by Daniel C. Finley
Daniel C. Finley is a former adviser and current president of Advisor Solutions Inc., a business development consulting and coaching service. Read about other success stories in his book 101 Advisor Solutions: A Financial Advisor's Guide to Strategies that Educate, Motivate and Inspire. Contact him at email@example.com.
It has been said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." While that is true, what happens when the first, fifth or 500th step goes slightly off course? If multiple steps go off course it is guaranteed that you will slip further and further away from your desired path and you might never reach your intended destination. That is unless you make a course correction.
Your business is no different. As a financial adviser you started off in this industry with the best intentions. However, somewhere along the way you may have taken a step in the wrong direction. At some point, you made the realization that the business you had intended to build is not the business you currently have. Maybe you had a target of having "X" amount of assets under management by year's end, but you know you fell far short of that goal. As you assess and plan for the year ahead you are wondering if those goals are even plausible.
Typically, the story goes like this: As your business progressed and you acquired more clients, you spent more time servicing clients than acquiring them. Your days were filled with making outgoing calls to clients or receiving incoming calls from them. The thought of carving out time to prospect became a passing one. Then, one month, two months or more passed by and your assets under management had not grown.
This is an example of stepping slightly off course. A day spent with no time allotted for prospecting became a week, then a month, and after a while you can't remember the last time you actually made a prospecting call. This ultimately affects your desire to reach your goals. Your first step in the wrong direction was to take a day off from prospecting, because it became a domino effect of continually making that poor decision until you had strayed miles from your course.
If you can relate to this story, rest assured you are not alone. Most advisers go through similar challenges and not just with the example using a lack of prospecting. Advisers struggle with time management, sales, client servicing, marketing, branding, and/or product knowledge.
However, there are solutions. Creating your course correction is just a process for getting back on track. Read on to learn about the acronym S.O.A.P, and how it can help you clean up your business.
Situation: Identify Where You Are and Where You Want to Be
Before you can begin to turn your business around, you need to determine exactly where you are and where you want to be. To do this you must be completely honest about your situation. There is no room to play the blame game. You are where you are because of the choices you made.
If you are taking a barometer reading of something quantifiable, such as assets under management, finding out where you are will be fairly easy.
For example: "I wanted to have $50 million in assets under management by my fifth year in the business."
So print out a report of all of your assets under management and compare it to where you are in terms of meeting that goal. Now you know where you are and how off course you might be.
If you are trying to measure something that is not as easily quantifiable, such as client servicing, it may be a little more difficult. That's because some areas are more subjective in nature (what is important to you about client servicing may not be as important to your colleagues and vice-versa).
For example: "I wanted to have a client servicing system in place that is automatic so that my clients know I will contact them six times a year (four in-house client reviews and invitations to two client appreciation events)."
So write out your current client servicing system and compare it to what it needs to be based on the details of the goal listed.
Observation: Finding the Solutions
There is no point in reinventing the wheel. If somebody else is already where you want to be, find out how they got there and follow their lead. Sometimes the most difficult part is finding the person who is willing to show you their way. Most top producers have a competitive nature. Rarely do I find that one of my clients who is a top producer reached the pinnacle of his or her success by being willing to be second best. That said, most are willing to tell you their tale as long as you can show them that you are ready to turn your business around. This is an opportunity for you to learn from their mistakes, create productive habits and show them as well as yourself that you want to succeed.
If you cannot find a successful business coach, mentor, branch manager, colleague, or fellow adviser, then find the solutions within the pages of books written by authors you admire. I have personally found this process helpful as I used 40 sources when starting my company, Advisor Solutions, in 2004.
After you have found some solutions, it is time to map out the steps that are necessary and then take action. If you don't, you simply learned how to work smarter, and that gets you nowhere if you don't implement it.
Action: Mapping Out the Steps for Success
Taking action without properly planning is like going on a cross-country trip without determining how to get there. You could take a car, bus, train, or airplane but you have to figure out what makes the most sense for you. If you like to drive and want to explore more, take the car. If you want to see the countryside but a road trip isn't your speed, take the train. If you just want to get there, grab a flight.
Part of taking action in the right direction is the preparation. Take, for instance, our earlier example of gathering more assets. You determine where your business is by figuring out how much you have under management. Next, you determine where you wanted to be by defining your asset-gathering goals. Then, you find a successful adviser who is an asset-gathering machine and learn from him or her.
The point is, you must map out all the steps and then take action.
Progress: Determining Your Milestones
On your journey toward building a better business, it is important to get your bearings by constantly evaluating your progress. An example of a milestone might be having that first seminar, closing a brand-new client, or gathering the next million dollars under management.
Another way of determining progress may be using each month as a mile marker by assessing at the end of each month how much you have in the pipeline, how many assets you gathered, and how close are you to remaining on course to achieving your quarterly and/or yearly goals.
Enjoy the Journey
Growing a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Wherever you are in your business, it may take weeks, months, or years to get it to where you would like it to be. Do not expect to change your outcomes overnight. Instead, take it one step at a time, making course corrections as needed, follow your desired path, and be sure you are enjoying the journey along the way.
If you need help in making course corrections with your advisory practice, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to help guide you in mapping out your plan.