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I ran track and cross country in high school and was pretty good. But when I went on to run for Texas Tech, the expectations and the training regimen skyrocketed. 

I couldn’t be successful doing what I’d done in high school. Success at that elevated level was in no way guaranteed.

In this context, I had to reset my expectations and rise to a new level of competition if I wanted to reach new heights for myself. As the title of one of my favorite books by Marshall Goldsmith suggests, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”

For advisory firms who want to keep growing and not plateau, I have three easy-to-remember steps for how to reset expectations and think about growth in a fresh way.

Step One: Rethink

Our society today is one that values competition and comparison. We compare ourselves to how many friends we have on Facebook, how many likes our last post got, and how many retweets we get versus our closest competitor.

Constantly comparing is not where you want to be when you are building a company.

Before you plan for growth, you have to rethink your approach to it. Instead of following the crowd, set your own rules.

More often than not, trying to keep up with the Joneses will lead you away from your real goals instead of helping you secure a well-established, solid growth plan.

Thinking about growth correctly requires that you step back and look inward. You do have to change and adapt as you reach new milestones, but the change should be spurred by measuring against yourself, not comparing to outside metrics.

Step Two: Retrain

Rethinking growth may require a new way to think about how your team approaches work.

Carefully consider who you listen to when setting your firm’s growth expectations and goals. You can certainly get fantastic insights from the “big guys” in the industry, but be aware of how their talking points will likely point to what they are selling.

Retraining, though, is not only about learning from others, it’s also about better understanding your client. As a new advisor, you might have taken on any new client you could get. As you grow, however, it is important to narrow down your clients so you can focus on engaging with prospects who best fit your services. 

Lastly, you want your team to enjoy their work. Retraining your team is a continual process as you evolve your client experience and attempt to create a consistent service model design.

Step Three: Redesign

The mission that guides your firm is your action plan as you look to where you want to go.

When redesigning your firm’s growth plan, start by setting a vision for where you want to be in five years. This isn’t an informal action; it is intentional and should be written down and recorded.

Next, create an action plan for accomplishing that vision. Bring your employees in to get their feedback while you create it. Your operational experience and internal culture has to be solid to grow, because your team’s enthusiasm will directly influence your client experience as you go along.

Finally, implement your action plan throughout your company. Set timelines and check-ins to create accountability throughout your organization to make sure your redesigned plan takes hold.

Guarding Against Failure

When I’m helping advisors think about their growth plans, I often think about something my father once told me. He said, if you look back in five years and you aren’t where you want to be, it’s likely because of two reasons.

One, you didn’t go where you wanted to go. Two, you bargained over the price. In other words, you took shortcuts.

In five years, you don’t want to be in a different place than where you intended. Be intentional about following a process to keep your firm on target as the inevitable roadblocks and changes come to stay the course.

Jarrod Upton, MBA, MS, CFP® is Chief Operations and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company, an independent growth consultancy for financial advisory firms. He can be reached at jarrod.upton@herbersco.com