What Financial Planners Can Do To Make Their Table Bigger and It’s Not About More AUM, More Products, More Commissions or More Market Share


When you enter a poker room usually there are many different choices of tables that you can sit down at. Each table has different stakes, different players and different dynamics that change as the players come and go, and as players get excited, upset or tired.

In poker, people spend a lot of time learning the best strategy to play once you’re sitting down at a table. It’s like the financial planning business. Financial plannners spend a lot of time to get better when they’re in the business.

They think the game starts when they are at the job.

They think the game starts when sitting at the poker-table.

But does it?

As a poker player, the most important decision you can make is which table to sit at. This includes knowing when to change tables. An experienced player can make 10 times as much money sitting at a table with 9 mediocre players who are tired and have a lot of chips compared to sitting at a table with 9 really good players who are focused and don’t have that many chips in front of them.

In financial planning, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is what business to be in. It doesn’t matter how flawlessly you execute your business if you’re in the wrong business or you’re playing in a small market.

You could be the most efficient financial planner of the President of the United States and offer the best selection, the best service, and the best prices for the President. But if there isn’t a big enough market for your service, you’re not going to get very far.

Or, if you decide to start a business that competes directly against really experienced competitors by playing the same game they play (for example, trying to sell the same service at lower prices), then chances are that you will go out of business.

In a poker room, you can only choose which table you want to sit at.

But in the financial planning business, you don’t have to sit at an existing table. You can define your own, or make the one you’re already at even bigger.

Or, just like in a poker room, you can always choose to change tables.

Whatever vision you have for your financial planning business, there is a bigger vision that makes the table bigger.

What you can learn from Southwest Airlines

When Southwest Airlines first started, they didn’t see their target market as limited to just existing airline travellers, which is what all the other airlines did. Instead, they imagined their service as something that could potentially serve all the people that travelled by bus or by train.

They decided to sit at another table by designing their business around that.

They offered short flights at cheap prices, instead of going with the more prevalent “hub and spoke” model that other airlines were using. They made it easy for customers to change flights without paying huge penalties. And they turned their planes around at airports as fast as possible.

For most financial planners, the original vision is about more assets under management, more products, more commissions or more market share.

Because more is better in that vision.

When more is better, we struggle to obtain focus. Our instinct nudges us to a scattershot approach, because we fear missing an untried path.

More can lead to failure

In 2004, three years before the launch of the first iPhone, BlackBerry, who pioneered the smartphone had a market share of 47%. Four years ago Blackberry was the fastest growing company in the world.

Today it’s market share is just 2% and BlackBerry is facing obsolescence. The company had identified, occupied and dominated a product niche by developing a phone that could email. It was perfectly positioned to win more marketshare.

It turns out that a good (or even the best) product or service now is not enough to win the game in the future.

Should you change tables?

What if  Blackberry realized they couldn’t keep up with the revolution of the smartphone and would have changed tables?

Would that have made a difference?

No one knows.

What has happened to Blackberry is now happening in our business. This week I saw this tweet passing by:


Wealthfront is a software-based online financial advisor. No financial planner needed.

Do you see paralells with Blackberry vs. Apple?

Do you understand now that it could be in your interest to change tables?

Change tables or make your table bigger?

Brands big and small connect people through a culture that’s bigger than themselves.

At Zappos.com, the original vision was to just to try to sell more shoes online. But after a few years, they realized that they wanted and needed a bigger vision. So they made their table bigger.

Zappos envisioned the Zappos brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience.

The customer service vision enabled them to expand beyond just selling shoes. In fact, today they also sell clothing, bags, housewares, electronics, and even kitchenware.

Because the vision of Zappos is about building a brand around the best customer service, the future of the company isn’t even limited to just e-commerce. They can even start an airline.

Why? Because they can launch Zappos Airlines that’s just about delivering the very best customer service.

For your financial plannning business, have you thought about what you can do to make your table bigger?

What to do to make your table bigger

Zappos delivers “WOW” through excellent customer service. They make their customers feel special.

Zappos is the living proof of the fact that a prototype commodity-business can stand out by making their table bigger.

As Bernadette Jiwa says:

The brands that we care about make us feel like better versions of ourselves. They take account of what we believe, how we act and who we might want to become

Before you can make your table bigger, answer these questions:

What business are you in?

For example: are you selling financial planning or are you selling status?

When selling status, you sell something that flies in the face of the non-scarcity of the internet: a feeling of being important. Status is based on beauty plus scarcity plus expense. The fact that others believe your financial planning service is overpriced is precisely why a certain segment of the market chooses to purchase it.

What do your clients want from you?

Would they like a financial plan or knowing what to do?

Do they want wealth management or more time to do the things they love?

How do your clients want to feel?

Reassured, excited, happy, meaningful, responsible?

Whether in poker, in financial planning, or even in life, it’s easy to be so engrossed in what you’re doing right now that you forget that you always have a better option.

Psychologically, it’s hard because there’s a lot of inertia to overcome.

If your financial planning business isn’t growing, don’t be afraid to ask yourself these two questions:

Do I Need to Change Tables or Can I Make My Table Bigger?

If you want 30 Tips from Zappos To Help You Make Your Table Bigger, I’ll send you the PDF. All you have to do is to answer this question:

What is your opinion about making your table bigger? 

Please, leave your answer here below in the comment field. You’ll receive  a personal email from me with the 30 Tips. With your comment you’ll help me and other readers of this blog with insights and inspiration.

Please, leave your answer here below in the comment field. Thank you very much.

Together we can make financial planning matter.

To your success,

Ronald Sier

If you don’t want to miss the next tip to Make Your Financial Planning Business Matter then please fill in the boxes below and click.


Leave a Reply 27 comments

Tex Hooper Reply

Great tip about assessing your risks in your business and your investments. I need to get a planner to help me with my retirement. I don’t think I have enough cash flow.

Monika Müller Reply

We offer advisors, planners and consultants and coaches in German speaking countries a new table: FCM Finanz Coach. A finance coach can support clients in using new platforms (Wealthfront …). They have a neutral \”sounding board\” for their decision making process. Once they think they have learned enough, the coaching has fulfilled its purpose. Coaching is not an ever lasting process. It is more like a project. But clients can return and start with a new goal. This is just one possible table for the FCM Finanz Coach. We can observe that our trained FCM Finanz Coaches begin to create new tables and invite clients getting a service they never thought of. Talking to someone who is asking powerful questions instead of telling you what to do empowers you.

Bill Reply

I don\’t necessarily want a bigger table – I just want a (hopefully) unique table where I am comfortable and confident as the host, and a table that clients and prospects want to sit at because they know they are in for a rewarding experience.

Joseph van Tonder Reply

Excellent article! Must find ways to make my table bigger!

jeff Reply

e njoyed the articles. Come you send us all of the pdf\’s rather than sending you this emails.

Mike Clark Reply

Great article. We want to have a bigger table. We have looked at making our clients lives easier and happier. How to use money as one of the tools to do just that.

Ray Fernandez Reply

Helping people get what they need and what they want with regard to financial security.

William Bottomley Reply

Thank you for this Ronald. We concentrate on the \”why\” rather than the how or the what we do..this differentiates our business from others who are determined to push their what and their how! Our table just gets bigger and bigger because we are answering our client\’s and our own fundamental questions..why do we do the things we do…why do we live like this..why do we have concerns..why do we strive…and so on…it\’s about the client, it has nothing to do with the money!

Surlena Smith Reply

I would like to make my table bigger. I am in a limited client base country. I am in the business of making my clients have exclusive experience. I would like the 30 tips.

Peita Diamantidis Reply

We are focused heavily on this at the moment. Rather than being in the business of providing financial planning advice we are transitioning the business towards empowering clients to make large financial decisions. This broadens our scope to coaching services, a book, apps to assist with getting themselves sorted … i.e. much broader than the advice itself but all the before and afters that a client needs to really get their situation humming.
Great article, and looking forward to the tips 🙂

Geoff Reply

Determining what it is I do for my clients which they value. Charging fees not based on AUM but on value offered or provided. Scoping out what I do for clients on a regular basis and re engaging with them.

lisa ashton Reply

Thanks for the great article! I am currently in the process of changing my table. I am going to focus on cash flow management as I feel that clients need to be shown how to allocate their money. Handing them a plan and expecting them to be able to follow through without showing them how is useless. The last 3 mortgages I secured for clients were private and they were going to lose their homes. It made me realize people need assistance learning how to manage cash flow.
I look forward to reading the 30 tips! Keep up the great work.

Larry Reply

Excellent: I believe the very first step every planner should take, ios to see what must be his market. One step I preached was: do a time study of your self. For example: 1.Give yourself a goal of what income your really want this year. Say $500,000 2. Look at time available to earn it.. Say you want to work about 40 hours a week. You have a total of about 2000 hours this next 12 months. Now start
a subtraction series: a. How much time do you want for a vacation with family? Three Weeks? = 120 hours. b. How much time do you want for yourself and spouse? Lunches, travel etc. = Say 6 hours a week = 300 hours. c. in running your practice (Office time)? Say 1/2 of your time = 1000 Hrs. d. How much time for study, education, learning, meetings and conventions? It better be at least 20% of your time = 400 Hrs. d. How much for travel time? Probably2 to 3 hours a day = 50 Hrs. etc. JUST THESE, LEAVES YOU A LITTLE OVER 130 HOURS A YEAR TO MEET WITH CLIENTS, WHICH IS THE ONLY TIME YOU ARE MAKING ANY MONEY.
$500,000 divided by 300 hours means you have to earn $3,846 for every hour you are with your client. This is why a true planner cannot afford to work with the average client is now serving.

I had to earn $10,000 an hour with clients and did so.

Blake Reply

Well written article. Helped me to consider ideas that I had overlooked.

Larry Klein Reply

Excellent thought leadership. Could it be that Wealthfront has grown 300% because consumers realize that financial advisors do not add value (and so why pay them 1%+)? Buffet has pointed out many times that the Wall Street establishment, i.e. all of the hands in the investors pocket (from the rep to the wholesaler, the brokerage firm, the, product manufacturer, etc.) take 75% of the investor\’s return. Planners must know for whatever table they choose, what is the critical success factor for those sitting at the table? The value proposition offered better match the critical success factor as defined by the customer or they move to another table. Don\’t assume what they want, ask them.

Jay Reply

Very nice & inspiring article. It has motivated me to think beyond and make my table bigger. Instead of targeting existing investors in a particular financial product, its worth full to spend time on expanding the new clients and target a bigger market.Even having multiple products is a better idea than being focused to just one product and call it exclusive.Looking forward for more such mind blowing articles.

    Nigel Barker-Smith Reply

    It\’s not about the financial products!!!!!!

    Wealth flow on the Internet will eventually take all this business anyway, hence the example.

Matt Walz Reply

I would definitely enjoy reading the zappos piece as I start in the business. Building my business through value is of the utmost importance. I want my clients to feel \”special\” , each and every one of them.

Herko Reply

Hi Ronald, once again: So right and recognizable for me. I\’m thinking of changing tables, as we spoke over before. And you\’re helping me with thougthful insights. Thank you for that!

Adrian Kidd Reply

Great tips as always, I am using some of them to better articulate to people the value I add – and with a smaller table!

Ashish Reply

Your articles are very good, i am following them,Trying to add value to my clients life.
I want to make my table really big, Want to cater for a huge group in the market who may not afford to go to a reputed financial planner and pay higher fees.
Want to give quality at reasonable (Affordable) price.

Judith Reply

I am currently making my table smaller but making the experience one that the client will never forget. I am moving some of my client base to another financial planner so that I can focus more on my target market and thus generate more income. By making the service experience more lasting, I expect to get more quality leads. So by changing tables, I will in time make my table bigger.

Wil Huizinga Reply

Ronald, Why to be limited to the size of the table? I think by the shape of the table and well-fitting chairs the customers are much more actively involved in their comprehensive financial planning process. You should sit between the clients and not opposite. But I stand for ideas that can make me better.

Jose Reply

To make your table bigger all you need to do is create an holistic approach to each and every client of yours, think outside the box. Make them feel unique and very special and with that generally the size of business they bring to your table increases by amount, referrals, other businesses, recommendations and many times becoming themselves your free sales force. One other have huge impact in my business was personal branding.

Mike Reply

Thought provoking stuff. There is always an argument that the internet (or some other form of technology – remember the paperless office?) will revolutionise something in life. The one bit that technology cannot replace is face to face human contact where there is empathy, understanding and highly personalised planning & advice. That\’s the cornerstone of our business.

Walter Reply

You are so right. I have changed my table and make it BIG. But it\’s for one reason: helping clients. Besides of that: be honest to you clients!

mark Reply

Great piece. Look forward to receiving and reading the \”30 Tips from Zappos To Help You Make Your Table Bigger\”. Delivering service will keep clients but creating a Vision of the Experience/Journey is what is needed to attract them in the first place.

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