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Designing Your Social Distancing Strategy

Has the recent required social distancing and your recent work-from-home status left you feeling lost and uncertain about what to do and best practices as we all navigate a new normal? If so, you are not alone. Working from home can be challenging for anyone but even more so for those who have never done it before.

During this time of uncertainty, you really only have two choices—to be proactive or reactive. Successful planners know they need to adopt a mindset around the former.

John C. Maxwell said it best when he said, “I believe that everyone chooses how to approach life. If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.”

The following is a brief outline of how you can design your social distancing strategy to not only help yourself, but clients and prospects too.

Adopt a Proactive Mindset

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to adopt a positive and proactive mindset. One of the easiest ways to do this is to do what my first business coach taught me during the bear market of 2001: plan with the end in mind.

To do that, consider once the coronavirus spread is contained, the stock market steadies and we all return to a sense of normal, what would you have wanted to have done from now until then?

Most planners I have spoken with and coached these past few weeks have answered that they want to connect with clients and prospects often, keep abreast of the market particulars and attempt to do business as usual. If those activities resonate with you, then you know that there is no time to waste.

Create Structure in Your Home Office Environment

Part of maintaining a proactive mindset is to be sure you have structure to your day as you work from home. By this I mean to stick to your usual routine as you start your day, take a break for lunch and finish your day around the same time you did when you worked from the office. Also, treat work time differently from home time just as you did when you worked and lived in separate physical spaces. By this I mean, shut your door during office hours and focus on your work activities. Do not tackle chores such as laundry and cleaning until after work. If you have children, set a schedule for them to follow for e-learning and a schedule for yourself or your spouse to divide and conquer to handle homeschooling and childcare.

Know Your Message

Change can be a scary thing for clients and prospects. In a volatile market with 1,000 to 2,000 point swings in a single day, you must establish a point of view on what is happening. Design a template that you can fill out to craft an explanation around what has happened since the beginning of the year, what is happening presently and what you believe may happen in the near- and long-term future for you and your associates to use with clients. My clients use a tool called The 60-Second Market Story for this. Clients and prospects are looking to you for direction so you must be prepared.

Create Your System

If you have followed the aforementioned steps you know that all that is left to do is to get your message out there to your clients and prospects. And here is how: time block your day into 45-minute blocks to reach out to clients and prospects. Know your call’s intro, your 60-second market story, your outro, and track your calls.

Streamline your process around who you have spoken to and what the conversation was about. Take notes and generate a system that keeps all important notes in one place. My clients use a tool I designed called the Client/Prospect Check-In Call Tracker for this.

Why Designing Your Social Distancing Strategy Works

Since social distancing has begun my coaching clients have put together their strategy and received some amazing results. The reason designing your social distancing strategy works is because it gets you focused on taking specific action and remaining accountable. Social distancing and working from home—we’ve got this.

If you would like a complimentary coaching session with me or the tools mentioned in this article, 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.


Coronavirus: How to Calm Anxious Clients

News of coronavirus cases hitting the U.S. sent financial markets into a tailspin, with U.S. stocks recording their worst week since October 2008. Naturally, many clients reacted with anxiety and fear. Many had concerned conversations with their planners. One of the best ways to learn new strategies for allaying client fears during volatility and uncertainty is to ask your peers.

In response to its members’ needs, FPA has created a new virtual community on FPA Connect for planners to share language and strategies for calming clients in the wake of coronavirus anxiety. This FPA Connect group held three live webinars in early March, during which the following tips were shared amongst planners (visit Connect.OneFPA.org to access this and other discussion groups):

Provide perspective.

Longtime planner and professional leader Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®, said that during times of uncertainty, he starts conversations with anxious clients with the idea that whatever happens, human beings are enduring.

Yeske also provides perspective, demystifying the concepts of “the economy” and “the markets.”

“I always explain to clients that the economy is not some big machine that gets expressed in statistics, like gross domestic product, and consumer price index, and GDP deflator,” Yeske said. “[The economy] is just you and me, and everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know going about the business of earning, saving, spending and investing. Those individual decisions aggregate up to this thing we call the economy. And that’s why economies are resilient. And that’s why markets are resilient—because human beings are resilient. And that’s a fundamental regularity that’s not going to change.”

Offer weekly recaps.

Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™, said it’s important for planners to find that balance between keeping clients informed on what’s going on, yet not creating anxiety. Her firm, Francis Financial, surveyed clients during the recent market turbulence and asked: how often do you want to hear from us? The No. 1 answer was one a week.

“What they want is a weekly recap that helps them cut through the hype,” Francis said. “We need to help them see what’s really important, and what they don’t need to pay attention to.”

Francis also passed along advice from Michael Kitces and Carl Richards, who suggested adding non-financial tidbits to your weekly recaps, such as upcoming community events or spring break travel tips—content that shows you’re paying attention to more than just the markets.

Be understandable and relevant.

Francis also suggested reminding clients that what the markets are doing is different than what their portfolios are doing.

Tell clients: “Your bonds are doing phenomenally well, and they’re doing exactly what we wanted them to do, so that when stocks are falling, your bonds are going up and really saving the day,” Francis said. “Let them know that the myth of, what happens in the market is happening to me, is just not true; show them that it’s not true.”

Experience more peer-to-peer learning like this through FPA Connect at Connect.OneFPA.org.

Schulaka Carly_resized

Carly Schulaka is editor of the Journal of Financial Planning. Reach her at cschulaka@onefpa.org.