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Do These 4 Simple Things to Enjoy More Business Success in the New Year

Endings and beginnings serve as natural signals for us to stop and reflect, and the fading of one year into a new one is no exception. If you haven’t yet, block off a few days (or better yet, a full week) on your calendar and devote that time to some strategic business planning now in the new year.

You’ll want to look back at the previous year and honestly evaluate what worked, what didn’t, what moved the needle toward success and what you may need to change going forward. Hopefully, going through this process will allow you to identify some actions to take in this new year.

Just in case you need a little help, allow me to suggest a few very simple things to try that could create some massive shifts toward success for you and your business. Some of these tweaks are changes in mindset, others are more tangible to-dos you can implement. But they’ll all help contribute to a more productive, creative and, hopefully, profitable 2019.

1.) Get Crystal Clear on Who You Want to Reach

If your answer to the “Who do you work with?” question is, “Individuals and families,” it’s time to do a little market research. Understanding the specific people you serve is critical to a number of functions in your business, from business development to marketing to customer service to client success and more.

After all, the clients in your book of business are real people who are just as complex, nuanced and complicated as you are. To reduce them to a general, bland group like “individuals” is disrespectful—and it also puts you at a massive disadvantage.

Why? Because it’s hard to effectively communicate in a way that persuades, delights and influences your target audience if you have absolutely no clue what makes them tick, what matters to them, what keeps them up at night and what worldview they operate with.

Be able to list off not only your ideal clients’ demographic information (age, location, earnings, ethnicity, gender, job sector, etc.) but more importantly, know their psychographic information: their fears, beliefs, values, desires, needs, dislikes and more.

2.) Eliminate What’s Not Essential

At a conference I spoke at recently, an audience member asked a great question that was about content marketing but could apply to just about any aspect of your business. This attendee asked how he could avoid becoming “the dancing bear.”

In other words, how could he avoid getting caught in the trap of producing content for the sake of throwing something out there to entertain followers day after day after day?

The answer is that you don’t have to hit publish all the time. You just don’t. Sometimes, it’s not essential—and if you come across a non-essential task, it’s a good candidate to cut from your to-do list entirely. There will be times when you don’t have anything to say. So don’t say anything. Make the choice between adding to the noise or waiting to be the sign.

Whether it’s content marketing or any other aspect of your business, quality likely matters more than quantity. Look at what you’re currently doing and ask, “What’s essential here? What’s serving a function that moves the needle—and what’s just noise, busywork, clutter or being done for the sake of quantity rather than quality?”

3.) Understand What Really Fuels Creativity

How many projects for your business have you put off because you weren’t feeling creative or inspired? It’s natural to feel like you’ll do your best work when you feel particularly compelled to act, but there’s a problem with that: creativity is not fueled by inspiration. It’s fueled by work.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I get some version of the question, “You write so much—how do you stay so inspired?” all the time. I understand why. I do write so much. (I once tried to estimate just how many words I manage to write in a month and the total easily topped a couple hundred thousand written words—every month!)

Many people assume I must be extremely creative, highly gifted or constantly inspired (or some combination of all three). The truth is, I have a system and I stick to it. If I only created content when I felt inspired, I wouldn’t write a thing. I’m able to create so much because I take the work of creating very seriously and I sit down to do that work regardless of whether I’m feeling particularly creative or inspired.

If you can make this shift for yourself and understand that putting off important projects until inspiration strikes is a sure way they’ll never get done, you may find yourself a little more productive—maybe even prolific—in the new year.

 4.) Invest in Personal, Not Just Professional, Development

Stick with me here, because it’s going to get a little woo-woo. Most of us are perfectly comfortable with spending money on professional development; we’re happy to fly to conferences, gather up CE opportunities or invest in specific training courses.

Too few of us, however, are willing to make the same investment into our personal development. That’s problematic because by skipping over the personal aspect of developing yourself, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to run a better business.

Personal development can help you improve your decision-making skills thanks to the understanding it can give you of your own thought processes. Self-awareness is critical for anyone in a high-powered position, from lead adviser to firm owner, because it allows you to better spot potential flaws in your own thinking.

Similarly, personal development work can help you uncover blind spots that you didn’t even know you had. The more things you didn’t know that you can discover, the better you’ll be at shoring up weaknesses or gaps in knowledge, skills or abilities.

And finally, I’d argue that investing in your personal development simply makes you a more engaging, interesting, thoughtful person that others tend to gravitate toward. You’ll likely improve your communication skills, boost your emotional intelligence and radiate confidence and a sense of groundedness in who you are and what you want to accomplish in your business and your life.

KaliHawlk
 Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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Walking the Client Demographic Tightrope

There are moments throughout my day as a financial adviser when I feel like a tightrope walker performing a delicate balancing act.

On one side, I have my baby boomer clientele who expect a high level of personalized service, one-on-one meetings, retirement planning advice and general counsel whenever it comes time to make an investment decision.

I’m comfortable working with these clients, who I’ve primarily served throughout my 28 years in financial planning. This demographic has also had a lifetime to build up investable assets and possesses a willingness and ability to compensate their adviser.

On the other side, I know I have to start catering my services to a younger clientele if I want to be in business 20 years from now. However, this demographic comes with an entirely different set of demands and expectations. For the most part, they’re less interested in face-to-face meetings, they are just starting out in their careers and possess minimal investable funds and they are quick to do their own research and make their own decisions. This is where the balancing act comes into play.

Advisers today are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They’re comfortable serving their baby boomer clients, who also happen to be much more profitable than their younger counterparts. Yet over the next several decades, this generation is going to transfer more than $30 trillion in assets to their children, and our industry must begin to pivot our services in favor of a younger clientele if we wish to survive. However, while we know this demographic is the future, they do not exactly represent a profitable business opportunity today.

So what can we do? For starters, it’s important to remember that your career as a financial planner is a marathon, not a sprint. No one is advocating for you to completely revamp your business and cater exclusively to millennials. But here are a few steps every adviser should consider as they begin to reposition their practice for the great wealth transfer.

  1. Hire younger advisers with the wherewithal to understand and utilize the electronic forms of communication favored by Gen X and millennial investors today. These younger advisers not only bring a fresh perspective to your approach to financial planning, but will be able to counsel more senior advisers on new communication tools enabled by technology.
  2. Consider charging younger clients in a different fashion by utilizing consulting or hourly fees and establishing small account offerings with lower fee arrangements. Millennials specifically are not accustomed to paying a 1 percent management fee like your older clients, nor do they possess the level of investable assets to make this fee meaningful for the adviser. Get creative in your compensation structure, and find a way that serves both parties’ best interests.
  3. Partner with a broker/dealer that offer investments products with low minimums. These broker/dealer partners can also counsel your team on how to best put these products into the hands of your younger clients.

At the end of the day, the long-term financial needs of Gen X-ers and millennials are very similar to those of their parents, and in many ways the actual planning process will largely remain the same. However, reaching and interacting with this demographic will require a much different approach. Hang on to that balancing pole and continue to walk the tightrope. It will pay off in the end.

Beth Richardson
Beth A Richardson, CFP®, is a financial adviser at Maleta Wealth Management, a Kestra Financial-affiliated firm. She specializes in wealth management, concentrating in retirement and estate planning for senior corporate executives and high net worth individuals. 


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Ageism Goes Both Ways

Ageism appears to be alive and well in our industry.

In just one day, I experienced it from opposite perspectives, and it turns out that no one age group is immune from criticism and the lumping of individuals into stereotypical buckets.

Generational Gaps on Display

First, I was in a meeting listening to an ensemble of tenured advisers describe the behaviors of their millennial colleagues. They characterized the younger generation of advisers with the usual labels—entitled, impatient, lackadaisical.

More pointedly, these older advisers dug into the millennial advisers’ expectations, noting that they wanted the security of a salary but resisted opportunities that come with taking risks. All of the tenured advisers remembered the stage of their career when the only thing they could rely on was what came from rounds of cold calling. “I remember when . . .” was the most frequently used phrase of the group.

All this talk stemmed from the tenured advisers’ need to evaluate the firm’s compensation policy. The younger advisers wanted salary increases after being in their position for just two years and still not producing any revenue. And one who had just five years under his belt had recently asked when he could expect partnership. The older group, used to a certain way of “earning one’s stripes,” was appalled at such a request.

Grumblings on the Previous Generation

Later the same day, I was in another meeting, this time with a group of young advisers who had their own generalizations to make. They characterized the baby boomer advisers as “milking” the organization of profits as they neared retirement and being technologically inept.

The younger advisers believed that the senior advisers should want to retire once they hit 65. At that age, the thinking went, the senior group would of course want to begin transferring ownership of the firm and fade into the sunset.

As the younger generation saw it, tenured advisers who hung around instead of retiring were full of excuses for sucking up all the income despite the fact that the younger advisers were the ones now doing all the work. The result, in their view, was a profit-sharing benefit plan with no profits going their way.

Moreover, these younger advisers lamented, the senior advisers needed to be “babysat” from a technology perspective, but they were closed-minded when the younger generation offered any marketing ideas, especially for anything related to social media.

What Gets Said Behind Closed Doors

Stereotypes can be a helpful tool. They can help us initially get our brains around vast amounts of information. How can you best reach a certain group of prospects, for example, based on their age, location and risk profile? Stereotypes are a starting point.

But stereotypes are dangerous when they lead to groupthink. When young advisers get together and spread the perception that certain characteristics automatically apply to all tenured advisers, it’s just as divisive as when tenured advisers get together and spread the perception that certain characteristics automatically apply to all millennial advisers.

It would seem wise—maybe even a breakthrough—for all of us to let the stereotypes go. We could instead recognize that tenured advisers are the ones who have built significant successful practices. And see younger advisers in their roles as the ones who will one day take over these businesses and hopefully improve upon them. Beyond those two positive perspectives, we could view our colleagues as individuals—and not representatives of a particular age group.

In fact, we don’t know what happens next or what the next generation will bring. What we do know is that ageism and divisiveness have persisted across generations. Perhaps we all need to chill out a bit!

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web
Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass. She is a regular contributor to the FPA/Journal of Financial Planning Practice Management Blog.