As advisors, you’re always looking for that edge that will separate you from the competition. Do you have the right marketing system in place? Do you have a killer close? How’s that elevator speech?

Well, management guru Jim Collins has a novel idea when you look at turning your solid business into a great business: hire great people.

Yep, that’s right. It boils down to people. I know, it sounds like a no-brainer, but Collins, serving as the keynote speaker at NAILBA 30 in Phoenix Nov. 17, says it’s imperative: You need to have the right people in place before you can begin worrying about building a better mousetrap. After all, it’s those people who will help you build that better mousetrap.

It’s not just Collins spouting this belief. In the wake of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ death, articles popped up saying that while that gadgets he left behind are great, the real legacy of Apple is the people Jobs hired to build, design and market those gadgets. While Jobs got the credit, he wasn’t working in a vacuum.

And the top advisors aren’t either. Within our own industry, 2011 Advisor of the Year Jim Brogan has spoken at length about the importance of the people he’s hired and what they mean to the success of his practice.

As Brogan says, “It’s not worth trying to save a few thousand dollars to hire someone who is not the best candidate just so you can save a few thousand dollars. Hire the very best people you can find. And if you have to pay a little bit extra money for them, so be it. It’s going to pay off tenfold in the long run.”

“And the other thing is, don’t be cheap with your employees. Pay them what they’re worth,” Brogan adds. “If anything pay them on the higher end because the last thing you want to do is lose an employee because you weren’t paying them what they were worth and you’re not treating them the way they deserve to be treated.”

Getting back to Collins, he understands the chaos we all work within these days. He sees the market turmoil and he studies companies, going back six thousand years, he says, to get a read on why some come out of chaos on top and others are sent packing.

“What does it take to be exceptional?” Collins asks in that rhetorical fashion of keynote speakers, “People. It starts with people. The number one skill of a great leader is in making outstanding people decisions.”

According to Collins, as the chaos and uncertainty swirls around, great leaders don’t have to know the perfect direction to steer the company, but if they’ve got the right people in place, they can figure out that perfect direction.

As you watch the following video of Collins talking about putting people first, ask yourself the question: are you making great people decisions? If you’re not, it’s the perfect time to take a step back, reevaluate and get a great team surrounding you.