The following is based on one of Norm Trainor’s clients, Paul. All of the names and telling details have been changed.
Entrepreneurs are amazing people. They start with a vision of what their business can become and then make it a reality. For many entrepreneurs, the starting point is a desire to express a unique ability. Each of us has a talent that sets us apart, something marketers call “an edge.” It is the way in which we differentiate ourselves.
As an example, a young man who has a gift for preparing food might train as a chef and then open his own restaurant, allowing him to express his unique ability as a chef. But the challenge is that it takes a lot more than preparing great meals to run a successful restaurant. To become a successful restaurateur, the aspiring entrepreneur must learn to master the various aspects of building a business — marketing, sales, managing staff and working with suppliers. The ability to go beyond unique ability and master the various aspects of business building is the edge that differentiates successful entrepreneurs.
Let me give you an example. I began working with Paul in May of 2000. At the time, Paul was 37 years old and had been a financial advisor for five years. Prior to becoming an advisor, Paul was an accountant with a mid-size accounting firm. He became a financial advisor because he was really good at helping his clients develop financial plans.
When I first met Paul, his revenue had grown to about $150,000 and then plateaued. He was going flat out and not growing his business. His natural talent in working with clients and prospects to design and implement financial plans had taken him as far as he could go. To reach the next level, he needed to learn how to build a business.
The starting point was to step back and rethink his vision. In defining his business, Paul realized that he really enjoyed working with affluent and ultra-affluent clients. In his first five years, Paul served a wide range of clients. Their incomes and net worth covered a broad spectrum. At one end of the continuum, he had clients who earned $50,000 a year and also those who earned a seven-figure income. He was trying to be all things to all people. It is very difficult to distinguish yourself with this type of approach. He did not have an edge. It took an act of courage for Paul to decide that he was going to focus his practice on high net-worth clients.
Paul’s transition to a boutique, high-end financial advisory firm took three years. During that time, he formed a partnership with another advisor who shared his dream and brought complementary talents to the firm. Through their combined efforts and shared vision, they were able to design their firm in a way that appealed to high net-worth clients. They took the time to understand the needs, wants and values of their ideal client. Then they made sure that every little detail of the way in which they operated would appeal to the people they chose to serve. Today, they have a thriving business — with a seven-figure income stream — that allows them to express their values and talents. Taking the time to find your edge can make a significant differencep