Be Your Best

Personal and Professional Success: Start with a Vision

By Leila Martin

Grab markers, tape, and science-fair poster board: it’s time to find your vision.

Vision planning is a key component to professional and personal success, according to Tony Lopez, a financial planner with MassMutual Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. His success started with a vision rooted in taking care of people: clients, definitely, and employees, of course, following the example set by his father, a Latino small business owner. But Lopez also takes care of himself, and encourages all who work with him to do the same.

“The way we run our business is the exact opposite of how most agencies do it,” Lopez said in an interview. “I’m very proud of the fact that I don’t micromanage. I don’t know how many dials my advisors are making; I don’t know how many appointments they have. I’m more concerned with their personal growth and goals. If you take care of your personal goals and put yourself first, business follows.”

Lead with a Vision

Lopez puts a lot of stock in vision planning. In fact, one of the first things his team did was get together and lay out 1-year and 3-year vision boards, plans that encompassed goals for both professional and – and this is key for Lopez – personal growth.

“For some people that might mean reading more,” Lopez said; “for others it’s spirituality, or becoming a more present parent.” And he’s quick to admit that sharing goals like this in a group can be intimidating, because it requires everyone to get vulnerable, to face the fear that someone might say it’s ridiculous or impossible.

“But when you share your vision in an environment that’s supportive and encouraging,” Lopez said, “that’s where I think miracles happen. We stare at our goals every day and we believe in the law of attraction. We talk about things we’re attracting in our lives and keep it a fun, positive, safe work environment.”

Lopez’s own vision is an example of this marriage of personal and professional achievement. “When you live in the Bay Area,” he said, “housing is absurd. In my vision, I said ‘I want to live in a two-bedroom apartment in Palo Alto.’” It might sound unrealistic, but within months after stating his vision, a highly-paid employee in his office got a job elsewhere. Recouped salary savings from that departure, plus growth in business, suddenly made that dream apartment affordable.

“With vision planning,” Lopez continued, “you don’t worry about the how or the how you’ll pay for it. Pretend it already happened and it’ll happen.”

Taking Care of Clients, the Multicultural Connection

Taking care of business starts, in Lopez’s view, with taking care of yourself. But taking care of clients is a big part of it too, a value he learned at an early age.

As immigrants and small business owners from Mexico, Lopez’s parents had a hard time finding anyone they could trust or felt comfortable talking finances with. Plus, with English as a second language, even if they could find someone trustworthy, they ran the risk of not being able to clearly convey what their needs and interests were.

Lopez strives to meet this need for his own Latino clients. It starts with being able to speak to them in their native language, but it also means putting together a team they feel comfortable working with. When he started out as an advisor, he did his best to make sure he could refer his Latino clients to Latino CPAs and estate attorneys. Working together, the team could communicate clearly with each other and with the client.

“People like working with people who look like themselves,” Lopez said, “who believe in what they believe in. That makes business a lot stickier. Clients wouldn’t leave me because they knew there’s this whole package.”

Helping Advisors Overcome Top 3 Challenges

These days, Lopez spends only about 10 percent of his time working with small business owners. The rest of is spent in helping his sales teams make their business more productive.

There are three big challenges, Lopez said, that advisors struggle with: administrative stuff, the technical side of inputting information into systems, and prospecting.

“Advisors are usually brilliant at talking to people and marketing themselves,” said Lopez, “but they’re not necessarily great at filling out applications or inputting financial information into software once they’ve collected it from their clients. And they know that if they get in front of more people they’ll be more successful, but it’s not always clear how best to do that.”

Lopez addresses these problems by, again, making it all about people – in this case, partnering with the right ones. He has an admin who fills out most of the applications, and partners who deal with the data-entry side of things, leaving his advisors free to do what they do best: advise. He also partnered up with group health insurance brokers and other businesses that help his advisors generate leads across partnerships.

Focus on the Future

There’s a fourth challenge unique to Lopez’s group: their youth. Almost everyone in Lopez’s office is a millennial. It may be this condition, though, that helps them focus on visions that shape the future and generate personal and professional success.

“The industry can be very archaic,” Lopez said. “It’s been doing things that have worked for people in the past, so there’s a habit of looking at what made people successful yesterday. But we want to focus on what’s going to generate success in the future.”


The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own, and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.