Dotty Scott
Hello, everybody, and welcome to Business Divas. This is Hello Hump Day, and we are here with Miss Deborah Morrison. Deborah Morrison is a transformational and TEDx speaker, and is now a financial coach for women navigating finances. who sold her fee-only fiduciary financial planning and asset management company, which she founded, and in which she worked for 42 years. Deborah has been featured on CNN, ABC, MSD, Metro Money, and many more. She’s a certified grief coach and Amazon best-selling author of My Husband Died, and Now What? And A Widow’s Guide to Grief and Recovery and Smart Financial Decisions. Welcome, Deborah, how are you today?

Debra Morrison
Thanks, Dotty. I’m real pleased to be with you, and let’s get right to it.

Dotty Scott
Yes, I have known you for probably 10 or 15 years. I have always wondered how it is that you became self-employed? Can you share a little bit of your journey?

Debra Morrison
Yeah, it was actually a very, very quick one. I was president of my senior class in college, and I had interviewed and interviewed and interviewed because I had kind of boasted like, “I’m going to have a job when I walk the aisle.” Well, when I walked the aisle, I didn’t have a job, and I applied to a certain insurance mega company to be an underwriter. Now we look back at my personality, and you think that was a horrible mismatch, like the only thing worse might have been an accident, but it just sounded fun and sexy to me, so I applied to be an underwriter. I was denied. I didn’t have the right degree. So I then took a position with that same company as a claims examiner, because after all, I did need a job. So I went on the job the first day, and I had this little desk, and I looked to my left, and there was a woman that was probably, you know, 60. She had a pile on her desk, Dotty, this high, it was incredibly high, and on the other side, you could hardly see her.

Dotty Scott
A pile of papers?

Debra Morrison
Papers, files, the whole thing, yeah. Then I looked over here on my right, and there’s a guy who couldn’t be 23-24 years old, and his desk was clean as a whistle. I go over to her and I said, “Anne, how long have you been with this company?” And she said, “28 years,” and I said, “How many raises Have you gotten?” She said four.

Dotty Scott
That doesn’t sound good.

Debra Morrison
No, no, it was not good at all. Then they at lunch, the company’s newsletter came out, and it said that the position of underwriter was given to Bob Mcgillicuddy with an MBA Business Administration degree. Bachelor Science and Business essentially was my degree,

Dotty Scott
Ah.

Debra Morrison
I said to myself, “Self, you have a choice, the first half day in the corporate world, and you can file for a sex discrimination suit. Or you can just shake the dust from your feet and move on.” I put in my resignation after being on the job like four and a half hours. It was a hysterical, hysterical. I said, “Do you want me to you know, work out a couple days?” (Because you generally don’t just quit.) But they were like, “No, not so much.” So I quit and I had no job. Well, the next day, I got a call from John Hancock, as it turned out, and they said, “I don’t know what happened to your test results. Initially they were deep sixed in somebody’s desk. We just found them they were off the charts, we’d love to talk with you,” and I took that interview. I originally had applied with them because they were the only big huge financial company – I went to a small college – Morgan Stanley and the Wall Street firms weren’t coming to my college. So insurance companies were coming to my college, and this insurance company, John Hancock, at the time, was the only major insurance company that had a wholly owned subsidiary, CEO-ed by a woman. They had a wholly owned subsidiary, that was about investments, and that was my true love. That’s why I applied with them.

Dotty Scott
Can you tell me what year this is?

Debra Morrison
Oh, yeah. 1978. Some of you weren’t even born. I said, “Wow, yeah, I really love investments.” And they said, “Not so fast. Why don’t you sell life insurance first?” And I was like, “I was raised on a little humble 100 acre farm. I’ve heard of life insurance, but what is it?” And they describe the product to me, Dotty, and I just sat there like, jaw agape, right, like. “Oh, my heart, this product keeps families together, keeps businesses together.” I took the position, and I bolted it out of the gate. I sold life insurance like there was no tomorrow, I led the agency in my first year. I was 23 years old.

Yay. I didn’t even know anything about life insurance.

I did. So I had this beautiful wooden rosewood attache in one hand, and a towel to wipe the wet behind my ears in the other hand. At the time, I had one gray hair, and I pulled it completely to the front, you know, almost pasting it, right? That was just my beginning, which was really interesting. Really interesting.

Dotty Scott
Awesome. So then, how did you graduate from working at John Hancock, right?

Debra Morrison
Yes.

Dotty Scott
…to owning your own company. That’s a huge jump.

Debra Morrison
Yes, yes, it is. It is a funny story actually. I was dressed up – three piece suits and so forth – and heels, and, and I was driving to an appointment in Central Pennsylvania. It was snowing to beat the band and my car stopped. So I’m pushing my car through this intersection in high heels, a three-piece suit, a winter coat, and like one guy comes up and helps me. I go into the office the next day – I don’t even know how I got there – and I said, “You know, my car died.” My my office mate, who is a retired Navy, Colonel – white wavy hair – he said, “Let’s go down to the BMW place, and I said, “What’s BMW?” Yeah, it was so crazy! So we went down, and I got like, enthralled with this BMW. I came back and I told my sales manager, I said, “I bought a BMW,” and he was ecstatic. He was pushing me out the door, because it was like the size of a mortgage payment, so he knew I would have to sell.

Then I went into his office after the first year, and I said, “Now let’s talk about investments.” So I began doing the licensure for investments. There were a couple of levels, and there was a series six, which you could sell in annuities and mutual funds. Then there was a series seven, and you could sell stocks. I thought, “Why do the series six?” I went right into the series seven, everybody was like, “Don’t do that. It’s really hard,” and I studied and studied, and I got it. Then I began really buckling down to know and learn about investments, and then tax advantaged investments. There was the progression, because I knew full well that the integration of the income taxes was really important. So I’d go to people’s houses that were pretty high net worth, and I would say, “You know, I’ve got this tax advantaged investment along with the life insurance.” and and I would ask them, “Let’s see your tax return.” They were like, “We never had a life insurance agent ask us to see our tax return.” I said, “Yes, but I’m not just the life insurance person.” So then I progressed to…planning was pretty new in the day…and there was an area realtor who was really huge, and h then decided to smush a planning organization with his realty organization.

So then I did a bunch of speaking called Silver Citizens, and people that were like going into retirement and moving in, and I would come and talk with them about tax advantaged investments and how they could buy a bigger house than what they thought they could afford. The realtors were loving me because I was talking about action for the mortgage interest, right? So I had no problem having clients. Then I progressed to a life insurance company, Lincoln National. It peeled off of that planning firm. The general agent who is a good friend of mine, he said, “You know, why don’t you come over to our agency”? (Lincoln National Agency), and he said, “I’d love to have you here.” I just I thought about it, and he said, “Uh, because you know, we really need good, good energy.” I did have good energy. Then I said very swiftly, “You know, Bill, I would be coming in and bringing my equities, sales business and all the renewals.” (Because in the day, there was no way you were … it was all commission.) “I would be bringing that into your operation under an equity sales manager, whom I have my fourth year commissions, my fourth year renewals would supersede his first year commissions by probably 10 to one, and I’m just not doing that. I’m not giving my override to a person that’s not producing.” Not that I didn’t like the guy, but he didn’t have any ingenuity.

Bill immediately said, “If you could have the equities director position, would you?” I said, “Tomorrow morning.” So I went over, and they were producing a little bit of equity business – they were about 27-28 reps – and I completely shifted the whole thing around to storylines. When wholesalers came in and wanted us to sell their mutual funds, I said, “Tell me a story about your international investment company. Who’s sending researchers over to it to Germany to find out the best Smith company in Germany, tell me that story.” Because that’s what my people can go to their clients and tell. And that’s what they did, and the production went 300% in the first six months.

Dotty Scott
Wow!

Debra Morrison
It’s just a difference in perspective. I think that really is the underlying, foundation of entrepreneurship, right? So from there, I went completely out on my own. Then for four years, I was a partner in a billion dollar firm, and then ended up being not such a great choice on my part. I immediately when I realized that I said, “Okay, I can either stop now, quit now, and go back to self-employment, or I can see what I can learn here because a different environment.” I chose to see what I could learn for years, learned a lot, and then went on, and from there on just completely self-employed. Then in 1999, went fee-only, which I felt was the best work for me, because I was dealing with some high-monied people, and I never wanted a person to say or think, “What’s in this for you Debra?” You know, because you could land a $50,000 commission easily right? So I went fee-only, which meant saying goodbye to all of those renewal commissions. It was a pretty big gulp. Right? So when people say, “Yeah, my friend at Merrill Lynch, she’s just like you.” I’m like, “I’m not so much.”

Dotty Scott
Probably not.

Debra Morrison
So it’s just been an interesting progression. I’m just too incorrigible to be employable, right? I’m just too type A squared. My passion drives me to produce and to communicate with people in a way, that’s far bigger than any salary package.

Dotty Scott
Right. Right. Now, in all the time that I’ve known you, every time we talk about something of any subject, I always learn something from you, because you have the best little tidbits. Would you like to share any self-employment tidbits that you have gained along the way?

Debra Morrison
I’d love it. Let’s talk about entrepreneurship, and if you’re there, God love you. If you’re not there, maybe you come into entrepreneurship, but you don’t want a side hustle. It grows, and you start to see that there’s a whole lot more energy that you’re putting into the side hustle. So you’ll feed and nurture that until it is able to sustain you. I want you to know one thing, everyone that’s considering entrepreneurship, and those that are are entrepreneurs: This is different than not-for-profit.

Dotty Scott
Yes.

Debra Morrison
We are for-profit as far as the tax code is concerned. So the idea of profiting, actually selling, meeting our costs – forgetting profit – just meeting our costs, is something that is an anathema to far too many entrepreneurs. I really got around that curve very early in life. I sat in church quite a lot. We were Christian Fundamentalist: Three times on Sunday, two times on Wednesday – a lot of time in church. I sat there as a young girl, and I thought, “That pastor is selling. He’s selling. He’s selling his message.” Right? You go to the grocery store, and we put all of our things in the basket. Whether we have someone help us or we self-checkout, somehow they’re asking us for money at the end.

Dotty Scott
Yep.

Debra Morrison
That’s what’s expected. So if and when people want things badly enough, they expect to pay for it. If they want things really badly, or their situation is really dire, they’ll pay a lot. So what I like to do is reset our minds, right? Because once our minds are focused, and I almost look like blinders on a horse when the horse is about to race. We don’t want any periphery. We just want to get down to what’s our next: How many calls do we make to get an appointment? How many appointments do we have to make to get a sale? We check off those No’s because each No is a closer to Yes. I dare each of us as entrepreneurs, to when someone wants to be our client – that may be not a huge client or a completely premier client – but if it’s a borderline person, and they’re kind of like testing the waters, I would say, “I love that Dotty, and based on the conversation we’ve had, I think that what I offer could be a tremendous value. I am booked right now, and I have people on a waitlist, but I’d happy to take you come June 1, so that we’ll be in touch before then.” You know, they will break the door. “No, no, no, surely you can’t. You can’t take me in?” All you have to say is, “Now the door’s shut.” Somehow people figure out a way that they need in that door. It’s FOMO. It’s scarcity principle, whatever.

Dotty Scott
Yep, I’ve used that one.

Debra Morrison
Of course. The other thing that I learned early on…and I was very early…you know, 23 years selling life insurance…well, I bought the BMW, and what color did I buy? Anthracite, the darkest, gray, beautiful luster car because it made me look 40 years old when I walked out of it. So I drive to this guy’s house, and he hands me a check for $100,000 for a mutual fund investment. I took that check from him, like it was the fourth one I’d taken that day. I go to the car completely at ease, completely cool. I get the car started, and back out. I get down two streets away, pulled over, and I started shaking like a leaf like I had never held a check for $100,000! What I suggest that we do is think of your highest price product or service. Multiply that times 10, and imagine me or any client prospect coming up to you and saying, “I’ll take that.” I want you to look in the mirror, as you say, “Thank you. What credit card will you use?” I want you to look in the mirror and make sure that you’re not clenching.

Dotty Scott
Right.

Debra Morrison
To get comfortable with those dollars, add a zero.

Dotty Scott
Because we love zeros.

Debra Morrison
Love zeros! It’s really about igniting or reigniting our passion. Whatever it is we’re doing – product sales, a combination – if we’re excited about it, it will be contagious. I’ve often said, you know, what I have is interesting to me. I developed it because of so many people I saw in life that were…and I and I often say it breaks my heart to see people spending and wasting valuable time. Right? When they don’t have to. It breaks my heart to see people doing the same routine over and over, hoping and praying for a different result. So I say save your hope and your prayer for life’s big problems, illness, accidents, bad diagnosis, these tragedies. Let’s do the planning upfront, and say what we have is valuable, else we wouldn’t have started doing it. We need to find the people for whom their situation is our exact ideal client.

Dotty Scott
Yes.

Debra Morrison
Sometimes we have to say, “This isn’t for everyone.” You have a choice. Rather than our thinking that our choices, or the choice to not buy has no consequence…we have to be ready with the consequence. You have a choice: You can risk further upset and further family disarray. You can risk trying to juggle which bill you’re going to pay. You can risk not knowing if your retirement account is going to last as long as you will. You can risk the declination of the health of you or your family or friend. You can risk all those things. Yet, why? When this solution has worked for so many people. I’m gonna be happy to give you referrals and references for people who were just as dubious as you, because it’s rather unique, I want to say. I came into this space, filling this unique need or maybe this pedestrian need in a unique way. That is going to pique some interest because you know as I know, this isn’t for everybody. You know that there are toll roads in almost every state, certainly in New Jersey. Toll roads, the turnpike, the Guard’s Department, and then they were through town. Take your pick.

Dotty Scott
Yep, and I have noticed that every business out there has clients that they don’t need. You know what I mean? Because your business is not for everybody, and you need to find the right people. So that is an awesome tip.

Debra Morrison
Yeah, I mean selling life insurance…it was the joke was anybody could fog a mirror because they’d have to pass the medical, right? So they have to fog a mirror. So that was pretty funny yet, ultimately, I was asked this on live television on CNN, across from Stuart Varney. “Deborah, what’s your best asset?” And it’s ironic, Debra Morrison, certified financial planner, and the question took me so by surprise. It was one of those instant like, “Oh, God, give me the answer.” Sure enough, God gave me the words and I said, “Stuart, I have two assets in life. Time and health.” I thought he was going to fall off the producer chair, “Oh, my heart, we have a certified financial planner talking about time and health! I got to take a station break.” He did. I get it. He was sweating, and I said, “You know, really, I have varied clients and friends with groups of zeros, and they would trade most of those for another dance with their partner, another kiss, another day, a hike, a camping trip, a wedding.”

So if we get those priorities right, we don’t have time to deal with anybody that can fog a mirror, because we want people that their problem is so unique and so palpable, they’ve explained it. So we’re gonna develop the relationship, we’re all about that. Then we’re gonna say, “Dotty you know, based on the conversation we’ve had, it feels like, and if I heard you correctly, you have this income goal, and you’ve just been able to move into a larger house, but you want to furnish it or you’ve gotten downsized, so this is the crunch, and this is the bogey, you have to meet.” You get the buy in as you are recanting the conversation. What are you doing the entire time?

Dotty Scott
Yep, thinking about that whole thing.

Debra Morrison
You’re shaking your head? Yes. Maybe not quite as obvious as I did just to get everyone’s attention, but you’re just nodding.

Dotty Scott
Yeah.

Debra Morrison
As soon as you say yes, and I say yes, and pretty soon…nobody’s breaking anybody’s arm. I am coming to the rescue with my product and sales and services that is going to give you relief, maybe life itself or extended life or happiness in the time you have left. So when I sold life insurance plenty of people said no, and I got real smart after a while. I had it all typed out back in the day – you know, typing on typewriter…it really dated myself. I had a little sheet of white paper, and I had the person’s name there. “I so and so realize that Deborah Morrison has proposed – and I had a blank there because I didn’t know what the amount of insurance that I was guessing that they should have – blank of insurance. I’m choosing not to buy it at this time,” and I had the date filled in, and I had them sign it. So I said, “Fine? Well, it’s a free country. It’s fine, but you know, because my manager really wants to know what I’ve been up to, I just need you to know that I’ve proposed this, and you’ve decided against it. So if youjust sign here, I’ll take it back to my manager and everything will be fine.”

Well, people look at this thing: “I refuse to take this life insurance agent’s recommendation.” I think like maybe one person signed it in all of the time. They’re like, “Okay, I’ll buy it,” because they hadn’t thought about the cart, the consequence of their not buying. It’s not just saying, “Okay, I want to get this life insurance agent off my kitchen table and her elbow off my kitchen table and get her out of here.” It’s like, “Wait a minute! You told me that if you died yesterday, and you’re making $50,000 a year you wanted buy your family four years of recovery time, of readjustment time. 50 times four is $200,000. If you have a mortgage, another $200,000, $400,000 term insurance, are there any questions?”

Dotty Scott
So if I’m hearing you, right, what you basically just said was no matter what your business is, no matter what you’re selling, if you have somebody that’s on the fence, that you need to be able to tell them the consequences of not using your service or product, so that they’re really thinking about whether they need it or not.

Debra Morrison
Yeah.

Dotty Scott
That’s, that’s genius.

Debra Morrison
Well, it’s a little ballsy I have to say, pardon the French, but the fact is, I I realized that some people would just push it aside, I suspect. By this point in the conversation now, I’ve probably been talking with them 45 minutes, an hour. We’ve exchanged stuff. He trusted me up until third base. It’s just they can’t round third base and pull the trigger. So I have failed them somehow that they’re still sitting on third base. So this basically gives them an opportunity to kind of see in black and white, “Wow, this professional…” I have degrees and so forth…that’s the other thing I knew as a young woman – in an old white male’s field – I had to have a lot of initials. So I got the Certified Financial Planner; I got the series seven, screw the series six…went right to series seven. Then I got my Certified Financial Planner designation, not that I learned a whole lot because I crammed for that course, I just needed the initials.

Dotty Scott
Right

Debra Morrison
The course was supposed to be three years, and it was six sections at the time. I asked my sales manager, I said, “You know, does anybody double up, you know, take one course in the morning, the test the morning and one course in the afternoon, the test in the afternoon?” And he goes, “I’ve never heard of that,” and I said, “Well, I’m going to do it.”

Dotty Scott
Well you are a groundbreaker.

Debra Morrison
I am? I took the answers because they were always in the back. I cut them out, and literally Elmer’s glued or taped them into the book, and, and three days before the exam – without exaggeration – three days before the exam, I spent an hour and a half on one section, so it was tax estate planning, insurance, investments, etc. Six levels, and I read through all the questions and the answers all the questions and the answers all the questions in the answers. I put that aside for a day and a half. The next day and a half before the Saturday exam, I did the other level, and I got through all six levels, and in a year and a half I had my CFP…never failed any of the tests. I don’t know if I learned as much as I might have, but I had the initials.

So if we’re up against systems, we need to figure out how to play the systems – how to reroute our game plan – so that we get our valuable product and service out there. If you don’t think your product is valuable, or your service is valuable, REDO IT. Pivot until you have something that you are bursting at the seams to convey to somebody else – just like if you went to a fantastic restaurant, and you say to your friends, “Hey, my gosh, go here,” but it’s much bigger than that because our products and services are typically transformational. Life changing.

Dotty Scott
Yep. And you know what, we’re almost out of time. You are a fascinating woman to listen to and learn from. I want to thank you for your time. Is there anything you wanted to offer?

Debra Morrison
Actually, thanks so much. I have one last little question that I learned from Dan Sullivan in the Strategic Coach. I was in his master’s program, and he devised the relationship factor question, and I invite you to write this down. You’ve had a conversation now with your prospect for a long time, however long. Then you say, and I’ll play with you, Dotty, “Dotty, you know…” and pretty much you kind of lean back. You’re not being pressured at all…you lean back and say, “Dotty, you know, let’s just imagine that you and I are sitting across from each other three years from now.”

Dotty Scott
Okay.

Debra Morrison
“It’s May 1st, 2024, and you hear the cadence. It’s not it’s not unintentional, I stopped.” You said, “Okay, I’m happy. You said, Okay,” and I say, “Tell me what needs to have happened for you, personally, professionally, over these past three years, for you to be happy with our relationship?”

Dotty Scott
Wow, that’s a big question, and it would require thought.

Debra Morrison
When I’m talking to a single person or a couple, they almost always say, “That’s a big question.” If it’s a couple, I say, “I want you to answer it, and almost plug your ears, and I want you to answer,” because they’re so often different. I want us as salespeople to listen to that and write down on your pad the exact words they say, “I want to put my kids through private school, I want to retire early.” When you write your follow-up letter or email to them, you say, “Bill, you said you wanted to retire early, and Sally, you said you wanted this and that and you send your child to private school.” When they hear their exact words, now they know you have listened, and that is so golden.

So golden. So yeah, I invite anybody to come to the Facebook group. It’s called Women Navigating Finances. It’s a public group. Chime in and sound off with questions. I’ll be happy to answer them. And then we of course, we have a paid group that we offer some exclusive benefits to, if you want to graduate into that. We are on a waitlist right now. We’re gonna probably open it in in May. So pop over to Facebook, join the Women Navigating Finances group, and I’ll be happy to welcome your questions in general. I’m not a financial advisor anymore, but I’m a financial coach, and I can kind of steer your financial car’s proverbial tire out away from the big deep potholes and towards navigating your finances, and that would please me very much.

Dotty Scott
Great. We’ll go ahead and put a link to that in the comments after our live session is over. I want to thank you for your time. For everybody out there next week, we will be having Raksha Joshi live with us. She is someone who has been in the corporate world for a very, very long time and has graduated to being self-employed as well. So we will learn all about what her process was. We’ll sign off for now. Thank you, Debra, and have an awesome day.

Debra Morrison
Thanks, Dotty, You too.