For 9 years working for third-party administrators (TPAs), I never worked a day without Richard Laurita being the salesman for the TPA. Richard is going to be gone 12 years in March and the most important lesson that he ever taught me is that the retirement plan business is a relationship-driven business.
What does it mean? It means a lot of things, but how you deal with other providers and even competing providers can go a long way in helping develop your business. Cultivating long term and beneficial/reciprocal relationships can really help augment your business. The first person who decided to sponsor That 401(k) Conference is someone I met through Richard. My friend who books all player appearances at That 401(k) Conference is again, someone I met through Richard. There are so many people that I met through Richard and so many have been beneficial to my practice by helping me out through referrals and speaking opportunities, as well as support for my conferences. It isn’t a one-way street and I’ve certainly tried to give a hand out to these providers as well as those that I’ve met beyond Richard’s circle in the last 9 years.
There are certain relationships that may benefit you more or vice versa, benefiting other providers more. As long as you understand that building relationships is a give and take and there are many times when it seems that it’s all give. I’ve never had a relationship where it was 50-50, but it’s not something I care to keep score of.
In addition, relationships are also how you deal with the competition. Be respectful and don’t deride the competition. It is both unprofessional and makes you look bad in front of other providers and your clients/potential clients. Plus Richard always showed that the competitor today maybe the partner/employee/employer one day. How you deal with the competition and how you deal with clients is something important because treating people badly will travel fast. If you don’t do the right thing by other providers or clients, people in the industry will find out about it.
Understand that relationships in this industry are one of the most important measuring sticks on whether you succeed or fail in this business.