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What Advisors Can Learn From Steve Jobs
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Monday, April 22, 2013
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DALLAS - The legacy of Steve Jobs and the success of Apple can teach advisors a whole lot, according to Raymond James' David Patchen.

"Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do," he told a 175 advisors at the firm's national conference on Monday.

Patchen cited words of wisdom from Jobs to point out what advisors can learn from the innovator's endless pursuit of perfection, quoting from Walter Isaacson's impressive biography

Here are just a handful of highlights. 

Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS)

The KISS acronym actually started as a design principle by the Navy in 1960 to explain the concept that most systems work best if they are simple rather than complex.

Jobs exemplified this.

"Keeping it simple is difficult to execute," Patchen said. "You need to think about how to simplify your offerings to clients. I've been to a lot of your websites, and I've seen some pretty painfully complex presentations," he told the advisors in the audience. Many in the room responded with nervous laughter. 

Don't Put Profit First

"You need to ask yourself what you would offer to clients if costs don't matter," Patchen said.

Jobs obviously had a tremendous affinity for product excellence, refusing to compromise the product. Jeremy James, an advisor with Iowa-based James Investment Group, for example, told me that if costs were not a concern, annuities with a living benefit rider would be more frequently pitched to clients. "They're more expensive but they offer clients an income they can't outlive," he said.

Appearance Matters

"People form an opinion about a company or its products on the basis of how it's packaged and presented," Patchen said, showing this funny video clip from the popular television series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to point out the risks of being too casual.

Jobs added a handle to one Apple's first desktop computers to change the perception of computers as heavy, clunky products to something that's easy to manage and practical. With the iPhone, he forced his staff to go back to the drawing board and work nights and weekends after nine months, starting from scratch, because he felt the screen wasn't large enough. Sales followed. According to Patchen, the message advisors send to clients is not simply the words that come out of their mouths. They must look the part as someone who can be trusted. Ditch the "cowboy look" for a suit and tie, Patchen noted, while avoiding jargon at all costs.

Don't Be a Slave to Focus Groups

"Customers don't know what they want until we show them," Jobs was known as saying to his staff. "The best way you'll know what your clients want is by meeting them face-to-face," Patchen said. Social media can only take you so far, it seems. 

Come Up With 10 Best Ideas and Stick to 3

Jobs would bring the best and brightest of the firm on retreats, telling them to come up with 10 great ideas. He said that people could only have around three good ideas at any one time. "So get out of the office. Put yourself out there into different social circles and networks and brainstorm. But cut down your ideas to only the best," Patchen said to advisors. 

Clearly all industries would benefit from following much of Jobs' advice--an innovator and pioneer who valued customer experience and satisfaction above all else. 

(2) Comments
I couldn't agree more. The industry's approach to an already skeptical marketplace does nothing to close the trust gap. Product discussions and the "hottest, new whatever" is a communication that falls on deaf ears. Emotional touchpoints that are issue-focused differentiate. They go much further in creating a relationship, rather than facilitating a transaction.
Posted by jerry m | Tuesday, April 23 2013 at 9:30AM ET
Awesome article Paula and so true! Funny on the timing, I just wrote a similar blog post Saturday on what financial advisors can learn from Tony Robbins and referenced a quote from Steve Jobs about simplifying processes.

Here's a link if you want to give it a read - http://bradj.net/what-financial-advisors-can-learn-from-tony-robbins/

Posted by Brad J | Tuesday, April 23 2013 at 4:25PM ET
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