“Repeat business is all there is.” I heard that on TV Sunday evening. I think it was on the PBS series All Creatures Great and Small. The established veterinarian was explaining to his new assistant what it takes to run a successful practice in a small town. It’s applicable to financial advisors too. Let’s consider why.

You might think it’s wrong. The business is no longer transactional. As long as the client stays, you get paid. The key is getting the client to stay.

1. You need to deliver success. When people pay money, they have expectations.
The vet: The veterinarian enters into every situation with the goal of saving the animal.  The vet was called because the farmer couldn’t solve the problem on their own. The next stage is spending money.
The advisor: The client wants to make money. That’s the outcome the advisor is supposed to deliver. If they are charming but consistently disappoint, the client will leave.

2. If you can’t deliver success, you did everything you could. Not all animals can be saved.
The vet: They need to be seen as doing everything possible, using every bit of knowledge they have to save the animal. The farmer must feel “he did his best.”
The advisor: Sometimes making money isn’t an option. We haven’t seen it recently, but did during the Great Recession. The advisor must be seen to be alert and proactively making recommendations to reposition, to minimize losses.

3. Your pricing must be seen as fair. Veterinarians are doctors. Their skills have value.
The vet: They deserve what they are paid, yet can choose to discount if they know the other person can’t afford the full cost.
The advisor: As above, you are doing everything you can to deliver success. You must actively demonstrate your value so clients know you are on top of the situation.

4. Treat the patient with respect. You must be seen as kind.
The vet: Both the animal and the farmer must be spoken to politely and given respect. Both are in pain.
The advisor: Everyone’s money is green. If you take someone on as a client, they must be made to feel they are an important client.

5. You can’t make mistakes. James Herriot, the lead character in the series, is fired because he puts cats in the wrong cages when coming home drunk from the pub. The owner of the practice almost operated on the wrong cat!
The vet: Mistakes happen, but they cannot come from inattention or neglect.
The advisor: When you say you are going to do something, you must follow through. You must return their call when you said or address their problem. Your word is your bond.

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