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This is part 5 of a 12 part interview with Dennis Crawford. In this segment, Andrew and Dennis discuss building client connections.

Dennis Crawford InterviewClient Connections

Andrew: Absolutely. Well I was talking to a used car salesperson a few months ago and he was saying to me that the kids today have a better understanding of all the specs of the car, so there used to be a thing where salespeople, car salesmen, would have all the knowledge related to the cars and he would make selling points, and he says those are not selling points anymore because everyone has access to that information. So there’s something beyond the specifications of the product that people really need to look at, and the need to understand I think that’s what you’re getting at there.

Dennis: I could sum it up like this if you know… information doesn’t equal wisdom.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dennis: Cleverness is not the same as wisdom or being able to retain data like a computer doesn’t make you wise.

Andrew: Jeopardy contestants.

Dennis: Exactly. So I find myself explaining that to my kids, right?

Andrew: That’s very true.

Dennis: Because my 16 year old as many 16 year olds just looks at dad every now and then like he’s from Mars. Doesn’t know this from that kind of thing because they’ve got the world figured out and they’re wired in now so every once in a while I find myself having to remind them that information and cleverness doesn’t equal wisdom and wisdom comes from a much, much deeper place. And how that translates to business is when I’m interacting with a client or you’re interacting with a client, when we have the benefit of wisdom and real life experience, real life pain and pleasure, real life suffering behind our experience, we’re able to enter into those things with much more empathy and deliver information with much more empathy and compassion than we are extracting download off Wikipedia for example.

So it’s one of those challenges of the digital age is having that dynamic recognized in all our institutions in our day to day lives and schools and so forth. Technology will never be a replacement for wisdom that comes along with human interaction.

Andrew: Yeah. I’ve heard it said before that true leadership still requires grace.

Dennis: I think so.

Andrew: You can have all the principles but if you can’t sort of have an understanding of people and situations and where they’re coming from you can’t give them right advice.

Dennis: Absolutely, and you sure as heck can’t deliver it with an appropriate measure of compassion and understanding and empathy and at the end of the day, even in business I think that really trumps everything else. I’m sure there’s financial planners in this city that know more than I do, they can recite statistics better than I can recite statistics. They might have higher IQs, they’re more clever, but what I would challenge myself is I don’t know of any other advisors that strive as hard to put a level of human element into the relationship and into the business structure and at the end of the day I think that’s what really matters.

And there’s lots and lots of market capacity to serve the people that don’t see the value of that because you and I know that there’s lots of people who don’t see the value of that. It’s a very cold, gather information, logical decisions, kind of A-type stuff going on in the world today and that’s okay. I think those people get soften upped a little bit with age, they get bounced around a little bit. Endure a little bit of suffering like everyone else and they come to realize there’s more to it than a simulation of information.

Andrew: I find interesting that we’re sort of back to this fascination and obsession of the modern age which was all about the five techniques and the ten ways to and the twenty ways to make this year your best year, and that might be great advice and it might even be true but we’ve entered the post modern age around twenty years ago or more but the fascination with the modern still continues that we’re back to the logical again.

Dennis: Yeah.

Andrew: So, what aspects of your work do you really enjoy?

Dennis: I mean the main aspect is kind of what we touched on already and its the human development and even if the client or the customer doesn’t fully understand it or appreciate it, I do or I’ve come to. If I put myself on the solid footing of trying to add value without regard to I’ll make this much more money or this product is more profitable than that product.. you should do as I say, not as I do.. blah, blah, blah.

When I really just try to add value and connect with clients in a face to face way I would say that’s probably one of the most rewarding things of my career is the direct human interaction. It’s all fine to analyze graphs and charts and trends and crunch data and prophesize about whether the stock market is gonna go up or down, and none of that stuff works at the end of the day, not on the short term.

So yeah, I think the biggest satisfaction is knowing that I’m doing the best that I can with people and knowing that’s true even if it’s not recognized entirely by the client. It’s a difficult situation at times, you know if you have somebody with a portfolio and a 2008 type year rolls around, and they always do. When the next one’s coming nobody knows for sure but it’s always out there. It’s sometimes difficult to remind yourself of that or remind the client of that in that circumstance because when you’re looking at a drop in your balance sheet of tens of thousands of dollars for circumstances beyond anyone’s control, sometimes that gets stretched a little bit but you have to remind yourself that you.. as long as your functioning true to your moral and ethical compass, you know I think you can survive all that stuff.

That’s how I’ve survived it over the years, because it is stressful and you have those types of years roll around and people can attach a tremendous amount of pain to whether their statement says 150 thousand dollars in my account or 130 thousand dollars in my account.

In my position because I have a deep understanding of the issue I understand more than the average bearer that whether you have 150 or 130 on your statement makes almost zero to do with your capacity to have happiness over the next 30 years. But you can’t entirely say that to somebody, you can gently lead them around that conversation. But 20 thousand dollars is 20 thousand dollars and some people attach a tremendous amount of pain to having a statement that’s down 20 thousand dollars from the last statement. So yeah I guess to draw back to the question I think the most rewarding thing I do is being able to connect with people.