Outside voices and views for advisers

Activities every financial adviser should delegate to someone else

Don't let the "adviser's curse" — the feeling you have to do everything yourself or want to be in control of everything all the time — hold you back

May 5, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

By Shawn Sparks

If you're a financial adviser and you feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to get done or you feel like you're on the verge of burnout from working long days for weeks or months in a row, then there's a good chance you're suffering from something I call the “adviser's curse.”

What is the adviser's curse? It's the curse of feeling like you have to do everything yourself. It's the curse of wanting to be in control of everything all the time because you don't believe anybody can do what you do as well as you can.

The adviser's curse is one of the biggest reasons adviser businesses stop growing and get stuck on a plateau. Because when an adviser refuses to delegate, he eventually runs out of hours in the day. There's only so much one person can do.

A much better approach is to create procedures, hire great people and delegate as much as you can. This is the path to steady long-term growth — without stress or risk of burnout.

All of the super successful people out there have learned to do this. Take Richard Branson, for example.

Mr. Branson owns 400 different companies. Of course, there are only 365 days a year, so if you think about it he doesn't even have one day a year to focus on each company he owns.

Thankfully, he doesn't have to. That's because he hires great people and delegates like crazy. He only focuses on the things that represent the highest and best use of his time. He's involved in the top 1% of activities within the companies where he can bring the most value.

If Mr. Branson can successfully delegate the work required for entire companies, then I'd bet there isn't a single activity that you do that can't be delegated.

But in order for this to work, you have to hire great people, train them well and trust them. If you get this right, delegation frees you up to focus on the things you do best and produce the greatest value for your business, which leads to long-term sustainable growth.

And if you're worried about things not being done to your standards, don't worry. The truth of the matter is, the people you hire won't always do things your way, but they'll often do it better than you.

Think about it. If there's something you don't like doing, something that isn't a strength of yours, then it very easily could be someone else's strength and something they like to do. This is why you have to give your people some freedom and realize their way of doing things may actually be better than your way. So you'll have to learn to get out of their way and let them succeed.

If you create an environment where your team isn't allowed to think for themselves and solve challenges on their own, then you'll end up micro-managing them, which is toxic for both you and them.

Good people don't need to be managed, they simply need to be led by a great leader. That's your role: to be the best leader you can be.

So, what are some things you should start delegating immediately?

Here's an exercise I've done countless times that's proven to work. Write down everything you do in a week. If you get in at 8 a.m. and brew coffee, write it down. If at 9:30 a.m., you schedule your client appointments, write it down. If you do paperwork or call a financial institution, write it down.

Now look at that list. How many of those activities are worth your time? How many would you say fall within one of your core strengths? How many do you actually enjoy doing?

If you don't know what's worth your time and what's not, you should calculate what an hour of your time is worth to your business. Divide your total revenue by the number of hours you work. Simple math.

For our purposes, let's assume your time is worth $250 an hour to your business. If making coffee is on your list, for $250 an hour it must be the best cup of coffee ever made. Likewise, did you spend time making photocopies or running simple errands? Are these activities worth $250 an hour?

Next, identify all of the items that you shouldn't be doing. Here's your delegation list to start working on. Now identify who in your office could take each of these activities off your plate. Identify them, then start training them. Step by step, so that they are no longer your responsibility.

Do realize, it may take you three to five times as long to train them on the task as opposed to you just doing it yourself. But the goal here is to train them so well that you never have to be involved in the process ever again. You are training them so that you can delegate the full responsibility of that task permanently.

Oh yeah, what if you don't have a good person to delegate to? If you want to grow, it's probably a good sign that you need to hire. And guess what, your list can be used to create an incredible job description.

Shawn Sparks is vice president of adviser development at Advisors Excel. He writes about the career lessons he has learned on his weekly blog, 52 Sparks.


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