One characteristic that distinguishes the best financial advisors, or the best in any profession, is that they are never satisfied with themselves; they know they can always do better. This drive to continually improve is very much in evidence among this year's Advisor Hall of Fame winners.
Only two years ago, at a relatively late stage in his career, Tom Curran established his own RIA and his own broker-dealer in order to do business his way. And no one will ever accuse Scott Hanson of complacency, having developed an affiliate retirement network and accumulated over $1 billion in AUM. For Gena Harper, born with glaucoma, and her partner Carla Koren, who was raised by a single mom and put herself through college, going "above and beyond" for clients is a byword of their practice.
Malcolm Makin also rose to great heights from humble beginnings; despite 30 percent growth in assets and revenues over the past year -- bespeaking obvious success in portfolio management and client service -- his goal remains "to improve on what we have." And David Mallach's restless drive to keep ahead of change has given birth to two investment strategies employed by Merrill advisors nationally, not to mention two financial thriller novels, based on these strategies.
These financial advisor overachievers have not skimped on their Wheaties! How can we perhaps be just a little bit more like them? Well, most champions give more credit to their training than to their breakfast cereal. Don't try to be faster than a speeding bullet; rather, strive to be just a little bit nimbler than you were the day before. A habit of making small, incremental gains is what leads to the bigger strides high achievers seem to make effortlessly. (This is very much like the way a disciplined strategy of saving, together with compound growth, leads to vast-seeming portfolio gains decades later.)
Perhaps even more fundamentally, high achievers recognize there is no room for complacency. Just staying in the same place is not possible in business or life. Competition is always intensifying and conditions are always changing. If you picture yourself on a downward moving escalator, you'll appreciate the need to always step up.
There is one more key point to emphasize: You can only effectively compete against yourself. No one else -- not this year's Hall of Fame Winners, nor your estranged parent or relative who always made you feel inadequate -- can offer you a meaningful benchmark. This should be a greatly liberating idea. We all have unique qualities and a mission only we ourselves are qualified to achieve. Still, the exemplary achievements of our newest inductees to the Research Advisor Hall of Fame should be heard as a call to our own higher, better selves.