Is Your Firm Leading with Purpose or Ego?

Ryan Shanks May 4, 2020

In recent years, companies everywhere have worked hard to adjust to a huge spike in purpose-driven consumerism. Research tells us that across the world, 63% of consumers prefer to buy goods from companies that reflect their personal beliefs. This is a monumental number, and is a telling statistic proving people today are prioritizing their own wellness and values before considering a transaction.

Similarly, recruiting good talent is a transaction in which it's become increasingly important for both parties to share a common set of values. As a firm, if you're not leading your growth strategy with purpose, you are leading with ego. And ego will never produce the results you're looking for.

In my latest article, "Small Firms Can Make a Big Impact with the Right Advisors" I wrote how firms that lead with purpose will be better positioned to attract the right talent to their firm. I want to expand on how they can take this concept and bring it into practice.

Purpose vs. Ego

When I talk to firms about their struggle finding and retaining new talent, I can tell in a matter of minutes if their difficulty stems from ego. How? They spend our entire conversation touting ways they excel over the competition, rather than how they're helping their advisors succeed.

I believe one reason this happens is because of a misconception that having a "mission" is the same as having a "purpose." But these are very different things. Every company has a mission - it's what they're trying to solve or accomplish. But not every company has an articulate purpose - which is why they are in business in the first place.

So, how can you play to the strengths of your firm while remaining advisor-centric? Here are a few examples of common ego-driven statements, and how simply leading instead with purpose can completely change the perception:

  • Ego: "Our firm has invested millions of dollars to deploy the most innovative technology tools available in the marketplace."

    This phrase raises my ego-flags. It's entirely anchored around why the firm is superior among its competition and it doesn't tell me how this impacts advisors. Here's how this statement can be rephrased to a purpose-driven value proposition:

    Purpose: "Our firm invests in independence. We support entrepreneurial-minded advisors by giving them robust and flexible technology options, so they can create a customized tech stack that works for them."

  • Ego: "We recently underwent a huge office expansion in the heart of downtown, complete with an in-office gym and 20-story views."

    My first question is, why have you expanded? Do you really need that much office space or is your company more focused on how it's perceived on the outside? Firms that focus on their physical location as a value proposition need to have tangible reasons why the space benefits the way advisors work and live. Otherwise, it's just ego. Here's an example of a purpose-driven statement about location:

    Purpose: "We've thoughtfully created a work environment for our employees that fosters collaboration, teamwork, and healthy living. Our gym is free to all teammates and we encourage meetings to be conducted in our open, city-view spaces to inspire creativity."

  • Ego: "Our firm saw rapid growth over the last year, adding 300 advisors nationwide."

    Firms like to beat their chest about how many advisors they've added - but the true tell of your success is how many good teammates you've kept. Otherwise, you could just be a revolving door for advisors. Talk instead about why recent growth is beneficial for advisors' day-to-day at your company. Here's the same statement, revised:

    Purpose: "Last year we welcomed 300 new advisors to our team. Continued growth means more resources at our advisors' fingertips to better serve their clients and focus on the practice areas most important to them. That is why we've seen a consistent 98% advisor retention rate."

At our core, we each have a purpose for doing what we do every day. The same holds true for businesses and the talent you're looking to attract. When we lead with purpose, we can't go wrong.