52 Investment AdvIsor February 2015 | Thinkadvisor.com
quarterback (who, in a career spanning
1979 to 1994, won 117 games, including four Super Bowls, and was named
Super Bowl MVP three times), and
likes to tell this story: In an interview,
Montana credited his success to the
fact that he didn’t put pressure on himself. “Pressure is self-inflicted,” he said.
Many owner-advisors could take a
page from Montana’s playbook. They
try to do too much, too fast, often driving themselves (and the people around
them) to high anxiety and exhaustion.
Business owners need to learn to take
things one day at a time, one task at a
time, to create a realistic plan
to get things done, and to delegate as much as they can. They
also need to set realistic goals.
Success is achieved one small
step at a time. Trying to take big
leaps is just setting yourself up
for failure. Instead, learn to use small
successes to build a big one.
Acting rashly. Many business owners are so desperate to make decisions that they often make bad ones.
Then they have to reverse course,
wasting time and resources—and signaling to employees, vendors and strategic partners that they don’t know
what they are doing. Five-star Navy
Admiral Chester Nimitz commanded
our Pacific Fleet during World War
II. I read that he had a short list of
“rules” that helped him be successful.
The first item was “Never make a decision before you have to.” We find with
advisory firms, there is rarely anything
that is so urgent that owners have to
make a decision right now. They make
it urgent. We like to use the “36-hour
rule,” which is exactly what it sounds
like. When you have to make a big
decision, take at least a day and a half
before you act on it; learn more about
it, think about it and see if you still feel
the same way about your choice. Once
an advisor makes the shift to a “nothing
is really that urgent” point of view, they
gain clarity—and perspective.
Shooting from the hip. I have
heard that people who have a list of
what they are looking for in a spouse
have more successful marriages. I
don’t know if that’s true, but I do know
that firm owners who decide ahead
of time what they are looking for in
an employee, a custodian or broker-
dealer, a strategic partner or a merger
or acquisition partner definitely have
more success with those decisions.
There is just no substitute for knowing
what you are looking for. You won’t
waste time and energy on exploring
every opportunity, and you’ll be able to
act faster (but not too fast) when the
right opportunity comes along.
All-or-nothing thinking. For some
reason, owner-advisors are inclined to
go back to square one when an initiative doesn’t seem to be working. (I
suspect this is because they tend to
be entrepreneurs who would rather
innovate than fix.) Sometimes that is
the right move, but it should be your
last option, not your first choice. In
the real world, things rarely work out
the way you plan, and nothing is ever
perfect. That means virtually everything you try is going to require some
tweaking, adjustment or major fixing
to be successful. Nine times out of 10,
a series of fixes is more efficient—and
successful—than chucking the idea and
starting again from scratch. This goes
for managing employees, too: teaching,
training or coaching is usually more
successful than trying someone new.
Being too rigid. The best business
owners have values, rules of thumb,
experience and knowledge, but they
are not overly attached to these
things—that is, they also have flexibility. The situation today is not the same
as it was yesterday or will be tomorrow.
Good owners spend their time study-
ing what has changed and asking, “Is
what I ‘know’ still valid?” They know
that just because something has been
successful in the past doesn’t mean
that it will be so in the future.
We find that it is usually better to
be more informed than to have a set
of rules to adhere to no matter what.
Some people call this “living in the
moment.” The takeaway is that it’s
always helpful to think about how
things have changed. Even though
you have a bag of tools, it’s still
important to use the right tool in the
Refusing to accept mistakes. This
has taken me a while to learn. Looking
back on building the businesses that I have, I now realize
that your first impression is not
always right, and your first idea
isn’t always a good one. In business, there are almost always
multiple answers, and it’s rarely
clear which one is the best one. We
have to take our time and make the best
decision we can, and then monitor it
closely to see how it turns out. We have
to be careful not to get too attached to
our decisions. It’s almost always better to admit a mistake and take steps
to correct it (despite the blow to our
egos), than it is to stick stubbornly with
a bad decision.
These perspectives have helped us
and many of our clients to be better,
more successful business owners. We
hope they’ll help you, too. Remember,
without good thinking, the best business consulting in the world won’t
help a bit.
Small businesses like
advisory firms live or die
depending on their owners.
Angela Herbers is a virtual business
manager and consultant for independent
financial planning firms. She can be reached
• Owner-advisors need to learn to
• Take your time making decisions
and don’t pressure yourself
• know what you want, but don’t be