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A powerful firestorm is destroying lives and property in the northern sections of the San Francisco Bay Area as we go to print. The loss of life and property is horrific, and the smoke-filled air has had serious consequences on the wider region, as well.

Though I had read about the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm before I moved to the Bay Area in 1999, experiencing such destruction firsthand is humbling indeed — and unnerving. After a week, I heard from a former colleague who was evacuated that he, his family and his residence are fine. Naturally, the disaster makes me grateful for what I have; it also puts those minor headaches or bumps in the daily grind of life into proper perspective.

During the firestorm, I attended Commonwealth Financial Network’s annual conference in San Diego. Keynote speaker Ken Blanchard reminded the crowd of 1,640 of how he felt losing his home to a fire in Southern California about a decade ago.

What often makes a big difference to people going through the stress and distress of such circumstances is the support of their financial advisors. Clients can turn to them for critical advice as well as for kindness. Blanchard touched on the importance of making emotional connections as part of “servant leadership,” which emphasizes serving others in the pursuit of an organization’s vision and goals.

Striving for excellence in service and execution, of course, is critical to advisors. In an age of low interest rates and do-it-yourself investment platforms, advisors must prove their worth more than ever.

Our cover story, “Charting a New Course,” draws attention to how they can do just that by using alternatives in portfolios. Cliff Stanton of 361 Capital also describes how advisors can structure conversations with clients to focus on the total portfolio and outcome.

While advisors need to help clients accept and adjust to risk in the markets, they also need to focus on the risks involved with running their practices. Dan Skiles zooms in on the importance of having disaster-recovery plans in his Technology Coach contribution.

Angie Herbers explains the importance of having a systematic training program in this month’s The Fast Track column. “The biggest investment in time and money that most independent advisory firms make is spent hiring new lead advisors,” she explains. Thus, giving new advisors what they need to succeed and to help your firm thrive is critical.

In his Formulas for Success column, Mark Tibergien says firms looking to expand must clearly define their growth goals and “how they will add value to the advisors they bring into their fold. Lack of clarity on these points makes achieving scale very difficult.”

Like many of the advisors and broker-dealer staff attending the recent Commonwealth Financial annual conference in mid-October, I found that listening to renowned experts clarified my thinking on important professional and personal goals. Breakout sessions solidified my plans to execute on these priorities. As we all know, the devil’s in the details.

I hope many of you can carve out the time to rethink your vision and map out your strategy during the busy Thanksgiving and winter holidays that are approaching. Though they involve a bit of stress, these “breaks” give us time to appreciate how lucky we are and how others add meaning to our lives. Thank you for your continued interest in and support of Investment Advisor.


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