Applying the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to Your Business

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With a nod to the season and to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, here is how each of these “ghosts” can help you develop a stronger business:

The Past

“Review” and “reflect” is about measuring your output from this past year.

Review. Using a year-over-year comparison, look at your financial metrics. How do revenue and expenses compare? Adjust for unusual events such as staffing changes, a physical move and the gain or loss of key relationships. How do actual expenses compare to the budget? What about projected revenue? Where are the differences and is there an identifiable reason? Use this information to outline a budget or spending plan for next year.

This information will also advise your marketing efforts. What initiatives did you undertake this past year to grow your client base or increase service utilization by current clients? How effective were those efforts? Run a new money report to separate market performance from new assets for those that manage money. What contributed to the success or failure of your efforts?

Are there initiatives or goals from the past year that just didn’t make it out of the starting blocks? Reevaluate. Do they make the grade for next year’s efforts? If so, what stopped you from starting this year? Lack of time, energy or direction? Determine what is needed and reset for the upcoming year. If the initiative is no longer relevant, drop it.

Reflect. Metrics and numbers are only part of the equation. Reflection provides insight into results achieved or not. It is an opportunity to celebrate the successes and reflect on the failures. While you would just as soon forget those failures, reflection provides the opportunity to observe what can be done differently and learn from the experience. That also stops the replay loop in your head!

On the other side, success is often dismissed. If you did a good job of setting goals, the end result, the success, can sometimes be anticlimactic. For the achiever in many of you, success becomes “done,” a box checked. Now, what is next?

Without reflection on successes you also miss out on the learning. What contributed to the success? Was it the design of the action plan? Was it advance preparation for an opportunity you could not have seen coming? What does your success teach you so that you can replicate it, again and again? How long will you keep reaching for bigger and better goals if you don’t acknowledge what you have accomplished?

The Present

Where are you now? This is the opportunity for your SWOT analysis and open-ended questions to stimulate thinking. Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

Strengths. What aided you in your wins? Who is key to your success? What distinguishes you from other financial advisers?

Weaknesses. What hampered results? Is there a weak link and what can be done about it? What subject matter or skill needs improvement?

Opportunities. Where can you take advantage with your strengths? What can you do to drive awareness of your services? What outside forces are creating favorable circumstances?

Threats. Who or what has taken clients or opportunities? Are you competitive? What outside forces are creating unfavorable circumstances?

The Future

This is your opportunity to shape and change the trajectory of your business. Much like Scrooge, you have the opportunity for things to be different for your practice and for your life. What actions will you take to do so? Not sure where to start? The past and present provide insight and the Practice Directions Assessment will help you determine the inputs needed to get you where you want to be. Download it here.

For more about inputs, join us for the first Expert Series Interview in 2015 on Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. CST. We will be taking the insight gathered from the past and the present to create the future (input and goals) for the new year. More details will be in my January blog post, or you can register here to receive an invitation to the webinar.

Barbara StewartBarbara Stewart, CFP®
Coach to financial advisers
Owner and founder
Accelus Partners
Houston, Texas

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