Probably a lot sooner than you think.

About 15 years ago, I saw a comedian named Jack Cohen. He had just celebrated his 35th birthday and was talking about how excited he was to be 35, because he no longer said some of the stupid things he used to say just five short years ago when he was 30.
Of course, when he was 30, he felt the same way. He remembered thinking that it was great to be 30 because he no longer said some of the stupid things he used to say just five short years before when he was 25. But, he continued, if there was ever a time when he thought he knew it all, it was when he was 25. He remembered turning 25 and thinking, "I'm a quarter of a century old. Thank goodness I don't say some of the stupid things I used to say just five short years ago when I was 20." The punch line was, "I think I finally figured out why old people don't talk much."
There's a lot of truth to that joke, especially in the financial services industry. Too many advisors reach an age where they find themselves saying, "When will my career be at its peak? I thought I'd have it together by now."
At what point in your career should you have it all together? The answer is probably earlier than you think. In our industry, prospecting and marketing should be temporary activities. During your first three to five years in the business, you prospect and market to build your clientele, then you should spend the rest of your career taking care of your clients. When client acquisition is no longer your priority, you really only need about three days a week to take care of your clients and run your staff. If you're lucky and you get a great mentor, it takes about three to five years to build that kind of a business.
There are basically three ways to build a successful business. You can build it right the first time; you can build a dumb business and then rebuild it into a smart business; or you can build a dumb business and live with it forever. The choice is yours. You can fall into the first category and build a smart business right off the bat, or you can fall into the second category and build your business later on. Sadly, most advisors fall into the third category and never build a smart business at all.
There are three components of a smart business: a smoothly operating client acquisition system, a well-defined client deliverables system and a staff that really works. At what point should you have a business where you have all the clients you need, they're thrilled with your service, your staff works smoothly and you're generating all the money you want (roughly a half million to two million dollars of revenue)? For most people reading this article, the answer would be, "Well, certainly by now!" or "Maybe within a year or two." So the next question is, are you on the right path? Are you taking the steps today that will bring you those results within a year or two?
The cynic and the skeptic will ask, "But aren't you always tweaking, improving and fine tuning your business?" Yes, of course you are. But there's a big difference between tweaking a smoothly running business and rebuilding a dumb one.
Ten years ago, I sat down to coach a financial advisor. In addition to serving his clients, he was also coaching other advisors on how to be successful. At age 50, he had four kids (two still in high school and two in college), no savings and virtually zero net worth. He planned to take care of his family and use his earnings to pay for his kids' education. When they were all out of college, he would start saving for his retirement. I asked him what advice he would give to a client who decided not to save or invest money until after the kids were out of school. He kind of backpedaled and said, "Well, that's not the best strategy."
Sadly, this happens a lot. I coach advisors who are typically between 35 and 50 years old. In that range, they start to think, "I'm running out of time. I started this business ten years ago and it really ought to be a lot better (more successful, more time off, less hours working, more referrals, etc). I've got to do something about it, or ten years from now it's going to be the same." No one expects to be at the same place at age 40 or 50 that they were at age 30. Most people think that by the time they hit 40 or 50, they'll figure it out, fix it, and make it work. Well, that won't happen by itself. But wait-there's good news.
Whether you're 30, 40, 50 or older, it's not too late. You can still shift gears and build a smart business. As I said earlier in this article, it takes three to five years to build a successful business, whether you're just starting out or you're fixing an existing business. Don't wait another ten years to look back and say, "Where did that time go? I wish I had it to do over." If you don't want to have this conversation with yourself when you're 60 or 70, the time to start is now. Find a business-building program, whether it's mine or anyone else's, and follow it until you achieve the results you truly want (professionally as well as personally).

©2006 by Bill Bachrach, Bachrach & Associates Inc. All rights reserved. Bill Bachrach is the author of four industry-specific books, including his newest book, It's All About Them: How Trusted Advisors Listen for Success. For information about Bill's speaking services, The Trusted Advisor Coach program, 3-Day Values-Based Selling Academy or to order his books and learning resources, contact Bachrach & Associates Inc. at (800) 347-3707 or visit