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3 Steps to Strive for Excellence

Oftentimes, we as financial planners and agents have a choice to make when it comes to the level of energy, effort and efficiency we bring to our businesses. We can get by and do just enough to maintain our current level, or we can choose to reach beyond.

Striving for excellence and going above and beyond is a choice and a state of mind that says that you aspire for more. It’s not about perfection, but rather about fulfilling one’s business purpose by constant and never-ending self-improvement. By adopting this way of thinking there is a higher likelihood that you will indeed succeed at growing and evolving.

Rick Pitino, a famed American basketball coach, said, “Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer.”

Unfortunately, most planners and agents don’t take the time to holistically view all aspects of their business to determine where some work is necessary until they are in crisis mode. Let’s take a look at a step-by-step approach successful planners and agents use to work on their business continually.

Step 1: Evaluate What’s Not Working

One of the hardest parts about running any business is to take the time to evaluate what is not working. The reason is that it can be difficult to admit fault or failure. However, when you are open to reflection around areas of potential and realize a tweak here and there can make a difference, you are then more likely to consistently address areas of weakness, especially when the outcomes are positive.

Take Beth  for example, a newer financial planner with less than five years in financial services who asked me during a coaching session if she was doing something wrong because a new client called days after opening an account (and transferring their assets to her) complaining that on second thought it seemed kind of expensive to purchase the mutual funds she had recommended.

Step 2: Understand What Works for Others

The next step is to understand what solutions have worked for others. It sounds simple but many times we think we are the only ones experiencing a scenario only to have a conversation with a colleague or mentor and find out they too have a similar experience.

In Beth’s case, I needed to know if this was a pattern or a single occurrence. She said that it had happened twice now in the last few months so that’s why she brought it up. After inquiring about how she explained her recommendations I determined that it wasn’t the price of the investments that clients were concerned about but it was the lack of value that somehow had not been retained. In other words, they understood during the meeting why they should diversify into mutual funds (which was to reduce risk) but completely forgot about it days later when they were thinking about the fees.

The solution was to make sure that Beth had all the benefits of her recommendations typed out so the client or prospect could refer back to that, ensuring everyone was on the same page.

Step 3: Apply and Assess the Process

Once you know what to improve upon, you must apply the process and regularly assess the results.

Beth started presenting prospects and clients a summary page of all the benefits of her recommendations. She would then give them a copy to take home and keep one in their file at the office. During client reviews she would add any additional summary pages when there were new recommendations. Prospects and clients liked the new process and Beth never had a client with a case of buyer’s remorse again.

Why Excellence is the Mark of Professionalism

It doesn’t matter if you are a financial planner, insurance agent, butcher, baker or candlestick maker if you want to be considered a professional you must be adept at honing your craft and the only way to do that is by being willing to accept and work on your weaknesses and develop your strengths.

If you would like a free coaching session, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at Melissa@advisorsolutionsinc.com.


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.



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Re-Calibrating the Lens Through Which We View Success

Most content written for investors on financial education exists on a spectrum. On one end, you might have a white paper on Variable Distribution MLP risk and rate of return, which might include topics, language and analysis that are completely unintelligible to all but the most accomplished financial analysts. On the other, you might see an article or video with the title “5 Easy Steps to DIY Investing Success,” which, spoiler alert, might turn out to be a bit of an oversimplification.

In my opinion, the best financial writers are those writing content in the middle of the spectrum; content that’s prescriptive and offers substance, but that’s also consumable and engaging (something we hope people want to read). With this spectrum in mind, I began thinking about what success means in the investing world. Success in one instance might be the funds needed to reach a specific goal, while in another might be the dream of whiling away the “Golden Years” on a pristine, private white sand beach.

Yet, success is entirely a matter of personal environment, mindset and perspective. The question then becomes, “How do we step outside of the common definitions of “investing success” outlined above, and create our own version?” As a financial planner, you may benefit from asking this question to yourself or your team, and I believe there are myriad applications when it comes to your relationship with your clients.

To help answer the question, we can learn valuable lessons from Shawn Achor, a happiness researcher (I love that title), author and speaker, and tireless advocate for positive psychology. I’m basing the following tips on his TED Talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work, which is on TED’s list of the 20 most popular talks of all time.

Pursuing the “Happiness Advantage”

Happiness is an ethereal, often ambiguous and subjective concept. It tends to get downplayed or pushed to the side when the conversation turns to more tangible topics, like revenue, sales and investing. In a way, this makes sense. The definition of happiness differs wildly from individual to individual, making the measurement of how important happiness actually is to success in the way we normally define it enormously difficult.

As a result, we have decided that instead of making happiness a part of the recipe for success on the front end, being successful will bring us to happiness. In his talk, Achor explains the phenomenon as follows:

“Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it. And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.”

Achor believes that nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, when you look at the vast number of competitive environments (i.e., academics, sports, work, etc.) we are exposed to as we grow up, every single institution is designed that way. Work harder, longer, faster than everyone else, because when you succeed, it will bring you happiness. But what if our brains are actually designed to work in the opposite way? Achor’s research is centered on answering this question, and his findings are groundbreaking:

“If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37 percent better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.” 

So why isn’t everybody already doing this? I think the answer is two-fold. First, manufacturing positivity isn’t easy, and requires far more maintenance and creativity than pushing people to “work hard” (which is pretty cut and dried). Second, many of us have the tendency to view positivity and success as opposite ends of a spectrum. You can either have one or the other. This is especially true for those who have already been successful in some way; if the routine that brought you success is the age-old model of working an 80-hour-week and lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps, it’s difficult to step outside of that definition and embrace change.

To help those who may fall into the latter category, it’s important to note that the “success = happiness” view is not necessarily wrong. Achor’s research tells us that there might be a better way, and that happiness doesn’t have to be a casualty of success.

The theory reminds me of the great revelation in the movie Monsters, Inc. that laughter is a more powerful fuel than fear. For a time, screams worked to fuel the city, and the monsters went about their business because they didn’t know any other way of doing things. In discovering the power of laughter, however, they unearthed the key to being both successful and happy.

Sure, it’s a cartoon movie, but it makes a powerful point, and one that Achor stresses in his talk: “If we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can then affect reality.”

Reversing the Formula: Helping Your Clients Become More Positive Investors in the Present

How does all of this apply to saving and investing? While there are a wide range of applications of Achor’s theories to financial management and behavior, the following three resonate most with me:

1) The Importance of “Why” Reminders

One of my favorite messages in the talk centers on how we can train our brains for positivity, Achor’s examples are beautifully simple:

“Journaling about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters … And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness. We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their support network.” 

You can use these types of reminders to help clients move beyond the money they’re saving—or the amount their invested money grows or declines from year to year—and help them to focus on why they’re putting money away for the future. We’ve all learned that repetition is critical when training our brain to do something against its will.

Motivation and habit formation work differently for everyone, but all of us (including your clients) can at least commit to thinking about our why for saving and investing in the present. We are all taught that investing and saving will bear fruit over time, but it’s difficult for our brains to think that far forward; we’re wired for more immediate gratification.

I love Achor’s concept of sending one positive email every day—something your clients should try for investing. Encourage your clients to write down one reason every day or every week why they’re putting money away for the future, and send themselves an email. Better yet, encourage them to create an email account to which to send and house these reasons.

I think they will find that the reason will reflect something they’re passionate about, something they’re grateful for or something that, while it may only exist as a dream in the future, makes them happy in the present. We all experience the very same feeling when we purchase a lottery ticket; it’s not really about winning, it’s about thinking of what we’ll do with what we win.

After a few months, they will have compiled so many wonderful reasons to save and invest that, every time they go into that email account to look at their work, it will be difficult not to smile.

2) Remind Them That Their Plan is the Most Important, Because It’s Theirs

One of the most acute issues investors and savers face is the human penchant to compare ourselves with others. It’s difficult to focus solely on your own story. Beyond plowing through all of the literature available on behavioral psychology, perhaps the power of reminder is a place to start here.

In his talk, Achor reveals that, while many of us assume that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, the reality is the opposite. Even if we know everything about a person’s external world, we can only predict 10 percent of their long-term happiness; 90 percent of our happiness is determined by how our brains perceive the external world.

These statistics mean that happiness is within our control. In your next client meeting help clients look at their strategy with a hefty dose of optimism. Sure, financial planning inherently includes quite a bit of uncertainty, which stresses investors out. I’m not saying that you need to help them suspend reality (finances are still a serious, tangible business), but you could help them be more productive with the emotions you know they are apt to feel.

As Achor urges, you may also attempt to help your clients treat stress as a challenge, not a threat. They have to believe they can reach their goals (or you would not have helped them set those goals in the first place); every challenge, then, is just another step in a journey they know they can complete.

Finally, research has shown that our social support system can be an important predictor of both happiness and success. You’re already making a big difference with your presence in their financial lives. Take the social support mechanism a step further by reminding your clients that they don’t have to go it alone, and by encouraging taking them to advantage of the network (including you) that’s there to support them.

3) Learning Can Make Us Happy, and Happiness Can Help Us Learn

A final useful tie-in to saving and investing in Achor’s research is its potential impact on financial education and empowerment. Just as he believes happiness can scientifically drive success, he also believes it can help us learn:

“…Dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.”

Here, he hits on one of the oft-overlooked barriers to building financial education and knowledge. When investors seek out financial education, it’s often as a result of a life transition, some of which are completely unexpected. As such, your clients are likely not approaching financial education with positivity; in fact, they are likely exhibiting stress and fear.

If we could only approach the educational component of the investing and saving process as a form of financial empowerment, and with an understanding that we are building knowledge for positive reasons, I think we would see a large uptick in the number of investors who chose to take advantage of the tools already available. Perhaps one of the answers lies in creating the financial education programs we offer as an industry accessible and interesting to those investors who are not currently undergoing a transformative transition. I don’t profess to have a solution, but at the very least, the research is thought-provoking.

In Summary

What we are talking about is not one solution to one problem, but an entirely different way of thinking.

Happiness and success are two things that every human being fundamentally wants, yet if we put them in the wrong order, we could end up losing both. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about success at our jobs, in our relationships or in the context our financial planning strategy—the message is clear, and possibly even life-changing: focusing on happiness first can actually drive success, however your clients choose to define it.

Achor says, “And by doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we’ve found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.”


Dan Martin is the Director of Marketing for the Financial Planning Association, the principal professional organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @DanW_Martin and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/danmartinmarketing.


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Hidden Marketing Gem: Working with the Media

Occasionally, the local NBC affiliate in Denver interviews CFP® professionals on money matters; often members of the FPA of Colorado. To those viewers, their names become top of mind whenever it comes time to search for financial planners.

Being quoted in the media—print, digital, TV or radio—has served as a great marketing tool for some FPA members, a few told me recently for the cover article in this month’s Journal of Financial Planning.

Mychal Eagleson, CFP®, president of An Exceptional Life Financial, said completing FPA’s media training was a smart marketing move for him. Members go through the training and then have access to reporters and writers who need input from financial planners. When reporters fill out an FPA MediaSource request, it’s distributed to members who have completed the media training, and they can respond via email or call the reporters up and answer questions.

“I recently used MediaSource and was quoted in an AARP Magazine article,” Eagleson said. “I’ve had two prospects who saw that article and called me because of it.”

Eric Roberge, CFP®, founder of Beyond Your Hammock, said in an FPA member profile that the FPA media training was invaluable in helping him attract new clients and impress his current ones. Participating in the training helped him build a media platform and be quoted in CNBC, Entrepreneur, InvestmentNews and USA Today. After the USA Today article, a high school classmate he hadn’t talked to in more than 20 years contacted him to talk finances. Another high-earning young professional contacted him after reading the same article.

“The FPA media training and media queries are an incredible way to help me expand my platform to people across the country,” Roberge said.

Being quoted in articles and on TV isn’t just a way to prospect, it also affirms for current clients that they made the right choice.

“When clients see my name, they say, ‘Oh congratulations, we saw you in this article and we were blown away,’” Eagleson said. “It’s a testament.”

Serving as a resource to the media is commonly among the top public relations tips for financial planners.

“The better the relationship [with reporters], the more opportunity you will have long term,” Ben Lewis, director of public relations for FPA said in a recent Financial Advisor article.

The article indicated that if you build positive relationships with reporters, you’ll
continually get quoted, leading to more exposure to potential clients for you.

To sign up for the virtual media trainings that come with your FPA membership, click here. Not a member? Become one today.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Checking All the Content Marketing Boxes But Not Seeing Results? Try This.

You write a blog post every two weeks, or maybe once a month. You set up social media accounts and you tweet and post to Facebook on a regular basis.

Maybe you even put an opt-in form on your website and made an offer to your visitors, promising a valuable download in exchange for their email address so you can communicate with them periodically to nurture that lead into a true prospect for your firm.

You could try podcasting, or recording videos to upload to YouTube, or even writing a book to self-publish on Amazon.

All these are sound content marketing tactics you can use to attract an audience and build a pipeline of prospective clients. The only problem? That’s not actually happening.

If you find yourself tweeting into the void, or posting a bunch of content but seeing no change in website traffic, or sending emails to your list that go unopened, something’s not right. Something’s not working in your content marketing.

Common Content Marketing Mistakes (and Their Simple Solutions)

Here are some of the most common missteps I see planners make—and how you can quickly correct this with your own marketing if you’re making any of these yourself:

You create a lot of content, but you don’t do anything to promote it. As a rule of thumb, you should spend 80 percent of your time promoting your content, and just 20 percent creating it. The solution is not to add to your workload; you might need to cut back on the content you’re producing, focus on quality over quantity and put your energy into promoting a few things rather than creating a ton of stuff that doesn’t make it to your audience.

Your content isn’t user-friendly. Most of us learned how to write or create content in an academic setting. The rules we had to follow in college often carry over to corporate America, where writing becomes even more stiff and formal—and dense.

Looking at a wall of text might be impressive on paper. Writing in a highly formal, impersonal tone, being verbose and using complicated vocabulary might be required in some settings. But it does not work online. In fact, it’s downright painful to read.

Make use of white space. Use bullet-point or numbered lists. Keep paragraphs to three or four lines—or less. Don’t be afraid to use choppy sentences and speak as plainly as you can. Write like you talk and don’t use five words when one will do it.

Keep it simple and straightforward and conversational. All these little things will make your content friendlier to your audience, and encourage people to actually read what you wrote.

You only talk about yourself. It’s awful to go to a networking event and find yourself cornered by the kind of person who doesn’t listen to a word you say but drones on and on and on about themselves, what they do and what they need from you.

It’s just as awful to follow someone like that on social media, who only posts self-promotional content—or content that just isn’t relevant to your needs and challenges. You can say the same for emails you receive from brands that only seek to sell, but never try to offer value to subscribers without asking for anything in return.

If you post on social, keep your content relevant to your audience and be a giver. Promote other people, share cool stuff that’s helpful for others even if it’s not your content, shout out people doing cool things. That doesn’t mean never talk about yourself, but strike a balance.

With email, don’t constantly hit people up with requests that only serve you. Sure, send out an email to explain your business and ask for a referral—but only after you sent out three other emails where you offered something helpful to the recipient, be that a download or food for thought or just a cool link they’d really enjoy.

While all these little tweaks can help improve the performance of your content marketing campaigns (and yes, there are many, many more little fixes like this!), there’s one big problem that may be the root cause of content that doesn’t work: You’re doing what everyone else is doing and not letting your unique, defined, authentic voice and self shine through in your marketing.

Your Marketing Will Shine If You Pour Your True Self Into It

Yes, I know—it sounds a little woo woo and maybe even downright unstrategic. But finding a strong voice and tone, defining your opinions and speaking out about what you believe and sharing openly—maybe even getting a little vulnerable—will make your content marketing extremely powerful.

Sharing the “what” and “how” of financial planning tactics and techniques is helpful for the DIYers out there. But that’s not useful for someone who doesn’t want to do it themselves, AKA: potential paying clients!

If you write in a formal, instructional way, that’s not going to resonate with the people you want to reach and help. It’s also going to be completely devoid of personality, and as humans, we don’t want more facts and data. Most of us don’t connect with numbers so much as we connect with other people and the stories they tell.

You may not feel this way, which is why writing about the numbers is so tempting. That is compelling to you and it’s why you’re good at your job. But you aren’t your clients, and if you continue to approach your marketing with this lack of empathy for the people you want to speak to, you’re not going to find success with these strategies.

If you want your content marketing to work, take a step back from all the tactics for a moment. Then, work on identifying your unique voice. Define what you feel strongly about. Flush out your philosophies and beliefs and practice articulating thoseand why you hold those beliefs.

Find what you feel opinionated about and speak up on that topic. And again, write (and create content) the way you’d speak with friends on a subject you feel passionately for. Let your personality and your way of thinking shine through and be part of the content you create.

Don’t shy away from speaking your mind in the context of what your audience cares about and needs from you. Putting your authentic self in your marketing differentiates you from other firms, makes it clear what you stand for and who you stand for, and makes it extremely easy to create content that rises to the top.

Anyone can write about technical topics. Only you can create content around your system of thought and how you practice what you preach in your own life.

 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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Attracting and Keeping Diverse Planners and Clients

CNBC reported more than a year ago that there are not enough financial planners to meet the demand for services needed from consumers who want to plan more thoroughly.

“We do have a gap in our profession because many advisers are retiring and the pipeline isn’t keeping up with the pace of those aging out of the workforce,” Shannon Pike, CFP®, vice president at Tanglewood Legacy Advisors in Houston and past president of the Financial Planning Association, told CNBC.

Things haven’t changed much.

Financial Advisor Magazine reported that in 2014, 43 percent of planners were nearing retirement. It’s four years later and those planners are even closer.

Attracting diverse planners to the profession is not about pushing out qualified individuals for underqualified people, it’s about filling the giant hole that is about to open up with qualified, talented people who are being wooed by other professions also.

Cy RichardsonTo attract diverse talent, the profession has to up its game, Cy Richardson, senior vice president of the Urban League told Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®, in an episode of the podcast 2050 TrailBlazers. Other professions—like law and medicine—are also throwing their hats in the recruitment ring, Richardson said.

And since this is a profession where people can do “both well and good,” Richardson said, they will no doubt be attracted to it.

Richardson and Dorsainvil dive into the following aspects in examining how the financial planning profession can better attract and retain diverse planners and clients.

And if you’re wanting to fill the gap with diverse talent, here are some things you can do.

Respect cultures. There may be a misconception that the financial planning profession is all about numbers, Dorsainvil said.

“Numbers are involved, but being a financial planner is all about relationship-building,” she said. “It is about learning your clients so that’s why culture is very important working with, for example, an African client and understanding that the eldest son is typically responsible for the parents.”

She elaborated that if you do have a client from this background, there may be a line item that is a few thousand dollars for parents that is non-negotiable. So attempting to get this particular client to do away with that $2,000 line item might be considered offensive.

If you are already attracting clients from different backgrounds, Dorsainvil and Richardson said it’s imperative to know and understand their cultural values to keep them.

Richardson added that some families might have multiple generations living in one household.

“The obligation of any member of [that] household may not necessarily fit traditional, mainstream American values in terms of the patriarchal male-dominant of the house,” Richardson added. “You may have a female head of household or multiple female heads of the household.”

Journal Columnist Meir Statman, who immigrated to the United States from Israel, wrote a column about this very topic for the August issue, which offers more intricate insight on cultural differences and how they tie into your practices.

“There are so many different nuances that we need to become culturally aware so that we can be able to serve our clients best,” Dorsainvil said.

Be better at building relationships. Knowing how to make both client prospects and people who are new to the profession feel welcome is another key ingredient to attracting and retaining them both.

Richardson said the diverse talent you hire will most likely be adept at this skill and would likely make a valuable addition to your staff.

“A planner who understands the contextual forces at work and has more than just the cookie-cutter approach to consumers and building relationships and making people feel comfortable, that is a particular skill set for communities for color, for planners of color, because we’ve had to do it our whole lives in terms of making ourselves comfortable in majority settings, in making other minority folks feel comfortable in majority settings,” Richardson said. “That kind of resilience is built into our DNA. Why not direct that experience towards a profession that requires it?”

Work on listening and empathy skills. The power of listening isn’t new to our readers. At the FPA Annual Conference in Baltimore, Eric Maddox, an interrogator who was the mastermind behind Saddam Hussein’s capture, told us that listening is the foundation to building trust in any relationship.

“First and foremost, you must listen,” Maddox told the Journal in 2016. “Listening is not an art; it’s a learned skill.”

But developing these skills can help both with your clients and your new hires and will make them feel comfortable to share and make them feel safe, Richardson said.

Maddox also told us back in 2016 that, “Empathy is to listening as water is to the human body. It’s everything.”

“We need to make those skill sets compulsory parts of this profession,” Richardson said. This not only helps in “meeting prospects where they are but ensuring the profession can be adaptable to prospect desires.”

Dorsainvil said this profession should be an attractive option for communities of color.

“For those who are saying, ‘Is this a career path for me?’ Absolutely,” Dorsainvil said.

Why Is This Issue Important?

By the year 2050, what are considered minority groups today are projected to become the majority. Numerous studies show that authentically recruiting and retaining people from different backgrounds with unique perspectives helps companies’ bottom lines.

Dorsainvil reports from a recently released press release from CFP Board that just over 3 percent of all CFP® professionals are people of color. And if the world is poised to change so drastically by 2050, the profession will benefit from recruiting and retaining professionals of color as well as learning how to serve these communities.

About the 2050 TrailBlazers Podcast

Dorsainvil began streaming episodes of 2050 TrailBlazers in March 2018. FPA is one of the sponsors of the podcast that is sparking conversation on diversity and inclusion in the financial planning profession and attempting to address issues of recruitment and retention of professionals of color.

This podcast highlights ways to increase diversity in the financial planning profession. Listen to the podcasts during your commute and check out the show notes for more information about the people and topics covered. Subscribe on iTunes and Google Play or visit the website.

Interested in the FPA Diversity Scholarship? Apply today to be considered.

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Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.

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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.


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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3 Ways to Make Your Practice Less Ordinary

John Maynard Keynes once said, “Slavishly following conventional norms will often lead to disappointment.”

The ordinary is often an adversary when serving clients. Building a clientele the way everyone else has can lead to uninspiring outcomes and limit the growth of your practice. Cold calling, letter writing and hosting rubber chicken seminars are the conventional marketing mechanisms that don’t offer much of an opportunity to stand out. How are you gaining introductions?

Here are three ways to build a practice that’s less ordinary:

Get Clarity on Your Why

What drives, motivates and supports your resiliency? A great and personal story about the “why” of your business is what moves people. Having a clear why can help distinguish your practice and ensure you stay focused on you and your team’s long-term goals.

One time, I asked a planner why he got started in the business and he struggled to answer. After a few moments, he began reminiscing story about working in his father’s flower business before deciding to become a planner. He drew parallels to the lessons he learned from his father and how he has applied them to his business. He was actually moved to tears and realized that was the first time he ever thought of why he got into the business in the first place, and how that experience helped him serve his clients better. I would say that if he can get that story down (sans the tears) and relay that to every client/prospect that he is working with, it is far more powerful than the generic story about a planner’s process that is told by everyone else.

Set a Unique Business Tranche

Out of the clarity from your why, your niche or unique business tranche (UBT) can be developed. Do you work closely with the teachers in your community and want to help them build a better future? Are you a proud and retired marine who loves working with those still in active service? Do you have a talent for facilitating intergenerational wealth conversations within your network?

I once coached a planner that really aspired to grow his business with clients that have experienced a tragedy or traumatic event. Why? He felt compelled to help others that had experienced something traumatic because he could identify with them after living the horror of almost losing his daughter in a plane crash, where fortunately she survived. His why and his passion allowed him to help others financially and emotionally.

Become a Subject Matter Expert

Becoming a subject matter expert in a defined area can further solidify your value with your clients. Plan on bringing customized, overwhelming value and delight to members of your tranche through your refined focus. Become recognized within your unique business tranche by:

  • Researching websites, newsletters and other materials from industry experts to stay on top of current events, legislation, industry issues and concerns
  • Develop opportunities to identify and meet UBT prospects within their preferred environment
  • Show gratitude and exceed expectations with a personalized gift or action that is both unique and emotionally engaging

Overall, rather than doing more of the same, a distinctive approach to your marketing through a niche can lead to more personalized servicing and as a consequence, heightened satisfaction from your clients.

To start taking the road less traveled, visit our Janus Henderson Labs Professional Development Programs. Our resources include educational content, step-by-step planning tools and one-on-one consulting from practice management specialists.

Editor’s Note: A version of this blog was published on the Janus Henderson Blog and is available here.

Janus Henderson LabsTM programs are for information purposes only. There is no guarantee that the information supplied is accurate, complete or timely, nor is there any warranty with regards to the results obtained from its use. Compliance Code: C-0917-12219


John L. Evans Jr., Ed.D. is executive director of Janus Henderson LabsTM, is a practice management expert and conducts extensive consulting and training with top financial intermediaries worldwide. Evans is a keynote speaker and has authored books on client retention and client acquisition including The Book of WOW, WOW 2.0: Igniting Your Business and Your Life and A Genuine Persuasion System.