As I eased into the chair at the shoe shine booth, I half-jokingly asked the man if he could make my tired shoes look new again. To my surprise, he answered, “You have to do a lot of things for your shoes long before you get them shined if you want to keep them looking like new.”
What followed was a five minute clinic on shoe maintenance. “First,” he told me, “you have to get cedar shoe trees. Put them in your shoes each night and they’ll prevent them from looking like Ali Baba’s.” In other words, your shoes will keep their shape. “Secondly, buy some lanolin cream like the stuff I’m using right now and apply it every couple of weeks. That will keep the leather soft and moist, prevent cracking and stop embedded creases from developing.”
All the while, as the lesson continued, he performed what was the most efficient and skilled shoe polishing I had ever experienced. I was told to only buy shoes with thick soles, since thin soles don’t look as “strong or confident”, and to use lace-up shoes only for business, as well as a number of other helpful tips.
So why am I sharing this with you? Because everything is a study, and knowledge is everywhere, even at the foot of a shoe-shine chair.
Learn by Formal Study and Learn by being Aware
One of my favorite business philosophers, Jim Rohn, told me that a formal education will help you earn a living, while continual self-education can make you rich. It is true that income rarely exceeds self-development.
The word ‘autodidact’ means that you are self-taught rather than formally educated. But here’s the key: while your CE credits generally revolve around building your credentials, that is only one piece of the puzzle. Your success also depends on your ability to develop chemistry with clients, and that is a study as well. So just don’t study the markets, study marketing too. Many life skills and qualities lead to being attractive to the marketplace. Self-development shapes your character and philosophy. Appropriately enough, the word ‘philosophy’ stems from the Greek for love of knowledge. If you took it upon yourself to read one book a month on business development strategies, you would be in an elite group within this industry.
Look Inward at your Existing Clientele to Find What Works Best
But don’t stop at books. Study your existing business. How did you attract your favorite clients? I’m astounded when advisor engage in time consuming tactics such as seminars, direct mail campaigns, trade show and cold calling although none of their best clients were attracted this way. Replicate your best successes. If you track your client genealogy and discover that your best clients were referrals/introductions, invest your time and money in that area.
Turn Common Sense into Action
As practice management and business development consultants, our clients often say that they like our information because it’s creative. However, it is often not about creativity. Creativity, sometimes, is simply the ability to conceal your sources. Our clients are our best teachers, and their experiences help us help others navigate through their challenges. (If they hit us up for royalties, we’re sunk.)
We are constantly asked for new ideas. Here’s another breakthrough: there are very few new ideas, simply existing approaches that are refined and customized for one’s own situation. So look around and pay attention. Network and befriend other top advisors. They have knowledge and most of the time, they are prepared to share it with you.
This article has largely been a collection of gentle reminders of things you already know. Sometimes you just need to hear them again. As Confucius said, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’ But don’t delay and let the Law of Diminishing Intent rob you of the wealth of skills that stem from being a serious student. As the expression goes, “When all is said and done, often more gets said than done.” Now would be a perfect time to get busy.
Contributed by Duncan MacPherson