5 Lessons to Help You Become an Industry Disruptor
Do you know what a fiduciary is? If you do (and you never went to law school), that knowledge may be based on the mission and vision of Elliot Weissbluth.
Weissbluth is the founder and CEO of HighTower, a firm of fiduciary advisors with an open-source platform of various industry-leading financial products and solutions. To those outside of the finance sector, this means that instead of working with one financial institution’s broker, who sells you an option of that institution’s products and services, you work with an independent advisor who is legally obligated to advise you on the best product or solution for your portfolio -- from various financial institutions.
When Weissbluth founded HighTower in 2007, he entered the finance industry as a disruptor from the outside. Now, however, he is regarded as an industry figurehead, and he has been included on Worth Magazine’s Power 100 list, Investment Advisor’s list of top 25 most influential people in the industry and many more in recent years. He is also a regular guest on CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg.
Weissbluth is not only passionate about the financial industry, but he also has a lot of unique insights about starting a business in a new industry, scaling that business, securing funding, growing a team and more.
Here are his five keys to entrepreneurial success when disrupting an industry.
1. Learn to spot problems.
If you have not yet gone out on your own, or if you want to start another new business, don’t just look for monetization opportunities. Disruptors usually find everyday problems, annoyances, roadblocks or points of confusion, so start to take note of those. Weissbluth says that he noticed significant confusion in the financial market. Beyond confusion, he discovered a practice that he felt to be flat-out wrong, and he got flat-out angry about it.
“That anger caused me to want to solve a problem," Weissbluth says. "Once you begin to solve a problem and you begin to understand the problem can be solved, then you have a propelling catalyst.”
People often overlook opportunities that don’t have a world-changing quality to them, but Weissbluth mentions Uber, explaining that even solving small annoyances can offer a huge opportunity.
Just remember, he says, “You can’t just solve something because it feels good. It has to be a commercial issue.”
2. Choose a problem that you’re passionate about.
Commercial possibilities are not enough, though, Weissbluth says. The solution itself needs to inspire you. The desire for money or fame will not sustain you through the difficult ups and downs of launching a business.
“Motivation [for those things] will dissipate," Weissbluth says. "You have to be mission-critical, focused on solving a problem.”
The fact that he used the word “mission” conveys his commitment. Weissbluth went into a new industry willing to admit there was plenty he didn’t know, and he says he had to get over his initial embarrassment.
Are you passionate enough to be a rookie and not an expert? To appear naive or uneducated at first? Weissbluth was, and it paid off.
3. Share the solution.
To make an impact, you have to make sure that the market understands the problem that you aim to solve as well as your unique solution. You must be able to communicate clearly and effectively. Weissbluth used a simple analogy -- the butcher vs. the dietitian -- to explain the differences between a financial broker and a fiduciary.
Beyond creating a great story and a visually interesting video, Weissbluth made the video available to anyone in the industry who wanted to use it. Now a LinkedIn Influencer, he learned to use social media to spread the message, even though he’s more comfortable on the phone or face-to-face.
This generosity and mission-centric vision led to a partnership with Tony Robbins, which increased HighTower’s brand visibility considerably. The brand recognition and company culture, one of service provision rather than product sales, continually attracts independent advisors and fiduciary mom-and-pops to Weissbluth’s firm.
4. Build a team around you.
“You have to accept early on that you cannot do it alone,” Weissbluth says.
His trusted inner circle of five senior staffers lead the organization of more than 400 employees. Aside from his staff, he has a close network of friends, fellow board members and investors that he can lean on for support when he needs them. You will need them, he assures, because entrepreneurship is “an absolutely volatile path.”
How do you find those people?
“Look everywhere," Weissbluth says. "Do not just look inside your industry or the typical places." He recommends that you look for people who possess the same sense of urgency, complimentary skill sets and the ability to keep up with the fast pace of entrepreneurship. If you can find people who are also smarter than you, “grab them and hold onto them.”
5. Believe in -- and sacrifice for -- your solution.
Did Weissbluth have to make a lot of sacrifices over the past eight years in order to get to where he is today? Absolutely.
“Anybody who is thinking about launching a business and bringing about change has to accept that it’s an exhausting process," Weissbluth says. "You make sacrifices to do that.”
But, he says, those early sacrifices pay off later after the company has stabilized. He was able to secure more than $150 million in funding during an economic meltdown. To achieve such a feat, you have to be passionate.
“If you believe you are going to solve a big problem," he says, "other people will buy into that passion and they will support it.“
He says that he never doubted his mission. As for his advice to those trying to grow a young business, “You simply have to do it. You commit and you don’t stop until you succeed, period.”
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