In his blog, How Smart Do You Have to Be to Succeed? James Clear says, “We often think that the reason we aren’t succeeding is because we haven’t found the right strategy or because we weren’t born with the right talents.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Do you ever wonder what makes the best financial planners the best?
I have to be honest, for me it’s not technical smarts. Don’t misunderstand me; the best Financial Planners that I know are technically very strong, but it’s not the magic in my opinion.
I also know some advisers and people, who are too damn smart for their own good. It’s almost a phase an adviser goes through on the way to mastery. You start off knowing nothing, and gaining technical knowledge feels like the key to success. However, as you gain more knowledge, the temptation is to want to use it in all client situations, and often this is just not appropriate.
So how intelligent do you need to be to succeed as an adviser and business owner?
James Clear goes on to say, “Being in the top one percent of intelligence has no correlation with being fantastically creative. Rather, there is a minimum threshold of intelligence that you need to have, and after that it comes down to a lot of deliberate practice, putting in your reps, and developing your skillset.”
This is a comforting thought.
If you are prepared to keep learning new skills, you can improve. If you can keep improving long enough, there’s every chance you can end up being a great adviser and business person. It just comes down to doing the work.
What are the things you might work on?
1. Wisdom in applying your knowledge
Some clients are capable of understanding and buying into more complex solutions, and some aren’t.
Tim Hale of Albion Strategic Consulting often quotes Occam’s razor, a principle from philosophy. I’m paraphrasing here, but usually the simpler explanation or solution is the best one to adopt. As a working principle for advisers I like it a lot.
Knowing when to use the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years is key.
“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”
2. Staying focused on the real objective
What’s the real objective in Financial Planning?
Is it to solve a specific problem for a client?
Is it to attack the client’s bigger issues? Issues like, “How much is enough?” or “Will my money last as long as I do?”
Is it to help clients achieve financial independence?
Or, as Sam Sloma so brilliantly described in a Money Marketing article, is our job to help clients “live richly” and not worry so much about getting to an end target?
Maybe it’s different for different businesses, and maybe it’s even different for different clients within your business. I’ll let you wrestle with which concept works best for you and your firm.
But once you’re clear on what your objective is, then all of your skills and knowledge should be applied to delivering the best outcome for the client. That might mean saying ‘no’ to strategies that you know might add mathematical value but are just not right for that particular client in that particular circumstance.
3. Improving your marketing skills
What does the word marketing mean to you?
In my opinion, great marketing explains important ideas and concepts to clients simply. It shows them the benefits or outcomes they’ll receive if they get involved with the product or service in question.
And the best products or services deliver. They’re not promoted by snake oil salesmen.
You can be the most intelligent, or the most technically qualified. However, if you can’t communicate the value in what you do for clients, you’ll struggle to attract more of them.
We all know of advisers and brands that are great on the style, the marketing and communication, but not much chop on the substance; the quality of outcome or the delivery.
Most good Financial Planners I know are just the opposite; excellent on the substance, but with no style. What I mean is they know the job inside out, and I’d refer my friends there in a jiffy. But they don’t present, or communicate with their clients, in a way that suggests they’re the best.
The businesses with style over substance are often much larger and significantly more financially successful. That can really piss you off if you think you’ve got the substance.
The lesson from that frustration?
Marketing and communication skills matter a lot.
4. Becoming a business person
For me, the absolute stars in the profession have all graduated from being great Financial Planners into being great business people.
If you want to make an impact on the world, then your business needs to grow larger and to affect more people. The only way for this to happen is to build a team that can take the message beyond just you.
It’s fine to not choose that path. This is in no way a criticism of small, beautifully-formed lifestyle businesses, of which there are many. You can still take great pride in the people you help.
However, the bigger your footprint, and assuming you can maintain the values and the quality that got you going in the first place, the bigger the impact you can have.
I’ve written about this before in my blog Are You Missing One of the 3 Essential Business Skills?.
Great business management skills allow you to solve the inevitable challenges that growth brings to you and your business. It’s an exercise in creativity. And you can learn these skills. They’re not difficult.
What makes the best, the best?
The one attribute I see in anyone who is any good at anything? They’re always learning, growing and getting better. It’s a mindset. A daily practice.
There’s literally nothing preventing you from adopting that mindset too. Just the grey stuff between your ears.
Let me know how you go.