Advisers' enemy: Time management

Firm owners need to learn to delegate tasks and take advantage of workflow efficiency

Feb 24, 2014 @ 10:42 am

By Liz Skinner

Practice management, time management, client servicing
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Advisers who feel like there aren't enough hours in the work day probably suffer from the same business management mistake that makes most advisers feel bogged down. That is, they don't change the way they operate when they grow.

Even after hiring employees, advisers often are performing too many tasks themselves just because that's the way they've always done it, said David Lawrence, founder of consulting firm The Efficient Practice.

He described a Pittsburgh adviser who had 12 employees but still entered data into financial planning software. Mr. Lawrence calculated that the adviser was paying about $450 an hour for that data entry.

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“Many financial advisers who try to grow beyond being a single-person firm often never change their management techniques and run as if they are still a one-person firm,” he said.

In most of these cases, the adviser either can't relinquish control, doesn't know how to or is so awash in work they can't find the time to look for a solution, Mr. Lawrence said.

Mike Bullis, a First Allied Securities adviser Inc. with about $35 million in assets under management, said he feels like his business is stuck at the current size because he doesn't have as much time to market himself as he did when he joined the firm in 2007. And his anxiety about time concerns comes just as his wife is about to give birth to their first child.

“I know I need to continue marketing myself, but after ongoing client review meetings and putting out fires through the day, when do I do that?” he asked.

Mr. Bullis has an assistant, whom he values highly but can only work part-time, so he estimates he handles about 50% of the administrative tasks for his business.

Firms like Mr. Bullis' need to retrain both the staff and owner to manage everyone's time more effectively, Mr. Lawrence said. That means owners need to delegate accountability for certain responsibilities, he said.

The good news is that software tools have been developed to help advisers keep a virtual eye on things.

Software is increasingly being integrated to create workflows that set in motion particular tasks for employees. Owners can go into the system and see what's going on with which customers and who is working on those tasks, so any gaps can be addressed, Mr. Lawrence said.

One example of this is the recent announcement by SEI Advisor Network, PIEtech Inc., maker of MoneyGuidePro, Redtail Technology Inc. and ActiFi Inc. about teaming up to create a combined workflow system they plan to release later in 2014.

“But technology will only take you so far. In the end, the adviser has to change their own behavior as an owner,” he said. “You cannot grow until you let go.”

Effective time management was identified in the Financial Planning Association's practice management survey late last year as the second most important factor in running a great advisory business. The top business attribute was an effective client communication process, according to the survey of 2,400 professionals.

Many advisers say they have constant interruptions during their workday that makes it difficult to focus on the tasks they recognize they should be doing. Tommie Monez, an adviser with Focus Wealth Management, said even clients themselves can interfere with time management.

“We are in a small town and we have clients who just stop by for coffee,” Ms. Monez said.

Of course, the advisers stop what they are doing to sit down with such clients, “but that's not something that you can plan for in a given day,” she said.

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