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Practice Management > Building Your Business

3 Ways to Define What Motivates You

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“Why am I in business?” This is a great question that every business owner needs to ask  from time to time.

I hear all sorts of answers to that question when I ask advisory firm owners in our consulting relationships. But if the primary answer is “to make money,” then I know they’re approaching their work with an attitude that will lead to eventual growth problems.

Of course, they might be successful if they’re only in business to make money, but they won’t ever own a truly great company that could positively impact others’ lives in both good and bad market cycles.

Other advisors respond that they like planning, picking stocks, serving client and/or they’re carrying on a family legacy.

The question of “why” is one every advisory firm owner needs to understand. And if you want your firm and your culture to be great, you have to make sure your actions reflect that passion.

Discovering Your “Why”

It’s a red flag if you can’t give an answer to “why” you started your business and continue to work on it each day. This isn’t an easy question. It’s difficult, and requires deep reflection.

If you find yourself struggling to identify your “why,” it may be you haven’t taken time to reflect on your purpose and passion. At its core, your “why” requires you to be true to yourself, because what you do needs to match your answer.

Here is a  three-part process to discover  your “why.”

1. Ask if you’re being honest with yourself.

Yes, it’s a little like counseling, but you have to be honest about your motivations with yourself before you can be honest with your team and craft a purposeful company.

2. Reflect on what you want from your firm.

Does it look different five years from now? What do you want your daily life to look like in nine months? You need to define what growth means to know where to take your firm in the future.

3. Identify how you’re going to accomplish your goals.

Establish concrete, actionable processes to help you create a company that serves your passion while also serving clients.

If you read those steps again, you’ll find that they follow a simple process of identifying why, what, and how. Once you have those three keys identified, you’ll be on the right track to knowing your company reflects your passions.

What Great Firms Do

The common denominator among truly great advisory firms I’ve worked in and with over the years is they put their people first.

If you know your “why” — like, for instance, helping middle-class families retire well — then putting your people first becomes easier. You know that by empowering your people with your vision, you are making it easier for them to serve your clients in the way you want.

But there are times when an owner’s personal motivations (like a desire for more money or more fame) can stop a company from reaching greatness. They get stuck in serving their own desires and lose sight of what their company and their people need from their leader.

When you put personal motivations aside to serve people first, you will find that a positive loop occurs. By serving the business instead of yourself, the firm — and employees — will serve you in return.


Jarrod Upton is COO and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company. He brings over 16 years of experience in management strategy, client experience and operations consulting to advisory firms. He can be reached at [email protected].


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