If I got one bitcoin for every time I was asked, “What’s the one piece of advice you would give to an advisor who wants to grow their business?” I’d be a bitcoin billionaire.

Similarly, it’s quite popular among consultants and coaches to talk about “best practices” and “what the other top advisors are doing.”

Unfortunately, the “one piece of advice” and the “best practices” are simply parts that, when randomly implemented, can turn your firm into a Frankenstein practice.

Yes, it is good to know (pun intended) that one piece of advice and those best practices, but only to the extent that they are ingredients of a complete recipe.

Take NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® chocolate chip cookies as an example. There are nine ingredients. If you follow the recipe in the exact order, you’ll get a spatula-licking result.

However, if you decide that you’re just going to use five of those ingredients, then you won’t enjoy licking the beaters. You’d also get a poor result if you decide to use all nine ingredients, but not in the proportions of the recipe.

Building your business is no different. If you focus on finding the best “parts,” but have no understanding of how those parts fit and interact within a unified whole, you’re toast.

Let’s take a look at marketing. It’s easy to keep trying stuff like webinars, email letters, digital ads, podcasts, blogs, white papers behind gates, and so on. But all of those are suboptimal if they are not part of a coordinated whole system.

It is much harder to come up with a marketing system than it is to try individual marketing tactics.

When I coach advisors, we take a systems approach to problems. We don’t “throw tactics up against the wall to see what sticks.”

So, what is a system? According to scientist Donella Meadows:

“A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. If you look at that definition closely for a minute, you can see that a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.”

Approaching your business (or life for that matter) from a “systems framework” is the only way to ensure you’ll get an optimal result.

You can apply this systems approach to your 2021 business plan. Here’s how.

  1. Start with, “What do you want to achieve?”
  2. Identify all the potential “elements” you might need as “ingredients” to achieve what you said you want to achieve.
  3. Identify the interconnected relationships among the elements: meaning, if we implement element “A” it will have “X” impact on element “D.”
  4. Arrange the elements in a sequence that becomes circular, self-reinforcing, and greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Essentially, I’m encouraging you to view your business not as a series of tasks, tactics, and actions, but rather as an intentional, coordinated whole whose individual elements work together symbiotically to create an outcome that is much greater than any element on its own.

Historically, have you been more of a “tactical” thinker or a “systems” thinker? Remember, you can’t beat the system!

For a great introductory article on systems thinking, including six tools of a systems thinker, click here.