Sometimes old clients call to thank me for the success of their advisory business. I often point out that I didn’t make the choices that led to their success — they did. I just helped them to make better ones.

After all, building a successful independent advisory business is about making choices. Deciding what you and your staff are going to do today, tomorrow, and into the future.

Of course, there are some events beyond your control — the financial markets, changes in laws and regulations, advancements in technology, emerging competition, etc. Still, the success of an advisory firm largely depends on how quickly, and insightfully, its owner makes decisions.

To help my client firm owners make better, more timely choices, I suggest they follow a few key steps.

1. Perhaps most importantly, owners need to realize when they are making a choice that they are in fact making — and taking — a decision.

Sounds obvious, right? But think back in your life.

How many times have you made a decision to do or not to do something that has turned out to be way more important to the rest of your life than you thought it would at the time?

When it comes to your business, your success largely depends on avoiding rash decisions that you’ll have to live with for a long time.

2. In many ways, the most important thing for owners to keep in mind is that you don’t “have” to do anything.

It’s all too common for an owner to read an article or hear a presentation about some “new” trend or strategy in technology, marketing, client services, etc., and decide they just have to do it too and do so ASAP.

Just because some strategy has worked for a firm in Peoria, doesn’t mean it’s right for you, your firm or your target clients.

Thus, before you “do” anything, take a step back and seriously consider whether the idea is really right for your firm: with your clients, in your town, with your staff, and your goals.

3. Once you decided that a new idea really would work for your business, keep thinking — since it’s not time for “doing,” yet.

Few “new” initiatives have only one way to turn them into reality.

For instance, if you’re thinking about adding a new client service, you usually have choices about who is going to provide that service.

Do you add it to an existing partner’s work load? Train a junior advisor to provide it? Hire someone with experience? Or farm it out to an experienced outside professional who would work closely with your advisors?

Probably, only one of those options would be right for your firm, and you just need to decide which one.

4. When you are dealing with these kinds of issues, you learn to make your choices neither quickly nor slowly. Quick decisions are nice, but bad decisions disastrous.

Learn to take the time you need, while moving as quickly as possible.

5. Finally, don’t “marry” your choices. Try to keep your ego out of the equation. Nobody’s perfect, so stop trying to be.

Make the best decisions you can, then honestly monitor how they are working out.

Admit when you’ve made a mistake; learn from it, then make the best decision you can about what needs to be done next.

The choices owners make determine the success of their businesses. Give yourself the best chance to make good decisions and learn all you can from the results — both good and bad.