For many professionals, the attractiveness of the successful business owner as a client has never been greater. This is no surprise considering the current state of the world for many professionals and the fact that having a stake in a successful business is the primary way a person becomes affluent.

Survey Of Professionals
In a survey of 807 professionals (Figure 1), more than a quarter of them were investment advisors and a fifth of them were life insurance specialists. Close behind in number were wealth managers and trusts and estates attorneys, followed by private bankers and personal accountants. Figure 2 summarizes the services provided by each type of professional. The identified services would be considered their core offering.

To be included in the survey, the professional had to meet the following two criteria:

1. A personal average annual income over the previous three years of $300,000. This is a proxy representing a minimum level of capability and accomplishment.

2. A focus on the affluent with a strong desire to build a more substantial practice with successful business owners.

One of the most pronounced findings from this study is that professionals are operating in an exceptionally competitive environment.

Intense Competition
One of the more important themes that emerged from this study is that more than seven out of 10 of the professionals—across the board—would define their business environment as very or extremely competitive (Figure 3). The rest report the business environment to be competitive. No professional said his or her business environment wasn’t competitive.

There are a number of interconnected reasons for the perceptions of intense competition, including:

• The commoditization of professional services.

• The unrelenting boom in the number of professionals entering their respective fields.

• The progressively limited financial returns possible with less successful clients.

• The snowballing effect of technology, resulting in the greater marginalization of many professionals.

• The expansion of services provided by many professionals, which encroaches on the offerings of strategic partners.

All this competitive pressure results in many professionals making a greater push to find and work with successful business owners.

Achieving Success
The unquestionable answer for most professionals is in sourcing and doing more with high-quality clients.

More than nine out of 10 of the professionals surveyed report that finding more high-quality clients for their offerings is instrumental and essential to their success (Figure  4). This sentiment is consistent with decades of similar research we’ve conducted with a broad cross-section of financial and legal professionals about their future plans and impediments to success: Accessing new high-quality clients is their No. 1 issue.

About a third of these professionals identify the importance of repeat business or expanded business to building a very successful and profitable practice (Figure 5). By repeat business, we’re referring to the client coming back to address other concerns and issues. Expanded business entails more of the same services with the same clients.

Successful Business Owners To The Rescue
When it comes to defining who is a high-quality client, about three-quarters of the professionals surveyed report that successful business owners perfectly fit the bill (Figure 6). This sentiment is most pronounced among life insurance specialists and trusts and estate attorneys. It’s least prominent among investment advisors, as many business owners have limited discretionary assets. However, there are regularly substantial assets in their companies’ retirement plans that can benefit from talented investment professionals.

What this means is that, overall, various types of professionals are looking at business owners and often their businesses as the type of client they very much want to work with. They’re the high-quality clients that can lead to the success of a professional’s practice.

Professionals face a decidedly competitive environment that is generally seen as only likely to get worse. This is potentially driving down incomes, forcing them to scramble more than before and concentrate their efforts where there are the greatest possible returns. In many respects, business owners have the needs, wants and preferences, as well as the financial resources that work so well for various professionals.