With the New Year here we are presented with an opportunity to reflect on the past and make adjustments for the future. I know we can do this anytime, but it seems that it’s a more natural occurrence at the turn of a year. What have I learned from my experiences in 2007? What changes will I make for 2008?

I’ve learned (or rather I’m reminded) that prospects don’t always see the value of things. That it must be clearly spelled out in a way that makes it impossible to miss. There are two important factors at work in a prospect’s mind that influence how they select an advisor. One is the company itself and the other is the specific advisor.

Companies spend a lot of dollars on advertising in an attempt to gain mindshare. They want to create a warm feeling in the consumer, at least as it relates to their firm. Even though some of the ads today are full of hyperbole, the company’s name is getting out in the marketplace and into the mind of the consumer. As an independent, I do not have the budget to compete there and so my company name is not a household name, at least not at this point.

There are some people who prefer to work with a large firm. They have come to the conclusion that a large firm has more resources and can serve them better. Then there are those who prefer not to work with a large firm because they appear to be too profit driven or impersonal. They prefer instead to work with someone who is independent and objective.

The other part of the equation involves the advisor. Here’s where it gets a little more complicated. There are advisors who tell a good story, have a great deal of charisma, and are good salespeople. To the unsuspecting prospect, it sounds good. Since there is no “ethics meter” or “technical skills gauge,” the prospect is ultimately left to rely on his gut instinct. Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails. Problem is, failure is not evident until it’s too late.

I think the key is to anticipate the need and prepare ahead of time to answer it. For instance, if being ethical is important, and I think it is, you could draft a company (or personal) ethics statement and give it to the client upfront. Let them know you are serious about your business. They need to know that you will operate with the highest of morals and that you’re not going to take advantage of them.

Anticipate and prepare. That’s one thing I plan to do better this year.

Thanks for reading.