Keys to a Successful Client Advisory Council Meeting

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Two of the most important challenges advisers face within their practice are finding new ways to improve their client service and growing their practice through new client referrals. Of course, a natural symmetry exists between these two goals: If you provide unmatched service to your clients and continually improve and enhance your service model, chances are they will in turn become an excellent source of referrals for you. But what can you do, as an adviser, to efficiently approach both of these challenges with one solution?

One particular way is to try to meet these two challenges head-on by forming a client advisory council. This council—which is normally comprised of several “A+” clients—is designed to not only provide feedback and insight into what clients are seeking from you, but also to serve on the front lines of your client-referral efforts.

As an executive business coach at Peak Advisor Alliance, I recently had the opportunity to sit in on an advisory council meeting conducted by Ron Carson, founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group, Peak Advisor Alliance, and Carson Institutional Alliance, and a top-10 adviser on the Barron’s list. Carson is a big proponent of advisory council meetings, but has stressed their value hinges on how well the meeting has been executed.

As a fly on the wall at Carson Wealth Management Group’s client advisory council meeting, I was able to observe how Carson and his team conducted the session. Here are a few quick takeaways:

Establish an Objective
Carson called the meeting to order and immediately explained the importance of the committee, laid out why they were there, and made clear one of the priorities of the meeting would be to show proof that the firm had taken certain steps in response to the committee’s feedback.

Takeaway: Right at the outset Carson established a very clear outline and objective for the meeting, assuring everyone in attendance is on the same page.

Organize the Direction
Carson then turned the meeting over to the president of Carson Wealth, who first took care of some housekeeping items: the meeting’s agenda, the mission and vision, and a year-to-date performance review for 2013. He then reviewed four discussion points from the last meeting to be addressed in the current meeting.

Takeaway: Organize the direction of the meeting by first getting the committee up to speed on where the firm stands now and then segueing into new business.

Ensure Members Are Involved and Engaged
The chief financial officer and chief operations officer for Carson Wealth then updated the council on changes and improvements the firm had made related to four discussion points: performance, communication, service, and estate planning/product ideas.

Takeaway: During this portion of the meeting the three executives not only updated the committee, but also took questions, suggestions, and other feedback from the members. Carson and his team made sure the discussion wasn’t one-sided by allowing the exchange of ideas and input. The key here is to ensure the council is fully involved and engaged for the duration of the meeting.

Open It Up for Discussion
The meeting concluded with an open discussion.

Takeaway: This further continued the open dialogue among the executives and the council, with members getting the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on a wide range of topics.

One of the most important requirements for having a successful client advisory council meeting is for the firm to balance the big personalities of the executive team in a way that promotes open dialogue. Carson and his team were particularly adept at accomplishing this. Any time a piece of information was presented, they allowed for feedback and wanted to know whether the firm was moving in the direction the council had hoped it would since the last meeting.

I have been in other similar meetings where firm executives ask questions and then move on before allowing anyone to actually speak. This unfortunately turns the meeting into more of a presentation than a discussion. Keep in mind these busy professionals have taken a half-day (or more) out of their schedules to work with you on your business. The last thing they want is to sit back and listen to a long-winded presentation. Ensuring they have considerable opportunity to participate will increase the likelihood of their continued involvement and your overall success as a firm.

A client advisory council will only serve as a useful tool for growing your practice if it is organized and conducted as efficiently as possible so you and the members of your advisory council both benefit from the session. This means clients are able to ask the questions they want to ask of you, and you are able to communicate the value proposition of your firm in return so they can then pass along your message to the family, friends and colleagues who may become your future clients.

Carly McCullochCarly McCulloch
Executive Business Coach
Peak Advisor Alliance
Omaha, NE

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