I recently got an email from an advisor in response to my last blog posting: “What Advisory Firms Can Learn From Their Smokin’ Employees.” He describes a situation that’s pervasive in advisory firms, and one that more firm owners need to pay attention to: “I am the portfolio manager in a small advisory firm. I would add to your article another common problem. I spent several years trading my own accounts. I kept getting afternoon headaches. My doctor alerted me to the fact that I was getting dehydrated. I took essentially no breaks during the trading day. Once I started keeping a tall glass of ice water nearby, the headaches disappeared. In my opinion, periodic breaks accompanied by some liquid refreshment (water, Coke Zero, or even decaffeinated coffee) would help keep us all fresh, alert and more productive through the day.”
No, I’m not suggesting that we all put a bowl of water next to our computers. But I am suggesting that an owner’s experience at work is usually quite a bit different from many of their employees. Firm owners talk on the phone a lot, they meet with clients in an office conference room, they go out to meet with clients, referral sources and strategic partners, and they walk around the office to talk with their employees or just to see what’s going on. My point is that owner advisors’ jobs typically require that they get out of their offices and move around regularly.
Contrast that with firm employees who do jobs like the trading that this advisor described, or reconciling accounts, or generating quarterly reports, or any one of dozens of jobs that firm employees are called on to do. Often, these are tedious jobs that require focused concentration and long hours usually sitting in front of a computer day after day after day. That can be hard on the eyes, hard on the body, and apparently, hard on the head (in my email buddy’s case)—all of which can lead to employee burnout over time. Firm owners need to recognize that their employees often don’t get out as much as they do, and encourage their employees to take breaks, move around, go out to lunch, and for Heaven’s sake, to drink enough fluids. It will make your employees much more productive over the short term, and for years to come.