How the Workload-Capacity Gap Controls a Financial Planning Business

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Twenty years ago, it wasn’t difficult to serve as a financial planner or adviser with only one assistant; but today, in an ever-complex industry, it is increasingly challenging. Creating a team of people with different skill sets but similar mindsets is essential to delivering both an exceptional client experience AND growing the business.

As you may have experienced, there is one common thread when looking at the need to create a larger team than just you and an assistant; it is, of course, time. Time has literally become our most precious commodity, which has made people (our team) our most precious resource and competitive advantage. Most financial planners want to spend their time prospecting, engaging in client-facing activities, or working on the plan or portfolio. Yet in today’s environment, they find themselves wrapped up in more administrative tasks.

The workload-capacity gap is a challenge that you, as planners and advisers, often deal with after reaching some level of business success. When you first enter the industry, you have all the time in the world because you have no clients. Tom Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door, referred to this stage of business as “big hat, no cattle.” This references a Texas cowboy who has a huge lot of land but no cattle roaming on it. When you first launch your career, you have all the time in the world to prospect and convert clients.

As your career progresses and you begin to hit it big with an increasing client base and revenues to match, your extra time starts to diminish because you now need to service all of those clients. Your workload increases while your capacity (or time) to prospect for new clients dissipates. This workload-capacity gap plagues many planners and helps explain the plateau that so many experience. It also explains why successful advisers start to lose great clients because they aren’t proactively communicating with them or making them feel appreciated. As fast as you are bringing new clients in the front door, there are others walking out the back door. Your time is being stretched into the grind areas of the business (such as research, planning, admin, ops, etc.) when many of you would prefer, and are better suited, to proactively find new business and mind your existing client relationships through reviews and personal interactions.

To deal with this workload-capacity gap and to maximize time, you need to look at two factors:

  1. WHAT you do for your clients; and
  2. HOW MANY clients you do it for

Sheets Dale Graphic

You must ensure that you are not wasting time doing things that your clients don’t want or appreciate. You should minimize all the inefficiencies in your business and reduce the workload before bringing on more capacity or people (clients and staff). At the beginning of your career, you may have often said “yes” to anyone who walked through the door with money, which usually only leads to problems in the future. Before expanding your team, you need to define your ideal client relationship and use this definition to clean up your current client base, migrating those who no longer fit your business. You should look closely at the current enterprise that you have built, which is often vastly different and further advanced than when you started in the industry, and determine a primary business model.

Three Ways to Create More Margin in Your Business

We see many planners who are experiencing stress because they are stretched too thin or are involved in too many areas. They then hire new people or partner with someone to alleviate their stress, only to find out that it doesn’t help. All it does is confirm that misery loves company. If financial professionals don’t first clean up any challenges in their current business, they only feed the chaos. Too many different types of clients, a lack of systems and processes and trying to be a “jack of all trades, master of none” does not lead to reaching your potential.

We suggest honing in on what you really do well and where your passions lie and clearly defining your offering and value proposition. You can then build the capacity or infrastructure around you that supports an optimized or valuable business and then grow the business.

Before expanding your practice, it behooves you to self-reflect, look at your current business and perform some basic analysis. FPA members can visit our Team Development Coaches Corner for activities accompanying this article to help you get started, including what we call “Capacity Gap Questions” and the “Time Study.” We find that many advisers don’t really know where all their time is being spent and so engaging in a time study, at least annually, is truly a best practice. The “Time Study” activity can help you better understand and track your time, as well as uncover the time-eaters of your business.

Don’t let the workload-capacity gap hinder your achievements and potential. Reflecting on your business and challenging the decisions that you have previously made in it will identify any gaps of performance, which in turn will direct you down the right path to finding the right people to add to the team.


Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights (, where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions. They are also coaches in FPA’s Team Development Coaches Corner.


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