In a business where the intrinsic value, available to any advisor who chooses to cultivate it, is the ability to earn all the money you need and want, have time freedom, and help people, why is it that so many financial advisors struggle somewhere in the "survival" zone of Maslow's hierarchy for most of their careers? Why don't more advisors self-actualize?

In conjunction with Financial Advisor magazine, we are conducting a Webinar series of interviews with five very successful advisors. You will go inside their minds to learn what they know and do that makes them advisors you admire and aspire to emulate. The Webinar series is called "Success Leaves Clues." One of my great pleasures being in the "help-advisors-be-more-successful business" is interacting with truly successful advisors. Some of them are multi-million-dollar producers and others produce only in the hundreds of thousands. What they all have in common is that they are self-actualized or self-actualizing. In other words, it's not just their business that works, their whole life works. This doesn't mean they are perfect people living perfect lives. They love being in this business of helping people while they earn all the money they want enabling them to have the time freedom to do the other things that matter in life.
This article is a preview of some of the many great ideas I have learned so far in preparing for the 2011 "Success Leaves Clues" Webinar Series with Financial Advisor magazine. Enjoy. Learn. Implement.

The most successful FAs genuinely like people. While they certainly are motivated by the money and time freedom they have earned by being successful FAs, the psychic gratification they get from helping their clients make smart choices about their money to achieve their goals and have a better quality of life clearly has a big impact on their desire to succeed. Liking people makes it easier for successful FAs to prospect and acquire new clients.

Action idea: Consider whether you really like people.

If the answer is "yes," then organize your time around being with prospects and clients and outsource the more technical aspects of financial services to technical subject-matter experts. If the answer is "no," consider a different career or seek a job in financial services that is more behind the scenes. E.g.: money manager, financial plan writer, etc.

The most successful FAs are willing to do the work. Don't confuse work ethic with workaholic. For example, when the 2008 crap hit the fan, they "ran to the sound of the gunshot." Isn't that a great phrase, "ran to the sound of the gunshot"? I got that from watching a news story about police officers, firefighters, and other professionals who are running toward events that most people run away from. While the rest of the world is trained to evacuate the burning building, the firefighters are going in. While too many of the world's FAs metaphorically hid under their desks waiting for the storm to pass, the most successful advisors got motivated and learned to dance in the rain. They proactively engaged their clients, reached out to past prospects, and invested in new client service and business development initiatives.

Some of their motivation was because it was the right thing to do and some of their motivation was to secure their own goals and futures. As one advisor said, "The markets may have been in the tank and the economy may have been in a recession, but the things that I want in my life didn't all of sudden become free. The bank still expected their mortgage payment, the cable company still sent the bill, and the things I wanted to do for and with my family still cost money."

Being proactive paid off. They earned their clients' respect and gratitude. And because they added more value, they got paid more fees, gathered more assets, got more referrals, and earned more new clients, especially Ideal Clients. Perhaps, most importantly, they gained the confidence that can only come when you don't just survive negative events, but thrive. One of the top advisors I interviewed for our Webinar series said, "I don't wish anything bad on anybody, but this recession is the best thing that has happened for my business in a long time." It wasn't an accidental benefit. He seized the opportunity and capitalized. His revenues were $3.9 million in 2008 and $4.8 million by the end of 2010. Carpe diem.

Action Idea: Be proactive all the time, but especially when things are difficult.

The most successful FAs are willing to give back and contribute. Without exception, every successful advisor who I invited to contribute to the Financial Advisor Webinar series was eager to help. In fact, they are surprised that more advisors don't ask them for input. Many of these top advisors work next door or just down the hall from advisors who are struggling, yet it doesn't seem to occur to many of these struggling advisors to ask their most successful colleagues for help.

Action Idea: Invite a top advisor to lunch to get ideas about being more successful, even if you don't know them well or at all. It's highly unlikely you will ever be turned down. Try saying this, "I admire your success. I'd like to invite you to lunch to hear how you became successful and perhaps learn a few things from you that could make a difference for me. Would you be willing to do that?"

The most successful FAs do not feel special or gifted. In fact, they are often baffled as to why more advisors don't do the same things they do to be successful. Let's be honest with ourselves, being a financial advisor does not require the intellectual capacity of being a doctor, a scientist or an engineer. All of the skills required to be successful are easily in the grasp of everyone reading this article. There are only a few things, consistently executed, that separate the mediocre FA from the top FA. If you don't already know what they are, you are plenty smart enough to figure it out. The question is unlikely, "Are you able?" It's more likely, "Are you willing?"

Action Idea: Find out what the most successful advisors do and do it, too.

The most successful FAs focus on high-payoff activities and refuse to be distracted by all the data, information and noise that don't add value for their clients or make them successful.

Action Idea: Take a hard look at how you spend your time and all the information that comes into your world that you might be trying to organize.

Ask yourself, "Is this moving me toward my goals?" If the answer is no, stop it! For a fun video to illustrate how easy this can be, go to:

The most successful FAs have a good team. Their team may be just one good administrative assistant, but they have learned how to delegate the administrative details to someone else so they can do the more important work of business development and their part of client service.

Action Idea: Do the math about how much it's costing you to NOT hire an assistant. Then hire an assistant.

The most successful FAs have goals. While this may seem obvious, I was impressed with the written tracking sheets of the activities that lead to the achievement of the goals. One of them said to me, "If you took away my daily goals, I don't think I could function."
Action Idea: Define your goals, personally and professionally. Determine how you can be more effective at measuring and tracking the results and the activities that lead to the results. Do the activities that lead to results every day.

The most successful FAs invest in themselves. Many of them actually have a line item in their budget to improve some area of their business and themselves as individuals every year. Most of them can tell you a story about how they started doing this when they could not afford to and how it has paid off for them. It perplexes them that many other advisors choose not to make these investments, using cost as an excuse. The top advisors ask totally different questions. Instead of "Why does ________ cost so much?" (marketing program, admin assistance, convention, training class, etc.), they ask questions like, "How will I get my money back and what will the ROI be?" "How long will it take?" "What's involved?" "Who else has done this successfully?" "What did they do to make it work?" I've heard top FAs say things like, "There is no cost because the return on investment far exceeds the investment. It's actually free!"

Action Idea: Work to alter your view about professional development from a "cost" point of view to a return-on-investment perspective. Keep in mind that the reason these investments more than pay for themselves for the top FAs is that they implement after they make the investment.

Success really does leave clues. These are just a few of the many ideas that you will learn straight from the mouths of some of the most financially and quality-of-life successful FAs during our 2011 Success Leaves Clues Webinar series. We'll keep you posted about the dates and times.

For 22 years, Bill Bachrach's company has been helping financial advisors build businesses with the right number of clients, working the right number of hours, for the right amount of money. Call 800.347.3707 to schedule a complimentary consultation or visit