Welcome to The Elite Advisor Blueprint – The Podcast for World-Class Financial Advisors. I’m Brad Johnson, VP of Advisor Development at Advisors Excel, and it’s my goal to distill the best ideas and advice from top thought leaders and apply it to the world of independent financial advising.
In today’s conversation, I’m speaking with Commander Kirk Lippold. Commander Kirk was the commanding officer of the USS Cole, a Navy warship attacked by Al-Qaeda 11 months before the events of September 11, 2001.
As financial advisors living through COVID-19, not only is it important to focus on the technical aspect of meeting with clients virtually, but also the mental side of dealing with the current pandemic. Asking ourselves questions like “What mindset is required to help us all navigate these interesting times?” Much of today’s conversation speaks directly to that. How to take action and lead our teams through some of the toughest challenges some of us have ever faced in life and in business.
Today, Commander Kirk Lippold joins the podcast to share his perspective on leadership during times of crisis and deconstructs decision making for you and your team.
Here are 3 of my big takeaways from this episode:
- #1: What happened on the day the USS Cole was attacked – the story behind it and the mental framework Commander Kirk Lippold leaned on to navigate a literal life-or-death situation for him and his crew. [7:00]
- #2: How to prioritize and act faster in a crisis – and why, as Commander Kirk Lippold puts it, “The wounded don’t matter if the ship sinks.” [11:17]
- #3: The Technology and tools that Commander Kirk Lippold has adopted to provide value to his clients and give virtual presentations during a time when in-person speaking engagements are currently impossible. [30:41]
“If you can’t save the ship, the wounded won’t matter.” – Commander Kirk Lippold
“If you can’t save the ship, the wounded won’t matter.” – Commander Kirk Lippold
- [5:34] Why a crisis requires you to dip into your deepest well of experience and make decisions based upon imperfect information.
- [7:24] What happened on the day the USS Cole was attacked – and how Commander Kirk Lippold navigated a literal life-or-death situation under extreme pressure.
- [15:26] How leaders can stay calm in times of crisis.
- [31:21] Technology that Commander Kirk Lippold has adopted to provide value to his clients and give presentations even though in-person speaking engagements are currently impossible.
- [39:33] The unique path Kirk Lippold took to become a naval commander.
- [43:28] Why it’s so important to let your team members learn and grow from their failures.
- [45:29] How mentorship helped Commander Kirk Lippold grow into a leader.
- [48:11] How to get team members to stay committed and engaged while working from home.
- [57:51] The difference between integrity and ethics – and what it really means to live a life of integrity
“He who will not risk cannot win.” – John Paul Jones
“He who will not risk cannot win.” – John Paul Jones
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Commander Kirk Lippold – Wikipedia
- Front Burner: Al Qaeda’s Attack on the USS Cole
- A Message to Garcia
- Strategic Coach
- Philip Stutz
- Dan Sullivan
Take the 1st Step to Building Your Ideal Practice: Apply for “Virtual Discovery Session“
For those of you that have interest in diving deeper or figuring out how you may be able to have our team help you implement many of the ideas shared on the show, my day job happens to be consulting financial advisors from all over the US on how to grow their business and design a practice that serves them, versus them serving it. Yes it’s possible to grow your business and work less, this is a model we’ve replicated over and over in markets all over the country… So, if you’d like to apply to see if it makes sense for us to have a 1-on-1 conversation on how to overcome what may be getting in your way, you can do that at bradleyjohnson.com/apply. It takes about 5 minutes to fill out the application so we can understand what your business looks like, what challenges you may be facing and how myself and my team may be able to help. We then dive into a Discovery session where we ask a lot of questions based on your survey. We do a lot of listening, and take a lot of notes to build a rough draft of our proprietary Elite Advisor Blueprint – 90 Day Plan. Taking the first step is as simple as applying at bradleyjohnson.com/apply
Already heard it once or twice? Please leave a short review here, and tell me which guests I should have on!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
Welcome to this episode of The Elite Advisor Blueprint Podcast with your host, Brad Johnson. Brad’s the VP of Advisor Development at Advisors Excel, the largest independent insurance brokerage company in the US. He’s also a regular contributor to InvestmentNews, the Wall Street Journal, and other industry publications.
[00:00:28] Brad Johnson: Welcome to the Elite Advisor Blueprint, the podcast for world-class financial advisors. I’m Brad Johnson, VP of Advisor Development at Advisors Excel and it’s my goal to distill the best ideas and advice from top thought leaders and apply it to the world of independent financial advising.
Today’s episode is another one in our special Virtual Financial Advisor Series. This is a conversation that I originally live streamed just over a month ago, directly into our private Facebook group. The idea for this series and community was really born out of the idea to help all of you advisors out there who are trying to navigate what’s become a very virtual financial planning world, as we’ve all worked to adapt our businesses to this current COVID-19 environment. So, if you’d like to gain access to these livestream conversations as they happen with the ability for live Q&A with our guests as I record, visit BradleyJohnson.com, look for the Join Private Facebook Group button in the top corner of the page to join a community of close to 1,000 advisors from all over the world.
And although many different geographies and types of firms are represented, the common theme is working towards serving your clients virtually without the requirement of needing to meet with them face-to-face, obviously really important right now. Also, as an aside, many of our show’s past guests like today’s guest, Commander Kirk Lippold himself, are active members in the group as well as giving you the ability to connect directly with them there.
So, on to today’s conversation. As mentioned, I’m speaking with Commander Kirk Lippold with a fitting conversation to release just before Independence Day here in the US as Kirk was the commanding officer of the USS Cole, a Navy warship attacked by Al Qaeda 11 months before the events of September 11, 2001. This event marked the very first terrorist attack carried out by Al Qaeda versus an active US military vessel and foreshadowed what would later unfold during the events of 9/11.
[00:02:22] Brad Johnson: As financial advisors living through COVID-19, I think it’s important to not only focus on the technical aspect of meeting with clients virtually, but also the mental side of dealing with the current pandemic. Asking ourselves questions like what mindset is required to help us all navigate these interesting times. Much of today’s conversation speaks directly to that, how to take action and lead our teams through some of the toughest challenges many of us have ever faced in business. Today, Commander Lippold joins the podcast to share his perspective on leadership during times of crisis and deconstructs decision-making for you and your teams.
Here are three of my big takeaways from this episode. Number one, what happened on the day the USS Cole was attacked, really the story behind it and the mental framework Commander Lippold leaned on to navigate a literal life or death situation for he and his crew. Number two, how to prioritize and act faster in a crisis and why, as Commander Lippold puts it, “the wounded don’t matter if the ship sinks.” And number three, later we get into Commander Lippold’s second career that of a public speaker and how he has adapted his technology and the tools he uses to transition to giving virtual presentations during a time when in-person speaking engagements are completely impossible.
Okay. One more thing before we dive into today’s show. These conversations were all live streamed as I said before into our private Facebook group. So, if you want immediate access where you can watch in real time and ask questions live to our guests, go to Facebook, search for The Virtual Financial Advisor Series and request to join the group. Not only will you be able to tune in live, but you’re going to get access to a community of financial advisors all over the world who are working towards transitioning to a virtual client experience. To join the group, we’ve also created a redirect to get you to the right place, just visit BradleyJohnson.com/VirtualFA as in financial advisor.
[00:04:25] Brad Johnson: Also links to all the people discussed, books mentioned, a full transcript of the show, and anything else of interest can be found in the show notes at BradleyJohnson.com/80. Or if you happen to be listening on a mobile device, simply scroll down for the show notes on most podcasting apps for easy-to-find links. So that’s it. As always, thanks for listening and without further delay, my conversation with Commander Kirk Lippold.
[00:04:55] Kirk Lippold: All right.
[00:04:56] Brad Johnson: Commander Kirk Lippold, we’re live. Welcome.
[00:04:59] Kirk Lippold: Hey. Thank you, Brad. Great to be here today.
[00:05:02] Brad Johnson: Well, I’m excited about today’s conversation. This is a first obviously having someone of your stature with a military background but not just that, the fact that you were the commanding officer of the USS Cole during the first attack by Al Qaeda 11 months before 9/11 on a US Navy ship. So, obviously, a guy that’s well-adapted, well-equipped to talk about crisis and how to deal with that and how to lead through that. So, as we go live here, I just love to hear your thoughts. If you were going to give advice to financial advisors out there dealing with the different form of crisis and how to navigate that, lead a team, deal with their clients, what would that be?
[00:05:41] Kirk Lippold: I think the biggest thing you need to think about is that when you have a crisis, you’re going to dip into the well of every experience that you have. And probably the biggest thing that you’re going to do is you’re going to make decisions based upon imperfect information. And then the great thing is as you get better information, you’re going to continue to change those decisions. But at the beginning of the day, you don’t know what you don’t know and that’s as much true today as at any time in our nation’s history. When you really look at what’s happening today, the fact that we have the number of unknowns that we do, there are so many things that are still unpredictable. I know that in this day and age, a lot of people want to talk about the new normal. There isn’t going to be a new normal for the foreseeable future. But nonetheless, what you’re going to do as a leader is you’re going to start dividing and figuring out what you need to do and that’s going to involve making those decisions.
[00:06:38] Brad Johnson: Yeah. Spot on. There’s a lot of unknowns out there right now. So, I know there’s sometimes that leads to people being frozen and I think we’re going to talk a lot about that today. So, I want to give everybody a little bit of a background. We were introduced by Philip Stutz, who was on a few episodes back, and I know you guys have had some experience working together on the political side. But this USS Cole story, I feel like obviously, I was a little bit younger when this happened. I was college age, but I feel like it probably got swept up in the 9/11 news where it got lost a little bit in US history in the big scheme of things. So, can you maybe start? This was 11 months before 9/11 where Al Qaeda became a household name across every house in America. Can you speak through just kind of that experience, how it unfolded, what that day look like, and as a leader, the tough decisions you had to make?
[00:07:31] Kirk Lippold: Sure. I’ll back up real quick. I took command of USS Cole, which was an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in June 1999 and I had about a year to get the ship ready for deployment with the George Washington aircraft carrier battle group. We left Norfolk, our home port, in Norfolk, Virginia in August of 2000. Sailed across. We had to operate in the Mediterranean for about six to seven weeks before we finally go through the Suez Canal on the 9th of October. And when you look at the geography between the Mediterranean and the Middle East toward Europe in the Arabian Gulf, Aden, which is at the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula is at about the halfway point. Because of operational requirements, a ship like USS Cole carries a half-million gallons of fuel. We were at 50%. We needed to find a port to refuel in. We pulled into Aden that morning expecting to be there six to eight hours taking on a quarter million gallons.
We started refueling ship about 10:30 that morning after going through a rigorous checklist and normal routine operations. We had contracted for three garbage barges to come out to the ship that morning. Two boats had come out to the left. Third boat came alongside and 11:18 in the morning, there was a thunderous explosion. I mean, you could feel all 505 feet and 8,400 tons of guided-missile destroyer violently trussed up into the right. And as we settled back down in the water, power failed, lights went out, and right then and there because of the fact that when we pulled the ship in, turn around and moored her starboard side or right side of the pier, if it had been a fuel explosion on the ship or the pier, we’d have been blown to the left. But having been thrust up into the right, I knew instantly that we had been attacked. So, when that realization hit me, it was like the lens that you view the world through every day slammed wide open. And I began to take in huge amounts of information, which is how I made that initial determination.
[00:09:29] Kirk Lippold: Went down to the middle of the ship loaded with nothing more than a nine-millimeter that was ready to roll and two clips of ammunition, looked over the side and saw the hole. And at that point in time, right then and there when I saw the hole, and one of the sailors came up to me confirming that that third what we thought was a garbage barge came inside the security perimeter and got next to the ship and detonated with two suicide bombers, I began to push that timeline out. And that was where I started making those critical decisions even though I knew there was a number of unknowns. And I started doing what I call asking the what next questions. What do I need to think about next? What do I need to plan for next? And what do I need to do next? And that’s really developing an art, which in the financial world, when you think about it, you’re doing the same thing. Because you’re always out there, you’re looking at all the company reports, you’re looking what’s going on in the market, you’re looking what’s going on in international events that are going to affect it and you’re trying to ask those what next questions yourself so that you can figure out where to make the buys, where to make the best investments.
Because while I may have the lives of my 300 sailors in my hand, let’s face it, financial advisors, they have the lives and the financial future of every single one of their clients that are going to literally rely on them for the future that they’re going to make for themselves and their families. So, developing that is really what I call acting in the now while thinking ahead. So, while you’re making decisions right in the here and now, you’re pushing that timeline out because as financial advisors, they’re the ones that are really going to be looking out and saying, “Where’s the market going to be in three weeks, three months, three years? And how can I make decisions today that are going to best set my clients up for the future?
[00:11:17] Brad Johnson: What was it in that situation? I mean, because I just have to imagine it’s everyday life and I’m sure as the commander of a navy ship, you’re constantly prepared for the unknown. I mean, that’s part of your training I would assume but still, I don’t know that you’re probably ever ready for an event like that. What sort of training or as you got to go through that framework, what prepped you to be ready to act on that instant?
[00:11:41] Kirk Lippold: I think it was really that ability to understand that when that bomb went off, I looked at it and said, “Okay, in front of my desk is all these things that were so important to me just a few minutes ago, and suddenly they are literally irrelevant,” and in many ways, what I call the ultimate gift of command because I only needed to focus on two things in that moment. What do I need to do to save my ship? And what do I need to do to save my crew? Initially, I contacted the Yemeni port authorities knowing we were going to have wounded beyond our ability to treat. We were within the golden hour. I asked them to freeze all harbor movements since we didn’t know where the attack had come from, notify local hospitals, and send out boats which they agreed to do. I immediately went from there down inside the ship, looked at the devastation in the area of the galley, the mess line where the crew is queuing up to eat lunch that day. And it was utter destruction.
You could literally from where the blast went off when I was standing there looking down and what was left of number one engine room, from the side of the ship into that point was over 23 feet and it was just a cabin with all that metal blown in there. And you could smell the dust, you could smell the fuel, and the Yemenis kept pumping fuel along there for five to seven minutes. But I was already thinking, “Okay, we’ve already got boats coming out. I need to stop the fuel. I need ability to fight a fire. I walked out the back end of the galley and literally down the whole back end of the ship were wounded as far as I could see. As the captain, I would have given an eye and tooth to talk to them. They’re not my number one priority. My number one priority has to be to save the ship because if you can’t save the ship, the wounded won’t matter. And so, it’s kind of like when you’re in the middle of the crisis and the market’s crashing, you’re trying to figure out, okay, where can I quickly pair what I need to make some of the decisions I need to make now in order to minimize the potential loss and preserve as much as possible for the future?
[00:13:41] Kirk Lippold: And that’s what I was doing. I walked into the central control station, which is like the nerve center for the engineering plant and for damage control central where we were trying to figure out how we’re going to deal with this immense amount of damage, control the flooding, electrically isolate that area. And literally, at that point, I got to make the best decision of my life in command tour. That is, I trusted my people because they were doing what they were supposed to and I kept my mouth shut for about a minute. And then I got briefed on the status of the ship and very quickly realized that because of the training we put in place, because of the decision making that I had given, the responsibility for my crew to do and they were running with it, we were able to get the ship stable in a little over an hour. And as a testament to how well the crew did when I got up to the middle of the ship and the lifesaving efforts were going on, we would evacuate 33 wounded off the ship that first day in about 99 minutes and of those 33, 32 have survived.
I mean, ultimately, a terrible tragedy in that 17 were killed, 37 were wounded but ultimately, we were able to save the ship. And I think it’s the same thing today. I mean, when the markets are having some of the wild swings that we were seeing just a few weeks ago, I mean, I’m sure every financial advisor out there came home with just a little bit more gray hair than they were used to when they started the day and there’s no doubt that they are having to think through, okay, how are we going to deal with this? What are we going to do to get through it? The calmer people are going to be able to maintain because you have to maintain that inner sense of calm because all the people there are looking up to you, especially if you’re in a leadership position. If you’re in a supervisory role, they’re going to want to know that you as the leader of their group are going to be that calm reservoir of good decision making when the heat’s on.
[00:15:33] Brad Johnson: Was there a key to you? I mean, I have seen a lot of that as far as leadership. Your team or in this case, your crew, I mean, if you’re sitting there freaking out, they’re freaking out. So, how do you maintain a sense of calm, maybe some stoicism during times like that, and project that confidence on your team? Because I think that definitely applies to financial advisors right now and their teams.
[00:15:55] Kirk Lippold: Absolute yes. And I would say the number one thing you have to do is from the beginning that things start to go bad, you have to tell yourself first no matter what you get told, no matter how bad it is the problem gets brought to you, you must stay absolutely calm. Because it’s just like with my crew, I knew that if I had started the panic, that would have just spread down the chain of command and it would have blown by words of magnitude every bit of the way. And I wanted my crew to know that no matter what they brought me, no matter how challenging it was, it was my job as the captain to get as much information as I could, ask those critical questions, figure out exactly what they were going to do. Because one of the things that I think you have to remember is that your scope in your world maybe this wide, but when someone brings you a problem, that little wedge, this is their world. That wedge to them is this.
And what you have to do as a leader is make sure that you take that split second in time and focus, and focus intently on what they’re telling you, what they want you to know, and what decision they want you to make as a result of that. And what you have to be able to do is focus so intently on that, that you can sit there and then ask all those what next questions because you’re trying to figure out, “Okay, what exactly is the decision you want them to make?” And then what you do, you make that decision, and off they go, and you’re trusting them to carry it out. I mean, it’s one of those things where I love to tell people a little short story called Message to Garcia, and what it’s really about is trusting your people, and I’m going to dip in just real quick.
[00:17:45] Brad Johnson: Yeah, go for it.
[00:17:45] Kirk Lippold: My navigator 30 minutes after the blast is standing in front of me and we were just about to start evacuating. Well, we’ve just started evacuating wounded off the ship, literally putting them over the side onto a ladder down onto the pier, because we didn’t have a brow down yet. And she said, “We’re sending people ashore. We don’t know which of the two hospitals they’re going to, we don’t know the full extent of their injuries, and we don’t know the treatment regimen. I recommend we send somebody ashore to track them.” I said, “Great idea. Now, who do you recommend?” “Sir, I’ll volunteer to go.” I said, “Fine. Soon as that gangplank goes down to the pier, you’re the first one off, take one of the wounded, let us know what you need,” and that was the end of the conversation. She would go into that foreign country, that it just had people attack us. She would get on an aircraft that night. The French flew a team of doctors and would take 11 of my most seriously wounded and they would fly to Djibouti. And the next day, the airports would fly all those airplanes in one in Djibouti, one into Aden, take all the wounded initially to Landstuhl, Germany, and then back stateside.
And two days later, my navigator could have left and she could have flown home with the crew and I never would have questioned that she was looking after. She didn’t do that. She came back to the airport in Aden, landed there from Djibouti, checked in with the admiral, came down to the pier, got on the Yemeni’s boat, came out to the ship, cross them through a fueling pier, walked up to brow, reports back aboard for duty. I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than that and I think what that really exemplifies though, is that if you give someone a job, and you say, “I trust them to do it,” what they really want to know is, “Do you also have their back if they make a wrong decision?” And the answer has to be in those kinds of crisis situations, absolutely, yes, because you’ll always be able to recover from it. She didn’t stand there asking me the litany of questions. Where are the hospitals? How do I create transportation? Do I need a passport? How about a change of clothes? Should I take my toothbrush? What should I do about force protection? She just went off and did it. And two days later came back aboard the ship.
[00:19:47] Kirk Lippold: Message to Garcia, it’s a short read. It’s only 15 to 20 minutes and oh, by the way, I don’t care who you work for. Tell your boss, they have my permission for you to do it on company time. So, live it up and enjoy it because it’s a good read. But ultimately, that trust, I think, ultimately served our crew well and it’s part of the reason we still stay in touch so well today. And oh, by the way, my navigator, while she would get out of the Navy, unfortunately, she would get her doctorate and she is now an assistant professor at the Naval Academy teaching electrical engineering.
[00:20:19] Brad Johnson: That’s awesome. Well, I didn’t want to interrupt any of that. So, thank you for sharing that story. Obviously, it’s a powerful one. So many lessons out of it. The one thing I do want to just mention because we are live streaming. We’re live streaming on Facebook. We’re live streaming on Twitter. We’re live streaming on YouTube. My team is on all of those platforms. So, if you’re out there, you’re watching this, if you have questions for Commander Kirk, go ahead and feed those in. I’ll feed those to him as they make sense. And also, if you’re not already in our private Facebook group, The Virtual Advisor, which the whole point of it was to help financial advisors out there navigate kind of this crisis in our industry, which is overnight we went from a brick-and-mortar business to a very digital-based business, conversations just like this. And so if you’re not already in there, I know Kirk, you’re already in. You’re already in The Virtual Advisor Facebook group and you even agreed to answer a few questions after the conversation here. So, that was very gracious of you.
[00:21:13] Kirk Lippold: I was actually looking forward to it. So, I’d be happy to take them on while this is going or afterwards, whatever works best because, I mean, let’s face it, the financial services industry today, I think you’re unique in that you’re still facing some lingering aftereffects of The Great Recession that started the unwind down in 2008-2009 and some of the onerous regulations that I think got put on the industry as a result of that. And I think that we’re recovering from that, we’re getting to a point where we’re just really, everybody was kind of getting their head above water, when all sudden slam dunk, we’re in the middle of the pandemic and we’re having to rearrange our whole thought process again. So, the industry has had some very unique challenges in it. And I think just like with command, I think that you’re the ones that are the experts out there who people rely on to make good decisions for them. So, you’re truly going to be making those decisions, as I said at the beginning, for the long-term financial welfare of not just the people who’ve chosen to invest but also, it’s the industry. And when you really get down to it, it’s the economy in our nation as well.
[00:22:26] Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, let’s transition because we start with the USS Cole, which obviously you were intimately involved in and then that really quickly 11 months later, 9/11 happens. And then obviously, we’re faced with a pandemic today, a different type of crisis. So, what lessons, what decisions kind of relate to the 9/11 situation, once again, dealing with crisis and obviously, you were still in the military during 9/11 so you saw that unfold and how that played out and then maybe we take it and apply it to today for advisors and what they can take from that?
[00:23:01] Kirk Lippold: Well, I think the biggest thing you have to learn out of both of those events is that when you have things start to go wrong, there’s no such thing as I keep going back to this making decision because a lot of times you get some people that they paralyze. They’re so wrapped up in the immediate that they literally can’t act in the now and start thinking ahead with the what next questions. And I think you really have to develop that ability to do that. Because if you’re not looking on, okay, where do we think this pandemic is going to go and how’s it going to arrange the market? I mean, clearly, people right now in the industry, I would say, okay, given what we’re seeing, start thinking already about lessons learned. I mean, that was one of the key things that we learned out of Cole in that unfortunately the attacks up until then. Beirut barracks bombing, World Trade Center 1, Khobar Towers, the Embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, those were attacks against building that housed and represented US senators.
The attack on Cole was fundamentally different because it was an attack against something that defended our interests and unfortunately, two administrations and two presidents. President Clinton, the attack occurred on his watch. President Bush, he inherited it. Neither of them did anything. There was no reaction whatsoever to Al Qaeda. And I think, unfortunately, after 9/11, when you had the 9/11 Commission meet, one of the lessons learned out of that was not responding to the attack on Cole, in fact, emboldened Al Qaeda to continue with the planning and carrying out the attacks on 9/11. We’ll never be able to answer the unanswerable question. Have we responded to Cole, would we have detected 9/11? Doing nothing didn’t work. So, right now, start looking at what are some of the lessons learned that are going to come out of the pandemic. Clearly, supply chain vulnerability and what’s going to happen with it.
[00:25:00] Kirk Lippold: So, start thinking about, okay, when it comes to some of the supply chains that are resident right now in China that proved to be shortfalls during the pandemic, where are there going to be opportunities within the industry for us to figure out who’s going to grow, who’s going to fall by the wayside, and where are we going to go here in the United States? In the Department of Defense world, one of the key vulnerabilities is rare earth minerals. Who controls 90% of the rare earth minerals right now? China does. Do you think the United States is going to allow that given the vulnerability that we have to weapon systems and the very aggressive Chinese actions that we’re seeing going on in the South China Sea right now? Absolutely not. We’re going to start working with other countries in that region to try and safeguard those supply lines. So, it’s starting already. Start looking at the newspapers and what’s going on and start asking yourself, what are we going to have as lessons learned coming out of this pandemic that I can apply to the market that are going to allow me to best position where I want to be and what industries I think are going to take off as we get through this?
I mean, we will get through it. We’re going to reopen the economy. I think that the risk that people are going to sense is going to be out there and as we begin to see responsible reopening of businesses and the curve stays flat with maybe an occasional tick up once in a while when people don’t quite maintain the social distancing and everything else. I mean, it’s going to be probably 12 to 24 months, we aren’t going to have a vaccine so we’re going to have to keep these measures in place. But it’s kind of asking those lessons learned that I think are really the opportunity set for folks to now start poking their head up above the foxhole, and looking right downrange to say, “Okay, how can we learn from this?”
[00:26:53] Brad Johnson: Awesome. So, I want to circle back around to the Message from Garcia. So, Garcia was your navigator.
[00:27:00] Kirk Lippold: No. Navigator was a woman named Dan Chamberlain. Message to Garcia, real quick, that came from actually 1898 when President McKinley, we had the war break out with Spain with the bombing of the USS Maine down in Havana Harbor. And he said, “I need to get a message to General Garcia, who was head of the insurgent forces on Cuba, so that we could coordinate between US and the insurgent forces to topple Spanish rule in Cuba.” The guy name was Rowan, took that message, didn’t ask a question. Six weeks later handed it to General Garcia and the rest is history. We freed Cuba from Spanish rule. But that is a lesson that we teach every single midshipman that goes through the Naval Academy. My navigator happened to be a Naval Academy graduate, took the heart just like I had through my whole career, and ran with it.
[00:27:50] Brad Johnson: I’m glad I asked. I’m glad I asked. Okay. So, back to this concept, that was training. That was putting in reps before it got to the crisis. So, if you were going to give an advisor right now, it’s one of these things in hindsight, “Hey, I wish I would have trained my team on how to work virtually or I wish I would have done all of these things before, but now we’re in it.” So, what lessons maybe going back to the Naval Academy, can you teach your team or what principles can you teach your team to be prepared for crisis and for making split-second decisions without over-analyzing things so that you can act?
[00:28:27] Kirk Lippold: I think the biggest thing you can teach your teams is to be quick on their feet to adapt and adjust. So, anyone that is getting comfortable where they’ve got their certain little job and they like to come in and do their thing that you’re going to need something to do maybe is, hey, guess what, every year we’re going to start rotating people around. We’re going to give them a broad-based experience. Based upon where their expertise is, start to broaden them out and what they’re good at whether it’s in, you know, and I’m not a financial guy. So, if I misspeak a little bit here, take it with a grain of salt, but start shifting them around. If they’re good with the bond market, put them in stocks. If they’re good with stocks, ETFs, or mutual funds. Just start moving them around because they want to have that adaptability and experience. And the other thing that you have to do is learn in this new virtual world that we’re doing, how can the people out there, what are the new metrics that you measure your people’s work performance by? Because you need to make sure that you understand what theirs are going to be.
You’re putting an awful lot of trust in them now that we’re having to work in a virtual world but how are you measuring the actual performance? A lot of times you can look at the data itself and see how they’re moving things around, what are the judgment calls they’re making for the clients, how they’re investing the money, how they’re keeping certain things in that cash wedge, for example, before they finally decide, okay, based upon market volatility and where we think it’s going. And the other thing I would say is tell your people and create time in their workday to read. They need to have that valuable time where they can just read market reports, where they can read stock reports, where they can look at the Financial Times, where they can look at international events that are going on, and how those are going to affect the market. Because those are the kinds of things, international events drive markets, not the other way around.
[00:30:24] Kirk Lippold: So, you have to kind of define how those things are going to work and the effect that they’re going to have. I mean, clearly the decision by Saudi Arabia and oil had a huge effect on the markets and couldn’t have come at a worse time and I think unnecessarily disrupted things more than they needed to be at the moment.
[00:30:41] Brad Johnson: Okay. So, I want to pivot because speaking of disruption, we were prepping for this conversation, Kirk. Obviously, you’re a speaker now, and you have a speaker bureau and then overnight, there’s no speaking engagements. So, that’s a form of disruption. I was really interested to hear your story of how you pivoted pretty quickly. Right now, you have a studio set up. You invested in some technology. So, I think just to go back to the whole point of this Virtual Advisor Series, I think it would be really interesting to hear, how did you handle that pivot when your business was basically up-ended overnight, much like a lot of financial advisors out there, and then were there any key takeaways, any technology you use now that you didn’t use before this? I think that’d be fun to hear how you handled it.
[00:31:27] Kirk Lippold: Sure. It’s a great question, Brad, and thanks for bringing it up. Because when the pandemic really started to settle into the forefront of our minds, for me, it was the first week to 10 days in March and I started saying people are getting uncomfortable being next to each other. We’re starting to see people saying, “Hey, you’ve got this social distancing.” Again, there were a lot of unknowns out there. But by Friday the 13th of March, government buildings across the country were now closed except for essential employees and people were starting to figure out. I knew right then that if the government was going to be shutting down to only essential people that conferences were going to become a thing of the past for the foreseeable future. And if you don’t have conferences where people gather to network and to learn, you don’t need keynote speakers. So, I made a great decision when I retired to go into the inspirational speaking business because I didn’t want to work for a defense contractor. Suddenly, my world disappeared.
So, right then and there, I knew the only way I was going to be able to connect with people was going to be in a virtual world. So, I literally took that step back and said, “If you’re going to connect in a virtual world, you’re going to have to be able to get the internet speeds that you need, get the equipment that you need.” And so, I literally began to build, as you referred to it, this home studio and I’ll take a quick pan back so that people can kind of take a look. This is what I’m sitting behind. And part of the reason I set that up is because when you as a financial person want to really take the time and you want to talk to your clients, one of the things that you can’t do anymore is sit down with them for that quarterly or semi-annual meeting and pull all the charts from their portfolio and say, “This is why I have you invested the way I do based upon your tolerance for risk, whether you’re low risk, moderate risk, high risk, whether you’ve got time, what are you looking for and types of things, whether you want to have an income-generating portfolio, or if you’re just trying to create something for your retirement down in the years to come.”
[00:33:38] Kirk Lippold: Well, now, how do you do that if you can’t go with a client? So, one of the things that I’ll pop up real quick here, I’m going to pull this up, jump off. And right here, what I wanted to be able to show people was there is a piece of equipment that I got that gives you the ability as a financial advisor to have a Zoom meeting like you and I are talking on this podcast right now. And guess what? You can then click on a chart, just like I have this chart for my crew, while you sit there and say, “Here are all the charts that you need to go to.” Now, granted, these are the ship, but then you can come back and have a conversation with your client. And if they’ve got a question, you say, “Oh, that’s a good point. Let me go back to that,” and you go back to the chart, and then you could explain where the details are on it and you want to be able to get to all the little notes and everything else, come back to you and still continue the conversation as if you’re sitting right across from them.
And the piece of equipment that I ended up using with that, Brad, it was from a company called Roland, R-O-L-A-N-D and the piece of equipment that I got is called a BR-1HD. So, it’s a little thing and it literally allows you to integrate a microphone into it along with PowerPoint coming in and one stream out so that you can literally put it into a camera onto a TV so that you can show it and then be able to discuss the charts with your clients. So, you have that actual one-on-one interface and the ability to have a conversation with your clients transitioning back and forth between those critical slides that are going on and back to you at the end of the day.
[00:35:22] Brad Johnson: Since we started the conversation here, do you happen to have any pictures of the aftermath of the explosion, just so people can see what you were dealing with in person?
[00:35:31] Kirk Lippold: Absolutely. I’ll show you real quick. Here we go. This is the Aden. As you see, it sits at the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula down there. This is the harbor that we would go in. We’d be escorted by two boats as we went on in and that morning, we would be alongside the pier. So, that’s rare so I really talk about you don’t know what you don’t know. And when the explosion itself went off, literally, that was the moment to adapt and adjust to everything that went on. That’s the hole in the side of the ship that I explained that I saw right there. And here you go, make decisions, act in the now while still thinking ahead. I still believe that’s one of the most critical things that you end up having to do because, again, it’s working through that. And then to get to your point, I go down inside the ship. That picture right there is the mess line at the middle of the ship. It’s at the widest part, 66 feet and that was what the mess line would look like on normal. Crew would grab the gold trays there, slide them along.
That morning, everything was normal. Chicken fajitas, refried beans, get a little bit of rice, get some dessert. They get to the end and hook a U-turn to the left and walked into the mess decks to eat. And when the explosion went off, it was literally at that point, a wall of metal shoved towards me. So, absolutely stunning. And then I’d go through the mess decks in the dark, I get to the left side of the ship. That’s the end of the mess line looking forward toward the bow and that’s what it would actually look like itself. But the real one comes in that I would get to the galley area. That’s where we’d normally prepare the crew’s meals and what it would look like and unfortunately that morning, I’d be looking at the galley standing in the same spot. That was what the interior of the ship looks like. That’s the difference. I mean, from that point, I could walk two steps to my left, and I’m looking down the hole in the side of the ship. You could see the sunlight. You could see the sheen of fuel leaking out of there.
[00:37:27] Kirk Lippold: That morning, we, unfortunately, would leak about 60,000 gallons of fuel into Aden harbor. I’m going to be honest, and my apologies to everyone that’s gone green out there but I’m sorry, I didn’t pause to fill out the APA spill report at that moment in time. There’s something to learn to let go up in a crisis. But it was at that moment that I really had to go back and start figuring out that two of our four main engineering spaces were flooded. And like I said, that’s where I ended up making the big decision on what was going to be on the interior of the ship and how we were going to be able to get through it. So, that day, the only other one I’ll show is this is the ship right here. Afterwards, you can see the bow of the 5.5-degree list to port on the ship itself. But the crew did a phenomenal job. The announcing system that morning was knocked offline or what we call the 1MC. The battery backup for it failed and the backup system for it also failed. So, there was really no way for me to tell the crew what had happened, where to go, and what to do.
And they went off and started reforming teams to go out, assess the damage, make decisions on how to contain it, to keep it within that primary area of those two engineering spaces, prevent additional flooding, and that’s ultimately what allowed us to save the ship.
[00:38:47] Brad Johnson: Okay. I’m just going to ask this out of pure curiosity. And by the way, as a reminder, if you’re in The Virtual Advisor Facebook group, throw your questions in the comments. I mean, it’s rare you have someone of this stature in Commander Kirk Lippold that you can just bounce ideas and questions off of so please feed those to my team and I’ll get them to him here. So, you look like a young guy, and I’m going back. So, I was in college 2000, 2001. You were commanding a navy ship. I mean, most people walking down the street that you meet, especially in Kansas and say, “Oh, yeah, this guy used to command a Navy battleship.” So, give me the journey. I’d love to hear like what took you down that path. Was it through the Naval Academy? And then what steps did you have to take because that’s climbing some ranks in the military and what principles took you there?
[00:39:39] Kirk Lippold: I think the one thing that I did is when I was at the Naval Academy, and I’ll share this with your audience, and I really never talked about it before publicly. But when I was going through the Naval Academy, it was one of the top-ranked, it’s one of the top 20 universities in the country. I struggled academically for the four years that I was there. I consider myself lucky to have graduated because I was immature, I was unfocused. And as I like to put it, I graduated in the top 90% of my class. So, given that when I graduated, I said, “Okay, you have managed to make it over this amazing hurdle.” Because really, when you look at it, a high school diploma is the minimum society asks. A college degree really indicates that you can persevere and it’s only when you get a master’s that you start to really develop that mental sharpness to analytically think through problems.
And I just went to work. I put my nose down and I went to work. Give me the toughest jobs. Give me the hardest, the longest hours. I don’t care what they are. I just put my nose to the grindstone. When it came an opportunity to do something, hey, I was the first one to raise my hand and learn about it and volunteer. And yeah, I stubbed my toe, face-first into the bulkhead once in a while, guess what? Pick yourself up by your bootstraps, tighten them down again and march on, because the way you learn in life is by doing things. I mean, John Paul Jones, the father of our Navy, probably said it best, “He who will not risk cannot win.” And so, at the end of the day, I just leaned forward and said, “I’m going to try and learn as much as I can and do as much as I can.” And over a period of five to seven years, I think I was a lot of people when I graduated. I was like, “Hey, I’m going to do my five-year commitment, and then I’m so out of here and back out to the real world.”
[00:41:40] Kirk Lippold: And by the time I hit that five to six-year point, I was discovering that I kind of like this. And then I went to the Navy Postgraduate School and got my master’s degree, bode a little bit of time and I ended up with a great opportunity from that. All that hard work paid off and I was selected to be the pre-commissioning operations officer on the Navy’s first Aegis-guided missile destroyer, which was the USS Arleigh Burke. So, I was the very first ship in that class similar to USS Cole. And from t