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Beyond the Blame Game: 3 Steps to Incorporate Responsibility Into Your Business

In today’s climate, many sources are quick to place blame on the reasons for changes in our economy and overall market volatility. Likewise, many advisers have a tendency to do something similar when having to explain to others the state of their business. Statements like, “If the market would cooperate, I would be doing better,” or “Clients don’t see the urgency in getting together while the market is doing well,” are simply examples of excuses for not taking responsibility. The consequence in making those excuses is the possible outcomes. Attending to your clients and their portfolios during both up and down markets is vital.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best when he said, “No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.”

Successful advisers know that true growth is really up to oneself regardless of what is going on both in and out of your control. You must be willing to be honest about what is currently working and not working for you. Then, you must be willing to adjust and adapt to changing conditions. Next, you must decide on what actions will actually guide you toward positive results. Implementing those activities and continually assessing your results will keep you accountable to yourself and prevent the “because of everyone else” blame game.

Let’s take a look at specific steps for how you can incorporate responsibility into your business.

Step No. 1: Be Completely Honest

Honesty truly is the best policy and what better person to be honest with than yourself. However, many advisers find it difficult to admit that they themselves are the true cause of their own not-so-great results. Let me share about one adviser who I’ve worked with to identify his shortfalls and some solutions we utilized for replacing them.

Bill T. is a 15-year veteran financial adviser who found himself on a production plateau. After years of building up a client base, he simply stopped prospecting. His rationale was that he had “made it” and that anyone with his years of experience should not have to prospect. However, his company did not share the same point of view and thus was not happy with Bill’s level of production.

So, during one of our coaching sessions I asked Bill a number of questions to determine his honest view about prospecting. It didn’t take long before he realized that he needed to change his perspective about prospecting from being an obstacle to being an opportunity.

Step No. 2: Adjust and Adapt to Changing Conditions

One of the hardest things to do once you face the truth is to make the necessary shifts in both attitude and tasks. The best way to do this is to create a well-thought-out action plan. Take time to develop it and be realistic about your own expectations. In Bill’s case, he knew he needed to get back to prospecting but had no idea where to begin since it had been quite some time since he had prospected. So, we mapped out an action plan together.

We first determined his target market, which was business owners. Then, we worked on how to approach them by scripting out a formula for what to say during the initial contact. Next, we worked on brainstorming every possible objection he might hear and how to overcome them to set appointments. Finally, we practiced the process so that his first call would sound flawless.

Step No. 3: Implement and Evaluate Your Action Plan

Now it is time to implement in real time and constantly be evaluating (and tweaking) your action plan to fine-tune it to work optimally.

This is best done by determining what time of the day you will do particular tasks and sticking to that blocked time. You also need to allocate the time to record your daily activities and record the outcome on a daily, weekly and monthly.

After several weeks, Bill realized that his pipeline was starting to fill up with qualified prospects that were interested in meeting with him. Organically, he began turning those prospects into clients. His company took notice and asked him if he would be interested in teaching other advisers how he had turned things around.

Why Taking Responsibility Works

The reason why taking responsibility for your own success works is because it’s not anyone else’s responsibility for you to succeed. And choosing to blame the economy, the market, your firm or others will always result in a losing game.

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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Avoid the Top 10 Productivity Pitfalls

There are many barriers to our productivity in the workplace. Avoid the following pitfalls to productivity:

Doing 100 percent. Giving 100 percent to client service is not doing 100 percent. Doctors don’t take blood pressure, staff does that. Delegate as much non-critical service as possible.

Outdated habits. Outdated habits waste time and money. Periodically examine established practices. Eliminate any that have lost value.

Addition only. We add to our lists but frequently forget to subtract, causing overload. If something new is important, drop something that’s now less important.

Always being available. Being responsive turns into a trap if we’re always available. Rarely do clients need immediate attention. Train staff to manage requests. You can always be interrupted for a true emergency.

Distraction delirium. New research shows multi-tasking significantly diminishes productivity and quality. Good concentration requires at least 20 minutes of focused time. Build boundaries around email, phone and other interruptions.

Energy flow. Biorhythms are a fact. People concentrate better at certain times of the day. Schedule workflow around individual energy for highest productivity.

One-size-fits-all. Time-management takes personal discipline and a personalized system. There is no one-size-fits-all. Don’t waste time forcing a fit. Custom tailor the system to fit you.

Life. Life is filled with disruptions and setbacks are completely normal. Expect them and adapt goals to accommodate reality. Research shows those with realistic optimism are the most successful in overcoming obstacles and achieving their goals.

Brand confusion. Well-meaning but exhausted professionals fall into the trap of providing high-end service without the pricing and the resources to sustain it. We don’t get fine dining at a fast food joint and there’s no dollar menu at five-star restaurant. Define your brand and structure the business to match.

Should’s. Lots of “best practices” provide real value. However, people sometimes do things just because they should. Unless it brings real value to you, your business and your clients, don’t succumb to should.

Two Steps to Get Started Now

Remove team time-wasters. Call a team meeting specifically to discuss and eliminate time-wasters. You’ll be amazed by small shifts that can make a big difference. Have everyone come to the meeting with at least one time waster and a solution that is quick to implement. Then prioritize and execute on the solutions immediately.

Do a client “value-check.” Formally or informally, ask clients about optional communication and service touches. Find out what clients really value. You may find things of low value that can be easily eliminated. It’s easy to stop doing things clients don’t want.


Barbara Kay, business psychology and productivity coach, helps advisers and firms maximize potential. As a member of the FPA Coaches Corner, Barbara offers a free consultation to all FPA members. Visit: www.barbarakaycoaching.com.


What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

There is a topic that has come up in so many conversations I’ve had this past week, it was like the universe was screaming at me to please help some folks with this issue.

So here it goes: How do you decide what to do?

Making decisions can be difficult and professionals today are inundated with so many options that it only adds to the pressure.

  • What should you specialize in?
  • Should you choose a niche or be a generalist?
  • What organizations should you join?
  • Should you join an organization at all or just go it alone?
  • Where should you spend your marketing efforts?
  • Where should you spend your marketing dollars?
  • Who should you hire to help you with technology?
  • What should you do next to grow your business?
  • Should you hire someone?
  • What should you hire someone to do?
  • Who should you refer business to?
  • Who should you ask for referrals from?
  • Should you work from home?
  • When is the right time to move to an office if you are working from home?

I could go on and on, but you get the idea and you’re probably having serious stress flashbacks by now.

The ability to quickly make a decision—and then act on that decision—is a key ingredient to success.

Staying stuck not knowing which direction to go just leaves you, well, stuck! As in nothing is happening.

Not making a decision keeps you in reaction mode instead of “conquering” mode! While some folks can’t make a decision that will get them off the starting block, others have a different issue—they constantly make new decisions.

The problem with too many entrepreneurs, or folks who are responsible in any way for their own paycheck, is they jump from thing to thing to thing and never really give anything a chance to work.

Just like with so many of our half-hearted attempts at weight loss—if the approach doesn’t work instantly to solve all of our problems, we quickly abandon it for the next shiny promise of success.

Looking for some concrete advice on how to make decisions? Here’s my framework for the top three issues that come up in my conversations.

Challenge: Analysis Paralysis

Solution: Set a timer. Seriously. Set a timer or a deadline, do whatever research you feel you need to do and Make. A. Decision. This is a skill you absolutely need to develop if you want to be successful and being stuck in “un-decision” mode is just fear stopping you from moving forward.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received around decision-making was from six-time New York Times bestselling author and one of my personal mentors, Larry Winget. I’ve heard him say this repeatedly: “Make a decision. And make it right.”

Stop dwelling over every little detail of what will or won’t work—make a decision—and then commit to doing what you need to do to make sure it works!

Challenge: Too Many Options for Limited Resources

Solution: I talk to a lot of people about this. Where should you spend your marketing dollars? There’s social media, companies that sell leads, BNI and networking groups, funnels. You name it; it’s out there.

Some people will throw coaching in this category as well, but be clear, that is a completely different situation. Coaching is an investment in learning how to be successful. The rest of these are marketing strategies. This is a very important distinction.

In terms of which marketing strategy you should get behind, think first about what you’re already naturally good at doing. Like I mentioned before, they all work if you stick with them. And if you’re already a bit of a natural in one area, you’re going to have a greater chance at success learning how to dial it in strategically in order to grow your business.

Already spend half your day on Facebook? Then go with social media. Are you a natural go-getter sales person? Then investing in leads could make perfect sense.

What doesn’t work is picking a strategy that you already have negative feelings about but doing it because it’s the marketing flavor of the month. I do a lot of work with my clients around getting over their fears and taking action. But if you have limited resources and can only invest in one or two marketing strategies, give yourself the best chance at success!

And stop switching strategies at first sign of conflict. It’s not failure, it’s feedback!

Take the feedback you get from your efforts and tweak what you’re doing. Don’t abandon the ship prematurely.

Challenge: When to Hire Team Members

Solution: This one is actually a simple math problem: if you are doing $20-an-hour work that keeps you from doing $100-an-hour work, then you need to hire someone.

When you first start out you have time on your hands. You can afford to bootstrap your efforts and do all sorts of work yourself because you don’t yet have clients to serve.

As you get going, your two main focuses must be growing your business (getting new clients) and serving your current clients.

How fast your business grows is in direct relation to how much time you can spend on getting new clients—which means how fast you can hire people to do all the things that are not necessary for you to be doing.

A final word of warning—and hopefully some wisdom. There is one mistake I see people make more than anything else: treating every little decision as if it is the end all, be all, biggest and ONLY decision you’ll ever get to make. There are absolutely zero things I can think of in my history as a professional or business owner that I didn’t get to adjust or tweak if it wasn’t working out.

Have I tried marketing strategies that didn’t work? Absolutely.

Have I hired coaches that ended up not being a good fit for me? Yep.

Have I hired team members that didn’t live up to my expectations? You bet.

All of these things are fixable! Every single one of them.

So get out there. Make some decisions. Even better—make some mistakes and then fix them! You’ll be all the more successful for it.


Erin Marcus is a nationally renowned speaker, author and consultant who has been creating business success for more than 20 years. Her combination of a street-smart upbringing, formal education and real world business experience provides a unique point-of-view and ability to relate to her audiences and clients. For more information on Marcus, check out her website at: www.ConquerYourBusiness.com.