This week, the hosts of Lead. Empower. Grow. at First Financial Security, Inc. sat down with Senior Vice President Paula Duncan to talk about sharing financial solutions and opportunities with the families who need them. Before Paula began her 15-year career with FFS, she worked many different types of jobs, from handwriting airline tickets as a travel agent to some old-school podcasting experience in radio advertising. We spoke about the ever-evolving nature of business, the balance of technology and people skills and more.
See below for an excerpt of our conversation — you can listen to the full episode here.
Paula, what did you do before joining FFS?
Wow, how far back, right? Infancy is a little early — we won’t go that far — but I will tell you that my first career was in travel and tourism. Technology really took that career away from me. I mean, it was way back when you had to handwrite airline tickets and make phone calls to set reservations and all that. Business is ever-evolving, and we have to continue to evolve with it. There’s always a new chapter, so keep pivoting.
After that, I did a little bit of radio advertising, which was a lot of fun. I found that I really enjoyed that creative space. To be able to take someone’s story and paint it as a picture through words? That was really, really fun.
I got involved with FFS after I found myself in the financial arena of the automotive industry. I had no life there. I had traded my soul for dollars. I was working 65 hours a week, sometimes six days a week. Then, a catastrophe happened in my family: my dad was diagnosed with cancer.
During that process, I really started doing some soul searching. What good is all this money if I can’t be with the ones I love? I was asking all these questions of myself when an individual came into our dealership and shared with me the FFS opportunity. The rest, as they say, is history.
What was it that sold you on the FFS opportunity?
Well, I had no experience in the industry, but I knew that if I stayed doing what I was doing, I was not going to be able to take care of my family long-term. When I say “long-term,” I mean generationally.
My dad was always an entrepreneur — made millions of dollars while he was working — but nobody was ever talking to him about how to protect those assets and how to land the plane, if you will. So, protecting financial futures hit home for me. I said, “If I don’t learn what this gentleman can teach me, I’m a fool.” I mean, I really said that to my husband. I said, “I’m a fool If I don’t take this knowledge and try to learn something from it.”
I grew up in California, raised by a businessman, but my grandparents were farmers in Kansas and Missouri. I used to spend summers on the farm and winters at school in the city, so I had a very balanced type of upbringing. I was taught very early about seedtime and harvest — that you have to take time and care for things to have them grow, not just use them and throw them out and get something new.
That whole psychology has been bred in me. That’s something that I try to bring to the table when I’m teaching other people to be successful in this industry. You really want to attract people who have that same kind of mindset, because then you’ll be unstoppable. We are in such an instantaneous world, we expect things to happen just like that. Well, this is an industry that will both support you today and create long-term legacy savings for the future. That was it for me. That’s what I was looking for.
Was it hard to adjust to technological change?
Yes and no — we have so much technology today that makes our businesses easier. FFS is a totally different company today than it was when I started. We used to do paper applications, we would have to mail things in, we would make photocopies — it slowed things down. When the technology does come in, instead of being afraid of it, I want to embrace it. Put those systems in place to ultimately help more people.
Those are great tools, but I’m also kind of old school. My personal opinion? We need people skills. People skills cannot be replaced by technology. They have to work like two sides of a coin; they have to work together.
The technology assists in the work, but it doesn’t replace it. The work is still the conversation. One conversation that leads to another and then another. You have to be able to connect with people, do annual reviews, ask for referrals, put your face out there, get yourself in your community as a connector, and learn to collaborate with other industries that can refer business back and forth.
People in this kind of industry typically have big hearts anyway. Otherwise, they wouldn’t get involved here. I mean, there’s amazing income potential here, unlike a lot of other industries, but at the same time, we have an opportunity here to create income and lifestyle change for people.
Listen to our full conversation with Paula Duncan for more valuable insight into running your own business.
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