It's a good idea occasionally to look up from what you're doing, glance around, and take stock of what's going on around you. If your office is anything like the branches I've visited recently, it's time for an attitude adjustment. The positive outlook and effervescent energy that typified the bull market '90s are a distant memory.
When I suggested conducting an attitude check during a recent branch meeting, I was greeted with a host of blank stares. Finally one individual broke the silence, and it was as though he were speaking for registered reps coast to coast.
“We've been hiding under our desks for the past two years just trying to survive all the incoming missiles,” explained “Jim” in a pained tone. “I don't know about anyone else, but I'm embarrassed about how I've allowed all this stuff to get me down.”
These weren't the words of some ordinary broker; Jim is the senior partner of a multimillion dollar team, the largest team in the office.
William James, the well-known Harvard philosopher and psychologist, called attitudes “habits of the mind.” Like all habits, attitudes form quickly. They're also difficult to break, especially when the surrounding conditions continue to encourage them. That became clear as the conversation continued.
Jim led most of the discussion. It was almost as if he was having a catharsis, getting angry for allowing himself to be influenced by events that were outside his control. In a strange way, Jim had allowed himself to absorb all the dissatisfaction and pain being experienced by his clients.
He is far from alone.
This defeatist attitude has grown to epidemic proportions. In the midst of one of the greatest opportunities to attract new affluent clients, most financial advisors are simply going through the motions. They're reacting only to daily events, trying to hold everything together, hoping they can survive until the wind blows their way again, courtesy of a reviving market.
If you feel obligated to spend the day fielding phone calls requiring you to explain why you didn't sell Enron at $80, your attitudes and actions will become entangled in a vicious cycle that will make you depressed.
Here's the good news. It is completely within your power to reshape those attitudes through redirecting the specific actions you take. You need to replace the time spent explaining the past with efforts to shape your future. If you were to carve out a block of time, say 35 percent of your day, to meet with affluent centers of influence and qualified prospects, your attitude would change. You would find yourself energized, becoming more creative, thinking about new business opportunities.
Make no mistake. It's hard work. But here are four simple steps to get started:
Make a list of affluent investors you believe would make good clients. Don't worry about how you will attract them — that's a bad attitude. Simply make the list.
Review your top 25 current clients and identify as many links to your affluent prospects as possible.
Commit yourself to a specific set of three fixed daily activities relative to those two lists. Each day you should contact at least one current top 25 client, asking for at least one introduction to someone on your prospect list. Then have one face-to-face meeting outside the office from those introductions.
Repeat these three fixed activities every day. No exception. Don't worry (that attitude again!). As you make more contacts, the possibilities will expand.
Sit back, close your eyes, envision your desired future and link that image with your efforts of today. Is there a disconnect? Are you using your time wisely and working hard enough? Do you have a “can-do” attitude or have you developed the bad habit of finding excuses for not taking the necessary steps to build (re-build) your business? And finally, have you been hiding within the confines of your comfort zone?
If these questions hit a nerve, feel the pain and begin your road to recovery by committing to the four steps outlined above.
Matt Oechsli is an author and president of the consulting firm Oechsli Institute.