Doing the tiny things right builds successful careers.
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. This column is written each month for a segment of MorningstarAdvisor called "Practice Builder." Many of the columns have focused on some aspect of time management or productivity for financial advisors, but in this month's column, I am offering 23 ideas or best practices for financial advisors. This list is certainly not all-inclusive, but it is meant to help you think about areas of your personal practice that you can choose to focus your attention on to help you grow and improve your business.
1. Clarify What You Do
With the market volatility, it is very easy to lose focus on what you actually do as a financial advisor. What do you love about your work? What are your strengths? What are the values you deliver to your clients?
2. Set Highly Defined 90-Day Goals
In the next three months there are approximately 60 working days with eight hours per day to accomplish your goals. Your goals must be placed in writing, they must be specific, and each goal must be followed with at least five action steps to accomplish that objective.
3. Focus on High-Value Activities
Time is limited. Even if you want to produce more, it is unlikely you have time to do more. Instead decide to focus intently on high-value activities: Host face-to-face meetings with your clients, talk to your clients about topics that are important to them, hold seminars, attend networking events, be involved in your community, and ask people to do business with you.
4. Work From a Daily Written Action Plan
Once you have established your high-value activities, take a few minutes at the end of each workday to create a written plan of action for the next day. There is not a single coach in America that would play without a game day strategy.
5. Be Realistic About What You Can Accomplish in a Single Day
We recommend utilizing a "5 before 11" list. Write down five high-value activities that you would like to accomplish and then make a commitment to complete them before 11 o'clock the next morning. If you did this for a week, you would accomplish 35 high-value activities. If you did this for 90 days, you would accomplish 450 high-value activities.
6. Utilize Checklists and Forms
Much of our business is routine, and you can save a tremendous amount of time by using checklists and forms. From opening a new account, to holding a seminar, to handling travel, make it a point to systematize as much of your business as possible. This will streamline your productivity and add consistency to your service model.
7. Take Your Favorite Client to Lunch
We all have our favorite clients. As you take your client to lunch, ask yourself the following set of questions: Why is this person one of my favorite clients? What do I like best about doing business with her? How did she first become my/our client?
8. List All of Your Unfinished Tasks
Unfinished tasks cause stress and drain your energy. Make a list of everything that is unfinished at work and then decide to finish several of these tasks every day.
9. Ask What Five Things Worked Best Your First Year in This Business
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received is to regularly repeat the activities and actions that made me successful my first year in the business.
10. Clean Out and De-clutter Your Office
Working from a clean and clutter-free office is an instant way to become more productive.
11. Schedule a Call with a Super Star
There are average financial advisors, there are above-average financial advisors, and then there are Super Stars. Each month schedule a 30-minute phone call with a Super Star. Make sure you know what you want to ask them, and email them an agenda with your questions.
12. Execute Your Annual Marketing Plan
It is not enough to create an annual marketing plan. Underneath the name of each campaign or event, assign a timeline for how you will execute each item and who is responsible for accomplishing it.
13. Create a Learning Plan
Become a continual learner. Regularly attend conference seminars. Schedule time to watch webinars. Listen to audio books. Get a library card.
14. Create a List of Frequently Called Telephone Numbers
For the next four weeks, compile a list of the names of people you need to make your business more successful and include their email address and phone numbers.
15. Keep a Small Journal and Pen with You at All Times
Great ideas and inspiration can show up at any time. Make it a practice to keep a small paper journal and a pen with you at all times. Some people prefer using a voice recorder.
16. Use an Agenda for Every Meeting
Know the purpose of every meeting before it begins. Create and distribute a written agenda for what needs to be discussed and set a time for the meeting to end.
17. Synchronize the Time on Your Cell Phone, Clocks and Watches
Synchronize the correct time at home, in your car, at your office, and with your co-workers.
18. Build a Powerful Team
Teams create synergy and keep you accountable. If everyone focuses on and works to their strengths, it can build a very strong and powerful team. Diversity and balance are one of the keys to great teams.
19. Know Who to Call for What, When, Why, and How
There will always be situations and questions that require outside assistance. Building the proper connections is a life-long best practice for all business people.
20. Do Something Special for Your Top Clients
Create a systematic approach to surprise and delight your clients. Write a handwritten note, send a copy of a book, or mail a copy of a magazine that pertains to one of their specific hobbies.
21. Get Enough Sleep
The average adult requires seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Make sure you are scheduling in the proper amount of time to rest.
22. Eat Right
Don't skip breakfast. Don't waste calories on junk food and soft drinks. Instead, consider foods that are healthy and can boost your energy--oatmeal, fruit, wheat toast, vegetables, turkey, fish, pasta, almonds, peanut butter, and even chocolate. (Moderation is the key.)
23. Stay Hydrated
To function properly your body needs water. One of the simplest ways to start off your day is to take your vitamins each morning with an eight-ounce glass of water. Then, track how much water you are actually drinking to make sure you are staying properly hydrated. Aim to drink 64 ounces of water per day.
Best practices look so simple that we can overlook making sure they are part of our daily routine. It is doing the tiny things right--and doing them over and over again--that builds successful careers.