“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”—Wyatt Earp
“It is a fine thing to be honest, but it is also very important to be right.”—Winston Churchill
While reading in the Old Testament book of Exodus, my attention was riveted by the simple word, “fine.” For context, Moses successfully led the people of Israel out of Egypt, and they began their forty-year wanderings in the wilderness.
In Exodus 16, after one and a half months in the wilderness, the hungry, tired, and worn-out people of Israel began grumbling against their leaders: Moses, and Aaron. If you know this story, you are aware that God heard their complaints and began providing sporting fowl (quail) each evening, and something called “manna” each morning.
For us living 3400 years later it is hard to know what manna was like. Even back then it was a bit of a puzzle. “When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.”1
We read this description of manna: “In the morning, dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.”2
There it is. “Fine.” Repeated twice. The Hebrew word translated “fine” is Daq. It means a “very little thing, small, thin.”
Point: On occasion we benefit from taking a commonly used word and examining its application to our business practices, our personal character, and to the impact that we are having on others.
How do we as independent financial professionals (IFPs) use the word “fine?”
I consulted a dictionary to learn the various meanings of the word. It is polysemous. (Like “run” or “bank” it has several meanings). Consider some of these various definitions of the word “fine:”3
- All right, well, or healthy: not sick or injured
- Superior in kind, quality, or appearance: excellent
- Very small, very thin in gauge or texture
- Very precise or accurate
- Delicate, subtle, or sensitive in quality, perception, or discrimination
Let’s ask ourselves three very fine questions:
- Can we categorically state that our clients are doing fine? (All right, well, or healthy.)
- Can we describe the planning that we do, and the products that we recommend, as being fine? (Superior in kind, quality: excellent.)
- Do our clients experience the attention we pay them as being fine? (Very precise, detailed, accurate, discriminating, perceptive, of high quality.)
As an IFP, you want to know how your clients are doing. At. All. Times. But how?
Here are several ideas:
- Talk to them. With current technology, it is even easier to talk with our clients because we have countless ways to connect to one another. When we talk with a client, we should not be afraid to get a little bit personal. Fine means healthy, and that extends beyond just financial wellbeing.
- Follow your clients across all social media platforms. You will discover that they are eager to post important events, milestones, celebrations, new purchases, and sometimes–they grow silent. That is when you really need to check in on them.
- Remind yourself of their goals, dreams, and objectives and keep these same ideas in front of them. By doing so you become known as someone who is worth doing business with.
Point: Frequent, intentional, client-centered contact is the only way to know if your clients are fine.
“These Are Fine!”
An IFP delivers excellent service and products when the clients’ expectations are met or exceeded. How do we know when we have met that test?
- Customer retention will tell us. If we are a fee-based practice, are our clients willing to continue to meet with us and pay the fees?
- Repeat business is key to knowing that we enjoy continued trust.
- Measure the clients’ enthusiasm with surveys.
- Take client complaints seriously.
- Measure client satisfaction by percentage of new clients earned through referrals.
- Track the number of attorney, accountant, and insurance professionals you get introduced to by satisfied clients.
Point: It is easy to delude ourselves that we are providing fine, excellent service and products. Our beliefs need verification.
Nobody likes to have someone else look over their shoulder. Being inspected or audited is uncomfortable. The regulatory environment in which IFPs operate demands that we invite scrutiny. We need to know that our recommendations and financial reviews are both precise and accurate. Like scientists.
“Precision and accuracy are two ways that scientists think about error. Accuracy refers to how close a measurement is to the true or accepted value. Precision refers to how close measurements of the same item are to each other. Precision is independent of accuracy. That means it is possible to be very precise but not very accurate, and it is also possible to be accurate without being precise. The best quality scientific observations are both accurate and precise.”4
Think of the game of darts. The goal is to hit the bulls-eye (center) of a dartboard.
- The closer that the dart lands to the bulls-eye, the more accurate the throw is.
- If you throw two darts and they are neither close to the bulls-eye, nor close to each other, your throws are neither accurate, nor precise.
- If all of the darts you throw hit the board very close together, but far from the bulls-eye, there is precision, but not accuracy.
- If you throw four darts and all four land an equal distance from the bulls-eye, your throws are accurate, but not precise
- If the darts that you throw land close to the bulls-eye and close together, there is both accuracy and precision.
Point: Your service and the products that you recommend must be both precise and accurate. Your clients’ goals and objectives are the bulls-eye. Helping them reach their goals is the way to measure precision. Their risk tolerance, budget, and willingness to accept loss are each to be considered as a measure of accuracy.
When I checked where else in the Old Testament the Hebrew word Daq, translated “fine,” might appear, I was surprised and delighted with what I found.
In the book of 1 Kings, chapter 19, we find the prophet of God, Elijah, fleeing for his life. (He discovered that it is dangerous to criticize the King and Queen). He hid in a cave. God said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”4 Then, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by. Theophany can be startling because it is not what we would expect.
- First, a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
- Second, an earthquake shook the ground, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
- Third, fire blazed in scorching heat and flame, but the Lord was not in the fire.
No, after the strong winds, earthquake, and fire, there came the sound of a low whisper. (Literally, a fine silence.) God showed His presence in near silence. As the story unfolds, however, fine Divine silence does not mean Divine inactivity.
As an IFP you need to keep the idea of fine silence, quiet presence in mind.
- You are not required to be wildly entertaining, come across as brilliant, become pesky, or force your opinions on your clients. Let your presence be fine.
- Your products do not have to be heralded as the best, the cheapest, the highest performing, the leading one of its kind, etc. You are aiming for fine.
- You do not have to have all the answers. There’s a big difference between demonstrating your abilities and acting like a know-it-all. Your mastery of the concepts already exceeds those of the client and is likely just fine.
- Don’t try to impress through technical speech. Unless you’re absolutely sure the client understands the meaning of an acronym or what a buzzword means, stick to simpler terms. Don’t use words in your written communication (emails, planning documents, and text messages) that you wouldn’t use during verbal communication (in person or on the phone). People find plain vocabulary to be just fine.
- Bite your tongue. No client relationship is perfect, and disagreements with clients are bound to occur. Rather than responding angrily or defensively to a client who is being rude, take a step back, show self-restraint, breathe, and stay away from offensive statements—even if they’re warranted. Loud vocal volume or intensity is never fine.
“Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.”—Robert Benchley
If you are already exemplifying all of the above, I believe you are already a fine IFP!
- Exodus 12:15, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
- Ibid, Exodus 16:13-14.
- 1 Kings 19:9, The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
- Ibid, 1 Kings 19:11.