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"Building a Top-Notch Team With Commitment and Competitiveness"

Brian Mennis has had a competitive streak in him since he was a kid fearlessly pulling daring wheelies and jumps on a motocross bike that would make any parent gasp.

“I had wipe-outs at 70 miles an hour but I never really broke anything. But I’m probably going to the chiropractor today because of what I did back then,” he laughs.

These days that competitive streak comes out most when he’s golfing against his wife. “She has a better handicap than me but rarely does she have a better score than me when we play because I’m very competitive when I play against her,” Brian chuckles again.

Way back in 1988, that innate competitiveness helped him quickly build a very successful practice as an IG Wealth Management consultant for three years.

“I was a top rookie the first year when I started for my office,” Brian recalls. “I don’t think I was the best and brightest; I was just looking at the numbers every day and seeing where everybody else was at.

“And I was willing to work harder. You’re 25 years old, you’re single. I’d go to the gym at six in the morning and I’d be in the office at eight and I’d have two appointments every evening, and I’d get home at 11,” says the regional director of IG Wealth Management’s Calgary office.

Combined, his willingness to work harder and his competitive streak saw Brian move rapidly up through management ranks.

Competitive streak still going strong

He has been with IG Wealth management 31 years — he’s now the longest-serving regional director. And he recently turned 56. So he has sort’ve slowed down a bit. But he’s “not coasting by any means.” In fact, that famous competitive streak’s still going strong.

It’s what has helped him build “an awesome team” that’s consistently a top-performing one.

“I want to keep my mind active and I want to learn and excel and I’m competitive as hell…I just like to be the leading region in Western Canada and always have the best numbers in every category.”

He cares about his numbers. He cares even more about his team of 100 consultants and associate consultants who come “from all different backgrounds.” It’s part of the IG Wealth Management culture. It’s also a big part of who Brian Mennis is.

“You still know your numbers and you still want to be a leading region, but it’s not about going up on stage and getting that award anymore,” he says. “It’s about leading a great team.”

Absolutely committed to team success

As for how he describes his team, “They’re motivated, they’re self-confident. But most important, they’ve got good people skills and good communication skills,” Brian says.

He’s absolutely committed to helping his team of consultants be as successful as they can be. And in turn, helping their clients achieve their life goals. If he sometimes still has to put in an 18-hour day to do that, he just does it.

“I just know I can make a huge impact in recruiting,” he says.

Every Monday evening, Brian’s in the office late catching up on paperwork and meeting with new recruits who can’t see him during the day. Tuesday mornings, it’s the weekly management conference call. And he’s out at client events a lot during the week.

“I think the foundation of all that is trust…I know that if somebody says, ‘Brian, I need your help with this,’ they know that I’m going to be there and I’m going to work harder at their success than they are. And I think that’s really the key. They’ don’t realize that,” Brian affirms.

Finding fulfillment in financial services

He says “it’s an amazing thing” to be part of the IG culture. He’s felt that way ever since he was switching careers back in the late ‘80s and interviewed with the organization. “It just seemed like IG was the company that seemed the right fit” for him.

Like some other financial advisors, Brian kind’ve fell into financial services. “I worked for a few years in the IT industry. That’s kind of what I’d gone to school for in Lethbridge and Calgary,” he explains. “And I decided after a few years of doing that that it really wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. To make $45,000 a year and have somebody else decide whether I deserved a 3% raise every year.”

“Most people thought I had a great job,” Brian recalls. But not him. Installing and servicing computer systems. Being on call with a pager “for the next couple of weeks.” Often living out of hotel rooms “waiting for something to break.” He found none of that fulfilling. Personally or financially.

Re-evaluating initial career choice and life goals

At the time, his girlfriend was an assistant to two brokers with CIBC Wood Gundy. “Meeting those advisors and realizing they were paying more in income tax than I was making, I said, ‘You know, something’s wrong with this picture.’”

He adds, “You start to evaluate…some day I want to get married, some day I want to raise a family. I want to be able to support my family, drive a nice car, have the kids go to a private school, take nice vacations…you really start to look at whether you made the right choice of careers. And then I started looking at my skill set.”

He knew he had good people and communication skills. And a strong work ethic. That was borne out of growing up in Hanna, AB. It’s a small town of 2,559 people three-and half hours south of Edmonton. Brian’s family ran a couple of grocery stores, and he worked in the shop every day after school while his friends were out playing road hockey.

“I think I developed very good people skills because at a very young age, I was around adults. I was talking to them, I was bagging groceries and stocking shelves, working in the meat department, working in the produce department…I learned how to do all kinds of stuff,” Brian says. “All that background as a child formulates who you are…whether you’re introverted, whether you’re extroverted, what your skill sets are.”

Taking the plunge with passion

So the opportunity to use his people skills, earn more and create the lifestyle he wanted with a self-directed career in financial services was irresistible.

“I really had a passion for it and I was having fun learning about the investment side of things,” Brian says. “So I took the securities course, and my girlfriend took it. She failed it. I took it and I passed it, and I started looking around at the industry.”

He interviewed with several firms before deciding on IG Wealth Management. “I just decided IG was the best fit for me, and I’ve never looked back.”

The key to building a successful practice for any financial advisor or consultant, says Brian, is “focusing on income-producing activities.”

“For consultants, it’s asking for appointments, asking for business and asking for referrals. As an advisor you have to ask yourself, ‘Was I on the phone talking with a client today? Was I meeting with a client today? Was I asking for referrals to other clients?’ And if you didn’t do any of those, then you were in Cancun. You weren’t here. You were on holidays. It’s a false sense of being busy. You can shuffle all the papers you want and do all the things you want, but if you’re not doing things that generate income, then you’re not focused on the right activities.”

Getting ahead by helping others succeed

The other thing is “being client centric.” Affirms Brian, “If you really want to get somewhere, help enough people get where they want to go. That’s what it’s really all about.”

He adds, “It’s meeting with your client, doing a full analysis of the situation and putting together a full, comprehensive plan. There are six disciplines — investment planning, tax planning, retirement planning, estate planning, cash management, risk management. That’s what you learn in your CFP® . That you need to put together all these disciplines so all the bases are covered for your client, and you’re doing a great job for them. They’re going to be better off financially, and you’re going to be better off financially. And the company is going to be better off financially. It’s a three-way win for everybody.”

Sometimes Brian gets called in to help one of his newer consultants land a potentially big client. “They know that I’m trying to help them be better off financially and that I’m there covering their backs,” he says.

Standing apart with a plan

This is often when the thing that differentiates Brian and his team, and the IG Wealth Management approach, becomes self-evident to clients.

“When I meet with them and I say, ‘Well, let me see your plan’ and they hand me a statement that’s four or five pages long, and they say, ‘Well, that’s my RRSP plan.’ I plop down a leather binder that’s 80 pages long and has those six areas. I say, ‘Here’s a plan and let’s take a look at it.’ Then we do up a plan for them. That’s what secures them as a client.

“You put it all in a nice, neat package…it’s very, very powerful. And I think that’s what we provide. That peace of mind that all the bases are covered. It’s impossible to get that without a full plan.”

Building trust by looking out

Being client-centric and always looking out for clients’ best interests is what builds trust and long-lasting relationships. That’s how Brian has approached things ever since the days he was just starting out. Clients noticed. Because back then, financial services was more transactional and product- than advice-oriented. “I just did whatever was right for them (clients) and they could see that I was very passionate about what I did. That I was truly looking out for their best interest, and looking for a lifetime relationship.

“With clients, it’s truly amazing. You go to their house for dinner, you go on a trip with them. I built up an amazing relationship with my clients because of the trust and rapport that we had. They’d say, ‘Brian, here’s a cheque, do whatever you think is best.’”

Of course times have changed. There’s a lot more regulation and watch over fiduciary responsibility. “I think today you have to have clients a bit more engaged because you do have to explain everything to them…compliance is a very big part of the business today. So you have to make sure the client has all the Know Your Client information, and make sure you’ve done the risk profile questionnaire. Once that’s all set up, then you know you’re doing the right things for the client,” Brian explains.

A book is born

He’s a wealth of knowledge and best-practice insights for his division directors, consultants and their clients to draw on. That’s what comes with more than three decades of industry experience.

At one point, Brian tired of repeating his wisdom willy-nilly. So, working with a ghost writer, he put it all in a book.

“I just got tired of telling people all the same stuff, about here’s what you need to do in the business. So I really tried to make it a general business book about, ‘Here are the eight keys you need to make a quantum leap in your business.’”

The idea for Average to Awesome stemmed from a “bunch of managers” asking Brian to do a presentation for a meeting at Predator Ridge resort in Vernon, B.C.

“I put together this slide deck and it’s kind of well, here are all the things about how I live my life and all the things about how I hire, train and develop people, and all the things I believe in. And it was like, ‘Wow, this is pretty good stuff. So I went and did this presentation…and I had a goal to write a book.’”

Getting it written…eventually

Brian “had a connection” with Michael Vickers, one of North America’s top speakers on sales and marketing. “He said, ‘You know, one of the things you have to do if you’re going to be a public speaker is have a book…so I started on this journey with no real hurry to get it done.”

Working with his ghost writer, the book took two years to complete. Average to Awesome was published in 2001. Brian has sold about 4,000 copies, mostly “through my own initiatives.”

“I created a PowerPoint that goes with it and travelled all over Canada to all the IG Wealth Management offices and sold my book and presented to all the offices. I did a presentation in Kelowna recently. I’m still periodically doing it, just not promoting it as much,” Brian says.

Average to Awesome is Brian’s standard hand-out at training schools for new IG Wealth Management consultants. He likes to make sure all new consultants have a copy of Average to Awesome so they’re equipped with the knowledge and tools for building successful practices.

Finding the right fit

“It’s timeless stuff,” Brian says. The problem is, sometimes people take in the information that’s in Average to Awesome and his presentation, but don’t always put it into practice. “It’s all good stuff, but are you doing it? And I think that’s the key thing.”

It’s just part of his main challenge. Which is finding and recruiting people with the right personality and the passion for building their own practices as wealth management consultants.

“It’s a difficult thing to do and you’ve got to have the right fit. I think we’re very good now at evaluating people and doing these personality tests, and evaluating whether they are the right fit.”

It’s a challenge. But he thrives on recruiting and developing consultants for his top-notch team. He’s passionate about seeing them succeed. Every Wednesday, he meets in a “Coach’s Corner” session with new consultants during their first two years of practice.

Wise words of commitment

And he coaches senior advisors on practice management. “I can provide a lot of insight into things they should be doing,” Brian says.

His key advice to financial advisors and consultants? “They have to have the work ethic…you’re running your own business…are you really willing to commit to doing that evening work, weekend work and the long hours over the short term?...The quicker you do it, the more hours you put in, the faster you’re going to get there.”

He adds, “If it was easy, everybody would do it and we wouldn’t make any money. It isn’t easy. It’s a difficult thing to do and you’ve got to have the right fit.”

He often tells his people that with hard work their business will “grow in increments” until it plateaus. “And that’s where you’ve reached the ceiling where you’re so busy, you have so much going on you have no more time to take it to the next level. The only way to go beyond that and continue to grow is build a team around yourself.”

Taking team success in stride

With his approach; with his philosophy; with his competitiveness; with his commitment, Brian has built success upon success for both himself and his team of consultants and directors. “It’s pretty cool that we’re a highly recognized office and the biggest investment management team,” he says proudly.

Numerous awards Brian has won over the years are “piled up on the floor” behind his desk because “I don’t have any more wall space or anywhere to put them.” And that’s okay with him. He puts recognition of his team first. “It’s just really about building a winning team that everybody knows,” says Brian.

He looks at success as something always to be improved upon. “If you’re entrepreneurial, you’re always trying to find a better way to do things, find a way to improve things. The world is constantly changing. So I think you’re always wanting to do better for yourself and do better for other people.”

Dean Askin is a B2B and non-profit content writer/consultant with more than three decades of experience in journalism and communications.He’s worked in radio current affairs; written for and edited national trade magazines; and taught journalism.

Dean learned to master the craft of telling powerful stories with words under the guidance of Canada’s master storyteller – the late, great Stuart McLean



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