A friend of mine is a fashion photographer. He’d love to be able to just shoot, but he recognizes that while photography is his craft, it’s only one small part of his business. Picking up the camera and shooting is how he gets paid, but it’s all the other things he must do that ensure he builds a good business.
That means being responsible for the entire process of doing photography. It means surrounding himself with the right people – manager, agents, production assistants, and so on – building relationships, selling and marketing, as well as taking ownership of all aspects related to building a successful business. The hard part is while he’s an expert with a camera, he’s needed to learn the others skills that drive success in his business.
While it’s easy to see in his case the difference between his craft of photography and building a strong business as a photographer, it’s not always easy to see the same is true in your career on Wall Street.
For instance, when you’re an investment banker, your job is to do investment banking. If you’re an M&A specialist, your craft, doing M&A deals is your bread and butter, but that’s only a small part of success in building your career. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and desire to “just do deals,” you too must be responsible for managing all other aspects of your career.
That’s become harder to do. In the old days of banking, many M&A specialists could simply be execution bankers. There was less emphasis on their role in marketing and sitting inside powerful merger departments they also had less need to manage other aspects of their career. Today, that has radically changed. All bankers today are relationship bankers. They must be just as proficient at driving relationships and revenues as they are at being able to drive a deal. So, to be a successful banker you must, like my photographer friend, develop all the skills you need to drive your career.
For many bankers this can be hard to do. I remember, in particular, after the Internet bubble burst and many M&A bankers were forced to become relationship bankers many of them failed to believe they had the skills. They were excellent in deal dynamics, but when it came to wining and dining clients and building long-term relationships many simply lacked the skills to build a strong business.
One way to do that is to see you are running a one man business inside your firm. That although you might see yourself as “an employee” of your firm, in fact you can see yourself more as a partner. You can see that you partner your labor with your firm, in exchange for your efforts, you get access to all the resources of your firm to build your business. In this sense, you are not an entrepreneur, like my friend the photographer, but you an intrepreneur driving your business inside your firm.
One of the most successful Partner’s at Goldman is said to have managed his career this way. It’s said that even as a first year Associate he saw himself as in effect renting the desk at Goldman. He would come in every day, pick up the phone and start calling clients. He is an M&A specialist, one of the best in the world, but his greatest value to Goldman is he’s paired his craft with building deep and powerful relationships and having driven his brand and business from within the firm.
Think about what that means in your career. How can you see that you have all the resources around you to drive your own business inside your firm? Can you see all the ways that your career success is distinct from your craft, and that like my friend the photographer, what matters is you develop the skills to drive your career? How can you see running your career as a business will have you shoot through your firm?