The Harvard Business Review is a great magazine for consultants, however, it usually focuses on challenges for much larger businesses than most independent advisory firms.
But recently I came across “business coach” Peter Bregman’s Nov. 9, 2018, story: “If You Want to Get Better at Something, Ask Yourself These Two Questions.” In it, Bregman does a nice job of addressing an issue that many of our advisory firm owner clients struggle with — change.
I find that many owner-advisors have a difficult time “doing things differently,” even when they want their businesses to change, usually to get larger, be more profitable, or both.
Bregman approaches the issue with a story about coaching his son to become a better skier. But the issues are the same, whether you want to grow faster, lower your golf scores, or build a better business.
Writes Bregman: “Whatever it is, you can become better at it. But here’s the thing I know just as clearly as I know you can get better at anything. You will not get better if : 1) you don’t want to and 2) you aren’t willing to feel the discomfort of doing things differently.”
Most advisory firm owners have a very hard time “doing things differently.” For one thing, doing what they are currently doing has gotten them where they are today, and that’s what they tell me, again and again. To which, I point out, again and again, that’s fine as long as you are happy with where your business is today.
If, on the other hand, you’re not happy with your business today, or you’d be happier with it if it was larger, more profitable, growing faster, etc., then you’re going to have to do some things differently, and deal with the discomfort that it involves.
For most firm owners, at least at first, there will be considerable discomfort. Changing your firm, even for the better, requires taking some pretty uncomfortable steps.
For instance, accepting help isn’t easy for many firm owners. Sure, they like employees to tell them how happy they are with their jobs, and with the firm. But when it comes to problem areas that they need help on and/or things that could be done better, many owners get defensive.
If you want your business to be better, you need to get to a place of acceptance. You cannot run a larger, bigger and more profitable firm alone. Your best source of information about your business is employees. You need to accept the help, especially when they are telling you things you don’t want to hear. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, and the more uncomfortable it is, the more you need to hear it.
Then there’s taking risks and trying new things. Building the successful business that you want is a learning process. It’s that simple: It’s learning.
If you have an idea where you want to go, and take steps toward getting there, sometimes they work out the way you want, sometimes they don’t. But either way, the most important thing is that you learn something that will help you make better decisions in the future. Yes, these setbacks can be painful, but they are disasters only when you stop learning.
And finally, it’s important to point out that, despite what many say, business consultants can’t help you avoid the pain and discomfort of trying new things. We can use our experience to help you avoid some common mistakes, and/or risks, but the reality is that nobody knows what will work for you or your business, with your clients, and with your employees.
As Bregman says, to grow, you have to deal with the discomfort of trying new things, and doing things differently. I see this in all sizes of firms, but with most of the issues at the largest firms. Doing things different means change. If you are not willing to embark on change, your business growth is going to slow. If you are not willing to get help through the change, your business is likely to decline.
Unlike any other time within the financial services industry, 2019 promises to be a pivotal change for the business. No doubt, smaller firms can change faster than larger firms, which often are not able to move as quickly. These are the businesses we worry about.
Change is on the horizon. It’s time to learn how to deal with the discomfort of it.
— More Angie Herbers on ThinkAdvisors: