How does an underdog take out Goliath? Easy, change the game.

I enjoy reading as much as I can – it’s not always easy with three kids under the age of seven – but when I can, a good book is a great use of my free time. I just wrapped up David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcom Gladwell. As usual, he hit a home run and I sped through the book in a day or two.

Gladwell asks how did David battle and beat Goliath? How do underdogs beat those individuals or groups who, at least on paper, seem superior? The answer is pretty straight forward: change the rules of the game and meet opponents where they aren’t prepared to fight. 

I’m confident that many of you with successful practices have done the same – you’ve grown, and found your competitive advantage and won where others weren’t prepared.

If you’re in the retirement space – there are two areas that can help you change the game and approach the market where most aren’t prepared to fight: retirement plan investment lineups and retirement readiness.

Obviously, these aren’t new ideas (so hold the collective sighs), but neither was how the battle unfolded between David and Goliath. Similar battles had been fought in this manner before, but what changed were the rules – and how David applied his advantages. That’s what I’m talking about here.

1. Find a new direction for retirement plan investment lineups

I’ve seen some successful advisor practices start to move away from filling out the Morningstar style boxes and instead concentrate on developing investment lineups focused on reducing risks that directly affect investors – their ability to sustain their lifestyle during retirement, market volatility, and inflation.

By focusing on outcomes, these advisor practices found their competitive advantage – they’ve developed consulting expertise using target date funds, risk based or other asset allocation tools to directly address investor concerns. They’re constructing retirement plan lineups to help manage risk, and they’re winning because of it.

2. Preparing employees for retirement

As Americans continue to take on more responsibility for their own retirement, advisors are helping plan sponsors create retirement programs that help participants reach their goals. Incorporating plan design expertise, with behavioral science and the right mix of communication and education is an art that needs to be continually refined.

Where’s the David and Goliath analogy here? Simple – it’s not a new topic, but how many advisors aren’t having this conversation with clients or haven’t implemented it? The game changer: the advisor who can illustrate to a plan sponsor what successful outcomes look like and how to get there. I’ll go over this in greater detail, but a good deal of research suggests advisors have an opportunity to change the game with clients and prospects.

Coming soon, I’ll dig into each of these game changers. I may even phone a friend for some additional insight on how you can change the battleground and tackle your Goliath.


In addition to blogging here, I also tweet regularly about advisor-focused practice management topics like sales and lead generation, marketing, service and management/operations. Follow me on Twitter at @Rschutty.

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Affiliation Disclosures

Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company. Securities are offered through Princor Financial Services Corporation, 1-800-547-7754, Member SIPC and/or independent broker dealers. Securities sold by a Princor® Registered Representative are offered through Princor. Princor and Principal Life are members of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

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