All too often I find myself in an interview with a candidate who speaks about the long hours they work like it’s a badge of honor. Usually, these are people currently working for large financial institutions, but I’ve noticed the same thing among people working for the big accounting firms. They believe their value to their employer can be measured by how many nights and weekends they work.

Maybe that’s true in the corporate world, but it has nothing to do with how to run a successful financial services practice.

The thing to keep in mind is that financial professionals do not make any money unless they are meeting with a potential client. We’re much more like craftspeople in this way—a toymaker doesn’t get paid based on how hard he or she works but by how many toys he or she can make and sell. Effort is irrelevant. We earn money only when we bring money in.

I recently had a conversation with one of our new financial professionals. His results had been less than stellar, so I asked to speak with him, hoping I could offer some counsel. He told me he had spent the last few months focused on making sure that he completely understood our primary product line and researching the most effective ways to market to prospective clients.

Bingo! Problem identified. This associate was so busy getting ready to do his job that he wasn’t doing his job. He’d hardly met with any potential clients. You can’t sell anything if you don’t talk to anyone, just like you can’t hit a baseball if you don’t take a swing.

When I confronted him, he got defensive, and told me all about how hard he was working, how often he was the first one in the office in the mornings and the last one to go home at night, how much work he took home with him. But all of that is irrelevant. Effort doesn’t get the work done, work gets the work done, and work is meeting with clients.

Learning more about your chosen profession is important and should not be overlooked. Yes, you should invest time and energy towards developing your skills. But these activities are important because they support and strengthen the other activities that actually build and grow your practice. Never fall into the trap of thinking that all vaguely work-related hours help pay the bills.

The activities that do pay the bills fall into just three categories:

1. Meeting with potential clients
2. Calling on potential clients to schedule a meeting
3. Finding new potential clients to call on.

The more time a financial professional spends doing these three things, the more success they will have in building a healthy, thriving practice.