Today’s podcast features Ron Carson, the CEO of Carson Wealth, Carson Institutional Alliance and The Peak Advisor Alliance. Ron is a leader in the financial services world where he has built one of the largest firms in the country. His firm has been the perennial sales leader for one of the largest independent Broker Dealers in the country for many years.
He has over 1,000 financial advisors involved in his Peak Advisor Alliance where he helps financial advisors learn the techniques and strategies that he’s used to build his own monster organizations.
On this episode of The Sustainable Business we’ll focus on Ron’s book, The Sustainable Edge.
Some of the things we’ll talk about are:
- How to get unbelievable results in your life.
- How interviewing other successful leaders can have a huge impact in your business and life.
- Why you really don’t need to know everything.
- Understanding that you don’t have a business if everything has to revolve around you.
- Knowing why you need to focus on a few important things and not many mundane tasks and issues.
Narrator: Welcome to the Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In the Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Welcome to today’s podcast. Our guest today is Ron Carson, the founder and CEO of Carson Wealth, Carson Institutional Alliance, and The Peak Advisor Alliance. Ron’s firm, Carson Wealth Management Group has grown to nearly $6 billion in assets under advisement and management. For those of you who don’t know, that’s just an incredible accomplishment in this industry. I don’t think there’s more than maybe three or four other people who are there. When someone builds a firm of this size, you know they’re doing something special.
Ron’s magic sauce is focusing servicing client’s best interest in a relentless pursuit of excellence. He has a burning desire to learn, grow intellectually and innovate. All these things sort of sound pretty general like many other companies. I’m going to tell you that there has to be something unique and interesting in what Ron is doing to have grown the firm the way he’s grown it.
Ron is the number one advisor for LPL Financial Services and has been so for years. He’s a member of the Financial Advisory Council for CNBC. He writes guest columns that provide insights and perspective to the CNBC Digital Team.
Let’s get right to it and bring Ron in.
Hey, Ron. How are you today?
Ron: I’m great, Josh. Thank you so much for having me on today.
Josh: Oh, it’s my pleasure. I have to tell you, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation ever since you agreed to be on this show because I’ve incredible respect for what you’ve done in your business. I’m sort of in the same business. I actually am in the same business. I don’t think there’s a dozen people in the industry who could do what you’ve done.
Before we get to talking about your book, can you tell me what you did to build a firm that’s $6 billion in assets under management?
Ron: Yeah. You know, maybe a little history. I grew up just north of Omaha, on a farm. A matter of fact, my wife of 34 years and I both grew up on farms and that’s what I thought I was going to do my entire life.
My dad is still actually farming. He’s 76 years old and by the time for me to come on to the family farm he said, “Ronnie, he said, there’s this—the government was having to subsidize everything and he was barely making enough to support my mother and my sister. My wife was on the same boat. I remember, I was in study hall and I was reading a Money Magazine article – just after he had had this pep talk we me. It’s a Top Ten Professions. One of them was to become a financial advisor and get your CFP. I thought, “Okay. Well, I’ll give that a try.” I went down the University of Nebraska and pursued that career.
But I would say, you know, the things I learned on the farm are really the basics for my foundation in getting started. I mean, one of the things that—you know, my dad to this day is a workaholic. He taught me to be a workaholic. I actually talk about him in the book. And that’s unhealthy. You know, you burn yourself out, you burn people out around you. You devastate relationships which I saw firsthand, my father do this. But it gave me the work ethic and I just had to figure out. The first 15 years of my life, I did the same things my father was doing. It was not healthy for my business. You know, you got things done but at a tremendous human toll for yourself and the people around you.
The other thing that I learned from my father was a thing he called persidity. And even when we were on the farm, I’d have these little business endeavors. I hire kids to pick up popcorn and we would chuck it, bag it. I had to distribute it. I had the entrepreneurial streak in me. My did looked at me one day and he says, “You know, Ronnie, you’ve got more persidity than anybody I’ve ever met.” And I said, “What is that?” And he said, “Well, it’s the relentless persistence with naïve stupidity – persidity.” I think about it to this day and we laugh about it but he was so right as I was persistent because I didn’t know a lot of things weren’t supposed to work.
And he says, “Someday, society’s going to influence you to say ‘don’t do this, don’t try that, it’s already been done.” But growing up in an itty-bitty farm community, I pretty much have been isolated from a lot of stuff. I mean, I tried anything. And so, I have this saying that permeates our organization. “If it’s not broken, break it.” We constantly re-invent ourselves. We’re constantly putting ourselves on the side of the client.
You made a comment that a lot of businesses claim – we always say we want to deliver Four Seasons-service without expectation. Well, so does every business but a very few really do. Very few businesses, they have mission statements. They don’t know what they are. They have internal stakeholders. They don’t understand what the mission or the vision of the organization is. They’re there because it’s a job. It’s not something that they felt that they’re put on this Earth to do.
Our organization is really different in that we constantly ask ourselves, “How do we improve the experience for the client? How do we deliver value beyond a doubt?” because I think Wall Street has done a terrible job at that. Wall Street’s devastated value. They’ve taken advantage of people with lots of hidden fees and expensive conflicts, so we’re a very transparent organization.
Another value is, we have a Client Bill of Rights that is everywhere and we think about it. We have our senior executive meetings. We always call on out and say, “What are examples that we did this this week? What are examples where we can improve upon it?” So, it’s a contagious culture that my organization has to say, “Well, maybe please was where we’re at but we’re never truly satisfied” and we always try to do things better. Always keeping in mind, “How do we put the people we serve – our internal stakeholders which are—we don’t use the term staff or employees. Our internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. And there are constituency that we try to serve really equally which I know that’s not traditional value.
And the other thing I’ll add and I’ll shut up for minute, Josh, is–I want to go back to my dad. My dad always said, “Ronnie, you can’t have it all. You’re either going to work and have something in this world or you’re going to be a playboy where you just play and you don’t do anything. You can’t afford to be a playboy because you don’t have any money and neither do I.” But, he says, “if you ever have that opportunity, you’ve got to make a choice.” And he was wrong about that.
As I have consulted, coached and see my own businesses develop, the more balance I had in my life led to growth. When I am in balance and doing the things that I love to do, my creativity goes through the roof. My excitement and energy level goes through the roof. And then it allows me to be that much more productive when my businesses grow. And then during growth, it gives me the idea that I want to go back to balance. So really, balance does feed growth and growth feeds balance and it’s a virtuous positive cycle.
So, if society says “you can’t have it all”, society’s wrong. If you apply some very basic, simple to implement, high-impact ideas I talk about in the book, The Sustainable Edge, you commit 15 minutes a week, you will see results that you never thought possible in your life.
Josh: Well, that sounds pretty cool. I’m sure everybody would like to get unbelievable results in their life. Now, you’re in an industry traditionally does not scale at all so how did you go about moving yourself from being the guy who services your clients to one who has built an organization that has got to have management staff and management teams and service delivery teams and all the things that you generally don’t see in independent wealth and management firms?
Ron: Well, Josh. I did a theory years ago called Habits of Top Achievers. What I did is, I went and I interviewed – either in person, if I could; if not, over the phone, some of the most successful people I could find. What I really was looking for were people that built their business from the ground up. I mean, I interviewed someone who started in mail room that ran one of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the country. I interviewed a couple of Super Bowl winners. I even interviewed a former President of the United States right after he left office.
One of the most impactful interviews, for me, was a business owner that had left the company because he didn’t like the way they were doing business. The name of that company by the way, you may have heard of, was Enron. So he left when he was around 50 years of age to start his own business. Now, of course Enron didn’t implode for many years after that. He went and he started an energy business because he knew energy. At the end of my interview, I always ask the same question. I said, , “What’s the one thing that has most led to your success?” and he said, “You know, find the best, the brightest, the most ethical people you can and get out of their way. Let them do what they do.”
And so, Josh, I’ve developed this idea that the first 15 years of my life, I was a library. I thought I had to know everything. I thought I had to do everything. I’ve since become a librarian and I surrounded myself with people much, much smarter than me and I delegate and I release and I let them do things because you and I, prior to this, we’re saying, “You know, If you have a business that revolves around you, you don’t have a business, you have a job. You want to create enterprise value.” You need to surround yourself with good people and you have to exhibit – I call it L&G – leadership and growth. Leadership to a vision and then help people develop and grow. And then the business – it really becomes a sustainable business that doesn’t revolve around you.
By the way, if I were to die today, my business will not only be great tomorrow but I’ve so much confidence in the value proposition that I’m leaving behind that my business will handle all of my family’s wealth which is a big statement to say, “Whatever it is you do for a living, would you trust that thing to be delivered to your loved ones in your absence?” So, if you don’t have people and process and a way and a culture of doing business and the answer is no, then you’ll fix it while you’re alive and build something that’s sustainable. Give yourself that sustainable edge. That’s what the book’s all about.
Josh: Well, I am definitely in favor of that because way too many businesses in this country look like they’re successful from the outside but when you examine it on inside, they aren’t even close to being sustainable. Actually, speaking of sustainable, your new book is called The Sustainable Edge, what do you mean by that?
Ron: Well, I have a saying in life, “People that have a high IQ, do the best” would you agree with that statement, Josh?
Josh: You know, sometimes yes and sometimes no.
Ron: I’m tricking you a little bit because IQ means implementation quotient – not intelligence quotient.
Josh: Oh, okay, then I’ll agree with that.
Ron: What I’ve learned is, is when it’s all said and done, a lot more gets said than gets done. People stand out in life. They don’t have a mechanism for getting themselves focused on a few but important things.
So, the sustainable edge is, if I can give you – we call it the IQ grower process in the book. If I can get you to commit the 90 seconds a day, roughly 15 minutes a week. Now, you’ve got to read the book first and there are some other things I’m going to ask you to do, some foundational things to set yourself up for success. But if you’ll follow the IQ grower process, it’ll give you the sustainable edge because what it forces you to do is it forces you, every night before you go to bed – and it can change, “What are the four things I value most?” And I’m going to ask you to stretch and say, “You know, I get your family’s important, your health is important, your spiritual health is important and those are important but what’s another one or two? And can you combine those into one and come up with three others?” because I put, a lot of times, your family and spiritual health, I think, go hand in hand. Your health is vitally important. So, what’s a couple of others? So, you’re listing those.
The next thing is, “What activities are most meaningful to me? What do I love to do? Typically, you find a major disconnect between how you allocating your time and what’s most meaningful to you. But I can see, once you’re doing and I talk about it in the book, the Passion that Pays. I want you to find a passion that happens to pay you. I’ve told all three of my kids, “Don’t worry about how much money you make. Worry about finding a passion that pays and enough money will show up to do anything you want to do in this world.”
Josh: Can you define Passion that Pays, because I think I know what you’re talking about and I think I agree 100% but let me hear your definition.
Ron: At 36 years of age, I quit working. Today, I’m 52, and people look at me and go, “That’s not right, Ron. I know for a fact you not only didn’t quit but you started two other businesses.” And I said, “Well, but I define work as doing things that I have to do, not things that I want to do.”
At 36, I had surrounded myself with really good people and I got to just do the things that I love to do. So all of a sudden, I quit working and my passion is—and by the way, a good litmus test of this is, I’m a pilot. I love to fly. I love to collect and drink fine wines. I love to mountain hike. But I don’t love any one of those anymore than what I do when I show up and I’m with my co-workers, when I’m talking to people or advising someone about a book. I don’t enjoy it any more than those other three. A matter of fact, a lot of days, I enjoy it more. I just happen to get paid for that activity so that’s why I call it the passion that pays me.
Josh: So, Ron, how many employees do you have?
Ron: Zero. So, we don’t have employees or staff. But I have internal stakeholders. I have about 104, currently. Yeah, people that are my co-workers.
You know, Josh, I think a lot of people think it’s manic, it’s not. Culture eats strategy for lunch. You have the best strategy in the world but if you don’t have the right culture, it’s not going to go anywhere.
We use Gallup every year to come in and anonymously measure our culture. And they compare you to three million businesses in the world. And it’s very inexpensive to do. It’s called the Q12. I highly recommend you do it.
Culture is what happens when you’re not around. Culture is what happens when they give you that discretionary effort. I define discretionary effort there between keeping their job and what they’re truly capable of doing but culture is everything. So, back to this, we call people, if sometimes someone will say “Well, this is Ron. This is my boss.” I say, “That’s not true.” I work for Ron. That’s not true. We work together. We work with each other because I want them to truly think like owners. That we are peers and that there’s not a bureaucratic structure. I also tell my internal stakeholders, “I’d rather you ask forgiveness than permission.” If you think it’s right, I trust you. You know exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. I want you to do that and creativity in the business will flourish under that type of environment.”
Josh: I’m a big fan of Buckminster Fuller. One of his sayings, which I truly love is, “You don’t learn less” and the other one is “Mistakes are learning opportunities.”
Josh: Ron, we’re almost out of time, so can you just tell us the name of your book again, where we can find it.
I’m going to tell you folks who are listening that this is a book you’re going to want to pick up and read. It’s a book that I’m going to pick and read today because Ron is hitting all the high points on what it takes to have a fabulous business on every level.
So, Ron, tell us where we can find your book.
Ron: Simply go to Amazon and type in The Sustainable Edge or you can go to Amazon and type in Ron Carson. You can go to my website carsonwealth.com. You can order it there. Barnes&Noble, it’s available. We have a website set up thesustainableedge.com website, so 100 different ways. It’s available on kindle.
I’m excited. I do want to hear from you. There’s nothing that gives me a return on psyche than for you to drop me a note or an e-mail and say you really impacted my life. You can reach me through my website. My e-mail address is right on there and I will respond to all of them. I’m also very active on LinkedIn, so LinkedIn with me and maybe I can help you in your business as well.
Josh: So, Ron, if somebody wanted to find you guys to either use you as consultants or wealth managers or any of those sort of things, how would they go about doing that?
Ron: They can either go to peakadvisoralliance.com which is our consulting group or they could go to carsonwealth.com Peak is a consulting group for businesses and then Carson is the wealth management firm. We have 35 offices around the country. They all are run with the same sort of culture and belief that we put the client’s interest first. We get tremendous feedback from our clients who say, “You know what, you promised a lot in the front end but you exceeded it once we became a client.” That’s what we like to not only do but we like to help other business do as well.
Josh: That’s great. I think I’m going to have to have you come back sometime because there’s a ton of stuff that we haven’t gotten to which I believe is absolutely key to build a sustainable business. I thank you so much for your participation today. I’m looking forward to reading your book. I hope you could come back and visit with us soon.
Ron: Josh, I would love to and thank you for having me on today.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to the Sustainable Business Podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2 or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.