When I’m working with adviser-owners in either a formal course setting or in my individual consulting work, I’m often asked what other firms are doing right.

    Rest assured, I don’t give away any proprietary secrets. The truth is what makes some business owners great is almost never related to tricks or secrets anyway. 

    Here are the seven traits I see in dealing with adviser-owners who are turning their business from good to great:

    They think like business people, not advisers

    The great adviser-owners are not sales and turnover-focused. The issues they spend the most time on are:

    • Business strategy. What’s the game plan? Where are we headed? Why?
    • Execution. Goals get ticked off every quarter and every year. As a result their businesses grow like compound interest; slowly but surely. It’s only later in their careers that they look like overnight successes.
    • Growth. Not at any cost, but at 15 per cent a year, which doubles the size of the business every five years.
    • Team building. They develop a capable team of support staff and external experts. They also deliberately develop future leaders within their businesses.

    They understand the boring basics and apply them daily

    Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up, says that “routine sets you free.” Only by following some core disciplines can business owners achieve the success and freedom that attracted them to their business in the first place.

    In the firms I work with those key disciplines are:

    • Planning each week
    • Planning every single day
    • Holding weekly leadership team meetings where problems get solved
    • Setting quarterly objectives that are achieved
    • Annual business planning

    Without these disciplines, businesses drift and everything takes longer than necessary.

    They don’t ‘settle for’

    What do I mean by ‘settling for’?

    It means putting up with problems that, with some effort, could be overcome. Failing to address these issues head on can make your life unnecessarily complicated or drama-filled in the process.

    For example:

    • Settling for poor staff who can’t do the job to the standard you need
    • Settling for clients that don’t appreciate what is being done for them, or who don’t actually take your advice
    • Settling for clients that don’t challenge and stretch you

    All of these things put limits on your earning capacity, as well as the fun and enjoyment you can experience in your working life. Don’t ‘settle for’.

    They solve the real issue

    The challenges that arise in your business are often not the real issue, but merely the symptom.

    For example, firms sometimes tell me they need to get a marketing plan in place because there aren't enough good quality leads coming in. Yet we often find the real issue is a poor team and poor processes, which creates a lack of time.

    Good marketing requires some real brainwork and creative time, even when you outsource it. The only way you can give it that time is when your basic processes and team structure are functioning well.

    The irony is when firms I work with solve the team and process issues, better quality clients start coming through the door.

    I don’t understand how it happens either, but speak to my clients and they’ll back me up on this.

    Another example is if you have problems delegating. Often it’s because the team around you are not good enough, so there’s no trust on your part. However you hired the team, so it may well be that your recruitment process isn’t fit for purpose.

    The real issue is often a layer or two down from the initial symptom. Great business owners keep digging for the real issues and solve them.

    They are totally honest with themselves 

    Sometimes it takes brutal honesty with oneself to grow and change, which is why we all avoid it to some extent. The great business owners keep fighting that urge to stay comfortable, even when it’s really painful.

    That usually requires people around you that can be straight with you on the tough issues.

    They are continually learning and growing – deliberately

    Arguably we’re all continually learning and growing, but the great business owners are doing so deliberately and proactively.

    That means they have a coach of some sort, are doing courses every so often, and are reading widely.

    However, the real differentiator is they study and apply what they learn. Lots of people I know read, but the super successful owners go back to the books and make sure they apply what they learn in their business or their life.

    They also deliberately hang out with peers who challenge and stretch them. They don’t want to be the biggest fish in a small pond.

    They do the work

    To get anywhere in life requires work. Success doesn’t just come along by accident.

    The best owner-advisers are not focused on instant gratification or a quick buck. They know that financial planning is a great ‘get rich slow’ business.

    This doesn’t mean they can’t grow rapidly when they get it right. A friend of mine, who runs a sizeable and high quality financial planning business, told me recently they had increased revenue by 40 per cent again this year. That’s about the fifth year on the trot they’ve done this.

    Another adviser emailed me recently and told me they had grown revenue by 100 per cent in the last 12 months. (Please note: normal and acceptable growth for most firms is 10-15 per cent a year. I’ve just included these two examples to show that when you finally crack it, massive growth can occur too).

    While both of these examples are spectacular, it’s quite different from taking a tech start-up from zero to a $1bn valuation in seven years. Slow and steady growth is where financial planning firms shine.

    The bottom line is the best of the best in our profession think differently to the majority. By changing their thinking they are able to change their behaviours, along with those of the people around them.

    It’s just what the high performers do. What can you do to bring out the best in your business?

    “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”


    You can find out more about Brett's Uncover Your Business Potential course here
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