5 ways for stressed-out advisors to build a more efficient practice
Delegate, streamline, lean on your CRM, leverage resources, go mobile or tap the untried talents of your receptionist -- all ways to do more of what you love to do
Brooke’s Note: When Tiger Woods is firing his drives into the woods and is in danger of losing a tournament, he does not call his coach, his manager or other like experts. That level of advice would only make matters worse. He turns, instead, to someone else — the man who carries his bags. What does that porter tell him? “Follow through.” “Go ahead and give it a rip.” And such back yard advice often works. Is there an equivalent approach for helping financial advisors in midstream? Yes, says Abby Salameh. This is a column for the frazzled — namely, most of us.
I was recently in the office of one of our advisors — let’s call him Joe. Joe was seriously stressed out. He was feeling overwhelmed with the litany of “stuff” he had to get done. Joe was trying to hire a junior advisor, put together a client event, follow up on three or four new referrals he had recently received and get his marketing under control, and on top of it all he was trying to get home in time to celebrate his daughter’s fifth birthday.
The purpose of our meeting was to dig deep into his growth strategy to uncover tactics we could employ to get his growth numbers where he wants them to be. Suddenly, that conversation seemed somewhat irrelevant as I watched someone who was riddled with anxiety. I knew that any plans I tried to implement would fall on deaf ears. Instead, we took a deep breath together and decided to focus on some small steps he could take that would make a big impact in his life.
And it worked.
Here is what we uncovered and have since imparted on other members of our network.
Step 1: Do what you like to do and delegate the rest
How many of you love to just go out and bring in new clients? Maybe you only like to service existing clients and are not good at being the rainmaker. Perhaps you love investments and have a passion for asset allocation and portfolio management? Whatever your passion, make sure you are the one doing that specific task and delegate the other functions.
You have likely spent considerable time hiring talented and capable employees. Give them the opportunity to do what you hired them to do. See: Nine pitfalls for advisors to avoid when taking on new employees. And don’t be shy to see if they have the capacity to take on new responsibilities. Recently, I was working with an advisor who was very stressed out because she was planning an event for clients and prospects. She was overwhelmed with the logistical planning; finding the location for the event, determining whom to invite, creating the invitations, following up and securing a speaker. I suggested that we ask her receptionist if she would like to get involved. It turns out her receptionist loves event-planning — she actually wanted to be a party planner and never had the opportunity. We learned from that simple discussion that her receptionist actually can handle a lot more than just answering the phones and greeting clients.
Step 2: Use Your CRM
Your customer-relationship-management system can be the most valuable tool you have in your office. When used properly, it can streamline the workload and work flow in your office so everyone is more efficient. We have been working closely with our firms to make sure they are maximizing the use of their CRM, regardless of which one it is. We have helped them develop customized work flows that make sense for their offices depending on how many employees they have and what their different tasks are. It has really made a difference.
For example, one of our firms has five employees, each of whom has very specific functions within the firm. We developed a workflow in which once the principal of the firm brings on a new client, it triggers a series of tasks assigned to the different employees who handle different functions: one employee gets the new client all the paperwork, another schedules and conducts the formal planning meeting, another ensures that all the proper broker-dealer paperwork is completed and the transfer of assets occurs smoothly, and so on and so forth. Having this all in a system in which you receive reminders and alerts eliminates room for error and the possibility that something will fall through the cracks. See: As advisors flunk social media 101, CRM makers are starting to pick up the slack.
Step 3: Leverage resources available to you
This conversation happens time and time again. I am talking to an advisor who wants to create a presentation: He or she does not know where to start, or will call me frustrated because despite the hours spent trying to put together a presentation it doesn’t flow well, it looks bad or the content is half-baked.
I then mention to the advisor, “we have this exact presentation already created on our internal advisor portal and we can customize it and brand it as your own.” Light bulb goes on. Whatever the need is, you have many partners behind you. You likely have a broker-dealer or a custodian, fund companies, insurance companies or a firm like ours that provides business management solutions for advisors. Take a few minutes to take a look at what these partners have to offer. Chances are, whatever you are looking for is there and in a turnkey format just waiting for you to use it. See: Top 10 ways financial advisers can 'market smarter’ — and enjoy it more in 2012.
Step 4: Systemize your communications
Most advisors have heard time and time again that they need to “touch” their clients and centers of influence at many times during the course of the year in order to stay front and center. While we know you understand the reasons you need to do this — raise brand awareness, engage your clients and centers of influence, provide valuable information and remain relevant — we also know that you get caught up in the day-to-day tasks that go with being a business owner and a financial advisor. See: 10 indispensable questions for advisors to ask — and 10 to answer — at networking events.
Many of our advisors tell me that they really want to publish a newsletter or a blog but they just don’t have time. There are solutions available. They don’t cost much and they work. The best thing you can do is sign up for a ready-made program by third-party marketing vendors like Forefield, Platinum Marketing or Emerald Connect Inc. These services have libraries of articles available for you to pick and choose from or they have market commentaries that are already FINRA-approved. You can schedule these communications to go out weekly, monthly or quarterly and it is a simple, easy way to keep your firm’s name front and center.
Step 5: Get mobile
Make the most of your time — and not necessarily in the office. Conduct business development activities from your car. Use that time to call prospects or connect with alliances you have not had the chance to contact lately. Get IP Voice Communications so the calls coming into your office go directly to your PDA or home phone. These days you can really work from anywhere. There are some really cool apps that allow you to leverage technology out of the office and still maintain the same level of productivity as if you were in the office. See: Eavesdropping on the FPA Business Solutions conference: Mobile apps, web-based marketing — and how you can make the most of the connected world.
For instance, one of the advisors I am working with now wants to be able to work on a PowerPoint presentation while he is on vacation but he doesn’t want to bring a laptop. Now he can do that on his iPad or even his iPhone though an application called Documents to Go that will allow him to make edits to any document off a PDA. Performance reporting can even be done mobile! Black Diamond has an iPad application that allows you to access your clients performance reports on site to share when you enter a meeting remotely. The point is — you don’t have to be in the office to be efficient. You can accomplish just as much in the time you are not physically there.
The end result of following some of these simple steps will be quite positive. Just replicating a few of these can really make a difference. You will be organized, more efficient and who knows, you may even get out early to help celebrate your daughter’s fifth (or 25th) birthday!
Abby Salameh brings to Fusion Advisor Network 20 years of experience working directly with independent advisors. Having started her career at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. in 1992, she went on to help launch InvestmentNews for Crain Communications Inc. In 2002, she joined TD Ameritrade to head the marketing efforts for its institutional services. More recently, Abby has been providing strategic and tactical marketing consulting for leading industry firms, including large broker-dealers and independent advisors. She joined Fusion Advisor Network in September. See: What exactly is Fusion Advisor Network and who did it draw to Las Vegas last week.
Fusion Advisor Network is a membership organization consisting of some of the leading independent advisory firms in the country. It provides affiliated member firms with a tight-knit community coupled with business management consulting, marketing services, technology optimization, human-capital guidance, and guidance around succession planning, including mergers and acquisitions.
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