The number one lesson I learned in business is that being an entrepreneur can be lonely. It takes bravery to face the social and relationship challenges that comes along with it.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Kennedy.
CEO Terry Kennedy is the founder, president and active CEO of Appreciation Financial, a full-service financial services company working in the public employee retirement niche. Kennedy is a visionary who has overcome odds, trusted his path, and has disrupted an entire industry. Kennedy has an internal drive for success through providing opportunity and helping others.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I’m the son of a construction worker and learned hard work and sacrifice at an early age. I am the only surviving child out of the three children my parents had. My brother and sister both passed at very young ages due to health issues. This drives me to make my family proud. I financially support my parents by providing them with a home, cars to drive, and funding their hobbies despite their initial non-belief in my vision to create a company that would disrupt an industry and become a nationwide brand. I thrive helping others and working in the public employee space allows me to help thousands of hardworking professionals retire with dignity, and my business model allows me to teach my agents how to create income that will last their entire lifetime.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Always look for the win-win. I use it in every decision that I make. Too often people think being successful equates to finding ways to benefit yourself. No one wins alone. I believe that the definition of success is when you achieve goals together with the people you are in business with. In fact, I use this everywhere in life — not just in business.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
As they say, the difference between you now and in five years are the books you read and the people you meet. I lead a book club at our corporate office where I encourage my staff to read personal development books. We meet weekly to discuss the chapters, set goals and hold each other accountable. We’re currently reading “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell. Earlier this year I published a book along with our President of Sales, Don Spini. The book is called “This Changes Everything” and it is about a game changing way to make more money and can be applied to almost any industry. The book became an Amazon Best Seller.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
When we started this company and named it Appreciation, I knew we would need to live up to the meaning. For 12 years we’ve been going to workplaces and educating employees on how to retire with dignity. Our company mantra is centered around giving back to the communities that we operate in-it’s such a passion of mine! Our clients are public servants, and our model was all about going to them at work — schools, hospitals, fire stations etc. and bringing them lunch, supplies and more. Clearly that was no longer possible when COVID-19 hit.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
This year, with a world-wide pandemic that caused so much uncertainty, Appreciation Financial was able to completely pivot and our agents were able to help their clients virtually from the comfort of their homes, instead of face to face as they were doing before. It was not fast — or easy. First, our leadership had to buy in and get past the uncertainty of change. Next, we had to train, motivate, and reassure our agents that this change COULD BE GOOD! We got them to realize they no longer needed to spend time and money driving to workplaces and could actually help more people without geographic limitations. We trained on asking for referrals, online reputation, and time management. We created professional Zoom backgrounds and coached agents on how to make homemade green screens so the backgrounds would look great. Our clients appreciated that they were still able to get their questions answered and their financial needs met, despite everything going on. Most of our target market was home and being paid without work to do so focusing on their retirement became a top priority. We also hosted a bi-weekly recruiting event via Zoom to introduce others who may have lost their job and were looking for a new career to the AF Opportunity. Appreciation Financial was able to not only remain open and in business, but was also able to reach our all time, record-breaking highs.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I knew it was pivot or die. Our employees and field agents were counting on us to figure this out. This time in business is sink or swim. I also realized that despite fears our team had that clients wouldn’t want to do business virtually, that our world has evolved enough that MORE people feel comfortable being able to discuss their finances from their living room with their significant others right there — maybe even in their pajamas.
How are things going with this new initiative?
It’s been an amazing transition. We went from panicked to realizing that we are actually able to help even more people virtually than we could’ve ever helped in person. It’s also helped us attract great talent to our career opportunity. You can work from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. Gone are the days of having to drive all around town for various meetings and appointments. So many of us are even saving money on gas and other items.
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?
My dad, Tim Kennedy. He showed me the importance of hard work and instilled a drive in me to never give up.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I began waking up at 4:00 a.m. so that I could personally coach our East Coast offices in our transition times. This began as a business necessity and wonderfully lead to new healthier habits in my own life. Getting up early became a routine I love. I incorporated hiking and mountain biking into my day in the time I crested as the East Coast teams became sufficient and didn’t need as much of my time. This is a personal example of how working hard and pivoting for the good of my company also positively impacted my own wellbeing. I’m a true believer that life is what you make it!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. The number one lesson I learned in business is that being an entrepreneur can be lonely. It takes bravery to face the social and relationship challenges that comes along with it.
2. Always find the win-win ideas and both solutions and success will follow. Every challenge that comes with running the fastest growing public employee retirement company in the nation is met with a sincere desire to find solutions where everyone wins.
3. They do not teach this in textbooks. I’m not even sure if it is possible to create a curriculum that can prepare people for true entrepreneurship. The key is finding mentors and reading the memoirs of highly successful people. That’s where the real-life side of entrepreneurship is taught.
4. Success happens after a long pattern of hard work and laying a foundation you must have patience.
5. The key to having a successful team is getting the right people then being open to moving around duties so the right people are also doing the right jobs for them.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
One thing I do to instantly feel amazing is get an IV full of vitamins and electrolytes. I frequent Regenerate Medical Concierge in Henderson since it’s conveniently located near both my office and my home. When you travel as much as I do it’s important to protect my immune system. These vitamin IV’s do that, and they help me feel my best. I also enjoy skiing on lake mead and racing motocross. I ride a 450 Yamaha and it’s a mind-clearing workout every time.
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?
I would love to see Appreciation Financial as the premier company for public employees to entrust their retirement to, but we have just begun to spread across the public employee marketplace. We will be what USAA is to military families. We are here for public employees. We understand their unique needs and we know they deserve to have an income that lasts a lifetime. Too many hardworking people are unprepared for their future years. We aim to change that.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Elon Musk. I love his out-of-the-box thinking. He’s an inspirational innovator. In business, you can’t be afraid of people saying, “that can’t be done.” I welcome it. I say tell me all the reasons why something can’t be done so that I can overcome them all and get it done.
How can our readers follow you online?
I recently launched a new lifestyle website for people to follow along with me. You can check it out at www.TerryKennedy.life.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!