A letter (Image: Wikimedia Commons PD)

Like many of my readers, I am a regular at industry events and conferences, sometimes attending several in just a few weeks. The collection of knowledge at any given event is staggering, but I had a conversation with an advisor that made me realize that very few of us are getting the best possible return on our attendance.

In our work as an appointment-setting firm, we have a direct window into the businesses of advisors from around the country. When we see one of our clients growing at a faster rate, we ask why, and those conversations have led to some memorable insights.

(Related: Know Your Personnel)

One of our clients, an advisor from Houston, closes more appointments than anyone I know. He follows our advice for how to handle cold appointments. He has an in-depth and highly consistent backend process for staying in touch. And he is continually refining the whole of his business, from sales through service.

When I bumped into him at a recent conference, I saw that he was on his way to filling his notebook with observations and key points from half a dozen talks. Since I knew he was already pretty far ahead of his competitors, I asked him about his notes and takeaways.

He replied, “When I come to these things, I am on my dime. I’m here to learn. I always look for my one idea.”

Over the course of an event (or several events), he will home in on one big takeaway. When he gets back to the office, he focuses on implementing that singular idea, giving it the full time and attention it needs to fully have an impact.

One year, he implemented the idea of doing a letter to each client that summarized all of the work he had done behind the scenes for them so that they could have a better understanding of what role he played in their businesses, especially since much of the work in qualified plans and health & welfare is not always obvious to a client. Another year, he built out a CPA alliance program where he ran quarterly seminars that could count for CPE credits, bringing in a consistent stream of potential referral sources.

Over the course of 30 years in business, these ideas have added up.

What we see as typical conference behavior is a mix of socializing and idea collecting. Advisors have a good time, return to the office with a handful of initiatives that look like they could make a difference, but after a few weeks, they are back to business as usual. Not only do they abandon new initiatives too quickly, they often take on too many and over-encumber themselves from the beginning.

If we really want the knowledge we glean from conferences to have a measurable impact on our business growth, we need to take the one idea approach. Pick a singular concept and go deep with it. Give it the time it needs to bear fruit, and don’t move on to the next idea until the first idea is fully implemented.

One idea that we actually execute will always have a far bigger impact than a dozen ideas that never really get off the ground. This is the expert mentality at work: Go narrow and deep rather than wide and shallow. Generalists are easy to find but their impact is limited. The expert reaches levels that the average competitor can’t.

What is the one idea you will pursue next?

— Read 6 Ways to Capture the Rewards Hiding in the Unknownon ThinkAdvisor.


John Pojeta

John Pojeta is vice president of business development at The PT Services Group. Before he joined PT, he owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years.