I’d like to begin this article with a few new terms I’ve coined that will be helpful for reading along:

Practicide: When you build a practice designed to kill you.

Entremanure: What people often find themselves wading in when selling the wrong value proposition.

Messyages: Tips for success offered by people who make good money but have screwed-up priorities.

Val-YOU Proposition: A value proposition that is good for you first, then good for your clients and then good for the firms you associate with.

I’ve been amazed over the past 20 years watching scores of financial advisors build practices that own them instead of building practices they own. I believe this is ultimately the product of a misplaced value proposition. What I mean by “misplaced” is this: If you can’t control the outcome of your value proposition, it is unsustainable, and you are yearly engaged in the Sisyphean feat of pushing an ROI boulder up a very steep market hill. Each year, the boulder rolls back to your feet and the anguish begins again. Why any sane person would choose return on investment as a central value proposition is lost on me.

The first and most important decision one makes in business is deciding on what one’s core value proposition will be; everything that happens after that is rooted in that chosen proposition. I’ve often told audiences that financial services is the only profession I’ve ever encountered that starts with a promise it cannot keep and then confirms it every three months with a statement. Who dreamed this up? The “Quarterly Mis-statement” is what I think of it as—a tool for perpetuating frustration for both advisor and client. It is the clear and undeniable path toward practicide.

Allow me to share an up-close example from an advisor making a handsome income. This very successful advisor pulled his corner office door shut and asked if I would mind having a conversation with him about his business situation. I commenced with, “Describe your business for me, if you don’t mind.”

He started, “Well, I have 1,500 clients …” not in a tone of pride but of resignation.

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