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Passion for the Product with Tou Vang


Today's guest is a very experienced business builder, National Marketing Director Tou Vang, who has been an entrepreneur since shortly after he came to America from Laos in 1980. When he finished up his schooling, he started gaining experience opening businesses, everything from a grocery store to a used car dealership. For the last 13 years, Tou has been helping people secure their futures and protect their families with life insurance and other financial solutions, and he's as passionate about the product as he is about helping people.


Jeff Lehman  0:02  

You're listening to Lead. Empower. Grow., a podcast featuring entrepreneurs who lead productive teams, empower their communities and grow successful businesses of their own.

For today's episode, I spoke with a very experienced business builder, National Marketing Director Tour Vang. Tou has been an entrepreneur for a long time, almost ever since he got to America in 1980. It was a long journey — all alone, without his parents, all the way from Laos. When he came here, he jumped right in: He finished his schooling, went to college, and then started opening businesses, everything from a grocery store to a car dealership, and finally, for the last 13 years, he's been with First Financial Security.

Tou had a lot of great things to say, we had a great talk. He emphasized the importance of owning your own business, not letting the business own you. And, aside from all the interesting things he's done in interesting places he's been, he also talked a lot about how important it is to help people with what you do — to work from the heart. That's how all businesses should be.

I hope you love listening to him as much as I loved talking to him. Let's just jump right in.

Thanks so much for joining me, Tou. Thank you for being on the podcast. I like to start by asking agents just what they did before FFS — What was your life like before you found First Financial Security, or we found you? Did you have — did you work in finance? Or did you have a different job? Or what was your story up until joining with FFS? What was it like?

Tou Vang  1:26  

Oh, yes, it has been a long time, it's a long story, but... You know, I came to the United States as a refugee — without my parents because they stayed behind. So I came alone with my one on my uncles, single. We came here in 1980 So I have been here over 40 years, now.

Jeff Lehman  1:50  

Wow, yeah.

Tou Vang  1:51  

Yeah, and when we came here, I didn't speak any English. I was just starting to learn my ABCs, but... you know, when we come here, I was 18 years old, and I was not able to go to lower grades, so I just went to 11th grade at the high school. So I was in high school for one-and-a-half years, and when I'd done that, I was only able to speak a little bit. But when you graduate from high school, you need to go to college, right? So it was very hard, very tough for me. But I just decided, "Well, it doesn't matter, as long as I have diplomas," so I attended college for a couple years.

And then, I was thinking about how I needed to look for a job. My first business was opening a grocery store, a small grocery store on a corner, for about three years. Then, I think, "Oh, that's not enough for me," so I always was looking for a better opportunity. That's my life. And then I went to open a temp services company — you know, finding jobs for people and the companies pay me.

Jeff Lehman  3:05  

Mhmm, right.

Tou Vang  3:05  

I tried to do that for about two years. I had about twenty employees working for me. But in two years, I'm thinking a lot about the competition in temporary services, and I decide to move into car dealership. I opened a car dealership where I sold and detailed cars for a dealer and I also sold off a lot. So I was in the car dealership for about seven years. It was successful, but when the twin towers in New York went down, the economy went down too. Everything was so low that I was looking for another business, too.

So I went to real estate. So I went to get my Realtor license to become a Realtor and sell and buy and flip.

Jeff Lehman  4:07  


Tou Vang  4:08  

I did that about five years, and then the home health care businesses started to come out — I was always looking for a better opportunity. So when the home health cares come out, I think, "Well, I'd be able to open a home health care service for people."

Jeff Lehman  4:23  

Wow, yeah.

Tou Vang  4:23  

So I opened a home health care service for about six years and then in 2008, FFS approached me, talking about insurance, and I told then, "Well, I used to be insurance agent for another IMO from 1987 to 2000." So I knew, and I said "Okay, I understand insurance, I know exactly how you guys do it," and I didn't have as much interest anymore. So it took me three years, by 2011, then an agent came over and said "Hey, we don't want to recruit you, and we want to see how much protection you have." And problem back then was that my wife said, "Oh, no, no, no," all the time — but this time, my wife sat down and the agent told her, "Okay, you own this property, your house, but what if something happened to your husband? Can you afford all this? How much insurance do you have?" She said, "Well, we have $100,000." He said, "No, for financial security and peace of mind for you, you should have $1 million and your husband should have $1 million." Then my wife said, "Oh, I never thought about if my husband got sick or he didn't come home. Then what would I do? Okay, then calculate how much." After that, we each bought $1 million.

And then after this, he said, "Hey, I've be here for an hour. You cooked for me, and then I'm walking away from your home with $28,000." And then my wife said, "How'd you get that?" He said, "I calculated the commission." And she said, "Can I join?" [Laughs]. We joined after that. Now we've been growing our team in Minnesota for the last 13 years.

Jeff Lehman  7:47  

Yeah, yeah, he had a plan, it makes sense — I would want to join to.

Tou Vang  7:56  

[Laughs]. Yeah, yeah. 

Jeff Lehman  7:57  

And you had so many businesses before FFS. So you definitely already had the business mindset, you already had an entrepreneur's experience, so was it like a natural transition or was it hard at first? Or was it just like, "I got this, I've been doing this for years"? I imagine it was pretty easy, at first. Did you have any challenges when he first joined FFS? What was it like those first few days, or weeks, or months?

Tou Vang  8:24  

Well, when I first joined FFS, my upline leader who recruited me lived in California. He didn't have much time, so he came here, and he'd teach me and go out with me to field train me for a week. I already had a little experience in financial services, and because the system almost the same thing, I understood. So I told him, "Okay, you can go. I'll do my best," And then, he taught me that with this product, you don't have to die, that we have a living benefits here and this is how you sell that. So I said, "Yeah, I'll do whatever I can. You can go home." And we he came back, I had made about $10,000 or $15,000 already. [Laughs]. So he said, "Okay. Let's so recruiting." So after that, we started to recruit.

Jeff Lehman  9:20  

Yeah, I love that. So you were like, "I got this. I know what to do." That's awesome.

Were all of your other businesses, like the car dealership and grocery store — Was that also all in Minnesota? Was that all in Minneapolis?

Tou Vang  9:33  

Oh, yeah, they're all Minnesota. And the thing is: I thought I was owning a business, but really it was that the business owned me. So I'd been in Minnesota for 20 years, 25 years, and I'd still never seen anywhere in the United States because I'd be there seven days a week. [Laughs]. That's a lot of hours to spend there. So, while I do think that's a great business to start, you don't have the system. Even when you have the system you, you don't have money to pay for people to work for you. And you cannot do it by yourself.

Jeff Lehman  10:12  

Yeah, it's much harder.

Tou Vang  10:12  

So the FFS opportunity, I like it because I can be my own boss and go anywhere I want to go.

Jeff Lehman  10:13  

Yeah, and so you had those businesses, that experience starting other ones, so you knew how hard it can be — and is ‚ to start a business, and so when FFS comes along, you're like, "Oh, this is an easier way," or "Oh, it's nice, this system."

Just circling back, when you came here in 1980: Was it Vietnam, originally? Or which country?

Tou Vang  10:46  

Oh, I came in from Laos.

Jeff Lehman  10:47  

Laos. You're Laos, okay.

Tou Vang  10:49  

Laos, yes, the country between Thailand, Vietnam and China.

Jeff Lehman  10:53  

Yeah, yeah.

Tou Vang  10:53  

You know, Laos is the country right there in the middle.

Jeff Lehman  11:00  

Yeah, I've talked to some Laotian agents before too. Yeah. It's Vietnam, Laos and I talked to my first Myanmar — Burma — agent the other day, too. But yeah, I just wanted to make sure so we all knew.

Tou Vang  11:11  

You know, where we come from — it's not that we see the opportunity and we know that the United States has the opportunity, so we come over. We came because we were running away from danger. You don't come, somebody will kill you. That's why, you know, you come over. I never knew that the United States had the an opportunity for me, you know? You just don't want to die.

Jeff Lehman  11:36  

Of course.

Tou Vang  11:36  

You don't want to die today. You try to die tomorrow, that's what you always do.

Jeff Lehman  11:41  

Yeah, live as long as you can, that's why you come over. But I am glad — I mean, it would be hard too, obviously, with a completely different language and the schooling. But then you got through college, I'm just... it's impressive. I'm impressed by you, and then building all those businesses. Not only did you come over and live another day, but also started really working and thriving and yeah... It's nice. A nice part of the podcast is hearing all these stories of success and courage and bravery and... especially you coming over without parents.

Tou Vang  12:15  

Yeah, really hard. The thing is, English is our second language also. And even today, we still don't speak good English, but, you know, we understand. But we don't have to wait until we speak perfectly to do it. It doesn't take the most educated people to make it happen. If you want, and you're passionate, you will get it too. So that's why I like the opportunity.

Jeff Lehman  12:47  

Yeah. And that's why I like the way we run this, because we're here to help, so is your upline. If you want it, if you have the drive and the passion, like you said, and you want to help people, then we got you. We can help. We're here to help you. No one comes out — No one's born knowing how to start a business. You know, everyone gets taught things. [Laughs].

Tou Vang  13:08  

[Laughs]. That's why I defend the people. When I introduced this to my kids, they said they're not that type of people — They don't want to talk to people. But I tell them, in my life, I've always loved people. I always like people. I always work with people. So, I like people and I want to make their community wealthy. If they're in a low-income family or whatever, I do this out of love. I've worked a long, long time with low-income families.

Back when I was working in the Central Lutheran church, I was working as a job developer and finding jobs for people trying to get out from welfare. I'd send them to a company, find housing for low-income families, like Section 8, I'd work with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, and they can build a house for low-income families that they can be able to buy. So I served them. I helped lot of families. So that's why, my clients trust me.

Jeff Lehman  14:25  

That's so nice. Yeah. Yeah. Your love for people, and helping people — that's what I love about our agents as well. It's a lot of people like you. We are in this to to help.

And yeah, helping others find work is kind of what we do at FFS as well — that's kind of what recruiting is — but you know, to be with Habitat for Humanity, helping people build houses, you're helping them build a life. And then, you know, FFS is kind of like helping them protect that life. Protect the future.

Tou Vang  15:00  

By the time our people came to this country, they didn't really like life insurance. They didn't want you to talk about life insurance. But anyway, we tried to do the best we could to give them a policy. Then, 35 or 25 years passed by, the older people passed away, and then they're still calling us to say, "Hey, I remember a long time ago, my parents bought insurance from you." And you say, "Oh, yeah, they're still here." Then we need to claim and give a check to the family.

So that's why — you know, before, people really don't like you to go to their home, but now people like you, because you're bringing them something. So that's why I'm passionate to say, "Well, now the product here is better than before, so we can do wealth transfer in the next 20 or 25 years." A lot of people, their family will become wealthy again, so that's why I like to do it, yeah.

Jeff Lehman  16:03  

Yeah, I hear that a lot. And that makes sense, why it is hard sometimes at first for the FFS business. It's interesting, because it does just take time. You're protecting people. And then I hear agents always say when you pay that first death benefit, that's when you get to see the help you give. You get to be like, "This is why I'm doing this." But before then, I imagine it could be a little harder because you're not really seeing... it's not like farming, you don't really get to see something you make until that death benefit happens and the help you give. 

Tou Vang  16:39  


Jeff Lehman  16:40  

So, it just take some time, of course. And it's always a sad circumstance too — but there's a little bit of happy, or a little bit of comfort, knowing that they're also not worried about money. They can have time to grieve and think about the family, but they're not also like, "How am I going to eat?" 

Tou Vang  16:58  

That's true.

Jeff Lehman  16:59  

It helps to come with some money to a funeral.

Tou Vang  17:01  

I always say that when the times change, everything changes. So you have to follow when the times change. I've been with First Financial for 13 years, so I've seen people, I can prove to people that, "Yep, we have living benefits." I can take out the living benefits for my client, and then say, "Oh yeah, he can pay this for this brother, this uncle," and then the trust is there. So that's very beautiful, you know?

Jeff Lehman  17:01  

It is beautiful. Do you have — you might not have an answer to this one — but do you have like a specific story — we've been talking about that first benefit death benefit — like a client you really helped? Or like maybe, the —

Tou Vang  17:44  

Yeah, in my life with FFS, many good things have happened. Some good things are because, for the agent who takes the opportunity, their family's lives can change too. And the ones who take the product that we offer, they, in the future, come and they're like a champion for you too. So helping both. 

You're helping the client, and then later, the client is helping you too. So that's why I like FFS. And in the past, my story... I'm passionate for the product because number one: living benefits. You can take the money out to help your clients, exactly like what you told them before. They can get help. Nothing different. And the second thing, it can build the cash value for the retirement, or the child's education, or anything they want. Over their past 10 years, I can compare with the illustration: "Okay, the last 10 years, I introduced to you this much cash value you've built in your policy." Today, I can say, "Okay, things are exactly, maybe a little higher, a little less." It's proven. The product is good. The company's good. The system's good. So yeah, with the FFS business, I love to do that.

You have more freedom, more opportunity. Also, I've been here for 13 years and the people under my team, I have about 13–14 champions under me, and I can prove that, "Yeah you can retire with your husband, and husband and wife can be with FFS." You can be full time, you can be part time, you have days you can come to the office and you have free time go anywhere you want to go, and do business right there. And you'll be able to work for 50 states, you can vacation to different states, that your business right there. That's a good opportunity. I tell everybody it's very good. The pay is good. And you know that if you do something, you will get paid.

Jeff Lehman  20:05  

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You get paid for your work, but also, yeah, the freedom.

Tou Vang  20:11  

Yeah, the freedom, that's the best.

Jeff Lehman  20:13  

That's all of it. Yeah, that's America.

Tou Vang  20:15  

I know, when you do your own business outside of FFS, sometimes you made a lot of money, but your work for yourself really, really hard. You have no time off. And here, I don't care about a lot of money, but I care about the team. You help them, you build them, it's growing and changing their life and changing a little bit is okay too.

Jeff Lehman  20:42  

Love that. Yeah. Thank you so much. That's, I feel like, a great point to end on. I love everything you said there. It's about the team. It's why it's the word "team." Yeah. All in it together.

This has been great. And to hear from you, who've been here 13 years. You're a veteran, essentially. Been here so long. I like talking to all agents: new ones, older ones, but yeah, to have an experienced perspective, that's great.

Tou Vang  21:04  

Yeah, I believe that there's no better opportunity anywhere else than the FFS opportunity. It doesn't mean that you have to have a really high education or speak English very well to be excellent in the FFS business. Education or no education, if you have passion, you love people, you want to do good to people, then you can make it here. So I love it, you know.

Jeff Lehman  21:40  

Yeah, it's about the heart.

Tou Vang  21:42  

Yeah, and the one thing, when you join FFS, you know, you have opportunity to see the world.

Jeff Lehman  21:49  

[Laughs]. Yeah, that's a plus. Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you so much Tou, and let me also thank all of you who are listening. To hear more stories from entrepreneurs like Tou, you can listen to our past episodes on our feed or at And, of course, subscribe or follow wherever we get your podcasts to listen to new Lead. Empower. Grow. episodes the moment they air. 

We look forward to bringing you more stories like this one. Until then, continue to lead, empower and grow.

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