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Tips for Working from Home

Last week I asked an adviser how he was settling in after he started working from home. He readily admitted that it was a challenge as he hunched over his dining room table.

As you may know, Susan Kornegay and I have run Pathfinder for the past 10 years from her home. She has an office on the main floor, while I have a separate room upstairs.

I’ve also created dedicated office space at my home for the unexpected events in my life (such as when school is canceled until the end of April, and I may need to be home with the kids).

We’ve learned some tips along the way that might be helpful you.

3 Items That Make a Difference

Get a good chair for your derrière. My strongest recommendation is to get a good, office-style chair to work from. A standard dining room chair is not designed for extended periods of sitting. Not only does it lack support for your bottom and lower back, it doesn’t recline or swivel. This forces you to stay in the same posture for hours and can result in significant discomfort, stiffness or pain.

You can spend $1,000 or more for a premier office chair, but you can buy a functional one for less than $100 from Office Max (use your FPA member discount!) or Staples (and they deliver!). Alternatively, if you have a large enough vehicle and can access your office, take your regular chair home. While you’re at it, you might want to grab your chair mat, if you have one.

Speak and be heard with a good headset. Holding your cell phone up to your ear for extended periods will make you uncomfortable. It can also be difficult to take good notes while speaking with clients. Using your cell phone as a speakerphone usually results in background noise and a noticeable distance between you and the other person which isn’t good either.

Instead, invest in a good quality headset. I’ve used the Plantronics Voyager 5200 for many years, and it’s great. I’d also recommend the case which stores the headset and also charges it.

A speedy mouse and other accessories can save time. I’ve also found that I work quite a bit faster when I use an external mouse instead of the trackpad on my laptop. Depending on your set-up, you may also find that an external keyboard can help.

If you are able to go back to your office, you can pick up your mouse, mousepad, keyboard, monitor or anything else that you need.

2 Strategies to Stay on Track

Having a good physical set-up is important, but maintaining a good mental space is valuable, too. Here are two strategies to stay on track.

Don’t multitask. There are probably 50 unrelated things that will pull at you when you are working from a different location, even more so during turbulent times. It could be other people (your spouse, children, etc.) that want to speak with you, or it could be unfinished tasks that you want to complete (dishes, laundry, yard work).

Try to create as much distance as you can between yourself and those non-work items. Using a separate room or wearing headphones (or the aforementioned headset) can be a reminder to all that you are working and not to be disturbed.

Take breaks but set a limit. To help stay balanced, take periodic breaks.

One popular strategy is known as the Pomodoro Technique. It works like this:

  1. Set a timer and work for 25 minutes
  2. Take a short break for five minutes
  3. Repeat a total of four times
  4. Take a longer break of 15-30 minutes
  5. Repeat the cycle again

This technique may not work for you, but you can still plan for periodic breaks. Use a timer to make sure the break doesn’t extend longer than you intend. Use the breaks to clear your mind and refresh. You can take a brief walk, watch a fun video (I’ve been enjoying the concert archive from the Berlin Philharmonic), draw or doodle, pray or just look out the window as spring arrives.

One Essential

If I could give just one piece of advice, it’s this:

Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown to affect one’s mood, attention, ability to communicate with others or complete complicated tasks. Do your clients really want to work with a moody, inattentive adviser who has difficulty communicating and getting things done? I didn’t think so!

You may have additional time in your day since you are no longer commuting. Perhaps you can use that time to sleep a little later in the morning.

Other ways to improve your sleep include:

  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool (experts recommend 65 degrees)
  • Block out distracting sounds with a white noise machine (we use this one at home).
  • Shut off all electronics at least 30 minutes before bed

Making time to exercise, have a light dinner and avoid alcohol can also help.

This is the time to be the best adviser you can be. Use this unique season to create a new environment for work. Your clients will appreciate it.

Adam Kornegay

Adam Kornegay is a co-founder of Pathfinder Strategic Solutions. He has a background in marketing and business analytics. Coupled with his experience as a financial adviser, he helps a broad array of clients, from relatively new advisers to experienced planners, and consults with various financial services firms. He is a coach in the Messaging and Marketing Strategies FPA Coaches Corner

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How to Master the First 90 Days of The New Client Journey

Many advisers assume that once they’ve signed a client the hard work is over. Unfortunately, that idea couldn’t be further than the truth.

Within the first 90 days, your clients are going through a colossal shift. Starting with the sales process and ending with their initial plan being presented, they’re fully trusting you with their money, their goals and their fears.

Your job as their adviser is to make sure your clients’ initial experience with you is seamless and repeatable. Guiding them through their first 90 days in a process-oriented way helps you to create a scalable business, create stronger bonds with your clients and generate more referrals.

What Steps Does a New Client Take in Their 90 Days?

Within the first 90 days, your clients will go through:

  • Sales
  • Onboarding
  • Data gathering
  • Discovery meetings
  • Initial plan presentation
  • Implementation of investment or insurance recommendations

That’s a lot of different steps for your clients to move through.

Even if each of these processes are old hat to you, they’re new to each client you sign. By
creating a process that leaves no stone unturned and guides your clients every step of the
way, you’re building a strong foundation for your future client relationship.

To start creating a “first 90 days” experience, it helps to map out the steps your clients will

A typical outline would be:

  1. Discovery call
  2. Proposal review
  3. Get started meeting
  4. Plan presentation

Then, outline what happens during each of those steps. For example:

  1. Discovery call or introduction call
    Booking a call
    b. Call reminder
    c. Call follow-up
  2. Proposal review
    Follow-up to initial meeting
    b. Client onboarding (after the sale is complete)
  3. Get started meeting
    Data gathering
    b. Introduction to client-facing technology
    c. Introduction to key team members
  4. Plan presentation
    Presentation preparation
    b. Follow up for implementation or next steps

Your outline may include other steps. Feel free to customize according to what you and your team normally do.

Building Resources for Your Clients: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

When working through your first 90 days experience, don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to your resources. Simplify where you can. Often, it’s best to start with prospecting and onboarding resources. For prospecting, you’ll want marketing pieces prepared for potential clients. These can be tailored to different ideal clients and their pain points. For example, you might have checklists or guides for home buying, lifestyle planning in retirement or financial considerations when you first have kids.

If your prospects are ready to move forward, you’ll need your next set of resources. You need a game plan for what to do when someone says they’re ready to sign on. Typically, I recommend having “get started” folders or guides prepared. A “Getting Started Guide” would outline everything your new client needs to move forward including their contract and a checklist of next steps. I also recommend having a folder of resources to help them self-onboard. These resources might include an onboarding guide for their client portal, formal introductions to team members and video guides for any technology they’ll be expected to use.

Remember to be available for questions and follow-ups. It can even be useful for you to plug reminders into your CRM or financial planning software to follow up with your clients (or to have your team members or admin do so) to make sure they aren’t having trouble self-onboarding.

Where Do You Store These Processes?

Now that you have your processes outlined and resources created, you need to store them in an easy-to-access place. The ultimate goal should be to have these items stored in your CRM and automated where possible. However, to get started, I recommend creating a folder in your office or in your online filing system.

Break your folder out based on your client’s journey:

  • Prospect booking
  • Prospect meetings
  • Client onboarding (based on service offerings)
  • Plan presentation and/or implementation

In your CRM or storage folder, you want to store:

  • Email templates
  • Follow-up letters
  • Marketing resources
  • Investment philosophy
  • Resources for prospects
  • Menu of services
  • Onboarding documents
  • Team introductions
  • How-to’s on accessing accounts
  • Training videos for self-onboarding
  • Guides to upload statements
  • How-to’s on client-facing tech
  • Financial plan templates

Remember: Put Your Client First, Then Reap the Rewards

The impression you make in your first 90 days with a new client is critical. It sets the tone for your continued relationship and can determine both the length of the client engagement and whether they’ll become a referral source in the future.

If you focus on creating a seamless experience in their first 90 days by addressing their needs and being ahead of questions, you’re elevating your service and the way people view your practice. The more you can structure the first 90 days experience to serve your clients, the more likely you are to build a thriving, successful business.

Charesse Hagan

Charesse Hagan helps financial planners work smarter, grow their firms and offer exceptional services to their clients. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is an operations consultant at Charesse J. Hagan, LLC, and an FPA Coaches Corner coach for technology and operations. Find more resources from Hagan here.

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Stop Running and Start Planning for Productivity

As a productivity coach for financial advisers, I find it ironic that many advisers plan for their clients but not for themselves. When I say they don’t plan, I mean they don’t plan for the day, the week, the month and certainly not for the year. So of course, planning out five to 10 years isn’t even on their radar.

Planning can be the difference between growth and stagnation for your practice. Running through the day with no plan or vision of where you are going can work for a short time, but it causes stress, overwhelm and even grumpiness in the long run.

In order to become a more productive planner for your practice and develop a planning muscle that will support a thriving practice in 2030, here are a few things to begin working on now:

(1) Know What You Need and Value

Before you even look at your calendar, look inside to see what matters to you. When you know what you need and value, you can then let that guide your vision, mission and decision making for your practice. If can be very unfulfilling if you plan your day, week, month, year or ten years BEFORE you know what it is you need and value.

For example, if one of your needs is ‘family time’ but you never plan for it, productive planning can help you meet that need. This approach assures that your 10-year plan and your daily plan are in alignment with who you are and what you want.

(2) Create your Ideal Week

If you woke up on Monday and lived your life through Sunday night, how would it ideally unfold? This VISION is what you want to create. The chances of living your ideal week consistently are slim but without a vision of how you want your week to look, you’ll end up meandering through your days. This is no way to grow your practice or live your life. Many of my clients include an hour in their ideal week to assess their 3, 5 and 10-year plan progress. This also gives them the chance to check in on how they are aligning with their values and needs.

(3) Get Your Tasks Out of Your Head

If you have “the swirls,” which is keeping all your tasks in your head, waking you up at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat because you forgot to do them, please help your brain and get them on a to-do list.

The list never goes away, but you start to notice that the same tasks go undone. You start picking the easy, unimportant ones that move you no closer to your goals. Or, you procrastinate with ones you don’t want to do and then scramble at the last minute to complete them. And, my personal favorite, you do things that are not on your list but you’ll add them just so you can check them off! (Yes, I’ve been watching you.) A to-do list can certainly help your brain and work wonders for some people but if you want to get to the next level, keep reading.

(4) Schedule Your To-do List

This is probably the most important tip to being more productive on a day-to-day basis. The goal here is to completely wean yourself from your to-do list. Decide when you PLAN to get something done, put it in a time slot on your calendar and commit to doing it. It’s not for everyone but I dare you to try it. Once you develop this scheduling muscle, your roadmap to 2030 will become much easier.

(5) Stop Being Reactive

So often, financial advisers operate in a reactive versus proactive mode. They put out fires all day: answering emails and phone calls, tending to clients who “drop in” unexpectedly and accepting constant interruptions. Having a daily plan will make you more proactive and help you manage those interruptions. Having a long-term plan prevents you from continually chasing shiny pennies and gives you permission to stay focused on your path.

The power to stop running and start planning is within you. Master these planning skills and by 2030, you’ll be one fine-tuned productivity machine leading the pack, not being left behind.

Patty Kreamer

As a Productivity Coach for financial advisers, Patty Kreamer coaches her clients to clear the clutter that blocks their success, take control of their time and get more done. Productivity is the result of everything she does. Patty is a sought-after speaker, bestselling author and owner of Productivity Uncorked, LLC.


Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper “Action 2020: Create Business Success for Today and Tomorrow.” Download the whitepaper here

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