After 15 years in the field as a financial advisor, branch manager and complex director I was asked to construct an advanced training and development program for the top 20% of our advisers at my previous firm. When asked by the Director of National Sales what the training would focus on, I told him, “We will not cover the usual topics of how to sell, market or manage assets.” He looked at me kind of quizzically and asked, “then what the heck would you teach them?” I responded, “if they’re our top producers can’t we assume they have figured those three things out by now?” He agreed and asked, “then what’s left?” I then laid out three pillars upon which all of our advanced training and development work would rest.
- The 1st Pillar is helping advisors to manage and grow their increasingly complex practices: structurally, systemically, technologically and interpersonally. These are four distinct but interrelated concepts necessary to managing any complex businesses. However when you look at the psychographic profile of top producers, male or female, they are cut from the cloth of “John or Jane Wayne”. They are focused, driven, autonomous and fiercely independent people; who want to basically get up every morning, jump on their horse, ride off into the wilderness and shoot something, throw it on the fire and eat it, go to sleep and then get up the next day and get right back on the horse. By doing this job extremely well they wake up in 10 to 15 years and they are running a small to medium-size business, however there is little in our industry and even less in their DNA that equips them to do this. Plateaus in this business occur (initially at around $300K in gross, then again around $700K, then again between $1-1.2M and then about every $700K-1M thereafter) when the level of complexity gets so great that “what got you here won’t get you there.” It takes a fundamental reengineering of the practice to break through that plateau and move to the next level.
- The 2nd Pillar introduces the concept of balance and challenges one of our industries foundational tenants: “that we all get a choice in life, have a very successful and productive career or a profound and meaningful life…pick one!” Ask many top advisors, complex directors and/or senior executives, “So you work about 50 hours a week?” And too often you will hear, “ 50 hours…I have that for breakfast, we put in 60-70 hours around here”, as though somehow this is a badge of honor! I’ll never forget one senior executive who, on his way for a quick workout at the corporate gym, ran into his boss who commented, “I wish I had time to go workout”… message received loud and clear. This false dichotomy presumes we can lead bifurcated lives. That if someone’s personal life is unraveling, those challenges don’t follow you into the office; and if their professional lives are imploding, those challenges don’t walk with you through the door of your home. I therefore believe that we must "treat the patient" both personally and professionally. By aligning these two worlds to work in harmony, they can become mutually supportive and create an extraordinary synergy where 1+1=3.
- The 3rd Pillar is the concept of philosophical and historical perspective.Unfortunately we operate in a profession and live in a nation that can’t spell the former and rarely studies the latter. Our single greatest challenge as an industry is not managing our clients’ assets but managing their emotions. If I could separate your clients from their assets, so all you had to do was manage their money and not them, how hard would your job be? So the next time you’re wandering through your local Barnes & Noble, I do not want to find you in the investment section. You have been managing portfolios for years and there is nothing new under that sun. Instead I want to find you in the psychology section, the history section, the sociology section and even the philosophy/spirituality sections. By now you have mastered the art of managing assets, I now want you to master the art of managing people. And one of the people this journey will benefit the most is you. We often experience emotional volatility even more frequently and intensely than our clientele, because we have machines blinking green or red at us all day every day. No one needs the powerful combination of philosophical and historical perspective more than us.
These are the three foundations upon which all of my work has been built over the last 15 years, and the framework for our CEO Advisor Institute.
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