4 Steps to Redefining Your Reference Point

Most financial advisers settle into a routine after a few years in the business. However, oftentimes routines turn into ruts. Many of my clients wonder why their business is coasting along but not growing. I tell them that it may be time to take a moment to evaluate and possibly restructure their activities.

If this is happening to you, don’t be discouraged. Rather choose to redefine your reference point. Our past experiences can hold us back from future success because they may limit our confidence to try new things.

Pablo Picasso said it best when he said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

The secret to redefining your reference point is to think out of the box, find someone who has done what you would like to do, learn from their example and take action.

Let’s take a deeper look at each one of these steps.

Step 1: Think Out of the Box

As with most journeys in life, the first step is always the hardest. You must ask yourself the tough questions in order to begin. Questions such as, “Where am I now? Where do I want to be? What do I need to do differently to get there?” Asking yourself these types of questions and analyzing your answers helps you to think out of the box. It encourages the mind to look for solutions.

Jeff K., a financial adviser with 28 years of experience, had been on a production plateau for year. After attending a free Adviser Solutions Mastermind Session and hearing some of the tools and resources I recommend to other advisers, he contacted me to discuss his business. This act of asking for insight was foreign to him since he had never spoken to a business consultant/coach before.

Step 2: Find a Mentor

The next step is to find a mentor who can help you determine all of the steps needed between where you are currently and where you would like to be. This can be a difficult step for many advisers especially veteran ones who may have to consider advice from others who have not been in the business as long as they have. The key is to find a mentor who has proven results and whose opinion you value.

Step 3: Learn from Their Example

In order to produce the same types of results that other successful advisers have, find out what they have done to accomplish those positive outcomes. It’s important to fully understand their step-by-step process so that you can tweak that for yourself.

Once Jeff explained his situation to me I knew we needed to map out a great prospecting campaign and since he had a large client base I explored the possibility of prospecting by asking for referrals. Over the years, he had tried numerous times to get referrals but ended up very disappointed with the results. I detailed out the process for him, we role-played the dialogue and I coached him on the reasons why a focused referral system works.

Step 4: Take Action

The most important step is to take action—without doing so everything else is just wishful thinking.

Jeff began the Adviser Solutions Client-Centered Referral Process right away and within a week he reported to me that he had received five referrals. That is more than he had gotten the entire previous year. He was so excited about it that he gave me a referral to his boss who he believed needed to hear this process and whom ended up having me teach it to his entire region.

Why Redefining Your Reference Point Works

The key to creating success is to constantly redefine your reference point because it keeps you open to exploring new ways of improving.

If this blog resonates with you and you’d like a free consultation with me, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing for Advisor Solutions.

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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5 Steps to Plan to Succeed

We all get overwhelmed and spread too thin. Without a plan, an organization can lose its direction. In this industry, when servicing numerous clients, it is easy to lose sight of a longer-term vision. When that happens, a business can stall out or take a wrong turn.

This year, take the following five steps to increase your success.

1.) Think differently.

Step away from the business. Look at the trends and envision where the industry is going. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Determine how you will differentiate yourself in the future to stay one step ahead of the competition.

2.) Set layers of goals.

Start with big goals, like ‘We want to grow by 25 percent net of market performance,’ but do not stop there. Break down the larger goals into many parts. For example, how much growth is going to come from existing clients? Can share of wallet be increased in certain client relationships? Can introductions be made to prospects? What marketing is needed to win more client referrals? What events should be held? What client research is needed? What is the budget for each line item? Keep asking questions so the specifics are mapped out.

Continue to set other big goals and then go through the same exercise of asking numerous questions for each goal. If you are not good getting into the details, consider hiring a facilitator or consultant to help.

3.) Define owners.

Bring the entire team in to help flesh out the plan before it is completed. Each person in the organization should know his or her role and what he or she owns. Give the team defined responsibilities and hold each teammate accountable. If possible, tie in compensation to motivate all those who contribute to the success of the organization.

4.) Define metrics for success.

Review the goals and determine the key performance indicators. Set up multiple meetings in advance to regularly review the status of the plan. At a minimum, the meetings should be held quarterly. Monthly is probably the right frequency. Weekly meetings can fall into the micromanagement category, so avoid making things too tedious. With that said, there still might be data points that are gathered each week to eliminate surprises.

5.) Make improvements.

Learn from mistakes and evolve. Just because the plan is documented, does not mean it is set in stone. Determine if assistance is needed and invest in your organization where it can make a difference.

Hopefully this advice brings increased success! Need help with your plan? Contact Byrnes Consulting for assistance or visit the FPA Coaches Corner for more information.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the FPA Coaches Corner whitepaper titled “Make 2019 Your Year: Business and Career Tips to Get the Most Out of 2019.” Read the full whitepaper here.

Mike Byrnes Headshot

Michael W. Byrnes Jr. is a national speaker and founder and president of Byrnes Consulting, LLC. He founded Burnes Consulting in April 2008 with a dream of helping business become more successful. He is also the business growth strategies coach for the FPA Coaches Corner.

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The Annual Audit You’re Probably Not Doing—But Should

There is value in doing a business audit once a year. No, you don’t need to go out and hire a CPA for this job. This annual review of the inner workings of your firm is something you can do on your own with the help of a colleague. You want someone you trust to help you talk through a thorough business assessment—someone who will help you stay honest as you audit where your firm needs to put its attention. The outcome will affirm whether your firm is set up for future success—or whether you need to make some changes.

It’s best to do the business audit with some formality. Use a checklist, take notes and write a summary of the three biggest areas of opportunity for the firm. If you’re not willing to take the time to put any of your findings in writing, then don’t bother with the exercise—but I hope you do see the value and take it seriously. If you are willing to put in the effort to do it right, you’ll end up with a written set of goals you can act upon.

Putting the Firm Under Your Scrutiny

Here are a few starter ideas for an audit that will uncover problem areas in your firm as well as opportunities that you may have been missing. The process of creating the list of what to audit is as valuable as doing the audit itself.

  • Do you complete an annual business planning process with SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, vision, strategy and goals?
  • Are human resource documents—such as your handbook, job descriptions and performance reviews—up to date?
  • Are operating policies and procedures in writing and current?
  • Are your technology systems integrated and serving the firm’s needs, or have workarounds proliferated because of outdated technology?
  • Are you proud of your brand and how you hold yourself out to the public?
  • Is your firm growing in profitability?
  • Have you addressed the obvious risks to the firm? For example, have you protected your firm with the right insurance? Are your plans for business continuity and succession practical?
  • Is the firm culture defined and nurtured?

The Audit List, Updated

When you commit to doing an annual audit, you’ll find new issues need to be addressed every year. Here are a few additional robust areas that firms built to last need to keep in mind.

  • Is your firm taking advantage of automation and machine learning to any extent? Robo-advisers are here to stay, and they could become a valuable tool in your toolbox, in terms of efficiency and understanding your clients’ needs.
  • Are your fees 100 percent transparent? Clear compensation is the trend, and clients will continue to expect it.
  • Is the firm growing both revenue and profit? Evaluate what could be holding back growth and whether your firm is facing a downward trend.
  • Are you continuing to attract “sweet spot” clients to your firm? These are the clients who make your work worthwhile, whether it’s the level of assets they bring into your firm or the issues that match your particular expertise.
  • Are your social media approaches yielding results? Algorithms are always changing, and so are social media trends—revamping your social media strategy is a constant need.
  • Is your organizational structure designed with the future in mind?
  • Are you a financial planner or an investment manager? The former is gaining traction in the industry.
  • Do you have the best affiliation model for your firm: IAR, RIA, hybrid, something else?
  • How is your mental acuity and your attitude toward the business? Check in to see if your heart is still in this and what would need to change to keep it that way.

Sometimes I find that advisers view their practice as good enough. And while that assessment may get you through today, it certainly won’t carry your business into the future. But then, what do you want for the future? The process of going through the audit and reviewing the state of your business should help you find the answer.

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