By Jody Jacobson
For many advisors, the Covid-19 pandemic created a wrinkle in time when they took a pause to breathe into the question—“Does my work have meaning for me, not just for my clients … but for me?”
During this pause, fiduciary-minded advisors asked themselves questions like, “Is this enough for me?” “Am I receiving a ‘fair exchange of value’ for my dedication and service, not just in terms of money, but in meaning and purpose?” They found the courage to ask, “Is it sufficient in my life to help my clients create meaning from their money?” They questioned, “Am I also creating enough meaning for myself to sustain me right now and into the future?” “Is my work allowing the sense of personal agency and fulfillment I need to feel fully engaged with clients and myself?”
These are essential questions, especially now. Whether you are a next-generation planner approaching a partnership decision, a seasoned firm owner looking forward to the next 10 years, a new leader, or a recent breakaway, nothing fuels success and happiness as much as aligning what you do with who you really are. The answers reveal a lot about you, your goals, and the ways you could practice that would lead to your own greater fulfillment and success.
I’ve cultivated a streamlined process with a set of solutions-focused questions, which you’ll find here. Grounded in positive psychology, behavioral finance, and appreciative financial planning, they are designed to help advisors assess whether and how deeply their offers align with their purpose. These questions can help you step back and employ critical thinking and self-compassion in service of realigning your offers to your purpose, so you feel more engaged and alive.
Step 1. Look inward. Start by asking yourself, “Who am I when I’m in flow with myself—when I’m being my truest, most authentic, and energized self?”
Use these follow-up questions to dig deep:
Step 2. Define your “Why” or purpose. Using the insights derived from the preceding step, write a sentence or two that captures why you do what you do. For example, do you love: (a) helping couples have greater compassion and appreciation for each other by healing their dysfunctional money scripts; (b) working with high-tech professionals from a particular country who have cross-border lives like you do; or (c) getting to serve fellow marathon runners who want to shape their retirements around events? This is where you get to be honest with yourself about what feeds your soul. Your purpose could be as simple as feeling called to be a model of true fiduciary service.
Step 3. Translate your “Why” into your signature way of working. Here you again get to be honest with yourself about what you most want to be doing and your signature way of doing it. When you entered the field, maybe you established yourself as a top tax expert, but then you fell in love with financial life planning. Now, you find yourself having life-planning conversations with some of your favorite tax clients and wish you could do that all day, every day. When you are in those meetings, you find that you feel most alive.
Being clear with yourself about what you most want to be doing and how you want to be doing it provides answers about what to focus on, what to invest in (certifications, marketing dollars, time, etc.), and what to do more and less of as you move forward. Ask questions such as:
Step 4. Do market research to understand your ideal clients—who they are, and what they wanted when they chose to work with you. Advisors who already have a book of business often can identify their ideal target clients. I call this “internal market research.” Simply list five or more current clients you wish you could clone. They are the people you most love serving. You feel that you do your best work with them and can be your best and truest self while doing it. Write a brief vignette about each, describing (a) what they wanted when they first came to you, (b) a demographic and psychographic description of them (i.e., single, couple, age, personality, profession, etc.), and (c) what you most love about serving them—what you’ve helped them achieve in their lives, and how you feel when you work with them.
Step 5. Craft your offer(s) to align with your purpose. Now you are ready to craft your offers so your work aligns with who you are at your best. You know (a) why you do what you do, (b) what you most love doing and what result you most love delivering, (c) who you most love doing it with, and (d) how to also align your services to your purpose and create the offers your ideal clients want and need.
When you approach your service offers this way, your work will sustain you, and you will magnetically attract the right clients. Once you have enough ideal clients (or stop serving the wrong clients so your business is better defined), you can focus on increasing referrals. That’s because “like likes like.” What that means is that the more you reach ideal clients and create opportunities for them to invite and communicate about your value with their friends, the more you will add ideal clients.
This approach creates a virtuous cycle of client-based marketing so your clients become your best marketers. Moreover, it enables you to more easily and clearly say “no” to prospects who do not fit your ideal.
The pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence (fingers crossed), but you will face other challenges and changes in your life and in your firm. Under any circumstances, you will want to build a strong, resilient foundation that aligns to your strengths, your staffing, outsourcing, pricing model, marketing strategy, and more. Get started by asking deep questions about your purpose and the meaning of your work.
Julie Fortin, CFP®, FBS®, CeFT®; Marlis Jansen, LMFT, FBS®; and Bradley T. Klontz, Psy.D., CFP®; “Integrating Interpersonal Neurobiology into Financial Planning: Practical Applications to Facilitate Well-Being,” Journal of Financial Planning, May 2020.
Jody Jacobson, Ph.D., Organizational ADD: Refocusing Your Business for Growth; Strategic Thinking for Long-term Profitability, Scholars’ Press, 2014. (Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free chapter and book highlights.)
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Jody Jacobson, Ph.D., is a strategy consultant, coach, author, and speaker. She helps advisors take effective action for meaningful long-term growth. She created the Human Skills Institute to help advisors master the true “hard” side of growth—the people side.
image credit: istock.com/Irina Shatilova