April 17, 2024

Episode #138: Mike Dickerson – Engage Financial Group

Mike Dickerson was born and raised in northwest Indiana. He went to Wabash College in which he Majored in Economics, with a Minor in History. While at Wabash, he met Rebecca. They have now been married for over 17 yrs and have two children.

Mike started in financial planning in May of 2000 with a firm named Diversified Financial Concepts and then went completely independent in 2007. Mike has grown mostly through referrals during that time. While running Engage Financial Group, Mike has continued to add additional educational credentials to make sure he is constantly doing what is best for his clients and staying up on the industry changes. Mike is currently working with about 350 families and businesses on their financial goals.

With Engage Financial Group, Mike and his team help people plan for their most important goals, like making sure they have enough money for the 30-40 yr vacation of retirement, improving their children’s education, and optimizing where money should be to make it work harder for you and avoid taxes. At the same time, they help businesses improve retirement offerings and thus employee satisfaction and retention.

In Mike’s free time, he enjoys martial arts and helping coach soccer and basketball for his kids.

In honor of the fellow business owners in your life that had an impact on you
becoming the person you are today, let’s celebrate them. Click this link to apply to be on our podcast to recognize those people: https://www.BeMADTogether.com


Intro: You’re listening to the Self-Made is a Myth Make A Difference together, show with your host coach, Tim Campsall where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their journeys in building their successful businesses. And more importantly, we recognize the folks who helped them excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our own.

Coach Tim Campsall: Hello, this is Coach Tim Campsall, and I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today. Something unique about my guest is he attended 16 years of private school and in his downtime he enjoys doing jiu-jitsu, he’s been doing martial arts for about nine years. He’s most proud of his kids and we’ll have him tell us a little bit more about his family here in a minute.

It’s my pleasure to welcome Mike to the show today. Hello Mike

Mike Dickerson: Hey, Tim. Thank you for having me.

Coach Tim Campsall: Absolutely. Hey, let’s start by having you introduce yourself. Tell us your full name and a little bit of your personal story, like where you’re born and live and about your family.

Mike Dickerson: Okay full name Michael C. Dickerson, as you can see on the bottom of the screen. I grew up in Northwest Indiana and went off to Wabash College after that, got an economics major. I met my wife when I was senior in college, when I was visiting a friend in Indianapolis, and that’s what ultimately caused me to come to Indianapolis.

We’ve been together for 24 years now, and I’ve got two kids, and by the time this airs, they will be 14 and 16 years old. So full into the teenage years. I guess in my spare time I’m just an unpaid Uber driver because I coach multiple sports right now, both are on two soccer teams and they’re training for karate nationals in July.

So they actually compete very high level in those areas. And as for me I do coaching for soccer. I do coaching for basketball. And then obviously I do a little bit of jujitsu and karate on the side as well, if I get time.

Coach Tim Campsall: Fantastic. Wonderful. Mike, is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today?

Mike Dickerson: Oh, I like this question, Tim. And the willingness to share part was something I was questionable over, but I’m going to share it for you. We do a fish fry most years, except for a couple of COVID years. We try to do it right around, well right before Easter. And we were having a fish fry the Friday before Easter.

And one of my good friends brought his newest girlfriend at the time to that fish fry. And she was talking about how she wanted her hair to be a little bit shorter. And he goes I don’t think I’d like you with shorter hair. And she goes I want shorter hair. And I, of course, offered and I said, I’ll cut it. And she made the mistake of sitting down and holding her hair in a ponytail. And my brother went to tell on me to my wife and she didn’t get there in time. And I took some kitchen shears because that’s all I had. And I cut. I cut her hair right where she was showing me on her ponytail. Tim, to tell you the truth, as an amateur hairstylist, I wasn’t that bad at cutting it.

It was actually when I tried to fix it that was the issue. And that made it worse. And she had to go to her boyfriend’s family for Easter two days later with her newly cut hair by me.

Yeah, I, every year I got Sarah saying, Hey, are you ready for a new trim? And she doesn’t respond. I don’t know.

Coach Tim Campsall: I don’t know either. I was hoping maybe this could be a good side hustle for you, but maybe not. You know, we’re saying the hairstylist, I think I need to. Mike, tell us, how did the business come about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business?

Mike Dickerson: Yep. I graduated from Wabash in 2000 with a degree in economics. While I was at Wabash, I actually interned with Merrill Lynch. At that point I knew I loved the industry. Merrill is a good company, it’s just not what I wanted. And so at that point, I started taking extra classes during the summer for financial planning to go at Purdue Cal and IU Northwest, knowing that I was going to go into the industry.

I started with a company in 2000 and they trained me, they got me ready and, three, four years in, I started feeling pretty confident about myself and what I can do. But seven years in, the CEO of the company had a brain aneurysm and he lived and he took all 250 reps across the entire country and he sold us into our back office at that point and they took us independent.

So they took away our health insurance, they took away our retirement plan. I can jump on my wife’s health insurance, I can write my own retirement plan. So the confidence to actually run my business. They gave me a base-all reality. I was thrown to the wolves at that point.

And I had to figure it out in 2007 and 2008, which obviously was a market crash. So we had a market crash in 2008 and at the same time I was independent and at the same time I had a baby in May of 2008. So at that point, if I could get through all of 2008, a baby, and being independent on my own I had all the confidence after that point to handle anything the industry threw at me because that was a hard year.

Coach Tim Campsall: I can only imagine. Wow. Nothing like just jumping in and figuring it out as you go. Yeah.

Mike Dickerson: The company I was with gave us a really good base to teach us how to be entrepreneurs and teach us how to run a business and then train us to do be financial planners. But at the same time, when you have that company backing you up, you feel good.

You don’t have to worry about all the running a business side, but once you have to start figuring it out, you’re just like, okay, now I got to do this as well. That takes a lot, which is, what you’re for.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah. Tell us more about the company. What’s the name? What do you guys do? How do you help people?

Mike Dickerson: Yep. I run Engaged Financial Group. We’ve been around for 24 years. As I mentioned we do comprehensive financial planning. In a fiduciary style. So we work with someone from what they say they want to do, what they want to accomplish. We look at where they are right now and we help them create a path to get to that next step in life.

And then over time, we factor in the different changes that are going to happen because nothing’s a smooth path going straight up over time. It’ll be variable and peaks and troughs will happen. Different things will happen. So we need to plan for that and adjust accordingly and make sure they reach their goal.

We are fiduciaries. So that means we not only have an ethical obligation to do what’s in your best interest, we actually have a legal obligation to do what’s in your best interest. And if we can’t do what’s in your best interest, we actually have to tell you so that you can have it. As you can see at the bottom of my screen, I’ve also got a few letters after my name, a bunch of credentials.

I had gone with the idea that I want to know more than most financial advisors out there. So I’m increasing my education every chance I get to make sure that I’m trying to be the best I can for my clients.

Coach Tim Campsall: I love that fiduciary responsibility because a lot of us, we just don’t know what we don’t know.

And so understanding that you have to do what’s right for your clients versus what’s right for you. And it just gives another level and layer of confidence and trust in the relationship.

Mike Dickerson: And it’s needed.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yes, not all financial people are created equally.

Mike Dickerson: Yes, you need to make sure you trust them that you they’re doing the best for you that they can do.

Coach Tim Campsall: Hey, Michael, share a story where someone pushed or inspired you that you could do it and the impact that had on you,

Mike Dickerson: I referenced my father in a lot of senses when people ask me questions like that. My father and grandfather ran independent pharmacies for 50, 60 years growing up.

And my father had a medical building where he had his pharmacy inside of it as well. And I remember like I was in high school and it was like two in the morning and the basement of the medical building had flooded. And I got a whole lot of bad at 2 in the morning. I was cleaning up a basement because that’s what you do as a business owner, something comes up, you’re going in there and you’re fixing things. You’re trying to adjust just like in financial planning, something’s always going to come up and you just have to work through it to accomplish your end goal. And I think running a family business that was important, but also seeing like the customer service my grandfather did and the relationships he had with people walking into a pharmacy. And my father, people still remember him years and years later that leaves an imprint on you when I was working there, just to say, Hey, Make sure your customer service is really up to par and, over time, that’ll take care of you.

Coach Tim Campsall: That’s fantastic. What a unique experience to be able to see a couple of generations of business owners to, allow you to have, some of that learning going into running your own business.

Mike Dickerson: And in all reality of the five kids, none of us are pharmacy pharmacists. We didn’t follow in those footsteps.

Coach Tim Campsall: The waking up at 2am was a little bit of a turn off.

Mike Dickerson: Yeah, that might’ve done it. My sister’s a doctor in chemistry. That’s probably the closest. And my brother works at a pharmacy as a manager, but none of us want to be pharmacists.

Coach Tim Campsall: Mike, what’s your biggest learning as a business owner?

Mike Dickerson: I think you said it earlier. You don’t know what you don’t know. I was actually, I saw a quote the other day and I’ve heard the quote multiple times and you’ve heard it too. If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room. And I think that’s really important. As a business, you have to be continuously learning to be better.

You have to be better as a financial planner. You have to be better at running a business. You have to be Better at adjusting to the changes that every business is going to have. No business is going to be the same five or 10 years from now. No business is the same as it was five or 10 years ago. And I think you need to just be able to learn constantly to make sure that you’re getting better and you’re taking care of the people around you.

Coach Tim Campsall: Absolutely. Yeah. There’s another phrase out there that ties into here is that you’re either growing or you’re dying. And so as a business owner, if you’re not doing what you just talked about if we’re not continuing to learn and develop and become better versions of ourself, then you’re metaphorically dying because other people are growing and becoming better and technology is changing and industries are changing.

And so we, we definitely have to keep up to that, or we end up finding ourselves behind our competition and end up, our business ends up shrinking.

Mike Dickerson: Yep, that’s exactly right.

Coach Tim Campsall: Hey, we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation. So tell us about one of your biggest challenges during the years and someone else who, came alongside you and helped you through that.

Mike Dickerson: I’m going to go back to 2008. I think that’s the one year that every financial advisor still has like post-traumatic stress from it’s actually been diagnosed for a few people 2008 was a hard year. And yeah, we were. I was completely independent at that point. We had just been independent for a few months before then.

I was having a baby in May and the markets are crashing. And a guy named Scott Koga, who’s disappeared since he left the industry told me really simple. Yeah, don’t worry about growing. All you need to do is worry about keeping the clients you have and taking care of them and talking to them.

A lot of financial advisors, when it stuck their heads in the sand at that time, they disappeared. And legitimately, so stress was really high for a lot of financial advisors. I made an effort to make sure I was calling everybody. I was emailing everybody probably a little bit more than they wanted. To tell them, Hey, this is okay. It’s either you buy canned goods and guns, or you leave your money alone, or you put more money in. And if you buy canned goods and guns, that’s not going to work out for you, it’s not gonna work out for the entire country. So the market will recover.

We’ll be okay. We just need to focus on the long-term at that point. And I think, from that, we lost two clients. One lost their job, had to take the money. One, I had to let go. But two clients in the entire 2008 was amazing.

Coach Tim Campsall: Wow.

Mike Dickerson: And we were able to keep, 99.9 percent of the clients and we were in a pretty good spot.

And we actually ended up having about 26 percent growth that year. Because I was a lot more proactive in talking to people and making sure they knew what was going to happen with the market.

Coach Tim Campsall: That’s fantastic. Good for you for taking that initiative. There’s a statistic out there that talks about why do most customers leave.

Or clients leave where they have their business. And it’s because of a perceived indifference where they don’t think that the company or the person that they’re working with cares about them. So, what the story you just shared is you went over and above to show your clients that you cared about them and that you were there for them through those difficult times.

What, an awesome story and insight for others listening today.

Mike Dickerson: I think most business owners need to know that, hey, your clients are, you’re trying to take care of them to the very best they possibly can. And, when they go through things, you feel it, you take it home with you at night and same time, what they go through, affects your life as well.

So it’s like a symbiotic relationship, clients do well, we do well, clients do poorly, we do poorly both emotionally and financially.

Coach Tim Campsall: Absolutely. And again, I love that that you have that caring attitude, right? That it’s not just a number it’s a personal relationship and it’s symbiotic in terms of right. You’re there for each other. So that’s awesome. Hey Mike I’m going to put you on the spot here if I was to ask you to pick three people in your business owner journey that you feel had the most impact on helping you to get to your business’s growth and the three folks you’re most grateful for.

Who are those three people and how they help you?

Mike Dickerson: I’ve heard you ask this question in multiple different webcasts and I knew it was going to come. And there’s a lot. I’ve got past employees like David Smith and yeah, Hannah and others. My current employees, teachers and professors and other financial advisors that I bounce ideas off on a regular basis.

I’ll buy new three. I talked a little bit about two of them. The first one, my dad, obviously, my parents were able to give me an educational foundation and a good foundation of being a good person throughout my life and what I saw him doing with customer service and what he did for his business, and how he did it.

I think that was a really good influence to my life in general. And I try to from what I’ve learned and those lessons are for life. The second one, like I said, the guy disappeared, but I sent him an email years ago and it just bounced back, trying to just thank him, but I can’t find him on social media or anything now, which is really strange. He was named Scott Koga and there were lessons that he taught us as a manager from the retreats and business meetings that we had that I still use today.

Not only my business, but I also use for clients that I use for my family life of how to work with people in different aspects and the disc profiles and different aspects of how to identify people, how to properly work with them so that they can be the best that they can be. And it’s been it’s sad that he’s disappeared out of my life at the same time.

Yeah, he had other goals that he wanted to accomplish. For what he taught me, made me a better advisor. He made me a better, business owner. He made me a better husband and made me a better father. And I greatly do appreciate that. The last one, and I don’t think anybody can get away with not saying this, is their significant other and my wife, Rebecca, she’s put up with me for 24 years.

Hey, because, that’s hard, as a business owner. You’re going to come home on a regular basis and you’re going to be beat up. You’re going to be stressed out. You’re going to have hard days. You can have good days. But if you don’t have that person at home or somebody in your life sitting there holding you up or reminding you that just like financial planning, it’s not about the short term peaks and valleys that you can go through.

It’s about the long-term goal that you want to accomplish. So then I can just support you in that timeframe. I told her I wasn’t gonna get engaged until I was could financially support her. I wasn’t gonna have kids until I could financially support them. And because of that, she put her life on hold.

She did, a lot of things and, 24 years later, we’re going strong with 22 wonderful kids. And it’s nice to have known that. Hey, we built a really successful firm. Knowing that she was behind me the entire time. I’m able to bounce ideas off her because she’s, moving up with Old National Bank.

And I can say, hey, what’s the corporate world really doing for this or that? Yeah. Which is cool.

Coach Tim Campsall: It is so important to have that foundation and that support. I’m so happy for you that you’ve you have had Rebecca in your life to, to help you through that because you’re right.

The business owner journey can be. A little bit rocky at times, right? There’s the peaks and the valleys or the roller coaster ride. Yeah, having that support and that strength and that, that rock at home to, to be able to lean on and prop us up and, tell us that it’s going to be okay.

And, sometimes when we don’t believe it ourself being able to have, someone else speak that truth into us. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

Mike Dickerson: Tim, think of it the other way. If you came home and someone was like, you just had a horrible day and someone’s Oh man, that stinks. You should just quit.

Yeah. Like I’ve seen multiple financial advisors. Fail because they did not have the support of somebody behind them because running a business is hard. Yeah. You need someone to sit there and say, sometimes you need someone to sit there and say, suck it up. Yeah. Go do your job. Be better.

Get to your final goal.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah, we don’t want somebody to tell us we should quit because here are times where we’re already thinking that we should quit, right?

As we think about the next one to three years, Mike, what would you say is your number one priority or the biggest challenge that you see in achieving your goals?

Mike Dickerson: Right now I’ve created a firm where we’re creating that team environment where things are, people are falling into the right roles and we’ll try and put people in those roles that they can meet the needs that we have from the customer service to the administrative side. So the next couple years, my goal is to hire a couple of junior advisors and start them on the path that I’ve gone on.

I think we’ve grown to a level where we’re comfortable and we’re doing well. And now we just need to fit those pieces in as a business owner. You want to get to a point as you teach your clients. I’m sure. Working on your business and you’re not, don’t want to be focused on the day to day activities.

You want to just do what you’re really good at. I’m really good at meeting with clients and telling them what to do. And my paperwork and stuff like that, I let somebody else do. So I want to get to a point where, cause things happen eventually end up back in the thick of things.

And, you want to get to a point where you’re doing less for the business and just working with what you do well. And so by hiring a couple of junior advisors in the next couple of years, I think that’ll fill in all the pieces that we need to be successful in the next 20, 30 years.

Coach Tim Campsall: I love what you’re saying about focusing on the things that you’re great at and delegating the things that you aren’t.

Cause, when we’re a new business owner, we have to do everything. And it’s just the inevitableness of starting a business from scratch. But then as we get into it there are things that aren’t worth Our time spending on, right? So one of the things we have our clients do is map out, right?

 What’s your worth to the organization? And so an easy way to do that for folks listening is take your annual revenue and divide by 2000 hours. And that gives you your hourly worth. So if you’re a 500, 000 business, your hourly worth is 250 million dollar business, it’s 500. So then you look at, all right, why am I doing all these 20, 25, 50 an hour jobs that I should be delegating so that I can be working on, the big opportunities.

Mike Dickerson: Yep. That’s exactly right. If you divide it and you’re like, why am I filling out this paperwork when somebody else can do it? Or when I could simply, let somebody else do it and I can go to my kid’s soccer game. Sure. Or, enjoy what I’ve built over time. So you want to make sure that you’re doing what is going to.

Benefit the firm the most.

Coach Tim Campsall: Absolutely. And having those, I, again, I like that, the hiring, the junior people says they can grow up and over time take on more and more so that, I’ve had clients who haven’t taken vacation in 12 years. And that’s no way to, to live life, business should give us more life. We shouldn’t be living to work.

Mike Dickerson: Yep. That’s exactly right.

Coach Tim Campsall: Hey, last question here, Mike, Jim Rohn an amazing business guru says that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with. So similar to what you were saying earlier about if, if you’re the smartest person in the room.

So as you think about Jim’s quote, what advice would you have for business owners who are trying to do it on their own and not inviting others into their business? Into their world to help them.

Mike Dickerson: Do the opposite. Invite others into the world to help you. I think as a business owner, you have to constantly learn.

If you’re starting out, you have to work harder than everybody. You have to learn more than everybody. Later on in life, you need to make sure you’re getting the education to make sure that you’re the top of your field. But you constantly need to learn to be a business. So not only being a financial planner but also being a business owner and listening to others that are business owners on a regular basis listen to webinars, using a coach making sure that people around you are telling you what you need to be to tweak the little things in your life that can make a big difference over five or 10 years.

It’s amazing. Like the tiniest little change that you can make. Can make significant differences in five or 10 or 15 years. Yes. And so definitely put the people in your life so that you’re not the smartest person in the room and that you’re going out and getting the advice that you need because business also changes.

So what you learn this year and what will. You benefit you will be completely different in two years and completely different in five years with the changes in technology and the changes in your own industry. So you have to constantly be learning and reading and listening to coaches and whatever you can do to get better so that you’re not the one falling behind like you mentioned before.

Coach Tim Campsall: I like the dual approach. So you talked both about continuing to evolve and become better at your specific industry. So your art or your craft or your trade, but then also you talked about becoming a better business owner. Give a little bit more context to how do you balance the two?

Mike Dickerson: That’s where the coach comes in.

Coach Tim Campsall: Fair enough. Yeah.

Mike Dickerson: No. I love learning. I really do. I love listening to webinars on how to do things. I love listening to different topics in financial planning. It’s, those are the things I’ll, I like to learn because I can help clients more. I like being a financial planner.

As a business owner, those are things you have to make yourself do. You have to make yourself learn so that you’re running the things properly for the long term so that things can improve over one, three years, five years. So your work life lifestyle balance is, better. So you’re working less in your business and more, on your business how to run the business is really important.

And, I like learning it. But being really good at a financial planner, like it’s a hard balance. I’ll tell you that. Cause you want to do the financial planning side and at the same time, you still have to be a good business owner.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s a natural challenge because most of us who have gone into business for ourself did so because we love.

the thing that we’re doing, right? Whether that’s financial planning or coaching or being an electrician or a plumber or a doctor, right? That’s our passion. That’s, and so the running the business side isn’t necessarily why we became a business owner, but it’s certainly critically important to run a healthy, business that can deliver profit and sustain itself.

And I like what you said earlier, if we look at making an adjustment a 1 percent or a 5 percent improvement in a hundred different areas, that’s a whole lot easier than trying to make a, a 50 percent improvement in one area, though, that long term benefit that you spoke of, continuously making tweaks and adjustments.

And then there’s that long term benefit of those.

Mike Dickerson: As you can tell, I’m a financial planner.

Coach Tim Campsall: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, right? You’re diversifying your efforts. Same thing that we coach our clients. I love it. Hey, Mike, it sounds like you’ve been blessed with some incredible people. Who have been part of your journey? If they were all on the show today, what would you wanna say to them?

Mike Dickerson: Thank you. Real simple. From some of the past employees, current employees, my family people have trained me and coached me over the years. I would not be in this industry for 24 years and have a. Pretty successful firm without you. I greatly appreciate every single one of you. And I remember hiring my first employee and somebody told me, Hey, you, you hire your first employee and you’ll grow this much.

And it, it was substantial and it was true. And I greatly appreciate all the advice I’ve gotten over the years. I greatly appreciate all the people who have helped me. This point, we’ve we built a great successful firm. We’re trying to keep going and it could not imagine 15 years ago being in the position that I am right now, especially because, 15, I guess a little over 15 years ago, I was, with a company and I went independent.

So all the goals and dreams I’ve ever had. I couldn’t even think of 15, 20 years ago, and, now to see where I am, it’s nice to, people always focus on, what do I do right now to improve, later, but sometimes you need to appreciate what, where you are right now and be like, man, 15, 20 years ago, I couldn’t have, this is what I ideally wanted and so sometimes you have to enjoy it too.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yes, absolutely. It’s so important to enjoy the day to day and be have gratitude for all the things that have happened. The mistake that we can make is focus on all the negatives and get paralyzed by the negatives. I just love your philosophy and your outlook and your perspective of, things are great and they’re going to get better and we’re going to keep improving.

Awesome. Mike it was awesome to have you on the show today. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you. Really appreciate the opportunity to chat and learn from you.

Mike Dickerson: Awesome, Tim. I greatly appreciate it. We’ll talk to you soon.

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