"You're either making it, or faking it," so said the shoe shiner to the businessman wearing Allen Edmonds shoes in an old shoe commercial. The businessman looked the part but there was a chance that he was not being the part.

Likewise, are you looking the part of a successful advisor but not quite "being" the part?

Authenticity is a critical component of being a successful financial advisor. Unfortunately, not all advisors fit that description. I had one advisor tell me, "he could be selling anything but he just happened to be selling financial services." Clearly, I wouldn't want to be his client.

When you are authentic, clients can feel it. They turn more of their assets over to you. They refer more people to you. They take your advice. And they are more likely to reach their goals because you have a genuine interest in their success.

So, how can you be an authentic advisor as opposed to one who just looks the part?

Here are three keys:

1. Examine your motivation.

Are you in this business because you can make a lot of money? Once again, I had a conversation with an advisor who said he didn't like being an advisor but he kept at it because he was making a lot of money. And while I've lost track of this advisor, it wouldn't surprise me to discover he bounced out of the business as clients realized his heart was in the wrong place.

Authentic advisors are, first and foremost, motivated to help clients succeed. They put their clients' needs first and receive great satisfaction seeing their clients reach lifetime goals. And guess what? When you do that, you'll end up making a lot of money.

2. Genuinely like your clients.

Adding new clients can be difficult at times so it's tempting to bring on anybody that is willing to work with you regardless of the fit. Instead, I encourage you to interview your potential new clients just like they interview you. These people could be with you for 10 or 20 years so make sure you really like them. If you bring someone on because they have a lot of money but you don't really enjoy being with them or they challenge your advice, you'll do yourself, your staff and your client a huge disservice.

Authentic advisors work with clients where there's mutual like, trust and respect. If you have a client or two that does not fit that description, then it's time to fire them. That way there's no need to fake sincerity. 

3. Continually better yourself.

I've been in this business for nearly 20 years and yet every day I learn something new. I realize that continuous learning is a form of authenticity because it means I'm serious about being the best coach, writer and investment advisor I can possibly be. If you find yourself resting on your laurels or feeling like you already know what you need to know, that's a clear sign rust is setting in and you need to either get reenergized or get out of the business.

Authentic advisors are excited about learning new things. They attend conferences, network with peers, join coaching programs and read books. They learn more than they forget.

Like the businessman wearing the Allen Edmonds shoes, looking the part is half the equation. Take some time over the next few months and really examine your level of authenticity. And depending on what you discover, either get reengaged in the business or move out. If you decide it's time to exit, there's good news-many buyers of your practice are waiting in the wings.

Clients deserve only the best from you.


Steve Sanduski, CFP?, is a New York Times bestselling author and co-author of, Tested in the Trenches: A 9 Step Plan for Building and Sustaining a Million-Dollar Financial Services Practice. To learn more, visit, http://www.peakadvisoralliance.com/ and http://www.truewealthcommunity.com/.


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