From the June 2008 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

June 1, 2008

Which Advisors Will Thrive?

Strategic planner Dan Sullivan bases this book on one premise: Never has there been a more exciting time to be a financial advisor. Historically, he notes, there wasn't a market for a personal advisor that could help clients with financial wisdom. "The entire phenomenon that we call the financial services industry is a very recent event," he writes.

Sullivan is the founder of The Strategic Coach, an organization that helps entrepreneurs reach their full potential. Having worked with entrepreneurs in dozens of different industries, he focuses on financial planners in his new book, The Advisor Century, co-authored by Gordon Arlen.

Sullivan describes what he calls the "unique process" advisors should adopt to become vanguards of their industry. Such a process is an automatic series of activities that has been refined through constant trial and error. Advisors who take this approach are client-focused, financially independent (not relying on product-based compensation) and have intellectual ownership. "These advisors continually build a storehouse of legally protected intellectual property that other advisors and the financial corporations are eager to license and use," he writes.

One of the book's sections, titled "Opportunity," focuses on the new prospects available to financial planners now and in the future. More people will be entering what Sullivan calls "economic adulthood" when clients will take greater responsibility for their own employment and financial security. Rather than being dependent on bureaucratic structures, more people will need to adopt entrepreneurial capabilities to save money for their retirement. "Financial advisors will increasingly become the freedom coaches who enable millions of individuals to plan, make decisions, and take actions that lead to more liberated living based on entrepreneurial principles," Sullivan writes.

One act will be for financial advisors to help clients relieve anxiety. "The most useful and profitable role for financial advisors lies in being lifetime simplifiers for their clientele," he writes.

Another section focuses on freedom. In his 30-year career, Sullivan discovered that entrepreneurs are unique in their potential to realize four important freedoms: time (being able to control their professional and personal time); money (limitless earnings potential), relationships (dealing only with people who are agreeable to them) and purpose (being able to focus resources, capabilities and opportunities on purposes of their own choosing).

Sullivan writes that advisors can create a successful unique process if they value their own wisdom and experience more than anyone else's, and if they value creative freedom more than professional status and commodity-based security.

Many advisors, in Sullivan's view, already have many qualities of a unique process. Yet, he doesn't believe the process is communicated to clients. "Regardless of how much wisdom an advisor puts into his process, he essentially shields this wisdom from clients by never giving them a true sense of all the value being created in the relationship," he writes.

Sullivan suggests advisors transform their thinking. For instance, he asserts, advisors should regard much of what they've done up to now as R&D; selling products was just training for something much bigger and better. He suggests financial advisors abandon their dependence on product sales. "The long-term earning potential of a unique process advisor is exponentially greater than that of any captive advisor," he writes.

Although some readers will be put off by Sullivan's constant use of jargon, the fundamental lesson of the book is valuable. The financial advisor of the coming decades will be seasoned, knowledgeable and independent. The book helps readers to package this wisdom and experience into their own unique process.

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Mary Scott is the co-author of Companies with a Conscience and can be reached at maryscott303@comcast.net.

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