I have been working in the Australian financial services industry since 1969 and with financial advisors since 1983. In my global travels over the last six years I have met several advisors that I would describe as great. I now have a very clear opinion of what makes one advisor’s business successful and another’s a struggle.
The fundamental difference is to set standards beyond what’s required by regulation. Regulation is a necessity, but merely abiding by its strictures is a minimal, insufficient attainment. Strive to work as if you are on the same side of the table as your clients. As one of my Australian colleagues argues: “Advise as if every client were your mother!”
So here are the 10 building blocks that I believe help make a great advisory practice.
Become the expert on one client segment. Know the drivers, demographics, patterns and rules that relate to that segment and the experts you can work with. One young Australian advisor, originally from mainland China, has developed expertise in international tax and migration law. Another works with migrant dentists to the U.K. Whatever the segment (or niche, if you prefer), make it yours.
2. Surround Yourself With People Better Than You
If you can afford it, hire them. If you can’t, read what they write and listen to what they say. Follow them on Twitter, blogs or through conferences. Be it technical, tax, investment, sales, communication or marketing talent, don’t settle for a person with second-rate skills. Surround yourself with the very best and the benefits will flow to your business.
3. Learn to Question and Listen
Every client’s needs and circumstances are unique. Most will struggle to describe them without help. The great planners talk with their clients regularly and discover their secrets and passions. My American colleagues call these “authentic conversations.” I heard a great description the other day: “Financial planning is no longer outsourced problem solving, it’s now about problems discovery, prioritization and collaborative resolution.”
4. Communicate Consistently
Whether through your website, business cards or networks, communicate consistently about what sort of clients you are looking for and what you can do for them. Don’t work with those that don’t match your service offering.