Document Your Processes and Finally Build Your Franchise!

FRANCHISE IMAGEIn my most recent writing dated April 10, 2018, I talked about how to get buy-in on writing and using processes.  We all know why this is important…not just from an accountability standpoint but from the view of getting YOUR way of doing business” documented so it’s repeatable.  In other words, Building Your Franchise.

TSI has spent a great deal of time studying the dynamics that go into documenting your franchise.  We understand it is one thing to say you need to document your processes but an entirely different proposition to actually get it done.  We have helped many of our clients get their processes down and what follows are what we have determined to be the easiest and most efficient ways.

So here are our ideas! Let us know what you think.

Write all the steps on post-its – yep, it’s still the most effective way!

The first step in documenting a process is to get everyone that will work on that process in a room to discuss the steps.  Everyone that will be using the process needs to be involved in the creation, even if one person is only involved in a small part.  Then, as a team, begin writing each individual task that needs to be completed on post-it notes and arrange them on a surface (conference table, window, office door) in the order that they need to be completed.  Some tasks can or should be completed simultaneously and you can group those post-its accordingly.   You can also use a program called Stormboard (www.stormboard.com) that lets you use “virtual” post-it notes.

Trim the fat

Once you have all the steps laid out, confirm that your process begins at the beginning and ends at the natural end of the process.  This can be challenging, there may be ambiguities, and the team may debate where to begin and end the process.  For example, sending someone who would like to become a client your contract for services can fall into a “Prospect” process or a “New Client Onboarding” process.  Some firms continue their “Prospect” process until all necessary documents are signed and returned, while others will have this step at the beginning of the “New Client Onboarding” process.  There is no right answer.  For most processes, you should begin at the beginning and end with a follow-up or confirmation. 

One easy way to know where to end a process is to ask yourself, “What does the completed product look like?” or “What is the final result we are looking for?”  Is your “New Client Onboarding” process complete after the first meeting with the client?  After you have delivered the financial plan?  After a three month check-in call?  It will be different for every firm. 

Once you define the beginning and end of the process, trimming and combining tasks that are done simultaneously will lead to greater efficiency.  Instead of having three steps for 1) input client information into Redtail, 2) input client information into eMoney, 3) input client information into XYXY, you can combine these steps into one task of “input client information into Redtail, eMoney, and XYXY.”  You should try to save yourself and your employees from too many unnecessary completion clicks.  More information can be added to the notes or explanation of a step in the process. 

Assess logical relationships between steps

Most CRMs have a way to trigger two steps or tasks in a process simultaneously, and you should be thinking about the logical relationships among the tasks before you put them into your CRM process.  For example, in a quarterly report process, one person could be responsible for writing the cover letter and another person could be responsible for compiling and printing the investment reports.  Both of the tasks need to be completed before moving on the next step of preparing to mail the reports, but either task can be completed first.  Identifying and preparing for these concurrent operational tasks can save you a big headache when running the process.  Ask yourself, “What must be done before we move to the next step?”

Input into your CRM and assign a trigger person

Finally, you will need to input the written process into your CRM.  We have found it is easiest to identify who the power user of your CRM is and have that person put all of the process into the CRM.  When you have multiple people putting processes into your CRM in different ways, the water gets muddy very quickly.  The person who inputs the process into the CRM is often NOT the person who is responsible for starting or triggering the process.  One person should be assigned to start the process and this is usually the person who receives the first piece of information in the process.  If you typically come back from a marketing event with a handful of business cards and give those cards to a specific person in your office, that person should be responsible for starting or triggering the “Prospect” process. 

Once you have a process inputted into your CRM and you have tested that it works the way it was designed, we recommend looking at any outstanding processes in your weekly staff meeting.  This way you will be able to see where the process is being stalled and if it needs to be tweaked in any way.  It is very common to have small tweaks along the way to include information that was previously omitted or to re-assess how the logical relationships of tasks drive the process. 

We have helped many of our clients write processes and input them into their CRMs.  If you would like to talk about how we can help your firm with this challenge, feel free to book a complimentary call on our calendar through this link.

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How to Finally Get Buy-In on Writing and Using Processes

CREATE WORKFLOWS PROCESSESWith CRM technology becoming more and more robust, written processes and workflows that are integrated into your CRM can be an invaluable tool to keep moving things forward and to track what has been done for your clients.  Writing and inputting processes into your CRM can be an onerous task in itself.  Going through your firm’s processes and figuring out how if-then logic trees will integrate with your CRM can drive some people mad.  However, we have found one of the biggest hurdles is to get everyone to use the processes once they are in the CRM. 

Owners are sometimes the worst offenders in failing to use the CRM processes because you know what needs to be done and you know how to do it.  However, there are some tools that we use to ensure that your team continues to use processes you’ve developed.

Invite everyone that will be assigned a task in a process to collaborate when it is written.  One of the best ways to get buy-in is to have everyone that will take part in any process help develop and write it.  People are more likely to continue to use a tool if they participated in its development.  They have already invested a good deal of time into it during the development phase and they want to make that effort meaningful and not forgotten. 

Assign a point-person for each process.

It’s important to have one person who is responsible for kicking off or starting each process.  If a process can be started by anyone, it is more likely that no one will do it.  When there is a point person for a specific process, and it is solely that person’s responsibility to kick it off in your CRM, it is much easier to track.  We also recommend looking at outstanding processes each week in your staff meeting and discussing any times that someone should have started a process, but didn’t.  A mild public shaming can go a long way. 

Start slow and gain steam.

One mistake some firms make is to try to write and integrate too many processes all at one time.  If on a Friday, you have no processes and then on Monday, your team comes in and you expect them to start using twenty processes, it is going to be a difficult transition.  We recommend starting with assigning one process to each employee who will be the point person.  After 3-4 months of using those processes, you can begin to add more.  People need to get in the habit of using them before assigning more. 

Consider the user and don’t over-engineer the processes.

One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard from employees tasked to use processes is that they end up taking more time than just completing the task.  While a slight time deficit is okay when you first start using processes, the fewer steps in a process generally make it easier to use.  When you are developing and writing processes, it is important to capture every step, but when you integrate it into your CRM, it is equally important to eliminate or combine any steps that are superfluous or can happen simultaneously.  The users of the process don’t want to have to go back to the CRM and click to complete actions after every tiny detail is completed.  Generally, the fewer clicks, the better.

We have helped firms write and integrate processes so that everyone buys in and continues to use them.  It creates an environment where it is very easy to track where outstanding tasks are and when to expect them to be completed.  Give us a call if you would like to discuss how we can help your firm. 

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Delegate & Elevate OR How to Keep Your Revenue Growing

DELEGATE ELEVATEIn January, I talked about “Letting Go of the Vine” and why this is so crucial to achieving the success you deserve.  If you didn’t read this post, you might want to read it here  before you read this blog. 

So after you have taken the time to track your activities for some period of time and gone through the exercise I suggested in January’s blog of figuring what you enjoy to do and do well, etc., the next step is actually delegating work.  This is the really tough part, trust me I know. But by delegating, you are giving yourself the opportunity to elevate yourself to operate at your highest and best use.

 But’s let back up a little.  Why delegate?  Sounds like a silly question and yet so many struggle with doing it so I have to believe the value is not being communicated.  Let me take a crack at it.  Do any of these sound like you?

  1. You are experiencing a lack of control over the business because you are trying to do too many things the least of which is being strategic?
  2. You’re not on the same page with your staff, your clients, your vendors, your partners?
  3. The firm has stopped growing?
  4. Nothing seems to be working – staff is numb to new initiatives and you are spinning your wheels?

IF any of these (or multiple!) describe where you are now, then delegating is going to be key (if not the only way) in moving you out of this rut.  How do you start doing this?

  1. The first component has to be trust – trust that you have the right team on board who can handle what you delegate to them. If you don’t have this, nothing else is relevant.  Stop now and evaluate your team and if replacements need to be made, make them.  You are not doing yourself or the staff in question any favors by holding on to them.
  2. IF the right players are in place, your next step is to understand their strengths and weaknesses so you can delegate the correct tasks to them.
  3. Put a true leadership team in place – who are these individuals?
    1. They are your most trusted staff
    2. They are your highest best performers
    3. They understand and live the vision of the firm

Once you have this leadership team in place, you can begin discussions with them as to what you need to delegate, how and who to delegate it to and then let them be in charge of these tasks going forward. They will report to you as needed so you don’t feel a total loss of control over these items but reporting is the extent of your involvement.

One last thought – you are NOT your business – you created it but in order for it to find success, it has to be a self-sustaining entity.  Learning to delegate is an important step in this process.

Please email us, call us (225.71.8009) or visit our website to schedule a complimentary call with us to discuss this further. We can assist you in ALL aspects of Delegating & Elevating. 

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When It's Time to Replace a Legacy Employee

One of the most difficult decisions a business owner has to make at some point is when to terminate a “legacy” employee.  Many of the firms we have encountered have employees that have been with the firm since its infancy and have helped the firm get to where it is today.  For many reasons, some employees can go from being a productive member of the team to barely able to keep up or disengaged.  This can happen quickly, but it is much more common for the transition to happen over a number of months or years.  It frequently happens when the firm goes from being a one or two person office to a much bigger entity.  When this happens, the owner of the firm is faced with the difficult decision of what to do with an employee who is no longer stacking up. 

The first thing that should be done is to have an honest conversation with the employee and provide them with an improvement plan to get back on track.  Many times this will come as a surprise to the person and they will correct their behavior.  Sometimes, we are not so lucky.  When you are faced with an employee who does not meet the improvement metrics set for them, another option is to move them to another position that might be better suited to them.  This may include some short-term pain of retraining the employee, but it is better to have someone you know and trust on your team in a new role in which they can succeed rather than starting from scratch with a new person.  We have worked with several firms that have moved people around within the organization and have found a more natural and productive fit for all their employees.  However, a word of caution - do NOT give in to the temptation of creating a position for them.  This will lead to resentment by the other staff members and ultimately, you, as the business owner as well.  If there is an open position for which they are more qualified, then it makes sense.  If not, then don’t do it. 

If retraining does not result in a positive outcome, or is simply impossible in your firm, you must begin to objectively analyze whether the employee can continue to add value to your team.  After all, an underproductive employee is costing your firm more than just the employee’s salary – it is costing you increased productivity and leverage that your firm could be using to achieve bigger goals by hiring a new staff member.  Underproductive employees will hold a firm back from achieving its potential.   Additionally, in most cases, if the employee can no longer keep up or you are not happy with the productivity of that employee, they know it.  Trust us, they know it.  They are under a tremendous amount of stress from this.

Loyalty to employees that have been with your firm for years is admirable, but if you are unhappy with an employee’s performance over a long period of time, the employee is almost always unhappy in the position as well.  You are not doing them any favors by keeping them in a job where they are underperforming, and most likely unhappy.  In this situation, you are most likely holding the employee back from another opportunity that they will be more successful in. 

When letting any employee go, we recommend providing them with a termination letter, which describes any benefits they will have, and states resources that may be helpful.  We also recommend you provide them with a letter of recommendation and provide a severance – the rule of thumb is one week’s pay for every year of service.  This will soften the blow to you and the employee and ensure that they will find a new job without too much stress. 

When we work with firms that make the tough decision to move on a long-time employee and find a new person, most commonly, there is a sense of relief on the part of the Advisor and eventually on the part of the former staff person.  The awareness of their shortcomings creeps up on you over years and when you replace them with a new A Player, it is often an eye-opening experience when you now have someone in that position to help you get to the next level in your business.  If you are struggling with a legacy or any employee and you are considering replacing them, feel free to set up a call on our website (Click Here to Schedule a Call) to discuss how we might be able to help you transition the current employee and find your next great team member.

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Changes In Employment Laws Make Hiring Even Trickier

Happy New Year!  So, now that the holidays are over, you may be thinking about bringing on new team members to your firm or changing out some not-so-A players.  What I want to talk about today is interviewing…what you can ask and what you cannot ask.  There were some changes to some State laws in 2018 with respect to this very subject.

There are many guides available on the internet and in books that give sample questions to ask in an interview of a potential new employee.  They can vary widely from “What’s your biggest weakness?” to “If I were to ask you to empty the dishwasher right now, would you do it?”  There is usually some armchair psychology going on in deciding which questions to ask and why, but in this post, I am going to focus on questions that may seem innocuous that could potentially get you in some hot water. 

As an attorney, my radar is always attuned to potential legal issues with questions that employers ask in interviews.  Most employers know not to ask an interviewee about their race, ethnicity, age, sex, national origin, religion, disability, marital/familial status, or pregnancy.  These areas are well covered and strictly illegal.  However, asking seemingly innocuous questions in an interview that lead the interviewee to touch on these areas could open the employer up to a lawsuit if the interviewee believes they didn’t get the job because of their answer.  Here are some examples of questions that could lead to legal issues:

  • How long do you plan to work until you retire?
  • Did you grow up around here?
  • When did you graduate high school?
  • Do you have any kids?
  • Do you live by yourself?
  • How many days of work did you miss last year?
  • What is your maiden name?

All of these questions lead the interviewee to provide information that is not legally obtainable by an employer. 

There are new laws that are becoming more and more popular that bar employers from asking about a candidate’s salary history as well.  Several states and many local governments have decided that this question is not appropriate in the interview process because it hinders an employee from negotiation and upward mobility.  California has gone one step further and has banned employers from basing a new employee’s pay on salary history, even if the candidate volunteered the information. 

At the beginning of 2017, we eliminated the question from our hiring process because of the number of cities and states that have passed laws.  We now tell the candidates that the salary range for the position is between $X and $Y, and ask if they are comfortable in that range.

In addition to salary history, several states have prohibited credit checks as a condition of employment.  There are usually exceptions to this rule for professions involving a high level of public trust or individuals that have access to sensitive information.  Nearly all employees at wealth management firms have access to sensitive information, but the laws vary from state to state. 

The hiring process that we use to find our clients only the best employees has been successful time and time again.  After we go through the process and help our clients hire their new employee, the most common feedback is “I didn’t know we could get someone this great.”  If you anticipate you are going to need to add more members to your team in the next three to six months, give us a call today.  You can also schedule a complimentary call with us by going to our website (www.thestrategicimplementer.com).    

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Letting Go of the Vine

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Letting Go of the Vine – Why & How?

In my next few blog posts, I will explore the why and how of “letting go of the vine” or learning how to delegate and elevate yourself to a true leadership position.  Why is this important?  Most of you know why but I’ll list a few reasons here. 

If you have ambitions to grow your firm in the number of clients and revenue, you cannot continue to hold on to everything in your firm.  It’s just not possible. You will hit a ceiling very quickly and most likely, become very frustrated with your firm, your role and your life in general. After all, you didn’t become an entrepreneur to get caught in the grind of everyday work.  You most likely became an entrepreneur to create a distinct quality of life for you and your family and letting go of the vine is a big jump in getting to that quality of life.

Additionally, when you delegate to your staff, you give them opportunity to take the ball and run with it, to grow, to feel as though what they do makes a difference in the firm.  So just how do you start on this path?

First of all, take stock of what you do on a daily basis. I would suggest tracking your time for some period to get a good idea of where your time goes.  You will most likely be surprised by what you see.  I use Toggl (www.toggl.com) on a daily basis and find it helps me tremendously to focus more on the activities I should be.

Secondly, take a look at those items you do regularly and classify them into some categories.

  1. I love to do it and I’m great at doing it
  2. I like to do it and I’m good at doing it
  3. I don’t like to do but I’m good at doing it
  4. I don’t like it and I’m not good at it

Anything that falls into #4 should be delegated immediately even if they are “people related”.  If you don’t enjoy the HR related activities, don’t do them.  You may not be cut out to do it and should hire someone who is.  Then, take a look at the items in #3. These items should all be outsourced eventually because even if you’re good at it, doing things that you don’t like to do saps your energy which should be focused on items in #1 & #2.

One final hurdle – you have to rid yourself of thoughts like “no one can do it as well as me” or “it’s faster if I do it myself”.  Even though training can be time consuming, it’s short term pain for some great long term gain.

We work with advisors every day on these issues.  Give us a call or send us an email to see if we can assist you as well.

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The Talent Shortage is VERY Real

b2ap3_thumbnail_TALENT-NEEDED.jpgAre you looking to add great talent to your team? Well, if you will need someone in the next six months, the time to start your search is NOW!

Finding great talent is becoming more and more difficult because there are fewer great candidates available. The average age of advisors is over 50 and 41% of advisers are 55 or older according to Cerulli research. The average time for a firm to hire an advisor has nearly doubled from 2009 to 2017 according to a study by DHI Hiring. There are also fewer and fewer college graduates that pursue financial planning degrees, as well as fewer opportunities in college – notably the closure of the CFP program at LSU here in Baton Rouge.

In addition to a shortage of talent, many advisors are finding it more difficult to attract younger talent because of the expectations that millennials have of their employers. Millennials are often attracted by businesses that show a clear and direct career path to the position they would like to be in 10 years from hire. This group will also give firm culture more weight in their decision making process than previous generations. A great firm culture will often attract more young talent than a higher pay rate. This means that some firms have to take fundamental look at how their firm works to attract freshly minted advisors.

It’s not just great advisors that are difficult to hire right now. Customer Service Associates and other advisory firm staff are also at a shortage. Firms are wising up on the compensation and pricing their great staff out of the market place. They want to make it very difficult for them to leave. I know this first hand because we go through a benchmarking salary exercise twice a year with our clients to make sure they are at the high end of the third quartile!

The days of financial services employees feeling “lucky” to have a job are gone and the days of firms feeling lucky to have great employees are here. The “selling” process for great talent has reversed itself and the employees are in the driver’s seat. Do you know how to position yourself to attract the best talent? More than ever, it is important to have an intentional and comprehensive process to find your next hire. The TSI hiring process has been refined over many years to find the person you are looking for, and the person who is right for your firm. If you know you are going to need a new addition to your firm in the next six months, we urge you to contact us immediately to discuss who, what, and when you can expect to find that person.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 10 OR Spend money on technology and then spend money on an expert to help you learn it, integrate and get the most from it

10 Years, 10 Truths – Number 10 OR Spend money on technology and then spend money on an expert to help you learn it, integrate and get the most from it

So, here I am. Truth number 10. I have had so much fun writing these and I hope you have picked up a tip or two.

My final truth has to do with technology and how you use it. As any of you who have been in this business for more than 10 years know, the technology related to the Financial Planning and Investment arena has probably changed more over this timespan than anything else. Ten years ago, there weren’t very many choices. Now there are so many, sometimes it is head-spinning. However, as we also know, it is technology that will play a bigger and bigger role in your firm, both from an internal aspect as well as with your clients.

Within my “family” of clients, I would say the number one complaint I get is about technology. The advisor has purchased new technology and now there is buyer’s remorse. About 90% of the time, it is because the owner of the firm did not make training a priority. Someone bought it, integrated it, got everyone a password and off they went. So now, in most cases, they are only using maybe 25% (on the high side) of the capabilities of the technology.

One thing you can sure of going forward. The technology is going to get more robust, not less. So, when you purchase and integrate the new technology, have a training plan in place and make it mandatory. Talk about how everyone in the firm will use the technology so it’s consistent from the onset. This, as you well know, is a big monetary investment. Make sure you act like it is!

If you really want to get the most from your technology, I HIGHLY recommend you reach out to Jennifer Goldman at MyVirtualCOO (www.myvirtualcoo.com). Jennifer can help you work smarter, not harder by optimizing the selection and use of your tech, integrations and providers.

So, again, here I am at the end of “10 Years, 10 Truths”. If you want to see any you may have missed, just go to my blog on my website (https://thestrategicimplementer.com/index.php/blog). There is also a pdf out there with all of them listed.

Thanks for listening and please provide me with feedback if you so choose.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 9 OR Don't Wait Until You Are Ready to Retire to Think About Succession

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If you want your business to have a life after you, plan for succession now and do it by finding a capable successor. Without a groomed and competent successor that your clients know and trust, your clients will go running for the hills when you are ready to call it quits. Your clients probably don’t know that the business could survive without you being there every day – they don’t know that you have great staff and documented processes that could keep the place running. Your clients trust you much more than they trust your business. So if you want your clients to stay with the business after you retire, you have to engender that same trust in your successor.

If you do not want your business to have a life after you leave, or if it is simply too late to begin the succession transition, planning for a sale of the business is the other option. However, one of the main things any buyer will be looking for in a firm that is selling is “Does the business run on its own, without the need of any one person being involved.” If the answer to that question is no because the business cannot run without you – the owner – your business will be devalued and your selling price will likely not be what you are expecting or your firm may not be sellable at all. The last thing most advisors want is to have to walk away from their life’s work with very little to show for it.

There are so many complexities to the manner in which a successor can take over a business, it would be pointless to try to talk about them all in a blog post. However, the one factor that correlates among firms that have successful transitions of ownership is to choose the successor early and begin the transition at least 5 years (10 being better) before the owner is ready to retire. Your clients need to know, trust, and sometimes even prefer your successor if they are going to stay with the business after you retire.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 8 OR Prospects Will Not Come Flying in Your Windows

In a perfect world, just the right amount of ideal prospects would steadily stream into your business and you would never have to go out and find new business. In the real world, you are going to have to go out and market your business, but it doesn’t have to be as painful as some business owners make it out to be.

Having a marketing strategy can mean many different things to different business owners. No marketing plan is a “one-size-fits-all” solution. There are as many different marketing strategies as there are types of businesses, and the goal in creating an effective marketing strategy is to have something that works for you.

Niche marketing is a term that is thrown around quite a bit in our industry as a marketing theory or strategy, but it should be the foundation of every marketing strategy. Niche marketing is simply choosing a group of people that your business will focus its efforts to attract. This can come in various forms but the two most common are directly communicating with people in the niche that you are targeting and becoming more knowledgeable about the issues and solutions that are common among the group.

Once you identify the limited and specific group to whom you will target your marketing efforts, one of the most effective ways to get your name to your potential clientele is to find people who already have their ear. These people are COIs of your target market and can be a shortcut to getting your name out there. However, it is much more effective to develop strong relationships with 2-3 COIs who understand your process and can recommend your business to your niche market with confidence. More than 2-3 COIs and you will lose the win-win relationship that you are trying to create.

We often get called to help owners create a marketing plan that works for them and we always develop a custom strategy that fits the owner’s skills, comfort level, and growth targets. Feel free to schedule a call with us to find out if we can help your firm find your ideal clients.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 7 OR Why You Must Have Deep, Meaningful Relationships with Your Clients

b2ap3_thumbnail_WOW-IMAGE.jpgCreate your client "WOW" experience - it is the MOST important thing you do to retain clients. We’ve all seen the studies…HNW clients rarely leave over returns. They leave because they don’t feel their advisor understands them or provides them with a “Raving Fans” Experience. Creating the “wow” experience is about going above and beyond what your clients expect from their advisor to deepen the relationship of a friend, a confidant, and a trusted counselor. I have advisor clients who have taken clients their favorite sweet, completely unexpectedly or purchased them theater tickets to a show they know they want to see. The reaction is amazing and this is what they tell their friends, your future clients.

Another favorite of mine is conducting a client survey every two years. The best way to know what your clients want and how they feel about your services is to ask them. Many owners are resistant to conduct a survey of their clients, but if you don’t ask people what their opinions are, you won’t know what they are thinking. You may find out after enough people have complained and left the firm, but then it is too late to save those clients. You have to be able to take the good responses with the bad. In fact, the negative responses are the most valuable to you in terms of the ROI on conducting the survey. If you can change small things in your firm to be able to easily retain clients, wouldn’t you want to know?

Make their lives less complex! This is ultimately the reason most people seek out an advisor. We have all had clients that want to micromanage and get into the minutia, but your main service offering is to make your clients’ lives simpler in some way, not more complex. Adding complexity to your clients’ lives will only increase their anxiety about making the right decision about becoming your client, not put their minds at ease. Ask yourself in every interaction, recommendation, request, etc. - "Does this make my client's life less complicated". If it does, do it. If it does not, don't do it!

Creating lifelong “A” clients is about forming a deep and meaningful bond with each and every client. By asking your clients where you can improve and correcting those things, going over and above to give them a level of service they didn’t even know they wanted, and making their lives less stressful by making their decisions less complex, you will create that relationship.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 6 OR You Must Empower Your Employees to do Their Jobs!s

Empowering employees to do their jobs is one of the quickest and most drastic ways you can change your firm. It is also one of the most difficult things for some owners to do because it means ending the cycle of micromanagement.

Micromanagement kills productivity and the morale of your employees. If you feel that you have to micromanage an employee, you either have trust or control issues. Trusting an employee boils down to the belief that the employee can complete their job accurately and efficiently without your intervention. If you do not trust that an employee can do this, you must either learn to trust through effective management-style communication with the employee or you must find another employee.

If the issue is control – whether it is over the business as a whole or over single employees – you must learn to let go or accept the fact that the growth of your firm is going to be significantly impacted. If you cannot avoid micromanaging because you want to be able to control every aspect of the work leaving your office, you would be better suited to getting rid of all of your employees and running a one-person business.

Empowering employees to do their jobs helps the managers free up more time to be productive and increases employee morale by giving the employees more of a sense of responsibility in their work. As employees are trusted to complete their job accurately and efficiently, they feel more responsibility for their own work-product and there is more buy-in from the employee in the operations of the firm. You can double down on this buy-in by including all of your team members in strategy discussions and encouraging them to participate in growing the business in any way they can. Once good employees feel trusted and that their input is valued, they will invariably feel less like a commodity in a business, and more like a valuable member of a team that is all headed in the same direction. This comradery usually lights a fire under people to help them better their work and attitude, but keep in mind this might not extend to a personal friendship. You sign their paycheck so don’t be surprised if they don’t interact with you the way they might with other members of the staff – and don’t take it personally.

Give us a call to see how we can help you achieve Direction, Implementation & Momentum!

 

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 5 OR Why You Must Have Weekly Staff Meetings

When I begin work with a new consulting client, I spend many hours getting to know the firm, the owners and the staff. Many times I am told by all involved the communication within the firm is bad. Then, my next questions is “do you hold weekly staff meetings” and I am constantly amazed at how many times I hear the word “No”.

When a team gets together and discusses things such as upcoming meetings, issues, concerns, where they stand on various projects, etc., it refocuses the team each week on the important work for that week and beyond. Having staff meetings every week can not only set the tone for everyone in the office for the upcoming week, it has a way solidifying the mentality that everyone is an important part of the team. All of our clients have regular staff meetings EVERY week. Some of our clients like to start a staff meeting off by going around the room and having each employee talk about something they are excited or grateful for that week. Ron Roge of R.W. Roge and Company (www.rwroge.com) says this “puts people in a positive state of mind.” Specifically speaking about the importance of starting the meeting off right, “Your mind has a tendency to go to the negative. When you think about what you are excited about, you have to push out the negativity. It sets the tone for the meeting, the day, and the rest of the week.”

The bare bones of a staff meeting usually include talking about issues that came up in the previous week, going over upcoming meetings and what prep needs to be done, and what everyone should be focusing on for the week.

Denise Davies, COO of Frisch Financial (www.frischfinancial.com), says, “Without a staff meeting, the CRM is useless. Staff meetings enhance the value of the CRM because no one in the firm is reading all the notes that are put in. It’s just not possible.” As far as morale in the office goes, Ms. Davies continues, “It gives everyone ownership and they feel included and are important to the team.”

The best staff meetings are light and can border on being fun because it can be a time for everyone on the team to catch up with one another. However, the leader of the staff meeting should have an agenda EACH WEEK and will adjust the course if the meeting is getting off track. Many of the owners of firms that we work with often only attend a portion of their staff meetings, or choose to exclude themselves all together. The staff meeting should be able to run without you, the owner of the firm.

Give us a call if we can help you construct or improve your firm’s staff meetings.

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10 Years, 10 Truths, Number 4 OR Why You Must Build Your Franchise

The E-myth by Michael Gerber has gone through many different variations, focusing on different fields and professions, but its message remains the same: the most successful businesses create repeatable results by designing and sticking to their franchise. If you have not read the book, it should be required reading for all entrepreneurs and their top managers. The lessons and examples outlined in the books give insight into why and how the most successful businesses get that way. Having documented processes also protects you against anyone in your firm having a process solely “in their head” and also increases the value of your firm.

You build your franchise by making as many of the things your business does on a regular basis into documented and repeatable processes/successes. This can range from answering the phone to on-boarding a new client. The purpose of this is to ensure that you and your employees are putting out the best product or service you can on a consistent basis. The best part of this idea is that once you have documented the way your firm goes about its business, it is much easier to bring on new members of the team and delegate specific tasks while maintaining the highest level of output. It also prevents you and other members of the firm from reinventing the wheel every time the same task pops up on their to-do list.

We have found that different people attack this process in different ways. Some people like to take a top-down approach of identifying certain positions in the firm, giving each person broad roles and responsibilities, and then laying out the specifics of how the tasks are done by each person. Others like to identify all of the tasks that the firm does, document how each task is completed, and then divvy the tasks up among the employees. Either way will lead you to the same result: processes that are documented and can be easily followed across the entire firm.

One issue that comes up a lot when firm owners want to start documenting processes is that it is very easy to want to have all of the firm’s processes documented all at one time. This, however, almost never works. When we ask employees and owners to document the processes that they do on a regular basis, we usually ask that each person document 1-2 processes per month. We have found that assigning more than that is too large of a project and often times gets put on the back burner. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Having 30 processes documented and in your CRM after six months is far better than having a few scattered processes here and there. We often discuss the processes that need to be documented at staff meetings at the beginning of the month and set the expectation that each employee should have the processes that are assigned to him or her by the staff meeting at the beginning of the following month. 1-2 processes in a month won’t overwhelm anyone into pushing this too far down on their task list and it is easier to keep people accountable to it.

We use an online brainstorming program called Stormboard (www.stormboard.com) with our clients that allows all of us to share the same screen at one time and put “virtual” post it notes up on a virtual wall. Putting each step of the process on a post it note and putting it on the wall has always been my favorite way of doing it. This program allows us to do it virtually with our clients and get the same results.

Once you have processes, make sure they are in your CRM so they can be run as needed. This, of course, keeps things from falling through the cracks and adds that level of accountability you want.

The consistency and repeatability that we see once we encourage our clients to build their franchise and document how their business runs are unparalleled. This is how you can set the stage of repeatable success in your business because without it, you are relying too much on luck and memory to make sure that each client is getting the excellent level of service your firm can provide them.

Give us a call if you want to discuss this further.

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10 Years, 10 Truths, Number 3 OR You Must Work ON Your Firm or You Just Have a Job!

At first glance, owning a business and having a job may seem like similar endeavors. However, as we know, owning a business comes with its own set of risks and rewards that are usually not a part of having a job. Being a successful business owner also requires top-level thinking that doesn’t always come “standard” in employees. Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” This cannot be more true for business owners. Thinking about your business and how it can run better, more efficiently, and sustain growth is one of the hardest parts of owning a business and many business owners do not do it enough. If you are not doing the hard work of thinking and working on your business, you are not a true business owner, you just have a job in a business that you happen to own. As Michael Gerber said “you are a technician suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure”.

Because we can all get caught up in the day to day minutia of working in our businesses, one of the best ways to make sure you are dedicating enough time to working on your business is to schedule time on your calendar that is 100% dedicated to this task. It seems like a simple and obvious solution, but so few business owners have dedicated time to work on their business. Some of our most successful clients use a model week that the entire staff knows about and adheres to so that enough time can be dedicated to important work like this. A color-coded calendar can do wonders for some teams – if everyone in the office knows that you only schedule client meetings in “green” times and that no one is allowed to schedule any meetings or calls during “purple” times, it makes it so much easier to carve out your schedule in the best way possible.

As we discussed in our last blog, a strategic plan is as important to your business as a financial plan is to your clients. And working on your business stems from the initiatives that you outline in your strategic plan. However, if you have laid out time every week to work on your business, it does not mean that you are reviewing and changing your strategic plan every week. In fact, if it is changing every week, I wouldn’t call it a strategic plan at all. During the time you dedicate to working on your business, you may be working on streamlining operations, establishing and executing a marketing plan, reviewing staffing issues, etc. You should NOT be working on anything involving day-to-day or even any client issues. This is a time to identify issues or weaknesses and try to resolve them or move your strategic initiatives forward. This makes your firm stronger and allows you provide the best client service to your clients. It always pushes you toward having the ideal firm you have envisioned.

TSI has always been and will always be a huge advocate of education and training to help everyone in a business to be the best that they can be. This also extends to you, the business owner. Keeping yourself abreast of changes and disruptors in the industry and challenges other advisors are facing will not only allow you to feel more connected, but also will help shape the time that you have committed to working on your business. Working with many different advisors gives us a unique perspective to see that many of the challenges and ideas that advisors have about how to better their business are not novel ideas. They just need dedicated time to get implemented.

If you are having troubles getting too mired down in the details and only working “in” your business and not “on” your business, feel free to give us a call and we can help steer you in the right direction.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 2 OR Why You Need a Strategic Plan…Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk

You know the very best way for your clients to achieve their goals is to have a plan, right? Makes sense, doesn’t require a lot of debate. However, when it comes to having a plan to achieve your vision of your firm and where you want your firm to take you, studies show that few of you have this in place.

 Why?

1. Is it because it seems overwhelming?
2. Don’t know where to start?
3. Wondering how you’ll get the initiatives achieved when you’re struggling to keep up with what you have on your plate now?

All good reasons so let me take them one by one.

1. Yes, it’s overwhelming but not if you do some homework and identify what you want to accomplish. Also, don’t think about three years or five years. Think about what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months (one quarter at a time).


a. Do you want to grow your firm? If so, what marketing are you most comfortable with? You need a marketing strategy that is tailored to what you're comfortable with. There is no “one type of marketing” for everyone.

b. Staff – do you have all A players on board? If not, either move them to a position within your firm they are better suited for or replace them. Sound harsh? Maybe but I can promise you will never get where you want to be without the right riders on the bus in the right seats (see my blog of2/26/16 -10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 1).

c. Operations & Technology – do you have the right technology? Does it integrate? Do you have processes for everything in your firm?

2. Now, look through the few ideas I gave you above. Which is the MOST pressing? Pick one or two and focus on those. When they have been addressed to your satisfaction, move on to the next most urgent issue.

3. How do you do all of this with what you have your plate? You bite the bullet and put in extra time if needed (and remember, you have all A players helping you) BECAUSE, if you do these things, you will have less on your plate in the future and the items left on your plate will be the things you should be dealing with…not things that others should do.

So here are some common signs you need a Strategic Plan. If any of these are true for you, give us a call. We can help you identify your gaps, provide solutions to close them and help you stay accountable to getting them done!

Common warning signs you need a strategic plan:
1. When you are asked why you’re in business and your only answer is “Profit” or “to make money”.
2. Someone asks you where your business will be in one year and you don’t have a clue. You ask your partners and/or management team the same question and get wildly different answers.
3. You have some idea where you want to go in the next year but you don’t have any idea what you’re going to do to make it a reality.
4. Your company won’t hit its revenue goals for the year and although there can be many reasons for the shortfall, you’re not sure how to grow the top line.
5. There are inconsistencies in your brochure, your web site, your sales collateral, etc. You can’t understand the content and more importantly, neither can anyone else. You find that when you explain your business to a potential client, you tell different stories about how you provide value.
6. You’re ignoring the competition. You don’t know who your number one competitor is and what they’re doing.
7. Everything on your to-do list is a priority. You don’t know where your time is best spent.
8. Friends and colleagues can’t refer you because they aren’t sure exactly what value your business provides and to whom?
9. You ask your employees what success looks like and they don’t have a consistent answer.
10. You complain when your customers call you because you just don’t have time to talk to them. You notice your staff complaining as well.

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10 Years, 10 Truths - Number 1 OR Why the Right Human Capital is the KEY to Your Success

In November of 2015, I reached my 10th anniversary as the owner and founder of The Strategic Implementer, a consulting and coaching firm working with financial advisors and investment managers. As I look back, I realize there are some themes, or “truths” if you will that are “absolutes” to having a successful practice, happy staff and the quality of life you want. Over the course of the next six months or so, I will expound on each of these topics:


1. The right human capital is the #1 key to your success
2. ALL firms need a strategic plan just as your clients need a financial plan
3. You must work ON your firm or you just have a job
4. You must “build your franchise”
5. You must have staff meetings every week – open communication in your firm is key
6. You must empower individuals to do their jobs
7. Having deep, meaningful relationships with your clients will keep them clients forever
8. When it comes to marketing, clients will NOT come flying in the windows
9. Spend money on technology and then spend money on an expert to help you integrate it - TAKE THE TRAINING - this is not "plug and play" software
10. Don’t wait until you are ready to retire to start thinking about succession

Truth #1: The RIGHT human capital is the #1 key to your success

I begin with human capital because it truly is the lifeblood of every firm. It is the number one key to your firm’s success or failure though many advisors want to skimp in this area. For example, I cannot remember how many times I have heard advisors not wanting to pay their Director of First Impressions a good wage because they are “just a receptionist.” This person is responsible for being the first experience with every person who comes in contact with your firm. Is this really where you want to save money? You need to recognize the importance of every position in your firm and pay accordingly. Pay just a little above what the market will bear so they aren’t stolen or get tempted to leave for money.

Maximizing your investment in human capital is all about getting the right people on the ship and making sure that the people are in the right seats. You don’t want to have a navigator who should really be swabbing the deck, and vice versa. Whenever we begin working with a new firm, we always assess everyone in the firm to find out what each person’s strengths are and in what seat they should be sitting. This is true for any new employee that we help our clients hire as well. This takes time and sometimes results in having to turn down otherwise good candidates because they are not suited for the position your firm needs at that time.. I whole-heartedly believe in the maxim “slow to hire, quick to fire.” If one of your employees is not suited to sail the high seas, they have to get off the ship immediately.

I advise every one of my clients to put compensation incentive plans in place for their employees because most people like to know that if the firm is doing well, they will be rewarded for their contribution. On the flip side of this, if the firm is not doing well or the employee is not contributing enough, it will affect their bottom line. This gives them skin in the game. This also means that employees must be given regular performance reviews. Your people need feedback from you or they will not know if they are meeting or exceeding your expectations. They are not mind readers. Also, I have never heard of an employee who didn’t want to receive positive feedback on the things that they are doing exceptionally well.

Finally, you have to remember that we are in a service industry and you should direct as much of your employee efforts and time to the “client WOW experience” as possible. If there are tasks that do not have any effect on the clients’ experience, outsource them. This can include client paperwork, compliance, mailings, etc. etc. You want to give your clients the best experience you can, and those tasks need to be handled with ultimate care. However, there are outsource people that can do pretty much every aspect of your business. If the great people that you have hired and cultivated over time are spending large amounts of time on things that have no effect on the clients’ WOW experience, I see that time as poorly spent. Your team should be spending most of their time providing stellar service to your clients. Period.

The success or failure of a firm is directly linked to the firm’s human capital. It is your job to make sure that ship sails smoothly and efficiently.

As the year progresses, I will be going over the topics I mentioned earlier, and I hope you will continue in my series of Ten Years, Ten Truths.

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The Importance of Having a Hiring Process

We’ve all heard the adage that we need to create the franchise that is our business so that you have repeatable results and repeating success. As with most things in your business, it is important to have a repeatable process for hiring new employees. Without a repeatable process, you leave the hiring of new employees up to chance and risk of 1) not finding the types of candidates you need your firm, and 2) hiring the wrong people. Both are expensive and time-consuming.

How to Find Great Employees
The most important rule to remember when posting job ads is to post to the places where the best candidates are looking. This is easier said than done, but it is not a useless exercise. It is important to cast a broad net if you are looking for administrative staff that –could have experience in a different industry. If you are looking for a more senior employee such as an operations manager or junior financial planner, it is important to keep in mind that these people may be looking for a new position through some of the larger job board websites as well as more specialized sites like their local FPA chapter or the CFP Board site. LinkedIn can also be a very useful tool for hiring/headhunting.

Interview Process
Once you get a candidate that you are interested in, the first step should always be a phone interview. You can learn a lot about a person over a phone call without having to go through the trouble of setting a meeting in person. You can weed out many of the applicants through a 15 to 20 minute phone call. Not only can you get information that is not on the candidate’s resume, you can get a sense for his or her phone etiquette and ability to think on their feet. In our process, if the candidate survives the phone interview, we send them a career history form, which gives us more information about their previous jobs, what they liked about them and why, and what they want to do in their career in the future. Only then is an in-person interview set up.

The questions you should ask both in a phone and in-person interview should be scripted, and you should be asking the same questions to each candidate. This is part of creating a successful hiring process. The questions should be tailored to the position for which you are hiring and should also take into account the culture of the company. This is not to say that every interview should have every word scripted. The interviewer will need to ask relevant follow-up questions to the answers provided by the candidate. This may not come naturally to everyone, and it is not uncommon for an interviewer to later think of several follow up questions he or she should have asked during the interview. It is perfectly acceptable to pose those follow up questions in an email to the candidate, but also be sure to add these follow up questions to your template so you do not miss them again. Two good resources for substantive questions are Paul Falcone’s 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire and Bradford Smart’s Topgrading. Both provide in depth analysis as to what questions to ask, and what you should be looking for in the answers.

Skills Testing
Skills and strengths testing is an important part of the interview process because you can only gain so much information from a person from talking to them. We use Caliper Assessments as part of our interviewing process because it is a good combination of personality, intelligence, and professional testing. It gives us a good idea of how the candidate will interact with other staff members, and the type of work they are suited to excel in. It is important to remember that no test is perfect and should be analyzed based on the totality of information you know about the person and the position you are considering the candidate for. However, if a candidate tests poorly, don’t be hesitant to move to other candidates just because you liked that candidate in his or her interviews.

Often, specific testing is needed for candidates that will have very specific job duties. For example, an administrative support candidate may need to be tested in his or her proficiency in MS Office. A financial planner candidate may need to provide a sample financial plan or can be tested on planning knowledge based on a hypothetical set of facts.

Onboarding Documents
Once you decide to hire someone, you will need to have uniform onboarding documents that lay out the duties the new employee will be responsible for, along with the compensation structure for the position. You want to set the expectations with the new employee for his or her position and for the firm in general.

The current job market favors the employee with low unemployment and a shortage of top talent. If your business will need a new team member in the next 6-9 months and you need help with any part of this process, please contact us now to discuss what we can do for you.

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The Importance of Hiring Good Employees

Many employers wait until they need a new person before they start posting job ads and looking for the new employee. This will often lead to the knee-jerk reaction of “we just need to get a body in here.” Just a body is almost never what businesses need unless they are in the movie business and they are looking for extras. Though employers may need help immediately, it is far more expensive and time consuming to hire the wrong person than it is to wait for the right person. A new employee that is smart, fits with the culture of the firm, and works hard can bring the level of work product and morale up in the office, even if that person is at the bottom of the organizational structure.

Any new hire is going to be a significant investment of time and money. Even if the new employee has worked in the same industry, there is always a learning curve when going to work in a new business. No two businesses operate in exactly the same way and it will take the new employee time to get up speed on how your specific business works. There will be a significant amount of time invested in training the new person, and there will also be time and energy spent by everyone on the team to make the new employee feel welcome in their new environment. To the same point, the investment of money by the firm is not limited to just the salary paid. We also have to consider the cost of the decrease in productivity of current employees who are responsible for training the new person. 

Even when the job description for a new person is acutely tailored, good employees always find a way of branching out and taking on tasks that were never in their job description. This will give leverage to other employees to focus on higher level tasks. Whether you are looking for a Senior Financial Planner or a Director of First Impressions, when a new employee can take on additional tasks, the leverage to work on the business instead of in the business and tackle more strategic goals always flows upstream.

Employment Numbers Are Not on Your Side

According the US Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate was 5.1% in September 2015, the lowest it has been since April 2008, and it has been steadily falling since 2010. (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate) Though it has slowed somewhat, earlier in 2015, there were more new jobs created in the US than in any other time since the Department of Labor started tracking this number in 2000. Lots of job openings and very few people looking for jobs mean that good employees are scarce. In an employee’s market, finding and keeping good employees will necessarily be more difficult.

Because there are so many job openings and firms looking, qualified candidates who would fit into different firm cultures are not staying unemployed for long, and they often receive multiple offers quickly after they start interviewing. While some candidates are just looking to get the most amount of money in a new position, creating a bidding war among several potential employers, it is far more common for a candidate to look for a specific salary range, and then look for the firm culture that they feel the strongest connection to. It is truly a scenario where the potential employee is interviewing the members of the firm to see if he or she wants to work with those people every day. Also, because of the changing landscape of mandatory health insurance and increasing education of sound retirement planning, employees are requesting more benefits from employers in addition to the base salary offers. Competitive firms are offering a full gambit of benefits because they know this will attract the best candidates. Make no mistake – good employees not only want to be paid well, they want a benefit package that is just as competitive.

Difficulties in Hiring

Depending on the market, we are finding there are either a large number of unqualified applicants to our job postings, or virtually no applicants at all. In the former scenario, it feels like we are trying to find a needle in a haystack and in the latter, it is like doing a rain dance in the desert. Because of this, it is taking longer to find qualified candidates, and even longer to find qualified candidates who fit well with firm cultures. It makes sense that there would be large numbers of unqualified candidates in larger markets because in today’s landscape, businesses are hanging tightly on to their good employees and only letting go of their worst people.

Planning Ahead

Kneejerk hiring can be detrimental to your firm because of the money and time that is wasted, but also from a morale standpoint. A firm’s culture will quickly deteriorate if the employees see any position in the firm as a revolving door. If employees are not invested in building relationships with coworkers because they suspect some of them may be gone in six months, the firm can never run as a well oiled machine. The only way to combat this is to plan ahead – look at where your firm will be in 12 to 24 months and think about where area of the business will be overloaded if you hit your growth projections. If you see some area of your business reaching capacity in the next 6 to 12 months, you need to start looking for your next hire today.

If you are ready to start looking for your next hire, feel free to schedule a call with us to discuss further.

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No more Mr. Nice Guy

No more Mr. Nice Guy

It's true, financial advisors are sweethearts. You got into this business because you sincerely want to help folks succeed financially, meet their goals and live their dreams. This is a great quality in a financial advisor!

However, it's not always such a great quality in a human resources manager. Time after time, advisors call me because they have someone in a position they know is just not quite right, they can't see a future for them with the firm or they just generally irritate the advisor. We talk and talk about the employee and then, after listening to a litany of excuses as to why the employee is still there, I say "Sounds like it might be time for a change". The shock in their voice is palpable. How could I suggest such a thing... what kind of heartless person could I be?

Maybe I am a little bit of a mercenary when it comes to this but my clients pay me to look out for what is best for them. Now, don't get me wrong. Those of you who have read any of my postings relating to hiring, training, etc. know I am a huge advocate for taking great care of the RIGHT employees. However, if you have someone who you are just keeping because you're either too nice or loyal to make a change or because you're too big a wimp, you are not doing anyone any favors.

Hanging on to someone like this is actually very selfish. If you know you have someone who you do not see in the long term picture of the firm, you have an obligation to let them know. They need to be either searching for a new position or a new career.

 If you find yourself in this position, have a plan for transitioning this person out and bringing in a new, better fit. Don't just throw them out.. .talk to them about it. Be honest. The majority of the time you will find that while their feelings are going to be hurt (it's only natural), they will appreciate your honest approach to helping them move on.

Call me if you'd like to discuss this further.

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