How NOT to Succeed in Business

I consulted last week with a financial advisor I’ll call Alex, who had two concerns: (1) He was feeling “overwhelmed”, and (2) he was not happy that his income was “inconsistent”.  2012 would be a great year for him, he told me, if he could only solve these two problems.

I learned that Alex had about a hundred clients who were more than just “customers” to him.  I also learned that the way Alex ran his business was that he would go through a slow period for a while, during which he would schedule to host a local educational workshop.  He would then conduct the workshop and make immediate appointments with all of the attendees who were interested in speaking with him further.  He’d have two weeks during which he was working every minute of the day and long into the night scheduling new clients, and then, he’d go back to his slow period.  His income would balloon after the workshop, and two weeks later, it would all but disappear.

While there were a lot of ways Alex might have been able smooth out his inconsistent income—by setting up a reserve for when income was ballooning, by holding workshops more regularly, or by spreading out the appointments his workshops generated over a longer period of time—I was curious why he was doing outreach at all if, as he claimed, he was already advising a hundred clients.  Why wasn’t he servicing those clients—helping them in every conceivable way?  Why wasn’t he servicing them so well that they were excited and enthusiastic about sharing the opportunities he had brought to them with their friends and family members.

“I service them,” he responded defensively, but then he added:

“Well, maybe not enough.  I know I should be doing annual reviews with some of them, and I haven’t been doing a good job of that.”

It was clear to me that Alex didn’t need to do more outreach to improve the consistency of his income.  He needed to provide better service to his clients.  Better service might or might not bring him more income from the same clients, but it would certainly earn him the right to be introduced to their friends and family members who could use his help.

I talked to Alex about the concept of Serve, Surprise, and Delight.

“Let’s make a list of your top ten favorite clients,” I coached him.  “How can you serve them beyond what you’ve done for them so far—both in terms of services you provide and in terms of services they might need from others within your network of contacts?”

“I know what you’re trying to get me to do,” Alex responded.  “I’ve tried just focusing on my existing clients in the past, and it just doesn’t work.  It’s a waste of time.  I need to do workshops to get ‘fresh meat’.”

It was obvious that there was nothing I could do for Alex.  The most bizarre aspect of our discussion to me was that Alex wanted the income consistency so he could focus on the volunteer work he does helping people spiritually.  He felt fulfilled serving people in that way, but didn’t want to do the same sort of service within his business.

The best way to grow most service businesses is to turn your existing clients and the people you know into referral partners.  The best way to create referral partners is to serve your existing clients at such a high level that it makes them eager to tell everyone they care for stories about how brilliantly you’re serving them.

Alex knows how not to succeed in his business—by continuing to scramble, instead of to serve, surprise, and delight his current clients.  He will undoubtedly continue to be overwhelmed and have inconsistent income until he understands this foundational fault and seeks out the help he needs to put the opposite into action.

If you understand the importance of creating referral partners and are ready for help in doing it, contact me today.  In the meantime, keep REACHING…