There's plenty to keep advisers up at night: fluctuating markets, discussions of Social Security shortfalls, health care constantly under pressure, the ever-evolving standard of client expectations and the changing face of the business itself. And then there's everything filling our personal lives, ranging from managing our kids' after-school activities, running errands and staying on top of housework to fulfilling our commitments to community groups.
We have a calendar conundrum. So many hats to wear, both as a business owner and a spouse/friend/parent/co-worker — and a finite amount of time to somehow manage it all. Be all. Conquer all.
It's this ferocious battle between the demands of modern-day life and our very real need for replenishment and repair. This uncertainty, burnout and stress are affecting clients as much as advisers. No one is immune.
As I've met with advisers all over the country this year, the burnout and stress are palpable. For the last decade, so many of us have ridden the wave of positive performance; now, with all the uncertainty and pressure of a rapidly evolving profession, advisers are feeling the weight of what it takes to sustain a healthy business.
The unfortunate reality is that the next two years are likely to be more taxing for advisers than the past two, as some indicators point to economic slowdown and a potential market pullback, all while our profession undergoes an identity crisis of its own. Advisers are not immune to the challenges of workplace overload or any other of the systemic issues we face as a society.
(More: 3 ways advisers can reduce stress)
Just last year a Gallup poll showed that roughly 23% of employees surveyed felt burnt out very often or always, and another 44% said they were burnt out at work sometimes. The leading cause? Work by a large margin.
The survey also revealed that those who are overworked are 2.6 times more likely to leave their current job. A survey by the American Institute of Stress showed 46% of Americans are stressed because of workload and another 20% are stressed because of trying to balance work and personal aspects of life.
Most of us feel stressed because we have too much work on our plate, we don't have complete clarity in our role and we're under unreasonable time pressures. When I look at this list, I see that these issues are just as prevalent with advisers. Most I meet with are running their own practice — and even doing well — but are walking a fine line of doing everything themselves (CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CTO, HR, etc.) and beginning to feel the strain.
How can you take control of such a seemingly unstoppable force of nature? The first thing to do is to take a hard, honest look at your situation and identify whether you are feeling burnt out. If you are, home in on the reason or the source. Is it external or internal? Is it personal or professional? Does it result from a factor within your control or outside of it, such as market volatility?
If your stress is work-driven, it may be time to address that burden of being all things to all people. If it is personal, you may want to reflect on how this "responsibility overload" impacts your family, your team and your loved ones.
Never forget that your health and effectiveness as a business owner affect all those around you, at work and outside of work. Don't be so hard on yourself or your team if you find yourself in this predicament. While burnout can feel like a personal failing, it's far from it.
Offloading and outsourcing
There are countless options available if you're looking to outsource roles and responsibilities in your firm. Does a remote administrative assistant make sense? Do you look at a more involved partner who helps in more than one area?
Or is your stress isolated to only one specific area? Industry consolidation is a formidable market force today, in part because of our limitations to accomplish so much in a day and because of the economies of scale that potential partnership brings in helping advisers not only grow but grow well.
While there are a lot of strategies out there to help advisers avoid or overcome burnout, the most important for advisers might be to clarify their role as an adviser CEO. Carrying all of the company's roles can actually suffocate your growth and productivity. Home in on one specific role you feel you're best at. If you find being a CEO, CIO, or CFO rewarding, then own it. But be clear with yourself and your team. It goes a long way toward solidifying expectations and alleviating stress levels.
Focus on planning, not performance
The market will do whatever it can to prove the greatest number of people wrong at any given time. Remove this unnecessary stress from your life by reinventing and reframing the value you provide to your clients. The future of advice for us human advisers doesn't lie in portfolio performance but in planning.
While we can't control the market, we can manage expectations around performance with a financial planning process. By incorporating a plan into the value proposition, you introduce an element you can actually manage. It disassociates your worth, as an adviser, from an outside force you have no way of influencing.
Focus your energy with clients on building comprehensive plans that put them at the center of the value you provide. You'll gain clarity in your role, your team will feel more fulfilled in the work they're doing, and you'll serve in the best interests of your client and reduce your own workplace stress because your business operates from a place of independence and control.
"Busy" might be the most misused word in the dictionary. At times, we use it to overshadow the real issue of burnout. The sooner advisers understand its influence over their businesses and their lives, the sooner they can make a change for the betterment of themselves and those around them. It's healthy move for you and for your clients.