Run Your Own Race

By Rosemary Smyth, MBA, ACC, Author on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

With the Olympics around the corner we are hearing from the athletes that they are all wanting to “peak” for their Olympic event. They also are planning what their strategy will be for the event, checking out who their competitors are and how they are going to use their strengths and abilities to bring home the gold.

The same process can be used for 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 experience extraordinary. They also need to know what it is about themselves that sets them apart from other advisors. This ability to differentiate from the other advisors 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 have a business just like 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, what it was that they liked about the cream of the crop that they really identified with. Their answer- I liked the fact that they have built a team that takes care of running the office, they take quarterly vacations, get reward perks from the firm, they aren’t in the office much since they have smaller client bases and they seem to find the business quite effortless.

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 and have slowly molded it to what they want.

Either way, each story is different and you need to create your own story that is all about you. Trying to replicate the circumstances of someone else’s success is challenging and you can lose perspective of what it is that you are hoping to achieve. For example, if you choose to replicate a target market of art dealers and you; have no previous experience buying or collecting art, haven’t attended any gallery openings or exhibits, don’t know much about what problems you would be solving for art dealers then it is 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 their problems.

To run your own race start with; know your strengths and what makes you distinctive, choose a target market or niche that you enjoy working with, have a plan for business and personal growth and fill in the gaps of what is missing.

4 Steps to Running Your Own Race

  1.  Know your strengths and what makes you distinctive.

Think about what comes naturally to you. Are you comfortable public speaking or more 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.

  1. 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 is it that you enjoy about working with them? For example, do you like doing complex financial and retirement plan 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 narrow who your target market and ideal clients are, be sure you can describe it to people so they know who to refer you.

  1. Plan for business and personal growth.

Having a plan for growth will involve looking at what resources you are going to need and also what gaps in your development that you want to fill.  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 well thought out. Also plan for your educational journey and what courses, conferences and seminars that you want to attend. For personal growth choose one area to focus on such as, being a better listener. Any skill that helps you with more effective conversations and building relationships will always be of benefit.

  1. Fill in the gaps.

When you set your plans you may come across a gap that needs to be filled in the business.  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 so you can identity what you will need to fulfill your business requirements. 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.

Take a few minutes today to be curious of what your strengths are and which ones you use each day. 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.

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: and follow her on Twitter @rosemarysmyth.
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