This is the first in a series called The Financial Advisor's Business Bootcamp, which will help you analyze, organize, and grow your business.
This series of articles is dedicated to helping financial advisors analyze, organize, and grow their businesses. Each article will build on the last, unveiling new areas of learning and untapped opportunities.
These articles will guide you through a series of strategies, tools, worksheets, and checklists to improve your personal productivity and efficiency--and thereby your business.
During the past 30 years, I have created dozens of tools focused on practice management, time management, goal setting, and strategic planning, and these tools play a critical role in The Financial Advisor’s Business Bootcamp. These tools will give you a framework for how to create a written daily plan of action, how to set and achieve 90-day work goals, how to develop timelines and deadlines, how to track your business progress, how to use a weekly review tool, and how to create a powerful prospecting list--all of which you can use to build and grow your practice.
Let’s begin with a 50,000-foot assessment of your business. Growing your business must begin with an honest evaluation of your practice today. You’ll be amazed at how much your productivity grows and opportunities are created by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your practice.
Every financial advisor has strengths and weaknesses. You excel in certain areas and face challenges in other areas. The problem is that you are too overwhelmed with being busy day to day to focus on those areas of improvement. How many times a day do you fight with technology, when trying to scan a document turns into a 30-minute competition between your computer and your printer? Small technology train wrecks are still train wrecks.
The key is to take time away from the day to day to discover what the major gaps in your businesses are. The 7 Minute Life Business Assessment is a one-page worksheet to help you do this.
Print the worksheet, and get ready to honestly assess yourself on a scale of ‘excellent’ to ‘needs improvement’ in each category.
Written Business Plan for the Next 90 Days
Do you have a written business plan? Do you even have a simple document containing an executive summary of your business and your target market? Do you have a written business plan that defines the roles and responsibilities of your team members, includes your marketing plan, the financial projections for your gross production revenues, net new households, and assets under management?
A survey conducted by The Financial Planning Association Research and Practice Institute states, “50% of financial advisors do not have a written business plan.”
Workable Business Plan for the Next 90-Days
Your written business plan is like a compass: It points you in the right direction. The next step is creating your workable business plan, which outlines the actions needed to reach your goals.
Strategic Clarification of Your Goals
Strategy is defined as the art of planning and directing overall military operations or movements in war. Creating a strategy has a sense of urgency. In battle the military strategy takes precision and perseverance. Do you feel the same sense of urgency driving your business model? How clear are your business goals?
Daily Activity Level
When you assess your daily activity level, consider how much time you spend on high-value activities versus how much time you spend on low-value activities.
High-value activities include hosting face-to-face meeting with clients, talking to your clients, and calling prospects. When I was first in the business, I was told that the average financial advisor makes nine outgoing calls per day. So, I decided if the average financial advisor makes nine outgoing calls a day (roughly one per hour), what would happen to my business if I made two calls per hour? What would happen if I made three calls per hour?
How much of your daily activity is focused on building your business and how much of your daily activity is wasted? Making a conscious decision to increase your daily activity level is the fastest way to geometrically grow your business.
Learning can never stop. Professional competency is going to include ongoing education about investment strategies, portfolio analysis, understanding deposits and liabilities, mortgage lending, financial planning, estate planning, cash flow analysis, charitable giving, and life insurance. How much training are you receiving regarding working with millennials and the generational transfer of wealth, for instance?
Imagine having the opportunity to be seen as the key advocate and aggregator of knowledge. I believe professional competency is more important than ever. How much work are you willing to put into becoming the advisor of the future?
Learning can be as simple as reading 10 pages of a book per day. Ten pages of a book over 30 days allows you to read one 300-page book per month.
Business Writing Skills
It seems that business writing skills aren’t as important as they used to be. It is rare that we will write a long letter, or create a proposal that is not derived from a template. Today we communicate in a frenzied world of email. But, be aware that every type of written communication you send to a client, vendor, associate, or manager is a lasting reflection of your professionalism.
Knowledge of Technology
Business growth depends on effectively harnessing technology. How many times a day do you struggle to find an email, build a spreadsheet, or use the full capacity of your workstation? These technology tools will grow your business, or they will hold you back.
There are two primary productivity roadblocks that I see in the corporate workplace. The first problem is losing physical paper and spending hours looking for documents. The second is lack of technological knowledge. The future of the financial services industry lies with millennials. And technology is their primary mode of communication. So you need to keep up if you want your business to do the same.
Do you have a marketing strategy to grow your business? I’m not talking about spending thousands of dollars on direct mail campaigns. I’m talking about having a compelling story of what you do and a crushing offer for why people should work with you.
What is it that you want people to understand about your business? Marketing begins with understanding the needs of clients, and then taking action to promote your products and services. Oftentimes financial advisors have a hard time marketing themselves, yet creating a marketing strategy is simple. Know the problems clients face, develop a professional competency to solve those problems, and ask people to do business with you.
Large broker-dealers have spent millions of dollars on distinctive branding. As a financial advisor, how are you branding the work you do? What would your client tell someone else about what makes you distinctive? Distinctive branding impacts every part of what a client sees. Your branding begins the moment someone walks into the lobby of your office.
Identifiable Brand Image
The 7 Minute Life Business Assessment was created to use with many different industries. For some industries, brand image is a key factor to success. But even in the financial services industry, I believe clients identify you with your values, integrity, authenticity, compassion, and knowledge. Creating an identifiable brand takes time.
It should be a given that financial advisors have a deep understanding of the financial markets. But the financial services industry is changing, and new products are coming to market daily. Ongoing learning is a must.
One-on-One Communication Skills
At the end of the day, an advisor’s one-on-one communication skills can set him apart from his peers. Financial advisors must have very strong one-on-one communication skill sets.
Learning how to communicate with new prospects--especially those at different life stages, such as millennials--may encourage you reconsider emotional intelligence, your listening skills, and your understanding of body language.
Public Speaking Skills
On the scale of ‘excellent’ to ‘needs improvement,’ where would you rank your public speaking skills? If there’s one thing that can help you stand out against others, it is choosing to spend time improving your public speaking skills. Of course, one-on-one communication skills are the foundation of selling and customer service, but it’s metrically powerful to be able to effectively speak to 10 people, 50 people, or 100 people, rather than just to one person. And public speaking opportunities are a great way to get in front of prospects.
Remember: Public speaking is not something that comes naturally to anyone. Public speaking is a skill that must be learned and practiced.
Call me old-fashioned, but knowing which fork to use does make a difference. I was seated at a formal dinner with a portfolio manager who managed more than $100 billion in assets when the woman to his left ate his dinner roll. She did not know which bread plate was hers.
Here are a few common courtesies: always RSVP, arrive on time, introduce yourself with your full name, don’t put personal items on the table, dress appropriately, and no texting at the table.
In business, first impressions matter. You never know where you next client may come from.
In the next article, we’ll walk through the rest of the Business Assessment worksheet and discuss how you can use it to develop professionally and grow your business.
Allyson Lewis served as a financial advisor for 30 years. She is the founder of The 7 Minute Life, a time management training company for people who are overwhelmed. Contact Allyson when you are looking for a time management speaker or trainer. Download her free report, The Top 3 Time Management Mistakes and How to Correct Them.