Why advisors shouldn’t measure success by money alone

The Lead

Elite advisors view material gain as a product of their success, not just a measure of it. (Photo: iStock) Elite advisors view material gain as a product of their success, not just a measure of it. (Photo: iStock)

What’s your idea of success?

Maybe it’s changed a little over the years, but I’m guessing it involves a steady income of a certain dollar amount or more, a nice home for you and your family and a sporty car in the driveway.

But what if I told you the most elite advisors use something entirely different to measure success?

I’m not saying they don’t want those things for themselves. We all do. The difference is this: They view material gain as a product of their success, not just a measure of it.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, that mindset is crucial to getting exactly what you want out of your business and living whatever your dream of success looks like.

Here’s how you can follow their example.

Craft a clear definition of success

Sit down with a pen and paper, and write down the three things you want most from your business.

Some people’s definitions are income-based, others are lifestyle-based. And that’s perfectly okay. The important part is to consciously define idealy what you’d like your business to look like.

Related: Wealthy millennials don't see retirement as end of work

Use this exercise to distill more than just your monetary goals. Include weekly hours you’d like to work, include the type of work you enjoy and spending more time doing that while decreasing the hours worked on things you don’t enjoy.

For example, maybe you wish you could spend more of your time one-on-one with clients and less doing administrative work, accounting, or management duties. That’s a valid goal. Write it down!

A key first step on the road to success: Writing down your goals and your vision of what success looks like. (Photo: iStock)A key first step on the road to success: Writing down your goals and your vision of what success looks like. (Photo: iStock)

Use your definition to form a vision

Now that you’ve defined what you want from your business, it’s time to take that information and put it to work. That three-part definition you wrote will serve as the foundation for your business’s guiding vision: your personal measuring stick for success, decision-making compass, and key to satisfaction.

Think of your vision as a way to take each big piece of your definition of success and build out a framework for your business around it.

For example, if you want to work no more than 40 hours per week, think about the things in your workload that you will need to delegate, and what type of person you can delegate them to. Could you increase the responsibilities of current staff to handle them? Do you need to hire someone new? Or a combination of the two?  What type of person would you need to hire?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you formulate your vision:

1. Remember to give yourself autonomy

A firm vision gives you everything you need to build a business that gives you freedom to pursue the things you care about most, i.e. a business you run instead of one that runs you. Use your vision as a means to stop chasing everybody else’s definition of success and start progressing towards your definition instead.

2. Don’t rely solely on KPIs

Ultimately, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and hard metrics simply can’t tell the whole story. From a purely analytical perspective, an advisor who wrote $20 million last year must be ahead of another who wrote $10 million, right? But what if he had to work 50 hours per week while the other guy only logged 25? Mathematically, both generated the same amount per hour worked. So the numbers alone aren’t enough to declare a “winner” between the two. It hinges entirely on your personal vision.

3. Communicate your vision to your team

We all want highly skilled people on our teams, but getting your employees to buy into your vision is more important than their raw talents and skills. Technical ability can be taught and learned over time, but you’ve got to lead them and that starts by clearly communicating your vision and goals.   

As you can see, looking at income alone isn’t enough when it comes to gauging success in your business, and failing to measure the other big factors can lead to a cycle of frustration and dissatisfaction.

You have to make your own definition of success, create a vision that reflects it, and then build your business around that. It’s an important lesson that’s easy to skip, but there’s nothing more crucial to your long-term success and personal fulfillment.

Shawn Sparks is the author of the new book, "The Advisor Breakthrough." Click here to download the first section of the book for free.

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