Don’t settle; how advisers can get 'unstuck'

For advisers who find themselves settling for a mediocre or perhaps even unsatisfactory situation, these tips may help them get back on track

Jan 16, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Joni Youngwirth

Our industry is full of stories of financial advisers who have settled for less than they were hoping to achieve — sometimes, much less.

Take Bob, for example. He hired his administrative assistant, Ron, five years ago with the plan that Ron would earn his licenses and take on some of Bob's smaller clients.

Five years later, Ron still doesn't have his licenses, and Bob feels like he is being held hostage until Ron passes the exams, which doesn't appear to be at the top of Ron's to-do list. It is obvious that Bob and Ron need to have a serious conversation about this issue and make a new plan.

Yet Bob hasn't done much except inquire or make a joke about the situation every now and then.

Then there are Mary and Jim, who have been partners for eight years. Although they founded their firm together, and revenue and expenses are shared equally, Jim gets most of the recognition in their tight community; people simply assume that Jim's the boss and Mary just works there.

Adding fuel to this potential fire is the fact that Mary has brought aboard more clients and assets over the life of the partnership. Mary and Jim discuss these issues from time to time, but Mary doesn't want to seem like a complainer, despite the fact that this is a constant source of irritation for her.

Or consider the situation of ABC Firm, which has been frustrated with its external technology provider for years. The advisers have heard about an integrated platform for client management, portfolio management and performance reporting, but the technology firm is dragging its feet about introducing new options.

Although the advisers know that they should update their systems, they continue to put up with the technology firm's mediocre service.

What is behind the willingness to settle for less?

These are just a few examples of the bad business situations in which advisers may find themselves. Unfortunately, rather than tackle such problems head-on, fear of conflict or lack of assertiveness often lead them to procrastinate … indefinitely.

And then there is the work associated with making a change. Sticking with the status quo is simply a lot easier than doing the strategic thinking that change requires.

Rather than pause, review where we are and determine how to get where we want to go, the tendency is to stay in our comfort zones. That is one more reason business planning is critical.

Back on track

For advisers who find themselves settling for a mediocre or perhaps even unsatisfactory situation, these tips may help them get back on track:

• Examine options and ask for feedback. Most advisers willingly share their experiences with one another. To avoid “the grass is greener” scenario, advisers should talk with several others who have implemented the specific change. They can share the pros and cons of the decision.

• Get a coach. If there is a particular change that needs to be made, it may be valuable to hire a personal coach. A credentialed coach can help advisers stay focused, especially if they are anxious about taking action. Whether advisers enlist a coach or not, they should engage family and friends in their support system whenever there is a major change in the works.

• Time it right. As they say, timing is everything. Advisers should set themselves up for success by making a major change at a time that isn't already filled with stressful activity. They should consider when they feel most motivated. For some, the new year is an ideal time for reflection and may present an opportunity for getting off the dime to do the things that need to be done.

As contrary as it may seem, settling saps our energy. And complacency can be contagious.

If an adviser becomes complacent about an employee’s performance, that leads to complacency about developing new business. Then, the adviser may start settling for lower revenue.

Before the adviser knows it, the business is headed down a path of gradual decline.

Significant change requires us to dig deep. But for the passionate entrepreneur, making a big change can be the key to staying focused, energized and excited about the future.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”

To me, that sounds like an antidote to settling.

Joni Youngwirth (jyoungwirth@commonwealth.com) is the managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network.

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