One distinct, and positive, upside that we’ve noticed emerge since the COVID-19 pandemic is that brokers are viewing their brokerages as businesses, and are far more proactive about seeking support and implementing growth strategies.
What’s equally interesting is that this shift is universal, and not limited to newer entrants.
We’ve increasingly been having such discussions with brokers at various levels of business maturity as, invariably, conversations about trail books and business choices very much go hand-in-hand. The obvious topics have centred around how to optimise profit – whether that’s ‘cutting fat’ (expenses), being more efficient via streamlining operations, extending distribution via diversifying, or how to more effectively align with referral partners.
However, what’s equally important (and what’s often overlooked) is creating a solid support structure to ‘prop’ up the business owner to give them the security, confidence and insight to strive for greatness.
A recent paper published in Harvard Business Review, by Jenny Fernandez and Luis Velasquez, ‘5 Relationships You Need to Build a Successful Career' identifies the importance of relationship-building to accelerate career potential, with underlying principle being to create a tight knit professional community to help accelerate your business.
Though if it ‘takes a village to raise a child,’ how do we, as businesses survive in increasing isolation? The answer is: You don’t.
Particularly now, as the pandemic consistently, yet unpredictably, rears and retreats, it’s both prudent and timely to consciously create an infrastructure to both prop you up, and prop up others.
To be clear, we’re not referring to having a broad network of loose industry contacts. While this of course, serves its purpose, the focus of this piece is about building substantial relationships with a handful of key people that will have a significant impact on your business over time.
Here are some tips to form a stronger village:
Seek out a mentor
The role of a mentor is to provide advice.
Ms. Fernandez and Mr. Velasquez articulate the role of the mentor beautifully: “Think of a mentor as ‘the north star that will keep you on track when you’re feeling lost at work. They are the one person inside (or outside) of your organisation who you can turn to for guidance — whether you are looking to expand your industry knowledge, navigate a difficult conversation, listen to feedback on a project, or get some encouragement when times are tough. They are reliable, wise, and most importantly, honest. Mentorship is all about having challenging conversations that help increase your self-awareness and help you grow both personally and professionally.”
Accordingly, when determining a mentor, identify where you need most support - though be careful to distinguish between an industry expert and a mentor.
An industry expert can be of tremendous assistance with functional expertise and upskilling in a particular area of finance.
Conversely, a mentor is more about becoming more astute through evolving emotional intelligence and gaining a greater understanding of the ‘unwritten rules,’ whether that be in industry, or managing internal or external stakeholders.
Find your ‘champion'
A ‘champion’ is the person that will always have your back professionally and advocate on your behalf. This is the person who, where ever possible, will sing your praises and actively promote you to industry peers or prospects.
We’ve seen this work particularly well in a ‘dual champion’ environment where brokers with complimentary niches are each other’s biggest supporter. The concept equally works with referral partners – particularly broker/ accountant relationships.
Connect with a ‘comrade'
This role is a true ally who is a sounding board to bounce day-to-day scenarios by. In comparison to a mentor, who is more strategic, this is a tactical relationship.
A comrade, or professional partner, should complement your personality and work ethic and ‘fill in the gaps’ of your working style/ area. That said, its benefit is amplified when both parties have a shared drive to succeed and believe that ‘a sum is greater than its parts’ (i.e. you can both do better together). Or, as stated by Ms. Fernandez and Mr. Velasquez: “You each have an explicit intent to elevate yourselves by elevating each other.”
Embrace healthy competition
Though it might sound counterintuitive, competition can be healthy when used constructively as it can lead to improvements – whether that be performance, ideas, or achievements.
A ‘win-win’ mindset needs to form the foundation for healthy competition to succeed.
According to Dr. Stephen Covey2, this attitude possesses three vital character traits: integrity; maturity; and ‘abundance mentality’ (meaning that there is plenty of work out there for everybody, which negates the notion of being ‘territorial.’)
Nurture a mentee
Masters teach. Becoming a mentor helps evolve communication skills, creativity, and empathy. It also challenges knowledge and teaches you how to recognise strengths and nurture weaknesses.
In turn, becoming a mentor and empowering a mentee will push you to be better and to strive for more.
5 Relationships You Need to Build a Successful Career, by Jenny Fernandez and Luis Velasquez, Harvard Business Review
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by
Nick Young is a results-driven specialist who has more than 20 years’ experience in the mortgage broking industry, and now heads Trail Homes: Australia’s most established and longest-serving trail book purchaser.