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Creating Balance

Success can come at a young age if you know how to focus and learn to work those referrals.

By Maggie Leyes

It doesn’t take decades of struggle to become a success. Thirty-five-year-old Greg Gagne, LUTCF, ChFC, is living proof. In just 12 years he has made a firm footprint in this business as owner of Affinity Investment Group, an investment advisory firm in Exeter, N.H., as president of NAIFA-New Hampshire, and as a three-time member of the Million Dollar Round Table’s Court of the Table.

He also still finds plenty of time—one week a month—to invest in his personal development, volunteer with Make-A-Wish Foundation, spend time with his wife and three children and play drums in a Southern-style rock band.

Let’s find out how he does it.

AT: To what do you attribute your success?
Gagne: Relationships. Some of those were forged through NAIFA: Two of my biggest local mentors are [members] Andy Lord and Robert Garneau. Andy was instrumental in teaching me this business, as was Bob. Bob is also involved in the whole-person concept, which is balancing your life, your spirituality, your charitable endeavors, your family, your work, everything.

AT: You’ve cemented relationships through NAIFA. How else has your membership served you?
Gagne: It’s really the stepping stone or the core that will help lead you up the ladder. It’s the people that you meet, the relationships that you build, the ideas that you exchange as well as the protection of our business—it’s quintessential.

When you get involved with something, it forces you to become more laser focused—and the result has rippled through my business, my personal life, my charitable endeavors. ... In my business it has forced me to become very focused; when I’m going to work, I’m working effectively. There is a big difference between being busy and being effective. I’ve cut out the busyness and become very effective.

A lot of people wait. They want to volunteer; they want to get involved; they want to hire staff and they’re waiting for the opportune time. There’s no such thing. They have to create it and then the opportunities will present themselves.

“In order for this profession to be mine, I really had to have something that was fun for me to do.”
—Greg Gagne

AT: Many advisors think there is a secret to successful sales? Do you have one?
Gagne: I don’t think it’s a secret. To be good at sales you have to be good at listening. And if you show people that you care, they don’t care how much you know—they just want to know how much you care. My whole firm endorses that concept. We have a system we use for practice management. We have a 21-point contact system for clients. For example, we call clients on their birthdays; we don’t send a card as there’s no chance for interaction.

AT: You work with older clientele. How did you find that niche?
Gagne: That came with my relationship with Andy. A good portion of my business is asset management, and the people who have the assets to manage … Well, it was pretty clear who to go to. In my early years I was a generalist of everything and a specialist of nothing. And I had an epiphany that I needed to get focused. Part of that epiphany was that I had to pick a specialty and gravitate toward a market that I liked. In order for this profession to be mine, I really had to have something that was fun for me to do, and I always had fun working with the older clientele.

The other part was deciding to pick a focus on money. Instead of generalizing in all the product lines, I needed to focus on the money aspect—that’s what I trained for in college. So I went after the money and decided that everything else would have to come after. That’s been huge for me. Everything else that I touch, whether that’s a 401(k) or business-planning cases, I’ll refer to one of my colleagues, and we’ll split that on a joint-case basis.

AT: What advice would you give a novice to improve his sales?
Gagne: Stay away from negative people. Try to gravitate toward people that are successful. You need someone who’ll reach down and pull you up the ladder, not someone that’s going to hold you at the bottom.

Also, if you are not on referrals, get on referrals. I was horrible about getting referrals. That’s why I floundered for so many years in this business. I needed to turn my marketing plan around so I could get referrals to come to me.

AT: Where did you come up with this new marketing plan?
Gagne: From attending MDRT meetings, and reading, reading, reading. Most ideas are not original. The best ideas are the ones you get from someone else that already work. Don’t try to invent your own wheel. Find one that’s already been made and run with it.

AT: Where should an advisor be positioned for success?
Gagne: He should think about positioning himself as the CFO of the family business, and the client should be the CEO. And he needs to become the coach and go-to person for just about anything. I call it the concierge service. They’ll call you for a variety of issues, but that’s great.

AT: Any suggestions on books advisors should pick up?
Gagne: An awesome book from a business-planning perspective is Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins, and another great book is Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results by Jack Mitchell.

AT: What would you like said about you when you retire?
Gagne: I won’t be retiring; there’s no need. I think that this business, if done correctly, provides you with the ability to have a lifestyle, and that lifestyle can include working for income, charitable work, plenty of time for family, and just a solid balance. The thing I might do is just tone it down to half days.

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