Compete with Yourself with Choua Yang
It's a new season and a new year for the Lead. Empower. Grow. Podcast, and we couldn't have asked for a nicer guest to get 2024 off to a good start than Choua Yang. One thing becomes clear when talking to this National Marketing Director from FFS: she has a lot of determination and she represents the power of believing in yourself in the face of many challenges. Today, we'll dive into the lessons Choua learned throughout her career and her advice for anyone looking to make a meaningful impact in their life and the lives of others.
Jeff Lehman 0:00
Welcome to a new season and a new year of Lead. Empower. Grow., a featuring entrepreneurs who lead productive teams, empower their communities and grow successful businesses of their own. I'm your host, Jeff Lehman, and I couldn't ask for a nicer guest to kick off our 2024 season. Choua Yang is a National Marketing Director for FFS, and when I sat down to talk with her, I was struck by her determination and how she showed the power of believing in yourself in the face of many challenges. Today, we'll dive into how Choua the lessons she learned throughout her career and her advice for anyone looking to make a meaningful impact in their lives and the lives of others. It's a great episode, and I can't wait to hear it, so let's dive right in.
Thank you so much, Choua. Thank you for being on the podcast. It's amazing to have you, and I remember hearing you — you were on Leaders Convention stage, right?
Yeah, I heard you this year. I kind of just reached out to all the speakers this year. But I remember, yeah, I used yours a lot on the — or at least opened, I think — on the supercut episode. But thank you for being on, and I just wanted to ask you what your FFS story is? You know, I start with every agent: How did you get introduced FFS? Did it come to you? Did you find it? Did you go to a BOP? What was your process? And what were you doing beforehand? What was life like before? Just... your origin story [Laughs].
Choua Yang 1:22
Yes, yeah. So — thanks, Jeff, so much for having me on the podcast. It's truly a pleasure of mine to be able to share my story with every agent, you know, whether they're older, or they're new to the business.
I mean, as for myself, you know, prior to FFS, I did not have a career. I'd freshly graduated high school. I learned about the opportunity when I was 17 and a half, so I couldn't even join yet. So I actually heard it from my coaches Keng and Zoua. However, when they came to our home, their intention was not to recruit my husband and I because we were so young. They actually wanted to recruit my father-in-law.
But my husband and I, we happened to arrive home from school, and his father was just like, "Oh, son, come and listen to this." And so we just listened to it. And I think for my husband and I... you know, we got married at such a young age. And so we were always struggling financially. So that was something that, you know, really, really intrigued us about the opportunity: to hear all of the successful stories that Keng had shared with us at the time about the potential that you can have in this business and everything else.
But for me... I don't know about my husband, but for myself, what really intrigued me was when I heard Keng say, "With this opportunity, you don't need a degree or any experience." So, barely just turning 18, I was like, "Wow, if there's an opportunity that doesn't need a college degree or individuals that have work experience, I'm all for it." Because obviously, I'd had no prior jobs, and so no career. I wasn't even good at math or finance. That was probably my weakest subject in school. But you know, I was really intrigued by that. Because I knew that if I was going to go and find a job, it would be difficult because I had just graduated high school and I had no prior job experience. For a lot of friends that were my age, it was the same thing. They were my age with no job experience. And so, I knew for sure that I did not have the network to pull me into a job to start with. So yeah, so that was my life before FFS. And that was how the opportunity found us.
Jeff Lehman 4:04
Yeah, I didn't have anything lined up after college either. I had no idea what I was doing. I think that is so common. And that's why I'm sure you felt like, yeah, "I don't know what I could do." But at 17 and a half, it was almost like it showed up on your doorstep. Here yon't need a degree because we try to, like, give you the degree, we try to pack it in. We're like a little university — that's probably pumping ourselves up too much. But, you know, the bad at math and finance thing: me too. And that's something we touch on in the podcast. Just because financial education is lacking in public schools — and private schools, even — that's why a lot of us... that's our mission too. I don't even know who could be good at finance if we haven't really been taught in a good way. You have to give yourself a little grace.
And I feel like yours is a little like Youa's story — I think. Someone that I recently talked to, I think it was Youa, where Keng and Zoua showed up for somebody else, and then she was like, "Wait a minute..." So that's nice to hear. And yeah, it's fun that your father-in-law was like, "Hey, you guys gotta hear this. Get in here."
Choua Yang 5:09
Yeah, he's like, "I'm too old for all that, so you guys listen." [Laughs].
Jeff Lehman 5:11
Yeah, I love that. Because you guys were right at the doorstep of adulthood, ready for it.
So you guys got married really young. How long have you been married then?
Choua Yang 5:22
We have been married... this year is our 15th anniversary.
Jeff Lehman 5:26
Congrats! Amazing. That's a big one.
Choua Yang 5:29
Yeah, so yes, we got married very, very young.
Jeff Lehman 5:32
That's awesome. And you're still together? It's a love podcast. Thank you for sharing that with us.
So then, what happened after that day? Was it kind of just off to the races? Were there a lot of challenges at first? Did it take a long time to get the hang of things, or did you feel like, "Wow, am I natural at this?" Or how were those first few months: What challenges did you face, and just what do you remember about that first time you were starting your business?
Choua Yang 6:05
There were tons of challenges. I mean, you can imagine: I was 18 years old, and my husband was 20. So we actually started the business with a lot of negative feedback. Obviously, after we got into it, my father-in-law, his whole goal... he actually really didn't want us to get into the business. Because he had thought, you know, it was just a scam, right? So when he kind of felt that we were getting serious about the business, he was pulling every trigger that he could to stop us. When we started, we actually did not have any warm market supporters. So they looked at us like, "Oh, you guys are just kids, you don't know what you're talking about." And 13 years ago, I mean, it was much different than today, because we obviously... we didn't have the technology that FFS has today, and just the whole process of everything was a lot more complicated. And it took a lot longer, right?
So yeah, my husband and I actually started our business just straight up prospecting, cold market. I still remember: we were so broke, we couldn't even make business cards. But FFS was so generous to provide free materials. And so we ordered tons of living benefit brochures, and we would go to parks, we would go to stores, and just pass out the brochures.
Jeff Lehman 7:41
Choua Yang 7:43
Uh huh. Just hoping that people would listen, you know? But now looking back, I feel like it really built our confidence. And it made us a lot stronger, because we had so many people that were trying to pull us down, so many people that didn't believe in us at the time, and so many people were watching us fail miserably in the business. Even my in-laws, my own family, my siblings, they did not show any support. But I think with us, in the beginning, I would have to say my husband was really the driver of the business. Because he was the one that has always had a bigger dream than I have. So he was like, "It's okay if we don't have any body that believes in us. We have to believe in ourselves. You know, if this worked for other ordinary immigrants, then it should work for us too, right?
Jeff Lehman 8:47
Yeah, those two years can either end the dream or give you just a little more strength. Yeah, the difference between 17 and 20 — and even 18 and 20 — is big, yeah.
Choua Yang 9:08
So he was the driver, definitely. And, you know, at that time, we really only had his financial aid as money to use, right? And my in-laws were so against it. We would make trips to appointments on the weekends or drive down to Sacramento, and some days we didn't have money for gas. We would have to wait until commission was paid, and then we'd be able to gas the car and then head out to appointments. It was very tough, you know. Very humble beginnings. Those were the challenges that we faced, with our families.
I shared this story with Zoua and Keng a long time ago: I don't remember how long we were in the business, but it was just a few months, and we had gone out for appointments out of town. And we came back and all of my husband's cousins had showed up at our home. And I was like, "What's going on?" You know, there's no traditional ceremony going on... "What's going on?" So we went inside, and it had turned out that my father-in-law had actually gathered all of the cousins and our grandpa to give us a whole adult lecture.
Jeff Lehman 10:27
I was wondering if that was were you were going with this. An intervention, yeah.
Choua Yang 10:32
A whole lecture. And, we continued to rebel against that. We thought, "Our dream is possible if we continue to do what we need to do in the business," right? Even though we were so new and we didn't know.
And so after a while, when we started seeing a little bit of income come in, my husband just straight up said, "This is our plan: I'm going to drop out of college, and then you're going to drop out." That was the plan. And you know, I went back and looked, and for that whole year we started, from our first paycheck through the rest of the year, we made only $1,000. A little bit above $1,000. For the year. Yeah. And I remember telling my husband, "Wow, we're really going to leave school for $1,000?" You know, at the time, it seemed like a lot for us.
Then, when he left school, and eventually I left, that was when you could see the fire in the household spread even bigger with the others.
Jeff Lehman 11:47
Yeah, yeah. They were like, "We've got to do something!"
Choua Yang 11:49
Now, looking back, I am grateful. I'm thankful for all of the challenges that we had to face in the beginning. I think that really shaped us to be who we are today and to not rely on families. Because we realized that, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many family members we have — if we can't help ourselves financially, we will never be able to reach out and help them with their financial struggles as well.
Jeff Lehman 12:25
It's give and take, yeah. You have to build yourself up too.
What struck me about all that is that your challenge was... to be with FFS that early, to be with us when we were still building ourselves, you were helping build us from the ground up. Because we didn't have any, like you said, of the technology we do now. We're constantly trying to bring more things in. Which isn't to say there's not still challenges for people, but you know, we're trying to make it easier. So it just makes sense that you, with no warm market, were really pounding the pavement. You were in prehistoric FFS history, I feel. [Laughs]. And like, building it up with us.
It's another testament to your resilience. And it makes sense that it took a little longer, and that you had to do that much convincing of your family. Because we didn't have... I don't know if we had the website, I'm sure we did, but we didn't have it as it is now. And we didn't have the podcast, and we didn't have Success Tracks. And we didn't have the... I don't know, you couldn't say, "Look at all this stuff. They're helping," you know? Yeah. That had to be really hard.
And to do all that, and it was basically your college job. I mean, It's impressive. You know, it's special. Yeah. Because you got here. Like you said, it was very hard and there were a lot of... not failures, but, you know, hurdles and obstacles. It's impressive even if you don't make it over the obstacles. Just getting on the track before you jump over the hurdle is... well, I couldn't do that. [Laughs].
Choua Yang 13:51
Right. Yeah. It's somewhere.
Jeff Lehman 13:54
It's always encouraging to hear. Because it does just take some time. And of course, that's the hardest thing is: how long can you, maybe, keep getting rejected? And how strong can you be? And we all have days where we're like, "Oh, I'm exhausted." But you know, if you stick it out...
And the thing that helps you stick it out is to think, "Well, this is the dream. We can do this. I want to do this." So that's amazing. I love that story for the podcast. Very inspiring.
And I kind of want to ask: Did you ever convince your father-in-law and the family? Over the years, were they reluctantly like, "Okay, we got it. Yeah, you're doing it. There's that." Did they ever get convinced? And what happened when the community opened up, or when you finally saw your impact, or when things maybe started getting easier? What was that like?
Choua Yang 14:44
So for my in-laws, thankfully, it took us just two years to prove it to them, because obviously as the years go by, you know, our income did increase, and we were able to help them more financially. Eventually. After, you know, pounding us with all the lectures, nothing was moving, nothing was shaking. And so, eventually, they gave up. Because my husband is the eldest son. So they gave up because they did see that we were very humble, and that we were very serious about the business, even though we were so new. They saw that in us. And so eventually, they gave up. They still did not support us by giving any prospects but... [Laughs].
Jeff Lehman 15:30
Yeah. And they were doing it out of care. They were just like, "We just want you guys to know what we think. You guys know. We won't give you anything, but..." At least they came around. That makes sense. And it was shorter than I thought.
Choua Yang 15:49
Yeah, so with my in-laws it took only two years, but with my family, it took a good 10 years, believe it or not. [Laughs].
Yeah, believe it or not — and, you know, my family is actually in Wisconsin, so they weren't around much when I was struggling in the business. But every time I had the chance to meet them, I would always share what I've learned. And so obviously, as family, you know, they became so tired of it. But I continued to share the knowledge with them, because I know it's something where they don't have access to it. And so, with that, I just pray, I just hope that by teaching them — by sharing with them — I just hope that one day, they see the value in the services that we do, and they will make that decision to protect themselves. So it did take a good 10 years.
Besides that, we never gave up because we knew the potential of the business. And just hearing everybody else's success stories in the business kept the fire burning in us. And we knew that after we burned all of our bridges, there was no return.
Jeff Lehman 17:06
That's why your success story is important, too. Because 10 years — you hear that, and you might think, "That must be hard," but if you're in the middle of your eight year without acceptance, you know it's not the longest anyone's ever gone.
Choua Yang 17:20
Yeah, yeah. For myself, I feel like I overcame that pretty fast. Because we were thrown into the jungle to survive by ourselves. I learned really quick, early on, that even if they're my family, I can't rely on them. That's just how it is. But obviously, we can't run away from family. So no matter how many times I have to repeat myself, I just have to continue to share. And now, they see the value in what we do. They see that every year, my business is growing. I've grown personally as an individual, too. So, with this journey, they have seen a lot of changes, a lot of growth, and they finally got on board to listen to what I have to teach them now.
Jeff Lehman 18:13
And that's what we all go through with family: that push and pull. Of course you can't run away. But at some point, you know you're not going to agree on everything. So it's the push and pull of meeting them. Nobody wants someone to talk down on what you do, or to get in a fight — God forbid — so you have to step in, step out; step in, step out.
How did you end up in California, if you grew up in Wisconsin?
Choua Yang 18:37
I have been in California since I got married. So since 2007. I've been in California. Obviously, as an as an immigrant, when my parents first came to the U.S. We were living in Sacramento for a good few years, and then we made the move to Wisconsin.
Jeff Lehman 18:56
So you went back to Sacramento.
Choua Yang 18:57
So now I'm back. [Laughs].
Jeff Lehman 19:26
Yeah, I'd go back to California too. I love the Midwest — I'm from Iowa — but yeah, everyone goes back to California.
This one you might have an answer to or not, but: Because you came up without any warm market at all, do you have any secrets or tricks or mantras about the cold market and how you approach prospecting? Any secret that clicked? What do you have to say about that? [Laughs].
Choua Yang 19:26
[Laughs]. Hmm, secrets? I don't think it's really a secret, but I think that you just have to be consistent with what you do. Because it's very easy to be discouraged by all of the rejections that you get. But you know — for myself, at least — I feel that I got over it pretty quickly because that was that was what we were exposed to early on in the business.
So as far as rejections, it's just very, very repetitive. You just have to continue to reach out to different individuals every single day. And I think the biggest thing is... FFS always talks about it, our coaches always talk about it: you always have to come back to your "Why." And I think that's so important to understand. Because early on, we realized that, obviously, no successful person has ever had an easy journey. It was the ability to overcome that. As long as, you know, they don't call the cops on you. [Laughs]. As long as they don't hurt you, it's okay to talk to people every single day. At that time — I remember it so vividly — we threw ourselves out there, we got uncomfortable, right. So we could enhance our skills. You know, when we started, Keng and Zoua started as well. We all started that same year. So we all were learning every single day. And we learned quickly that the only way we can really enhance our skills is to throw ourselves out there and talk to real people.
So I wouldn't say it's a secret, but I think that a lot of people have to understand that consistency is a key factor when you prospect. Because obviously, when you're doing cold market, you don't have a relationship, you don't have any trust. It is on the individuals themselves to know how they come off as a person, right?
There are people come into the industry for multiple reasons, and clients are very quick to sense that. So for us, when we were thrown out there to prospect in the cold market, we knew that we were so young that people wouldn't believe in us. But we were so attached to the vision and what it's able to do for clients out there, or for individuals, that we really used that as our drive. Even though back then we had no proof of living benefits, no proof of death claims. We just believed it blindly. That was the leap of faith that we took: believing that the opportunity is not a scam — that what we do for families cannot be a scam. We had to pass our state license exams to do what we do, right? [Laughs].
Jeff Lehman 22:27
Yeah, this is all real. This is all here. And that's why you have to lead with the helping — because that's the impact. That's the outcome, that's the successful outcome, is a saved family, A secured family. And nothing feels better than that. I mean, of course, there's money too. But it's the family that lasts, really. That's the legacy. It lasts longer.
But yours is a great story of consistency and hurdles. I love that. Do you have anything you wanted to add in these last minutes?
Choua Yang 23:06
Yeah. I think, whether it's for the new agents or the old agents, at the end of the day, you really do have to have a passion for what you do for families. I think that plays a very, very big role. That radiates when you talk to clients. For the past 13 years, I've had clients that have come back to me and say, "I've talked to multiple agents, but I came back to you, because I feel your passion. I feel that you really do want to help my family achieve financial security, and you're just not in here for yourself." So I think that's really, really important for me.
It didn't start until I was able to pay my first death claim at the age of 21. That was when the passion really grew inside of me, because the death claim I paid out was to a stranger. I was not related to this individual. And attending my client's funeral, realizing that everyone that attended was their family and friends, but I'm showing up at his funeral and here I am being able to lift such a heavy financial burden from his family. That was when I started to realize that what I'm doing is so valuable.
And it's a huge impact for families out there. I think that's something that agents should really develop as they grow in the business — to fall in love with what we do, and to really do it with a passion. Because saving lives is something that's incredible to be able to do. And not every ordinary individual is able to do that on a daily basis.
Jeff Lehman 24:50
That's amazing. It was great. You really got it, right there. Yeah. Thank you so much.
To see that family — I mean, that family is everyone you're impacting, all right there. All right at the funeral. Yeah. And it is during the most painful time. The most. It, by all means, is. And we always say, of course it doesn't heal everything. But gosh, if it doesn't help, you know? Because to have financial issues along with your grief is just... it's like two mountains on your shoulders.
Did you have anything you wanted to answer as far as issues you run into most with clients? What comes up a lot now? It's hard for me, because I'm not in the field, but do you have any?
Choua Yang 25:45
Yeah, so as far as issues with clients, I think that you really just have to have a servant's heart. Our coaches talk about that a lot. And many clients that I have run into, you know, they always have an issue contacting their agents after the transaction is done, right? And every time I meet them, I tell them: Even if I'm not your agent, if there's anything that I can help you with, I'd be glad to help you resolve that issue.
A think a lot of agents, their relationship ends after the transaction is done. So a lot of issues that I run into most with clients — I mean, I've never had any real issue with my own clients — but for other peoples' clients that I have run into, one of the biggest issues is not being able to contact their agent. Or their agent not elaborating or educating them to the point where they understand the service that they have, right? And the value that it can add to their family besides just a death benefit. "If you get this amount, then your premium's going to be X amount of dollars per month" — that's really all that they get from agents. As far as issues, that's the most popular one I've ran into. That's what they've shared with me.
Jeff Lehman 27:21
I'm glad you brought that up, because it does come up sometimes. You're picking up clients whose agent has kind of ghosted them or gone AWOL.
That is the difference between a successful agent and not. It's about saying "Hey, I'm gonna be in your life. You're going to have annual reviews with me; you're going to see me a lot." And yours is a slightly different perspective, whereas we're talking about agents who maybe are struggling or are new agents. But you also have to remember that, when you're engaging with a client, you're think, "I'm in this client's life. He's in mine. Now we're gonna have annual reviews. They need to be able to contact me." Everyone's finances change, you need to adjust policies. And it's not just a cash-out-and-go kind of thing.
And annual reviews: That's also how you get your renewals and your revenue and your continuous income. It's worth it to stick around. And of course, worth it first and foremost because you're helping and that's what it's about. It's keeping the family safe. So I'm glad you said that. Glad you're helping people that you don't even necessarily need to.
But that's the difference between our agents: We do need to help everybody. I haven't talked to anybody who thinks, "I'm only help these people because they're my clients." It's special.
Do you have any goals for the next year? I just like to ask my agents before they go out what they're looking at in the future or f they have any milestones...?
Choua Yang 28:48
At FFS, we're always chasing diamonds, right? [Laughs].
Jeff Lehman 28:51
[Laughs]. Yeah, we're miners.
Choua Yang 28:55
Yes, for sure. One of my goals is to hit my third diamond next year. And to be able to bring on more licensed Base Shops. And just to be able to expand my network, you know? To share it and the opportunity with anyone that I come in contact with. I think it's so important because, to be able to achieve our goals, we have to be able to help others change their lives and reach their goals. So yeah, as far as goals, those are two of my main focuses: to grow my Base Shop and get more licenses, and then to achieve my third diamond by helping my team achieve their goals and their dreams within the business too.
Jeff Lehman 29:48
That's how you do it. And I can't wait to see you have it.
Yeah, I love that perspective. Yeah, the goal is to help other people with their goals. I like that.
Thank you so much. Anything else you wanted to add? Before I do a little close out, anything else you were thinking?
Choua Yang 30:07
Everyone has their own story. At the end of the day, life is full of struggles and failures — and regardless of what we do in life, we have to work hard. I always tell clients and individuals that you can work hard for someone else's dreams or take the same amount of years to work hard for your dreams. Because only in America can you have the true privilege and opportunity to achieve whatever it is that you want.
Nothing is going to come easy. It's not supposed to come easy. For agents out there: Any challenge or failure that you meet should be something that motivates you to grow even more.
I always tell my team — there's no competition out there. The only person that you should compete with is yourself. Work on bettering yourself as an individual, personal growth and having that mindset shift to really deliver the best that you can for your team and for your clients. I think that that's really where it starts. Everything starts with your mind.
Jeff Lehman 31:42
That's it right there. Yeah, thank you so much. And thank you out there for listening. I hope Choua's story inspired you to face every challenge like she does: with courage and unwavering determination. To hear more conversations from entrepreneurs like Choua, you can listen through past Lead. Empower. Grow. episodes on our feed, or at firstfinancialsecurity.com under the Podcast tab.
And, of course, follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts to hear new Lead. Empower. Grow. episodes the moment they air. Thank you for tuning in, and, until next time — continue to lead, empower and grow.