My Advisor Community - What Are Other Advisory Firms Doing or Not Doing?

BUS COMMUNITY

My Advisor Community– What Are Other Advisory Firms Doing or Not Doing?

I am so lucky!  I work with the most amazing clients.  Now to be fair to myself, I did this intentionally.  One of the best things about being my age (no need to mention a number…just assume I’m “mature”) is I am wise enough to know that working with clients who don’t share my values (family, quality of life, etc.) is going to be, at the very least, frustrating and at the very worst, damaging to my health.  Unfortunately, I know this from past experience.  This is why I don’t take on every prospective client who comes my way. It’s very liberating!  I highly recommend it.

So where am I going with this?  I believe the very best advisors want to share information with other advisors.  Now, let me quantify that statement a bit.  I’m not suggesting you share a proprietary process or give away the “secret sauce” but if they stumble onto a new technology for instance – and it can range from something small like scheduling technology to something larger, like changing portfolio management software – they are happy to have me share it with my other clients. In that way, my firm has built an informal community of advisors who are assisting each other.

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Make Sure Your Consultant Insists on Your Firm Having a Strategic Plan

STRATEGIC PLANNINGMake Sure Your Consultant Insists on Your Firm Having a Strategic Plan

My last two blogs address hiring a consultant (Should You Hire a Consultant? & The Discovery Process of Your Consultant).  So let’s talk about the next step.

So, you’ve hired the consultant that fits you best and they’ve conducted an extensive discovery process.  They have prepared recommendations for you and you both agree on the challenges and opportunities to be addressed.

So, what’s the next step? Obviously, it’s to translate all of this into a 12 month Strategic Plan for the firm.  What does this encompass?

  1. A SWOT analysis – we recommend this be done in a team setting with everyone on the staff. This is a great way to get them engaged in the process. I’m sure many of them never think about these issues and pulling them out of their day-to-day to focus on it is a win-win for the entire team. You and your consultant have already done much of this work during the discovery and recommendations phases but again, this pulls in the entire team.
  2. We want to hear what your Big Hairy Audacious Goals are.
  3. However, we focus on your major initiatives for the next 12 months. I don’t like planning beyond this because as my mom likes to say “life is what happens when you’re making other plans” and you will want to stay open to changes in your firm and in the industry.
  4. Each firm initiative will have an “Owner”, someone who is in charge of spearheading its completion.
  5. You will lay out a series of action steps and deadlines for each initiative.
  6. You will record these initiatives somewhere other than your CRM – we believe your day-to-day work MUST be in your CRM but your strategic plan deserves a home of its home. We provide our clients with web-based project management software at no cost to them.
  7. We use this software to keep everyone accountable to their initiatives.
  8. We generally have weekly calls with you to make sure goals are being met and we are on track with what you want to get accomplished.
  9. We have multiple monthly calls with the team (or with many clients, we participate by phone in their weekly staff meetings) to make sure initiatives are being accomplished.
  10. If they are not:
    1. We may get in there and help the staff member working on it – what work can we do on our end to help move it along?
    2. We may evaluate if it’s still relevant.
    3. We may evaluate whether or not we assigned it to the right person

In other words, we are constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure these initiatives are getting completed because remember, they are the path to you reaching your goals…achieving your desired quality of life. 

You can schedule a complimentary call with us to see if we are a fit and answer any questions you may have.  Again, we’re looking to work with a small group of elite advisors so we will be honest with you as to whether or not we are a good fit. We may also be able to give you a few ideas you can implement immediately. 

Thanks for listening, Ginny

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Does Your Consultant Have an In-depth Discovery Process?

DISCOVERY PROCESSThe Discovery Process.  You know why it’s important.  This is part of what makes working with financial advisors so easy for us.  You folks get the importance of the discovery process.

My last blog dealt with helping you decide whether or not a Consultant would be a good move for you.  In this blog, I want to talk about the importance of the discovery process.

IF you do choose to work with a consultant, make sure they conduct an in-depth discovery process.  In the very same way it’s important for you to get to know your clients well your consultant should take the time to get to know you well.

Why?  You know why but here goes:

  1. If they don’t conduct an in-depth discovery, how do they know what you want from your firm? Chances are it’s different in some way from everyone else. 
  2. How can they help you build/correct/chart your course without knowing this?
  3. The answers to these questions should shape every decision made.
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Should You Hire a Consultant for Your Financial Advisory Firm?

CONSULTANT

I’m sure many of you have asked yourself this same question at one time or another. Should I hire a third party to help me with my business and whatever challenges I may be facing?

The answer is maybe.  Not all business owners are going to benefit from this type of work.  We have our own set of criteria (see below) and I’m sure other Consultants (for the purpose of my writing, I am going to use Consultant to encompass all manner of third parties who work with Advisors on practice management or coaching) have their set of criteria.  Most of us are vetting you in the same way you are vetting us. Why? Simple, we’re looking for a quality of life as well and working with someone who is either a bad fit for my firm or not open to others’ points of view makes for a stressful work life.

So, who might benefit?

  • You have some size to your firm. Let’s face it, in the early days, you are just trying to stay afloat.  When I get calls from smaller firms, it’s not that I don’t want to help them, it’s just that the only real advice I can give them is “market like Hell” because you need revenue to get to the next step.  I leave a certain number of slots open on a pro bono basis for these types of firms and have them filled at all times.  However, we have found we work best with firms with AUM greater than $50MM or gross profit of $500k or more.
  • You recognize the need for a well-thought out strategic plan – You know your clients need a financial plan to meet their goals – same goes for your business.
  • You understand the need for high performing team members, you want to mentor them and help them be fellow visionaries – I get frustrated when I talk to advisors and they tell me they are trying to get the least expensive person or they don’t understand the need to mentor their employees. I can promise you, without the best of the best staff being paid well and getting ongoing training, you will NOT get where you want to go.
  • You are open to the opinions of others – ‘nough said!
  • You are interested in a great quality of life – if it’s all about money for you, you probably won’t benefit from a Consultant. Most of us – I would say at least the ones worth their salt - got into this business because we also want a quality of life – it’s one of our core values.
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Current Unemployment Rate Making Hiring A Players More Difficult

REMINDER IMAGECurrent Unemployment Rate is Extending the Amount of Time Needed to Hire A Players for Financial Advisory Firms.

The unemployment rate is currently hovering around 4% and hiring A Players is taking longer than ever. IF you are going to need an Advisor, a CSA or an Admin in the next 6 months, you must start looking now. We are only taking on a few more hires at this time.

Give us a call at 225.751.8009 OR follow this link to get on our calendar for a complimentary intro call.

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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?
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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?

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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 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 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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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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Build it and thev will come...

Build it and thev will come...

I know, I know.. .that phrase is used over and over again but it fits perfectly with what I want to talk about.

My clients, for the most part, are experiencing solid growth right now. Their phones are ringing, they are getting referrals and they are enjoying what they do. Okay, now does that sound like bragging.. .not meant to be. Just a statement of fact.

Truthfully, I'm not really that surprised because they are focused and committed or they wouldn't have called me and they certainly wouldn't pay me. We work together to identify the holes and what is causing pain and then fill those holes and eradicate the pain.

But, I still wondered, what was happening that caused the door to swing open so wide and I think I figured out (and one of my clients articulated it beautifully). My clients are ready to receive new clients. They have hired the best folks, they have put processes in place, they have a strategic plan and they are positioned to be a resource to their community, their clients, their referrals sources, their friends and their family.

It's really that simple. I believe when you are struggling with being so involved in the day to day operations of your firm, you are simply not ready to receive and you are basically self-sabotaging your growth.

Not that hard of a concept and yet so many have not figured it out.

Get your shop and your personal life in order...build it and they WILL come!

Take care, Ginny

5540 Hits

You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression.

You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression.

So many times, I see advisors work so hard to get a get referral. They get one and low and behold, the referral becomes a client. So what happens now?

The advisor is now on to the next conquest because that's what we've told you. Don't break stride, keep your momentum going. But the problem here is that you have this brand new client, a bird in the hand so to speak and you are not spending anytime on the front end with them, welcoming them, walking them through the transfer process, writing them a handwritten thank you note and including a small gift as a thank you.

No where in your relationships with your clients do you have a better opportunity to establish how the relationship will progress than in those first few months. Make sure you have a process for someone in your office to follow. I would suggest it include the following items:

  1. Write a handwritten thank you note thanking them for becoming a client (should come from you).

  2. BEFORE the transfer process begins, send them a letter letting them know how it work. For example, remind folks who have checks on their investment accounts to stop writing checks and give them an idea of when their money will become available again and when they'll receive checks from the new custodian. Let them know if there are any complicated NON-ACAT items that will come slowly. Reassure them that you are watching this every day and will notify them immediately if there are any issues.

  3. Have someone from your office contact them at LEAST once a week to engage them in conversation and ask them if they have any questions.

I recommend 10 touches in the first 90 days with 6 of those being in the first 60 days.

 What's going to happen here? First and foremost, you have a happy and well-served client. Secondly, they are going to be so ecstatic with your service, they will be chomping at the bit to tell their friends. Thirdly, they are now conditioned to refer folks to you.

 Give it a try and see what happens. You will be establishing a firm foundation for your client relationships!

2100 Hits

Privacy please...

Privacy please...

Just a quick reminder to everyone that talking on your cell phones about client business can lead to a violation of privacy.For instance, my neighbor who also works from home just had a very angry conversation in his front yard on his cell phone while waiting for someone to come by. I could hear just about every word whether I wanted to or not. He is not a financial advisor but is in a business that has high needs for privacy. NOT a very smart move.

Cell phones are convenient and we all have them...I'm not advocating the discontinuation of their use. However, I do want to remind you that there are ears listening and you never know who is hearing what and if it might get back to a client - even the largest cities seem to get very small when something like this takes place. 

Don't put yourself in this position. If you're discussing client business out of the office, do it in your car with the windows rolled up. Don't do it at Starbucks over a cup of coffee thinking that because you're in a corner speaking low, no one can hear you. Nine times out of ten, this is not going to be true.

Not only will you lose a customer if it gets back to them, you have opened yourself up to potential monetary damages AND damaged your reputation. It's just not worth the risk.

Take care...

2240 Hits

No matter how hard vou wish it...thev won't come flying in vour window...

No matter how hard vou wish it...thev won't come flying in vour window...

Qualified prospects...they're out there in numbers greater than we've ever seen! But one thing has not changed...no matter how hard you wish it, they will not come flying in your window and land in your lap. You still have to do the work.Now, when I say work, I mean having a well-thought out plan of reaching your ideal clients. This might include:

1. Identifying the clients you want to duplicate. You know, I've said it before but I'll say it again. People have an innate desire to help others if they can. Your clients want to help you...it gives them a good feeling to match you up with their friends and have the relationship be successful. One word of caution here. Make sure you have educated your clients as to your referral process so they know what their friends and family can expect from you when being contacted.

2. Talk to your Center's of Influence. Again, as I've said before, these folks are just as befuddled as your clients. Break down all the rhetoric for them so they can break it down for their clients. They'll appreciate the simplicity you are trying to bring to their lives and know their clients will appreciate it as well!

3. Write, write, write...the media is hungry for information right now. Be a resource for your local paper. Again, it all comes down to keeping it simple. However, don't expect them to come to you. They will value and treasure you if you send them well thought out and written pieces that are ready to go. If you see some big news that day, be the first to call the business editor and find out what you can do to help them communicate it. Do they want to interview you?

You get the idea. It really doesn't have to be hard. It just has to be a priority, well thought out and consistent. This is how you keep your pipeline flowing.

A parting thought.. .if you don't have time to do these things, ask yourself why? If it's because you are spending the bulk of your day in your back office, this is a recipe for disaster. No matter how hard you work, this will NEVER change until you decide to change it by hiring a coach to help you figure out what you can delegate and to whom.

What are you waiting for?

Take care and let me know your thoughts. Ginny

2129 Hits