“WHY” Takes Work

By: Nate Lenz, I&A Consulting

Empathy, Sincerity, Passion, Discipline, Drive. When asked to describe my first true mentor in the wake of his untimely passing, these were the words that immediately came to mind. They came to mind not because he told me that he aspired to be those things, not because they were listed on his Linkedin profile as “Skills & Endorsements,” but because of the way he lived his life. The 5:30am training sessions in high school, his willingness to advise on a college freshman’s business plan, and the calls just to check in that you could almost set your watch to, were manifestations of core values that made him who he was. He was the epitome of the adage we commonly used on the football field, “don’t talk about it, be about it.” With standing room only in both the sanctuary and the overflow seating in the church hall, the influence he had on the lives of so many was staggering. His ability to excel in business, as an athlete, and most importantly as a father, husband, and friend was directly attributable to his unwavering discipline; a discipline that stemmed from complete clarity in the legacy he sought to leave behind.

In consulting with independent financial services firms seeking to grow their businesses by recruiting advisors or through strategic mergers and tuck-ins, we first seek to understand their vision and more importantly, their core values - their “Why.”Far too many of these firms begin our dialogue by rattling off a list of services, touting their years of experience, or my personal favorite, explaining that they have a superior “culture”. While all of those things may very well be true, culture must be felt, it cannot be explained.

If you were to look at any single aspect of your business, I can guarantee that you will find a firm that can perform that function in a superior manner. Lucky for you, people “don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The root cause of why a client works with you or why an advisor decides to join your firm is Trust. But what most firms fail to realize is that trust is not a driver, it is an outcome. Trust results from a set of shared core values permeating every level of an organization. It stems from having a disciplined approach to every client and staff interaction, with processes to ensure quality of service. This fosters Consistency. Consistency, paired with a commitment to your core values breeds Authenticity; and when you come across a client or advisor that identifies with this, there is no better builder of Trust.

So when you walk into the office this morning, whether your leading a small team or a large firm, I would challenge you to put pen to paper and write down the things that make you tick. What are your core values and the principles that you would like your team to embody? Invite your team members to do the same. When you go through this exercise I would encourage you to stay away from the canned mission statement format that tends to be pervasive in corporate America - after all, these are gut feelings and emotions that by definition are difficult to articulate. Look at this as an opportunity to build camaraderie amongst your team in an open forum, brainstorming session. I would venture to say that if your organization has achieved any level of success, the values and principles that are discussed will be eerily similar. Then make a commitment as a group to act as accountability partners, ensuring the values are upheld and principles are pursued with unrelenting consistency. Its not enough to talk about it, you have to be about it because when its all said and done, any weak link in the chain can cause a break in Trust.

Raymond James is not affiliated with I&A Consulting.

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