Size isn’t everything
Everyone is looking for the big, game-changing idea. Sure, every so often, once in a generation, there’s something that changes the rules of the game.
However, that’s not usually how people or businesses succeed. Mostly they get there in small, incremental steps; walking it forward one small change at a time.
It’s the exponential nature of the compound interest of personal development. At first, after lots of work, you can hardly see the difference. However, one becomes two, becomes four, becomes eight, becomes sixteen, and all of a sudden you’re an overnight success.
Lessons from the court
I was watching an NBA (American Basketball) game a couple of years ago, when my wife Debbie and I spent a month in Park City, Utah one winter. The Utah Jazz had a 7ft tall, French-born player called Rudy ‘The Stifle Tower’ Gobert.
In the game I watched as Rudy went up for a shot under pressure, and arced the ball over the defender’s head for a basket with his left hand; he’s right handed. The commentator told viewers, “Last season he couldn’t do that.”, and that really got me thinking.
What do you mean last season he couldn’t do that? How long does it take to develop a new skill that works under pressure at the highest level in sport with your non-dominant hand? My guess is he’d been working on that for years.
It made me realise how much work even the best of the best do, to get even better. Sure, they have some physical attributes. But at the level they’re competing at, everyone has physical attributes. It’s the hard work and incremental improvement that separates the great from the good.
Putting the work in
I attended a high school that was famous for producing two Wallabies (Australian Rugby players) that never made the 1st XV while at school: Nick Farr-Jones and Phil Kearns. At 17 they were not even the best players in their position in one high school. By their early 20s they were considered the best players in the country in their respective positions.
How did that happen?
They kept working. They kept making incremental improvements.
I see the same mindset with the best advisers and firms that I know.
Great advisers continue to work on their questioning and listening skills, their technical skills, and their business management skills.
Why? They’re already better than most.
It’s because they treat their profession as a lifelong learning pursuit. Just to see how good they can truly become. They retain a beginner’s mind and stay open to the possibility that they don’t know it all; that they can be better.
Seth Godin covered this idea brilliantly in a blog, 1000 little steps:
“There’s nothing in the dentist’s office that was there fifty years ago. Every device, every compound, every technique has been changed.
Bit by bit. Involving thousands of people and organizations. Improvements large and small (mostly small), in every corner.
And every one of those improvements was met with resistance. Every change was fought, tooth (!) and nail. Every one had critics and skeptics and hold outs.
That’s how the world changes. By drips. Persistent, generous, tiny drips.”
Little steps for your business
What are the little steps for advisers?
- Add technical skills – Once you’re experienced in your technical skills you can continue to add small amounts of, often very useful, technical knowledge. It’s not like in the early days where you were adding a ton of information.
- Hone your Processes – Processes within the business get trimmed and improved constantly.
- Start doing less – As you understand more of where you add value, you do less of the gumpf that used to help you justify your fees; at least in your own mind. You do not find experienced advisers having dark nights of the soul over their fees.
- Stop producing Financial Planning reports – You come to realise that most clients don’t ever read them, or if they do, they certainly don’t understand them.
- Share more simply – Start explaining your strategies and recommendations in a more client friendly way; powerpoint, or live on-screen with a cash flow model.
- Focus on your smaller goals – Learn to set quarterly goals and to hit them; every single quarter.
- Get things done – Learn to set weekly to dos and do them; every single week.
- Lay foundations – Set annual goals that lay foundations for the future, rather than just going after a turnover or profit number. And, of course, achieve both.
- Keep things clear – Paragraphs or diagrams to explain things get tweaked as you hone things.
- Only do what’s needed – Stop doing some things entirely, if you realise they add no value.
- Learn from others – Add great ideas that you see elsewhere to your approach or your processes.
Keep on keeping on
It’s a constant game of adviser evolution.
The truth is, there’s only one way to become great. You’ve got to walk it forward, day by day, week by week, and year by year.
Just look at how far you’ve come. It’s important to occasionally look backwards and appreciate how much you’ve learned on the way.
How would it go if you compared where you are now to how you were five years or ten years ago?
Pretty darn well I expect. That’s progress.
Just do the next right thing.
Let me know how you go.