Assessing Your Professional Communities

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Professionals routinely seek the association of a community. For financial planners, an organized group of other planners can provide a forum for learning from others, sharing ideas, gathering input and providing recommendations. It also presents an opportunity to belong, not to mention an outlet for social engagement and enjoyment. After all, humans—even the most introverted among us—are hardwired to need human relationships.

Which Community is Right for You?

If you’re not currently a member of a professional community, I encourage you to consider how you may benefit by finding one to belong to and—more important—to participate in. Of course, there are pros and cons with almost any community, and size is an important factor to consider. Some communities are so tight-knit that it can take a new planner years to work his or her way in. Others have members who go out of their way to include newbies.

Within the financial planning world, you have a variety of professional communities from which to choose. These include industry associations, business partnerships (e.g., broker/dealers), learning groups associated with vendors, alumni organizations and study groups (just to name a few!). In my experience, study groups are a case study within themselves.

Some are lackadaisical to the point of being sloppy and don’t tend to last long. Others use websites to communicate and a “sergeant of arms” to help ensure that meetings are efficient. Still others are forums for one strong ego to pontificate to others. But the best ones provide honest feedback and diplomatically communicate and confront one another’s ideas and practices.

Consider this food for thought as you evaluate which type of professional community is right for you and/or how your community is serving you.

Is it Time to Reassess?

If you do belong to at least one professional community, when was the last time you stood back and assessed whether it is still providing value? If you miss a meeting here and there, for instance, it could be a sign that something is not quite working. But if you have grown to dread participation? It’s definitely time to reassess.

It might help to ask yourself the following questions as you gauge the value of your membership:

  • Do you belong to a group where so many things have changed over the years that it’s no longer the ideal fit it once was?
  • Do you carry all of the responsibility for the group’s success, or is responsibility shared within the group?
  • Are you intimidated by other members?
  • Is your participation a win-win for you and for others?

Evaluation of Feedback

Professional communities offer a platform to discuss a wide variety of ideas. This could mean a staffing pattern, a procedure, technology approaches, the valuation of your business, a long-term strategy, compensation and benefits, roles and responsibilities of staff and planners, marketing initiatives and much more. Whatever the case, it is always a good idea to assess the feedback and ideas that you receive from your group. Remember, just because something has worked for another (even when it is an planner you respect), it does not mean that it will automatically work for you.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.

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