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How financial advisers can get unstuck in the New Year

Take time to work on your business, as well as in your business, and the coming year could be more pleasant that the last

Dec 27, 2016 @ 3:00 pm

By Nicole Newlin

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Most financial advisers started their firm because they had a dream for a different life and a vision of how to get there. They're passionate, ambitious and committed to building their new venture.

Fast forward a few years and, in all too many cases, the entrepreneur has left the building. Rather than taking their dream to the next level, too many advisers are stuck. They spend their days doing menial office tasks and pushing paper. Instead of living their vision, they have become the office technician. Other advisers are mired in staffing issues or the day-to-day needs of the office. The reality is that they have traded their role as visionary and leader for manager. Michael Gerber discusses this trap in his book “The E-Myth.” What he describes translates perfectly into what happens when the adviser takes off their business-owner hat and stops working on their practice.

(More: Why the financial planning industry needs a Jerry Maguire-like paradigm shift)

So what to do? First, look inward. If you are executing tasks instead building your business, you need to think about why. Start with the following three questions:

1. How am I really spending my time?

2. Am I truly being the most effective I can be?

3. Am I happy?

Most likely, even if you are happy you will realize that you could be more effective. So the second step is to prioritize. We believe you should look at your firm from three distinct perspectives to help gauge your overall effectiveness: structural, strategic and personal. Take a look at the questions below and jot down your responses.

1. Structural. Have I surrounded myself with the right people, both staff and strategic partners? Behind every successful leader is a great team, so the people who support you should be strong and dedicated to the firm's success. Is every client question coming to you? Are you filling out or reviewing paperwork for mistakes? Is the phone constantly ringing and landing with you? In addition, you should make use of technology to save your entire team's time and effort. Are you using a customer relationship management (CRM) system like Salesforce or Redtail effectively? Are you spending tons of time typing in notes into that CRM or collecting sticky notes rather than using effective recorded-messaging software like Dragon, or one-stop password options like Last Pass?

2. Strategic. Does your investment strategy have you sitting at your desk putting portfolios together in lieu of sharing your investment philosophy with your next prospective client? Is your client base segmented and your client service set up in such a way that you are spending the most time with your best clients? Finally, have you laid out a path for retaining assets as your client base ages? Do you find that pulling off a client event at least three times a year feels practically impossible?

3. Personal. Are you in the office 80% of the time and feeling stressed out? Rather than allotting time to spend with your family, friends or doing what you are passionate about, are you hoping you don't need to come in on Saturday to tie up loose ends? Lastly, are you able to give back to your community and network with folks in your circle to stay well rounded and grow your business?

(More: How long can you go without bringing your values into a client conversation?)

FINE-TUNE YOUR PRACTICE

Even if you answered yes to many of these questions, all is not lost. There are definitely ways to adjust and fine-tune your practice. One place to start is to look carefully at specific elements of your practice with an eye toward identifying those that are presenting the most red flags, including client experience and communications; staff roles, responsibilities and development; business continuity and transition plans; marketing strategies and tactics to grow the business.

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to make a strategic plan. Choose one area to attack with a defined process that you can delegate, and watch the logjams start to ease. Take marketing, for instance. There are many excellent marketing tools available that can streamline efforts at your firm to touch existing and prospective clients with valuable ideas while saving time. For example, if you're not already doing so, utilize a CRM that integrates with an automated marketing solution such Vestorly or Distribion. Once you have a system for client outreach, it will be easier to stay in touch with clients and prospects consistently.

Take time to work on your business, as well as in your business, and the New Year could well be more pleasant that the last. It's about investing in your firm, and in yourself. These are your greatest assets.

Nicole Newlin is president of Efficient Advisors, a Philadelphia-based turnkey asset management firm that works with financial advisers to bring smart, low-cost investing to their clients.

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