A few years ago, my husband and I journeyed to Vietnam on vacation. Like many foreign travelers, we wanted to experience the various cultures there to gain some perspective on the lives of its people. After all, Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country with several dozen distinct indigenous groups, each with its own unique language and cultural heritage. We visited the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi to learn more about the groups, their histories, cultures and traditions, but we also desired to gain an understanding of the indigenous people who live in Vietnam today.
In the small, mountain town of Sapa—approximately 25 miles from the Chinese border—we hiked with a local Black Hmong guide among the rice paddies, shared a meal with our guide’s family and lived as the Black Hmong live for two days.
During our stay, we learned a great deal about the Black Hmong, including how much they value their independence by choosing to live away from other tribes, at high altitudes and in stark and often poor conditions. What captivated me most about our time around Sapa was not the land—which is vast, undulating and breathtaking—nor the living conditions—which are humble, with limited access to clean water—nor our guide, My (pronounced “Me”)—who was quick to laugh and inform us about local plants and customs (meet her here)—but, the mindset of this community.
Mindsets are unique. They’re created by the environment in which we live and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. They inform decisions, create blind spots and, undoubtedly, shape lives. They’re powerful and there are benefits to exerting effort to understand them.
As a tourist, understanding the mindset of a local people can be an educational and eye-opening experience. In business, understanding the different mindsets of your clients can be the difference between growing a relationship and losing an account you’ve had for years. After all, the more you know about what’s driving your clients’ behaviors, the more value you can provide.
Over the past few months, we’ve taken a deep dive into the mindsets of some unique groups that financial advisors serve. That’s not by accident; these groups of people share common behaviors and fears that have been influenced by their environments and experiences. We’ve covered millennials, people who have become suddenly single, clients who are going through cognitive decline, and one episode focused on behavioral economics. If you haven’t listened yet, I’d encourage you to do so.
In the harshest of conditions, the Black Hmong community is prevailing. While they live humbly, they love large. Their kind, joyful, enduring and generous spirits permeated every moment of our time there. That generous spirit empowers them; they have leveraged tourism to support local families.
While I realize the two-day glimpse into the life of the Black Hmong doesn’t mean I truly understand what it takes to survive in the conditions, spending two days helped me gain a new perspective about what the ingredients to happiness can and perhaps should be: family, ingenuity and hope, as opposed to comfort and belongings. This trip was one of the highlights of my life and was made possible by curiosity, the desire to support a community and the willingness to learn about a different mindset.
Take some time to reflect on the mindsets of your clients and the service you’re currently providing them. Is everyone treated the same way, or is there an opportunity to step into their shoes and deliver a tailored client experience? Taking the latter route can help differentiate your practice from the crowd, and over time, help to add value at the intersection of money and emotions for your diverse client base.
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