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Taking Action is THE Key Ingredient: 3 Steps to Start Now

Taking action is the single most important ingredient in obtaining your goals. Without sustainable and consistent action, goals are merely a wish list. One of the core elements is in understanding the value you place on the steps you need to take. If you perceive an action to be pleasurable, you will most certainly begin right away; however if you perceive an action to be painful, you most certainly will procrastinate.

Andrew Carnegie said it best, “There are two types of people who never achieve very much in their lifetimes. One is the person who won’t do what he or she is told to do, and the other is the person who does no more than he or she is told to do.”

To manage your level of activity, assign a “carrot,” or reward, for fulfilling action items and a “stick,” or punishment, for when you don’t. This process will inevitably change your value system and help you in remaining motivated.

Read on for a more detailed stepwise approach for how you can eliminate inaction and procrastination as it pertains to your business.

Step No. 1: Define the Value of the Task

Most advisers have a multitude of tasks that “should” get done every day. As previously stated, pleasurable tasks get done and typically are accomplished first while painful tasks either don’t get checked off or are delayed in getting accomplished. Unfortunately, this process neglects the fact that sometimes short-term pleasure can create long-term pain.

Ken is a 10-year veteran financial adviser who felt overwhelmed and exhausted most days. After a decade of prospecting, he found himself spending most of his time servicing clients when they called him. He did receive pleasure out of making his clients happy, which is why this had been a priority. As a result, the more arduous task of prospecting was neglected most days and his business growth had grown stagnant.

After a number of queries, Ken admitted that he hated getting rejected but realized the long-term result of not prospecting meant the pain of never becoming a top producer. So, we discussed the client servicing activities that he could delegate to his licensed assistant who was qualified to handle those activities. This resulted in freeing up time for him to prep and tackle prospecting.

Step No. 2: Schedule an Action Date

Typically, goals are much more likely to get accomplished when the tasks associated with them are assigned a time horizon, an action time and date. So, we mapped out Ken’s day to prospect first thing in the morning for 45 minutes. All client service activities that didn’t directly involve discussing investments with clients were to be delegated to his assistant while everything that was investment related but not time sensitive was to be done after his time blocked to prospect.

Step No. 3: Create Leverage

The easy part is in creating the process, but the harder part is sticking to it. In order to ensure that you continue to take action on a consistent basis you need to create leverage by assigning a reward system for accomplishing the activity or a punishment system for not doing the more difficult activity.

Ken was a coffee lover and to him the morning didn’t start until he had finished his first cup of coffee. After he told me this, I knew exactly what type of leverage he needed. He was to use coffee as his reward system, if he started prospecting, he could pour himself a cup of coffee, if not, he couldn’t. At the end of the day, he would send me an “accountability email” to share the day’s results. It took a few weeks of consistently prospecting and delegating to get into a groove but it did become easier and easier.

After a month or so of daily “accountability emails,” Ken’s prospecting paid off and his business started to grow again. In addition, he was feeling far less overwhelmed and excited about his outcomes.

Why Having a System for Scheduling Action Items Works

The reason why having a system for scheduling action items works is because it generates an awareness of what is important about the task, it sets aside dedicated time line for accomplishing it and then promotes keeping you accountable for the results. Oftentimes the simplest of solutions pays off in spades.

If you would like a complimentary coaching session with me, please email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.


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Giant Cakes and Good Vibes: Takeaways from FPA Annual Conference 2019

FPAselects-253.jpgIt isn’t often that you attend a conference where there’s a giant cake, a great party and fantastic giveaways.

Keith Beverly, CFA, CFP,®, said the one negative thing about FPA Annual Conference was that he didn’t attend years ago.

“Free massages should be mandatory at all conferences,” Beverly said.

But giant cakes and free massages aside, FPA Annual Conference was packed with information that is relevant to your practices. Here is what I found most interesting from the sessions I attended.

Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat?

The New Yorker journalist Sheelah Kolhatkar noted, in a particularly sobering general session, that the rise of artificial intelligence across sectors has generally led to a decline in jobs for humans. While economists have predicted that the elimination of certain jobs due to AI will lead to creation of different jobs, it hasn’t always lived up to that promise. She noted two types of artificial intelligence: replacing and helping. Replacing AI replaces human labor, while helping AI helps humans be more efficient at their jobs.

While AI can likely memorize more things than you, and can make a financial plan, it doesn’t yet have the same emotional intelligence quotient as you do. Though some news reports indicate that is only a few decades off. Kolhatkar talked about Amelia, a robot being tested specifically to replace human workers in white collar jobs. Amelia speaks 20 languages and can handle multiple issues at once.

Let’s hope Amelia doesn’t get her CFP® certification.

The Competition is Stiff for New Talent, But There’s Good News on the Horizon

Kate Healy, managing director of generation next at TD Ameritrade Institutional, notes that there are approximately 100,000 advisers who are expected to retire within the next decade. We have 40 percent fewer advisers today than we had in 2008, and only 25 percent of the American population is getting financial planning, she said.

“There is a really large untapped market that we need to serve,” Healy told FPA Annual Conference attendees. Healy noted we’re only graduating around 200 students a year in CFP Board Registered programs. Clearly, the pipeline of future planners isn’t enough to fill the impending gap in the number of planners.

Maybe we need Amelia to get her CFP® certification after all.

But there is good news, Healy said. For the first time the average age of advisers has dropped below 50—it’s now 49, and more women and black and Latino professionals are entering the profession.

“We’re seeing progress,” Healy said. “We’ve been doing this for a decade and we’re finally starting to get it.”

72350361_169761577543545_4690210948449828864_n.jpgThis year saw the first-ever diversity and inclusion reception, where people came together the night before the conference kicked off to get to know each other. It was also here that FPA Diversity Committee chair Charles Adi, CFP® (pictured right with Catalina Franco-Cicero, CFP®), announced the launch of the newest Knowledge Circle—the African American Knowledge Circle. This group joins the ranks of the PridePlanners and FPA Latino Knowledge Circles.

This reception was a favorite of attendee Dejah Gay, CFP®.

“I was thoroughly impressed with the FPA’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment and appreciative of the opportunity to have open dialogue about the topic with industry peers,” Gay said. “Also, being able to meet and exchange experiences and ideas with so many other attendees the first day really gave me a sense of community throughout the remainder of the conference.”

Beverly said in talking to students, he found there is still an opportunity to expand recruitment efforts.

“We need to attract more students of color to financial planning programs,” Beverly said. “The three [students] I met were from schools where the students of color represented less than 2 percent of students in the program.  We need to start earlier with our recruitment efforts.”

Your Clients Are Super Stressed Out, and It Could Lead to Bigger Problems

They are stressed out and their stress levels might raise their risk of heart attack because when we’re stressed, we do things like excessively drink and overeat. A session by the American Heart Association noted that 70 percent of Americans say their finances are the No. 1 cause of stress.

But it turns out, if your clients are charitable, they actually have lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less depression and lower stress levels. Maybe you should encourage your clients to better manage their stress and donate more to charities.

But many things cause clients stress—not just money. And these challenges require more training on the art of financial planning. The many sessions that tackled this were most helpful for Kamila McDonnough, CFP®.

“I was excited to see how many of the sessions focus on the soft skills of planning. I enjoyed the sessions on working with clients that enable, married couples and [couples with] low AUM,” McDonnough said. “It reinforces, for advisers and others, that financial planning is much more than the asset allocation and how the FPA provides tools to assists advisers in these areas.”

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Be Grateful, Learn to Love the Learning Process, and Be Prepared

Justice Alan Page, former Minnesota Viking and Pro Football Hall of Famer, was always quick in school and got things relatively easy. So he kind of coasted through, getting good grades but not really enjoying learning.

It wasn’t until his second go at law school (he dropped out the first time) that he began to fully love the learning process.

Instead of seeing your CE requirements as something to check off a to-do list, learn to really absorb the things you’re reading about and being quizzed on. Also, Justice Page said, do what you do as well as you possibly can and prepare well.

“Preparation is how we get things done,” Page said. “Being as prepared as you can will give you the greatest opportunity to achieve the particular goal that you’re working on.”

Beverly said he enjoyed the general session with Page the most.

“He’s a brilliant man with a lifelong commitment to social justice and racial equity,” Beverly said. “It was motivating to hear how he began shaping his legacy at an early age and has been steadfast over many decades. He also has a great sense of humor and offered some memorable quotes.”

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Embrace Challenges

The Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park is 3,000 feet of straight up granite. It has 32 different pitches. It took seven years for Kevin Jorgeson to conquer.

Jorgeson’s story is one of reinvention. The former competitor in bouldering had never done big wall climbing before.

I know—a former boulderer conquering that feat is impressive, but can we just take a moment to recognize that his climbing partner, Tommy Caldwell, still does these big wall climbs after cutting off his finger?! Talk about embracing challenges.

While you can’t ease your client’s stress by telling them to embrace challenges and be grateful you can try to ease your own stress by reframing challenges to be something that you look forward to and remember fondly when they’re over.

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It’s the Year of Generation Next

Something was different about this year’s FPA Annual Conference. The students have always been there, but this year, they were not just about the student-only events. Students were mingling and learning at sessions, sitting down and networking with future employers and FPA staff, and representing their schools well. Not that they hadn’t done that in previous years, but this year, students seemed particularly impressive.

FPA NexGen events were packed with students and NexGen leaders who have an infectious passion for the financial planning profession, sharing tips and knowledge and welcoming new planners and future planners into the fold.

NexGen veteran and 2019 FPA president-elect Martin Seay, Ph.D., CFP®, noted that there are currently more CFP® professionals older than 70 than under 30.

“That means there are a lot of folks that worked really hard to build this profession that will retire at some point,” he said at the FPA NexGen Town Hall. “We need more of you and there are opportunities.”

But learning and being successful isn’t about reinventing the wheel, he noted, rather, “it’s about learning from the folks who came before you.”

And 2019 FPA NexGen president-elect Alexandria Davis announced the fun news that NexGen Gathering will be held in June 2020 in Las Vegas, dates to be determined. She also encouraged students and new planners to get involved in their local chapter and take advantage of their FPA membership, noting that NexGen membership is part of that, not a separate membership.

Franco-Cicero said her top takeaway from conference was, “The importance of passing the torch from the current generation of planners to the new one entering the field. I felt that this year’s conference created a space that allowed for professional friendships to develop and others to continue to be nourished.”

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Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the FPA Next Generation Planner. She also edits the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn


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How to Communicate Your Value Proposition

I recently took part in Commonwealth Financial Network®’s National Conference, where I was asked to present on a topic related to adviser growth. Of course, there are many ways that advisers can grow, but I chose to discuss the value proposition. I think it’s something critically important to get right, and all too frequently, advisers tend to miss the mark.

At the beginning of my session, I had advisers pair up and deliver their current value propositions to each other. Perhaps not surprising, many said that what they heard was uncompelling, rating each other mostly with Bs and Cs. (I’m convinced that the grades would have been even lower if advisers weren’t sitting next to the person they rated.) Next, the group went through an exercise, listing phrases that could describe themselves and their practices. Here, the advisers reluctantly agreed that all the lists sounded alike. We had a wide range of ages, experience, production and geography in that room. Still, they all used many of the same generic terms and jargon to describe themselves and their practices.

The lesson? A value proposition is something that many advisers, at all levels of production and experience, struggle to articulate. Fortunately, successfully communicating your value proposition can be achieved with some thought and effort. Let’s go a little deeper.

It’s Not an Elevator Speech

To start, let’s define value proposition. I’m a big fan of keeping things simple, so here is my definition of value proposition in a nutshell: a clear and compelling reason someone would want to do business with you. This reason is critical because if, as a prospect, I choose you, I’m implicitly not choosing someone else. Prospects need to know how you’re different from everyone else so they can make an informed choice.

Your value proposition is not meant to be an elevator speech (a term I’ve always hated). Now, many advisers think of an elevator speech as the description of your practice that you can give quickly and smoothly to prospects even between floors on an elevator. But if you look at it from a prospect’s point of view? It means that you’ve got me cornered in a steel box with no way to escape, so I’m forced to listen to you pitch your business. Why on earth would an elevator speech be something advisers should strive to master?

So, then, how do you convey your unique value and thus make it easier for people to choose to work with you? You can start by answering three important questions.

Who Are the People You Help?

If I’m a prospect who is perusing your website, I should very quickly get a feel for the type of people who can benefit from working with you. There is a lot of research that shows that in less than four seconds on a site, prospects make assumptions about whether an adviser can help them. So, you have four seconds to capture my attention. For example, if I’m a pre-retiree or retiree, and I see photos that show older people and messaging that speaks to getting ready to retire or taking distributions, I know I’m in the right place. More than likely, I’ll continue to read and learn more about your firm.

But you can also tell prospects verbally or in collateral why you chose to help a particular group of people. Were you a teacher before becoming an adviser and so understand 403(b) plans and your state’s health benefits better than others? Let people know, because that’s the kind of unique experience they are likely looking for.

What Are the Problems You Solve?

Now it’s time to showcase your expertise and the solutions you can deliver to clients and prospects. Whether it’s your in-depth knowledge of the local power company’s pension plan, your understanding of the succession issues that business owners face, or the retirement income plans you create to replace paychecks for retirees, highlight your strengths. Do you have a credential that lends additional expertise and credibility? If so, talk about the CDFA® certification that helps you work better with divorced people or the CFA® designation that you leverage to develop investment portfolios.

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Ah, the why. This is where you get to show your heart—and the DNA of your firm. You had a choice of careers, firms and locations, and advising is what you chose to do. Why? The personal insights you share can be a powerful relationship builder with clients and prospects alike. One of the best value propositions I’ve ever seen came from a firm that talks about its deep commitment to the community and the passion its advisers have to make things better. The firm supports this proposition with many examples of its community work, so that prospects can see the team’s deep and fundamental caring for others. Not surprisingly, the firm has grown quickly over the past few years, and it is well positioned for future growth.

You Are Different—Now Articulate It!

I firmly believe that—with just a little time and focus—most advisers can make dramatic strides forward in communicating their value propositions. At our session, after some training on the three key criteria, advisers took 10 minutes to revise their value propositions. We chose this brief time period deliberately so that participants couldn’t get hung up on having something perfect before they tried it out. They scribbled, rewrote furiously and then had to test their new value proposition by working with their partner.

Afterward, when I asked if the revised value propositions were greatly improved from the first round, every hand was raised in agreement! You can improve your value proposition, too. And I hope you do, because knowing how you are different from every adviser—and being able to articulate it—will help you gain clients and build relationships that last.

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Kristine McManus is chief business development officer, practice management, at Commonwealth Financial Network®, member FINRA/SIPC, the nation’s largest privately held Registered Investment Adviser—independent broker/dealer. Since joining the firm in April 2014, she has been working with affiliated advisers to grow their top line through the introduction of various programs, tools and coaching. Kristine holds the Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM designation, a master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, and a BFA from Adelphi University.