Successfully growing a business - as a financial advisor or in any other industry - requires a delicate balance between having the right vision of what you want to do that serves your clients and provides value, and actually being able to implement it. A vision without implementation doesn't succeed, and a business that blindly implements without a cohesive vision eventually collapses in on itself.
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, we look at the concept of your business IQ - your Implementation Quotient - as set forth in the recent new book "The Sustainable Edge" for financial advisors by Ron Carson and Scott Ford. The Implementation Quotient is simply a measure of how many of your ideas you actually implement... and The Sustainable Edge aims to provide guidance about how to improve that business IQ, for those advisors who have hit the growth wall.
Ultimately, the key to moving forward is actually quite simple: it's all about focus, and recognizing that we all have the same limited time every day and every week, so it's essential to properly focus where you spend your time to maximize your success and the success of your business. Of course, that's easier said than done... because gaining focus requires saying "no" to a lot of opportunities, and even if it's done in order to say "yes" to the things that matter most, it's a challenge for us financial advisors who often chose this profession because we want to help people and not say no to them!
Nonetheless, the reality remains that time is an unforgiving and inflexible constraint. So decided what you will say "no" to, and figuring out what the filter is that you will use to determine what to say "no" to, becomes essential. And in fact, it's also possible to use the constraints of time to your advantage - because once you've decided what you're going to say "yes" to, there's nothing like having a time deadline to impose the necessary accountability on yourself to be certain it actually gets implemented!
(Michael’s Note: The video below was recorded using Periscope, and announced via Twitter. If you want to participate in the next #OfficeHours live, please download the Periscope app on your mobile device, and follow @MichaelKitces on Twitter, so you get the announcement when the broadcast is starting, at/around 1PM EST every Tuesday! You can also submit your question in advance through our Contact page!)
#OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces Video Transcript
Welcome everyone. Welcome to Office Hours with Michael Kitces!
So we're talking today about a book I've been reading recently, called "The Sustainable Edge" by Ron Carson and Scott Ford.
The Sustainable Edge by Ron Carson and Scott Ford
Ron Carson is a name hopefully many of you know. He's built a multibillion dollar advisory firm now. I think he's LPL's top-ranked registered rep and has been for something like 20 consecutive years. He built out a whole platform called Carson Institutional Alliance [and Peak Advisor Alliance] where he works with other advisors and helps show them how to build something similar to what he's built.
So Ron wrote this book that just came out recently, called "The Sustainable Edge." He co-wrote it with one of his advisors, Scott Ford, who's part of their Institutional Alliance program.
Evaluating Your Business IQ (No, Not That IQ!)
And in the beginning of the book, Ron sets forth this concept, I think he talks about it in some of his presentation speeches as well. I don't know if it originated with Ron or came from elsewhere, but I love this analogy. So he says, "What are you doing to improve your business IQ?" And of course he says "IQ" and everyone's thinking IQ, intelligence quotient, smart stuff, brains, all that. And he says, "No, no. Actually what I'm talking about is not your intelligent quotient. It's your implementation quotient."
So for all of us that are advisor entrepreneurs... how many of the ideas we've got that are bouncing around in our head... "Hey, I could do this in my business. I could do that. I could start this new business. I could do this other thing." How many of the ideas that are bouncing around in our head do you actually follow through with and do? And get done? And do it well? So that's the idea of this implementation quotient. What's the percentage of things that you're thinking about that you actually get done? What's that ratio?
And Ron's point too, which I think is a good one, because I've seen it in practice with advisors for years... one of the biggest differences between the advisors that succeed the most and the ones that don't, is there's just a level of "getting shit done" that happens with the advisors that execute. This has longstanding been recognized as a dynamic of entrepreneurship, that entrepreneurship done well is really this blend of having the ideas and vision and actually being able to execute them, actually being able to get it done.
And so frankly in one way, Ron's whole book is actually just about different ways that you can focus yourself and figure out how to improve your IQ, your implementation quotient. And for those of you who feel like you've hit a wall in the business, I would encourage you to read it. It's an interesting read for trying to help bring some focus, and just talks about Ron's story, as well as Scott' Ford's story, about how they did that personally.
It's All About Getting Focus As You Run Out Of Time
So some of takeaways for me: number one, it really is all about focus.
I find there's a dynamic that happens, for all of us that have gone out there and started an advisory firm, or even just started in a job as an advisor. Early on you've got this dynamic: lots of time, not a lot of clients. So if you've got lots of ideas and things you want to try and that you want to experiment with, the world is your oyster, because you've got a lot of time and not a lot of actual clients to serve. If you want to go to networking, and do marketing events, and experiment with all these different things, and put forth five different business ideas and see which one sticks... you can do that, because you've got time.
Then as the business grows, this problems starts to crop up that I'm sure a few of you have have felt... well this is Periscope, you can tap the screen if you this resonates with you. You suddenly find that while you used to feel like you have a lot of time in your business, not so much anymore. Right? Anybody out there feel like they used to have a lot of time in their business, and now the business is kind of controlling them and their time and they're just into reactive mode trying to keep up?
So what happens is once you hit that moment... in the context of this implementation quotient, when you hit that wall, your IQ falls like a rock. It drops basically to zero. Right? Because you run out of time to get things done, or you have only a little bit of time, you don't get them done all the way, you only get them done part of the way. The more ideas you've got, the more pokers you keep in the fire at once... it means you half-ass a whole bunch of ideas and don't actually get any of them done! And the business stalls. It stops growing. You maybe even start to feel trapped in the business.
I know a lot of advisors out there that are struggling with that right now, because they get stuck in this dynamic that...Well, really it's the old saying "what got you here won't get you there." When you're starting a business, it's very productive to shoot arrows in lots of different directions and see what sticks because you've got more time than clients. But at some point the business grows to the level where you don't have more time than clients, you have more clients than time. And if you don't find ways to start focusing, you hit this wall, and suddenly you're not implementing anymore.
I've certainly gone through this personally. For me this was what, as someone that loved being hands-on and doing everything myself and sucked at delegating, this is what finally got me over the wall of delegating. Because I ran out of time. You figure out how to delegate or you don't move forward anymore. And at least for me, I always have to have forward momentum, I don't know how to stand still. So I had to figure out how to delegate. For me, actually, the breakthrough was using screencasting software. I've got an article up on the site about how I did that [and learned to delegate], and for me it really was the personal breakthrough of how to actually be able to delegate.
But the point was that I had to let go of some stuff, and I had to focus my time.
Finding Your (Business And Personal) Filters
The next theme for me over the past year has been what I call finding your filter. So as your business grows, you will get to the point where you've got lots of opportunities. You've maybe got a business with some resources, and there's a lot of different things you could try. But you still can't do everything. Right? Even President Obama and Bill Gates have the same 168 hours in the week that we do. So you're going to hit a wall at some point, and you have to figure out how to filter things down.
And the point of the filter is that when opportunities start coming in, or when ideas are bubbling up in your head... how do you say no? How do you figure out what to say no to? It's brutally difficult. Particularly I think for all of us advisors, because we're in a helping business. I hate saying no to clients, and fellow advisors, and anybody else that asks for a favor, and I help. Because I'm a helper person. I like to help people. So it's horrifically painful to say no to anyone.
And the thing that ultimately hit home for me was a podcast from Michael Hyatt who made this great point that if you have trouble saying no, and you keep saying yes to people, saying yes to people is actually still saying no. All it means is you're saying yes to the person that asked you the most recent question, and you're saying no to whatever thing gets left off at the end because you ran out of time. Maybe that's another client you didn't help, maybe that's your personal health, maybe that's your family, maybe that's the next three business ideas you had that you can't follow through on and your implementation quotient has fallen to the ground. You have to have a filter.
And it's actually an interesting challenge is figuring out what your filter is. Right? For some of us, filter might be, "Just getting paid for my time. I want to make a certain amount of money, I'm not going to do anything that doesn't pay me more than $100 an hour, or $150 an hour, or $200 an hour," whatever that target is for you. Maybe it's something more strategic, like "I'm building towards this goal. I want to get my practice to a $100 million practice or a billion dollar practice, whatever it is. I don't care if it makes me money now, it's got to get me towards that goal," and you've got a singular focus on that longer term goal.
For some of us it might even go the other direction, it might be supporting lifestyle choices. "Hey, I want to spend more time with my family, so I'm not going to do any conference unless it's also a destination my family can come with me on, and we can do a three-day trip afterwards."
So we all have different filters. And the filters may shift over time. But you have to figure out what it is you use to saying no to things. Because otherwise you just have to say no to someone's face, and that's really hard when we're helper people and we don't like doing that. What's your filter to say no so you can get a focus?
Setting Your Own Deadlines
Now, even once you do that, there's actually a second challenge to getting your IQ (your implementation quotient) up, which is you still that you have to actually do the thing. You've filtered other stuff out to make up time, but you've still got to do something.
And I find by far the most effective tactic for this is remarkably simple. Make a deadline for it. Set a deadline. It can be arbitrary. There doesn't necessarily have to be a rhyme or reason for it. The simple dynamic is, when you create a deadline, there's an actual time target to which you now have a level of accountability. Right? Because otherwise it's just, "I'll get to it when I get to it," and we know what happens, you never get to it.
When you set a deadline, you've got a goal. You've got a goal with a concrete finite endpoint. If you've got a staff or a team, now you've got a lot of people on board with this, so you have to hit your target or you're going to screw up all the other people around you, too!
I know a lot of folks that work with business coaches, and one of the biggest things that business coaches do is help you to set goals and targets and deadlines, and they're your accountability partner. Right? We even do the same thing to provide value to our clients. "Hey, you've got to get your wills and trust figures out. So here's what we're going to do. You're going to get this done over the next three months, and I'm going to bug you about it for three months from now, and you've got to get it done or I'm going to keep nagging you about it." Right? And what happens, the clients do it, just so we'll stop nagging them. But that's actually the point. That's how accountability works to make sure that people get stuff done, whether it's your clients or whether it's you trying to impose it upon yourself.
So I hope that helps as some food for thought, and if you're struggling with some of these concepts, you might want to check out Ron and Scott's "Sustainable Edge" book for yourself. Thanks for hanging out with me today on Office Hours with Michael Kitces every Tuesday, 1 p.m. East Coast time. Hope all is well for you. Thanks for the tap tap love [on Periscope] and those of you who shared it out on Twitter, awesome, greatly appreciate it. Have a great day. Take care everyone!
So what do you think? Have you ever stumbled on your Implementation Quotient? What are the filters you use to decide what to say "yes" and "no" to? Have you read "The Sustainable Edge"? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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