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Coach Fulmer: 6 Ways Advisors Can Build Winning Teams

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Growing trust in business relationships is not all that different from coaching a college football team, according to Coach Phillip Fulmer, former head coach at the University of Tennessee, now a partner for business development at Finworx, a behavioral finance firm that works with financial advisors.

In his keynote on the first day of FPA’s annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Fulmer laid out his recommendations for how advisors can build a solid foundation for their team members and clients:

1. Be a mentor but do it well. He described a time when he failed at that task with Dustin Colquitt, a punter for Tennessee who eventually went pro with the Kansas City Chiefs. Colquitt was kicking high and long when he joined the University of Tennessee Volunteers (the Vols), so Fulmer played him in a game where he subsequently kicked out of bounds the first two times, followed by a short kick that rolled back to the snapper. Fulmer had failed to establish a true mentoring relationship. Once he did and cleared the air, Colquitt performed better.

(Related: New Strategy to Navigate Market Volitility, Sept. 21 webcast with Michael Finke)

2. Set goals and work to achieve them: “Know where you can realistically go and don’t get paralysis by analysis,” Fulmer said.

3. Surround yourself with the people who lift you up, then ask them what can be done better. Fulmer recalled a time when the Vols were one in three, looking for a way get more wins. “The first thing we did as a team was as coaches we evaluated ourselves. Then we asked the staff what we could do better. Then we shared that with everyone on the team to work together.” 

4. Remember that talent cannot do it by themselves. “As good a leader as Payton Manning was [he played for the Vols for four years], we had to get into the silos of other positions,” said Fulmer, “…to the linebackers, offensive line, support staff, folks in the training and weight rooms.” One way to do that, said Fulmer, is to make an example of the best player; coach them the hardest, then others watching will also want to be coached as hard, and put the best players in a position of authority.

5. “Fix the divot,” said Fulmer referring to the piece of turf that gets gouged out by a golf club. In other words, fix problems as they arise.

6. Find something to motivate the team. He recalled a carved walking stick he received as a gift, which led some players to call him Moses. He took advantage of the nickname, gathering the team in a circle and lending each member the stick for a certain period of time. “They took good care of it; it was the first thing on the bus and on the sidelines,” and they kept it as a secret among themselves, as a team thing, that helped unite them.

In addition to developing a winning team, Fullmer counseled the audience, advisors must know their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their clients. 

He cautioned advisors to be humble; confident, but honest with themselves; and to “count their pennies,” knowing what’s essential in their life in business and family.

He concluded by recommending that advisors in the audience “look for one bit of knowledge” that they can take back from from this week’s conference and use in their business.

— Check out Investors Say End of Bull Market Is Coming, but They Feel Fine on ThinkAdvisor.