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Run Your Own Race

With the Olympics underway, we are hearing from athletes that they want to “peak” for their event. They also are planning out their strategy, checking out who their competitors are, and figuring out how they’re going to use their strengths and abilities to bring home the gold.

The same process can be used for financial advisors to create their best business.  They need to have a marketing strategy, know what other advisors are offering, and what special services and products they are going to provide to make their client’s experience extraordinary. They also need to know what it is about themselves that sets them apart from other advisors. This ability to differentiate yourself is key to developing a value proposition.

I often hear from advisors, especially when they have just been to a conference where the speakers are the cream of the crop, how they want to model their business after those elite advisors. They want to have similar niches, build a similar team, and even have similar marketing to be just like them. I once asked a fellow advisor what it was about the cream of the crop that they identified with. Their answer: “I like the fact that they have built a team that takes care of running the office leaving them free to take quarterly vacations, get reward perks from the firm, service smaller client bases and run the whole business quite effortlessly.”

If you get a chance to pick the brain of the top advisors to get ideas, ask them what they did to get to where they are? You’ll find that some advisors came from money, and having a niche of art dealers was easy for them to market to. Others have worked for years to build relationships with CEOs of mining companies, and some just bought the right size book at the right time—slowly molding it to their desires.

Either way, each story is different. And the point is that you need to create your own. Trying to replicate the circumstances of someone else’s success is challenging, and you can lose perspective of what it is that you were hoping to achieve.

Let’s say you’re trying to replicate a target market of art dealers. But, you have no previous experience buying or collecting art, you haven’t attended any gallery openings or exhibits, and you don’t know much about what problems you would be solving for art dealers. Well, then it’s going to be difficult to build relationships with that market especially if you have no real interest in that area. Choose a target market that you find interesting and rewarding—one that will energize you and make it easier for you to become an expert in solving the corresponding problems.

That said, here are four easy steps to start running your own race:

1. Know your strengths and what makes you distinctive.

Think about what comes naturally to you. Are you more comfortable speaking in public or one-on-one with people? Do you enjoy writing your own blog, or is that for a marketing assistant? Do you have a strong background in accounting, or were you more of an entrepreneur?  Is there a certain product or service that you really believe in? Create a list of your strengths and what sets you apart from other advisors.

2. Decide on a target market or niche that you enjoy.

Choosing a niche can take a few tries to really get the clients that you want. And for some advisors, their niche changes as their business matures. Have a close look at your current clients, and see what similarities you find. Also, consider what it is that you enjoy about working with them? For example, do you like doing complex financial and retirement plans for CEOs that have special restrictions on shares of their company and involves you being part of a financial team that supports the CEO? Or, would you rather work with young professionals that are eager to make sure they have proper insurance in place to support their family? When you figure out who your target market and ideal clients are, be sure you can describe it to people, so they know who to refer.

3. Plan for business and personal growth.

Having a plan for growth will involve looking at what resources you are going to need as well as what gaps in your development need to be filled. Some advisors go through growing pains where they need a full-time assistant but aren’t willing to dig into their own pockets to hire them. It’s a decision that can change the business dramatically and needs to be given considerable thought. Also, plan for your educational journey and what courses, conferences and seminars you want to attend. For personal growth, choose one area to focus on such as being a better listener. Any skill that helps you converse effectively and build relationships is beneficial.

4. Fill in the gaps.

When you set your plans, you may come across a gap in the business that needs filling. For example, if marketing is not one of your strengths, you may plan to hire a marketing assistant or a marketing consultant. Determine what the scope of your business will be, and the business’ requirements will follow.  Some advisors create specialized teams of financial planners, marketing assistants and administration assistants that all compliment the vision of what you want the business to look like.

So, take a few minutes today to decipher your strengths. Think about making stretch goals, which are goals that take you out of your comfort zone, and put some of those in place to keep you growing and moving forward. Lastly, consider why your prospects want to build a relationship with you and trust you with their investments.

In Conclusion

These are all helpful tips to get you running your own race—competing against your own records and “peaking” in your own way. In the process, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself beating out some competitors and rising in the ranks.

About Rosemary Smyth and Aaron Hoos

Rosemary Smyth and Aaron Hoos

Rosemary Smyth, MBA, CIM, FCSI, ACC, is an author, columnist and an international business coach for financial advisors. She spent her career working at leading investment firms before pursuing her passion for coaching. She lives in Victoria, BC. Visit her website at You can email Rosemary at:

Aaron Hoos, MBA, has worked in the financial industry since 1997. Formerly a stockbroker, insurance broker, and award-winning sales manager, today he writes for the financial and real estate industry as an educator and marketer. He is working on his second book. Visit his website at and follow him on Twitter @AaronHoos.

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