Jennifer Lee of Modern-Wealth: “Self Motivation”

Self Motivation. It’s on the inside. It must be. Otherwise, you would not rise out of bed so easily. And it is also on the outside because you must have encouragement, stimulation of new thoughts, and ideas. I love for just this reason. So many authors and access to business, motivation, and self-help books. […]

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Self Motivation. It’s on the inside. It must be. Otherwise, you would not rise out of bed so easily. And it is also on the outside because you must have encouragement, stimulation of new thoughts, and ideas. I love for just this reason. So many authors and access to business, motivation, and self-help books. Grow yourself!

Jennifer Lee, AIF®, AWMA® is the founder of Modern-Wealth; a Sarasota-based financial firm with a focus on helping individuals experiencing transition.

Originally from Maryland, Jennifer brought her over 26 years (44 years if you count going into the office with her father as a child) of expertise in the financial services industry to Florida. Jennifer has found that a relationship with an advisor is most critical at the intersections in life where emotions collide with financial events. She enjoys facilitating her clients through challenges as they experience life’s upsets such as divorce, the loss of a spouse, or business to retirement transition. Whether you are experiencing divorce, a business client expanding or selling your operation, or a couple wanting to make sure they have provided for their family, Modern-Wealth may be a good fit. Jennifer provides a fresh perspective to the financial planning process by digging deep to understand what drives her clients. At Modern-Wealth, they build long-lasting relationships. As part of their process, they encourage clients to communicate their values to the most important people in their lives by writing a family love letter. This led her to write “Squeeze the Juice: Live With Purpose-Then Leave a Legacy.”

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Someone once said to me “oh, you grew up at the foot of the master.” As a young person that would most definitely have offended me. As a then 43-year-old, I thought it perceptive and telling. I did in fact grow up, like it or not, at the foot of the master. I learned my value system and work ethic from my father. While I did not always enjoy the lessons, they stuck. And I am a better person and a better advisor for those hard-to-swallow lessons.

I joined my father in his financial planning practice three years after college and I have never looked back. I knew only that my father was available in our lives, that he worked hard, loved his work, and his clients. I wanted that fulfillment for myself.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

My Aha moment was more like an oh no moment. I realized that in order to reach my desired clientele, I would need a different approach. If you’re a financial advisor, never ever describe yourself as such. I had moved to Florida and entered the community to start networking and meet new people. I received a lot of what I describe as “lean backs.” A lean back is when you meet someone and tell them what you do and they physically lean away from you and say something dismissive like “I have one of you” or “My husband handles that”. It was very disruptive. And it led me to consider my desired audience, the sensitivity they had around money, and a new approach and specialization that were focused on and adopted — Women in financial transition.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

If selling candy bars at the back of the bus in 8th grade makes you a natural entrepreneur, then yes. I always had multiple jobs. I learned early on how to earn money for the things I desired. My parents were certainly generous with an allowance for chores, but I was that kid who wanted more. And so, I babysat, worked in the mall, and waited tables (both stressful and economically rewarding).

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

Here’s what I knew…. I knew that we had a great life. I knew that my Dad was always able to make my games; I knew that we went on vacations sometimes to industry conferences. I knew that the harder my Dad worked, the more successful he became. And so, when asked, I took the faithful leap without asking a lot of questions about what I had to do. I have to say that I jumped at the chance to join this business before I really knew that I had to talk to people who maybe did not want to speak with me. I had to learn to promote myself, stretch, fail, and get back up to start again.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We primarily work with clients in transition. And we often work to educate and support the non-moneyed spouse. We find that it is in the intersections in life where emotions and finance collide that an advisor is most needed.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

That’s a loaded question. I believe that there is so much that you need to embrace as a business owner. You often will need the determination to push through, sometimes bite your tongue, and often do things you’d rather not. Paying your dues is part of the deal. Not everyone is willing to pay their dues.

Starting your own business and creating revenue from nothing is not for the weary. Maybe you have a good idea, maybe you have just passed a test and acquired a license. This is only the beginning.

There is so much more to the process: in business, you must have passion, direction, work ethic, flexibility, patience, and creativity. Early on in my career, like many in sales, I was rejected. Perhaps because I didn’t articulate myself well, or I did more talking than listening. Rookie mistake. As new and enthusiastic business people, we think everyone wants to hear what we have to say. This is simply not true. In fact, it is off-putting. You must develop a style that suits you and resonates with your desired client population. As I grew through my adolescent sales years, I learned to listen, reflect, and share advice and stories that had application to my audience. I learned to be selective about networking and mindful of storytelling in different environments. For example, if I was at a Chamber business meeting, I might discuss with fellow members a new and interesting business case. Sharing only the concept, but highlighting the value and application. Indirectly and discretely educating my fellow chamber members to the type of work I do with clients.

I think minimally you must have determination, self-awareness, stamina, the ability to fail forward and be nimble. Flexible enough to adapt to your clients, economy, and business environment.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Hindsight is 20/20, of-course. Looking back, I would have avoided purchasing a franchise, been more hesitant to take on a partner, and resisted being the investor and participating in a business outside of my sphere of expertise.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

I am an overachiever. I love what I do and I love to work. It doesn’t feel like work. This is not true for everyone, including your team. Their motivations are likely different.

My work is providing solutions. It’s stimulating and provides a great deal of satisfaction. And yet, I recognize that working hard provides the privilege of playing hard too. Does that mean a long luncheon for a girlfriend turning 60, working from home in the mornings in your PJs, or an afternoon spent listening to the waves crash in? There must be a balance.

I like providing unconventional bonuses to my team; letter with a scavenger hunt that directs your family of five to a skydiving experience or purchasing a coveted kitty potty. It may seem a little out there, but you must listen to your team. You have to listen to what’s on their mind, what drives them, what surprises and rewards them, and what stimulates them. These two bonuses just happened to be winners. In all seriousness, I try to take time quarterly with my key team to listen to their concerns about the work they are doing, their personal life and consider in a comfortable environment where they are going. Work-life balance is critical.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

I believe that you need to show up and show up with consistency. By this I mean demonstrate who you are and what you represent rather than tell someone. To me, this reflects character. Be your best self and be the example.

In my industry, we are in the relationship business. Let’s not kid ourselves, we are everywhere. Or at least, there are licensed financial professionals everywhere. With varying degrees of skill and experience, we manage wealth and the challenges associated. Like a painter has a brush and a roller, we have an investment strategy, cash flow analysis, risk assessment, and more as our tools. Of course, we must wield them with proficiency. We must also understand the job. Is it an alfresco painting that will take years to complete or is it primer and a fresh coat of paint in a dining room? What level of a painter is required for the job?

In my experience and practice, taking the time to understand what makes the client tick, what are their values, passions, and interests is imperative. This is what makes for a lifelong client relationship that is fulfilling for both the advisor and the client and their family.

Trust and credibility come with time. As does, developing relationships with other professionals and demonstrating who you are as both a business person and a human. Revealing your character can not be done in one meeting.

I am just releasing a book called “Squeeze the Juice: Live with Purpose-Then Leave a Legacy.”

Certainly, writing a book can add credibility. This book was 25 years in the making. Books don’t happen overnight; they happen over a career. My hope with this book is that it will allow the reader a risk-free interview with me. In my experience, many clients are anxious and skeptical of financial professionals. They worry about not knowing what to expect, what to ask, who to trust. It is my hope that through my book the reader gets an inside look into Know, Like, and Trust. And, at the very least 2 ideas that they can execute immediately.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

I’ve been enhancing and revising for 25 years how to best establish rapport and develop trust fluidly. It’s no easy task and it’s certainly not one size fits all. I think, I do not know yet, that having this book, I will better be able to reach my client: the non-moneyed party in the relationship.

In the end, it is all about how well you know your clientele, can define what is of value to them, and how you articulate it. You must know your client so that you can figure out their communication style. If they can’t interpret or absorb your messaging, it’s useless.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

  • Taking on a business partner
  • Not considering are they a paycheck person or a commission person
  • Having enough cash to last 1 year
  • No business plan
  • Doe-eyed and excited, but no real consideration of the venture

Avoid these issues by:

  • Hire trusted advisors to ask the hard questions
  • Evaluating the market opportunity
  • Asking other successful people in the desired industry “what they would do differently if they just started”
  • Do not quit your job until you can generate enough net revenue to pay your family/lifestyle bills
  • Hire an attorney to hash out the roles and legal limitations in your partnership
  • Have a backup plan or exit strategy and triggers that indicate it’s time to move on or pivot
  • Ongoing discussions about the current model and adjustments that may be needed
  • Trusted staff

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur; you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

Honestly, you either can or can’t be self-employed. You either rely on the paycheck on Friday or you know that paycheck will come down the road and are looking for other opportunities to generate revenue and lifestyle. Not everyone can be an entrepreneur and that’s ok. Many of my most trusted employees are not able to take the same risks that I do. Maybe for fear, maybe for lack of resources, maybe they think I’m a little nuts. Security and safety have their place in people’s lives. For me, security comes in controlling my destiny, my day, and my income. And with that comes risk, fluctuation of income, clients, and lots of rejection.

This is wildly different from predictable income, processes, and job descriptions. As a business owner, you do everything from handling the finances, entertaining clients, and preparing analysis as well as emptying the trash. And often you do it on the fly and without instruction or directions.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of experienced and highly successful financial/insurance advisors. This was a group of mostly men who were mega-successful and experienced in the business. It was a privilege to be invited to speak to them and I was both excited and nervous. These men reminded me of my father and of the conferences that I attended with him as a child, adolescent, and adult in the industry. I had a healthy respect for their depth of expertise.

Previously, my presentations were to groups of women. They had always loved my “love letter” talk. They connected to the concept and went on to discuss important topics with their spouses, collect information about the financial picture, and write letters to their spouses and to their children.

It was not clear how the presentation would go with a predominately male group. I had prepared a playful and thoughtful version of my love letter presentation. My primary focus when speaking is to be relatable. No one wants to necessarily listen to a speaker if they cannot connect. I asked the group if this were their last conversation with their daughter, what did she need to know about marriage and about relationships? If this were the last conversation you had with your spouse, what does she need to know? Who should she trust and who not trust? Should she pay off the house? Will she have enough assets or life insurance to generate income to replace yours? Does she know these things? Where are the passwords? Is there any cash in the house? Are there firearms?

It was a success and apparent that I had effectively communicated my message and got in deep. I know because as I looked up and out into the audience there were more than a few teary-eyed men. This is the Juice of the “love letter” presentation. Straight to the heart!

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

I am an entrepreneur at heart. When I was a kid, I had many jobs that afforded me the luxury of toys or desired 45 records when we went to the mall on a Saturday night. I learned risk and reward young. I learned actions that created opportunity and money.

When you’ve lived long enough, you can say my “most egregious mistake”. Well, I know mine. It was investing in a business where I did not have controlling interest, nor was it my primary business or skillset, or passion. I was simply an investor. Not so simple.

Ask any business attorney or business person who has ever taken on a partner and they will 9 out of 10 times tell you “do not do it!” Business partnerships are a potential land mine. If you think you have a great idea and the best person in the world to go into business, march yourself and that person into an attorney’s office and hash out the details. Who will do what job, who will provide what financial resources, what will happen in a disagreement, and what will happen if a partner fails to complete their part of the deal? What if someone dies or becomes disabled, or disinterested and wants to leave? How long will the business continue? What is the objective and time frame? I could go on.

A business and or partnership is not something to enter into lightly.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

I hired an attorney, extricated my partners, triaged the situation, dug deep, and learned a completely new and foreign business and I developed a team. I had Sundays off, worked, and still work hard. I hoped, prayed, and made efforts to grow and to keep my manager and team happy.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Self Motivation. It’s on the inside. It must be. Otherwise, you would not rise out of bed so easily. And it is also on the outside because you must have encouragement, stimulation of new thoughts, and ideas. I love for just this reason. So many authors and access to business, motivation, and self-help books. Grow yourself! I have had an account for 7 or more years. As such, I have probably 100 books that I can and have listened to more than once. If I am feeling stuck, lacking focus, or mojo, I consider whether I need a break from the hustle and noise of my business. Perhaps an afternoon at the beach, a walk with my dog, or just a quiet car ride. Or do I need a pick me up, a refocus, some stretching of my mindset? Resources, like books on Audible, prove valuable to the entrepreneur.
  2. Chocolate and Coffee. Sometimes you just need coffee and chocolate to push through that last project, email, idea, or account. Well, at least I do. I love what I do for a living and I go hard every day. There are so many parts to running and owning a business and they all require your focus, time, and attention: the offering, the client, the team, the math (revenues in, expenses out).
  3. Brain Space. There are projects and pieces of the puzzle that require carved out time. Brain space as a friend recently shared. Some activities and projects require a clear desk and a clear mind. You must be open to the learning curve of the project in front of you. This article, for example, a client survey consideration and evaluation, a business plan revision. These things require brain space — all your focus and uninterrupted attention. It is impossible to do this kind of work while you’re in the hustle of your business operation. Time must be carved out. I color code my schedule to reflect: Client service, Working on the business, Networking/prospecting, Personal. At a glance, I can see what areas require attention.
  4. Your Big 5. 5 reliable people whom you can discuss stressors, business concepts, financial opportunities, tough emails to send to clients, marketing, and strategy. Those same people you likely have regular lunch, drinks, or Zooms to share and enhance ideas. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. It is exceptionally helpful to have 5 trusted friends and colleagues with whom you can commiserate and celebrate your challenges and accomplishments.
  5. People who will stretch you. Organizations, connections, business partners that help you push the envelope of your own personal development and help you explore your business efficiency, creative ideas, and your processes.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience starts with how quickly and gracefully you get back up. You will fall. Entrepreneurship is not a one-hit-wonder. It is a long experience, sometimes lifelong. We could say “failure is not an option” but it would not be true. Failure is required. And “you must fail forward”. Take every misstep and amend the process, learn from the experience. Make improvements and then go again.

Character traits of resilient people

  • Confident
  • Creative
  • Tenacious
  • Wise with perspective, experienced
  • Awake

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

I had a father who certainly failed forward and had a work ethic like none other. I must have learned it from him. Being in sales is a difficult job, there are more rejections than anyone hiring you will communicate.

The expectations he had for himself and his family were high and we were not permitted to dawdle. At least I don’t remember a lot of non-productive time. In my adult years, I take time, but I sometimes schedule in that time. My natural instinct is to work or do something productive. When in a pedicure chair, on the beach, or waiting at a doctor’s office, I always have something that I am reading, writing, or messaging for content.

I do not naturally relax. I even prefer an activity at an event. Sitting around drinking and chatting has its parameters for me. So, if you want me to stay at a party for four hours, not two, it’s best to ask me to be the chef in the open kitchen and whip up some creative and tasty appetizers. This will buy you about 90 minutes extra.

So I guess you can say that I learned my work ethic and focus in my childhood. I too have fallen my times. It’s part of the deal. Fall, assess the situation, process, regroup, strategize, and get up. I find that if you ask about someone’s childhood, it can provide a telling story. Perhaps an insight into what makes them tick.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

What are the other options? Rage and react irrationally? To what effect? An emotional outburst will not help me maintain a client relationship, deal with a difficult party, or address a crisis. How will this help me or the situation?

Several years ago, say 18+, a therapist friend asked me if I knew the term emotional intelligence. I did not. So, I purchased a book and I read it. Every day and every challenging situation is an opportunity to grow yourself and your emotional intelligence. I cannot lie, sometimes it is more of an effort than others.

I am a solution-based thinker. When I am faced with a difficult situation, in my head I go to triage and ask myself questions:

How am I going to handle the damage control right now?

What are the focus and objective solutions?

What type of help or support do I need to get there?

What is in my control and what is not?

And regarding my emotional reaction, of course, I have them, and I do vent to my friends and spouse. I sometimes slip and lose my cool. I am human. When considering my ultimate response, I ask myself “is this who am I as a professional and as a human?” And then I consider how I want to respond.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

It all comes down to mindset, emotional intelligence, and perspective. If your head is not clear, you will have difficulty leading your team. I am often the grounding wire with my team. They come to me with frustration or an issue that has them fired up and they vent and express themselves. Better to me than to the client, right? Yes. It is at these times where I ask them to take a step back and imagine the perspective of the other person. Is the client really that unreasonable or can we adjust our process to better address their need? Oftentimes, cooler heads prevail, and a solution is reached. The fire is squashed. And occasionally, the principal, in this case, me, must address the issue professionally, but succinctly, head-on, and in support of the team. These demonstrations of having your teams back go a long way to retain the confidence of your team.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” (Sean Patrick Flanery)

If you think about this quote, it will make you consider who is your future self? Who do you want to be? What do I need to do to become that person? These are important self-reflective questions that must be asked if you are to grow.

And these are questions I ask myself, my nieces and nephews, my team, and my clients. Be your best self. Whatever that looks like… no judgment, just one question… Is this your best?

How can our readers further follow you online?

Of course, I’d love it.


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Securities and investment advisory services offered through H. Beck Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC. H. Beck Inc. and Modern-Wealth, LLC are not affiliated.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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