The Most Important Success Factors

August 18, 2015

by Bob Veres

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I’m working on my opening keynote speech for my own Insider’s Forum conference (September 28-30 in Chandler, AZ), tentatively titled “The Biggest Issues Facing Advisory Practices Today” – and (spoiler alert) they’re bigger, more interesting and harder to navigate than they were at any time in my career.

But the exercise has gotten me thinking about the kind of audience I want to hear this important message. My conference attracts thought leaders, leaders of the profession, successful advisors (and their staff) and people who participate in wonderful hallway conversations.

But how would I define that? What do those abnormally-successful people have in common?

More generally, what are the most important success factors that you should have in order to achieve your business and personal goals (whatever they may be) and in what order?

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Focus. Ross Levin at Accredited Investors in Edina, MN – one of the most successful advisors in the business, and one of the best-known – once talked about the fact that he very seldom watches television. I’ve talked with other successful advisors, and discovered that they are much less likely to read the Wall Street Journal cover-to-cover every day, and pay almost zero attention to the “junk information” and “white noise” that gets passed off as news. Their free time is spent with friends and family, not playing video games, watching sports or browsing the Web for the latest news on the Kardashians.

Success is really a competitive game. If you’re devoting a higher percentage of your attention and effort than others, you stand a higher chance of succeeding. I really do think it’s as simple as that.

  1. Awareness. You want to have your finger on the pulse of your business world. This doesn’t mean reading everything; it means being selective and intentional about what you read. Being willing to think and read is one of the unfair advantages that a few successful advisors have over their peers.

Unfortunately, a lot of what’s published in the trade press in our world is filler, junk or gossip, and it’s up to you to figure out which writers you can trust to reliably give you good information, and which you can safely not read and not miss anything. The same applies to conferences; when you attend a conference, you need to be highly-focused on filtering the relevant information from entertainment and junk. This is why it drives me crazy when the major conferences bring in keynote speakers who are entertaining, are well-known, but have no idea what you do for a living and nothing substantive to offer.

  1. Inertia (or lack thereof). How resistant to change are you? You should always be skeptical of the latest fad. But too many advisors I talk with are warding off any disruption in the way they’re doing things – which means new (and better) processes, changing software, adding services, changing the way staff is organized, shifting their revenue model, or adopting new marketing approaches.

On the other hand, a high percentage of successful advisors are constantly questioning whether their way, currently, is the best way. And they have systematic (rather than random) ways to implement change. Which brings me to:

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The Most Important Success Factors