Monty Hall, the famous game show host, once said, “I’m an overnight success, but it took twenty years.” From the outside, the mega-hit businesses or rock stars can look like they rocketed from a garage start-up to making millions, but the inside story is often a long tail of incremental struggle and gradual progress.
Long-term rewards are often tied to consistent behaviors and short-term sacrifices. As advisors, you know this because you have this conversation with clients on a daily basis: Set aside a little bit of money today so that you can have an easier life later.
As classic as that wisdom may be, even the savviest of professionals lose sight of it in the momentum of daily life. Even in our work where we tell the people on the other side of our desk about how they should pursue the big, long-term rewards, we often turn around and do the opposite.
This came into focus for me with my teenage children. We were out for dinner, and they pushed a cellphone screen into my face to show me what had triggered a cascade of laughter among them. They showed me a picture of a drugstore aisle full of diapers with a sign that said: “Condoms $3.50, Huggies $22. You decide.”
Yes, I realize it is a bit juvenile as far as humor goes, but it perfectly frames the kinds of choices business owners have to make on a daily basis. When you look at a new marketing campaign that could bring you a deluge of new clients, the upfront price tag can still be painful. Sure, tripling your money in the long-term sounds great, but you have to part with $20,000 today to get it. The reality of the cash in hand versus the potential reward can quickly pivot you back to short-term thinking.
But the problem is deeper than that. Here’s what is really happening when you find yourself struggling to bet on your long-term growth:
You have doubts. You tell clients to save for the long-term because you have decades of experience and best practices to back up your recommendations. When it comes to something like marketing or new business development, you don’t feel like you have the same footing, so you convince yourself that the risk is not worth it. There is no such thing as a sure thing in marketing, but if you work with respected experts in that field (much in the same way your clients put their trust in you), you can better navigate your own hesitation.
The risk is too big. A new marketing initiative should not be a “do or die” scenario. If your business is not in a position to make an investment that could fail, you should look for other opportunities to grow first. In the meantime, look to be more efficient in other areas so that you can devote more budget to finding new opportunities.
The business is not set up to grow. Whether or not you admit it outright, sometimes we shy away from growth opportunities because we know that the business is not set up to manage it. Perhaps you are missing key pieces of your sales pipeline (like a good CRM and follow-up system) or are not sure you have the right staff in place. All of these issues can be addressed with time and effort.
Again, if you look at how your clients react to investing, these insights should be familiar. Some people doubt that effectiveness of investment plans. Others feel like they don’t have any money to spare today for a return tomorrow. And some clients have a financial management style that undermines their future potential.
Businesses are not so different.
Revisit your marketing. Take a fresh look at your business and your goals. Build a plan for a successful future that can far outshine the returns you’re getting today.