Focus on your TEAM: Tough times often bring isolation, which tears at the foundation of any team. Be consistent, check in with your team, communicate, and show a genuine level of empathy. With the right FOCUS, your TEAM can thrive even in tough times.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Dischert, Founder & CEO of Three Sixty Wealth Management.
Jim Dischert, RFC serves as Founder and CEO of Three Sixty Wealth Management based in the Chicagoland area. Since 1995, Jim has specialized in assisting business owners, affluent families, and individuals in addressing the long-term financial and retirement planning issues they face. In 2006, he founded Three Sixty Wealth Management, determined to provide a superior level of commitment, dedication, and service to his clients. Jim is an Investment Advisor Representative holding the appropriate registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He is a fully licensed Insurance Producer in the state of Illinois and holds his Life/Health and Property/Casualty licenses. Jim has also attained his Registered Financial Consultant (RFC) designation and is currently finishing his Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®) and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®) designations from The American College. For three consecutive years in 2014, 2015, and 2016, Jim was named a Five Star Wealth Manager Award Winner and was also highlighted as a featured Financial Leader in Chicago by Forbes Magazine in 2013.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?
After school, I started my career with a large global insurer, working with business owners on their transitions after selling their privately held businesses. I worked on a team of highly skilled professionals and gained knowledge on what the wealthy do when planning their financial futures. When I started Three Sixty Wealth Management in 2006, I decided that I would take the skills and knowledge learned to the clients I served. A big driver and influence on me delivering these solutions was seeing my grandparents run out of money in retirement. Initially, they had enough to make it to the end of their lives, but due to some bad advice, poor decisions, and an unfortunate bankruptcy, they needed to rely on their children to get them through retirement — not an ideal outcome!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I made when I was first starting out happened during our first group presentation to an audience of 25 potential clients. I spent weeks preparing, rehearsing, and roleplaying the presentation. The room was perfect, overlooking a beautiful golf course. The sun was out, and the temperatures were warm outside. I started with my opening remarks and then completely went blank, followed by a dreaded 2 minutes of silence. Luckily, my assistant had printed off a hard copy of the presentation, so I was able to stand in front of the group and systematically read each of the slides to them, occasionally looking up at the clock, as well as checking to see if everyone was still in the room. The biggest takeaway from that experience was that being prepared ahead of time is great, but it is not until you are ‘live’ and deliver the real message that you truly learn from it!
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?
That person for me is Tony M., my first real mentor. I worked with Tony for several years before gaining enough confidence to go out on my own. Tony saw something in me before I ever did. Tony was not easy to work with — he was tough, challenging, and never let up. He gave great business advice that was hard to hear at times, but in the end, it has served me well: “This business is like constructing a building: You don’t start at the top — you start with a solid foundation and build one floor at a time. One day you wake up and you have built several floors, and the view there is better than where you started. You can see more and make better decisions from that point of view. From there, you continue to build, but with other people — people who believe in your vision and want to be a part of something greater than themselves — that is what gets you to the next level. Your movement is up — never stop moving up!”
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
I can’t say that I had some elaborate vision or mission statement, but I did have a strong work ethic that drove me. Early on in my journey, it was survival and fear that kept me motivated to figure things out. Today, our mission at Three Sixty Wealth management is to serve a select few families that need the help that we have expertise in, and for our firm, that drives our everyday direction.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you led your team during uncertain or difficult times?
On June 17th, 2016, I fired 50% of my staff. Unfortunately, I let a toxic relationship ruin the culture of our firm. Once I realized how it was affecting me, my staff, and our clients, it became the easiest decision to make — it was just the hardest to execute. I fired my protégé and partner, which was extremely difficult to do. However, in the end, it was the right thing to do and was better for everyone involved. I led our remaining staff through these uncertain times and together, we built our firm up stronger than ever.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I never considered giving up — not once. I didn’t have a choice; my motivation has always been my family. I wanted to be a positive point of comparison for them, to have someone in their lives that they could point to and say, ‘That’s what hard work, sacrifice, and love looks like.’
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I think that during challenging times, the most critical feature of a leader is the ability to remain calm and composed. It’s never as bad as your mind leads you to believe. When you panic, it creates the opportunity for desperation to set in, and that often leads to bad decisions.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?
The best way for a leader to boost morale amongst their team is to acknowledge their fears and concerns but let them know that they have been well-prepared. This will create a sense of confidence, and when uncertainty is present, confidence will move you past it. Always be the leader that instills confidence.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
The best way to communicate difficult news is through direct, personal, one-on-one, and face-to-face meetings. No one wants to receive a difficult message any other way. As a leader, you need to be able to see reactions and lead from the front.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
How can you not? With a strategic plan, you have better VISION — otherwise you’re reacting to every situation that comes your way in real-time. Your plan gives you the ability to be PROACTIVE, not REACTIVE.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Have a NEVER QUIT mentality, no matter the circumstances! Times change quickly, meaning turbulent times are temporary. Never quit. I started my business right before the financial crash of 2008 — probably one of the most difficult times to start a wealth management firm. If I quit then, I would have failed many families, which was not an option. I made mistakes, but I learned from them and kept grinding. NEVER QUIT.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Here are some common mistakes I have seen other businesses make during difficult times:
- Not saying ‘NO’ enough, or sooner
- Giving up too soon
- Avoiding the difficult and/or unpopular decisions that are often the correct decisions
Always trust your gut. You will know deep down what the right answer is for you and your business.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
I’ve noticed in the last few turbulent market cycles that our referrals actually increase significantly. This is partially due to the nature of a market cycle, but also there is a big correlation to our branding and messaging of simplicity, clarity, and a sense of calmness when times and markets are volatile. For Three Sixty, continued conversations on the big picture and overall plan work well to reassure clients that are focused on the long game. There is volatility daily, but that’s not what we focus on to make progress with our clients.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Be Prepared: It’s very easy to lead when things are good, but TRUE leaders set themselves apart when times are tough. It takes discipline to be ready and prepared for when times are tough, and practicing your expertise daily/weekly/monthly helps to keep you prepared.
- Remain Calm: It’s quick and easy to lose control — the hard part is remaining calm. If you buy into whatever the current hysteria is, your family, your staff, and your clients will too. Be the light that people can look to — you make better proactive decisions when you have a sense of calm. Your confidence is boosted and that feeds those around you.
- Stay Positive: Focus on what you can control, reflect on small victories, and be grateful. Gratitude is the gateway to a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), and with that, you can navigate through any difficult time.
- Focus on your TEAM: Tough times often bring isolation, which tears at the foundation of any team. Be consistent, check in with your team, communicate, and show a genuine level of empathy. With the right FOCUS, your TEAM can thrive even in tough times.
- Simplify: Get rid of the noise. Get back to basics.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford
This quote speaks to me in a way that helps reinforce my mindset when it comes to business activities. There are many things that influence my decision-making process, but what never changes is the fact that I believe I can accomplish all of my priorities.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Be sure to check out our website at https://www.ThreeSixtyWM.com to learn more about us and access educational resources. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and follow Three Sixty on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thank you for having me!