Drained advisers need their mojo back

In life, like nature, there are seasons. There are highs and lows, peaks and valleys.

Right now, with all that’s happened and is happening in financial services, many advisers are understandably feeling drained and uninspired.

That state of mind, albeit justified, is the biggest threat to the industry’s future – not more regulation. Disengaged advisers equals disengaged clients equals ailing businesses.

To keep things interesting, advisers need to continuously expand their capability and capacity. They need to awaken new neurological pathways and find exciting reasons to build their businesses again.

That could be setting out to specialise in a specific area, launching a new division or entering an untapped client segment. It could be a new referral relationship, business partnership or acquisition.

Thinking about the times when I have experienced the most professional growth, I was highly motivated to achieve a specific goal as quickly as possible. When I reflect on the purple patches in my life and career – times when I achieved a lot in a finite period – I was single-minded in my pursuit of a particular opportunity.

For me, these pursuits included learning to play guitar, studying martial arts and establishing AZ NGA.

I’d go to bed thinking about it, wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it and get up in the morning thinking about it. I’d talk about it to anyone who would listen.

Similarly, talking about your work and business shouldn’t be a chore. Here are three tips to rediscover what turns you on.

1. Commit to learning

Passion and excitement are commonly associated with youth.

Young people tend to be energetic because they are learning and developing skills. When it comes to job satisfaction, they want to be paid well but they also highly value things like interesting work, training and development, and career progression.

As people get older, they tend to resist change and become set in their ways.

But the connection between learning and excitement is deep, therefore, advisers – regardless of age – need to keep expanding their skill set and networks to achieve personal and professional growth.

The traditional financial planning proposition is unlikely to hold their interest for long.

As stated in my previous column, Time to think like entrepreneurs, financial planning is a by-product of the narrow flags originally set by institutionally-owned licensees. This generic proposition: life insurance, superannuation and traditional investments, has remained largely unchanged for 20-30 years, explaining why so many advisers are bored.

While the enduring relevance, value and importance of personal advice can’t be disputed, anyone who has done the same job for decades, without variation and without being challenged, will naturally become stale and complacent.

Passion is a natural by-product of continuously learning, mastering and achieving.

2. Exploit your natural talents and abilities

The answer to the question of how to attract clients is usually linked to the answer to the question: what am I good at?

It may sound cliché but what you’re good at is usually a clue to what makes you tick.

The reverse is also true. Doing a job you’re not good at will suck the life out of you.

If you can identify a topic or opportunity that sparks your interest, you can build on it. There are degrees of excitement, hence the expression ‘excitement builds’. Just start somewhere.

3. Focus on the right target

Many businesses are so focused on sales and client acquisition that they forget why they exist in the first place.

The purpose of a strong corporate vision is to keep an organisation focused on the right things.

Advisers who are clear about why they do what they do and what they are trying to achieve are more likely to focus on acquiring capability and capacity rather than simply accumulating clients.

However, maintaining a passion for something as broad and generic as accounting or financial planning is difficult.

It’s easier to home in on a particular aspect such as an advice specialisation, client segment or geography, and set out to own that space. The more niche, the more likely you are to develop a unique capability that people want to know more about.

Overall, there are plenty of high-level reasons to be excited about the advice opportunity. When I talk to analysts and fund managers about the themes underpinning fundamental demand for professional advice, their eyes light up.

But the thing that’s likely to get advisers genuinely excited again will be personal.

For those who have decided to do the necessary study and make the necessary changes to continue building their businesses, they now need to find a way to revive their passion for advice. It is good to be reminded that it is okay to enjoy your work.

When companies talk about their growth strategy, they tend to focus on either M&A or organic growth.

Read more of Paul Barrett’s articles in Professional Planner.