Category Archives: Uncategorized

Commander’s Intent = Save for Retirement

I’m reading another great book, “Made to Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath (Brothers). Early in the book they write about “Commander’s Intent” a concept developed by the United States Army in the 1980’s that changed the planning process for battle plans. Apparently most of history’s battle plans turned out to be useless because according to Colonel Tom Kolditz “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” LOVE THAT!

Commander’s Intent seeks to keep everyone focused on what is most important.

In the design of Non-Qualified Benefit Plans sPlan5 has two objectives:

1 – Keep the plan design clean, simple and easy to understand and administer. This will result in lower cost and clearer communication.

2 – Always focus on the primary purpose of the plan which is to save for retirement.

Non-Qualified Plans can be designed with many design features and nuances which a few key executives will use but most do not. It is always tempting to build more and more features into a plan but this will usually result in diminishing benefit returns.

Let’s keep plan design beautifully simple:

– Focus on Retirement
– Think Long Term

At sPlan5 we believe that simplicity increases effectiveness with reduced costs. Some might argue that some executives will not participate in a plan because it does not have enough “flexibility” created by adding complicated features. But how many people do not participate because they don’t understand what is being proposed? And don’t you think it is true that every person is unique? The temptation is to design a plan that can cover all contingencies. But that might just create more questions than answers.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ~ Albert Einstein

Commander’s Intent = Save for Retirement – Let’s not forget this!!!!

By the way, “Made to Stick” = Great Book – Thank you to my daughter Rebecca for the gift of this book!

Thank you for reading.

Doug Marshall617-520-4695 – Voice
206-605-4695 – Cell


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So here is a simple idea – The Five Year Bridge Non-Qualified Retirement Plan

Let’s put you in the shoes of the Business Owner for a few minutes. You want to execute a program to attract and retain key employees but don’t want to get over complicated. Here is a simple Non-Qualified Benefit design that is easy to manage and explain.

Here is a sample benefit letter to a Key Employee.

Dear Key Employee –

ABC Company is creating a Non-Qualified Benefit Plan to reward you for excellent performance and contribution to the company. Here is a brief description of the plan.

1 – Each year ABC will contribute money into NQ Account for you and interest will also be credited over time. This is in addition to normal 401(k) and profit sharing dollars.

2 – The amount of the contribution will be 20% of your incentive bonus.

3 – You may choose to put additional money into the account before tax.

4 – At age 65 the account will be paid out to you over five years.

5 – The payments will allow you to take less out of your 401(k) and other retirement savings that do not need to be distributed until you reach the age of 70-1/2.

6 – If you leave the company before you are fully vested you will only be paid the vested amount.

7 – If you die or become disabled before you are fully vested the company will automatically vest you 100% and payments will be made to your or your beneficiaries.

Thank you for your dedication to the success of ABC.

SUMMARY – It really does not have to be complicated to get the job done.

Thank you for reading,

Doug Marshall

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

sPlan5 is: AN OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE changing the way they, they customers, feel about themselves and tell their own stories.

We are building a business, some might call it a movement, around people, not products. sPlan5 focuses on helping people tell the stories about themselves and the enterprises they run.

Not long before I left my former employer my team worked on an intriguing and sad project. The majority owner of the business learned he was terminally ill with maybe six months to live. It was important to him that he set in place a plan to retain and reward his top three executives. He needed the 100+ employees to know a strategy was in place to secure the future.

The owner told a story about himself, to his employees and to his family. It was a story saying he cared, it was his legacy and the best way to create the company’s future.

If we had focused on plans, strategies, financials and products we might have run out of time. If we had not kept the plan simple it might never had been implemented. sPlan5 in some ways has its ancestry in a case like this, the story of the customer and a commitment to keeping it simple.

I would like to recommend a book to you – “True Story” by Ty Montague. Ty Let me know what you think about his beliefs about “Metastory.” If this makes sense to you let’s engage.

People are hungry, not to buy products but hungry to tell their stories. By telling their stories they will create communities of like minded people. These community members are our customers.

Until next time!

You should follow me on twitter
From there you can link to @NQnext and @sPlan5

It all starts in Customer Service/Technical Support

My daughter Jessica helped me get sPlan5 the blog started. She pointed me in the direction of WordPress, a free and open source blogging tool. It is the most popular blogging system in use on the web. Well that is where I started. I set up three sites, sPlan5 one of the three. Now I committed to the goal of creating a community that shares ideas inspired by sPlan5 the blog. The only way anyone is going to read this stuff is if this blog can “inspire, delight, inform, educate, be generous, move people, help them to belong and to matter. The goal is to create meaning.” – (quoted text credited to Bernadette Jiwa – and author of “Fortune Cookie Principle.”)

So here I am, Jessica pointed me in the right direction and I started planing what to insert into the blog, stuff that will create meaning. And then (insert pause) I get an E Mail from Amazon telling me about a book I might be interested in. The book is “The Year Without Pants” – WORDPRESS.COM and the future of work by Scott Berkun. Coincidence? Probably but what the heck. I’m intrigued and in under a minute I’m starting to read the book on my Kindle app. In my attempt to keep my posts under 500 words let me get specific, what I learned so far from reading “The Year Without Pants” is…. wait for it, wait for it…

EVERYONE who works for WordPress, before they start doing the job they are hired for, spends their first few weeks working in Technical Support. They spend their first few weeks as “Happiness Engineers.” HERE IS MY AH HA MOMENT – What if all companies started their new hires (YES EVEN THE NEW CEO) in the technical service or customer support area for the first four weeks? I’ve spent my life in the financial services industry and I KNOW it would be a good idea for that industry.


(Two minutes later) I am going to trust that if you are reading this you don’t need me to point out the obvious about how this one simple idea would change Product, IT, Finance, Marketing and Employee decisions. If you don’t have an ah hah moment of your own here then you’ve got to get yourself a different blog.

I am going to end this by asking a favor from anyone who is engaged with me in the ideal of sPlan5….. NEVER let me start anything without first spending time thinking about what technical support or customer service will look like in our designs. We can make it beautiful and simple.

Our customers will understand the offering.
Our customers will understand what is expected of them.
And what we create will make their world better.

Where do we go from here?

Thank you to Bernadette Jiwa and Scott Berkun for your inspiration.


Maiden Voyage for sPlan5 the Blog

I love stories, especially real life stories of people, communities, businesses, history, current events…..the list goes on. What can I say? I’m just drawn to good stories whether they are told orally, in books, magazine articles, theater, youtube or movies.

I also love simplicity. I’m talking about the kind of simplicity that reduces bureaucratic red tape. I love simplicity that results in beautiful design. Simplicity is not the process of dumbing down to the smallest common denominator. According to Leonardo DaVinci – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Beginning in March of 2013 I’ve been on a reading binge. I took some time off from work to learn and to reflect on where I want to take my passions. I’ve read some great books, happy to give you a list if you are interested. They cover a wide range of business topics, some science, fiction and biography. On the business side I’ve read about growing a business, entrepreneurship, idea generation, creativity, marketing and time management. Two words keep jumping out at me – Story and Simple.

The vision for sPlan5 has a foundation in the two words Story and Simple and they will help guide this project along.

Let’s focus first on STORY – Everything a person DOES, everything a business DOES, tells a story. The world is crowded with people and companies TELLING their story, trying to be heard. I am fixated on Storydoing and helping people and companies tell their stories through what they do. Ty Montague, in his book “True Story” introduced me to the idea of Storydoing. This is also the same theme running through the book “The Fortune Cookie Principle” by Bernadette Jiwa. Both books are worth the time. Now I’ve been in the insurance business for more than twenty years. When someone buys a life insurance policy they are telling a story about themselves to their family. Think about it. A life insurance agent’s job is not to sell a policy, it is to help someone tell a story. How many times though are agents focused on the story they want to tell.

So why SIMPLE? In my industry, the insurance industry, simple is really hard to find. Proposals and Policies are way too complicated, applications are a mess and contracts that are 15 pages could be reduced to a page and a half. If the financial services industry can’t make products simple, easy to understand and easy to purchase then how are people going to tell their story?

sPlan5 is committed to customers who want to tell a story about themselves. To do this we will craft and tell the customer’s story with elegant simplicity. You will begin to see case studies and ideas about how to reach this idea. More to come. Thank you and welcome.