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Beta Testing Change in Your Ensemble Practice

I’ve spent decades consulting on practice management issues and had countless conversations with advisers wanting to make some sort of change in their practices. One adviser might want to hire a new employee to increase efficiency. Another might want to move into a new, more upscale office space. Yet another might want to bring other types of advisers into the practice, such as rainmakers or service advisers.

As the trend of shifting from a solo to a group or ensemble practice continues to gain steam in our industry, it’s important to realize some of the challenges going into partnership with other advisers can present.

Barriers to change

A partnership is a bit like a marriage. Your adviser partners come to the table with their own established values, perceptions and opinions. And just because one partner thinks a particular business change is a profoundly good idea, it doesn’t mean another partner (or partners) will share that belief. For example, say you think your firm should incorporate a formal business management process to help you target client acquisition and revenue goals. Your two partners disagree, arguing the following:

  • Why do we need to have a business plan? We know what we’re doing.
  • What’s the point of defining a niche? We’d have to turn down business.
  • There’s no need to create and stick to an ideal client profile.
  • Why is it important to track overhead? We can pay our bills just fine.
  • Documenting processes seems like a waste of time.
  • Who needs production goals? We’re earning enough.
  • Why do we need to create continuity agreements? None of us is going anywhere.

What do you do when you feel strongly about how to run the business more effectively and your partners put up barriers like these? Do you ignore the issue and simply learn to live with the status quo? Do you have a serious life-or-death discussion with them about the future of the firm? Or is there another option?

Beta testing change

Instead of giving up, or beating your head against a wall trying to convince others to see things your way, offer to implement the change you’re seeking in your own corner of the firm as a beta test. Of course, this requires your full commitment to the change. You’ll also need to develop a formal method for measuring the impact of the change you make. After an appropriate period of time, you can then share the results of your beta test with your partners and see if they’re now ready to agree with you.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to grow revenue. To do so, all new clients you take on have to meet your ideal client profile. You’ll want to calculate the return on this investment for your partners. You might also want to track how you help prospects who aren’t a good fit, particularly if your partners were adamant about not turning away any clients. The bigger the change you want to make, the longer it will take to document results, so try starting with a small change first, to make your point.

What is the value in this sort of beta test? You get to implement a change you believe in. You eliminate some of the frustration you were feeling. And everyone in the firm moves toward data-driven decision making.

Will this approach work in every situation? Probably not. But it can be a particularly effective technique for positioning specific changes to your partners. After all, results speak for themselves.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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New Idea? Try a Reality Check

Planners and advisers often ask about ideas they heard from another adviser, a conference speaker or something they read about in an industry publication.

These ideas generally relate to some type of marketing concept or client event. “Do you think this would work for me?” they ask. A good way to conduct a reality check is to ask yourself these four questions:

1.) What are you trying to accomplish? Every activity, communication or process that you put into place should have a clear purpose related to the vision you have for the practice you are building. Ask yourself whether this idea will move you closer to your vision for your ideal practice. If it does, it may be worth considering. If not, look for something else that will.

2.) What would this communicate to your clients or prospective clients? One of my core principles is to examine every decision from the perspective or viewpoint of your clients. Would this idea or concept enhance the value you bring to them in terms of your planning or advice? Would it step up your level of service to them? Would it enhance their perception of you as a professional?

3.) Is this the best way to accomplish what you are trying to do? Think about what you are trying to achieve and then consider all the ways that goal could be accomplished. Many times, we will hear about an idea, but don’t stop to consider alternative approaches that could be more effective and at a lower cost.

4.) How will you define success? It is amazing how frequently planners and advisers will implement new ideas, even marketing strategies, with no idea how to measure the results relative to the time and resources spent. Obviously, some results are easier to measure than others, but you should never undertake a new strategy or activity without clearly defining for yourself exactly what success would look like.

By taking the time to ask yourself these questions about any new concept you are considering, you are much more likely to pursue the strategies that make the most sense for you and your practice, and most importantly, for your clients.

susan-kornegaySusan Kornegay, CFP®
Consultant/Coach
Pathfinder Strategic Solutions 
Knoxville, Tenn.

 

Editor’s Note: Read more of Kornegay’s blog posts at the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions “Perspectives” blog. 


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The Reality of Creating a Record-Setting Year

Do you believe that achieving a record production year in your business happens by chance or by design? If you said design, you are right. However, while most advisers start off a new year with big dreams, few finish reaching them. The reality of creating a record-setting year is more than just great intentions and luck, you need thorough and consistently used systems.

As a rookie financial adviser more than 20-plus years ago, I struggled my first year. During my second year things were a bit better because I gathered three times the assets but I was still in no position to stop eating ramen noodles. It wasn’t until my third year that I made a commitment (and a plan) to create my success. As a result, I tripled my income from the previous year. I then repeated the process the following year and was able to double my income following the exact same system. I’m telling you this not to impress you but rather to impress upon you that you cannot leave success up to chance.

The following is a brief outline of how you too can plan for your success with a little upfront work:

Create an Unwavering Commitment

It was a simple statement to myself— “I’m never going below $10,000 gross per month this year,”—that led me down a path to changing my belief system that I could actually do it. I used this same strategy years later but doubled the number and hit a personal record high production in month five out of the first six months of the year. Why? Merely because I choose to believe that it was possible. Remember, the more you believe in your own potential the higher the probability that you will hit your goals.

Daily Discipline of Prospecting

Part of that unwavering commitment was to start every day prospecting. This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s not easy unless you do one important thing, learn to enjoy doing it. It might sound crazy but if you make a game out of how many dials, contacts and appointments you do while prospecting, it can actually become a lot of fun.

A Systematic Way of Selling

Although hope is a good thing, it’s not the best strategy for sales success. Instead, you need a systematic way of selling so that you can duplicate every step of the way, from the initial contact to closing the sale. In my third year, I also learned from a top producer how to cross-sell to my client base. This opened my eyes to how to gather additional assets and commissions but more importantly to increasing my value to my client base.

A Detailed Tracking System

In order to keep the momentum of activity and results going it was important for me to create a great tracking system that was simple enough to fill out during the day but effective enough to keep a tally and tell me if I was going to achieve my monthly goals. I created a daily score card that tracked my contacts, presentations, orders asked for and gross commissions. Next, I created a sales pipeline of prospects and clients so I knew how many people and how much potential business was possible. Finally, I tracked daily gross production and knew exactly if I was above or below my goals at any given time. When you make tracking a priority you get excited to achieve more.

A Strong Reward

At the end of my third year I was shocked at the amount of success I had achieved by greatly surpassing my goals. Looking back at it now, it’s not about the numbers it’s about all of the other things that are obtained when you surpass what you believe you are capable of, confidence, pride and increased self-esteem to name a few. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a strong reward system. In fact, I went from eating ramen noodles the previous year to buying my first house! When you have a strong reward system you have an extra added incentive to achieve your goals.

Old Dogs CAN Learn New Tricks

2016-02-28_finleyBy now you might be saying to yourself, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If so, just know that isn’t reality. In fact, in my book 101 Advisor Solutions: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Strategies that Educate, Motivate and Inspire, I tell a true story about my client Gale Z., who after 25 years was forced to realize that she was barely hitting the corporate minimum production standards at the end of a year. We applied the aforementioned strategies and by the end of the first quarter she was the top producer in her region. She exceeded her numbers by reaching 66 percent of the previous year’s production goals.

If you read this article and need help creating a record-setting year, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing, to schedule a free complimentary consultation.

Dan Finley

 

Daniel C. Finley
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.