If you’ve ever been to Nebraska in January or February, you’d understand the desire to escape the bitter cold of a Midwest winter.

Lucky for me, five years ago I was extended the first of several invitations to be a part of the TD LINC Conference Business Consulting Lounge. Beyond becoming my annual reprieve from the ice and snow, traveling to TD LINC offers me the opportunity to get to know new advisors, explore their business goals and become familiar with the challenges facing those in the trenches.

As this year’s trip to Orlando was wrapping up, a fellow Carson Group coach and first-time attendee casually asked about the conversations I had while meeting one-on-one with advisors. It dawned on me that over the relatively short amount of time I’ve been a consultant at this particular conference, an evolution has occurred.

Advisors have undergone a significant shift in their thought processes, which is both refreshing and a confirmation of the work that we, as coaches, are doing every day.

Then vs. Now

Let me take you back to 2014, my first go around in the TD LINC Business Consulting Lounge. Although the attendees at LINC have always been what I consider high caliber advisors, just a half a decade ago they were consumed with questions specifically regarding the tactical side of their business. The overall emphasis was on a heads down approach, where delivery, implementation and what was happening in the moment reigned king.

Today, however, the trend is increasingly heads up. Suddenly, advisors have started to view their world with bifocals – one line of sight directed at day-to-day task management and the other line of sight zeroing in on the future of their firm. More and more, I am having discussions about strategic partnerships, client experience, succession plans, acquisitions and the use of technology, among other high-level, forward-looking topics.

I’m also seeing how megatrends like digitalization and globalization are having a tremendous influence on advisor firms. In 2014, we were just coming to grips with brands like Uber and AirBnB, and we hadn’t even considered the idea of VR (virtual reality). We didn’t know who Amazon’s Alexa was and couldn’t fathom a real-life hover board. Now, flying drones, AI and driverless vehicles are common in conversation. The same goes for our industry.

Back then, the “big” tech decision for an advisor was choosing between two or three options for financial planning software. That alone was a leap. In this day and age, advisors have more than 20 tech-based areas of their business to take into account (CRMs, compliance software, video, risk assessment tools, websites, etc.), amounting to hundreds of potential solutions. The game has changed, as evidenced by the difference in questions I fielded in my first and most recent conference.

Observations from 5 Years in the TD Business Consulting Lounge

The true awakening is this: great execution alone isn’t going to lead to long-term sustainability. Mirroring what my colleagues and I have been preaching for years, advisors are also seeing that it is now a necessity to constantly improve in order to remain competitive.

What is Driving this Enlightened Thinking?

The revelation that advisors, as a group, are embracing big-picture thinking is interesting in and of itself, but then I started to ask myself, “Why now?” What is happening in our profession that momentum has picked up? In my opinion, it isn’t just one event or one particular driving force. Rather, it’s a combination of the following factors which have caused advisors to keep pace with the rapidly changing environment around us.

  • Getting Off the Island: For decades, independent advisors found themselves stranded on an island. The amplified exposure to industry leaders, publications and peers has turned up the volume on what is needed to stay relevant in the eyes of clients.
  • Enlisting Support: More and more, advisors are engaging coaching relationships. Speaking from “the other side,” having another person hold you accountable to both present-day responsibilities and future goals can result in true transformation.
  • Seeing Others Succeed: Ultimately, of course, watching counterparts in the profession make meaningful moves gets an advisor thinking about the possibilities for themselves. If a friend and equal has seen success pursuing a certain avenue, naturally you begin to consider the potential for similar change.

The Dangers of Remaining “Heads Down”

While I am encouraged by the number of advisors who are part of this revolution, I am simultaneously worried about those who aren’t evolving. A good percentage are still holding on to their heads down mentality, unintentionally waiting to get hit by a train they don’t see coming.

To put it bluntly, the big firms out there are getting better each day. They operate under an abundance of “ands” – they provide holistic planning and an amazing client experience and an up-to-date digital presence and … the list goes on. In contrast, the refusal to acknowledge that they must do the same leaves the average advisor in a precarious position. Sooner or later, the Home Depots of the advisory world are going to take out the local hardware stores.

If you are among those who think an established mega presence will have difficulty coming into your space, prepare to be trampled.

———————

Reflecting on the growth I’ve seen in the TD LINC Business Consulting Lounge, it’s truly amazing to watch self-awareness spread throughout the ranks. The impact of knowing yourself and your business well enough to survive today and thrive tomorrow cannot be understated. My hat is off to the advisors out there who are eager to ensure the firm they have now wouldn’t be able to compete with the firm they’ll have five years down the road.

AUTHOR

Greg Opitz

Executive Business Coach
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