I recently received an email from a Colorado advisor in response to my column on “Owner’s Guilt”. I had written about how advisors often respond to feeling guilty about their success by overcompensating their employees, which then creates a series of management problems. But this advisor says his owner’s guilt takes him in a different direction: “I often feel some owner’s guilt, but I feel I have to work extra for clients. I feel in some ways that I don’t deserve the substantial revenues (I just charge 1%) so I work 60 hours/week as I feel there is never enough I can do to help them, but it takes a toll on my health and spouse.”
This advisor is not alone. In fact, he raises a very important issue that is quite common among independent advisors (and other professionals as well, especially doctors): Over-servicing clients is often a result of owner’s guilt (and sometimes from an excessive drive to simply provide the best service possible), and either way, it can take a giant toll on an owner’s personal and professional life. Additionally, when advisors help their clients too much, they can “enable” them to a point where clients come to expect more and more and more. It’s certainly admirable that independent advisors to want to help their clients so much (in fact, it’s one of the reasons I love working with them), but it’s also not fair to them, to their families or their spouses—and can lead to professional burnout, which greatly reduces their ability to help anyone.
Step One: Setting Limits
The first thing that advisors who suffer from over-serving their clients need to know is (to put it bluntly): This is “your problem.” Only you can solve it and it starts by setting boundaries and expectations within your business, with your clients, and for your personal life. The good news is that if you start with your business, your personal life issues will most likely solve themselves.