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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Mirror Image

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One of the top-notch advisory firms profiled in our annual Winner’s Circle cover story manages a tantalizing $700 million in assets under management; another of the firms adds a cool billion to that. I’m reminded of the quip attributed, apocryphally, to the ’60s-era Senate leader Everett Dirksen: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

The Dirksen quote implies that wealth is some kind of plaything for politicians, like the funny money in Monopoly. Yet, if politicians showed the kind of respect for taxpayer money that financial advisors do for their clients’ hard-earned wealth, then government bean counters wouldn’t be expecting a half-trillion-dollar deficit next year.

The mirror image of our spendthrift political class is none other than John Q. Public. Half the horror-filled headlines spooking our economy right now are attributable to his fiscal irresponsibility; the average consumer’s debt is now 140 percent his disposable income, up from 100 percent in 2000.

There is an obvious symmetry here. By and large, I think we get the government we deserve. In our times, we the people have a penchant for extravagance.

In like fashion, I would venture to speculate that, by and large, financial advisors get the clients they deserve, and vice versa.

I can think of a friend who has many times thought about leaving his business, but no matter how much thought he put into his alternative business ideas, he couldn’t leave his day job; it was just too lucrative. The guy just doesn’t disappoint his clients. He’s smart, he’s very straight with them, and he offers excellent service.

I can think of another friend who is always disappointed with his lot. His client base is too small, too middle-class, too fickle. And when they contact him with their inevitable persnickety questions, he routinely fails to deliver a timely or satisfactory response. It’s hard not to see a match between his lack of commitment and theirs.

I want to be clear: Nothing should be inferred about the personal or moral worth of an advisor from the size of his business. A top producer may be a workaholic, whom no sane person would envy, and another advisor may have chosen a modest-sized business so as not to allow work to get in the way of a balanced life. But for the many folks out there who want bigger or better clients, the observation about matching businesses and clients suggests a solution: Focus on your knowledge, integrity and service and the matching clients will follow.

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And for those among you who have built the businesses that you and your clients are happy with, I want to remind you that there are two weeks left to apply for our annual Advisor Hall of Fame. See page 108 for details.

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Gil [email protected]


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