Jan 02 2024 / Round the Table Magazine
Does uncertainty have to be a bad thing? In a post-pandemic period with war and economic challenges lingering, making plans to grow your practice can be daunting. But what if you flipped the script on uncertainty with strategies for turning it into your competitive advantage?
Some companies flourished when the odds were stacked against them while others shrunk. As a business growth strategist and leadership expert, I was driven to learn why, so I researched business leaders and organizations that survived generations of crisis and culled strategies they used to turn situations that typically have a negative impact into opportunity.
When the rest of us were afraid of uncertainty, they leaned in. They believed it was their opportunity to get a foothold in the marketplace. So, what impact could you make with your clients and in your community if you believed that disruption, even when it was negative, propelled growth rather than repelled growth?
Eyes on the destination
One trait of leaders and organizations that conquered uncertainty was relentless vision. They succeeded not because they had the most money or the best product but because they had a leader who kept their team focused on where they were headed.
Understand and be clear on where you are headed, where you see your clients, where you see your organization and where you see your team one year from now. Please note, it is not called a vision. It’s relentless vision. It’s a vision you are so focused on that no matter the obstacle in front of you, you see beyond it to find opportunity.
Our mind tends to find what it focuses on, so if we dwell on the negative, we will find more negatives. Train your brain to focus on opportunity and finding ways around obstacles and do it for your team too. Your client needs a financial advisor who can help train their brain to find opportunity. You have to be that financial advisor who is hopelessly committed to the relentless vision of what is possible.
Prepare for change
Leaders who flipped uncertainty conditioned themselves for change. Change can be your greatest opportunity if you see it coming, but if you ignore change, it will bury you. Long before the making, transportation and sale of alcohol was outlawed in the U.S. and forced James Beam to shut down his family’s 200-plus-year-old whiskey distillery, he asked himself what he would do if Prohibition became law even though he didn’t believe it would happen. He diversified his income stream by buying land in Florida to grow citrus and operated a coal mine and a limestone quarry. Thirteen years later and after many of his competitors declared bankruptcy, Prohibition was repealed. With investors and employees lined up, Beam rebuilt his distillery in just 120 days and was selling whiskey a year before his closest competitors opened.
Like Beam, advisors can condition themselves for change with an exercise I dub with the acronym SCEPTIC, standing for society, competition, economics, politics, technology, industry and customers.
Every couple of months, take 20 minutes out of a staff meeting or 10 or 15 minutes out of a client meeting to look at what is happening outside your business. How is competition changing? What’s happening with the economy, technology, the industry, your competitors and your clients, and what do you need to be doing now to get ready for those changes? Do this with your clients because you don’t want them reacting to change. You want them to feel empowered by the shifts coming in the marketplace. The reason we hate change is we sit there like a duck waiting for it to happen. This tool puts you in the driver’s seat, so you start controlling the change that’s coming.
If you position yourself in the marketplace as the one who solves that problem, you are going to be the financial advisor who gains competitive advantage.
Secure your base
During the 1970s, Procter & Gamble reached into its heritage of market research and activated a toll-free phone number for consumers to call just to complain. Women’s participation in the U.S. workforce was rising then, and many called to rant about not having enough time to work and to do laundry, feed their family and have time for themselves. P&G listened and developed products to solve their consumers’ problems.
Go talk to your clients and learn from them. Listen to those complaints because if you position yourself in the marketplace as the one who solves that problem, you are going to be the financial advisor who gains competitive advantage.
Build your network
At any moment in time, we are one connection away from somebody who can positively and radically change our lives, and all we have to do is connect with them.
Before Tom Fazio became a famous golf course architect, the high school graduate scraped up every penny he had to travel to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National to rub shoulders with and pick the brains of successful people in the golf industry like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and the sages of golf course design. Fazio traces elements of every single golf course he designed to the connections he made during those treks to the Masters.
Where do you need to be to put yourself in the middle of the people that you need to be networking with? And what are you doing to invest in those relationships so that they turn around and invest in you?
Shed fast and keep moving
Finally, if something isn’t working, fix it fast. Every couple of months, advisors should evaluate their practice by asking questions that fall into three categories: seeds, weeds and needs:
- Seed questions are: What did I do in the last three months that built this business? What attracted clients? What took price off the table and enhanced my reputation?
- Weed queries are: Where did I waste time? Was it chasing the wrong client, attending the wrong networking event or not firing an employee who should have been let go months ago?
- The need question asks: What should I be doing that we’re not doing that could take our business to the next level?
Being able to reflect objectively on your business, understand what’s working and what isn’t, and responding to the shifts in the marketplace are going to make sure that you remain productive, not busy.
Meridith Elliott Powell is a business development expert and a 2022 MDRT EDGE speaker. To learn all nine strategies for thriving during uncertainty, read her book “Thrive: Strategies to Turn Uncertainty to Competitive Advantage.”