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A retiring advisor shares his ‘magic’ formula for success

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“I’m scared.” “It’s exciting!” “I don’t know what’s next.”

Clients use these words to describe how they feel about retiring. I’ve heard them all as I’ve worked to guide retirees through their transition to what’s next: usually a life of financial security and peace of mind. I help them with their “magic success formula” for retirement.

Speaking of what’s next, I’ve retired from Savant Capital Management and this is my last column.

When I retired, I told others “I’m excited! I’m working on what I’m going to do next.” For decades, I’ve used my magic success formula to help plan for my future by focusing on things that helped me succeed, including finding ways to see and predict the future for my clients and myself, while improving my interpersonal skills, mental attitude and resolve.

I’ve borrowed this formula from other business best practices that have worked for centuries. Can we distill this formula down into a few concise thoughts? After 50-plus years of work and 35 years in financial planning, here’s my shot at it.

Relationships and mental attitude: The level of success you attain in this profession, and in life in general, will be mainly due to three things: First, the personal and career goals you set for yourself and your family. Second, the strength of your convictions. And third, the amount of focused, effective effort you make attaining your goals every day of your life.

I’ve identified a few important books which help with relationships and mental attitude:

  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
  • “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino
  • “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg
  • “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone
  • “Napoleon Hill's Keys to Success (the 17 Principles of Personal Achievement)” by Napoleon Hill
  • “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill
  • “See You at the Top” by Zig Ziglar
  • “First Things First” by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca Merrill
  • “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M. R. Covey
  • “The Confidence Factor” by Tom Mullins

Get great coaching, use the best planning and client management tools you can find, and surround yourself with a world-class organization that has everything you need to succeed. Without these things, big goals are hard to reach.

Remember the critical value-added part of wealth management continues to be the way we interact with clients. That is, the trust and relationships we build and the way we deliver and share information with clients. This is the most important and valuable thing we do in our business.

Having said that, the core value proposition of every business continues to be relentlessly altered by market, regulatory and technical forces. These changes will not stop, ever. Learn to adapt.

Why things happen: We all experience dizzying changes around us. Some we see coming like a hurricane. Some major events, like births and deaths, are unexpected. Most, like the inexorable collision of demographics, automation, technology, global inequality and government intervention are slow to evolve and complex to understand, but they will dramatically reshape our world at speeds faster than any other time in history. Advisors must look well beyond their own businesses to see what’s coming and act accordingly.

I’ve identified a few important books to help understanding why things happen and how to identify important trends and developments:

  • “The Origin of Wealth” by Eric Beinhocker
  • "Why Stock Markets Crash” by Didier Sornette
  • “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen
  • “The Innovator’s Solution” Clayton Christensen
  • “Seeing What’s Next” by Clayton Christensen, Scott Anthony and Erik Roth
  • “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell

There are no crystal balls in our business, but you can see trends coming and identify events in other industries and countries, which could have a significant effect on your clients and business.

Mental resolve and decision-making: A key to the magic success formula is emotional resilience and understanding how to make the right decisions. I’ve identified a few important books to help with mental resolve and decision-making:

  • “Principles” by Raymond Dalio
  • “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin
  • “Good to Great” by Jim Collins
  • “Built to Last” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
  • “The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and in Life” by Meg Whitman
  • “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey
  • “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell
  • “Leadership Gold” by John Maxwell

Wealth management firms that relentlessly increase efficiency using things like artificial intelligence and deliver a “wow” client experience using things like virtual reality and augmented reality technology are going to thrive in the future. Advisors must keep up with these changes to succeed and flourish.

The operational core of every wealth management and financial planning business is information management and delivery. As it evolves, you must decide if you will be an early adopter or a follow-the-crowd user. Whatever you decide to do, carry it out until you are sure it’s working or it isn’t going to work. If it isn’t working, resolve to move to something better quickly.

Parting thoughts: For the past 14 ½ years, I’ve written about business, management, people, regulations, operations, technology and strategy, all with the idea of helping each reader make their practice better. I’ve shared projects and programs that worked well, and some that didn’t. I hope recounting our successes and failures have given you some good ideas and provided clarity in seeing what’s next.

And with that, I leave you with a collection of inspirational quotes:
“Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or present are sure to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy
“Never give in. Never, never, never…!” — Winston Churchill
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Peter Drucker
“Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur
“Speed happens when people…truly trust each other.” — Edward Marshall
“If you’re not fast, you’re dead.” — Jack Welch
“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” — James Allen

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