Each week, I publish a private email letter to thousands of subscribers called Good to Know, or GTK for short. To close this year, I pulled 10 excerpts from previous 2020 GTKs that I think will help you in your business and give you some things to think about as we head into 2021.

You can subscribe to GTK for free by clicking here. 


1: Change Your Environment, Change Your Result
Published January 14, 2020

The environment that we put ourselves in dramatically shapes our behavior.

I workout almost every day. And before I go to bed, I lay out my workout clothes and decide on my workout so I have one less excuse for not exercising. And I have many other environmental cues that I’ve set up to minimize my undesired behaviors and maximize the desired ones.

Likewise, is the environment you’ve created supporting or distracting you from achieving your desired plan?

Take a few moments and think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Then look at your surroundings.

Are your surroundings helping or hurting your ability to achieve?

What environmental changes can you make that will further support your desired behaviors?

Can you think how this might apply to conversations with your clients? What in their environment is sabotaging their ability to follow through on the financial plan? How can you coach them through making some changes to support, not thwart, what they want to do?

2: Do Private Briefings for Top Clients
February 11

Here’s a low cost, high perceived value way to keep your practice in the top 15% and keep your margins comfortably high.

Do private briefings. This idea came up in two sessions at the Barron’s Team Summit this month, plus podcast guest Laila Pence shared it with me too during our recording session at the Summit. Everybody loves to feel special, so for your highest-level client segment, offer them a monthly “Private Briefing” at your office.

It could be a market update, an election preview, your take on a current event like the coronavirus, or perhaps a special guest (like a local professor) talking about something they’re not going to hear elsewhere. This exclusive treatment for your best clients will make them feel part of a special community and let them know that you value their relationship and are willing to go above and beyond to exceed their expectations.

3: Be a Coach, Not Just an Advisor
March 3

Yes, you’re an expert, but that doesn’t mean you should always be “telling and educating.”

Clients want to feel empowered and if you can help them feel more in control of the decision-making process, they are more likely to stick to that decision.

For example, coaching is about asking questions and helping your client clarify, sort through, and come to a conclusion. Over the weekend, I had a conversation with an advisor who “coached” seven clients out of moving to all cash. How? One question he asked was, “We can move you to cash if you’d like, but since this money is earmarked for your long-term goals, how are you going to determine when to get back into the market?” Not surprisingly, the clients had no “get back in” strategy. After some additional coaching, all 7 clients decided to remain invested. Well done!

4: Position Yourself as a Truth Teller
March 17

One of my most popular podcasts of all-time was with Doug Lennick. Doug shared many gems including this idea of positioning yourself as a truth teller and “the truth is uncertainty.” Further, he said your value arises when you prepare your clients “for the certainty of uncertainty.”

Here’s how Doug said you can frame it (he’s speaking as if he’s the advisor talking to a client):

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Now, it’s appropriate for you to expect that I have educated guesses and I do, but they’re still guesses. I don’t know what’s going to happen for sure. What I do know is I can prepare you for whatever happens, such that whenever you need money for whatever the reason, there will be a smart place to get it. Whenever you need money, no matter what’s going on in the world, you can call me and we’ll have a smart place to get that money from. That will help me help you make a rational decision even though you might think the sky is falling and the world is coming apart. We’ll be ready. We’ll be ready for the financial implications of dying. We’ll be ready for the financial implications of living. We’ll be ready for the financial implications of not being healthy and the financial implications of being healthy and we’ll be ready for the markets being up or the markets being down.

Wow, how prescient was that quote! Read/listen to this great episode with Doug here.

5: Be a Learner, Not Just Learned
April 14

Real leaders have a thirst for learning. They know that in order to grow, they need to learn more than they forget. They’re always asking questions, probing, and following their curiosity.

As author and “longshoreman philosopher” Eric Hoffer wrote, “In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” In a world that can change as fast as the coronavirus spreads, you have no choice but to keep learning.

6: Stop Copying
May 12

You can’t simply copy what other successful advisors do and expect to get the same great result. The advisors who grace the cover of magazines didn’t go from zero to 100% success in one giant leap. No, they had years of experience in between that informed their ability and honed their “way” that led to the success they now enjoy.

“Best practices” is not about “doing” the best practice. It’s about achieving the result of the best practice. But that outcome will remain elusive if you don’t put your experience and uniqueness into achieving it.

Arsenio Hall is a great example. He started a late-night talk show in 1989. At the time, the king of late night was Johnny Carson.

Hall was very insightful when he said, “You can’t out-Johnny Johnny. You can’t knock off a legend. Why try to take Johnny’s audience? I just want their kids.” Brilliant!

Hall took the idea of a late-night talk show (the “best practice”) but then completely iterated it in his own style—just like Flack and the Fugees did with “Killing Me Softly.”

If being a top advisor was as simple as copying what other top advisors do, we’d all be on the Barron’s list. But it’s not and that’s why following best practices often falls short.

The key is to take that best practice and remake it in your own inimitable style.

7: Be First in Something
June 16

Who was the SECOND person to run a sub-4:00 mile?

We all know the first was Roger Bannister. But he held the world record for just 6 short weeks in the summer of 1954. Yet Bannister is the one we all remember and gets all the glory for breaking the barrier.

There’s a good marketing lesson here.

Bannister’s record was broken by John Landy, the second person to break 4:00 in the mile. Landy ran 3:58.0 and held the world record for more than three years. Yet few people outside of Australia know him (BTW, he’s still alive at 90 years old).

The marketing lesson is clear—be the first to do _____. Think about your business. What can you be the “first” to do? Make it meaningful and newsworthy. Then share it. Or better yet, let other people share it.

8: Be Different, Better
July 14

It took Peter Mallouk less than 20 years to grow Creative Planning from $50 million to $50 billion in AUM. He credits that growth to differentiating the firm and its services from the rest of the pack.

“The success story of Creative Planning is we actually give clients something that’s very good, that they feel is better than what they got at other places,” Peter says. “The people are better. The offering is better. The advice is better. ‘I’m going to call Creative Planning when I have a question. I’m going to be confident to refer to them.’ That’s the real value. That’s the real service.”

Yet, even within the firm, there is a significant variance of growth results among advisors. Peter said:

“We have hundreds of wealth managers and even when you stabilize for book size, there is very, very wide discrepancy on the growth of practices and where the referrals come from clients, which tells me, part of it is investments, part of it is the brand, and part of it is the planning, but a big, big, big part of it is the advisor.”

He gave an example and said assume a potential new client was going to interview 10 advisors. Then ask yourself:

“Are you better than the other nine people they’re going to go sit down with? If not, why not? Is someone more credential than you, more educated than you? Are they more specialized in certain areas that are important in your community, like if you’re in Atlanta at Coca-Cola, for example? What is it and solve those problems. That gets you in a competitive spot with individual clients and that’s what opens the doors to the next steps. There’s no shortcut around the fact that you ultimately have to be personally compelling to prospective clients.”

Read the full story and listen to the podcast with Peter here.

9: Fast Vs. Slow Things
August 4

In business, we often think that speed and scaling go hand-in-hand. But Ross Levin makes a distinction between things that advisors have to be really fast at, and things that we have to be really slow at. Both are important.

We’re now in a situation where people can look at their phone and get an update on their investment performance every day, so it shows what their returns are, what each category’s done, all those kind of things,” Levin says. “Whether that’s good or bad is irrelevant. It’s something that a certain subset of clients definitely want to be able to see, so you have to be fast at that.”

But as technology gets faster, the numbers component is going to be less and less valued as it trends toward commodity value.

Ultimately, it’s the slow things that will determine the future of the traditional RIA. “Those are the conversations and the life changes, and being on the front end of dealing with people through their day-to-day existence and through all the major things that go on in their life,” Levin says. “That, to me, is something that is really important, because that’s the part that technology, I don’t believe, can overcome.

After all, there’s no technology that is going to enable two humans to increase the speed at which they’re having an in-depth conversation.

Levin does acknowledge that speed of growth might be a tradeoff advisors have to make in order to future-proof their practices against scale players like Vanguard and other technology-focused platforms.

Read the full story and listen to the podcast with Ross here.

10: Desiring and Dreaming
September 22

Last week, as a guest on a popular financial industry podcast, the host asked me, “What do you see as the real barriers to success for advisors?

My answer was probably not what she was expecting.

I said, “I firmly believe that every advisor can grow to whatever level they want and the only thing that holds you back is, does your desire match your dream?

If you fall short of your goals, it’s not because you lack knowledge-you can google it or pay for it.

It’s not because you lack the technology—you can subscribe to it.

It’s not because you lack money—you can bootstrap your way to your first million.

It’s not because you live in a small town—you can use technology to work nationally.

I could go on and on with excuses.

I’ve worked with enough high achievers over the past 30 years to know that the only limiting factor to what you can achieve is the degree of your desire. People who achieve at the highest level simply want it more.

Read the full story and listen to my podcast here.

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Happy New Year!