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Practice Makeover: Episode 4

Mar 23, 2014 @ 12:00 am

Runtime: 4:56

In episode four of "Practice Makeover", we conclude this season by checking back in on makeover recipient Trent Bradshaw three months after the start of his firm's overhaul to see how his business has improved.

The Renovation Room

Industry experts and executives offer strategies, tips and ideas on how practices can improve their business.

Paul West

Paul West

Managing Director, Peak Advisor Alliance

Trent Bradshaw made progress by upgrading the overall client experience in his office move. I also noticed the “dress for success” improvement in his wardrobe. Completely agree with both of those improvements. These changes provide value and increase client perception of value, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. What we haven’t heard yet are the steps Trent is taking to get tasks off his plate. Moving to a new office is a welcome upgrade. However, Trent needs to stick to his plan of building efficiency and ensure he doesn’t bring the same challenges with him to the new office.

How is he doing on documenting all of his responsibilities discussed in the prior episode, and which ones can he now delegate? It’s one thing to track your progress. It’s quite another to make impactful changes based on that tracking. Successful people implement well. Trent, you’ve crossed one major item off your list. Now, stay focused on your commitment to implement that efficiency, and you will reach your goal of an improved quality of life.

Kelly LaPalio

Kelly LaPalio

Vice President of National Accounts, FocusPoint Solutions

It seems like Trent is experiencing a renewed excitement about his business and a better quality of life, and that’s a great thing. This motivation and optimism is also evident in his two team members. Plus, the new office looks really nice. As his staff person Heather shared, all of this contributes to Trent’s firm sending a clear message to clients that they are committed to their practice—and to their community.

I think that making several positive changes to their business model all at once is an excellent plan. This is a common theme throughout all the transition plans we’ve worked through with advisers who are looking to take their business to the next level. If you’re going to make big changes, as much as possible, wrap them into one enthusiastic conversation with clients—and show them tangible, visual improvements and new benefits throughout this process. When you’re enthusiastic and positive about the changes you’re making, this spills over to your clients; more often than not, they get excited too.

Although it was not discussed in this series, as Trent has not yet found his “right hand person,” i.e. the next member of his team, I do think it bears mentioning that he may want to consider outsourcing certain operational aspects of his business—such as billing, reporting, and/or trade execution. Since one of Trent’s goals is to grow his business, if he’s not interested in hiring or managing additional operations staff beyond the person he is currently seeking—or if he is unable to find the right person as expediently as he’d like—outsourcing might be an option worth looking into.

Successfully implementing big change requires careful planning, time, and commitment, and it seems like Trent and his team are well aware of this and on board with it. I’m looking forward to see the progress he makes over the next 6- 12 months. It’s clear that Trent is headed in the right direction.

Mark Matson

Mark Matson

CEO of Matson Money

Over the past three episodes, we heard advice given to Mr. Bradshaw about segmenting clients, taking on more responsibility, and hiring more staff. These aren’t long term solutions for his business! Hiring help could relieve some of his pains temporarily, but the traditional financial planning business model (discovery, information gathering, presenting to the client, free consulting, and quarterly one-on-one meetings) is broken. Let’s all agree that time is finite - we all have the same amount available to us. Mr. Bradshaw has to find ways to make better use of his time, as he is stretched too thin and has hit a common “ceiling of complexity” that many advisers face. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Bradshaw has no leverage in his business and until he has that, I believe that he will continue to struggle with balancing growth and trying to achieve the down time he desires. Instead of addressing that problem, it appears that the advice he is receiving is bringing more confusion and complexity into his business. I wish the best to Mr. Bradshaw as he tries to gain the entrepreneurial freedom so many of us desire.

Frank Maselli

Frank Maselli

Founder of The Financial Lifeguard Academy and The Maselli Group

Trent and his team have made some major positive changes and have put themselves on a powerful path to success. It's very exciting to see, and congratulations to all of them!

The new office enhances their upscale image and now he should begin to migrate his marketing activities toward higher-net-worth clients in his town, as well as referrals from centers of influence. Trent has revamped his image, streamlined his process and broken out of his micro-management funk. He's kept his service focus and his strong desire to treat his clients like family. On all counts, he's proven he wants to succeed and is willing to make the hard changes needed. Now, as with 95% of financial practices, the hunt becomes finding new clients and new assets. Can he grow into his true potential?

I would love to see him drill down into the sources of wealth in his area. Salisbury is in a sweet spot in North Carolina halfway between Greensboro and Charlotte. It's a major growth area for business and for retirees seeking a warmer climate.

Salisbury itself is home to a broad array of manufacturing, construction, biotech and engineering firms. There are hundreds of companies ranging from chemical plants to fitness equipment manufacturers. This "target rich" environment lends itself well to two types of specialized financial service marketing.

One is small- to medium-sized 401(k)s. If Trent has any expertise in this area, it would be worth exploring further and branding his firm on it. The obvious spillover benefit of handling corporate retirement plans is that you get to build relationships with top executives which is always a good thing.

The second area is what I call industry target marketing. This is where an adviser seeks to penetrate an entire niche of companies in the same or related industries by becoming an expert in their needs. Chances are Trent has a few clients who are executives at some of the local companies that are part of a larger national group. Learning all he can about them would enable him to market to these firms as an insider: someone who understands their world. This is a goldmine technique that's totally untapped by most financial professionals.

Vanessa Oligino

Vanessa Oligino

Senior Program Manager, Practice Management, TD Ameritrade Institutional

It is remarkable to see the changes in Trent since he received his action plan and recommendations. This change is not only evident in his new look and brand, but in his outlook on the future of his business as well as the enthusiasm level of his staff.

In helping advisers transition from a solo to a true team-based model where each individual has ownership of a particular set of responsibilities within a firm, we often hear “I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner!” Achieving meaningful change is hard work and can be difficult to accomplish with the daily distractions of dealing with clients, growing a business and managing staff.

For those advisers who are committed, I often see that it just takes a few small wins to help them gain the confidence and determination needed to get moving down a path aimed at transforming their business and alleviating the pressures that come with a business completely dependent on one individual.

Ray Sclafani

Ray Sclafani

Founder and CEO of ClientWise LLC

Trent has made important transitions in his business over the past three months. He’s off-loaded responsibility and has become less inclined to micromanage his current staff now that he’s built scalable and repeatable processes around his most important tasks. But there are three critical steps he needs to take to maintain this progress. 1. Assign the responsibility of ensuring these processes are followed to someone who understands how Trent has worked in the past, knows what he wants to avoid reverting back to, and can play an active role in ensuring he doesn’t micromanage the process that’s been created to avoid this. 2. Once the various roles of his team members are clear, Trent should invest in the development of his current and future staff, allowing them to create personal and professional goals that align with the overall business goals. This will keep his team knowledgeable, engaged and invested in the outcome of their work. 3. Trent should work diligently to create common-intent among his team members, especially the new hire who will become his right hand, to ensure that all are involved in the process of creating and maintaining the vision they’ve set forth. This vision should encompass an ambition that is significant in size, aspirational in scope, and possible to achieve. Creating common intent is a great starting point for co-authoring team goals based on this vision, so that all team members are in agreement with what needs to be accomplished moving forward. This will save Trent time and effort getting buy-in from his team members down the line.

April J. Rudin

April J. Rudin

President of the Rudin Group

Sometimes stories have surprise endings, but not this time. I have seen this story play out many times. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink,” especially when it comes to practice management and advisers.

Trent wanted to change, but only about 5-10% of the way. The adviser coaches presented him with solutions that would have required Trent actually change into a different person. Those high expectations could never be met. I watched each episode of this makeover as more and more was piled onto Trent, and knew how this story would end.


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Valuable information and assets provided by OppenheimerFunds, this season's sponsor of Practice Makeover.

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Video Transcript

Welcome back to Salisbury, North Carolina. Its been three months since we first met Trent. And one change is already obvious. He has a new office. Now lets check in on the rest of his progress. MUSIC All right, Trent. Well, talk to me. How's it going? The number one thing that, that we had talked about three months ago was human capital. And we've made progress in that area. We, we tried social media. Your group has been extremely helpful in setting us up with job descriptions plus what the responsibilities of that new registered assistant will be. In addition to that, Chrystal's been able to use LinkedIn to go out and, and prospect for potential new hires. And we've actually moved on and hired a headhunter to assist us in getting that right person in here. So we don't have the person yet. We don't. But we've gone through a few steps in that process to finding them. Yes. And it sounds like, based on what we've done so far, it's right around the corner. I feel very confident we're gonna have it in the short run. Well, and this is a process. Right. I mean, at the rate you're going, you, you'll be through your action plan within a year. But obviously this is one hurdle that's huge, because you don't have capacity to expand into some of those other steps until we get the help that you need. This has got to be step one. Yeah. Without getting step one, we can't go to step two. And this new person that comes in that will basically be my right hand person. Mm-hm. Will assist me and take a lot of load off of the girls right now what they're trying to accomplish. Good. Well the action plan had three parts. So one was human capital, so we know where we are on that. We've, we've worked through. We're really close to getting the right person. But, the other phases of it as well that were involved. I know you've had some good progress there. We can see the evidence in your nice new office. What are some of the things that have been working really well for you, so far? Well, you gave me good advice. You told me to read the publication, The Decision Maker. Mm-hm. Which I did. It made a lot of sense. It addressed some of the concerns that I had and, and basically what I need to let go and give responsibilty to the other staff members. I discussed that with them in our staff meeting. Mm hm. They felt like it was a good idea. Let's give it a, let's give it a try. Mm hm. And so far, that's worked out pretty well. So you've seen a shift in your mindset. Sure, sure. Right. And to help me acclimate to letting that micromanagement go. Mm hm. Weekly, I'm able to pull reports. So, you talked about systemization. Mm hm. Of our practice. Mm hm. I'm able to pull reports, and actually see what they've done throughout the week. Instead of doing it on a daily basis. Absolutely, absolutely. Good, that's a huge step in the right direction. So overall Trent, you're making progress. We're not all the way there yet. Right. This is a process that is going to take some time, but how do you feel about things so far? So far, I'm very positive on the changes that we've made. I think that we've got a lot of work left. Mm-hm. But as soon as we can put those other steps into action, I think we're going to be there. Yeah, what are you most excited about? Just the general change of quality of life. Mm-hm. That was my main challenge that I had. I love my employees. I take care of my employees. I love my family. I love my clients. Mm-hm. And I want to make sure we deliver to them what they expect. Trent has cut back on his hours some, But I know it's a work in progress to get him home more with us as a family. We've made some, some big improvements that our clients have already noticed. But I know we still have some work ahead, which we knew from the start this was not going to be an overnight process. I'm really excited about our new office. When the clients come in, they're just blown away by the atmosphere. And it really shows them how committed we are to them and to our community. This is Salisbury. I grew up in this community, and I'm gonna treat this community like family. Three, two, one. [SOUND]. [MUSIC] It's really great to be back here with Trent. And he has made a ton of progress in these past three months. He has a brand-new majorly upgraded office. He has revamped all of his firm's branding. Begun hosting client events. And he's made major strides in the way he thinks about managing people and attracting top talent. Granted, he's not to the finish line yet. But that's okay. Improving your practice is a process that takes time. Remember, when it comes to getting a good practice make over, it only comes through evolution. [INAUDIBLE] [MUSIC] It's something you have to stick to for the long haul. And we're convinced that Trent has done just that. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] [MUSIC]


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Over the last 15 years, InvestmentNews has heard - and told - the stories of thousands of advisers. Now we are going one step further: InvestmentNews is now working with some of the industry's top coaches to identify advisory firms that are in need of a "Practice Makeover". Our mission with this exclusive show is to help advisers take their practices to the next level - while providing our audience with practice takeaways that they can apply to their own businesses.

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