“I believe the world equally distributes talent. It does not equally distribute opportunity.” With Michael S Berry and Matt Schmidt

I believe the world equally distributes talent. It does not equally distribute opportunity. We are consistently looking to bring talented good people together regardless of title, or background.

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I believe the world equally distributes talent. It does not equally distribute opportunity. We are consistently looking to bring talented good people together regardless of title, or background.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael S Berry, Managing Member at MSF Companies. Michael founded and became the Managing Member of MSF Companies in 2012. He specializes in insurance, asset protection, tax reduction, executive benefits, asset allocation and comprehensive financial planning strategies for all U.S., Non-U.S., and global citizens. MSF Companies are honored to support a client list comprising the top 5% of plastic surgeons and dermatologists worldwide. He is passionate about serving the healthcare and aesthetics industry and all entrepreneurs. Michael is also an Owner of Lion Street; a national financial services distribution company with over 150 firms nationwide. Lion Street Firms all specialize in financial solutions for high-net-worth individuals, family offices, business owners, and corporate clients. In 2018, Michael was named a featured judge for the Global Aesthetic’s MyFaceMyBody Awards Gala; the only non medical judge. In 2009, he received the prestigious award for “Four Under Forty” as a top advisor from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). Michael was also the recipient of the “Ann Liston Award for Excellence in Ethical Standards” from Northwestern Mutual and is the multiple-time recipient of the coveted “National Quality Award” (NQA). Medical Economics Magazine, has recognized Michael as one of the “150 Best Financial Advisors for Physicians.” Michael is a published author and subject matter specialist. His work has appeared in Physicians Money Digest, Medical Economics, The Law Journal Newsletters, and Financial Advisor Magazine. Michael is a veteran speaker and has addressed audiences at the HCAA (National Health Care CPA Association), The Business of Pain Management, Lion Street Indaba, The Rainmaker Companies, and national industry association events. Michael graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and holds the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation from the American College in Pennsylvania. He holds active licenses in Life, Health and Accident Insurance and the NASD Series 6, 63, 66, and 7 licenses. Michael resides in Newtown, Connecticut with his wife Christine and three children. When Michael is not working or spending time with his family, he enjoys crossfit and tennis. For more information about MSF Companies and to access its comprehensive library of resources, please visit

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? 

The truth is, we meet very few people who intended to be in this business. How many people do you know who said out loud “I want to be in the insurance business when I grow up”? Most of us got here by accident. However, those that truly succeed, are very fortunate for the personal rewards, and more importantly, can see firsthand how they positively impact clients. My story is simple. I sold a business back in 1998. I was out fishing with my insurance and investment advisor. He asked me about Plan “B”. I didn’t have one. Plan “A” was to sell the business. He then proceeds to tell me how great I would do, how I understand financial products, love people and had pretty much purchased everything he had ever put in front of me. He told me to go meet with his managing director. This was a Wednesday. On Friday, I met the Managing Director. On Monday, I walked into a training class. Simply because I had nothing else to do at the moment. I believe I’m the only one still in the business from the original 15 members of that training class.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? 

Early on in this career I was almost bankrupt several times. One time, I was driving home from NYC on the Merritt Parkway here in Connecticut. I got pulled over for speeding. The Officer walked up to the car to find me uncontrollably sobbing. “Is everything okay Sir?” “No”, I say. “Why not” asks the officer. “I cannot afford the ticket you are about to give me. I have $15 in my checking account”. “Why can you not afford this ticket” he then asks. “Because I sell insurance” was my reply. He let me go. I guess he felt sorry for me. I learned that it is important to always remain humble, be authentic. And a person isn’t defeated when they lose, they are defeated when they give up. I think the two go hand in hand. And, have capital-Not only an activity goal but a bonafide business plan.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people? 

We have a few initiatives scheduled for 2019. One in particular that is beginning to take shape is this idea of “advisors on a mission”. We as a community have access to capital, and more importantly… good people who can make a difference. Our clients are Doctors, Contractors, Executives, and Directors etc… The Human Talent and resources are vast. We are looking to organize this talent and perform targeted philanthropic missions. Similar to Operation Smile, or Habitat for Humanity, or Make a Wish. Our first step this year will be to organize. Next we will determine our focus. I’ve learned that most charitable organizations start out with a belief, an idea, and focus, with zero resources. We are starting with the resources and searching for the passion. Instead of working from the bottom up, we are looking to impact people from the top down. How will we help people? I don’t know yet but we never know the impact of what we say and do has on other people. This project will be fun.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that? 

Yes, the “tipping point” began when I decided to master my language and master the art of asking for an endorsement. I would practice and practice. Record myself, play it back over and over. Refine it. This way I was able to be present and listen carefully to people. I did not need to think about what I wanted to say or how I may want to ask a question. I have been rehearsing. The lesson … I played sports my entire life. For every 2 hour game, I would have 20+ hours of practice that week. Why would we not apply the same work ethic to our business? Practice before the game. Sharpen your skills when no one is watching. Game time is NOT when we should be trying something new. Do that in practice. The second is knowledge. Seek out new ideas, learn as much as possible from your colleagues AND competitors. Consistently ask, what can I learn from this and who might benefit from this? I guess one might say experience is a tipping point. I’ve had over 10,000 meetings in my career. Meetings with clients, other advisors, CPA’s, Attorney’s, and some very smart people. I’ve taken these lessons and conversations and applied them.

What advice would you give to other people in the insurance field to thrive and avoid burnout? 

Go and Play. Each of us has a little kid inside us. When that little kid doesn’t get to play now and then, he will get you. Schedule fun time, whatever that means to you. Allow yourself to separate and let the little kid play.

An an “insurance insider”, you know much more about insurance than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to buy a policy from another person, which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing to a policy? Can you give an example or story for each?

 1) Do you like your advisor? I mean really like him/her? Share similar values? Would you invite this person into your home for a family dinner? 

2) Is the advisor independent? Or are they limited to the products from their bank or captive insurance company? How did they come to the conclusion that this product and/or company is best for you? Can we have multiple carriers bid on this? 

3) How does the policy credit? All policies are essentially built on the same chassis. Where they differ is in two ways: First, how does the policy credit return back into values? 

4) And second, how is this policy designed? Is it for cash accumulation or is this policy designed to enhance the death benefit? Polices have a range of intended outcomes. 

5) What is the best way to pay premiums? There are multiple ownership arrangements and ways to efficiently pay premiums. Some are common, like out of cash flow, and others are less known, such as premium financing, or, thru your qualified retirement plan. Are my premiums flexible?

Insurance agencies or companies are often known to be very creative and innovative marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

 I don’t think we use any clever marketing. We do the basics very, very well. We are 100% endorsement and referral based. For those who want a bit more comfort into the quality of our work beforehand, we have several published case studies and white papers. For this type of individual, they can intellectually comprehend an intended outcome and say to themselves, I want some of this competence. Or, they can decide to pass. We are on LinkedIn and Facebook. We also have a focus of clients. Our client lists are comprised of the top 5% of Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, and Entrepreneurs. We do not simply ask “Who do you know? Who might be interested in our services?” When we are with a Plastic Surgeons we ask them for the endorsement to another colleague. We speak at their conferences as subject matter specialists. When we are with an Entrepreneur or business owner, we ask them specifically about their vendors or colleagues. A targeted approach. We also have a unique business model. Think of us as your CPO (Chief Planning Officer) we will coordinate your asset protection, asset management, tax reduction strategy, group benefits, legal, and insurance. If you think about what a family office provides to ultra-high net worth families, we do the same for high income and highly successful individuals and families who may not yet qualify for a $50 million family office minimum. Yet, these folks are busy and appreciate the coordination of the various specialties. The net result is less costs, higher tax savings, and fewer mistakes. People want a portfolio of competence, in addition to a portfolio of products. Lastly, people hire us at MSF Companies for what we know, and stay with us for who we are.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

 Lindsey Cruz. Lindsey is our executive director. She essentially runs these companies. Everything from onboarding clients, to underwriting, to client service, case prep work etc… you name it. She does it all. It’s wonderful when a client says .. “Yeah Mike, I was really calling for Lindsey because I know you wouldn’t know. What is the best way to get ahold of her”?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 

I believe the world equally distributes talent. It does not equally distribute opportunity. We are consistently looking to bring talented good people together regardless of title, or background.

As far as our industry goes, I have two thoughts on this right now. 1) I believe there is a false sense of precision in the financial advice industry. It has me worried. Humans want to know what is next, like predicting the weather. Certainty is an expectation that cannot be delivered, even with advanced technology and a history of economic and financial indicators. It is more important to embrace the role of the guide. 2) There is a lot of noise out there. Let’s keep it simple. There are only 3 ways to address investment risk … Avoid the risk, Manage thru the risk, and Transfer the risk. I wish advisors would calm the noise and be sure each client understands what they own and why they own it.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

About the Author:

Matt Schmidt is the founder of which specializes in helping people with diabetes find affordable life insurance. Matt founded the company after his father was diagnosed with diabetes in 2010. He is also founded to provide helpful information for those living with diabetes. Matt is also pre-diabetic.

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