Simon Sinek Simon Sinek.

For advisors who want to grow their businesses, best-selling author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek suggests asking what game you want to play and why.

If your goal is to beat the competition, you’re playing a finite game. If your goal is to outlast rivals, you’re playing “The Infinite Game,” which is the title of his latest book.

“So don’t bring a finite mindset to an infinite game,” Sinek said during a keynote presentation Thursday at Pershing’s Insite conference in Phoenix. “In business, organizations that do this have met their demise.”

The popular TED Talks speaker was interviewed on stage by Pershing Advisor Solutions CEO Mark Tibergien before a crowd of about 2,000 attendees.

Sinek gave the example of Microsoft having a finite mindset when its focus was limited to the goal of beating Apple. Meanwhile, Apple has been looking at ways to improve education and other fields, rather than what’s happening in the short term in the technology space. “Again, the goal is to outlast the competition and not to beat them.”

Leadership, Advisor Lessons

Turning to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who replaced Bill Gates in 2000: “What is a CEO?” asked Sinek. “In reality, they are a CVO, a chief vision officer.”

With this definition in mind, Ballmer — who was more operationally minded but not a visionary — did not succeed. “He had the wrong skill set,” the author said, adding that current CEO Satya Nadella serves the company well given his CVO mindset.

Turning to wealth management, Tibergien remarked that a worker at the Phoenix Convention Center has asked him what industry the Insite guests work in. When he said “finance,” the worker replied. “Ugh.”

Tibergien then asked Sinek about how clients can find advisors they can trust and how the industry can attract young talent.

Overall, the author explained, the industry is struggling “because it has a reputation problem.” Sinek said he himself had worked with an advisor that “did not represent my interests.”

In Sinek’s case, he’d like to work with someone who helps him with retirement “rather than someone selling stuff that is not good for me.”

Overall, the wealth industry “can do a lot better job at explaining its purpose and cause,” he said. “Don’t just say you’ll help my retirement. That’s transactional.”

Growth Ahead

Small businesses, like those of independent advisory firms, “have huge opportunities,” according to Sinek, “because they have the flexibility and agility to really explain to someone what is important [about their work for clients] and why is it so important that you went into the industry.”

If the focus is on making money, then the business is being driven by ambition and “then the core of the business can’t have [much] client loyalty,” he said.

Sinek also pointed out the critical role referrals play in professional services, like wealth and health care.

“I asked people I know, ‘Who do you work with? What do you listen for? And who do you trust?’ We trust friends around their [work with] professionals. That says a lot.”

The opportunity, as described by the writer and motivational speaker, is tied to treating clients well — the way non-financial firms like Southwest Airlines and Ritz-Carlton do.

The advisors he encountered “did not ask about who I am and about my mentality [about money]. Talk to me differently and in metaphors, not a spreadsheet,” Sinek explained. “Now I have an accountant who talks in pictures and metaphors. He listens.”

— Related on ThinkAdvisor: