If you own a business there’s a good chance you’re building your business with people who look just like you. Our society today is much too much diverse for you to do this forever. In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Rita Cheng. Rita is the CEO of Blue Ocean Wealth and we’re going to talk with her about diversity in the workplace and why it’s important for you to consider this.
Here are some of the things you’ll learn in today’s episode:
- Diversity is much more than what you normally think about.
- How to use diversity to build a niche in your company.
- Why you wold do well for yourself to understand diverse populations.
- Diversity means understanding the rising generations in your workforce.
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: Hi, this is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business.
Today we’re going to take a little departure from what we normally talk about. Today, we’re going to talk about diversity with Rita Cheng. Rita is the co-founder of Blue Ocean Wealth. Before this, she worked for Ameriprise Financial. I’ve had a few conversations with Rita about why diversity is important. I wanted to bring her on because we have a more diverse workforce today and we have a more diverse customer base today. If you’re not willing to work in the world of diversity, you know, there’s a good chance you’re going to be facing some serious challenges in your business.
So, instead of me talking about what I think about diversity, let’s bring Rita in who’s the expert on it. She teaches about it. She’ll tell you what you need to be paying attention to, so let’s bring her in.
Hey, Rita. How are you today?
Rita: Good, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Diversity is really important. Diversity means different things to different people based on their individual experience. Typically, when people think of diversity, they usually think of it in terms of what they see – race, national origin, skin color, gender. However, diversity encompasses far more than what meets the eye – sexual orientation, ability, religion, life experience, age. So, I’m here to present the case – the business case for diversity and how it helps build sustainable businesses.
Josh: Okay, so let me ask you a question. Why do I care about diversity?
Rita: Well, that’s a great question. You may say, “You know what, I’m not diverse. I don’t really want to go after diverse customers. I’m happy where I am.” And I speak to business owners and I am a financial planner. And financial plan is every day about this topic and I say, “Listen, even if you don’t want your customers, guess what, they’re going to be your future workforce.” So from 1990 to 2007, minority group market share and purchasing power doubled and in some cases tripled. By 2012, that buying power increased by another 30%. This economic clout is not just limited to minorities. Gay and lesbian consumers will control 6.4% of the market share or $835 billion. The numbers are there.
Josh: So, okay, I get the numbers are there but I’ve managed to run my business for 20 years and I’ve never really worried about diversity. I actually have a pretty homogeneous workforce. Why do I need to change?
Rita: Some people may not need to change. It’s a function of where you are, where you’re running your business and who you’re serving. But I’ll give you an example of one type of diversity that actually may make a lot of sense. And I know there’s many business owners that listen to the webcast that aren’t necessarily financial advisors. But here’s an example of diversity that makes sense for many businesses and many business owners. That is age diversity.
So, for example, in my business, just because I am a financial planner, typically people want to go after people with assets. That makes a lot of sense. But unless you’re willing to build a relationship with the next generation, as your clients age they may not be adding to their savings or investments. Quite honestly, they may be depleting and there’s you, as the business owner, wanting to sell that business.
You know, Josh is the expert with the business valuation – helping people transition. You’re going to need to work with a consultant to help you determine the value of a business. And if your business isn’t growing, it’s stagnant. And if it’s stagnant, your business may be shrinking. So, age diversity is one component of diversity that’s very important because you want to build the next generation of customers and consumers and loyal followers of your brand.
Josh: So, what you’re saying is that diversity is actually a whole lot more than what the media would have us believe , you know, for example, age diversity is one type, maybe even geographic diversity might be something that we could consider. Would that be something that would make sense to you?
Rita: Absolutely. So, you know, from this webcast, my name is Marguerita Maria Cheng. I have a Latin first name and middle name and a Chinese last name. I’m originally born in New York but I lived in the Netherlands. I lived in Asia. I lived in Texas. I’ve had the opportunity to travel the country and meet all different kinds of people.
I do think that diversity is so much more than what we see. It’s geographic. It’s age. It’s even your philosophy. People are going to have different philosophies on consumer behavior and that’s going to be important as well because in some cultures, they are more collected so they’re more about sharing and helping the community. That’s going to be really important in your messaging. In other cultures, they’re more individualistic, so maybe that messaging isn’t going to be as important so it’s really important to incorporate an element of diversity in your marketing plan to be able to continue to grow and have a thriving, sustainable business.
Josh: So, one of the things I preach a lot to folks is the concept of having a niche that they work within because if you don’t have a niche you’re saying, “Well, I’m everything to everybody” which means “you’re nobody to everybody.” So how would niche and diversity fit in together?
Rita: Sure. So, if that’s okay, I’m just going to speak about me a little bit, in my experience.
Josh: Yeah, please.
Rita: So, when I entered the business, I was 31 years old and people told me, “Rita, you’re never going to be successful if you try to work with people your age. They don’t have any money.” And I was like, “Okay, I get what you’re saying.” And I’m obedient. I did what my leader said but I started to realize that there are certain things that everybody values. Everyone of values financial security. Everyone values clear, concise, objective financial advice. But how we go about communicating that benefit is going to be a little bit different, depending on who we’re reaching.
So, other examples that I encountered is our clients tend to be a little bit younger than the industry average. They also tend to be more multicultural and diverse. And I think, maybe that’s intentional. Maybe it’s accident. Maybe if people like look at me and they’re like, “wow, you know, she’s an advisor. I feel like she understands me. I feel like she has that like diverse point of view.” It’s not even so much what I look like but I understand that that there are cultural nuances to working with these wealth clients.
A good example is if you’re working with people who have a lot of family overseas, they’re going to need to have more money in cash reserves. People might think that’s crazy for having 12 to 18 months cash reserves but for people who have to travel back and forth to Asia, they don’t feel comfortable having any less because they want to be able to have resources available to travel back home.
Another example is, for Asians, weddings and education are huge expenses. It’s not just the savings. It’s really important to know that when you’re developing a financial plan that you can’t make any assumptions, so I hope I answered your question.
Josh: So, what saying is that diversity is one thing but understanding diverse populations, especially if you want to do business with those populations, becomes something that it is a requirement if you want to be successful?
Rita: Absolutely. And what’s interesting, I think the myth is people think. Now, you have to be sincere with any of these populations. And it’s important to understand the nuances. It’s a balancing act. You want to understand the nuances but you don’t want to have stereotypes. It almost seems like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth but you can’t paint all people the same brush but you have to have these considerations. You need to understand.
You know, if you have people who are into home building, a lot of people will say, “Why do those people need such a big house? Gosh, they only have a husband, wife and two kids. Why do they need a six- or seven-bedroom house?” Well, you know, in certain cultures, it’s very common to have multi-generation families living under one roof. So, if you’re in the home building business, you’re into financial planning business, you’re in the catering business – whatever the business might be, it’s just important to understand that diversity is an opportunity. You don’t have to necessarily be an expert but it’s important to just be mindful. And if you don’t understand just ask the right questions.
Josh: So becoming an expert in a diverse population sounds like something that could be really good for your business. Is this what you’ve done with your business?
Rita: I think so. I do. Our clients tend to be younger than the industry average and we work with a lot of multigenerational families. So, I think, what you said – to be everywhere is to be nowhere. You have to have a niche. A niche could be geographic. A niche could be a particular demographic. A niche could also be a particular psychographic or like mindset of your clients.
So, yes, our clients tend to be a little bit younger and more diverse than the industry average but they also have a particular mindset. They’re busy people. They want to work with an advisor in a collaborative relationship, meaning they don’t want to necessarily know how that x-ray machine was built but they want to understand the benefit of that.
And so, I would say that’s where we have been successful is we know what we’re good at and we are not afraid to say “no” to people. It doesn’t mean we’re mean. If someone says, “Hey, can I give you some money and will you manage it for us?” We say, “No. It’s not that we don’t want your money but we have a process and everybody – let’s do financial planning. We’ll have a hard and fast. We’re like, “Okay, you sign on, you’ve got to give us half a million by next week.” You know, everyone has to do financial planning. You have to be committed to your goals and you have to be responsive and attentive. And you can’t care about your situation more than I do.
Josh: So, let’s talk about the word “no” for a second because I think it’s an underused word in business. What do you find happens when you say no to the wrong customer?
Rita: I actually think you get quite a bit of credibility. I entered the business differently. I entered the business from an analyst background, so numbers and quant. And if someone asked me a question about something, I feel like I could understand it and I could explain it because in college. That wasn’t an issue, I still got a little bit with the sales culture and objection handling.
Having said that, in the early—like well, if you had this type of client, this is how you handle this objection and I did that because that’s what we’re supposed to do and I’m obedient. And if my boss tells me something, I had no reason to believe that it’s anything but the truth.
But then there came a point in time when I said, “You know what, I realized on my own who I enjoyed working with most, who derived the most value from working with me, and quite honestly who were my so to speak who gave me referrals. And that’s when I realized that it’s very powerful to say no, that just because we all want a client that is loyal and gives us referrals and appreciates us, right?
But I think, when I said “no” to someone, I said, “You know what, I want you to work with your advisor of choice and I don’t think I’m the advisor of choice.” I even said, “If you want a planner to help you identify and clarify your life goals, like I’m your woman. But if you want a good stock picker, like I worked as an analyst, that’s not where you’re going to get the most value out of me. I want you to interview a couple of planners and decide what you really want. And if anything, I think that I wasn’t mean about it when I said no. And I think, the prospect really respected me for it.
Josh: So my experience with the word no is when I say no to the wrong person it leaves me space to say yes to the right person. And just as importantly, when I say yes to somebody it’s because I can be efficient and effective with them. Would you say that’s true for you also?
Rita: I definitely agree. I think that’s so important. We can apply that to a financial advisory practice. We can also apply that same mindset to, gosh, the swim club for my child – just making sure it’s the right fit. It’s okay to say no because if you say no, that means you can say yes later on.
Josh: Yeah, that’s my experience, also. So, I want to take a swing back at diversity. But let’s talk about diversity – not from the customer point of view, how about from the employment point of view because certainly the employee pool that we work with is now in the process of changing. I don’t think you’re in the millennial generation but you’re pretty close to it. And I’m assuming that you’re working with some millennials and you’re hiring some millennials. So, talk about diversity and the workforce, if you could.
Rita: Sure, so diversity in the workforce, this is something that I think we’re all experiencing age diversity. And with age diversity, there’s going to be different methods and different preferred methods of communication. And it’s very important to understand that you want to allow your workforce to communicate in the way that makes the most sense for them.
So, I’ll just give you an example. I’ve served and boards where we’ve had people of three or four different generations. And some people will conclude the meeting, “Any questions?” People like nod their heads. It makes sense but then that really wasn’t an appropriate way to determine or gauge whether there’s buy-in from the whole group. Some people need more time to process information. Some people aren’t comfortable like raising their hand in a group meeting where there’s your boss or people—they are still communication styles, whether that’s in a meeting, whether that’s you communicate in person and walk over to someone’s work station or do you send them a text message or email them? Do you communicate on Slack? These are all going to be very important. Particularly in my business, I have to coach staff to make sure that their writing skills and their tone isn’t so – how can I say, direct or blunt. So it’s going to be very important to understand that in this day and age, where people are text messaging or on Twitter, that we need to help them develop better communication skills.
Josh: Or the case if you’re working with an old person like me, you might not want to be trying to text him because they don’t like it.
Rita: Absolutely. And you know what, that’s actually one of the things that I do every time I bring on a new client. I ask them, what is your preferred method of contact? And some people will say email. Some people would say phone call. Some people will say text.
And how do we keep track of it? That’s actually where technology helps us, our CRM (client relationship management) software because it’s so important to communicate with people in a way that makes sense for them whether they are your clients or they’re your staff. Some people like to be communicated via email or text message. Other people like those messages to be delivered in person.
And I would say the need for communication has never been greater because we have so many methods to communicate with people. We want to make sure that because there are different methods that we don’t have any – I don’t want to say, we don’t have any—that we do our best to mitigate misunderstanding.
Josh: So what you’re saying is that it’s really important for our employees to understand the diverse audiences we might be doing business and find ways to communicate with them which is what they want and not what we want.
Rita: Correct, exactly. So, some people, if something is urgent, they might want a phone call. Other people, if it’s urgent, they want a text message. That may be a generational thing. It may be a personal preference.
Believe it or not, I have clients in their 70’s who are on WhatsApp and they like texting. I’m serious. I’m not kidding. I told her, I was like, “You’re the poster child, Mrs. Green, for saying that it really depends on the preferred method of contact. Her scanner was broken, it wasn’t working and she got a letter, a notification from the IRS and she was panicking. She was like, “I don’t know what to do, the scanner’s not working. I was like, “Mrs. Green, you have WhatsApp on your phone, right?” She’s like, “I do.” I said, “Why don’t you take a picture from your iPhone and then send it to me and I could read it. It’s a little bit blurry but I got the essence. And I’m so proud of you.
This just goes to tell you and me that you know what, anybody can benefit from technology. And she’s absolutely precious, so I’m here to tell you “yes, people from – millennials or generation X may have more of an affinity to using technology, don’t impose technology on your clients but allow them to use it in a way that’s most meaningful for them. And she was extremely happy because she was at home and was able to convey that information to me late Friday afternoon and not have to worry about when her husband, who’s a pastor, went to the church to fax from the church or scan from the church.
Josh: Well, I think that we’re going to end this and we’re going to end this on this statement “allow them”. It’s such a cool thing. Allow the people you’re working with to work in the manner that they like and you’re likely to be a whole lot more successful.
I know Rita’s very successful as a financial planner. She’s got a great reputation. And some of you listening might even want to have a conversation with her. So Rita, if people want to talk to you, how would they find you?
Rita: They can visit me at blueoceanglobalwealth.com. If you like to text, you can text me at (301) 502 5306. And then finally, I’m walking the talk here, you can also email me at M for Margeruita email@example.com.
Josh: Rita, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.
And just to prove that actually we are joining the 21st century, we have a great little report. It’s a one-pager. It’s called the Periodic Table of Business Strategies. And then there’s 56 different business strategies that you can pursue, all in one page. And if you want to get it, it’s really pretty easy. All you have to do is text PERIODIC to 44222. That’s PERIODIC to 44222 and we’ll get it right out to you.
This is Josh Patrick. You’ve been at the Sustainable Business. I hope to see you back here really soon and thanks so much for spending some time with us.
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.