Why should advisors want to engage in community service? Michael Lovas knows.
Recently, a weekly trade publication for the financial services industry ran a large spread featuring advisors who received the magazine's community leadership awards. If you're like many advisors, you might have asked, "What's the point?"
Michael Lovas, owner of About People -- a training and consulting firm that teaches advisors the psychology of attracting, connecting with and building credibility with prospects and others -- has learned the answer to this question first-hand.
"About five years ago while working with Piper Jaffrey, I was talking to a top advisor who had the idea of taking a cross-country bicycle tour to do financial seminars," Lovas said. "The idea was we'd ride from little town to little town and do free seminars in financial coaching."
Lovas said that they never did it, but the idea kept germinating in the back of his mind.
"In last few months, what have we seen in press?" he asked. "Lots of editorializing about selfish and greedy financial institutions. The image that's been presented is that they just want to pad their own pockets. Now you and I know that's not always true, and it's just a matter of reaching out to Main Street -- or perhaps Oak or Maple Street might be more apt -- to give people the right information. I decided I want to go into the homes and hearts of people because that's where the attitudes are -- the mental pictures of financial institutions that need to be changed. Doing things to improve the image of the industry may be the only way to get the trust back."
What Lovas, a Marine Corps veteran, finally decided upon was a project he calls Second Shot -- Business Training for Veterans.
"It came to me from a multitude of things happening simultaneously. As a Commander of the Inland Northwest Patriot Guard for Northeast Washington and Northwest Idaho states, I had led 300 people to give support to families of older vets who'd died, as well as younger men and women killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. I felt I was good at that because I could control my emotions in order to give a shoulder to family members who needed someone strong to lean on but, after two years, I was caving in... it was taking a toll on me," he said.
Lovas said that he realized he needed to step away from this work, but still wanted to make a contribution. Then he got the idea ... why not help vets who are still alive?
"Instead of putting a person to rest, I can launch their lives and help give them a chance to succeed in life. It was like making a U-turn for me. My sadness washed away and I burst forth with all this energy," he said.
Lovas' personal experience gave him keen insight into vets' problems.
"When Iraq started and we could see vets coming back with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I knew I could help them, and it was exciting to help launch a lot of lives on the right foot so they could function and succeed in the business world," he said.
Lovas himself got out of the Marines in 1969 feeling ill-prepared to do anything but think like a military person.
"We think of these returning soldiers as heroes, but once they're launched into their civilian lives, we don't do much to help them," he said.
Lovas' Second Shot program is designed to do just that. With a mission of providing military veterans with free training and coaching that prepares them for civilian careers, Second Shot carves out a new niche.
"Whereas other organizations help vets who want to become military contractors or small business owners, little to nothing is being done for vets who seek to go into the workforce or the corporate world," Lovas said, "and this constitutes the vast majority of veterans."
What he foresees as Second Shot's path to success involves three steps. In the first phase, Lovas will establish the program from a virtual office in his hometown of Spokane, Wash., from which training and coaching will be delivered via Web seminars and teleconferences to any vet with a computer and phone. In Phase 2, he'll open a store front office in Spokane.
"Here we will be able to deal with individuals one on one," he said, "in addition to the webinars and teleconferences."
Lovas is also contemplating in-person seminars, and finally the third phase will be to simply "clone" Phase 2 in different cities with large veteran populations.
I told Lovas that the project reminded me of the recent election debate on the efficacy of 'trickle-down economics' versus growing and empowering the middle class for the benefit of all.
"I don't see it in those terms," he replied. "But I can see a link between Second Shot and a comment heard during the election about the wars this country has had. In the World War II, America was asked to sacrifice. During the Gulf War, we were asked to stop doing something. And with the current Iraq war, we've been asked to go out and shop. So we, as a country supporting the war effort, make fewer sacrifices all the time. American communities haven't really been asked to do anything. My big insight was that sacrifice has to happen spontaneously according to our own individual passions. We have to ignite those passions so we'll go out and help our communities. If we're all reaching out and pulling our communities up, we're making our country stronger and revitalizing the economy."
A lot of advisors would like to do more pro bono work but can't figure out how to fit it into their schedule and still make a living, I noted. Lovas recalled a speech he'd given several years ago titled "Unsung Heroes."
"I asked the audience to raise their hands if they were involved in any volunteering. Six people's hands went up out of a 100 people. 'Is that all', I thought? And then I realized these people were there to hear me talk because they wanted to know what to do," he said. "It wasn't a matter of finding the time but, rather, a matter of finding the right passion. Volunteering at something for which you have a passion makes it easy to find the time."
Needless to say, Lovas would like to have financial advisors serve as business coaches and/or provide financial support for Second Shot.
"I'm not earning a cent right now. I'm funding the Web site and the webinars myself."
Lovas said that if we look across the entire nation we'll see millions of vets crying out for this help and they don't know about Second Shot yet.
"If you think about the network of people you're connected to as an advisor, and you simply ask clients whether they're vets and whether they know other vets, and then give them the contact information for Second Shot, we can build a veterans community across this entire country," he said
If you would like to be involved in Second Shot, send Lovas an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (509) 465-5599. Doing good for vets -- if it's your passion -- means doing well for yourself and for the image-battered financial-services industry.