I started out as a commission-based salesperson at a national financial services firm. It was the best bad thing that ever happened to me. (I'll explain why in a moment.)
That firm sold me (and 20 others) on the money I could make and provided me with a lot of "rah-rah" motivation. These were both things that resonated with me as a highly driven, self-reliant young person. But out of that batch of 21 fresh-faced new hires, less than a year later there were only five of us left.
My survival wasn't based upon my ability to work well within a team, it was based on determination, self-reliance and individualism.
Of course, these traits are necessary to achieve much that is worthwhile in this world. But in a way, they almost cost me.
They almost cost me because, even though I didn't love what I was doing, I still wanted to succeed, and that job rewarded and reinforced my individualism and my ability to work alone.
(More: To thrive, do what you love)
One of the reasons there are hundreds of slow-growing "one-person" advisory shops is because many hard-working people never make the transition from self-reliant individual to being a delegator, working with a partner or being a member of a team.
Luckily, early in my career I realized that if I wanted to grow my practice beyond myself and serve the greatest number of people, I'd have to reject my natural instincts for going it alone.
The first thing I did was to find a great business partner.
Certainly, like a great marriage, there's luck involved. But if you can find someone who not only shares your vision but works hard and is adept at some of the things you aren't great at, you'll be miles ahead of where you'd have been on your own. (Which is why my first job was the best "bad thing" that ever happened to me: I learned what I didn't want in a career, and it's where I first joined forces with my long-time — 26 years and counting — business partner.)
Unfortunately, a lot of driven people aren't comfortable unless they do everything themselves. So the next thing I had to learn was to delegate. This included outsourcing the things that I wasn't good at (technology) or didn't have time for (portfolio management).
Lastly, and perhaps most important, the action that may have accelerated my professional growth the most was learning to work as a member of a team.
It wasn't enough to find good people. I had to learn how to shift my focus to the needs of the people in my organization and subsequently make it my goal to help each of them reach their goals. By establishing an environment where team members can grow and feel appreciated, the organization thrives.
I believe one reason so many financial planning practices remain stuck is because too many people never shake their addiction to the individualism that led to their early success but isn't ideal for growth.
Scott Hanson is co-founder of Allworth Financial, formerly Hanson McClain Advisors, a fee-based RIA with over $4 billion in AUM.