The 6 most effective strategies of advisors — and basketball coaches

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While attending the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, I served on its men’s basketball team as manager, video coordinator and ultimately as graduate assistant coach. I then transitioned to the front office of the Seattle SuperSonics. My basketball journey allowed me to be part of two NCAA Tournament teams, including a Sweet 16 finish in 1998, and the NBA playoffs.

In turn, it became a pathway to a career in financial services. Over the last 19 years, I’ve gone from a financial planning practice to a wealth management firm to, presently, a multifamily office.

Here are 6 lessons I learned through basketball that I’ve applied to to my financial services career:

1. Know yourself

Whether bringing out the best in basketball players or clients, the best coaches see themselves clearly. They recognize their strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with complementary colleagues. My best partners align with me to serve our clients. For us, the right culture and service delivery allows us to consistently build and earn our clients trust.

"NBA coach Nate McMillan always told me, 'Pay now, or pay later — but everyone pays.' As a coach, player or financial advisor,  you should always be finding ways to build your skills and improve," writes  Palash S. Islam, owner of Synergy Financial Group.
"NBA coach Nate McMillan always told me, 'Pay now, or pay later — but everyone pays.' As a coach, player or financial advisor, you should always be finding ways to build your skills and improve," writes Palash S. Islam, owner of Synergy Financial Group.

2 Build a strategy and partner with outside coaches

All good coaches have detailed plans about all aspects of their team. The execution is intentional and focused. I regularly hire outside counsel in the form of coaches and trainers to help work in and on my company. Partnering provides perspectives and allows the ability to constantly change and develop everyone’s skills. Over time, a client’s financial identity will change. In order for me to be impactful, I will need to be nimble and my advisor skills will need to adapt.

3. Create depth in your relationships

The best player-coach relationships are developed off the floor. I knew early in my career that I could not develop deep, meaningful relationships with hundreds of clients. Instead, I’ve purposefully worked with clients I want to spend time with and work hard for to continually add value to their lives.

4. Coach ‘em up

I’ve found that it’s the best players on a team who want to be coached the hardest. They want to know what to improve on and how to strengthen their weaknesses. As an advisor, I develop and create a financial identity for each of my clients based on their goals and objectives knowing that they will change over time as their lives change and as their wealth increases.

5. Off seasons are for improving and recalibrating

Teams are always evaluating through the draft and free agency to put together the right players to form a winning team. They also evaluate their front office to make sure the culture and values of the program fit the vision for the team. I do the same thing. We are constantly looking to improve and add more value to clients. We take the time to plan on a consistent basis and to adapt to the changing times. Our vision is clear so we can deliver a successful client experience.

6. Pay your dues

NBA coach Nate McMillan always told me, “Pay now, or pay later — but everyone pays.” As a coach or a player you should always be finding ways to improve.

Who you are today should not be who you are in the future. Early in my career, advisors would tell me how much they knew due to their 30 years of experience. But often it seemed they had just one year of experience — repeated again and again!

Know the difference. Challenge yourself. Get better and don’t be afraid to fail — that’s been our way forward.

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