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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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What We Can Learn from Career-Changer Advisers

Do you know a career-changer adviser or have one on your staff? They bring a certain skillset that many lifelong financial advisers may benefit from.

One individual I know retired from the military and began his career as a financial adviser when he was in his 40s. He was quite comfortable in his role as leader of a growing ensemble firm. He was adept at enhancing efficiency through the use of consistent processes, attending not only to the firm’s top line but also to margin and profitability, delegating to staff, focusing on teamwork, mentoring young advisers and building a culture of camaraderie. These aren’t usually the responsibilities advisers say they excel at; instead, most say they much prefer spending time with their clients than managing the business.

Can we assume, then, that some career-changer advisers are better business managers than financial advisers who have spent their entire careers in this industry?

What Career Changers Bring
There is no actual data to validate my hunch, but if you think about it, there are a few reasons why an adviser who came from the military, engineering, health care or some other industry would find success as a business owner. Let’s look a little closer.

Lifelong financial planners often have no formal business training; after all, you don’t get CE credits for learning how to be better businesspeople. In fact, at conferences, there’s a built-in incentive to go to the sessions offering CE credit and a built-in disincentive for the practice management sessions. Consequently, developing or enhancing leadership and management skills or business acumen in general plays second fiddle.

When an individual starts a second career, however, there is an opportunity for a do over. You get to assess the new industry you are joining and learn best practices to apply from the get-go? (if you had the chance to start your financial planning career over, wouldn’t you do some things differently?) Plus, those who change careers have often learned from their earlier experiences and know how to avoid certain bad habits the second time around.

Of course, career changers are often older and more mature. That maturity may also be accompanied by greater financial stability than a newbie adviser just entering the industry would have. For example, instead of taking on every client to make ends meet, the more established individual can select the clients who best fit his or her niche and how he or she wants to present the firm to the public.

Last, there is something to be said for bringing external knowledge into this industry. That’s probably true for any industry. It’s not a leap to suggest that prior experience leads to increased wisdom.

If This Is True, What Difference Does It Make?
If you have a career changer in your firm, perhaps that individual has insight that could be useful to you as the leader of the firm. If you are considering a career changer as a successor, that individual may possess some valuable skills less commonly found in the financial services industry. Consider also that, as our industry shrinks, perhaps we need to recruit from non-traditional niches.

If it’s logical to assume that career-changer advisers often possess better business management skills, then it follows that financial planners who switch industries might be observed to have exceptional relationships and, of course, financial planning skills. It’s just that financial planners seldom move on to a second career. Why would they, when this one is so gratifying?

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


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The Art of the Referral

You will hear this your entire career: increasing your ability to gather referrals will make your practice more successful. Establishing referrals early in our career is even more important. But the reality is that many of us don’t put a lot of emphasis on referrals and do not learn this early in our career. How great is a warm referral from a credible source like a client or another professional?

There are two reasons why we lack successful referral methods. First, there is risk in the referral—there is risk for you and there is risk for the person making the referral. Second, it can be awkward asking for it because people feel the sales aspect of it. As great as it sounds it is simply not that easy.

How do we present a more effective referral? First, we can focus on who it is coming from. Work on developing a professional relationship with a person who can provide consistent dependable referrals that fit your perfect client profile—that may be a CPA or estate planning attorney. Identify that person and develop the relationship with the emphasis on what you provide compared to another adviser. Attention to detail, technology in your practice or an advantage you will bring to that professional. This type of relationship, and referrals from these types of professionals, are invaluable.

Take the sales feeling out of the asking for the referral. Don’t use the typical cliché “is there anyone else you know who could benefit from my service or our relationship?” This has been used hundreds of times. Put your asking for the referral into context so the client doesn’t feel it as a sales ploy but a real offer to help.

Try this: ask the client if they are the beneficiary of someone’s estate. Ask them if they understand how the estate is set up to transfer—most think they do but really don’t. Ask them if the beneficiaries are clear on the transfer of their estate. There are many things they may not be aware of but need to understand. Now instead of saying “Great, please refer me to them so I can help,” say, “Let’s bring them together so we can make sure it is crystal clear and nothing is left for interpretation.” This will bring the referral right to you in a no risk opportunity. A review of information for your client with the referral in the room to help facilitate that explanation will show the true value of your detail and help you gather more referrals. This is a unique approach that many advisers don’t take advantage of.

Building a successful referral method will take time, but if you start to perfect this early on in your career it will be promising and fruitful from the start.
scott-huff

Scott Huff
CEO of Yourefolio and an IAR of JK Investment Group
Cleveland, Ohio

 

Editor’s note: FPA members receive $200 off Yourefolio software, plus a money back guarantee. 


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What Comes First—Changing the Tech or the Staff?

Firms are struggling with technology adoption because they believe their executives or staff can’t change or learn new methods of operating. So they stop implementing the tech (aka the change) and instead start interviewing potential hires to replace their current staff who appear unwilling to change and learn. This stoppage and hiring effort creates a dark cloud over the mood of the staff. It sends a message that the firm isn’t prepared to improve nor invest in change management. Rock star-quality staff take this stoppage as a sign and ultimately stop recommending improvements and cease their championing of change. If the stoppages happen often, your best staff might even start interviewing at other firms or start their own firm.

How do I know if my staff are able to learn new systems?
The easiest way to test the team’s ability to learn is to sell the change before implementing it. As the firm owner, you must believe in the change, know the benefits, and persistently encourage productive feedback. Remember that the administrative person might care about reducing data entry work, while the adviser will want this change to help them onboard a new client more efficiently. Staff that can’t adopt the change will stand out immediately. If they are your key team members, have your executive team talk with them and explore why they are resistant to the changes. Then, and only then, will you know if it is time to search through the resumes and start to recalibrate the staff with a new hire.

Do I lay off a loyal staff person when they can’t learn?
We all know it is very expensive (money, energy, time) to lay off and hire someone new. Any new hire requires you to use energy and time to train them on your firm’s method of operating, philosophy regarding client service and expectations. It is best to NOT lay off those who seemingly can’t embrace change and instead invest in training and change management first. Training can be in the form of scheduled weekly webinars, paying an outside expert or software provider to provide customized training, or having a staff person train his/her peer. Change management comes from the top. If you are not sure you are managing change properly, you can hire a coach to learn how to do this effectively now and in the future.

While you invest in training and management, you should also be scouring the earth for potential hires. A great employee, successor, or partner hire won’t fall into your lap the minute you decide you want to re-calibrate your team. It is never too soon to start networking and doing informational interviews and building your pipeline of candidates. If the training and change management does not produce the results you want, you know you can call upon a pool of qualified candidates.

Change isn’t easy—if it were, everyone would be doing it! Remember that any meaningful technology change—even implementing a new software program—takes more than 66 business days to adopt. Give your staff time to embrace the new tech and provide continuous training, positive reinforcement and examples of the long-term benefits. Most importantly, be sure to give yourself time to lead the troops with a positive attitude and realistic change management goals. Progress may be slow but as long as you’re seeing change transpire, rest well knowing your firm is on the right track.

Jennifer Goldman

 

Jennifer Goldman
Founder
My Virtual COO
Boston, MA

Editor’s Note: FPA members receive a $500 member discount on a My Virtual COO consulting engagement. You can find more information here


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The W’s of Successful Outsourcing

There was a time when the word “outsourcing” was barely mentioned. Today, outsourcing is as common in the office as a laptop or smart phone. Outsourcing has allowed companies of all sizes to grow quickly while reducing costs—which only adds to the bottom line.

Professional outsourcers can handle virtually every type of task, from answering emails to marketing and website development. It doesn’t stop there and can include compliance, reporting, ghost writing and much more.

WHEN do you make the choice to outsource?
When your firm experiences the following:

  1. You need a quick turnaround time on certain projects
  2. Staff is overloaded
  3. There is no time, ability or resources to train the staff on a specific skill
  4. Staff has no interest in doing certain types of work

WHAT do I outsource?
The easiest items to outsource are non-client facing, back office work or repetitive, non-technical work. The favored outsourcers currently are: bookkeepers, portfolio reconcilers, compliance firms, website designers and virtual planners. We believe these are the favorites as they have clearly defined roles and are not client-facing. Managing a person with client-facing responsibilities can be nerve wrecking for a newbie manager. Also, client-facing staff members are valuable and should be part of your core team. Your clients value your staff and the personal relationship your firm offers with them.

HOW can I outsource while remaining compliant?
We recommend following these five steps to remain compliant and operate effectively:

  1. Seek vetted, experienced experts in the industry
  2. Establish CRM processes and repeatable tasks with instructions for the outsourcer to complete and you to monitor
  3. Use secure communication platforms such as document management systems, CRMs and encrypted email
  4. Sign a formal contract with the outsourcer that protects your data, your documents, your proprietary business procedures and your clients
  5. Schedule a biweekly call with each outsourcer to review outstanding tasks, answer any questions and provide overall guidance on how you would like them to operate

Finding and onboarding the right outsourcing company takes time. Be patient, ask peers for recommendations, and remember that the first few months are always have a learning curve for you and the outsourcer. Also, you will want to carve out time to monitor their work closely for the first 60 days and confirm they possess the skills and ability to deliver. After 60 days, you should be able to trust their work and method of delivery and more easily manage them.

The W’s of outsourcing don’t have to be overwhelming. Your staff, you, and clients will feel the positive effect of hiring an expert outsourcer. So try one out, follow the five steps, monitor the work and enjoy the newly reclaimed energy and time.

Jennifer Goldman

 

Jennifer Goldman
Founder
My Virtual COO
Boston, MA

Editor’s Note: FPA members receive a $500 member discount on a My Virtual COO consulting engagement. You can find more information here


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FPA Retreat 2016: Tuesday, April 26

The Wigwam Resort outside Phoenix, Ariz., welcomed Financial Planning Association members this week for FPA Retreat 2016. Below are photos from Monday, April 25.

Did you miss the fun this year? Join us next year at Château Élan in North Atlanta, Georgia April 24-27, 2017. Use this code (PARET17) for $100 off if you register before May 31, 2016.


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Fundamentals for Success: 4 Practice Management Themes for 2016

Every March I host the Independent Advisor’s Implement Now Practice Management Virtual Summit. I interview about two dozen industry thought leaders to crystalize the key how-to advice they have to offer to propel advisers to their next level of success. This year’s content reveals four practice management themes that entrepreneurial advisers must pay attention to if they want to achieve their full potential.

Here are the four fundamental focus areas for  advisers that surfaced from my conversations with the 24 entrepreneur industry experts who participated in this year’s summit, which was held on March 14.

1. Personal Brand: What is the story you want to share with the world? How do you relate and connect with people? Clever marketing tactics, fancy web sites, high quality video and daily social media blasting will not help if you are not 100 percent clear on who you are as the leader of your firm, what defines your value system, and what you want your audience to appreciate and understand. When you bring to life your personal brand and reinforce it consistently over time, you will stand out, especially in the digital arena. Personal and professional are no longer separate worlds. The intersection of the two is where most clients live, and you need to show up.

2. Technology to Scale: Technology for technology’s sake can be cool, but you should care about the innovation that occurs because it will allow you to scale your business. You can impact a greater number of people whom you want to help when you leverage technology to support you. Open your eyes to what’s possible now, learn and apply the tools you already have, try out new solutions to improve your service delivery, stand out against robo-advice, streamline your practice operations, support healthy habits, increase productivity and upgrade your overall lifestyle.

3. Build Teams and Systems: Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited is the most referenced book in Implement Now. Are you working “in” the business, mired in the technical or administrative day-to-day work? Or do you approach your business thinking in systems and processes that free up more of your time, money and energy to focus on leadership? Whether you offshore tasks to a virtual assistant, hire a part-time HR consultant or expand your firm with more advisers, you need to define clear systems and processes, be willing to delegate, and find the right kind of people for the job or jobs at hand. This will not only improve efficiency and increase the value of the firm but it’ll improve your life and relationships outside the office.

4. Financial Planning: With more low-cost money management solutions on the market and a growing consumer desire to address basic every day cash flow management both in Gen X and Y and the retiring boomer segments, financial advice cannot rely on the retirement portfolio. The financial planning element of advisers’ service offerings must take the lead. How are you helping your clients navigate the complex trade-offs and decisions they make to create a fulfilling life? When you are their go-to resource to make emotionally powered choices, your clients will stick with you in the ups and downs and happily spread the word about you.

The wrapper around all of these essential areas is clear, consistent and frequent communication with your prospects and clients both in a public domain and in one-to-one outreach. With a clear personal brand, technology and teams to support you and a focus on the planning your clients need, you will achieve more success—whatever that means to you—this year.

To learn the recommended actions behind these themes and view all the expert interviews, visit http://implement-now.com for participation details.

 Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
www.kristinharad.com
implement-now.com
San Francisco, Calif.

Editor’s Note: The following related Financial Planning Association content may be of interest to you: