The Importance Of Continuing Professional Education

6 minute read

The industry for Financial Professionals is information-driven. We must, by regulatory and industry requirements, commit to a continuous learning process. Even in those areas where we consider ourselves experts, we must continue to avail ourselves of the information that keeps us at the cutting edge of our industry. We must pledge to be lifetime learners through continuing professional education: both within the financial retail industry and in the growth and development of our Professional Practice.

It was probably easy for you when you first entered the industry. You knew nothing, and everything was brand new. You may have spent days devouring every book on which you could get your hands. However, as your tenure in the industry increased, you tended to stop reading as much as you once did. My suggestion is that you resume that trend from your early days, continuing your professional education.

Here are some books that I have found informative and life-changing. While not industry-specific, they have challenged me to evolve my thinking and helped me create the basis of my Professional Practice.

Emotional Intelligence

Many years ago, Daniel P. Goleman wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence. Here, for the first time, he split off the “IQ,” the intelligent quotient, from what he called the “EQ,” the emotional quotient. He said that while intelligence is important if you look at those individuals who have achieved tremendous success, you will find that it was not because of their intellect but rather because of their emotional intelligence. The book’s premise is that certain fundamental skills have nothing to do with intelligence. Instead, they are relationship-oriented skills that tend to be forgotten as a person is moving up in an organization or building a business. He argues that these skills are more important than technical skills.

Working With Emotional Intelligence

Goleman came out with a sequel to the book called Working with Emotional Intelligence, another book that I would recommend. The book is informative, but it is also extremely practical in its application. The first few chapters are simply a review of his original text. Then he goes into detail about how you can apply emotional intelligence aspects of your life to your work environment, managing your team, and managing your organization and client relationships. He offers great insight into the inner workings of the people around you.

The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life

I had another book referred to me a while back called The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life by Robert Fritz. Surprisingly enough, this book talks about the steps of creation. The basic premise is that most of us live our lives in problem-solving mode, yet that mode itself does not lead us to where we want to go. The author contends that we need to move into a creative mode or cycle that allows us to learn how to create rather than just problem solve.

The E-Myth Series

Michael Gerber wrote a book called The E-Myth, which revolutionized the entrepreneurial world. He later revised it with his book called The E-Myth Revisited. It is the classic work on what an entrepreneur is today and why most entrepreneurial adventures fail. As Gerber says, the problem with most entrepreneurs is that they are outstanding technicians and, at heart, not good entrepreneurs. He continues his “E” series with a book called The E-Myth Manager. In this book, he addresses reasons why management does not work and why this past model tends not to produce the results for which everyone is looking. I highly suggest using this as a new model for managing a business practice.

Selling the Invisible

As you move into marketing, one of the best books available today is a tiny hardback called Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith. He subtitles his work as “A Field Guide to Modern Marketing.” This book comprises hundreds of minor suggestions to help you refocus on what is most important in the sales process. Each essay concentrates on one marketing concept and is no more than a page or two long, providing quick and easy reading.

Raving Fans

Ken Blanchard, famous for his book The One Minute Manager, teamed up with Sheldon Bowles to write a book entitled Raving Fans. This book explains how to use customer service to create a confident attitude about your organization or, in other words, how to build advocacy among your client base. In Blanchard and Bowles’ model, your clients will not only view your organization as something worthwhile, but they will become raving fans.

The Experience Economy

Next is The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore. Their book focuses on the metaphor of being an actor in the theater. Because our society wants to be entertained and views everything as an experience, we must change how we relate to our clients in terms of both marketing and client service. The entire experience shifts because work now becomes theater. As the subtitle states, “every business is a stage.” It is an exciting perspective because clients have dramatically changed how they view the marketing and sales process. This book touches on many of the reasons behind those changes.

The Discipline of Market Leaders

One of the best books that I can recommend regarding understanding your business and where it is today is a book by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema called The Discipline of Market Leaders. It concentrates on how to narrow your business focus and dominate your market. The entire point is that there are three types of businesses in any industry. The full-service business offers a wide array of goods and services; there is the low-cost provider that competes in terms of price; there is the quality provider who can charge a premium for a higher level of personal service. Treacy and Wiersema provide examples from the airline industry, express mail services, and the securities industry. They prove that there is a clear leader in each of these three major industries in each of the three categories. The challenge is to decide where you want to compete, whether through full service, price, or quality. It is an outstanding book that will radically change your perspective on your business.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

After Stephen Covey wrote the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, James Collins and Jerry Porras wrote a book called Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. The book Built to Last looks at the habits that these companies create internally to develop the discipline and procedures that will allow them to establish long-term relationships with clients and long-term growth in market share and opportunities. Though they discuss giant corporations, a small consulting team can apply the tools and principles.

These are just a few examples of some of the books that might help with continuing professional education and becoming a lifetime learner. I also recommend that you strive to read one book every month outside of your industry that deals with the business of management and marketing. Part of building a better business is maintaining good information flow. Though you are around tremendous amounts of information during your workday, you must put time aside to add input from outside the industry and feed your mind.

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