“No man is an island entire of itself…” When poet John Donne wrote those famous words 400 years ago, it never occurred to him their meaning would apply in a 21st Century business setting. But they do. For while you and I work in the wealth management sector, we can learn important lessons from people in other fields. We can make ourselves and our companies better by benefiting from the experiences of others and applying those lessons to how we do our jobs.
Let’s begin by considering the fiercely competitive arena of computer design and sales.
I wrote a post recently comparing and contrasting the approaches, and differing results, between Apple and Dell. It’s worth revisiting for a closer look.
On the surface, Apple and Dell appear quite similar. They both make good, reliable computer products. So, it’s not their products that set them apart from each other. It’s their vision.
Dell’s focus is on making computers. Apple is focused on changing the world. At Dell, the team spends its energy turning out a product. At Apple, people are invested in revolutionizing mankind.
That difference not only defines each of them, it also sets the course both companies will ultimately follow. Because of their respective approaches, Dell has a limited amount of growth opportunities while Apple’s opportunities are limitless.
Author Simon Sinek has studied such corporate culture differences in depth. His best-seller Start with Why examined why certain people’s careers, and even companies, are vastly more successful than others. He recalled speaking at leadership summits for both Apple and Microsoft executives, where he noticed something striking:
“I would say 70 percent of the Microsoft executives spent about 70 percent of their presentation talking about how to beat Apple. At the Apple summit, 100 percent of the executives spent 100 percent of their presentations talking about how to help teachers teach and how to help students learn. One is obsessed with their competition; the other is obsessed with why they do what they do and with where they’re going.”
That’s a stark contrast. It also explains the “why” that motivates each company’s workforce. Team Microsoft is only interested in a bottom line that’s bigger than that of its chief rival. Team Apple is interested in taking its products to new places, and even developing entirely new products to meet new challenges.
Now, let’s apply those lessons to your firm and your career.
Does your wealth management firm just do enough to meet your clients’ expectations? Does it grow their portfolios just enough to keep them quietly pacified, but little else? Or does it go beyond expectations? Does it take the additional steps of making sure its wealth managers truly get to know the people whose funds they are managing as individuals and to help them chart an investment course that is best suited to their unique needs?
And what about your career? What is the “why” that keeps pushing you forward each day?
Let’s return to Apple’s example for a minute. According to Simon Sinek: “The reason Apple frustrates their competition is because secretly, they’re not competing against them. They’re competing against themselves. And they understand that sometimes you’re a little bit ahead, sometimes you’re a little behind. Sometimes your product is better; sometimes it’s not. But if you wake up every morning and compete against yourself and ask, ‘How can I make our products better than they were yesterday? How can I take care of our customers better than I did yesterday?’, then you’ll find that over time you will probably be ahead more often. It’s not about the battle; it’s about the war. And when you think about [business results], most companies don’t even know the game they’re in.”
So, there you have it. It all comes down to a few simple questions. Who are you playing against? Does your “Why” lead you to strive and grow and reach for success each day? And, perhaps most importantly, are you willing to follow the examples of those businesses that look beyond the immediate and reach for the greatness that lies just over the next hill?
Those questions, and the answers, have revolutionized the computer industry. They can do the same for our business.