Four essential lessons from Steve Jobs1. Lesson One: Say noJobs makes it his business to obsessively hit on a small number of things that are important to him.Apple limits itself to three product lines – the Macintosh computer, the iPod, and the iPhone, with the recently announced iPad making it four.With just three main product lines, Apple has a market capitalization of more than $150 billion. Jobs has resisted the call to offer lower-end products and milk the company's great brand. His philosophy is that "it's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important."Implications:There is no shortage of opportunities in this business. What there is a shortage of is conviction. The easy thing to do is to go to a meeting, hear a few good ideas, and then go out and try them. When that does not work, you go to another meeting or hear another speaker and make a half-committed effort with new ideas, getting similar unacceptable results.Ultimately, you find yourself trying things but never really finishing them. Most advisors have to-do lists. What fewer have but would benefit from are not-to-do lists. With not to do lists, advisors only take on initiatives that will have a dramatic impact on their business, small scale projects that only make a difference at the margin will drain energy and focus and ultimately leave you bogged down without really advancing your business.2. Lesson 2: Practice the rule of 100%Jobs built Pixar Studios into a company that he sold to Walt Disney for $7.4 billion. At Pixar, there is no 80/20 rule. It's simply the Rule of 100% – every effort gets 100% support.Jobs is a notorious stickler for minutiae and one of the most obsessive detail oriented people you're likely ever to run into.Accordingly, Pixar delivered an average of only one movie every 18 months, many fewer than most major movie studios. However, the result was outstanding. Pixar has generated more than $3.5 billion in worldwide box-office receipts since 1995. And it has had no bombs.Implications:Many successful advisors have 500 or more clients. These advisors had successful businesses that generated substantial revenue and comfortable profits.Yet who got short changed in that deal? The clients! None of those advisors would ever go on the record as saying they did a great job of taking care of all of their clients. Typically, 20% received great care and the other 80%, well, they were mainly an entry in a database.So the key question for advisors is how to restructure their business to deliver 100% quality to 100% of clients?3. Lesson three: Focus on your peopleJobs devotes a considerable amount of his time to talking with prospective employees that he thinks can be A-list players on his team. At the end of the day, there are no weak links in his executive suite. He's as obsessive about the quality of his people as he is about his products.Implications:Quality work starts with quality employees. For many advisors, finding and retaining quality staff members is a perennial issue. Advisors are tempted to hire the first person who marginally fits the bill.Unfortunately, that's a recipe for long-term pain. It's better to bite the bullet now and continue pursuing the right person, rather than settle for an average candidate who is destined to deliver mediocre results.If you currently have no support staff, then go out and hire your first person. Without staff, you'll have a job, but you'll never have a business. If you have existing staff, continue to support and nurture your A players – make sure they feel appreciated and know that they're an important part of your team.For your weaker links, work with them to try to get them to A status. If they can't make the jump after you've given them every opportunity to do so, it's time to let them go.4. Lesson four: Refuse to settleThe last lesson is not to settle. Jobs says, "We're just trying to make great products. We do things where we feel we can make a significant contribution." To him, it's about staying focused. It's about doing great work. It's about loving what you do and doing it with all your energy. Don't settle for anything less.Implications:Settling is a common trap for many advisors. They rise to a level of production that makes them comfortable and then they coast. They have the house, the cars, the vacations, the club membership, and the kids' college education funded. No need to push yourself any further by asking for a referral or making more calls, right?When you get to a point in your life where you are comfortable, coasting is the worst thing you can do. You'll get stale disenchanted, and start cynical. The key is this: When growing your business is no longer satisfying, it's time to start growing your self.
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