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Building Growth Through Succession Planning

Succession planning isn’t just an “end-game strategy”; it is the key to growth and sustainability.

The specific goals of the succession planning process depend on the founder and his or her circumstance—including age, health and family demands—and they vary case by case. The point, though, is to take a methodical and practical approach to building a business that will endure beyond the builder. Four key areas to concentrate on are:

  1. Building strong, sustainable growth;
  2. Creating a focus on the bottom-line;
  3. Implementing a practical and reliable continuity plan; and
  4. Designing an income perpetuation strategy for the founding owner

The first is perhaps the most important. Building strong, sustainable growth for the business is supported by a clear succession plan in two ways. First, by incorporating next generation advisers who will be investing financially and physically as they buy in. One of the most effective ways to grow a business is to help the next generation build on the foundation the founder has already created and gradually transition ownership—and leadership. The next generation will learn not only how to “think like an owner,” but to be an owner. They will connect the daily goal of revenue production with the long-term goal of producing sustainable revenue in an efficient and scalable manner. They will make decisions that benefit the whole, not just themselves.

Second, growth through succession is about even more than just improving numbers. Strong, sustainable growth demands that the business owner increase their own capabilities as a leader—not just as a producer. As an executive of a multi-generational business, building the strength and depth of the entire team fuels continuous growth.

Cultivating ongoing growth in this way allows a founder to realize exponential value in the business they’ve built, while allowing them to plan for life after advising without worrying about the future of the business or the clients.

Unless the world of professional financial advisers discovers immortality or the fountain of youth, 100 percent of today’s advisers will see their careers come to an end, one way or the other. The only question is how you’ll help your clients transition from your advice and care to someone else’s. Will it be through a professional and carefully crafted succession plan; a last-minute sale to a friend or colleague; or will the clients be left to fend for themselves?

Building a business is about building for the future—your future and your clients’ futures. With a solid succession plan you not only promote growth—you build a legacy, and most importantly, you provide for your clients’ needs beyond the length of your individual career.

david_grau_sr

 

David Grau Sr., J.D.
President and Founder
FP Transitions
Lake Oswego, Ore.


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Goal Setting: How to Make 2017 Your Best Business Year Ever

Investing time to strategically plan their goals for the upcoming year is the single greatest return on investment an adviser can make. If you’re looking to create a breakout year and accomplish your most important goals, read the following to make 2017 your best year ever.

STEP ONE: Review Your Year
This step helps you focus on what you should be doing more of and what you should be quitting completely. Identify your successes and where you came up short. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. Which were good decisions and which were bad?

Answer these questions to properly reflect on your year:

  1. What did you accomplish this past year that you’re most proud of?
  2. What did you do to earn this accomplishment?
  3. What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
  4. As you look back, what was missing from last year?
  5. What are three things you want to stop doing next year?
  6. What are three things you want to keep doing next year?

STEP TWO: Define Areas of Attention in Your Business
There are seven main areas of your financial practice that you want to be in optimal shape to see breakthrough success. Rank each area on a scale of 1-10 to see which are the lowest and need your attention.

  1. New business and client acquisition. Are you talking to enough qualified prospects and turning them into clients?
  2. Marketing and branding. When people get introduced to you or your brand, can they quickly identify how you can help and benefit them?
  3. Do you have all-star employees who are easy to manage?
  4. Client service and experience. Are your current clients receiving the right amount of contact and care so there’s no reason they would ever leave you?
  5. Do you have the systems and processes set up so that the office can run if you’re not there?
  6. Time management and productivity. Are you spending time only on $1,000-per-hour tasks rather than $10-per-hour tasks?
  7. Expertise in planning and investment management. Are you continually increasing your knowledge in order to offer the best advice and recommendations to your clients?

STEP THREE: Create Your Future
Here’s the framework to follow when identifying your goals. Use this framework to develop five to seven goals for the next year:

  1. Write it down. Research shows that written goals are much more likely to be achieved.
  2. Suspend reality. Decide later if a goal is realistic.
  3. Think big. Have goals that are challenging enough to demand your full effort
  4. State in the positive. Focus on what you want to move toward.
  5. Have actionable goals. Write your goal as if it is already achieved. For example, say, “I have hired one new all-star employee that handles all paperwork prep and processing by 6/30/2017.”
  6. Time bound. Make sure there is a date of completion.
  7. Be specific. The more specific the goal, the better.

STEP FOUR: Bulletproof Your Goals
Advisers who achieve their goals are the ones who are motivated and who have a compelling reason why their goals must be achieved. So you can create powerful motivators for each of your goals, which will increase the chances that you’ll achieve them.

Take these steps to create motivators for your goals:

  1. (Again) write down each goal.
  2. Connect emotionally and logically with each goal by determining why the goal is important and what is at stake (both the positive and negative).
  3. Write down the top three to five motivators
  4. Review them regularly.

STEP FIVE: Take The Next Step
The last step—the most important step in the process—is where we start to take action to make our goals a reality.

  1. Don’t over plan. We naturally are attracted to planning. But sometimes it turns into a fancy way to procrastinate. We want to make sure we get started on our goals as soon as possible.
  2. Work backward and break up your big goals. Imagine the goal is already complete. What do you need to do each month in order for you to that moment? This will help identify manageable action steps.
  3. Schedule your goals. Set aside time each week to review your goals, motivators and progress. At the end of each session, identify the next step you need to take to reach this goal.
  4. Celebrate the small wins to motivate yourself.
  5. Start now.

Download this step-by-step worksheet to help you with this process.

dave-zoller

 

Dave Zoller
Financial Adviser
Streamline My Practice
Warrenville, IL

 


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How to Sell the Benefits of Financial Planning

Do you ever struggle to communicate the value of financial planning to prospective clients, such that they are willing to sign your planning agreement and write a check for the deposit, enabling you to move forward?

That was the question I was asked recently by a financial planning practice. They sent me sample copies of their proposal as well as examples of their executive summaries, action plans, fee schedule and even some success story descriptions.

I am confident that this is a practice that provides an excellent planning process and product—certainly well worth the fees they charge.

So what did I recommend? Here are the steps I suggested:

Before your Introductory Conversation:

  • Thank them for their interest in learning more about you and your practice.
  • Send a link to your website, pointing out any description or case studies you have there about your planning process and results.

During your Introductory Conversation:

  • Learn enough about them to determine whether they’re a good fit for your business model and how you can help them.
  • Explain your background and approach to help them understand whether you’re a good fit for what they need.
  • If you provide different “tracks” based on your clients’ situation (such as plan only, plan plus solutions or even solutions only), describe them. Tell them that the basis for determining which track is most appropriate generally becomes clear in discovery. Avoid discussing fees at this point; you want them to understand that you will recommend the track most suited to their needs.
  • At the end of the introductory conversation, if you believe they are a good fit for moving forward, say something like: “Based on what you told me about your situation, and how we generally serve our clients, I think we’d be a good fit to move forward to our discovery process.”

During your Discovery Meeting:

  • Your goal during discovery is to develop a list of the problems they need to have solved—the ones they’ve identified already and the ones they may not have realized they have.
  • At the end of discovery, you can talk through the list of issues to be addressed, particularly focusing on the ones you uncovered.
  • Then you can say something like: “Based on what we talked about today, and to help you address each of these concerns, I believe X is the most appropriate track for you.”
  • Then stop and listen. Test for agreement to move forward.
  • If they’re ready, provide your planning agreement and set an appointment and expectations for next steps.
  • If they’re not ready to sign your agreement today, go ahead and schedule a follow-up meeting and give them what they need to prepare for planning. Assume they will be moving forward, but need a bit more time.

In the case of the financial planners I spoke with, they were accustomed to sending a planning proposal that was mostly about how they would review, analyze and evaluate, but little about the specific benefits their clients would experience.

Instead, use your analytical skills during discovery to uncover issues that your prospective clients didn’t know they had and then help them see the benefits you can provide in solving each one of them.

susan-kornegaySusan Kornegay, CFP®
Consultant/Coach
Pathfinder Strategic Solutions 
Knoxville, Tenn.

 

Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared on the Pathfinder Strategic Solutions “Perspectives” blog. 


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Pushing Past the Upper Limit Problem

Have you ever wondered why you are not consistently having record-setting years? Oftentimes while coaching financial advisers and insurance agents, I have noticed specific behavioral patterns that kick in soon after individuals have experienced success.

the-big-leapGay Hendricks, the author of the book The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level has coined a term for this that he refers to as “the upper limit problem”—which he defines as the amount of success that you are willing to allow yourself to have.

Here is how it works: We all have an “inner thermostat” that is set on just how much success we are willing to allow ourselves to have before we do something to self-sabotage and get back to our comfort zone. Unfortunately, most people don’t know their thermostat’s setting, much less a process for inching to a higher setting.

How to Reset Your Inner Thermostat and Resolve Your Upper Limit Problem
Hendricks said that in order to get to the next level, you cannot solve the problem that is holding you back; rather you need to resolve the problem by gaining a new level of awareness about it. Let’s take a look at the four main zones that he refers to that explains where people get stuck.

The Zone of Incompetence. One of the most common zones that I’ve seen advisers and agents revert to when they start to experience success is The Zone of Incompetence, which refers to spending time doing activities we are clearly not good at. Take for instance the last time you were having a record month: as the days went on did you find yourself doing activities that your assistant could be doing? If so, it was most likely because you were self-sabotaging your time by not doing activities that could have contributed to your continued level of success.

The Zone of Competence. Let’s say that you are great at doing what should be your assistant’s activities, you’ve done them for years and you find yourself saying things like, “Well, she’s got plenty to do so it’s just easier if I do this one thing for my client instead.” The challenge with this is that it’s never just one thing. If you are finding yourself doing these tasks, you are in The Zone of Competence. You both could be doing these activities but the truth is that if you are already having a successful month you essentially are now giving yourself permission to stop doing your job and tackling items that your assistant really should be completing.

The Zone of Excellence. Successful advisers and agents find themselves in The Zone of Excellence when they are accomplishing activities that they do well and are getting compensated. Unfortunately, this can create a comfort zone which in the long term will hold one back from reaching their peak potential. In addition, you may find yourself falling into a rut doing what you do well but not liking what you are doing. In other words, if you are great at public speaking but are sick of doing seminars you may not be happy and thus need to find things you are good at and like doing. You will burnout otherwise.

The Zone of Genius. At some point, you need to ask yourself the tough question, If you couldn’t fail at your business, what is it that you really would love to be doing differently?” The answer to that question will lead you to The Zone of Genius, in which you are doing what you love to do. As a result, work won’t feel like work. In this zone time doesn’t fly but instead it flows; you are not exhausted, you feel fulfilled. Granted you will still have to work to make a great living but you would also be happy and passionate about your professional life.

Taking the Big Leap
Take a moment to determine what zone you are currently in. If you want to live your life’s purpose, then you must take a big leap of faith and commit to becoming the person you are meant to be by finding the work you love to do. Then express to your target market your unique abilities and genuine willingness to help them so that one day they too could be in a position to afford to do what they love to do. If you can take this leap, you will have done what Hendricks meant by conquering your hidden (or unknown) fear and taking yourself to the next level of work and life.

If you are ready to take your big leap, schedule a complimentary 30-minute coaching session with me by emailing Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at Advisor Solutions.

Dan FinleyDaniel C. Finley
President
Advisor Solutions
St. Paul, Minn.


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Business Planning: Déjà Vu with a Twist

Another December—and another opportunity to write up goals for the coming year. It feels like déjà vu. Some of you view writing and revisiting your business plan as nothing more than practice management mumbo jumbo. To the rest of us, it is an essential business management habit. For both groups—those of you who go through this exercise every year and those who do it reluctantly—I have some ideas on how you can set up your business plan in a way that will pay off by the time you’re sitting in this same spot next year.

Keep It Simple
Too often, I see written business plans that are beautifully designed and bound but also big and cumbersome. I am usually left wondering, where’s the beef?

You can have meaty content without loads of pages. Keep things simple: all you really need is a document that outlines the vision, the long-term direction of the firm over the next five years and a set of SMART goals for the upcoming year. You want just seven or fewer of these goals (which need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bounded). By keeping the number small, you can narrow your focus on the few things most important to the firm.

Personally, I like to include one or two stretch goals even though they don’t quite fit the “R” (realistic component) of SMART. Doing so pushes you outside the comfort zone. It works as long as you don’t get hung up or feel like a failure if you don’t reach one—or any—of your stretch goals. More likely than not, you’ll at least move beyond what the realistic goal would have been. Just remember that beating yourself up when you don’t reach a goal is totally counterproductive.

Additional documents that support your plan warrant attention. For example, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis tends to embody why you think the goals for the current year are important. You can also fold in analysis of the previous year’s goals to provide a contextual lookback that will enhance your planning process.

Here’s the Twist for 2017
One new concept for 2017 concerns the “time-bounded” component, or the “T” of SMART. Many of us are inclined to set all our due dates to December. New research tells us to do one thing at a time instead. It even suggests that multitasking is bad for our brain.

So this year, instead of putting December 31, 2017, on each of your goals, prioritize and schedule them one after the other. While you may not be able to do it perfectly, staggered due dates can help you focus on each goal and enhance your brain function at the same time.

Find the Missing Ingredient
There are no guarantees. Just because you’ve written down that you’re going to do something, the action still has to happen. The plan only goes so far in keeping you accountable.

In fact, the one missing ingredient of what business planning and goal setting can specifically provide is accountability. The way goals are written matters here. Clearly designed SMART goals can be measured. They can also increase accountability. You’ll be absolutely clear on whether you have achieved your goal or not if you’ve written your goals in such a way.

To make sure you do, it helps to find a coach, consultant, colleague, boss or mentor who can keep you on track. You want someone who will help you stay focused on your goals and your progress toward achieving them. Any associated expense will be worth it when you solidify the right goals and realize you have a support system grounded in your long-term strategy.

The closer you can keep your firm tracking toward your vision, the more likely you’ll realize value from your business planning efforts. Perhaps this time next year, planning will have become a welcome habit.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web
Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


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9 Things Clients Need to Know about an Adviser

In my last blog, I focused on the importance of having a service plan for those investors seeking a shared decision-making advisory relationship. Winning in this market segment requires a clearly articulated presentation.

However, beyond the now-common “elevator pitch” and “value proposition” summaries every marketing guidebook or consultant mandates, the fact is, investors looking for a new advisory relationship will want much more before making a decision—it’s called due diligence.

Most individuals will not have a clearly articulated process, but all want to reflect on their decision and know that they made a good choice. This is not just for the basic satisfaction of a well-made decision, but there’s real economic and emotional value at hand. An adviser that encourages scrutiny shows confidence and transparency, two characteristics central to a trusted advisory relationship (note: for a discussion about making this scrutiny visible to your market, see “Removing Purchase Obstacles to Valuable Benefits”).

Making Business Personal
Whether a formal or informal process, there are nine key messages that every prospect must know about an adviser. Unlike an institutional due diligence process that emphasizes sterile facts, an adviser personalizes these to not only reach the prospect’s mind but also the heart. Both must exist for a professional relationship to flourish.

1.) The Key Benefits Clients Receive: This goes beyond the service listing often found in standard value propositions to personalizing the importance of each benefit (see “Clients Buy Benefits Not Features”).

Example: “When my clients see their needs and aspirations carefully marked as milestones in the wealth plan, a real sense of financial purpose takes over.”

2.) Pricing Services: Clients’ value a fiduciary’s watchful eye over increasing complexity and uncertainty, and this must translate into an appreciation for relationship pricing such as a retainer or fee on AUM, compared to a commission approach that is inherently transactional.

Example: “We only work for your best interests, and this isn’t something that is turned on or off but rather is a constant, and that’s why we price our services in a bundled fee for the wealth we oversee.”

3.) Services Have Value: Services deliver financial or emotional benefits, and a specific example brings tangibility.

Example: “Our retirement income planning ensures that the income you receive is done so efficiently. Recently, we increased a client’s monthly income by XX percent through improved tax efficiency.”

4.) Your Service Practices: Move beyond the overused term “relationship” to how a client actually experiences the delivered services.

Example: “It’s important that we get to know you and your family. Then, when we have our meetings, you’ll see how our services directly connect to what’s on your heart and mind.”

5.) Why You’re an Adviser: Your advisory business is a service business delivered by a server. It takes a certain personality willing to serve, and the energy source for this is an adviser’s passion.

Example: “My family struggled with financial anxiety and my heart still aches for the burden it caused. I became an adviser to bring peace of mind to my clients.

6.) Your Community Involvement: Your advisory business is a people business, and this is best illustrated in community involvement.

Example: “My family took root in this community back in [year], and we are involved in X, Y and Z. This involvement gives us a deep appreciation for what it means to be a true neighbor and, since many of our clients are local too, we connect on many professional and personal levels.”

7.) Your Credentials: More than listing specific charters, list needs-based expertise.

Example: “My expertise sits right in the center of what you need in identifying a retirement-income plan. I’ve developed similar plans for XX of our clients, so it’s rare that an issue comes up that I haven’t already encountered.”

8.) How You Built Your Company: Knowing why an advisory firm started tells a lot about the adviser.

Example: “It was important to me that my business dedicate itself to specific wealth needs instead of being diluted as would be the case in a larger firm.”

9.) Your Business’s Objectives: An advisory firm is usually a community-based business.

Example: “We’re a small business in town and when our clients achieve financial, social and emotional success, the whole community benefits.”

Messaging to Win
Clients who understand an adviser’s relatable characteristics easily can paraphrase them to others. When a client speaks in this way, he or she not only offers the adviser an important due diligence reference, but the adviser’s characteristics become further internalized.

Kirk Loury

 

Kirk Loury
President
Wealth Planning Consulting Inc.
Princeton Junction, New Jersey


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The Value of Time and Experience

I recently visited an adviser whose business had grown very quickly. In a five-year period, he went from one employee to five and his production tripled, easily putting him in the seven-figure range. In comparison with many other advisers with similar businesses, this adviser is 15 years younger, on average and has a commensurate 15 fewer years of industry experience. Listening to his business challenges—especially those having to do with human resources—gave me pause. Did this adviser have more people problems than most or was something else going on?

Getting Better Vs. Getting Used to Things
In considering this young adviser’s situation, I believed one of two things was going on:

  1. He had not yet developed the skills necessary to manage staff, which was actually contributing to his issues.
  2. He had not yet recognized that people issues are an ongoing component of managing a business.

For example, the adviser felt that he needed to revise job descriptions and re-create a compensation system that would more specifically motivate the behaviors he desired. He wanted his employees to take more responsibility for producing error-free work, instead of depending on him to review their work and catch errors. The issue extended beyond his support staff. He had recently brought on a staff CFP® and discovered that the process of guiding and mentoring the young woman required a significant investment of time to help her understand how to apply financial knowledge and theory to clients’ reality. That’s not to mention the time he was spending helping her evolve business development skills. When I asked how much time he was investing in managing the business, he said 50 percent.

But is that really too much? Comparing his story with that of other advisers with similar business scale and capacity, I found that they were far less verbal and seemed less frustrated with their human resource situation. What was particularly thought provoking was that the young adviser had assumed he must be doing something wrong or that there was something wrong with his organizational model.

We’re Never Done
There is no doubt that if we make the effort to improve, we get better over time. We learn how to manage resources—time, money and people—more effectively. What this young adviser had yet to learn was that he was doing just fine as a manager. The reality is that just when we have things lined up to achieve the perfect organization, a lot can change—someone gets sick, leaves for a different job or needs to implement new technology or procedures, which actually causes him or her to be less effective and may even lead to performance issues.

The longer we spend in a leadership position, the more we learn that when things are going well, all we have to do is wait a bit—they’ll change! The good news is that the reverse is also true. When things are not going right from an HR perspective, focusing your attention on the issue can help improve it. The fact of the matter is that we are never done managing our people. And that’s the real value of time and experience.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.