A lack of confidence isn’t limited to the first few years in the business — even the most seasoned professionals occasionally get the wind taken out of their sails.

But for many new planners, questions like “How do I get to that place of complete confidence?” or “Will I ever feel so strong that if I hear ‘No’ from colleagues and clients, it won’t faze me?” are especially acute. These are just two of the common themes I found when I spoke with members of the XY Planning Network who had less than 10 years of experience.

Even before I reached out to those newbies, I reflected on what has made me more self-assured over the years. Obviously, it has taken years to build up enough confidence to be unfazed when a prospect says "No." I’m now secure enough in my philosophies, price structure and abilities that I know the right clients will be attracted to me and I won’t have to force a relationship with them.

Serendipitously, since I have adopted that mindset, my client numbers have grown and new business relationships have formed naturally.

Columnist Dave Grant is the founder of planning firm Retirement Matters.
Columnist Dave Grant is the founder of planning firm Retirement Matters.

This confidence only came after working for a number of years with a variety of clients at my own practice. When I worked at other firms, there were some things that I wasn’t completely on board with. It didn’t allow me to be as confident as I am now. Whether it was investment philosophy, use of technology or financial planning process, this lack of congruence caused me to doubt we were the right choice for some clients. But I couldn’t turn them down when they wanted to work with us because it wasn’t my company.

Additionally, if I didn’t fully believe that the firm was operating to its fullest capabilities and serving clients to its fullest potential, I couldn’t bring the best service to my clients. Confidence seems to come easier now that I'm on my own. I now believe I am providing the best value to my clients.

One thing I heard from many planners is confidence starts at home. If you have a supportive family who agrees with your career choice — whether you run your firm or are employed by one — it makes it so much easier to show up to work every day. The planners also said that having a spouse, parent or other loved one believe in them provided enough fuel to make it through the roughest days and go back to work the next.

The notion that a supportive spouse made a big difference was championed by new RIA owners more than those who were employees. In starting a new venture, many planners needed a lot of support and encouragement to keep going especially considering new firms may not pay off financially for years.

The encouragement of friends can give a boost to new planners, whether these acquaintances are patting you on the back or taking it a step further and hiring you as their adviser. Just as we would trust our friends for professional advice if they were doctors or dentists, one planner told me that a personal friend trust him for advice helped accelerate his confidence.

When I spoke with less-experienced planners, I learned that those who were just coming out of a college program second-guessed themselves more frequently. They had book knowledge, but the lack of client-facing experience caused them to doubt themselves.

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Some of the advisers I spoke to were career-changers from other industries who earned their master's degrees in financial planning. Surprisingly, one said she was more knowledgeable than other members at local FPA and other affiliate group meetings. As a result, she felt more confident in her abilities and went back to growing her roster of clients, knowing she could compete with seasoned advisers.

Many new planners feel their success is not due to their own abilities. This feeling is also commonly known as impostor syndrome. These young planners say their concerns are amplified because they found themselves providing advice on retirement income strategies while still renting their first apartment and paying off student loans. Many were not far removed from college. While their advice was accurate, there was no congruence between their own financial situation and their clients’.

This feeling only goes away with time — I felt the same way and I have no college background in finance. By continually studying and working on various client situations, the fear of being outed as a fraud disappears as confidence takes over. It gets easier to feel confident in giving advice when you realize that it's worked for other clients.

When I founded NAPFA Genesis, I realized that new planners had many questions that would be best answered by peers. Seeking peer advice can build a sense of camaraderie. By establishing the group, I found that in addition to providing a space to brainstorm ideas, the energy from that camaraderie fuels planners' confidence. Advisers in the group receive validation for their good ideas — and if an idea needs tweaking, they are glad for the input of others before presenting it to a client.

As planners progress in their careers, having a small mastermind group of peers in similar situations is priceless. This intimacy can foster supportive relationships without any feelings of competition or one-upmanship.

It's common to feel that you need to be closing every prospect into a paying client when you're starting out. You may feel you need to prove something to yourself or you may be worried about keeping your doors open. That said, when the wrong type of client signs on, it often requires far more work and effort than an appropriate adviser-client relationship.

Changing my own mindset regarding this issue has worked as a confidence booster. It helps to remember there are plenty of clients in the world that you can work with — and they will find you.

In acting from a scarcity mindset and assuming every client could be your last, changes not only how you feel but also the way your practice is run.

I have made the latter assumption at various points of my career and it’s draining. However, during conversations with advisers and clients, I realized that my long-term problem won’t be finding clients to work with. The real struggle is finding the right type of clients to work with.

By offering fee-only services on a variety of service models, the main problem an adviser will face is getting the word out. Assuming that job is well done, you may end up having to turn away prospective clients.

Thinking that there will be too much business to handle is not easy when things are starting out or when a slow period hits, but that mindset is crucial to prevent building the wrong type of business or from closing the door too soon.

For fiduciary advisers, it should be natural to assume there's a wealth of clients out there because it lends itself to an attractive business model. Instead of acting like each client is your last, be sure to only accept clients that you envision working with in 20 years. At that point, confidence will come naturally.

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