Russell McQuillan speaks with Jeff Lestz CEO and Co-Founder of GenistarPosted: November 25, 2009 | |
Since writing my last article about Genistar, the number of responses and questions raised from this both for and against the company have been flooding in.
Jeff Lestz, CEO and Co- Founder of Genistar takes the time to speak with me, to let people get to know the man behind Genistar and his vision for the future.
Name, age, etc
Jeffrey Lestz, aged 53
Where are you from?
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Where do you live now?
London since 2003
Are you married ? Any kids ?
I have a wife, Margo. We dated from the age of 16 and married at 19.We have been happily married for 34 years. No Children.
What was your first job?
I was an independent financial advisor in the USA. I started in November 1975.
What was the best job you ever had?
Working in financial services in the only full-time job I ever had and I love it!
What was the worst job you ever had?
I always like what I did even working part-time whilst at University. I always looked at each job as a learning experience, an opportunity to get knowledge and training.
What makes a good leader?
To me a good leader is ultimately judged by how many good leaders they produce and how many people they helped reach their goals. A good leader does not really care who gets the credit as long as the job is done.
Describe your typical day?
I rise early to exercise for 45 – 60 minutes – typically a 10 mile bike ride. I try to read or listen to something inspirational each day before getting started. I answer emails for 1 – 2 hours each day and am on the phone for 3 – 5 hours per day with our top associates and leaders, seeing how they are doing and coaching them in building their businesses. Another is spent with my PA covering any issues or projects that we are working on. Bob Safford, our other Co-CEO, and I try to talk daily about any issues we might have to address. I average between one and two conference calls per day on either product development, future planning or a motivational and training call with one of our leader’s team. I try to end every day by reading something educational and spend a nice dinner or walk with Margo to discuss our day.
Typically I am on the road travelling to our offices throughout the UK working with our leaders & meeting new associates.
What does Genistar do?
Genistar is a financial services company which prides itself on giving financial education. We help middle income families plan their future and help educate them to make the right decisions for themselves. I always like to say, we give people a PHD that stands for Proper Honest Direction in matters concerning their financial future.
How many people do you have in the UK? We have recruited 1700+ associates and about 500 of those are on the FSA register. Many of the others are still getting qualified.
What are your expansion plans?
We founded Genistar in July 2007 and are very focused on developing the UK over the next 5-10 years. As we develop leaders and grow our distribution system we would eventually like to expand into the rest of the EU. The future is very much dependent on how we do in the UK first. We do not want to expand into other countries before we are ready.
We have already had offers from people in other countries to bring our business model but we are very focused on the UK for now.
What’s the best thing about your job?
There are two things that get me up early in the morning. 1) We have a huge job educating people how they can be free financially. This is a real mission for us. 2) Seeing people come into the company who have desire and drive and succeed. I thrive on seeing other people succeed. It is exhilarating for me to see a school teacher or a nurse who has no previous experience in financial services go make extra income and really achieve their dreams.
Our people (clients and associates) are our most important assets.
What’s the worst thing about your job?
Seeing how easily most people give up in business before giving it real effort. It also hurts me to see people not applying themselves when I know they can succeed if they just committed themselves.
Why do you charge trainees £140 to set up?
The fee is to pay for their training manual, exam, competency training, the legal background checks (credit, terrorist and money laundering checks) and finally registration with the FSA. As we are in financial services, we have to be fully compliant. The Financial services is a highly regulated business. This is not a job; our representatives are effectively self employed and earn commission income. The fee is also a deterrent to people who aren’t really serious.
What percentage of people you recruit go onto make £1000 per month?
WE are totally transparent on this so, here are the numbers. 50% of the people who sign up, go on to complete their competency requirements. Out of this group 50% actually go onto make money in our business. For those who don’t make money, it’s because they choose not to go and see people and as a result they make no money. So, 25% go on to make money. The amount that 25% makes could be from £200 per month to several thousand pounds in a month. Last year our top associate made £104,000 in his first year. It really is dependent on your individual and team efforts. Also, it takes some people years to blossom and that is part of our leadership development system. It is like a health club. Many people get a membership but how many are committed enough to go and work out each day? The same disciplines are necessary in Genistar. It takes discipline to work 6-8 hours per week on top of your day job. We also find many people join us just to get the financial education and that is worth 10x more than the small fee they pay.
What’s your drop out percentage?
Those who follow through getting on the FSA register stay with us. I would say of this group less than 20% drop out. The difficulty is that you have to be self motivated. No one is breathing down your neck to hit targets.
Have you ever been investigated by the FSA? No. We have had some audits and just like all FSA registered companies we have to submit a report every 6 months and follow very strict procedures to stay in business.
Why do you try to recruit customers?
The opportunity to work with us is almost always presented to customers. The reason for this is that after most people do a financial game plan with us they have a need to make additional monies to fulfil what their goals and dreams are. We can offer them the opportunity to make £500-£1,000 per month for 6-8 hours per week. They are also really great cheerleaders of what we do because they just experienced firsthand how we were able to help them in their financial future.
Why is there no company background / info on your website?
Genistar incorporated in July 2007 and we got registered with the FSA in late October 2007. Our current website was put up in 2007 as a site to answer initial questions. Many businesses spend a lot of time on websites. We knew we had to launch the business with the most important asset we could get…..people.
We have been growing so fast that the website just wasn’t a key priority. Now that we have our systems in place we will get a fantastic site up. Obviously we still plan to keep our focus on people and serving both our clients and associates.
What’s the future for Genistar?
None of us have a crystal ball, but we are very optimistic about the future. We believe that by the year 2013 we will have 10,000 associates on the FSA register which is equal to the projection of what the entire IFA market will be. We feel we are at the right place at the right time. We know it will not be easy and we know there will be challenges just like life.
We have plans to expand into other product lines that save the consumer money as we build a dynamic distribution system.
Surely if your business is successful then you will recruit all your customers and have no one to sell to? That is what I said to our former company in the US and after more than 30 years they have less than 3% of the market. In the UK 25 years ago there were 250,000+ people selling financial services. Today there are fewer than 30,000 and it is projected to decrease to 10,000 or fewer by the year 2013. The population of the UK is about 60 million and it would take a lot to saturate that market! I have three things to say about this.1) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get every family in the UK educated about money, every home debt free and financially independent? 2) We would like Genistar to become the company which achieves that 3) If this happens then we will expand into South of Ireland, the rest of the EU, Asia, Africa …you get the idea.
What makes you different from other financial advisors?
Well, firstly we are not IFAs. Our business model deals with the average middle income family. We believe that if people are educated on finances they will be able to make the right choices. The problem is that most people in the financial industry do not want to take the time to teach people the basics. Once a consumer is educated, you have empowered them to make the right decisions with our associates guiding them. We believe that no one looks out for your own money like yourself, so understand it by becoming knowledgeable. It is all about education & empowerment.
We also use experts in their appropriate field and do not try to be an expert in every area ourselves. As an example, we have a mortgage broker with 20+ years who deals with the whole of market. We simply refer everyone to him and he gives people the guidance and advice they need. That way our associates can focus on prospecting and building a business. They are also confident that they can turn their clients over to an expert.
Why is this not a pyramid scheme?
Let’s first ask What is a Pyramid? (Not the ones in Egypt!)
A pyramid is where people get a fee for getting you to join a scheme and getting your money and once it goes through (for example) 50 people paying 1,000 pounds you get 10,000 pounds or some ridiculous figure. The pyramid collapses and the last ones paying in are left with losses and the scoundrels who started it are always the ones who make the money.
The only time that we make money is when a customer does business with us through a financial services transaction. Unlike pyramids, our people do not get compensated for recruiting. There is a part of our system whereby an experienced and qualified Appointed Representative can receive a management override for helping in the supervision of their team mates. This is often misunderstood as ‘multi-level’ but this has been a norm in the financial services industry for more than 100 years. Most companies increase compensation for supervision.
At Genistar, we have thought outside the box by giving our associates a chance to be compensated by helping to build the company together. They have the opportunity to build a team and participate financially by growing a team within a company. Their income depends on the success and profitability of their performance and the team’s performance, not the number of warm bodies that they recruit. Unlike many corporate jobs where you only get paid what the boss/owner says that you are worth, at Genistar we get paid based on measurable performance; but there are always some lazy people who won’t like that type of structure! Within most companies a person is rarely given the opportunity for advancement. At Genistar, we outline exactly what is necessary for promotion within the company. We want to develop leaders.We believe that without successors there is no success.
Finally in a pyramid you cannot pass the person who brought you in. In Genistar you can get passed by someone you recruited if you do not develop other leaders.
I hope this helps people to understand more about Genistar. We believe we have a great future.