Do you know how many actions in your life are a result of blind tradition? Blind tradition can be defined as a habit that is performed simply because ‘it’s always been done that way’ and that you never really examine to find out why. I heard a great story that perfectly illustrates a silly blind tradition. Every year at Thanksgiving, the Wilson family would cut the top off the ham before putting it into the oven. One holiday, 22-year-old Jenna Wilson asked her mother why they always cut the top off the ham. Her mom replied that it was because her mother always did and to go ask Grandma why. When Jenna did, her grandmother replied, “When I was young, the entire wouldn’t ham wouldn’t fit in our small oven, so we had to cut the top off to cook it.” Blind tradition had caused this family to waste part of a ham for over forty years even though it was no longer necessary!

While this blind tradition wasn’t all that harmful to the family, many of the traditions you follow as an advice-based financial planner can be and you need to be aware of them so you can start making changes.

Examples of Common Blind Traditions in the Financial Industry

‘Suiting up’ for client meetings. It’s been a tradition in the finance industry for decades to dress in a suit, tie, cufflinks, and polished shoes for everything from client meetings to board discussions and everything in between. This tradition is probably why many believe financial planners to be stuffy and unapproachable and have turned to robo-advisors they feel more comfortable with. If you work with a younger group of clients who value comfort over tradition, re-thinking the blind tradition of ‘suiting up’ is a good business move.

Meeting with clients every quarter. Many advisors have been trained to set up quarterly meetings with all their clients—whether they need them or not. This not only wastes time (both yours and your client’s), but it can also trigger over-responsibility and a number of other negative consequences. Do you need to meet with some clients on a quarterly basis? Sure you do, but only if their situation has changed or they are in the middle of a very fluid situation that demands flexibility. For the most part, you can meet with the majority of your clients on an annual basis or as-needed when a change needs to be made.

Creating a stuffy office environment. We all know the traditional financial planner’s office: there’s a television on the wall tuned to a channel that shows the fluctuations in the stock market, there are financial magazines spread on the mahogany waiting room table, and there are the planner’s certifications and college degrees hung on the wall by a large, intimidating desk. Is this the image you want to project? Before you create an office just like every other advisor’s, stop to think about your personality and the type of clients you serve. You might be better off with an open office in a funky collaborative workspace or maybe you don’t even need an office and instead can meet clients at coffee shops or at their homes. The point is, your office should be a reflection of your entrepreneurial business and not of the industry as a whole.

Why They Can Be Harmful

I’ve only touched on a few of the more common blind traditions in the financial industry, but I think you get the point. So why do they have the potential to be so harmful? Here are a few reasons.

They make you blend in  Did you really start your business just to be like everyone else? When you follow traditions blindly, you blend in and fail to rise above the pack. By bucking tradition and being yourself, you can stand out and gain the clients you truly want to work with.

They can damper your curiosity and imagination  One of the greatest strengths you possess as an entrepreneur is your curiosity. When you’re curious, you are constantly seeking new information and ways to learn from your clients, yourself, and those you work with. This makes you more interesting to others and ensures you are constantly evolving.

They can cause complacency  When you ask yourself the question of why you decided to start your own business, you probably don’t think of falling into the ruts every other planner falls into as one of your inspirations. You want to be different and more successful, right? According to the Harvard Business Review, one of the biggest causes of business failure is active inertia, which is defined as the tendency to follow established patterns even in response to dramatic environmental shifts. To succeed, you must stay flexible and open-minded and always ready to respond to changes in the industry.

Do you blindly follow traditions in your financial advisory business? If so, it’s probably time to open your eyes, question why you do the things you do, and find out if there is a better way to go about your business. Do you want to talk more about setting yourself apart in the industry? Please reach out so we can talk more.

When you become a mentor to your clients, deeply understand them, and guide them toward a better future, then you’ve learned the ways of a financial caregiver. You’ve come to know what it means to be a true purveyor of advice, and how to use money as a conduit to a more fulfilling life for yourself and those you serve.

Patrick Tucker, owner of True Measure Wealth Management and founder of True Measure Financial Advisors, has over 20 years experience in the industry and has spent the last 15 years learning the ins and outs of the fee-only advisory business. He’s spent over $500,000 finding mentors, studying consulting businesses, taking courses, studying the soft sciences, running trial and error experiments, and learning how to be an entrepreneurial financial advisor. He’s simplified this into an easy to use blueprint for anyone who is entrepreneurial-minded and is tired of the sales culture. Patrick has been able to acquire over $158 million under management with little to no money spent on marketing.