Does this sound familiar: One “activity point” for a lunch meeting, one for a completed factfinder, one for a close and one for each referral. Reach 100 activity points each month and you’ll be successful as an advisor — whatever that means. While my numbers may be slightly off, I think my point will stand. In order to build a career in this business, the key is activity, activity, activity … right?
To avoid sounding too cynical, I’ll add that activity is absolutely critical to a new advisor’s success. Without seeing people — a lot of people — learning to ask probing questions, seeking commitment toward their goals, and following through on those commitments, nobody is well served. Not the client, not you. In fact, too many young advisors fail to stay in this great career because they lack meaningful activity in those crucial early days.
As our client base grows and our skills develop over the years, however, a shift should occur inside each of us away from an activity mindset to one of effectiveness. I emphasize “should” because I’m afraid it’s more rare than we’d like to admit. Rather than freeing up time in our practices to be present and contemplate ways to provide more highly-leveraged and valuable services, we continue the patterns of doing more and more activities until we’re burned out and completely exhausted.
The early years of building a business can make advisors addicted to busyness because of the heavy demands of simply staying in business. That addiction manifests itself in ways that keep advisors doing more and more stuff, never stopping to question whether the mountain being climbed so heroically is even the right mountain.
Advisors who find a way to slow the madness of busyness long enough can begin the process of gaining insight and understanding, often through the eyes of others, namely our clients. We can begin to ask tough questions of ourselves that may lead to huge breakthroughs in productivity, innovation and effectiveness for those we serve.
Without finding ways to free-up time and space within our schedules, we’re at risk of not just burning out but also missing opportunities to do the very best work we could be doing to serve others. After all, what is freedom of time in an entrepreneurial business if you don’t exercise it?
One way to decide if you need to get busier or simply say no to the next idea that crosses your path is this: Ask yourself, “If this succeeds, what will success look like?” Conversely, “If this doesn’t work out as planned, what would I have rather done with the time and money spent?” If the thought of a successful outcome doesn’t get you frenzied with excitement, consider saying no and use the freed-up time for something else that does.
I’ve seen far too many business decisions made based solely on the pursuit of easy money, only to discover later that it was free time that was desired most. Strangely, it’s time that often leads to the big breakthroughs in our career and personal life. Busyness has a place in the growth of any enduring business. The key is to recognize when it’s time to transition from just being busy to being effective instead. I suggest taking the time in this new year to ask yourself whether you’re building something of enduring value or simply using activity and busyness as a distraction from the tough questions that need asking. The difference between the two may move you from having a job to building a legacy.