One of things that I’ve noticed about getting older is that our perspective changes. Even though the world around us is essentially the same and we are basically the same (many of us use texting, Facebook and Twitter rather than the telephone, but we are still communicating the same brilliant/dumb ideas), we see many things differently, especially in relation to each other. Some things we used to think were important don’t seem so vital anymore, while other things that seemed pretty insignificant now often appear to be pretty key. It seems that you have to get some perspective to realize how important your perspective can be.
Last summer, I merged my advisory consulting firm with Kristen Luke’s advisory marketing firm for two reasons. First, we’d both come to realize that each of us was providing an essential component of advisory business management, but that they were better provided together rather than separately. At the same time, we also discovered that we share the same vision of how to best help independent advisors achieve success, however they define it: We help owner-advisors put things into a better perspective.
Over our combined 20 years working with independent advisory firms, both Luke and I have found that the biggest obstacle to their success is their owners. I know, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear if you’re a firm owner (if you’re an employee at an advisory firm, try not to cheer too loudly). But think about it: At large corporations, the CEO can have a huge impact on the business’ success or mediocrity. Businesses that are large enough can often at least survive bad management, but small businesses like advisory firms don’t usually have that luxury—they live or die depending on their owners.
We’ve found that the success or failure of most owner-advisors doesn’t depend on what most people would think, like knowledge, expertise, personality or even “people skills.” What really matters is how they think, which determines their perspective on their business, their clients, their employees, their industry and themselves. Now, before you start thinking, “Uh oh, I’m in real trouble,” the good news is that anyone can learn to “think better.” As it turns out, that’s what Luke and I and our other consultants spend most of our time doing: teaching firm owners (and employees) to think about their businesses and themselves in a better way. To help you think better, to change your perspective and be a better business owner (or employee), here are the six most common thinking mistakes that we see owner-advisors make (including each of us) that prevent them and their firms from being more successful:
Putting pressure on yourself. I’m too young to remember Joe Montana (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), but a friend of mine is a fan of the former San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback (who, in a career spanning 1979 to 1994, won 117 games, including four Super Bowls, and was named Super Bowl MVP three times), and likes to tell this story: In an interview, Montana credited his success to the fact that he didn’t put pressure on himself. “Pressure is self-inflicted,” he said.
Many owner-advisors could take a page from Montana’s playbook. They try to do too much, too fast, often driving themselves (and the people around them) to high anxiety and exhaustion. Business owners need to learn to take things one day at a time, one task at a time, to create a realistic plan to get things done, and to delegate as much as they can. They also need to set realistic goals. Success is achieved one small step at a time. Trying to take big leaps is just setting yourself up for failure. Instead, learn to use small successes to build a big one.