economic conditions; it is about life and helping your clients package up their thoughts, wishes and documents to provide the information their loved ones will need and cherish after they have gone.  As soon as you get into the Workshop content, the audience will immediately see and understand the relevance of what you are talking about.  They will see that you are really interested in helping them do something that they just haven’t taken the time to do.

The Workshop is a story about life and the issues that can arise after someone dies.  It is a chance for your audience to relate to and connect with your stories and experiences.  Most of the attendees have experienced a death in the family, such as a parent or grandparent and they know how much work goes into wrapping up financial affairs: from paying bills, canceling credit cards, ending leases, distributing property and heirlooms, filing documents with the probate court and collecting benefits.  The Workshop is an opportunity to help people sort out their own thoughts and wishes, and organize their important papers so that the people who are left behind have the vital information and resources to move on with their lives.

Your attendees will help you recruit new prospects to future meetings.  It is so much easier for your attendees to refer others to your Workshops rather than to an “insurance agent” or “investment advisor.”  People are motivated to help others more than they are motivated to help you.  This Workshop will differentiate you from everyone else and will bring people to you.

For more information about the workshop contact:

Ed Howat, Jr., CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, RCC





Addie Woods Consulting Co. LLC▪2065 Kings Rd▪ Eagan, MN  55122

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