While I don’t have the amount of data the NBA might have for the advisory industry, I do have numbers for the firms I work with.

Take one of them (a well-known name I’ll call “Firm A.”) It has a billion in assets under management and 13 advisors. The top three of those advisors are responsible for 67% of the firm’s new business development and 56% of its revenue. Now take Firm B, another well-known, very large firm with multiple billions in overseen assets and 18 advisors. The top three of them generate 67% of the revenue and 57% of the new assets. Here is the key—the top three advisors in Firm A are founders and it’s still a peaceful place. The top three in Firm B are not founders, and they are increasingly restless about their compensation, recognition and role.

The only reason the statistics are not more dramatic is that both these businesses receive a significant number of referrals from a custodian channel and steer those to the advisors having more trouble growing.

The Top Players Are Good At Everything
Not only are the top performers great at their own jobs, but they also tend to be the best at a bunch of others. It’s a myth that some people are good at relationships and others at sales. In professional services, your best business developers tend to also be the best relationship managers and experts.

Why? For one thing, ambitious people expect more of themselves and strive to be very good at everything—in fact, they tend to be very uncomfortable when they are not good at something. They also tend to be highly conscientious, which keeps them focused and disciplined. They understand how to learn and what it takes to learn. (Consider that those who have learned one language tend to more easily learn a second, and a good musician will have less trouble switching instruments.)

Think again about LeBron James. He’s the top three for points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks. The same is true for his co-star, Anthony Davis. Star players do everything well.

My controversial assertion is that the best advisors also make great managers and leaders. And the best professional managers would likely make great advisors if they were to go for it.

Balancing Stars And Culture
If you want your firm to be good, you need to steer your culture to the same level of ambition, drive and energy that your top players have. And that means recognizing your top performers and letting them lead the way.

By “star,” I don’t mean prima donna, and I don’t mean sacrificing team values. Quite the contrary, the top performers should be held to the same standards of teamwork and cohesion. They should be trained to surround themselves with good teammates whom they make better. Look around the NBA again—stars like Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo are among the best leaders and the kind of teammates everyone wants to have.

What needs to be sacrificed is not teamwork but mediocrity and the tolerance for it. Trying really hard is not enough—just ask the Trojans again. (Or Blockbuster Video.)

The Future Stars Deserve The Most Attention And Opportunity
You must reward your stars not just with money but with opportunity. To lead. To learn. To earn prestige.

These opportunities should not be distributed equally. That might be desirable in society but not in a business. A coach would never say: “It’s the last shot of the game so let’s give it to Timmy since he hasn’t played all game.” A good firm creates opportunity and puts it in the hands of its best players so that they can create even more opportunity. Eventually, that’s good for Timmy too.

Balancing Stars And Compensation
Paying the star is costly and difficult, but it is also necessary for organizational success. LeBron James earns close to $42 million a year in salary, about five times more than the average NBA player, who earns $8.2 million. Chris Hemsworth (Thor of The Avengers) makes about $76 million a year—about 1,461 times more than what the average Hollywood actor grosses (about $52,000). The pay disparities are staggering, but so are the results.

The key to compensating stars is to first abandon the notion that equality or near equality is desirable or fair. If Brandon has three times more positive economic effect on our firm than Philip has, it is neither fair nor productive to ask Brandon to accept the same compensation.