Financial adviser lessons from a Twisted Sister

My cab ride with Jay Jay French

Feb 12, 2016 @ 10:42 am

By Alessandra Malito

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At first glance, it may not seem like heavy metal guitarists and financial advisers would have much in common. I certainly didn't see the connection.

That was until I shared a cab ride with Jay Jay French, founding member and guitarist of Twisted Sister, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and last tour this year. Mr. French was a speaker at the Technology Tools for Today conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and by chance we struck up a conversation when we realized we were on the same flight back home to New York. We shared a 30-minute cab ride, where we talked about entrepreneurialism, industry changes and sticking it out when the going gets tough.

Here are some of the top lessons for companies and advisers. And for me, it reinforced an important lesson: you can learn something from anyone and everyone.

Give it your all, but be fair to yourself

When you have a goal in sight, work toward it with all that you've got. It is up to the adviser — and only the adviser — to figure out what she wants, how she wants to achieve it and how long she is willing to work for it before pressure mounts too high. It took Twisted Sister a decade, and numerous extraordinarily unfortunate events, such as broken promises from agents and bankruptcy, before the band got a record deal. Mr. French said he spoke with advisers after his keynote, who told him they weren't sure if they should start a firm on their own for fear of striking out. He said people should follow their dreams for as long as they want and can.

Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister
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Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister

“Just because you don't, success doesn't mean you failed,” he said. It's also important to ask, “At what point do you measure your success?”

Changing times

The way the music industry works is significantly different than it used to be. When Twisted Sister started in the 70's, musicians had to form a band, practice, play at clubs, write their own songs and get the attention they needed for a record label. Now, record sales don't even exist and the Internet has revolutionized the way consumers listen to music with the click of the download button.

Sound familiar? Robo-advisers disrupted the investment advice business not too long ago, forcing advisers to embrace more technology. Clients are expecting much more from their adviser relationships as well, such as access to real time information on their accounts from anywhere they are standing. Then of course there is the Department of Labor's fiduciary rule, which is expected to rock the way some advisers manage retirement accounts.

Stick it out

During his general session, Mr. French shared his band experiences with advisers, highlighting how Twisted Sister had to grind it out and deal with many setbacks before getting a record deal. He also explained the process he came up with for when the going gets tough:

1 - Mourn rejection. When advisers encounter a setback, they should take the time to absorb it before acting. He cited boxer Joe Lewis, who said people should always take the full 10 second count because they've been knocked down anyway.

2 - Reflect. Advisers can be proactive or reactive to the experience. He said the difference between the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and Keith Richards is that Mr. Jagger plans months in advance and Mr. Richards figures out the day in the morning.

3 - Retool. This means picking up the pieces, figuring out what to do next and sometimes even going so far as to change everything. Mr. French reinvented himself as a manager after the break-up of a band and a divorce.

4 - Reapply. The experience becomes a crucial part to what advisers can do next. For Mr. French, it was being a band manager, giving advice to various industries and writing a column for Inc. magazine on business lessons through the prism of rock and roll.

“The message I give is a general message about business and tenacity,” he said as we drove through some rush hour traffic. “I am fairly confident the message is so empowering it doesn't matter if they're financial advisers.”

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