When Vernon “Vern” Gibson acts on something, there is no doubting why. With great integrity, he helps his clients, employees, and any other person he encounters. He holds the well-being of others as a priority. His sincere and transparent nature means that the entirety of his 60-person staff knows where he stands at any given time.
Vern is the Branch Manager for Moors and Cabot’s Boston office. His 23 years of experience on Wall Street includes working for firms such as Shearson Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Janney Montgomery Scott. Before beginning his career as a financial advisor, he lived out his call to serve as a teacher and a coach for 15 years. Today, if he is not in the office, you can be sure he is near a basketball court fulfilling his passion.
When I spoke to Vern, I did not intend to interview him. But during our conversation, his knowledge of people, best practices, and how to grow a business became immediately evident. Before finishing the call, I knew his knowledge was worth passing along.
19 and Counting
Below is a list of “tricks of the trade” that Vern shared with me. The first six points pertain to successfully working with clients. Points 7 through 16 refer to hiring and retaining the right people on your team. The last three rules regard integrity of the practice.
Vern’s ‘tricks of the trade’
- DO THE RIGHT THING.
- Ask clients what they want and listen.
- If you say you are going to do something, DO IT.
- If you can’t do something, say YOU CAN’T.
- “Value added” is anything you bring to the table.
- You are only as good as your last play—make every decision count.
- Hire good people.
- Beyond just considering genuineness, look for employees with high energy who are able to find creative solutions.
- If your workplace environment is supportive, honest, and open, good people will come.
- Let people control their own businesses; let advisors sell their own products. The phrase “trust but verify” comes to mind.
- Maintain a servant’s attitude—you are never the smartest person in the room.
- People want to know they are working with other good people.
- Leave advisors with a sense independence, and they will grow.
- Let assistants deal with trivial details to give advisors time to sell. But, above all else, show an interest in the lives of all employees.
- Consider the importance and success of each advisor’s business.
- Bring the team together; convert the atmosphere of individual advisors into a team environment.
- Don’t move for the paycheck—stay with the company that has good people and a good environment. Everything else will take care of itself.
- The “Street” is small—don’t screw anyone over.
- Getting a good referral is better than getting a good paycheck.
Start with One
As emphasized by the all caps, DO THE RIGHT THING is of great importance. If you work hard to practice this straightforward ideal, the rest falls into place. It is easy to sell a client a higher-priced product or a service with a higher fee for an increased profit, but Vern would advise against that. He notes that clients who have negative experiences with their advisors will talk about these frustrations with others; your name will be as good as spoiled milk. In other words, the extra dollar is not worth a tarnished reputation.
Like his success with clients, Vern’s leadership also stems from his dedication to acting with integrity. True to rules 3 and 4, he ‘does what he says, and says what he does.’ Vern stressed the importance of keeping promises—not only to employees and clients, but to all people we encounter. A promise kept in today’s busy world leads to acknowledgement, respect, and even praise. It amazes me how often I work with someone—whether it be a financial advisor, a fellow volunteer, or a board member at a non-profit—who commit to something but do not follow through. Not only is this considered rude, but also trust is lost in these individuals. Yet, people continue to go against their word. Vern has set himself apart by doing what he says he will do, and by being honest when he can’t complete something. As a result, his business is thriving.
Humility Breeds Success
The humble leader in Vern is best epitomized by his honest perspective: He always believes that he is surrounded by smarter, more talented people. Vern has never tried to defend the fact that people are “bigger” than him. In fact, he seeks out smarter, more talented people to collaborate with and work together. This has proven to work in his favor, creating a team of talented individuals who can build off of one another’s knowledge.
The standard of excellence set by Vern can only be accomplished through the united effort of a team. Although his branch is a set of individuals, the success comes through the group. He promotes the idea of teamwork to the least experienced employee on up. Vern helps foster the team environment at Moors and Cabot by hosting social events at work, like parties and friendly competitions.
These 19 points have been the driving force behind Vern’s achievements as a financial advisor. Choosing one of these tricks of the trade and focusing on it for a month will help propel your career. Give it a try!
Start with one trick of the trade. Write it down on an index card and display it in a visible place in your office, where you can’t help but digest the message frequently. By keeping it at the forefront of your brain, it will become habit. Once you master one trick, move on to another.