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Over the last decade, I’ve helped educate tens of thousands of advisors. Despite the different companies, countries, experience levels and ages of advisors, many share common problems and are looking for similar solutions.

Advisors want to grow. They want to build a business that better serves their clients and simultaneously feel satisfied in their work-life balance.

What holds them back from achieving their professional and personal goals? In some cases, advisors are simply in the wrong business line; others are at the wrong company or lack the needed education or experience. More often than not, what holds an advisor back from reaching success is lack of command — they let their business run them instead of running their business.

Even the best advisors who have a clear vision for their firm get caught in the weeds of administrative duties, leaving little time or energy dedicated to growth. To compete today and stay on a path moving forward, advisors need to continue to innovate, learn and adapt.

One of my favorite sayings is that great businesses don’t fail because they do the wrong things — they fail because they keep doing what worked 10 years ago. This will be true for advisors as technology, fee compression and the client experience influence the financial advice industry, forcing it to evolve at incredible speeds.

How does an advisor stay ahead of this curve? Think about some of the best athletes in the world. Similar names pop up: Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Serena Williams to name a few. How did these athletes go from good to great and stay great? They committed to their craft at a young age. They developed skills, learned the game and surrounded themselves with the best players and coaches in the sport to excel.

As advisors, we can’t stop trying to improve our game. This doesn’t mean we should chase designations, but education. While a lot of the responsibility falls on higher education institutions and the industry, we can continue to learn our craft as advisors to better serve clients. Attend industry conferences to be re-inspired. Watch webinars and check out other training opportunities to learn new skills or plunge deeper into a topic.

The other answer we can draw from this sport analogy is the importance of coaches. Even the best athletes in their respective sports benefit from working with a coach. Coaches help establish and encourage process. They know what skills are needed to succeed and how to develop them. On top of all that, they hold players accountable to their potential and goals.

Advisors need the same level of guidance, accountability and ongoing process to evolve. No matter how good you are as an advisor, no matter how strong your value proposition is, or how hard you work, there’s someone hungrier and more driven who will replace you. Not to mention the multiple outside factors that constantly shake up the industry and require attention. Having the right coach who is looking at the “next next next” coming down the pipeline can help you achieve greater success.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m a good advisor, I don’t need a coach,” ask yourself three questions.

  1. Do you have someone holding you accountable for your personal and professional growth?
  2. Do you find yourself spending more time on back-office work and less time working with clients and chasing leads?
  3. Do you think you can deliver a better client experience?

Reflect on your answers and see if they align with the goals you have for your firm. I challenge you that you can become a better advisor, grow your practice faster and deliver a better client experience with the help of a coach.

Over the next few months, this column will highlight best practices in running a financial services business and tips on how to grow your business and deliver a more meaningful client experience. I don’t expect a few articles to replace the value of a coach or skills-based training, but I hope they will provide value to advisors looking to reach the next level of their business and professional life.


Jamie HopkinsJamie Hopkins is managing director of Carson Coaching and the director of retirement research at Carson Group. He is also a finance professor of practice at Creighton University Heider College of Business. Previously, he was a professor at the American College of Financial Services, where he helped create the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP) designation.