Mark Ford

From Mark Ford, founder, Palm Beach Research Group: In native cultures, medicine men wield power because of the community’s belief that they have magical powers. To reinforce their mystique, these crafty connivers invent words and phrases that their followers can’t understand. The idea is something like: “If you don’t understand what I’m saying, how can you doubt my power?”

Modern-world medicine men—doctors, lawyers, and, yes, brokers—sometimes do the same thing. Like their primitive predecessors, they often wield power over their clients by verbally intimidating them.

Many people (consciously or not) put their brokers on pedestals of reverence. As a result, they are reluctant to question the advice they get, or worse, they feel compelled to follow it out of some sense of submissive gratitude.

The truth is that brokers are nothing more than tradesmen. They have knowledge and skills that they sell. To earn their fees, they must work hard and well for you.

So, starting today, I want you to change the way you think about your broker. Promise yourself that you will not let him bully you—that you will actively and consciously be the boss.

Rather than think “Gee, he’s such an expert,” think “I am paying this guy good money. If he doesn’t prove to me that he is an expert, I will fire him.”

And when you get advice, instead of thinking “I had better do what he says,” think “This guy may know his field, but he doesn’t know me. I am the best and sole judge of what is best for me. Only I am qualified to decide what I should do.”

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Three Criteria to Use to Rate Your Broker 

1. Does he give you advice that is easy to understand?

A good professional feels obliged to communicate clearly with his clients. That means translating the arcane language of his profession into advice that can be readily understood.

You can determine whether your broker has a commitment to communication by asking yourself:

  • Do I feel like I spend enough time with him? Or do I feel like he is usually busy and I’m taking up his precious time?

  • When he sends me documents, does he often attach a cover letter that explains, in layman’s terms, what the documents say?

  • Do I frequently feel lost or confused when he gives me advice? (This should rarely happen. And when it does, you should feel free to ask questions and get clear, understandable answers.)

2. Does he understand and care about your concerns and needs? 

A good professional doesn’t treat all his clients exactly the same. He understands that each has his own specific concerns, worries, problems, and needs. A good professional takes time to understand this and tailors his advice accordingly.

If you feel like you are getting cookie-cutter advice from your broker—or if you feel like he doesn’t really care who you are—he is not doing his job.

3. Does he make you feel like you are in charge?

A good professional relationship is one where the client is the boss and feels like the boss. You should be able to figure out how you feel about your broker instantly. 

If you don’t feel in charge, you aren’t.

If you don’t feel you can speak frankly about any fears and concerns you have, you are not in charge.

If you don’t feel free to criticize him, you are not in charge.

Here’s what you need to understand: The only way you can feel like the boss is if your broker feels like you are the boss. If he doesn’t—if he thinks you are just another schmuck who needs his help—you will never be in charge.

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What to Do to Make Things Right 

Well… how do you feel about your broker now? Are you feeling a bit upset? Have you realized that you may be getting less from him than you deserve?

If so, here’s what I suggest. Call or email the offending party and tell him you want to have a 15-minute meeting about your “professional relationship.” If he asks why, say that you want to talk about whether “the value I’m getting is worth the money I’m paying.”

If he refuses to have the meeting, you don’t need to put another thought into it. He isn’t doing his job. Get rid of him.

If he does give you a meeting, go in prepared. In just a few simple sentences (that you have prepared beforehand), tell him exactly how and why you are unsatisfied. Don’t be judgmental.

Express your concerns as statements of your future expectations. In other words, don’t say “You talk in an intimidating way.” Say “I want crystal-clear explanations of all your advice and full and clear answers to all my questions. Can you provide me with that?”

That’s really all you have to do. If you end up “firing” him, don’t spend a moment regretting it. Just go out and find someone better.

And find that better broker by interviewing a few different ones. In the first meeting, list your expectations and ask if he can meet them.

Be the boss. It is your money.

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