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Building a Successful Practice: It All Starts With You

Over the past few months, a number of people have asked me how I did it — how I grew a profitable and sustainable financial services business. There are many elements to building a successful business. Here are three I have used repeatedly in growing as a person and in growing our firm.

1. Know thyself from two perspectives.

The first perspective comes from learning about your passion, capabilities and personality, and those of your team members. Profiles such as the Kolbe Index, the Harvard Temperament Test and the Hogan Leadership Assessment can help you learn and understand who you are, how you strive forward, how you think and how you act. As you build your team, you want to surround yourself with people who fill your gaps to ensure a strong team. Realize that not everybody is a starting pitcher or a salesperson.

The second perspective comes from defining and knowing exactly the service and value that you offer. During my participation in NAIFA’s Leadership in Life Institute, I was forced to write down the mission and vision for our business. Furthermore, we created a written business plan that laid out the specific action steps to take, which brought the business to life. We have had several iterations of this business plan while staying true to our mission!

Doubling the revenue of our business was easy when we were going from $100,000 annually to $200,000 annually. But it was much more difficult going from $1 million to $2 million in annual revenue. Why? Because different tools, processes and people were needed as the company reached new levels of success. Dan Sullivan taught me to think about what would be needed if your company were 10 times the size of what it is today.

2. Surround yourself with people, resources and programs.

You may find these people in your neighborhood, your associations, nonprofit organizations, travel clubs, theaters, etc. People love working with like-minded people — especially when they can have fun together.

Invest in the resources that help you perform your best. Resources such as the books I have read, the videos I watch and the associations in which I am active all have contributed toward my reaching my goals.

Participate in programs that inspire, teach, and propel you and your team to strive forward, learn new and better capabilities, and help build your bigger future. Many offerings are available inside and outside of our industry. I participate in at least one program a year and have done so for the past 30 years. These include business plan writing, public speaking, writing, marathon running, strategic thinking, earning my master’s degree at the age of 45, and even photography classes. All of these activities have contributed in small and big ways to my personal and professional lives. My mantra: Strive forward because our mission is not complete — we have miles to go before we sleep. 

3. Celebrate daily victories.

The third element I have used to grow our firm is daily victories. It is what we do today that will compound our growth personally and professionally in the future.

As Stephen Covey taught in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first things first. I wake up, make the bed, do my six-minute plank, work out (a 60-minute run or a weight workout), suit up, do one hour of reading, make my first 10 calls of the day and then drive to the office.

Imagine if you really focused on specific daily victories — behaviors that you will commit to and that will have a positive impact on your personal or professional life. What would they be?

Now imagine if everyone on your business team did the same. How much more productive and happy would everyone be? People love accomplishing tasks and being rewarded with a happy face, a high five or something else that reinforces positive behavior. What’s the old saying? Inch by inch, it’s a cinch!

Success is a journey of ups and downs, filled with many great days as well as with days of wonder. It all begins with you.


John F. Nichols, CLU, MSM is Founder of Disability Resource Group Inc., a provider of disability products and services. He serves as NAIFA Secretary and is a Life and Qualifying MDRT member with two Court of the Table and four Top of the Table honors. [email protected].

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