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A recipe for success: Chefs and financial advisors may have more in common than you think.

illustration with people cooking in a kitchen at home

When dining out wasn’t an option during the pandemic, I took a more active interest in cooking and watching cooking shows. I ended up learning a lot about a handful of famous chefs and something struck me that I had never considered – the parallels between running a successful restaurant and building and running a successful wealth management practice.

One example was Thomas Keller, chef and owner of The French Laundry (the first restaurant in the United States to earn Michelin’s top 3-star rating) and several other highly acclaimed restaurants across the country. Renowned for his meticulous attention to quality, Keller learned early in his career to follow his passion, focus on what he’s really good at, and leave the rest to others. I watched a fascinating video where Keller described the network of partners he’s cultivated around the restaurant. Keller said, “Doing things that other people do better is not necessarily good because you’re doing it yourself… Smoking your own salmon or making your own ketchup yourself doesn’t necessarily result in something better than the guy in Scotland whose family has been smoking salmon for generations.”

Keller relies on a network of farmers, foragers, and fishermen to make sure he’s serving the highest quality ingredients to his customers at The French Laundry. He doesn’t need to be an expert at smoking salmon to prepare an amazing smoked salmon risotto. He relies on trusted partners who specialize in supporting the myriad elements he needs to deliver a consistently superior customer experience – whether that means curing fish, foraging for fresh mushrooms, or managing reservations.

Many advisors I work with have a similar vision for the exceptional experience they want to provide their clients. There are three questions that I find top advisors commonly asking themselves:

  • “How do we consistently create an environment where we can meet the needs of clients over the long term?”
  • “What functions do I want my team to become excellent at?”
  • “Who do we need to partner with to make sure that we’re delivering excellence even in areas that are not the core capabilities of our team?”

Like Keller, the most successful advisors focus on their core strengths and the value they provide – and lean on partners they know they can trust to support other aspects of their practice. You don’t meet many advisors who got into this business because they want to monitor the regulatory landscape to stay abreast of the latest changes, or because they’re interested in data integrations between vendors. While I’m sure they could put in the requisite time to be pretty good at those things, I’ve found that advisors who focus on areas where they add the most value are both happier and more impactful. For the vast majority of advisors, that means directing the bulk of their time and energy at helping their clients achieve their goals.

Another well-known restaurateur, Jose Andres, provides a second example of a chef whose values and passion for his work remind me of advisors who view their business as a calling – particularly those who view it as one of the primary vehicles through which they can positively impact the lives of their clients and communities. Andres is the award-winning chef/owner of Think Food Group, which operates several top-rated restaurants in the U.S. and Mexico. His success as a chef, bestselling author, educator and TV personality led to his founding of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that has served more than 50 million meals to people impacted by natural disasters, from the U.S. to Mozambique to Lebanon. During the pandemic, World Central Kitchen activated thousands of restaurants and kitchens to feed people in need as well as medical professionals on the front lines.

Just as Andres is using his talents to pursue a noble purpose by helping to feed people in times of crisis, advisors in our Thrivent Advisor Network community demonstrate their passion for helping clients pursue dreams they wouldn’t have thought imaginable without a trusted financial planning partner. I often think about one of our advisors who helped a client plan for years in order to carry out his dream to fund a hospital in Tanzania. After a lifetime of work in and passion for that community, planning for this type of a contribution was literally the joy of a lifetime for the client. Likewise, helping the client to plan for reaching this goal brought great satisfaction to the advisor.

Advisors who view the world this way know that anytime they help someone create a financial plan, they’re impacting more than just their client’s own life. The client’s plans and decisions have the ability to have far-reaching ripple effects. Like great chefs who view success as more than filling seats in their restaurants, purpose-driven advisors want their work to be far more significant than simply helping people grow wealth for the sake of having a high account balance. It’s about helping clients achieve financial clarity and live lives full of meaning, while having a positive impact on the world around them.

While I realize that an advisor’s daily routine and responsibilities bear little resemblance to what chefs typically do, it may be worthwhile to consider how the parallels between the two professions might help you to view your business from a different perspective. If your goal is to fully leverage your talents so you can have a greater impact on your clients and the causes they believe in, you might want to consider these questions:

  • Are you delivering a cohesive client experience where all parts are flawless – or are you so focused on doing everything yourself that your service model may be suffering?

  • How could outsourcing some aspects of your business to a trusted partner elevate, rather than detract from, the client experience you’re able to deliver?

  • Does your current business model allow you to fully align the work you do with your values, so you can enjoy the satisfaction of pursuing a higher purpose through your work?

At Thrivent Advisor Network, we offer purpose-driven advisors the guidance, support and autonomy they need to focus on what’s most important – providing an amazing client experience and achieving their vision for their business. We think that’s a great recipe for success.