Keep Your Focus

A new year means new goals and plans for your practice. Here’s how to keep yourself on track.

By Ray Sclafani

January is one of my favorite times of the year for running in Central Park. The temperature can be pretty chilly, but the park views are spectacular. After Jan. 1, I notice a lot more runners than before. New Year’s resolutions, of course. Many people decide to get in shape by running, but by the third week, their number has dropped back. Then I see only the regulars, those who stick to their goals year in and year out.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for runners. I hear lots of promises from advisors: “This year is going to be different.” “I need to make changes.” But like runners, advisors lose track of their resolutions when they get busy.

Working with advisors around the country as an executive coach, I notice three common obstacles that prevent them from achieving goals: procrastination, limiting beliefs and a lack of accountability. Identifying impediments is key to creating an effective plan.

To jump-start your business, refer to the “Tips for 2008″ below. Which of these tips do you follow? Or do you have your own best practices?

Take Jim, a Miami-based advisor with a successful practice. He had considered changing broker-dealers for years, but kept putting it off. Would his clients follow him to the new firm? Could he afford the change? Was he ready to take the risk? He felt overwhelmed by speaking with recruiters and didn’t know which questions to ask. I brainstormed with him, developed a plan and encouraged him to tackle challenges head-on.

To start, Jim narrowed his investigation of B-Ds to three firms. Limiting his choices removed one barrier-spending too much time on research. He then developed a comprehensive list of questions to ask all three B-Ds, so he could make an apples-to-apples comparison. Finally, he created a communication plan for his clients, telling them why he was making a change and how he hoped to better serve their needs by working through a new B-D. As a result, Jim switched B-Ds and found that many more clients than expected followed him to the new firm. Plus, his increased focus on communication with his most important clients helped him expand revenues by 40%.

Limiting Beliefs

Mike is an advisor from Los Angeles who wanted to double his annual revenue. To make that happen, Mike thought he needed to hire more people. His belief that he lacked the resources to add the needed staff became a self-fulfilling prophecy: His business stagnated until he took action.

I connected Mike to other top advisors so he could learn how they had added staff and created more effective teams. Next, we developed a strategy to add to his staff while managing costs. Finally, he put his plan into action. Ultimately, Mike was able to grow his team and his revenue. Now he says that this year is the most productive and fun one in his 17 years in the business.

Your Action Plan

Now is time to articulate your goals, identify roadblocks and get moving. Many of the industry’s most successful advisors use a business or executive coach to reactivate their practices. A coach can introduce you to the best practices of other advisors and help you establish benchmarks for measuring your success. With a coach to support you, you’re more likely to keep your resolutions throughout the year.

Advisors’ Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions
  1. Make this year my best ever.
  2. Network with my clients’ other trusted advisors.
  3. Spend additional time with my family.
  4. Increase my revenue by 35% or more this year.
  5. Call my most important clients often.
  6. Establish clear benchmarks for measuring success.
  7. Implement various client-relationship models to accommodate my customer’s needs.
  8. Work with fewer and more profitable accounts.
  9. Assign clear roles and responsibilities to each member of my staff.
  10. To grow my business, increase the size of my team.

Ray Sclafani is President of ClientWise LLC, an organization founded to support the financial advisory practice of the future. Delivering unique practice management strategies focused on client acquisition and retention, ClientWise provides coaching and training for leading financial advisors. For more information, e-mail ray@clientwise.com or call 1-800-732-0876.

Originally published in FinancialPlanning.com, January 2008.
Copyright Ray Sclafani 2007