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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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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.

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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.


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Strategies for Measuring Success

Many financial planners measure their success by the end tally of new accounts, new assets and additional gross revenue. Unfortunately, some planners give up before reaching their set goal. Thomas Edison said it best when he said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

I truly believe that Mr. Edison was correct. However, focusing on the journey toward achieving success rather than the destination itself allows for focusing on productive activities while celebrating accomplishments along the way. Isn’t that what we all truly want—to actually enjoy what we do for a living?

Let’s take a deeper dive with a stepwise approach that can help you continuously measure progress instead of using the ultimate endgame in mind as your barometer.

Step 1: Compartmentalize the Goals

Goals are an important part of achieving success however if you don’t break down your goals into daily actions, they are very difficult to accomplish. That’s exactly why Edison conducted 10,000 experiments in order to invent the light bulb—he just kept at it.

Here is a real-world example of how client of mine used this type of process:

Robert E. was an adviser/insurance agent with four years of experience when his boss told him that his life insurance sales had spiraled downward from any other month in production. When Robert and I met, he informed me that he no longer had company minimum production standards to meet upon his four-year anniversary, which he had just passed.

Unfortunately, his boss and the company were taking notice and they were not happy with him. It was time to redefine his goals and map out his daily activities.

Step 2: Create a Game

The next step was to create a game, something that would be fun to do on a daily basis. Having coached hundreds of financial planners and insurance agents, I knew exactly what game would work best for Robert. So, I explained a “cross-selling” campaign that I call the “Oh, By the Way” game.

The title itself was a simple reminder that whenever he was talking to a client, he had to look at the account to see if they had their life insurance with him. If not, he began the conversation with, “Oh, by the way I know that we have been working together for some time now but I see that we aren’t helping you with your life insurance, why is that?” Next, he had to wait for any objections and use one of our “Handling Objections” tools to overcome it.

If he was able to overcome the objection, then he got to mark the accomplishment as a point and then attempt to continue earning himself points.

Step 3: Beat Your High Score

Motivation is an important step in turning daily activities into a habit. The best way I know to do this is to try and beat your personal record and to have daily accountability. At the end of each day, Robert would email me how many points he had earned. Every time he beat his high score he would reward himself with some type of motivating reward.

So, what happened to Robert?

At the end of the month, I called his boss to get his opinion on Robert’s progress. “I don’t know what you did to him but he’s having the best month of his career!” his boss proudly exclaimed. In other words, Robert was now enjoying the journey and the bonus was that his business was picking up as a result.

Why the “Game” Approach to Success Works

The reason this worked for Robert was because he focused on deliberate activities, made a game out of those and kept himself accountable (both with rewards and by checking in with me). When you change your mindset, you can have a good time doing activities that might have seemed like too much work previously. Viewing it through the lens of a game changed his trajectory.

If you would like a free coaching session with me, email Melissa Denham, our 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.