A lot of people come into our office or ask me at industry events how we’ve been able to grow our annuity business four times as fast as the industry. Several things come to mind, such as the willingness of ownership to invest in the business, the commitment to the business plan, and a push toward constant innovation. However, most people talk about how we have prepared. In my recent book, Free Throws for Financial Professionals, I talk a lot about my time as manager for the Indiana University basketball team in 1987, particularly Coach Knight’s preparation style for games.

Coach was hailed as a strategic genius on the court. His preparation didn’t go unnoticed: one sports pundit was quoted as saying, “Give Coach Knight a week to prepare and he is likely to win the game.”

I don’t disagree. But over the years, I’ve come to believe Coach’s success came down to practice and preparation rather than any particular gifts of genius. He was relentless in preparation. He knew his business – his team – better than anyone else. I would argue that he actually knew the tendencies of the other team better than their coach in some situations.

The student managers (myself included) kept statistics at every practice, starting with the first drills in October all the way to the national championship game. The stats were compiled every day for the coaches to see a summary of shooting percentages, assists, rebounds and turnovers. The coaches would view the practice footage to see which tactics were the most effective. In addition, we broke down the stats on the cuts that started the offensive sets. Coaches would ask why we were performing better with one set in particular over another. For the answer, they looked at the daily video tape. As the season progressed, the coaches had more and more data to rely on to make in-game decisions. They understood the tendencies, the strength and the success we had against multiple defensive set ups and plays. It wasn’t luck. It was being prepared.

Financial planners need to have the same sense of intensive preparation. We need to understand our metrics better than anyone else. We have to know – I mean really know – our target clients, how often they want to meet, the time commitment each client needs, and the areas where we are most likely going to succeed. If we don’t understand our business, we will be inefficient and ineffective for our clients. In other words, we will lose the game because we can’t make adjustments.

Winning Strategy: Preparedness wins over talent and price in any situation. Be a champion. Know your business and prepare for success.

About the Author
Mike McGlothlin is a team leader, retirement industry activist and disciple of Indiana Hoosier basketball. In addition to being EVP of retirement at Ash Brokerage, he is a sought-after writer and speaker. His web series, “Winning Strategies,” provides insight and motivation for financial advisors in many forms – blogs, books, videos, podcasts and more. His latest book, “Free Throw for Financial Professionals,” is available now – learn more at