3 Steps to Being Successful on Purpose

Financial advisers constantly tell me how frustrated they are about implementing real change in their businesses. “You’ve given me some great ideas,” they say, “but I just can’t seem to get any of them done.” Somehow, real change — even when you strongly desire it — seems elusive.

With the 2008/09 financial year already underway, you may find that, like many people, you’ve avoided setting meaningful goals for this year — because you’ve rarely achieved them in the past. But if you’re truly ready to be successful on purpose, here’s a practical, three-step plan that begins at the beginning, doesn’t require a miracle, and inevitably produces substantial results.

Step 1 – Determine Where You Stand Now

The best place to start is exactly where you are, right now. As a financial adviser, you need to see, objectively, how you stand compared to (a) other advisers and (b) where you want to be.  If you are among the many less-than-satisfied advisers, you owe it to yourself to undertake a detailed and detached analysis of the profit drivers of your business, using a tool such as DashboardTM (Dashboard is a registered trademark of Strategic Consulting & Training. All rights reserved).

  • Which of your clients are unprofitable, which are profitable, and which are the most profitable?
  • How did you acquire your most profitable clients?
  • What do they have in common?
  • How can you change your client acquisition and relationship management processes to ensure that you maximise the profitability and growth of your overall business?
  • Most importantly – if you were to maximise your profitability and growth, how would that translate into net income and quality of life for you?

Taking a hard, cold look at where you stand vis-à-vis your peers and your own potential will tell you what is achievable, what direction you need to take, and the objectives you need to develop. You can then begin formulating the means for arriving where you truly want to go.

It is important to base this assessment on more than financial measures and business drivers.  Self-reflection is critical.

  • What is important to you about being a financial adviser?
  • What would success look like to you?
  • What would success feel like to you?

Unless you possess an emotional commitment to your goals, you won’t have the determination and discipline to follow the path to success. And they have to be your goals – it’s even less likely that you will be successful on purpose if you’re just trying to make someone else happy.

Step 2 – Develop Your Strengths and Compensate for Your Weaknesses

Next, take an objective look at your strengths and your weaknesses, with a special emphasis on your strengths. In First Break All the Rules (1999), authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman told us that the best managers don’t try to fix employee weaknesses. Instead, they focus on their strengths, skills, and natural talents. So don’t try to put in what God left out, or what you’re not good at. Instead, zero in on what you’re really good at, and then further develop and leverage these natural strengths and abilities.

At the same time, find a way to compensate for what you’re not good at.  (The answer is usually not trying to get better, but to find someone else to do it.)

Let’s face it, nobody likes doing things they’re not good at, so spend as little of your time and energy as possible on these things. For instance, if you’re really good at the strategic side of the business (e.g. identifying potential alliance partners) but not so good with operational aspects, then partner with someone who’s great at managing day-to-day activities.  Similarly, if you’re really good at developing client relationships, capitalise on that talent.  Doing so will in no way limit your income or success! In fact, many of the most successful financial advisers outsource most or all of their investment management. Recognise your strengths and skills, and determine how to further develop and fully leverage them. Just because you’re good at client management doesn’t mean you couldn’t be better. Ask yourself how you can become a true master through classes, training programs, coaching or mentoring.

Since you’ll be collaborating with others — outsourcing or otherwise compensating for what you’re not naturally good at — you’ll have more time and energy to improve and deploy your greatest strengths.

Step 3 – Overcome Your Barriers to Success

Clearly understanding your strengths and weaknesses sets your groundwork for success. Now it’s time to actually, as they say, “just do it.”  Unfortunately, far too many of us get stuck when it comes to execution.  The key to tangible progress is to recognise that there is no “silver bullet,” no simple plan or technique that will “automatically” do it for you or guarantee your success. Many people search continuously for an easy, pre-packaged solution that is guaranteed to work, rather than getting real about their own obstacles. (And I am not talking about the weaknesses we addressed in the previous step.)

This is perhaps the most confronting part.  Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has stopped you from being successful in the past? Seriously, what have been the real barriers that have stood in the way of your achievement?
  • What is it about your beliefs or values that have prevented you from fulfilling your potential?
  • Is there a past experience that has scarred you and dented your confidence?
  • Is there someone in your life who is limiting you?
  • What excuses did you make last year (and the year before that) for not getting things done?

It is only by identifying and then deliberately dealing with the barriers to our success that we will have any chance of achieving a different outcome in 2009.

These are the best of times to be successful on purpose.

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