Financial Planning – How it all began

 In early 1992, I got caught up in a downsizing within the oil and gas industry.  It was not hard to figure out that when one lives in a small rural community that I was out of job and needed to find out what I was going to do next.  When I looked at my options for employment, I knew that I needed something that would provide us more opportunity than security.  I chose opportunity, because I had always admired the entrepreneurs around me.  The successful self-employed people seemed to have the cool things in life whereas, many people that were employees seemed to complain a lot.  I chose the financial services business because it did not cost a lot of money to get started and because I knew that I had an aptitude for sales.

In the early days, my earnings were very intermittent as I only earned money if I sold something.  Life Insurance provided the best revenue as commissions were paid when I sold a policy.  Investments paid a much lower commission because the rate of commission is very low.  That meant that if someone invested some money, like a few thousand, the revenue from that small sale would only amount was only pennies, whereas when I sold a life insurance policy, the commission paid was based upon the amount of the premium.  The company that I represented had another motivator; they paid me another $500.00 when I sold a 6th policy.  So, my goal was to sell at least 6 policies every month!  The business was so easy that in my 8th month of business, my commission cheque was $37.85 (Thirty-seven dollars and eighty-five cents)!   This early lesson in cash flow management taught me to be  grateful for savings, lines of credit and my wife’s income and support.

Despite a few rough spots along the way, my first full year was a success.  I earned enough money to cover my business and personal expenses, give some money to charity and squirrel something away for the future!

It was always important to me to be true to my Christian worldview.  It was a matter of integrity to perform my business life the same on Monday as I purported to be on Sunday.  The challenge in the early days was to sell my goods or services in a way that conveyed that I cared more for the client than about my commissions.  There were many times that this was difficult, especially when the demands on personal time and money were tight.

I learned that being a small business entrepreneur is a difficult but noble profession.  Over 90% of people starting in this business are doing something else within 3 years.  My first sales manager suggested early in my career, that I develop a 3- or 5-year view of my business.  I am glad I had that advice.  Thank you, S.G!

It is comforting to have an optimistic picture of where you want to be in the not to distant future.  Having goals and developing processes to support your goals is vital to having an optimistic future!

Al’s Nuggets

  1.  Surround yourself with wise council
  2. Have cheerleaders to encourage you
  3. Have many different advisors who are aligned with your goals
  4. Develop processes that you can commit to for many years
  5. Be a constant learner
  6. Be inquisitive as to how things really work