If you ask independent financial advisers what the most rewarding part of being on their own is, most would answer:
(1) freedom of being an entrepreneur without a boss or a set schedule, where you can do what matters most to you when you choose;
(2) empowerment from creating your own destiny, leading your life, achieving success on your terms; and
(3) deep satisfaction that comes from developing meaningful connection with clients while directly and positively impacting lives.
These three benefits blend together to render a certain level of fulfillment. Whether that fulfillment is slight or maximized depends on how realized each one is in your professional (and daily) life. Essentially your fulfillment becomes a function of your return on your effort.
I don’t like to trivialize the concept of fulfillment as it is one of my driving core values; however, I know that if I keep the notion of fulfillment amorphous you will not make the progress you desire to mold your practice into what you know it can be. Too many advisers linger in a state of mediocre fulfillment, wondering why they aren’t getting more satisfaction from their work or unsure what to do next to leap from their current plateau.
To help you find clarity I have broken down the concept into what I call The Fulfillment Formula.
The Numerator: Revenue
To increase your return, you can increase your revenue. It may seem obvious why we care about revenue, but for advisers who do not operate with intention to increase revenue, I want to remind you of this: you run a business. You need to make money to continue to have a profitable sustainable business over the long term. Otherwise, you have a hobby, a side gig or a charitable endeavor, and this formula does not apply.
At the very least your revenue needs to cover business expenses and the necessary personal expenses that your income funds. Revenue over that baseline threshold serves luxury personal expenses, savings and retirement, donations, gifts, child or parent support and wherever you choose to direct your cash.
Keeping effort constant, as you increase your revenue, you can achieve a higher return on effort and, thus, greater fulfillment.
The Denominator: Effort
We usually think about effort as the time, energy or money going into your business.
As an entrepreneur, you know it is much more than those resources—it’s also the heart, soul, sweat, blood and tears, too.
With only 24 hours in a day, multiple hats to wear as an entrepreneur, and the pressures of life outside the office, your personal effort can only take you so far before you start to exhaust your resources. You need to shift your support system to your team and technology to gain leverage and lower the effort you exert.
Even if revenue stays the same, as you decrease your effort you increase your return on effort and fulfillment level.
Amplify Your Fulfillment
As you can see, the relationship between revenue and effort renders either positive or negative fulfillment:
- If your revenue is greater than your effort, you have positive return on effort and therefore a positive level of fulfillment. You may be satisfied with your current position, or you may desire to leap from this plateau to new levels of achievement in your business.
- If your revenue is less the sum of your effort that you invest, then you will be in a negative state of fulfillment, perhaps questioning why you are continuing on this path or wondering how long it will last.
In either position, your can change your status quo when you increase the dollars coming into your business and/or decrease the effort that you exert in the business.
As you grow the numerator or reduce the denominator, you will improve the return on your effort and experience an upward movement of your fulfillment.
Over time, as you build out client attraction and relationship marketing systems and find support for your operations to maximize return from The Fulfillment Formula, you will be able to amplify your fulfillment and reap the full benefits of independence.
Kristin C. Harad, CFP®
San Francisco, Calif.