The Limitless Adviser

Stephanie Bogan explores the fact that our success is defined more by what is happening inside of us than by external circumstances, and breaks through advisers' self-imposed limitations.

Is your pricing primitive or purposeful?

The brain's limbic system leaves many advisers reacting to client questions about costs in fight-or-flight mode instead of with determined business practices

Apr 5, 2017 @ 11:29 am

By Stephanie Bogan

A client of mine, Brian, stared at me, his mouth gaping open, when I explained that the total of the fee discount "exceptions" he'd made amounted to $85,000, 10% of his current gross revenue. He'd hired me to help him grow his firm while balancing his lifestyle goals, so this insight was significant.

Brian is not unusual; many advisers make seemingly insignificant exceptions on their fees and minimums. Brian didn't mean to undercut his success, he simply didn't realize what he was really doing, or, more importantly, why he was doing it. He consistently compromised his potential because he was afraid the prospect would say no. When forced to choose between an instinctual fear of rejection or holding to the standards that would help him achieve his goals, he blinked.

(More Limitless Adviser: No more excuses for not marketing your firm for growth)

Understanding why Brian blinked, and how we each suffer from this self-inflicted mental malady, is critical to achieving our full potential.

Brian's response to the first prospect asking for a fee discount was utter discomfort. He felt tense and anxious, a bit panicked, and was mentally scrambling for a way out. Why? When faced with the discount request, Brian's primitive brain perceived a threat.

The limbic system, the oldest and most primitive part of our brain, has but one job: survival. When faced with anything resembling a threat, its job is to take charge and make sure we get out alive. It hits the fight or flight button, which kicks us into auto-pilot so we don't spend valuable life-saving time thinking about how to respond.

Many advisory firms suffer from conviction and consistency challenges. Having conducted hundreds of analyses over the years, I've seen a lack of consistency in fees charged (exceptions become the rule), lack of client base profitability, and a failure to enforce fees and minimums. Without purposeful business practices and the conviction to adhere to them, advisers are suffering from a self-inflicted performance disadvantage.

(Stephanie Bogan video: How you could be unintentionally lowering the bar for your practice)

This limbic reaction leaves many advisers reacting to situations instead of responding based on purposeful business practices. What most fail to realize is that there is a very real, and often significant, cost for doing so.

Brian could have been prepared for this scenario in advance and confidently said, "Our fees aren't the least or the most expensive. Our clients will tell you they're more than fair for the value we deliver. They enable us to serve our clients well, while practicing good business. If you'd prefer to work with someone who charges less, we wish you the best of luck in your search for the right adviser." Or he could have shared that the firm didn't reduce its fees because he didn't want to compromise the service delivered to clients.

At a minimum, he — like all of us — can learn what's driving his behavior and take back control. As simple as it sounds, taking a few deep breaths gives us precious time to opt out of the automatic bypass around our more modern cognitive processes. This would have given Brian the mental space needed to pause and determine a logical response to the threat — which he could quickly recognize was not really a threat, but rather a request he could politely decline.

(More Limitless Adviser: Don't mistake achievement for passion and purpose)

Imagine that I came to your office and put $100,000 on your conference room table, and told you I would do so every year as long as you followed agreed upon business practices. Now imagine that every time you compromised one of those practices, I took back $2,000. Odds are you would pause, reflect, consider your situation thoughtfully and compromise less often.

Why? Because what had previously been an intangible, hidden cost has suddenly become tangible. You can now see the thief that stealthily infiltrates your business — via your brain — and robs you of your potential. Only with analysis can we really know the cost.

Our thinking — whether realized or not — is what really determines our success. So the question this month is, who's really in charge, your purposeful business practices or your primitive brain?

Stephanie Bogan is the CEO of Educe Inc., focused on helping entrepreneurs build wildly successful businesses and lives they love. Contact her at


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Upcoming Event

Apr 30


Retirement Income Summit

Join InvestmentNews at the 12th annual Retirement Income Summit - the industry's premier retirement planning conference.Much has changed - and much remains to be learned. Attend and discuss how the future is full of opportunity for ... Learn more

Featured video


What's the first thing advisers should do when they get home from a conference?

After attending a financial services conference, advisers can be overwhelmed by options, choices and tools. What's the first thing they should do when they get back to their office?

Latest news & opinion

Is Fidelity competing with retirement plan advisers?

As the Boston-based mutual fund giant expands the products and services it brings to the retirement market, some financial advisers say the firm is encroaching on their turf.

Gun violence hits investment strategies, sparks political debates with advisers

Screening out weapons companies has limited downside.

Social Security underpaid 82% of dually entitled widows and widowers

Agency failed to tell survivors that they could switch to a higher retirement benefit later.

If Finra eases firm oversight of outside business activities, broker-dealers could lose revenue

Brokerage firms would no longer be able to charge reps for supervising nonaffiliated RIAs.

Galvin charges Scottrade with DOL fiduciary rule violations

Action of Massachusetts' top regulator shows states can put teeth into a rule under review by the Trump administration.


Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print