When a client called on a Saturday asking about the capital gains tax rate to know whether to take an offer on a piece of property that had been for sale for years, he was surprised when Mark Lloyd called him back 10 minutes later with the answer. But it’s that kind of service that has allowed his financial and estate planning business, The Lloyd Group Inc., to grow from the basement of his home about 20 years ago to more than 2,100 clients and $150 million in money under management today.
“We’ve just watched our business grow even during these tough times,” the principal says. “It’s just been continuing to grow leaps and bounds each year.”
Smart Business spoke with Lloyd about how he’s grown the company despite the tough economy.
What’s the key to growing business even during tough times?
It is so easy to get depressed when you’ve got double-digit unemployment and you have a lot of uncertainty about taxes coming up down the road. A lot of people have chosen to be stagnant. We looked at that as opportunities. We’ve been focused on growth.
One of the main reasons why we do that is because we are educators first. We have always gone out to the community and talked to the people. Our focus has always been, ‘Can we make something better for our clients? Can we educate our clients in a better way? Can we offer something different then everybody else out here that we’re competing against?’ There are so many financial planners. They’re a dime a dozen on every street corner with every major firm that’s out there. What makes us different than them? That’s been our focus. If we can give the best customer service — not only promise the best customer service but deliver the best customer service — our business will flourish. If we fail to do that, we’ll be like everybody else.
How do you deliver the best customer service?
We listened to our clients. We said, OK, what is your risk tolerance? How do you feel about the future? How do you feel about the markets? We can be as disciplined as we can be, but if you’re not comfortable and you’re not sleeping at night, we don’t want you there. We want you to be happy.
Another thing that we do is we stay in contact with our clients all the time. Not only are we sending out monthly newsletters to our clients, but we do client appreciation events. We just care for them and they know that we’re here for them all the time.
Where we feel our biggest values come is when their life situation changes, we want to be there for them. Whether it be helping them filing a claim with long-term care insurance — instead of just passing it on to the insurance company. Let us help them with that.
[We have] customer service to the point that on the weekends, our company phones get forwarded to one of our assistant’s cell or my cell phone. We get a surprised voice on the other end of the phone that says, ‘I didn’t realize that you were working today,’ or, ‘Why are you working today?’ and we answer back — ‘We’re not working but we’re taking the calls.’
A lot of it is just staying with good customer service, taking care of clients but, more importantly, educating them. We want to listen to our clients and do what’s right for them.
What’s the key to effective listening?
Don’t do anything in a hurry. I may visit with people three or four times before they ever become a client. I don’t have a time frame. I have a strategy that the first interview I have with a client is just get-to-know-them time. I get a snapshot of what their situation is.
I know what questions to ask, and I listen to what their responses are. That directs me on how to proceed with them. Basically it’s taking good notes, hearing what their concerns are, hearing what their goals are and helping them with a budget — that’s critical.
People want honesty. They don’t want someone to make them feel good. They want to know, ‘Here’s where you’re at and here’s how you can get there.’ They want a solution. That’s where we come back with a solution. Then, at that point, we let them filter out and absorb all the information we shared. Then we come back and say, ‘Now, it’s time to act. Do you want to proceed with what our recommendations are? You let us know.’ And because we’re educators first, people respect that. They make the decision whether they become a client of ours or not.
How to reach: The Lloyd Group Inc., (770) 932-0387 or www.thelloydgroupinc.com