The Jim Lee Approach – How to Build a Successful Business

On Friday, March 1, over 50 IRS workers filed into a conference on the eighth floor of the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building in downtown San Diego. They filled their plates with a catered lunch and then, one at a time, stood and spoke about their coworker Malcolm, who was retiring after 42 years of service.

They thanked Malcolm for his service and spoke about his dedication and friendship. More than a few had tears in their eyes. At the end, Malcolm stood and thanked his coworkers and supervisors, and spoke about how much he had enjoyed his decades of employment with the IRS. At the end of his speech, Malcolm thanked one final person – his financial advisor, Jim Lee, who had sponsored the retirement celebration for Malcolm and his coworkers.

For Jim, his wife V, and his assistant Mercedes, these types of client-focused events and celebrations are a regular part of doing business. “We know people make decisions with their heart as much as they do with their head,” Jim said in a recent conversation. “We want them to feel like they’re working with family when they meet with us.”

Payphone Beginnings

Today, Jim Lee Financial occupies office space in the heart of downtown Encinitas. That wasn’t always the case though. When Jim first entered the business over 20 years ago, he did most of his work on payphones.

“Back in those days, you could get three free numbers every time you called 411,” he said. “I had a list of everyone in San Diego who had recently closed a mortgage. So I would call 411 dozens of times a day to get as many phone numbers as a I could to discuss mortgage protection, which was life and disability insurance…”

Like many new financial advisors, Jim quickly learned how to play the numbers game. “I would make 100 calls, talk to 30 people, and schedule five appointments. Out of those five, two or three would cancel and I would end up making one sale. But if I could get one or two sales a day, that was good enough to keep moving forward.”

Nearly 15 years ago, Jim affiliated with Creative One, and that’s when he learned about fixed indexed annuities. “That really added a new element to my business,” he said. “Because now I could help people not only protect against death and disability, but also protect their retirement.”

Service, Service, Service

Today, fixed indexed annuities make up a large majority of Jim’s business, with the remainder coming from life and disability insurance. He says that most of his clients are 60 or older and are approaching retirement, but he does have some younger clients who want to protect their retirement at an early age.

Nearly all of his new business comes from referrals. “I get three to five calls a week with referrals,” he said. “They’re completely out-of-the-blue most of the time.”

How does Jim and his team generate referrals on such a consistent basis? They have a simple three-word motto: service, service, service.

“Service is huge for us,” he said. “Between me, my wife V, and Mercedes, we try to address and resolve all service questions and issues within 24 hours. It doesn’t matter how big or small the issue is, they’re all urgent. And we’ve learned that if we have a sense of urgency with questions and issues, people will remember that, and they’ll feel comfortable referring their friends and family.”

Jim also says that he and his team treat their clients like family rather than customers. “When we take our clients to lunch or breakfast, we don’t talk business,” he said. “We talk about kids and family. We discuss vacations. It’s all friendly. The business is secondary.”

Jim and his staff plan to stay the course in the future. “We have a simple operation, but it works for us and for our clients,” he said. “We’re all about providing a great client experience and protecting them from risk. We’ll keep doing those two things as we move forward.”

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