The one skill I wish I’d learned earlier in my career

The future is now

The future for advisers has never been brighter, although this may not be true for everyone if they’re not ready to step into that future.

New technology sees us on the brink of some of the biggest changes in the nature of work across all careers and professions. Ours is no different.

With investment advice continuing to be de-mystified and commoditised, the only real future for advisers is one focused on planning and coaching their clients; we need to become masters of relationship management. Helping people with behavioural and emotional issues around their financial future is the one piece of the equation that can’t be Robo’d.


Three is the magic number

If you currently run your own Financial Planning firm, or you aspire to do so in the future, then being a master of relationship, planning and coaching skills is merely one step on the journey.

I think of it like a three-legged stool.


First leg – Knowledge

Do you know your onions technically speaking? Let’s be honest, it can take you ten or 15 years of hard work to become really knowledgeable as an adviser.

Whilst one does need to know their onions, that’s a given in my opinion, as Nick Murray says in his book The Excellent Investment Advisor:“Knowledge can never get you where you want to go. The more you know, the less of what you know you can communicate to normal people. That’s the conundrum: as your store of knowledge compounds, the percentage of what you know that you can usefully – or even comprehensibly – tell folks, approaches and then arrives at the vanishing point.” Clearly, knowing your job at a technical level is important. Gaining qualifications like Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Planner or other specialist qualifications would tick this box for you. I recommend getting them as fast as you can.


Second leg – Interpersonal Skills

Can you skilfully question, listen to, and engage with clients? This skillset can take you a long time to acquire too, just like knowledge. However, alarmingly, you can get so good at it that you might start taking shortcuts and cutting corners which can actually set you back if you’re not careful.

Doing courses with the gurus like George Kinder, Bill Bachrach or Maria Nemeth can dramatically improve your skill levels when interacting with clients. A 5-day course with George Kinder will change your life forever in a very practical way, and elevates your skills well above most advisers.


Third leg – Business Skills

Whilst knowledge and interpersonal skills are central to the offering, the biggest hurdle for many great advisers is becoming a skilled business person; and this is the third leg of the stool for my money.

If you know your stuff and can communicate brilliantly with your clients, you are going to be successful and generate a lot of new business and new client relationships.

That type of success brings you a whole new range of business-related challenges:

  • Strategic challenges: Where are you headed? What matters most to you personally? What’s your higher purpose in building this business?
  • Management challenges: How do you attract, retain and develop a great team?
  • Technology challenges: What types of technology will improve your productivity and improve the client experience. And, just as importantly, what won’t?
  • Financial challenges: How do you grow profitably and sustainably? How do you fund growth when you are successful?
  • Leadership and personal effectiveness challenges: How do you need to behave as a leader in your business? How can you increase your personal productivity as the demands on your time grow?

A two-legged stool isn’t very stable, so it’s vital that you develop good business management skills if you want a great business. A tiny percentage of business owners seem to naturally possess these skills from birth. Most have to learn them on the job.


Can you manage?

I know in my own career the business management piece was not something that was covered at all. I was fortunate to begin my career in a business that tried to manage itself in a business-like way, although looking back it was still very poor. It’s only in the second half of my career that I’ve discovered and learned better business management skills.

I’m convinced that if advisers learned these skills earlier in their own business careers they would unleash their full potential both in themselves and their business asset. If you’re a younger adviser coming through, then I can’t stress highly enough the need to learn this set of skills.


Space to create

The business management piece is also vitally important to anyone with a big dream for their business, or with hopes of being an innovator.

Innovation requires some time and space to:

  • Think
  • Plan
  • Trial
  • Fail
  • Reiterate until you get it right

To do all of that you need to be ‘on it’ in a business management sense. You need to plan so that the run-of-the-mill stuff gets done in the shortest time possible, whilst still delivering an amazing outcome for the client. That leaves you with the innovation and development time you need.


The great and the good

Do you have to do any of this? Of course not. However, if you really want to be great in this profession (and I know many of you reading this do want to be great), then these are the three important legs for your business. To progress in a consistent, stable and profitable way, whilst having a load of fun and performing a massive social good as well is the key. That’s why I love this business.

You’ve got to be the complete package.


“If you know your stuff and can communicate brilliantly with your clients, you are going to be successful.”

Click to tweet


More inspiration: The Magic Washing Machine

The Magic Washing Machine, is a great TED talk by Hans Rosling. Hans is listed as one of 100 leading global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, Fast Company’s 100 most creative people in business in 2011, and Time’s World’s 100 most influential people in 2012. He was a co-founder of the fascinating Gapminder; “Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact-based world view”.

Hans makes my point perfectly. Spending time doing some jobs manually just takes talented members of our society away from being truly creative and productive. Well worth nine minutes of your time.


Share:

Leave a Reply