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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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Creating and Delivering the Ultimate Team Experience

Client and employee retention are both vital to business longevity and are completely tied together. To retain clients, we must consistently deliver the ultimate client experience; but to achieve that end, planning firms must first be delivering the ultimate team experience. Employers who demonstrate a remarkable team experience tend to retain more engaged, loyal and productive associates who deliver phenomenal service to clients. Let’s review the key ingredients of the Team Experience.

1) Communication. Every financial planning practice should have a formalized team communication plan. This plan should include in-person team meetings (both tactical and strategic); and electronic communication, such as standards for how you use email, your CRM and team calendar. Team members need to have a voice in the practice and that they can approach any co-worker with ideas and feedback. When internal communication falters, errors increase, as does employee stress and dissatisfaction. Both the people and the business experience a negative impact. Fundamentally team members need to:

  • Proactively receive information in the business and feel in-the-loop
  • Freely deliver communication and know their voice is heard

2) Appreciation. Relationships, whether personal or professional, are a two-way street; gratitude needs to be prevalent for both parties to feel they are valued. Appreciation goes well beyond paychecks. Many studies have shown that workers are more likely to stay with a company if they feel a sense of purpose and are recognize for their contributions.

Similar to client appreciation, we recommend customizing your associate rewards and recognition. For instance, giving a gift certificate is nice but giving one to their favorite restaurant or store is much more appreciated. Getting to know your team members personally will be critical to customization. Understanding public or private acknowledgement preferences are vital to making an impact.

3) Environment. The surroundings you provide are essential to your employees’ experience. Designated parking spaces, decorating a cubicle/office, breakroom amenities, themed lunches, incorporating family members in events and simply celebrating life successes can all affect the team morale. Likewise, the culture of your practice can positively or negatively impact the environment. Hostility is often bred when problems aren’t appropriately addressed or good times recognized. When walking around your office, consider what you see and hear—do you sense tension and resentment or comradery and respect? A professional but fun and flexible work environment where growth, learning and productivity can be all in balance and will lead to employee retention.

Why not begin by evaluating the entirety of your current team experience. What are you offering your employees now in communication, appreciation and environment? How would you AND your associates score each element? With that information, begin to brainstorm ideas to further enhance your firm’s team experience. Remember, delivering client service with a smile can’t be faked. Commit to your team and the returns will be immense to you and your clients.

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Sarah E. Dale and Krista S. Sheets are partners at Performance Insights (performanceinsights.com), where they focus on helping financial professionals increase results through wiser practice management and people decisions.

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5 Steps to Manage Critical Mass

It never ceases to amaze me when I get a call out of the blue from a former client who is concerned with how their business is doing. Typically, they have had a downturn in their production for various reasons such as lack of prospecting or motivation or even as a result of being complacent. However, today was an interesting turn of events when I receive a call from a previous client, Seth, who was excited to inform me that his business had reached what he termed “critical mass” and he didn’t know what to do about it.

Apparently, his consistent prospecting had paid off and he was now bringing in more assets, new accounts and doing more production than he had ever done before. I congratulated him on all of his accomplishments and that is when the conversation turned to the real reason for his call. He simply said, “I need your help. I have no idea how to manage this level of success.”

I’m sure we can all agree that this type of scenario is a good one to have, but regardless it was now proving to be a challenge. Since we had worked together, he trusted me and knew we would brainstorm a solution.

Following is a brief overview of some of the suggestions I would offer to you if your business grows beyond your expectations.

Step 1: Know What You Like and Don’t Like to Do. Some advisers and agents like to prospect while others like to manage their client base. The first step is to get crystal clear in understanding what you like and don’t like to do. Simply make a list of all the weekly activities you need to accomplish regularly and put a plus or a minus after each. It won’t take long before you realize what activities you look forward to doing and what activities you dread—if you didn’t know already.

Step 2: Do What You Love and Delegate the Rest. In Seth’s case, he loves to prospect and that is a big reason why his business had taken off. He also loves to manage his client base. However, about six months ago his assistant had decided to be a stay-at-home mom so she resigned. To save money, he chose to be his own assistant. Unfortunately, there is no one to delegate things to that he doesn’t like to do, such as the administrative activities and day-to-day operational tasks. The solution for him was to find someone who loves to do these types of activities. So, he needed to hire, train and delegate everything not involving prospecting and managing the client base to somebody else.

Step 3: Create a Scalable Business Model and Stick to It. In order to consistently manage steady growth, it’s important to have a scalable business model. Seth had realized that years ago when he transitioned his clients to fee-based accounts and continued prospecting as well as systematically servicing his clients. Within a few short years, he had doubled his assets and revenue. His fee-based model allows him the time to continue growing and managing his book of clients. And it shows.

Step 4: Create a Team. At some point, it’s important to admit that in order to continue growing and servicing your client base effectively it takes more than one or even two people. Eventually, Seth will have to look at adding some additional people to his team. One example would be to add a paraplanner to help put financial plans together. Since he is a people person and loves to connect, it might be a good fit to have someone who loves to do manage the behind the scenes work. This would free up some of his time to continue prospecting and meeting with his client base.

Step 5: Expand Your Value. Another option is to expand your value by introducing additional services to your client base. An example of this is for Seth to add an insurance agent to the team who would cross-sell to the client base offering quotes on property/casualty, life, health and even long-term care insurance. Doing this would not only help his clients but it would also help him retain his client base.

Why Strategic Growth is Important
Generating critical mass doesn’t happen to everyone. However, if you consistently prospect it can happen to you. The reason why having a strategy to consistently grow your business is important is because it will help you reduce the growing pains that come along with success. When you know what the next step is, then you are not afraid to take it.

Have you mapped out your success? If not, why not? Discuss this with me in a complimentary 30-minute coaching session. Schedule one by emailing 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.