By Diane MacPhee, CFP®
Are you stuck? Are you anxious or frozen? My friend, you are not alone.
A generalized anxiety is gripping the country. Your clients express it; you feel it, and yet we know we must go into our offices every day, turn the lights on, and then what?
To say these are interesting times is an understatement. Who has time for satisfying and fulfilling work among crisis conditions? Does passion lose out to despair? What will it take to turn this ship around? Unequivocally it will be your attitude and your commitment to a plan. Begin and end with your attitude and bolster the middle component with commitment to activity.
Here are four steps to creating a practice that will survive and thrive in today's economy:
Step One: Adjust your attitude.
Your attitude must be one of belief and confidence in yourself. You must be positive. Develop the habit of using energizing statements whenever that voice inside your head goes off in reaction to stress.
Repeat as often as necessary: "I know what to do. I will carry out my plan. I will not give up until I see the results I intend to achieve."
Step Two: Create a game plan.
Your plan has six components: the strategic plan, the business plan, the marketing plan, operations, financials and technology. Take the six components and write bullets under each of them. Each bullet must represent the corresponding activities associated to that component. This "back of the envelope" exercise is a phenomenal self-starter that will enable you to articulate in a compressed, direct manner, "What the heck should we do now?"
The following six components comprise the infrastructure of a practice destined for success.
- The strategic plan describes your grand vision, your mission statement and your brand (the "who").
- The business plan sets out your intentions and is more intuitive and action-oriented than traditional goal-setting.
- The marketing plan details target populations (clients, prospects and referral sources) to engage for new business. This plan will contain specific actionable items to execute and monitor on a periodic basis.
- The operations plan states the "what" "how" of it all. This plan should illustrate specific workflow processes.
- The financial plan is comprised of custom spreadsheets that are ideally so easy and comfortable to review that you refer to them often for trend analysis.
- The technology plan highlights the choices that you explore, research and ultimately implement to leverage your practice.
Step Three: Prioritize your time.
Print a weekly calendar noting the execution of all bulleted items. These bulleted items are the activities of each of the six components whose purpose is to fully accomplish the grand vision stated in the strategic plan.
Each weekly calendar must first honor client and staff meetings, e-mails, phone calls and any back log of work. The remaining open blocks of times are available for your bullet items. As each week begins, evaluate the list of activities that can be slated in order of priority.
Step Four: Revisit your attitude.
Talk yourself into a pumped-up state. Plan on setting aside a few hours to leave your office and go outdoors to a quiet spot. Complete step three in its entirety. I promise you that you will be much closer to becoming what you need to be than you were prior to this exercise.
Your practice can look remarkably different in 10 weeks if you follow the simplicity of this plan with pure desire and single-minded passion. Attempt three significant goals that you intend to see instituted and cultivated over a weekly period. Such action can translate into 30 important enhancements to your practice in 10 weeks.
Remember to schedule those open blocks of time; a minimum of two hours, three days a week. Rising early and taking energizing breaks in a long day will foster a focused commitment to the finish line.
I challenge you to follow such a game plan. How will you know you crossed the finish line? At the end of the day when you turn off the office lights, you will see a reflection of a person who was able to become what they needed to be.
Diane MacPhee, CFP®, is a professional business coach working primarily with financial advisers. She operated a successful sole proprietorship for 16 years and sold her private fee-only financial planning practice in 2006. As a practice management consultant and coach, she focuses on enhancing the business and personal lives of the clients she works with in a measurable and meaningful way. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Who Are You To Your Clients?
Here's an exercise I challenge you to take:
- Determine a few clients you feel most comfortable engaging in an experiment with you.
- At the end of an appointment with one of these clients, ask him or her, "If we were walking down Main Street and ran into a dear friend of yours, how would you introduce me?"
- Is it a memorable description?
Marketing Tip: Where's Your Passion?
Draft and develop a marketing plan that brands your firm. Your client must first learn from you why you are so special. This speaks directly to the issue of what you find most fascinating about your work. Where is the passion? More importantly, how easy is it for others to experience your passion?