Sometimes inspiration can be found in the strangest places.
For me, one such place was the darkened theater where James Lipton spent hours interviewing actors for Inside the Actor’s Studio. It was less his trade-mark questions or deadpan delivery; I loved that he recognized that success, in any field, is not only about the craft, but about how people think and the path they took to get there. I loved that you could see the seeds of success in the way those being interviewed talked about their life and their work.
And so it with a nod to Mr. Lipton that I launch this series – the Advisor’s Studio. I have the distinct privilege of interviewing great advisors as part of our Spotlight Program. They give me hours of their time and they are open, candid and engaging. In return we contribute 15% of the program revenue to a charity of their choice. While the program is about the details of the strategies they use, this series is about their journey.
I hope to dig deeper to understand what success looks like from the inside out.
For this series I’ll drop my characteristic charts and data and focus on the people who make this industry great. I’ll keep the editorializing to a minimum so you can hear directly from your peers. There are so many great advisors in this industry so this is a small step toward getting inside their collective heads. It shouldn’t go without saying, however, that the interviews I’ll share started with someone allowing us into their office and, to some extent, their lives, so we could share their ideas and their journey. For what it’s worth, I think that generosity is one of the first indicators of greatness.
Jon Jones is the co-CEO of Brighton Jones. The firm invests time, money and resources to study how the industry is changing so that they are always ahead of the pack. Their success is clear, building a business that manages or advises on $4.5b for over 900 clients, supported by 78 employees. You can click to hear Jon describe the firm’s mission and vision.
If you choose to read this series on a regular basis you’ll begin to see patterns. I have already seen them emerge in the first several interviews we’ve conducted. Of course no two situations or advisors are exactly the same, but there are distinct patterns that emerge that reflect their history, their view of their own strengths and weaknesses and their passion or sense of personal engagement.
1. To understand who you are today, just look back to where you started.
In the three interviews I’ve conducted so far, I’ve found a remarkable similarity in the way the advisors talked about their past. I won’t call these trends just yet, but I suspect I might in future. In this clip Jon shares his perspective on three aspects of his history that helped sow the seeds of his success including:
- pivotal experiences growing up (strong mothers are a theme!)
- working from a very young age in roles that foreshadowed his entrepreneurial path
- understanding that this is what he wanted to do from a very young age (if professional baseball didn’t work out)
2. Get Honest About Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Great advisors are open books. They not only seem to understand their strengths but they often demonstrate an unexpected, but incredibly engaging, level of self-doubt. There are two critical elements that have allowed them to succeed: they recognize their strengths and play to them and they recognize their weaknesses and invite training and coaching to improve.
Jon talks about his own leadership skills and the ways he taps into the insights of others to ensure he is on top of his game.
3. Institutionalized Passion
It might not be surprising to discover that great advisors are passionate about what they do and about helping others. They tend to be actively involved in charitable work. Looking at Brighton Jones, however, I saw something different. The passion to help others is woven into the fabric of the company, influencing who they hire, the education they deliver to the team and the way they work together. Jon talks about bringing speakers in from different charities every month to educate the team, the firm’s charitable committee and the way they pull together to feed the homeless. In describing these activities you’ll learn about the real culture of the firm.
4. Be the Lead Dog
We talk a lot in this industry and trends that will impact the future. Some firms actually do something about it. While I spoke with Jon about a lot of things, only a small number of which are shared in this post, I kept coming back to one thing. This firm doesn’t just talk about keeping up, they actively invest in researching how the industry is changing so they can be ahead of the curve. Jon describes how the firm has hired someone to work with him on what I might describe as a ‘blank slate’ project. They are actively gathering input and insights from around the industry, not so they can keep pace but so that they can create something new and innovative. You can see the innovations in how they manage their clients and their team.
In September we are launching our next Spotlight featuring both Jon Jones and Tom Preston, the Director Client Service for Brighton Jones. We’ll go behind the scenes to learn about the specific innovations they are executing to stay ahead. Fifteen percent of all revenue will go to Childhaven. I’d invite you to learn more HERE.
Next month I’ll share insights from my interview with Susan Latremoille a Director and Wealth Manager with the Latremoille Group at Richardson GMP. She has built a business in excess of $450m with one lead advisor. Amazing stuff.