James Bogart of Bogart Wealth: Five Things You Need to Be a Highly Effective Leader During…

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James Bogart of Bogart Wealth: Five Things You Need to Be a Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

So first and foremost, have a plan — a business plan and also a financial plan. Whether it’s a conservative or ambitious plan does not make any level of difference, but you’ve got to have a plan of action. I’ll bring up my dad’s retirement again. Having a plan around that, discussing that plan not only with him, but my coach as well as Bogart’s leadership team, really helped us work our way through that while also dealing with the pandemic and the recession.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing James Bogart, CFP®, CHFC®, CEO and President of Bogart Wealth.

A seasoned wealth advisor, James Bogart, President and CEO of Bogart Wealth, takes personal pride in assisting executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals pursue their dreams through striking, highly customized financial planning strategies. As Principal of Bogart Wealth, he focuses both on maintaining the highest level of customer service and attention to detail possible, and on seeking to deliver the most effective technology, reporting tools, and analysis to every Bogart Wealth client.

James’ practice spans wealth plan design, investment management, estate planning, family legacy planning, business succession, charitable giving, asset protection, and retirement concerns, with a special insight and focus on multi-generational strategies. He regularly addresses audiences of industry professionals and senior corporate executives on new and upcoming developments in this field.

Educated at the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, James is a registered representative, a Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), holds Life and Health Insurance licenses, and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP®).

James and his wife Ashley enjoy spending time with their daughters Makenna and Peyton. He serves on the board of directors for local non-profit The Hopkins Society. He is also a proud Eagle Scout, remaining active with the Boy Scouts of America. He enjoys golf, travel, reading and cooking together.

James Bogart / Authority Magazine / Tips to Be a Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times / 5 Things Interview

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I was always a good saver. I was also very fortunate to have a parent who was in the financial services industry. As I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I recognized that I had a lot of questions about money, investing, and saving, and I was always enamored by how to build a portfolio.

So, when I graduated from college in 2007, I went to work for a small little broker dealer called Ferris Baker Watts. It was a great opportunity for me, as they had a nice little training program where I was able to immediately become a financial advisor. During my first week as an advisor, another team at the firm that was responsible for $1.2 billion in assets decided to leave. Given that it was a small firm, it gave me an immediate opportunity to be thrown into the deep end and start talking to clients immediately. I was pretty unsuccessful at the time, but it was a great learning opportunity that gave me an instant comfort level talking to and connecting with people and understanding their needs.

It also made me appreciate that this industry is not just about picking stocks. There’s a lot more that goes into what people care about and what people think about. I also discovered that consumers are by and large what I would describe as uneducated in financial literacy overall. It’s a very big detriment within our country. I recognized that there was an opportunity to become a subject matter expert, and when I started leading Bogart Wealth, we decided to go deeper and add a significant amount of value to our target audience — simply by directly connecting with them and their needs. This became a snowball effect, where our reputation and credibility continued to grow and build on itself, and now we have a robust following and client base.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

There were so many — how do you narrow it down to just one?! I would say one of my first mistakes that really sticks out to me was assuming that a prospective client would be okay with their friends knowing I was talking with them. I was only 22 or so at the time, and it was a big deal to me because I upset the prospect and lost the opportunity. It quickly taught me the need for protecting privacy. It wasn’t like I was sharing any specific details, other than, “I’ve been talking to John Smith” — but he just didn’t like that. So now when somebody asks if so-and-so is working with me, my response is very simple: “You need to ask them.” It’s a mistake that can have significant consequences, and it’s something I am very sensitive to now.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My dad worked in and introduced me to the financial services industry, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t give gratitude to him, as well as my mother who was always my biggest advocate and cheerleader even though she knew nothing about the industry. She always provided a balanced perspective, and I could always talk with her — even if it was just strictly to let me vent or to be a sounding board.

Past that, I would say I’m a big believer in coaching, and I think it’s essential to have non-biased third-party people who you can discuss things with. I work with a coach who is not only a trusted confidant, but a very good friend. I talk to him every single week and always look forward to speaking with him. In the last couple years where we’ve had a lot of very difficult decisions in our business, especially through the pandemic, he was my rock. When I look at the success we’ve had as a firm, where we’ve basically quadrupled our AUM in the last two years, I would say that having my coach as my sounding board has been imperative.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I couldn’t agree more. I think a company’s mission, vision, and core values all have to be religiously discussed and adhered to. Related to that, every single person in the organization absolutely needs to know what their role is in conjunction with those.

My personal vision, which I believe should be a high-level guidance point, has not changed since 2007 when I started in the industry: to trust and to help. Then your mission needs to be a drill down of that vision. Most importantly, you need to have that commonality where every person who is part of the organization understands what their purpose is in terms of fulfilling that vision.

Our core values at Bogart Wealth are integrity, commitment, teamwork, growth, communication, and adhering to the fiduciary standard. We live these values every day in serving our clients and supporting our team members.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Throughout the pandemic, in addition to dealing with all the difficulties posed by Covid, both personally and professionally, at Bogart Wealth we were dealing with a lot of uncertainty in the markets and with our clients, but I was also dealing with my dad’s retirement — and obviously there is a lot of uncertainty associated with that. We had a sizeable client base, and suddenly one of the partners in the firm is retiring and leaving. On top of dealing with a pandemic and a recession. I would describe it as very emotional time — you can’t help but naturally question everything that you’re doing and the decisions that you’re making. It’s very stressful. I would say my purpose and values were tested and refined.

Now that I am where I am and I’m removed from that period of uncertainty, it’s easy for me to look back on it and objectively talk about it, but I remember that I had tunnel vision at the time. I was very dead set on my goal and what I wanted to achieve. I used that tunnel vision as the opportunity to slingshot Bogart Wealth to what it’s become today, which is a very different company than it was two years ago. I think a lot of it comes down to having those guidance points and core values, and ultimately understanding where you want to be from a goal perspective — then working hard towards those goals.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Giving up? No. Asking if it’s worth it? Yes, for sure. I talked about my dad’s retirement… There were multiple points in time where we were encountering different elements of that decision. For example, there’s a financial element to it. In March of 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, all the banks were effectively drying up and the government had turned the banks into unemployment offices with PPP programs. It became even more difficult to continue to push through with my dad’s retirement. It came down to perseverance, resiliency, and drive. I had countless discussions with my coach about whether I wanted to continue to push forward with that decision or if we should hit pause and revisit it later. I was questioning every decision I was making. Without a doubt, being able to objectively look at the situation and come back to my purpose, mission, goals, and core values, is ultimately what caused me to persevere and push through.

I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?

There’s so many. I’m a huge advocate for reading and education. I believe that you must be in a perpetual state of growth and education. The book that stands out for me is Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. A close second would be Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. There are so many others I would throw on that list, but those are the two I revisit frequently. Jim Collins’ Good to Great especially because it’s not that history ever predicts the future, but you can draw reference and see commonalities and what has worked in the past. You can also see what resonates with consumers as well as employees. I think it’s important to be in a position where you can understand how history has played out and then use that to help make decisions for the future.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Be a good listener. To be an effective leader, you must be able to listen and hear different points of perspectives that you might not always want to hear. Closely behind good listener is to be a good messenger. Not every environment that’s difficult is going to have things to be opportunistic or encouraging about, but being able to hear the message, hear what you need to hear, and then ultimately convey the message with confidence to your employees as the leader is imperative.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?

I think first and foremost, it starts with themselves. It’s hard for an employee to embrace the message if you don’t believe it yourself as the leader. It’s important that an effective leader is able to embody what they’re saying when it comes to inspiring, motivating, and engaging employees. I come back to core values — who we are as a company and what we represent and embody. Frankly, we know that these environments are going to change, but if your core values are true to who you are and to what your company is, then being a self-reflection and representation of that will inspire people. They will be engaged and excited to be a part of that culture.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Honestly, difficult news is never fun. That’s the part that I hate the most about being a leader, whether it’s personnel related or business related. Honesty and accountability are imperative, and more specifically how you’re going to rectify whatever the mistake was — especially if it is a mistake. That to me is the most effective way to communicate difficult news.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

For me, the future is always going to be unpredictable. This is where your vision must be the lead. You must be in a position where you can envision your goals. Having that one-year, five-year, ten-year goal — it’s so important to be able to align your people with those goals and navigate those unpredictable moments of time. I do a painted picture exercise every year where I’m embodying where I want to be at the end of the year, then I work my way back. I think about the pandemic, which was just such a huge uncertain period. I know it only started two years ago, but it feels like 10. From where the company was then vs. now, it feels like we lightyear jumped into the future — and it was all thanks to our vision, plus the ability to persevere and work towards our goals despite all the uncertainty. To me, that ultimately is how you get through those types of environments and plan for the future.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Stick to your personal and company core values — simple as that.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Every industry is going to be a little different, but I think when you look from a high level, lack of leadership is probably the most significant mistake businesses make. When a leader gets to a place where they are not comfortable communicating what they’re thinking or feeling, or not having people that they can lean on to support them with decisions that they’re making, that’s a huge mistake. We’re all human, certainly myself included, and I am not perfect, but I recognize that empowering my team to help me make some critical and timely decisions is a direct correlation to what has caused us to be very successful. When I think about businesses that are struggling or failing, it is because that leadership element is just not there.

Beyond that, I think it’s important to have a plan. Similar to what we do to help our clients with financial plans to guide them through life events, whether it’s having a child, getting married, getting divorced, retiring, or whatever it may be, you’ve got to have a plan. Same with a business. If you don’t have a business plan, goodness gracious, I don’t know how you’re ever going to be successful. Honestly communicating that business plan at a minimum to your leadership team is a must, but I also think you need to be communicating it to the rest of your people so everyone understands the goals you have set for the business and the plan you believe will get you there. I would also add financial governance to that, understanding where your revenue sources are coming from, when you’re going to have certain expenses, and modeling those. It comes back to financial literacy. So many business owners don’t even understand their financials. It’s reactive at the end of the year to kind of reset and look at those things. Going into the year, you must have a projection for where you’re going to be and an understanding that that projection is a guidance point, and you need to be consistently assessing how you’re performing relative to it.

With Bogart Wealth, our revenue has grown significantly, and of course the natural temptation is to say, “Okay, we’ve made a lot of money, let’s go spend money and elevate our lifestyle.” But the fact is, that’s not prudent. That’s not smart because it’s not always going to be good. You have to have reserves. You must have the ability to weather whatever period of uncertainty there is going forward. It all comes back to having a plan, having a budget, having a balance sheet, and then being a very responsible leader.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

So first and foremost, have a plan — a business plan and also a financial plan. Whether it’s a conservative or ambitious plan does not make any level of difference, but you’ve got to have a plan of action. I’ll bring up my dad’s retirement again. Having a plan around that, discussing that plan not only with him, but my coach as well as Bogart’s leadership team, really helped us work our way through that while also dealing with the pandemic and the recession.

Number two is directly related to that plan: you have to have goals. Without goals, or at least directional guidance, you’re never going to be able to successfully accomplish your plan. I’m a big believer in setting two or three goals every single year, and have those as guiding ballast points. These are the things that we’re going to be focusing on this year, and we need to be putting all our priorities into being able to accomplish them.

Third would be setting core values and living by them. I don’t know how you could be an effective leader anymore without them. Every single one of our employees at Bogart Wealth have our core values sitting on their desk, and most importantly, every one of them knows how their role directly impacts the company. When it comes to uncertain times, where everybody’s questioning their purpose, their value, why they’re doing what they’re doing, it’s so imperative from a leadership perspective to be able to have those core values in place and really have that unwavering impact. Uncertain times are going to come and go, it’s just guaranteed. It’s like market performance: it could go up, and it’s definitely going to go down. You’re going to go through rough times. The reality of it is that being able to have that proverbial guiding line both personally and professionally, it all starts with your core values.

Fourth would be having a leadership team, which I think is imperative. You can’t do everything yourself. As much as I would love to think I can, I’m not superhuman. You must have people who are helping you along the way. That’s where being able to motivate, inspire, and empower people to really help you fulfill everything that the company is trying to fulfill is so important. At Bogart Wealth, I have five people on my leadership team and every week we have our L10 meeting where we make sure we’re focusing on our plan, completing projects that will help us reach the goals of our plan, and making sure nothing is getting overlooked.

Finally, I would say being able to delegate is crucial. In uncertain times and even in good times, if you are unable to delegate, all you’re going to do is burn yourself out. I will tell you that I was susceptible to that, and I still am. I try to be a good delegator, but I don’t always succeed at it. I very much have the mindset that I can get it done faster myself, so I’m just going to go do it. However, having team members that are empowered to be able to not only make decisions, but also just to go get it done, is extremely important. Again, being able to share in that collective comes back to mission, vision, and core values — because if everybody’s aligned for the same purpose, then without a doubt, that’s how you get through uncertainty.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I write down quotes that I like every single day. If I hear one that strikes me, I write it down and repeat it to myself so that it continues to perpetuate throughout my day, allowing me to reflect on it. One I think that has the most impact for me personally is from Gandhi: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” As I’ve been saying, if you’re not living and embodying you mission, vision, and core values, you will not reach your destiny — whatever that may be for you.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can learn more about Bogart Wealth and follow my work on our website at www.BogartWealth.com, where we regularly share new blog posts, articles, and other educational content. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, and follow Bogart Wealth on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you for having me!

James Bogart of Bogart Wealth: Five Things You Need to Be a Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.