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Lessons from the Fallen

by Dennis Stearns, CFP®, ChFC

Dennis Stearns, CFP®, ChFC, is president of Stearns Financial, a fee-only wealth management firm based in Greensboro, North Carolina. His company was named one of the 2008 Top 100 businesses in North Carolina, the only financial services business to receive this award. He can be reached at

“Organizational decline is largely self-inflicted, and recovery largely within our control.”

—Jim Collins

The storm from the “Great Recession” is easing and many tough lessons have already been indelibly etched into those of us who run a financial planning business. Jim Collins’s latest book, How the Mighty Fall, would have been a great roadmap for the leaders of many now-defunct companies on what minefields to avoid and how to turn a company around when it is in a freefall. Few have studied business success and failure deeper and with more texture than Jim Collins.

This is the perfect time to be studying those lessons and making sure that our businesses have been vaccinated against the perils that lie ahead in the rebound. In my work in the “super trend” areas (technology accelerators, globalization, and the global age wave), I’ve become convinced that the changes that lie just ahead will dwarf anything we’ve seen in the past. This massive change holds great opportunities but also means the “creative destruction” that is the backbone of capitalism will be magnified many times over. Making mistakes will have more rapid consequences, so learning what to avoid has never been more important, for our businesses and for helping educate our business and executive clients.

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