As a leader, consultant, coach, and, most importantly, advisor, I dedicate a considerable portion of my time to envisioning, anticipating and planning for the future, especially at the beginning of the year.

But this year I fought the urge and took a play from our coaches’ playbook. Many of them spend the first few weeks of each new year gathering year-end numbers from their advisor clients, and it occurred to me that in order to plan successfully for 2014, I had to look back at what I learned.

Yes, measuring success is about increasing revenue, gaining new assets, and achieving a work/life balance. But, it’s also about taking your past experiences and moving forward in a smarter way. Here are eight trends I saw among successful firms last year that advisors looking to grow should implement in 2014.

1. STICK TO THE BASICS

Some of the biggest growth years I witnessed occurred in practices that did absolutely nothing sexy or special. Instead, they stuck to the fundamentals and executed the basics extremely well. Think of it this way. The blocking and tackling in your business is a four-legged stool that supports a lot of weight; Leg 1: Do financial planning; Leg 2: Manage the money well (not great, just well); Leg 3: Provide great service; and Leg 4: Have deep relationships with your clients.

2. WEALTH MANAGEMENT IS A CONTACT SPORT

This is a truth our coaches preach every day. Regardless of how you want to grow, it’s crucial to get out of the office and “belly to belly” with clients and prospects -- or other advisors whose business you’re looking to buy. I found advisors who spent a considerable amount of time serving and enjoying their best clients in 2013 received more in return. More assets from their current clients, more referrals, and, therefore, more new assets. It’s a limitless growth cycle once started. And, the same went for advisors looking to buy other firms: many of the most profitable acquisitions occurred when advisors networked with their peers and found practices that were both priced correctly and had a cultural fit.

3. SCALE, SCALE, SCALE

This industry is getting more difficult every year. The big are getting bigger. Those with scale are in the best position for growth while those without it are facing an increasingly harsh environment. Organizational charts, technology, investment processes, etc., need to be designed with scale in mind in order to attract and retain new clients. The advisors who do that and invest back into their business - mostly with technology, human capital, and workflows - are also the ones growing the fastest.

4. SELF-PERCEPTION: BUSINESS OWNER VS. ADVISOR

Those who are building a business grow faster than those running a practice. The fastest growers are spending more and more time on strategic vision, firm leadership, organizational structure, systems and generating revenue. They’re moving away from the traditional “advisor” duties, only making exceptions for their A+ clients and prospects.

5. A+ CLIENTS

Provide unmatched value through extremely meaningful relationships with your best clients to the point where they continuously provide A+ referrals. Keep the golden geese happy if you want to grow. The key, of course, is to find common ground and share your personal passions with this group. I could list dozens of specific passion prospecting activities that have generated new business for our advisors over the past year. Spending time with clients and doing something you both love generates new business. It really is that simple!

6. A+ TEAM MEMBERS

More than ever, you need a business with great people behind you who can deliver and support a great client experience. Doing so also creates capacity for you to allocate more time to growing the business. It’s much easier to grow if your team is delivering great value to clients and keeping your calendar clear to generate new business.

7. CONSOLIDATION…SO FAST?

It seems like everyone is either looking to buy or sell/consolidate a practice. Demographics, the need for scale, difficult markets for some, and a simple desire to enhance one's value proposition are all factors in accelerating the consolidation move. Large firms are partnering or acquiring others and generating even more scale, followed by more success. And, this trend isn’t just happening with the big players. Smaller firms are partnering with larger firms in order to immediately enhance their value proposition and capacity, therefore, allowing them to grow more rapidly and compete. We see this movement particularly evident among Peak Advisor Alliance’s high-level producers. Nearly one in four of our larger offices are partnering or acquiring other practices.

8. HIGH “IQ” WINS

Yes, those with a high implementation quotient win. I mention this point at every one of our Barrier Breaker Workshops throughout the country, and it still amazes me at how many advisors don’t follow through. Knowing what you should be doing is not the issue; actually doing it is the challenge.

I often quote Aesop when I tell advisors, "After all is said and done, more is said than done." Those who understand that less is more and continuously implement one or two things are the business owners that have the most success. This is related to my first point above - you must do the basics well; and you must continuously enhance your offering to stay ahead of your competition. Those who implement the most are actually focused on the least. They identify the activities that will help move the needle and simply implement those items.

This list of eight is not a magic eight ball by any means. Magic eight balls and silver bullets do not exist. But, what I can tell you is that I saw many advisors experience a “silver bullet” year by incorporating much of the good thinking mentioned above. The stories may be different and the outcomes may vary, but my assertion is this year will be a lot like the last. Those who work on these goals will have better years, however you define them, than those who don’t.

Ron Carson is an author and the founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group, a comprehensive wealth planning firm, and founder of Peak Advisor Alliance, an advisor coaching program. Greg Opitz, a senior executive business coach of Peak Advisor Alliance, also contributed to this article.

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