Growing your business is a topic of concern — as well as a huge challenge — for advisors. However, it’s also very important to protect the business you have worked so hard to develop; in fact, you may find that protecting what you have will also lead to growth. But how exactly does that work?

As a lawyer who defends advisors in regulatory matters and litigation, I have seen how one client complaint can wreak havoc on an advisor’s business. Of course, the legal costs — as well as the cost of any payment to a client, or the regulatory penalties — are obvious. However, the shockwave in the community, and the severity of the impact on an advisor’s confidence, with only a single complaint, can snowball into a tsunami of complaints by the complaining client’s family members and friends who are also clients. Furthermore, registered dealers are petrified of the impact of a compliant that might have merit that they don’t hesitate to terminate the advisor. Finding another dealer to register you while a client complaint is pending can be a challenge — especially when other advisors are trying to poach your clients in the interim.

So, how can you protect your business and grow it at the same time? You have heard of the importance of “know your client” (KYC) so many times that you now tune out when the issue is raised; you think, “Please, not again!” However, I suggest another way of looking at the concept of protecting your business — and growing it as well at the same time.

KYC really means understanding your client: What makes the client tick? What motivates the client and what fears does the client suffer from? What are the client’s goals and aspirations? This is not about completing a form; rather, it’s about truly understanding the client as he or she proceeds through the stages of life.

Issues to consider include: What services does the client need and who have you surrounded yourself with who can help the client? When the client looks to you as an important resource, you can become invaluable; and for every extra dollar the client earns, the call comes into you asking, “What should I do?” If clients observe that the advice is not in your best interest but theirs — for instance, “pay down your mortgage” as opposed to “give me the money to invest” — the clients’ confidence in you will grow exponentially.

These clients will want you to succeed because you have been instrumental in helping them meet their goals. They want to help you succeed. They will be attuned to sending you referrals. How do I know this? Because this is the relationship I have with my advisor. She is absolutely key to my financial health. She knows my financial successes and failures. She challenges my ideas and I challenge hers. As a result of my relationship with her, I want to help her, and I constantly talk about my advisor to others. I tell her and we work together to get these referrals into her door. I am helping my friends and family and she is growing her business at the same time.

So, take a real interest in your clients; get beyond the KYC form and the annual birthday card and understand their needs. They will take an interest in your success because you have taken an interest in theirs; in turn, they will be much less likely to sue you and far more likely to refer business to you. Give it a try. Be patient and good luck.