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Action is the Antidote to Anxiety

Financial planners can find themselves tangled up in their fears, which can limit any level of future success. As a professional development coach, I refer to this as the “teeter-totter effect,” where on one side sits anxiety and on the other sits results. It goes without saying that when results are up, anxiety is down and when results are down, anxiety is up.

So how does someone get off this ride? Well, action is the antidote to anxiety. Dale Carnegie is widely quoted as saying, “If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

There are many ways to take action. First, you have to make the decision that you are tired of feeling hopeless, helpless and/or fearful. Then you need to map out what action or change of focus you should be implementing. Create leverage for those actions or focus by writing down a reward or punishment that you would give yourself at the end of the day if you follow through (or not). Then, get going and do it whatever it is that you’ve concluded needs to be done.

You also need to be conscious that this process is ongoing and dynamic. You need to evaluate and tweak accordingly because as you move forward, what you’re doing now may not be what you need to be doing a few month’s down the pike.

Be Solid in Your Desire to Change

Change can be a frightening thing. The thought of the unknown can seem more terrifying than complacency. One of my financial planner clients was in need of change. Here is his story:

Aaron P. had over 40 years’ experience in the profession and was comfortable only working with his client base. He didn’t feel the need to prospect. However, as his clients aged, he faced the reality that his client base was shrinking and consequently, so was his income. One day he called me and declared that he knew he needed to prospect but after all this time, he didn’t know how. By letting himself get rusty, he had created a fear of rejection.

Take the time to determine your direction. In Aaron’s case, he needed to first conquer his fear of rejection by determining how valid that fear was. So, I asked him a series of questions until he came to the realization that any rejection that he might experience while prospecting was not personal. Rather, they were rejecting the value of his services. He needed a step-wise process so that he could ensure he was adequately explaining their value and his veteran industry knowledge. We mapped out what type of prospecting he would do, when he would do it, who he would call, what he would say and how he would handle objections.

To create habits, you must create leverage. Like Aaron, once you have a plan, you must have a strong enough reason why you need to follow it in order to get motivated, create momentum and have it become part of your protocol. In other words, you need leverage.

Aaron had plenty of reasons why he should prospect, his client base and income were shrinking. However, in order to pick up the phone and make that first prospecting call, he needed to have a reward to strive for or a punishment to avoid. Make those items meaningful enough and ensure they speak to what you would like to work for (or against).

Consistent action requires commitment. Once you have decided to make change happen, determined your direction and created leverage and accountability, you need to be consistent.

Aaron did just that. Within weeks he was filling up his pipeline again. When I asked him what he thought about his prospecting system, he said he wished he would have started sooner.

Why A Well-Thought-Out Action Plan Works

Following this approach can lessen your anxiety or eliminate it altogether. The reason why a well-thought-out action plan works is because it refocuses your energy to view things as opportunities, not challenges.

If you would like a complimentary coaching session with me, 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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The CEO: A Key to Success for Growing Firms

I recently spearheaded a two-day workshop focused on the intricacies involved in becoming a better businessperson. Eighty advisers participated in this event, and I was fortunate to speak with many of them individually during the event.

Now, it’s second nature for advisers to talk about financial planning and investment management. Many find discussions about asset allocation or strategies to address a client’s personal financial challenges to be fulfilling. But I often find that discussions on how to be a better businessperson are not greeted with the same enthusiasm. That’s understandable—it’s not especially exciting to talk about business plans, job descriptions and policies and procedures. These are all elements critical to running a successful business, however, and so we must talk about them, think about them and write our facts and commitments down.

The responsibilities of a CEO can seem foreign to some advisers and a distraction from doing what they love, but these tasks are a necessity for businesses to thrive. Not everyone is wired to be a CEO, and that’s okay. But in an industry where we see solos turning into ensembles, working on the business has taken on a life of its own, creating the need for more formality within growing larger firms. It’s important to step up and meet this need.

The Keys to Longevity

Here are the lessons gleaned from the two-day workshop that can help growing firms succeed.

Put it in writing. What the owners of thriving businesses have in common is that they put the critical aspects of their business in writing. The business plan, budget, margins and profitability, employee handbooks, marketing and growth strategies (and implementation calendars), disaster recovery plans and, of course, continuity and succession agreements all need to be documented. Not only does this documentation establish a more official framework, but it also helps to create accountability. Keep in mind that these are not “one and done” projects. They need to be reviewed, updated and used regularly to guide and track the implementation of change and improvement.

Formalize your advisory firm. For the crew of advisers who attended the workshop with me—as well as countless others in our industry—formalizing their advisory firm is the path to longevity. And given all the changes in the industry, this task isn’t going to go away. Rather, the opposite will occur as firms continue to grow and merge. The CEO will be a role dedicated to leading the emerging firms of the future. Are you up to the challenge?

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.



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Best of 2018: Advisers: Recognize Your Walk-Away Moment

Editor’s note: This is the last of our top blog posts of 2018. Sometimes you have to fire a client. John Anderson of SEI Advisor Network gives our readers some tips on how to recognize that walk-away moment. A version of this post appeared on SEI’s blog Practically Speaking. You can find it here

In business—as in life—the lessons are often in the mistakes we make. But sometimes the better knowledge is seeing the mistake coming and avoiding it altogether. A routine exercise for business owners is the “what worked” and “what didn’t work” review of their practice. For many advisers, when considering the “didn’t work” part of the equation, the overriding theme is “I knew better but…”

Here are a few scenarios:

  • Adviser A: Had a client ask him to manage half of his assets, while the client self-managed the other half.
  • Adviser B: Built his practice with farmers and ranchers, then found himself working with two ultra-wealthy clients that were taking all his time.
  • Adviser C: Was amazed when he got a call from an $80 million lottery winner. He was managing only $35 million at the time.

Each of these advisers got to a point where either they were fired or they fired the client. On paper, or with the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to say they should have never taken on the client. But how do you prepare yourself if you’ve taken on a client who’s not a good fit? What can you do to identify your walk away moment?

Why Walk Away? Two Sides of a Bad Relationship

Each scenario was a challenge for the adviser who was involved—a challenge that upset their business. It is easy to see the adviser’s side of the bad relationship, what we often miss is the other side. The effects it has on the office:

1) Staff. The staff has to deal with major interruptions that an ill-fitting client brings to the table. Requests that are outside of normal process and procedures take time to learn and process. It drags down efficiency and because it is new, opens up potential for mistakes

2) Marketing and client relationship management. Time spent on ill-fitting clients takes away from marketing and new client acquisition for many advisers. What could the adviser be doing better with his/her time?

3) Revenue. For the adviser who lives in an AUM world, we know that with planning, onboarding, etc., the revenue earned is backloaded over time. In other words, the time you spend upfront with a client is earned back over the years from the advisory fees. A short-term relationship typically does not pay for itself

Avoiding in the First Place

One of the challenges for most advisers is to understand their target. I have often written that creating a persona or an avatar of your ideal client as the way to specialize your practice, and to focus on a niche. Some advisers however, are not ready for that level of specialization and a few may not go that deep. No matter where you come down on identifying the ideal client, I think it always starts with a few things:

  • What is the target? Simply stated, in the broadest terms possible, everyone in the “class” of people that you want to work with. The class could be the type of business that you find most interesting such as legacy planning or income planning or it could be retirees in general etc.
  • What is the ideal? Again, in broadest terms, what do they value or what will they value from your relationship?
  • What is the deal breaker? What will they not value, or what would cause you to walk away?

Note: Each of these is a subset of the others. The “deal breaker” is a subset of your ideal clients; the ideal clients are a subset of the target. Knowing the deal breaker before they walk in the door makes it easy to say no, or to direct them to someone else that can fit their needs.

What Happened Next

The client fired Adviser A (above) after a year. The client’s reasoning, “I know you outperformed me but I just can’t give up managing my own assets. I guess I’m not much of a delegator.” All of Adviser A’s pre-work, planning and effort was wasted.

Adviser B terminated his relationship with the ultra-high-net-worth clients. He found them a home with another adviser that had a more investment-focused service model. The staff was thrilled to go back to their type of clients—ones who appreciated planning and were less demanding.

Adviser C could not compete with the constant second-guessing by competitors and family members trying to get a foothold into the $80 million lottery winner’s life. Every waking moment was spent defending and babysitting the assets and the client. He gladly went back to his recently ignored book right after the new client fired him.

We all know when something does not feel right. Maybe we should be prepared beforehand, in writing, so we are more prepared to walk away when it doesn’t.

John Anderson

John Anderson is the managing director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network. He is responsible for all programs focused on helping financial advisers grow their businesses, create efficiencies in their operations and differentiate their practices. He is also the author of SEI’s practice management blog, Practically Speaking.