The adviser's most important role and the one that generates the biggest payoff is connecting with clients. If you consider this the core of the circle, the farther an adviser gets from client-related activity, the greater the potential drag on productivity.
Some of the most common time sucks are:
1. Email jail and the ensuing administrative work.
2. Repeatedly solving the same problem instead of creating a process.
3. Chasing wrong-fit centers of influence.
4. Letting your day have its way with you.
5. Following the Internet rabbit wherever it leads you.
Here are five tips to help you boost your productivity and sharpen your focus:
1. Neutralize the digital time suck.
Like most of us these days, many advisers get swallowed up by their inbox. The average adviser reportedly gets 147 emails a day. Clients often send emails of any nature to their adviser, as opposed to the most appropriate person on the team to handle the task at hand. Many advisers fall prey to responding and, worse yet, doing the task even if it is operational or administrative in nature.
One adviser recently broke this cycle by allowing his administrative assistant to develop a system for flagging, attending to, delegating and closing the loop on all requests that came into his inbox. Instead of shouting back and forth about who needed to do what as emails came in, they began holding mid- and end-of-day check-ins so the adviser could be sure nothing fell through the cracks.
The adviser claims the system has kept him out of "administrative hell" and given him about an hour a day back to focus on client connections and strategy.
2. Process makes perfect: Avoid Groundhog Day.
Advisers often waste time solving the same problem or answering the same questions repeatedly. When a recurring issue comes up, advisers need to ask themselves, "Is there a better way?"
A best practice that many advisers observe (and many more ignore) is to have a well-thought-out client on-boarding process. If you've ACATed accounts repeatedly, you know how the process works and what the timetable is. A number of advisers use a one-pager with a timeline to explain the process of transfer, statements, timing of investments, etc. It puts clients at ease and prevents worried calls and emails. In addition, when a client gets his or her first statement, someone from the advisory team needs to have a time set up to review that with the client. Don't wait for them to get confused or ask questions. It is stressful to move your money; you want to make new clients feel as good as possible about you and your team.
3. Stop chasing wrong-fit centers of influence.
Many advisers focus on cultivating referral partnerships with centers of influence as a business development strategy. Unfortunately, most advisers are unsuccessful in their attempts.
The best advisers avoid this time trap by choosing their COI prospects wisely, finding an opportunity to collaborate on a client case and focusing on the quality of relationships versus quantity of outreach.
Starting with an attorney or CPA who already works with your best clients creates an instant connection. Another good place to begin is to think about the specific expertise needs of your best clients and research specialists in that discipline.
Doing joint work is a great way for you (and the COI) to determine if there is good potential for a long-term relationship. Do they meet your standards for professionalism? Do they communicate well with you and the client and respect your role in the process? And importantly, do you like them?
If your answer to any of these questions is no, don't waste your time!
4. Take control of your day.
Time blocking has become more important with the onslaught of incoming communications. Create some sacred time for one to two hours a day where you are doing nothing but proactive outreach. Hold your calls. Don't look at your emails. Don't even think of surfing the web. Train your team to disturb you only for extreme medical emergencies. This will allow you to take control of your day, break through the cycle of inertia and ensure that you are focused on positive growth.
5. Don't follow the rabbit.
Great advisers are well-read and informed. Average advisers spend the prime time of their day repeatedly falling down Internet rabbit holes that started with an innocuous article. To avoid this trap, designate time early, late or at lunch to do some light reading. Use your favorite app or the bookmark function to save lengthier articles and deeper reading for weekends or evenings.
Christine Gaze is the president of Purpose Consulting Group, a practice management strategy and consulting firm based in New York City.