For me, there are three catalysts that have the power to transform a financial planning business.
They form part of what we term 'the Ignite process', and underline why being in business isn’t just about winning clients, completing projects and delivering profits, or even providing good client service.
These catalysts have the greatest capacity to move a business forward and create something that is truly great.
1) A mission - we call this having a passionate purpose;
2) A belief system - what we describe as 'heartfelt values'; and
3) A difference - your firm's unique abilities.
While there are other catalysts, these are the three that stand out for me.
The one I believe has the greatest power to inspire and motivate, and to change culture and results, is the first one: having a power or 'passionate purpose'.
Let me explain why.
The power of purpose
Drawing on a six-year research project at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras studied 18 exceptional and long-lasting companies. Their study created the seminal book 'Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies'.
This is what they say about having a purpose:
“The most financially successful companies are founded on solid values and belief systems. They have a higher purpose than just making money. Visionary companies go deeper and find the real reason for their being.”
I've seen the importance of having a clear purpose first-hand.
Someone contacted me a while back to request my support on an as yet unspecified project.
By the end of the first phone call, I’d made it clear to the person involved that, given the culture he was part of, I just wasn’t interested in our working together.
But he wouldn’t let it rest there. He said: “If you’ll just let me show you a few pictures of my vision, I know you’ll be interested.”
Eventually, I gave in. I suspected I was going to regret doing so.
We met at the end of May. He told me of a family holiday to India, and of the children he’d seen begging. For one reason or another, they were all blind.
Before he got on the plane to go home, he decided he wanted to build a hospital in India that would give children back their sight. It's a haunting statistic that children are among the total eight million people who are blind in that continent, blighted solely by cataracts.
While his idea and desire to help were clearly valiant and worthy, my initial thought was: "This man is bonkers. How on earth is a financial planner, with only two staff, going to build a hospital in India?"
He explained that over the next 12 years, he planned to build his business, and then sell it. This would create the multi-millions that the hospital project would need.
I started to think this could be possible. Then I asked him: “What if you could do that in, say, five years? What would that mean to you?”
He grinned like a schoolboy, and told me me that would be amazing.
Seeing as I wasn't interested in hanging around to see what happened in 12 years' time, I suggested creating a plan to fund the project in five years maximum.
And that was it. I was in.
So there you have it - the power of a passionate purpose.