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LESSON: Outside of our business mission, our company’s focus on driving character, class, etiquette, proper human behavior, and superior knowledge created a fundamental base that later, in extreme adversity, positioned me to operate in adverse elements and better navigate the life-threatening challenges confronting me.


The below lesson is an excerpt from my recently released Amazon #1 Best Seller, When Not If: A CEO's Guide to Overcoming Adversity, Forbes Books. 


Within two weeks of every new MICG teammate starting work with our firm, they would be scheduled a three-hour session with me to learn about MICG corporate culture, colloquially called the MICG Kool-Aid (we later had to change it to “The MICG Special Sauce”). This meeting might have involved just one new employee, or as many as three or four recent hires. It was part of our onboarding process.


New employees had to suffer through my remarks about what characteristics constituted a successful business professional at MICG. I wanted MICG team members to be the smartest ones in the room. All new hires were given a mandatory reading list that included book reports submitted back to me. You can only imagine the look on fifty-year-old successful financial advisors recruited from Merrill Lynch and other big name wire houses when I told them they must not only read the books but give me a report. The most important book on the reading list was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.


Our orientation focused on communications: not just what we said as representatives of MICG but how we said it. This, of course, involved intense phone training. I would circle the office to make sure every time a client said, “thank you,” we responded with, “my pleasure.” Any violators had to keep a “my pleasure” Post-it note stuck to their computer screen for a week. We called the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons hotels—leaders in providing legendary customer service—to inquire about vacations and business services. The goal was to allow MICG team members to learn from the best on how to properly address customers with respect and purpose.


Our teammates began to understand all business came down to human fundamentals: listening more than speaking, remembering people’s names, showing interest in others instead of yourself, and so many more classics we instilled in our everyday actions.

The reading list went on to include Walk Faster Than Everyone Else, How to Enter a Room and Greet Everyone, Dining Etiquette, and a never-ending list of Investment and Business Core Principles.


I even ensured everyone looked the part. New employees would learn about “Dress for Success.” The financial services profession was a serious business with serious consequences for our clients. I wanted to ensure our teammates presented themselves professionally. That meant men in well-fitting suits, ties, polished shoes. Women in suits or skirts with proper accessories. I wanted MICG teammates to be instantly recognizable for the care they put into their appearance. This created a synapse-neuron connection with our clients and prospects, which told them we were the correct firm to be handling their financial futures. Prospects and clients would on some level accept that care as evidence that the advisors would put the same care into managing their investments.


Since most recruits in our working-class neighborhoods did not reliably possess a professional wardrobe, MICG had a policy of purchasing on behalf of each new team member a wardrobe consisting of three business suits (in blue, black, and gray—earth tones communicated weakness), three shirts/blouses, and three pairs of shoes. Nordstroms outfitted the women; the men were dressed by Beecroft & Bull, a men’s fine clothing store in our region.


In the relaxed world of today, these business and life culture mandates may seem overboard, but I now believe it was an important part of the discipline which helped me prepare for any situation, even an existential challenge.


In the theme of Admiral William H. McRaven’s recent popular speech and book, Make Your Bed, every day we must do the simple things, as well as the things others are too soft to accomplish.


“Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.”  -  Bobby Knight


Have a great week!

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