When I was in business, I learned about competition. Early in my business, I defined competition as the other financial services firms and salespeople in the city of Cranbrook. There were the banks, the credit unions, the investment brokers, and the other life insurance agents who did business in my community. In total, there were over 85 people representing these organizations including the other advisors with the firm that I represented!
Over the years, I had to change my concept of competition to include “all items and concepts” that competed for the money that existed in the marketplace. In a previous blog, I said that “scarce resources have alternative uses” and this truism expanded my definition of competition to include new vehicles, birthday parties, holidays, booze, cigarettes, rep hockey and snowmobiles. Basically, my competition definition includes everything and anything that someone feels is desirable at any given moment in time. I learned that if I thought a deal was complete, it really wasn’t, because people can always change their mind a day or two later.
To thrive within this reality, I had to learn to be “winsome’. The definition of winsome is to “be attractive and appealing in character”. Most people are appealing and attractive to a large degree, however, I observed that many people also believe that they “have to be true to themselves”. This idea that what I am today is as good as things will ever be, is a malady that afflicts most people, and results in people becoming stagnant in the marketplace. For example, I know people who have not read a difficult book since they graduated from school!
When I saw how many people really were in the marketplace, I made the decision to become more winsome. The first thing I did was to invest my “free” time into really learning the my profession. This meant that I started to learn the technical aspects of the business as opposed to just learning the basics. I learned that going to seminars in other provinces and countries resulted in meeting new people and being exposed to new concepts. The best investment that I made was in surrounding myself with a team of experts who allowed me to focus on my gifts while they used theirs to take care of the things that I did poorly. It was revolutionary for me to learn the art of delegation; to leverage my time and skills to provide much better customer service for all my clients.
One of the simplest concepts which I became quite proficient at, was the habit of being on time. My goal for myself and my team was to be ready 10 minutes ahead of time for every business and personal appointment. We all know what it is like to wait for someone who is always late. We also know how we good we feel when we are affirmed by not having to wait. Time spent waiting for someone is often time spent deciding to whom your business can be moved in order to feel respected.
There were many different personal and operational habits that I changed over the years. All these changes were like getting compound interest on my money. Writing a hand written note, a little more homework in advance of a meeting, humbly apologizing when we screwed up, to name but three things, resulted in deepening the relationships with my customers, friends and family. One of the best compliments that I ever received was from a competitor who told me over a coffee, “I don’t know what you do, but all your clients will not move, regardless of what I offer them. You have a tremendous, well-deserved reputation and your clients are lucky to have you as their advisor!”
- You never “arrive” in your business or career.
- Be a lifelong learner. Read, Read, Read!
- When you go to a conference, do not rush home. Stay at the location and determine how you will apply your key learning on the first day back at work.
- If you are not healthy, do your best to become healthy!
- Surround yourself with people that will call you on your detrimental habits and behaviors.