On the learned habits of self-discipline and time management, featuring Helena Bakunowicz

Helena_BakunowiczSince founding The Investment Boutique five years ago in Oxted, England, Helena Bakunowicz has spent a carefully apportioned amount of time thinking about the topic of leadership.

“To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to have that sense of being a polymath,” she said. “You have to take accountability and responsibility in areas where you aren’t necessarily an expert.”

She has come to understand that many of the skills that have made her successful as a wealth manager are distinct from those that make a successful leader. Some experiences carry over – we are more than our resumes, after all. Other experiences, taken at face value, risk limiting perspective. With this understanding, she has approached her own role within the practice with the same diligence and discipline as she applies to managing her clients’ wealth.

First, there is the clock. The dual responsibilities of practitioner and practice leader demands a certain mastery of the day. “If you could magic a few extra hours in the day, that would be wonderful,” Bakunowicz said. Instead, one can recognize that, “You can do it all – you can have it all – but not all at the same time. I’m a very stringent user of time-management tools. I also use a very simple concept about importance and urgency.”

Even with each hour kept in line, it can be easy to get overwhelmed if your goal is to solve every problem that comes through the practice. Just as each associate on her team has a role, she said it has been important for her role to be similarly well-defined.

This means she aims to spend most of her practice leader time in that top-right corner, doing work that is important and not urgent, including process refinement, business strategy and personnel management. That focus on the longer term is her greatest value to the practice.

“As much as possible, I prioritize structure,” Bakunowicz said.

Bakunowicz has also become comfortable holding the mirror up to her own performance, strengths and limitations. (This can also help when hiring, leading you to bringing in people with complementary talents and perspectives.) Having a professional circle, like her business partner, Richard Arris, and Raymond James’ Women Wealth Manager Network, help her hone ideas and make objective assessments. In practices with a single leader, she recommends working with a business coach and networking group to serve as collaborative sounding boards.

The value in others’ experience is a major theme in Bakunowicz’s approach to leadership. In the more ossified corners of the finance industry, there can be expectations that someone pay their dues before piping up. New hires can be a fount of clear perspective, though.

“I encourage people to make a contribution. I want to know if there is anything we do in the business that seems counterintuitive to them. They still have a fresh set of eyes,” she said. As they develop in their role, Bakunowicz also encourages them to make the role their own and lean into their experience to help shape policy and process."

“I encourage people to make a contribution. I want to know if there is anything we do in the business that seems counterintuitive to them. They still have a fresh set of eyes.”

In some ways, her approach seems free of ego, but there is something to be said for a healthy sense of what you want and a desire to get it. Otherwise, Bakunowicz may never have founded The Investment Boutique with Raymond James Investment Services, a reflection of her desire to offer wealth management complementary to the specific complexities of her clients’ lives.

Ultimately, her top priority each day – above process, policy, personnel and all the things that go into making a business run – are her clients and their well-being. All of the above is built to support that one goal.

“They sit at No. 1 on top of my tree, and everything else comes underneath that.”

This piece was featured in Aspire Magazine, a biannual publication from the Women Financial Advisors Network. View the latest.

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