MacLeod, who worked as a litigator in a large law firm for several years before joining Manchester Capital in 2008, recalls meeting with two generations of a family early in her wealth management career. While trying to explain the benefits of portfolio diversification to the young adult, she launched into a mini class on modern portfolio theory and used a whiteboard to draw an efficient frontier graph.

“Looking at their eyes, I realized that I was on a quick track to boredom,” she says. The client was more interested in aligning investments with personal values. Now she asks clients more questions and tells them, “There’s an agenda, but this is your meeting.”

MacLeod would also tell her younger self that clients don’t expect their advisors to be experts in everything. “I believe an excellent financial advisor strives to help their clients solve problems and find solutions,” she says, “but they don’t necessarily have to be the one to design the solutions.

“Train with people who are better, stronger and faster,” adds MacLeod, a collegiate rugby player who lifted weights with the boys’ football team while in high school. She learned a lot by observing Manchester Capital CEO Ted Cronin during meetings at clients’ homes and asked him for feedback about her presentation skills during car rides back from those meetings.

Tom Meier, 41, an advisor and the director of investments at Financial Advisory Service (FAS) in Leawood, Kan., says he would tell his younger self to talk less and listen more. While trying to prove his credibility as a young advisor, he overcompensated by talking too much “and over clients’ heads,” he says.

One prospect he didn’t let get a word in edgewise “had to interrupt me and say, ‘Tom, Tom, stop—you’ve got the business, we’re going to use you,’” he says. “Clients are there to tell you their stories, not to hear you pontificate.”

Meier, who spent two years at Merrill Lynch before joining FAS, encourages younger advisors to find a business model that’s a good personal fit. He also suggests thinking as a business owner instead of as an employee. Doing so doesn’t require you to have an equity stake in a firm. “If you have a book of business, that’s also ownership,” he says.

Above all else, he encourages novice advisors to be honest with clients, even if those advisors are “struggling to put food on the table,” he says.

“It can be hard to tell the client not to roll over the 401(k) right away and then not get the assets to manage immediately,” says Meier, or to tell the client to pay off their mortgage if it’ll deplete the client’s after-tax brokerage account.

Remember what’s best for the client and try to think of the big picture, he says. “It will lead to more business down the road and greater career success.”

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