Nov. 8, 2022

3. Be Empowered with Aprilyn Chavez Geissler

3. Be Empowered with Aprilyn Chavez Geissler

In this episode, I am joined by Aprilyn Chavez Geissler, an executive vice president at Gateway Financial Advisors and a trustee at NAIFA. She is a diversity champion and part of the 2020 Women to Watch. She had a tough start in life. She was in an abusive relationship and ended up homeless, but she persevered. She finished college and started a successful career in financial services. Now, she mentors other young women who are in difficult situations. She helps them to see that they can overcome their circumstances and be successful in their careers. In this episode, you will learn the following:

  • Aprilyn’s journey 
  • The importance of mentors, overcoming insecurities, and achieving success
  • Empowering the people around us

"I felt that it was very important for me to take what I had learned and really pass it along because my success is dependent on the success of those around me." - Aprilyn Geissler

Episode Timestamps:

[00:01:02] - Introducing today’s guest, Aprilyn CHavez Geissler 

[00:02:04] - What is Aprilyn reading right now?

[00:03:00] - Who is Aprilyn and how did she get to where she is today

[00:08:14] - The importance of mentorship and how Aprilyn pays it forward

[00:14:56] - Some success stories of the people Aprilyn has helped

[00:22:10] - Continuous little expenditure through accountability

[00:25:30] - Aprilyn’s work life balance

[00:32:14] - Aprilyn’s definition of success



[00:00:00] Aprilyn: Yeah. I felt that it was very important for me to take what I had learned and really pass it along because my success is dependent on the success of those around me. And so, it was very key for me once I achieved a certain level in my career, that I would then, because many people had reached up and they reached down and they had given me a leg up and taught me things. I thought that it was very important for me to then reach down and pull others up like I had been pulled up.

[00:00:45] Joe: Hi, I'm Joe Templin. I'm the author of Everyday Excellence and a Human Swiss Army Knife. This is the Human Kaizen Podcast, conversation with interesting individuals that embody excellence and can help you be better. My guest today is someone I've been looking forward to talking to for a while. Actually, I talk to her all the time.

[00:01:08] Joe: She's the first Executive Vice President of Gateway Financial Advisors, Top 2020 Women to Watch, a diversity champion, a NAFA Trustee. She's actually quoted in the book 'Everyday Excellence'. I give you the phoenix  of Albuquerque, my friend Aprilyn Chavez Geissler.

[00:01:28] Aprilyn: Wow. That's quite an introduction. Thank you, Joe.

[00:01:30] Joe: I gave it all up for you.

[00:01:33] Aprilyn: Happy to be here.

[00:01:34] Joe: And see, I'm channeling my inner Larry King today.

[00:01:38] Aprilyn: I love it.

[00:01:38] Joe: So we can have a great conversation.

[00:01:40] Aprilyn: I like the braces. You know how I am about attire.

[00:01:44] Joe: Yes.

[00:01:45] Aprilyn: It's kinda important.

[00:01:47] Joe: Aprilyn is very much into shoes, by the way, and sartorial dress, which is for anybody who has seen the podcast or knows me in person, not how I am. So opposites attract and can influence each other in a lot of ways. So Aprilyn, what are you reading right now?

[00:02:07] Aprilyn: Actually, I am reading Mastering the Game. So I am working with staff and other people to try to better understand their interactions. And Mastering the Game is all about how people's personality styles and how you can understand their communication or receiving of communication based on their interactions with you and how you can sort of lead them into a positive, buying position. And by the way that their eyes go when you ask them questions, you can tell if they're a visual learner or auditory, all that kind of stuff. So it's kind of interesting.

[00:02:43] Joe: Awesome. So, you've got a really interesting background and so….  I could, in no way, shape or form do it the service that deserves. So I'm just gonna ask you, clue my listeners in, bring us up to speed on who you are and how you got to where you are today.

[00:03:03] Aprilyn: Well, you heard the introduction and some of the things that I've accomplished in my career and personally, but it wasn't always that way. So when I started, I was actually in high school and I knew that I wanted to be in this industry, and I did everything that I could in order to be in this industry and I was very strong in that aspect of my life.

[00:03:20] Aprilyn: However, I was in a relationship, and I was a freshman in college and I had been dating this young man and I was actually engaged to him. And no one else knew, really. But there was a point in our relationship where he pointed a rifle, he cocked a rifle, and pointed it at me and he said to me, "If you ever try to leave me again, this will be the last thing that you see." And it was the scariest and probably the biggest a-ha moment of my life. And I didn't realize it then, but I was a victim of domestic violence. And I had spent a year, a couple of years trying to hide the way that he was, the Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde type of interaction that he had. And he had escalated the abuse. It was first mental, physical, and of course, sexual abuse, which is a very serious thing. And I went through a lot after that and I did end up leaving him.

[00:04:29] Aprilyn: And as a result, my parents kicked me out of my house. So, I grew up in a very religious household and my grandmother, who was not that same religion, she just didn't wanna get involved. I'd asked her if I could live with her and she refused. And so, I actually stole my parents... my car that my parents had bought me and I stole it when they were at church. Funny story, but I went to live because I wanted to... I needed to stay in college because my goal was to be a financial advisor.

[00:05:02] Aprilyn: And so I needed to go to classes 'cause I needed to get my finance degree and I was gonna do that, hell or high water. Well, I ended up parking my car in the university parking lot and I attended classes. I kept my clothes in the trunk, and I slept in my car, and ate at the sub ballroom, basically,  in the university, and showered there and did everything there. And I ended up avoiding the cops by parking my car in different places.

[00:05:32] Aprilyn: And eventually, a woman figured out what was going on with me and she asked me if I would rent a room in her house. So I did at a very inexpensive price. And through that process, she realized that I had some mental issues and she got me into therapy. I started working out, working through my issues, and it was through people like her and other people in my life that helped me through a lot of therapy to get to the point where I can now say that I am a survivor of domestic violence and it's okay.

[00:06:12] Aprilyn: I was also homeless. I didn't even think of myself as homeless at the time. But good news, I ended up achieving my goal. I graduated with my Degree in Finance from the University of New Mexico five years later. And I started my career while I was still in college, started with Ameriprise or IDS, American Express back then. I became a paraplanner. You all know what that is. I also became an insurance agent, which was new to me and I went to work for Northwestern Mutual, had some success there.

[00:06:50] Aprilyn: And eventually, I landed up as a Farmers insurance agent, but with a financial services focus. And I was a Farmers insurance agent for 17 years, had a successful practice. And then I met Gateway and became familiar with Gateway and Shane, and it's an independent financial services and insurance company. And they asked me to come in, consult with them, and work with their agents and their financial professionals based on the things that I had learned in my career.

[00:07:21] Aprilyn: Now, through all this, I was really nervous and scared about being in this industry because I was not sure that people would see me as credible. I was worried that people would look at me and they would see my past. They would just be able to see through me and understand that I had been a victim, that I had been homeless, all that they wouldn't view me as credible.

[00:07:45] Aprilyn: And so, I had to really work very hard to overcome my insecurities. And I had a couple of very key mentors in my life, male, older mentors that didn't try to change me, but they helped me to build my confidence and hone who I was and learn to be the best person that I could be. I know that's a long answer to your question, but it goes from there and I'll let you ask the next question.

[00:08:09] Joe: Well, actually, I wanted to continue along this thing. So you had these great mentors who older, white male, which is how the entire financial services industry has been since the beginning in always, But you're paying it forward in a lot of ways. You're advising, and guiding, and mentoring younger people both in the profession and beyond the financial services profession. So talk about that a little bit.

[00:08:38] Aprilyn: Yeah, I felt that it was very important for me to take what I had learned and really pass it along because my success is dependent on the success of those around me. And so it was very key for me once I achieved a certain level in my career, that I would then, because many people had reached up and they reached down and they had given me a leg up and taught me things. I thought that it was very important for me to then reach down and pull others up like I had been pulled up.

[00:09:08] Aprilyn: And so, what I do now is, in my office, I have staff and I'm very clear with everybody that when you come on and you work in this organization, you learn and grow personally and professionally. And now as a NAFA National Trustee, I've done a lot of different things in NAFA. But for me, NAFA is my career. A success. It has caused me to have the success that I could not get if I had just stayed with my company and not had outsourced outside resources like the mentors that I had.

[00:09:44] Aprilyn: So now what I do is I work. In fact, I was on the phone with somebody yesterday. A NAFA member and helping her to kind of hone her skills and think about different ways of doing things in her day to day life so that she could be seen as credible so that she could be also successful in what it is that she's trying to do. And I think that that's so important

[00:10:05] Aprilyn: And in order to have a sustainable industry and organizations that we have, we really need to reach down and that is even more important for females and Latinas and those minorities because there's not a lot of us. And I think that it's so important that we support each other. There's a lot that we have to overcome in life and in this career. But if we support each other, we will have more, more success and more sustainable programming going forward.

[00:10:40] Joe: Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. And it's actually because of NAFA that we actually met 20 plus years ago.

[00:10:48] Aprilyn: Yeah.

[00:10:49] Joe: When we were both young advisors. Even though we were both at Northwestern at the same time, our past didn't cross there. It was a couple of years later when we were both serving on the young advisors team roughly 20 years ago when we first crossed paths.

[00:11:05] Aprilyn: That was so much fun, right?

[00:11:07] Joe: And you're picturing some of the guys like Steve Oil and his $250 worth of [putting].

[00:11:14] Aprilyn: Exactly, so being the salespeople that we are, we would have goals at the national convention back then, and we were going to achieve those goals, hell or high water, and we did. And we met a lot of great people. As a result, I met Joe and we continued our relationship and interaction and it's been very good.

[00:11:38] Aprilyn: You know, the people that you meet in NAFA cannot be surpassed. I have had not only the mentors that I've had, but a lot of colleagues and cohorts that I would not have met or been able to interact with the way that I am if it were not for NAFA. NAFA has been a huge part of my success. And of course, the LILI program, Leadership in Life Institute has also given me some foundation to help me to professionally and personally hone the person that I am so that I can be better as a result.

[00:12:12] Joe: Now let's expand that beyond the financial services profession, because I'd say the vast majority of my listeners are actually outside of that space. But there's a lot of lessons that we've developed, especially as you were talking about in the Leadership in Life program that are applicable to people in sales of all forms, and even people who don't think that they're in sales.

[00:12:35] Aprilyn: Yeah, it translates to all industries. I think that if you are able to channel your strength and be able to take the hits because the hits come and go with the changes, that you are going to be able to be your best self and being grateful for the things that you have then causes you to be able to get more.

[00:12:59] Aprilyn: One of the things that I was talking to somebody about last week was a lot of times, we attend meetings and conferences and we get motivated and inspired, but sometimes that's temporary. It sort of fades away. You know, we go to a meeting and then the next day we're kind of pumped up and then a little less pumped up and a little less pumped up.

[00:13:16] Aprilyn: Well, then, what I think really happens is that if we don't have that internal fire inside of us, and the way that we get that internal fire is by following our why or our passions. And if we give back and follow our why and do the things that really make us fulfilled, then we will be inspired and motivated internally and that inspiration will last.

[00:13:45] Aprilyn: So for me, because of my story, which you now know, it is very important for me to go and speak to people in my community who are experiencing some of the things that I have experienced, and to tell them that it can be done, that you can overcome this and also to young women. So my why is...  I was a camp director for rotary, and 117 year old young women and helping to inspire them to be their best selves, teaching them emotional intelligence and some of those basic things that we don't always learn.

[00:14:20] Aprilyn: And for me, the reward is so fulfilling that it drives me every day to get up and do what I do. And I know that if I stop doing what I'm doing, that I am letting not only myself down, but those that come after me. And I also have to realize that we drink from wells that we did not dig and we stand on the shoulders that of those that came before us. So we need to continue the trajectory in a positive way so that we can set the bar a little bit higher for those that come after us.

[00:14:56] Joe: So give me some success stories of some of these younger women that you're mentoring or have worked with. You know, just so our listeners can hear some of the ways that you've taken the, quite frankly, really horrible things that have happened to you. And instead of letting them jade you or break you have made you stronger and informed future generations.

[00:15:21] Aprilyn: So I had a young woman and she came to work for me when she was 18, and she ended up working for me for 10 years and I taught her everything that I knew. And she then went out on her own, and became her own business owner, her own insurance agent, and her own financial professional as a result of the time that she spent with me and she now has her own separate office, has a lovely family and a lovely group of clients that she is a valued agent for. And that is one success story that I'm very proud of. And there are several other young women who have gone on to in their careers, but have been fulfilled by the things that they learn every day here in the office with me.

[00:16:07] Joe: Sweet.

[00:16:08] Aprilyn: And yeah. And then on a personal note, there are so many young women who are coming out of really bad situations that I keep in touch with that are able to now be financially empowered and personally empowered to do the things that they need to do. Go out and get jobs, go out and get the training so that they can support themselves and their children. And that just makes my heart happy.

[00:16:32] Joe: So play this forward a little bit Aprilyn, where are you taking that? I mean, because that's what motivates you and gets you going and fires you up, but translate that five years into the future, where do you see yourself going in that capacity?

[00:16:49] Aprilyn: Well, as you announced, I serve as the first executive vice president for Gateway Insurance and Financial. So I am sort of the right hand person to the CEO of that organization. And I am sort of a mentee to him, and the plan is that I will take over that organization if something happens unexpectedly, of course. But then also, as time goes on, I am the succession plan for that organization. It is a 4.4 billion assets under management and 30 million GDC. So, 30 million income per year and so it's not a small company. And it's really important that I learn all the ins and outs of how to take over what it is that he's doing because that is my role going forward.

[00:17:37] Aprilyn: Right now, I serve as the trustee... as a trustee on the national board for our industry association called NAFA. And my goal in the future, be president. And I feel like that our industry organization needs somebody like me to be the president, to lead the organization into the future that understands the past, makes it relevant for the future, and brings a different perspective that can then attract and retain members and people to achieve the benefits that we put forth through NAFA when it comes to advocacy and when it comes to career success.

[00:18:18] Joe: And also, a lot of young women will look at you and say, "I could be her. I wanna be her someday." And that is powerful being... I won't say on the pedestal, but being the guide for others, being the example, the trailblazer that others can follow.

[00:18:37] Joe: And with the changing demographics of the United States, I mean Latina and female is becoming more and more and more important and they've been underserved in a lot of [inaudible], not just in financial services, but in other professions. And so, there's probably some young woman out there, 14 years old that 20 years from now is going to be a raging success because they saw you speak some place.

[00:19:06] Aprilyn: Yeah. You know, when I was growing up and I decided that I wanted to be in my industry, there was no professional Barbie. There was no buddy that that looked like me, that I saw when I looked around. And in the beginning, I was disconcerted by that, but then I realized that I can forge my own path, and I can take what I learned from different people and different sources and make it mine. And I think that that's so important that we all have to be our own selves and be our authentic selves in order to be effective in the roles that we serve.

[00:19:47] Aprilyn: And as a Latina female, when I came on the national stage, I thought that I had to emulate the men that were on the boards with me. I thought that I had to strain my hair and wear dowdy suits and I had to talk like them and do all that. And so, I wasn't my best self. I wasn't as effective as I could have been. And once I realized that I have everything that I need within myself and my value is my perspective and my differences where I come from, then I was much more effective. I was able to stand on my own two feet and be myself.

[00:20:22] Aprilyn: And one example is I went up on Capitol Hill and I was just who I was. I just talked to the legislators like I talked to my clients. And I explained and told my story, which as you said is kind of a powerful story and it was relevant to them to the point that our now governor, who was a representative at the time, she said to me, "I voted the way that I voted on this legislation because you were in my office and you explained it to me in such a way that I understood how it affected my constituents."

[00:20:58] Aprilyn: So there is nothing as powerful as you using your voice and telling your story and making change happen. I feel like that I make change happen as a result of my being authentic and using my perspective in the roles that I serve.

[00:21:14] Joe: And you know, I was gonna ask you, if you were to give advice to a young person just getting out of college what to do, but it sounds like you just gave some of the best advice that's been spent on this podcast yet. So, thank you for that.

[00:21:29] Joe: One of the things The Human Kaizen Podcast is about is about little changes to create big improvements. And it could be... one of the examples that I've used before is if you're putting money aside on a regular basis, far as Roth area, your 401k or what have you, continuously putting aside a little bit in good times, bad times, no matter what. At the end of the day, you have a big pile of money, and that's one of the reasons for the nonlinear growth curve on the front of the book, because it doesn't matter if that's learning to play guitar, or learning a language, or practicing martial arts like I do, or setting aside money for a future, or your professional development. Continuous little expenditure in the right way is going to produce some tremendous results. So talk about that a little bit for our listeners, please, Aprilyn.

[00:22:22] Aprilyn: Absolutely. I think that day to day, we can come into the office and do fluff activities. But for me, I had to hold myself accountable and I needed to do the little things to reach my big goals. So, are you familiar with the 20-point system? Do you remember the 20 point system?

[00:22:39] Joe: No. Bring the listeners up to speed on.

[00:22:42] Aprilyn: So, the 20-point system is basically where you earn points based on the things that you do and in our business. It's meeting with making calls, meeting with clients, doing closes, all the activities that actually generate money or business.

[00:22:59] Aprilyn: And so, there is a system and you can make your own, but with things that are relevant. But if you're making outbound calls, you get two points. If you make... for each call or one point for each call you make for a close, for a meeting, for a schedule. And so you have to have 20 points in a day.

[00:23:16] Aprilyn: And for me, I had to have and hold myself accountable in the little things and have those 20 points because then that led to my success. So I know that if I see X amount of clients or make X amount of calls, then I will be able to have the amount of sales or the big goal that I need to have at the end of the year to achieve like a award level for me that drives for--- 

[00:23:41] Joe: Top of the table this year, which is the top 2% in your industry.

[00:23:45] Aprilyn: Exactly.

[00:23:46] Joe: And that's pretty awesome. Top 2% is incredible. Congratulations, by the way. And so the little things do add up. That goes back to what Zeno Citium said, "Well-being is no small thing, but it's made of small steps." So as a busy, professional and parent and volunteer, how would you translate that concept for people who work for somebody else as an employee or for like somebody who's juggling five kids and other responsibilities?

[00:24:22] Aprilyn: I think it's important to understand and prioritize to get through the things that you need to get through. We can all fill our lives with unimportant activities, and I think that if we can focus on the activities, and for me, holding myself accountable with a point system is the way that I focus and prioritize the things that I need to get done in a day.

[00:24:42] Aprilyn: So if you can set up a system by which you follow it routinely in order to get to your goals, and those goals can be set by you, or if you're in an employee situation, they can be set by somebody else who makes it clear to you that you have to have this in a... let's say in a month's time, you have to have X amount of production. Well, if you can personally break that down and figure out how you get to that X amount of production and what you need to do every minute or every day or not. And of course, reward yourself for the small things. That's what's gonna make the difference for you to get to where you need to be.

[00:25:21] Joe: Cool. Now let's take this beyond the office. I mean, you're incredibly busy. I mean, you're, you've got busy family life in addition to your volunteer work.

[00:25:30] Aprilyn: Yeah.

[00:25:30] Joe: How do you balance this? How do you juggle it? How do you get those components done?

[00:25:36] Aprilyn: Yeah. So work life balance. And for me, work is life and life is work. And that sounds worse than it actually is because for me, I love what I do. I make it so that I can spend time with my daughter. In the times that I need to spend with my daughter and I am focused on her at those times. I am there for her tennis matches, I am there for her events, I am there for her wins at school, but I am still able to finagle a way to get my work done and to get to my 20 points if that's my goal for that day.

[00:26:09] Aprilyn: So, work is life and life is work in my world, and they all just sort of blend together. It's too hard for me to try to keep the two separate. And in different compartments, it goes like this. When I come in the day, I make the calls that I need to make. I also make the personal calls that I need to make and get that information done and work so that I can have the time that I need to spend with the people that I love. And enjoy, be present when you're doing everything that you do and then it's more valuable.

[00:26:45] Aprilyn: And yeah, I think outside the box. I was at a doctor's appointment yesterday and I had to be on a Zoom call, not video, of course, but I had to be on a call and listening at the same time that I was in a doctor's appointment because it was unavoidable. And that's just the things you have to do out of the box.

[00:27:04] Joe: And you know, luckily with the technology innovations, not just the technology, but the acceptance of it in a post-COVID world. I mean, five years ago, I was using Zoom to do presentations and everybody you know was like, "Ooh, what's this new technology?" So it wasn't exactly cutting edge, it just had not crossed the gap to wide acceptance. And I think we're seeing a lot more of this blending of squeezing in a couple of personal calls. You know, taking the business call while you're doing something else. And by doing that, it allows us to have that time with the family if we can establish the boundary.

[00:27:44] Joe: I mean, so when your daughter is playing tennis, are you taking work calls during that time? Or are you mainly focused? What? Tell us about that because a lot of people feel a little bit guilty of being at the soccer field and talking on the phone.

[00:28:03] Aprilyn: So I had to sort of determine what are the important times when she's doing her match. What are the important times? And there may be a small match where she's doing okay and she doesn't really need or want feedback from me. And I can take a call and still pay attention to a point. But when that matches over, I need to be focused on her and I need to be able to have the conversation and work through, "Okay, how did that go? What happened? What could we have done better? What did you do great?"

[00:28:34] Aprilyn: All those conversations that is where I need to be present with her but when she's at practice and she needs to be focusing on herself and she's not needing feedback from me, then I can take the calls that I need to take or make the calls that I need to make in the midst of everything else.

[00:28:49] Joe: And you just said something that I wanna make sure my listeners get. After the event, you do a debrief with her. You go---

[00:28:57] Aprilyn: I do.

[00:28:57] Joe: "What you do well? "What could you do better?" And for people in financial services, I used to do this with the people that I would mentor. In martial arts after a match, I will do this with my students. I do it with my kids after a concert or a test so that feedback loop. I wanna make sure the listeners caught that because that is where we as aunts, uncles, parents, mentors, bosses, whatever position that we are in can give the insight to help them have a better experience and be better in the future from that.

[00:29:35] Aprilyn: Yes, I got so used to that having that happen from mentors that I worked with, is that I learned how to do that for myself. And the to do my own debrief. And be honest, it's really hard to sometimes look at yourself in the mirror and say, "Okay, here's my faults, but I can work on those and here's what I'm really good at." And to acknowledge what you're good at and understand and own your successes. 

[00:30:00] Aprilyn: So we have to be able to self-assess, and I'm teaching my daughter to do that when we have the debriefs and helping her to think through what's going on with her tennis program in this case and so that she can do it herself.

[00:30:14] Joe: And one of the things that is being able to say, "I screwed up in this situation, but I'm not a bad person. I'm not worthless because I hit a bad shot or because something bad happened to me." You can separate the person from the action and improve the actions in the future.

[00:30:31] Aprilyn: Yes, and failing forward, right? Failure is what you need to have happen in order to get to the success. It is okay to have a failure as long as you're leveraging it to have more success. I, in my life, had struggles. I cannot change what happened to me. We all have had struggles, but what I say is that you need to let your struggle be your strength. And channel it and not your identity.

[00:31:01] Aprilyn: I was when I first got into this career, I was letting it be my identity, and I was so worried and so caught up in what had happened to me in the past that I wasn't my best self. I wasn't standing on my own two feet. But once I got that, and I let my struggle be my strength and help me to channel, if I can get through what I got through, then I can get through this and I will get through this. I just need to channel it and depend on what I have inside me.

[00:31:25] Joe: And that is why I put you in the book, actually, Aprilyn. Aprilyn is probably the only guest on this program who is actually quoted in Everyday Excellence because of that quote about her struggle becoming her strength, not her identity.

[00:31:40] Joe: And think about that, dear listeners, because that is one of the keys to being a long range successful in any endeavor. And as you can see with Aprilyn, having a lot of fun with it too. Being truly present, being truly who you are and being the best version of you that you can be.

[00:32:05] Joe: Aprilyn, you know, we're getting near the end of our time here. Is there any other things that you wanna talk about, a call to action? Anything that you wanna make sure everybody is aware of?

[00:32:16] Aprilyn: Yeah, there's one thing. Success is predetermined not by income, not by skills. Success is determined by sticktuitiveness, by grit, by ability to stay in the game. So I would say to you, stay in the game. You will be successful. There will be a lot of challenges and tribulations. However, if you have grit and you stay in the game, you will get to a successful place. So stay in the game and of course, let your struggle be your strength, not your identity.

[00:32:52] Joe: Awesome. Aprilyn, thank you very much. This has been the Human Kaizen Podcast. Be excellent and grow today.