Someone recently recommended the book Hot Lemon and Honey: Reflections for Success in Times of Change and in flipping through it, I stumbled across a great quote: “The seven most expensive words in business are ‘we have always done it that way.’” (Side note: I have to add this book to my Leaders Library queue). The quote stuck with me because of how simple, yet true, it is.
I spend a lot of time reading about business and history and looking at industries outside of my own to see what we can learn from today’s winning brands. What comes to your mind when you think of Uber, Amazon, Starbucks or Apple? They are classic disruptors, winning over their markets and outpacing the competition at unprecedented rates. But if you think back to how they got here, they simply refused to operate under the notion of “we have always done it that way.”
In fact, they took the opposite approach. These are companies that didn’t focus on widgets or feature/function, the way it may have previously been done, to get ahead. They did not accept the industry as is; they focused on creating unique value for their customers. They took a close look at their business model and were brave enough to drive behavior change throughout the entire value chain. Wherever customers felt compromised, they addressed it.
These companies focused on creating unique value for their customers through experience and convenience. They built a business model that blended vision with operational integration and capital allocation. They embraced disruption, and used it as a chance to foster systemic behavior change within their organization, which eventually would lead them to not only unprecedented change within their industries, but unprecedented growth for their companies.
Change is hard
Driving behavior change at the macro level is not easy. With few exceptions, most of these brands did not become overnight success stories. But they had the passion, focus, vision and commitment to stick with it and achieved sustainable long-term growth as a result. Any industry can learn from them.
Take the one I work in – wealth management. Change is happening so fast, it can feel risky to take a 2-minute bathroom break for fear of missing a new emerging competitor or regulatory ruling we didn’t see coming. I live this every day. I spend a good part of my day thinking about customers and change. I do not settle. I look inside and outside my industry for ideas. It’s the reason we partnered with leading research provider, WISE Gateway, earlier this year to explore the case for change in wealth management. The study and subsequent paper were incredibly enlightening.
I recently had a chance to sit down with our partner in this initiative, WISE Gateway’s co-founder and partner David Lincoln, to discuss some of the key findings and what they mean for tomorrow’s leaders in wealth management. I wanted to share a short 3-minute snippet from that conversation, which reveals one of the more powerful observations from the study.
The research goes on to discuss the challenges and opportunities for firms on a growth trajectory path. If you are interested in learning more, you can access both the paper and the full 20-minute video.
Make no mistake: driving organizational change is not for the meek and it starts at the very top. As leaders, we have not just a responsibility, but a critical obligation, to reject the notion that “we have always done it that way.” In our industry, wealth management reinvention and disruption is possible, but there is no shortcut or silver bullet. It’s a journey that starts with reexamining profitability structure and asking yourself and your organization: Have we looked at this from all possible angles? Have we considered what it takes to deliver unique and differentiated value to our customers? Have we done a thorough analysis on how we are organized, how technology or partnerships can enable and integrate our operations, and what capital is required to execute that value? Have we thought systemically from the client back – and not from the discrete functions out? Are we ready for the journey to drive behavior change and become the Uber, Amazon or Apple of wealth management?
These are big questions – which, if you watched the clip above, you know that’s how I roll. But big questions can lead to big innovations and big steps to your own unprecedented growth story. I want to ask a favor of you. It’s something I am forcing myself to do with my own leadership team. Next time you have a strategy meeting, I challenge you to refuse any leaders at your table to utter the words or even slight notion of “we have always done it that way.” I bet you will be surprised to see what kind of limitless thinking may then occur.