Sure, we create “goals” to help us decide what do next. But we never really “get there.” When we reach one milestone, we just set another one, and get busy working toward it. Those are just signposts that keep us moving in the right direction.
Sure, there are owner-advisors who reach a certain number of clients and/or revenue level and decide: “that’s enough.” But that doesn’t mean they quit growing. Some increase their knowledge and skills; others add new services, such as working with their clients’ children. Still others mentor a younger advisor or two, or, through their custodian or BD, help other advisors with their firms.
My point is that, like any business, an advisory firm is always a work in progress. Here are a few guidelines that we find help make the journey more enjoyable:
- Don’t Be Too Goal Oriented
Yes, it’s important to have a plan for the long term as well as the short term. But it’s equally important not to get too attached to your plans. Things change. People change. Reality slaps us in the face. Stuff happens. So be aware; be flexible. |As they say in the Marines: Improvise, adapt, ovecome.
- Learn All You Can
The key to being flexible is learning. New information leads to new ideas. In an advisory business, we’re gathering new information all the time: about the markets, ways of investing, the financial services industry, our profession, our clients, our business, our employees, our local market and, of course, ourselves.
The more we know, the better decisions we can make about, well, everything. So keep learning. And take time to reflect on what you’ve learned, and what it means for your business.
- Listen as Much as You Can
The other people in your firm are sources of information. They have experiences and perspectives that you don’t have. So,encourage them to share their information and insights with you and with others in the firm.
Innovative ideas can come from anywhere: so pay attention, and don’t limit your business to just your own experiences.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things
Remember, all businesses are works in progress. To make progress, you have to try new things. If you’re lucky, some of those things will work out well. But some of them won’t. That’s okay. If everything you try is a success, you’re not trying enough new things.
Trying new things is how we learn, so learn as much as you can from your successes, and your failures.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Pull the Plug
Once you accept that some things won’t work out, it’s easier to recognize when it’s time to stop trying. Of course, you don’t want to pull the plug too soon. But sinking more time and effort into a losing project isn’t doing anyone any good—especially if it’s just to protect your ego.
Again, if you learn something, that’s success of sorts. So cut your losses and move on.
- Include Others
When people realize they are involved in a “work in progress,” fear tends to be replaced by enthusiasm. So get everyone in the firm involved.
Not only is your firm a work in progress, so is every job in your firm. So give your employees the freedom to try new things, to learn on the job, to become better and to increase their contributions to the firm. Also, be very careful about assigning blame: nothing dampens enthusiasm faster. So give your people some latitude.
Encourage them to try new things, and to honestly assess the results without criticism (unless absolutely necessary). You’ll be amazed at what they come up with.
We find advisory firms that see themselves as works in progress are more fun to work in and more fun to work with—and way more successful.
So like Russell Wilson, enjoy the process, keep learning, and no matter what happens, you’ll already be a success.