7 Traits of Top Financial Advisors
Advisors can be their own worst enemy when it comes to running a productive and profitable financial services practice. Faced with research, case studies and tools for improving their business, financial advisors often find ways not to adopt the habits that will ensure their success. The Productivity Expert, Chris Kirby, says he has worked with hundreds of advisors as a practice management consultant, and a transition consultant, and he’s come up with a list of traits that top-performing financial advisors share.
Implicit in that statement is that advisors know the type of people who can help them grow their business. Clients, prospects, centers of influence and other professionals all have the potential to bring something to the table. Top advisors understand that deepening those relationships through communication and interaction builds the pathways for new business to find them.
TIP: Track your time for two weeks. How many prospect, client, and lunch or networking appointments did you complete? What percentage of your work week is spent on these activities? Make sure it adds up to at least half.
Books on time management abound, and at the center of them all are a functional calendar that the advisor and his staff actually follow. Top advisors establish rules for scheduling their time and teach their staff to respect and follow those rules. Appointments are scheduled on purpose and with a purpose well in advance. The advisor knows who he’s meeting or speaking with not just the next day but the next week, and to some extent the next month. In addition to appointments with people, the calendar includes appointments with staff and appointments for the advisor to address important projects.
TIP: Create your “Model Week” and share “Model Week Rules” with your staff to be more efficient as an individual and as a company.
As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there. Successful advisors know where they are and where they want to take their business. Those assessments and plans aren’t abstract; they are based on meaningful metrics and understanding of what moves the metrics the right direction. These advisors have a clear picture of their ideal client for today and for five years from now. They segment their clients according to those criteria and have a plan for how to increase the number of right-fit clients based on the metrics.
TIP: List the three to five strategies that you will focus on to assess business growth, service existing clients, and attract future ideal clients. Make sure everyone on your team knows both the strategies, and how success is measured.
Granted, there are some things you simply cannot control, as Hurricane Sandy recently demonstrated. Top advisors, however, learn to anticipate the unexpected and have a plan ready to address those situations, which generally fall into two categories: 1) situations where business is disrupted but the advisor is still able to lead his staff in taking care of clients until things return to normal, and 2) situations where the advisor is unable to make decisions due to illness, injury or death. Top advisors not only create plans to address these situations, but they communicate them to family, staff and clients and they update them frequently.
TIP: Have a disaster recovery plan for business disruption (including solid data back-up system); Find a ‘continuity partner’ and review your continuity plan annually.
A standard time-management practice for professionals who own their business is to focus on income producing activities (IPAs). Anything that doesn’t produce income should be delegated to the appropriate person on your team. Of course, you need the right people on your team and you need to share with them your vision – where you are today, where you want to take the business and the metrics you’ll measure to keep all of you on track.
TIP: Delegate. In the next month, let go of five tasks that can be accomplished by your team. Also, create solid job descriptions, update your employee manual, and conduct formal performance evaluations.
1. Reinforce their vision and mission
2. Communicate business status (with a “practice scorecard”)
3. Address challenges
4. Acknowledge successes
5. Give feedback on performance (both good and bad, team and individual)
6. Answer questions
7. Provide direction
TIP: Sharing the vision you have for your company is one of the toughest things you have to do – and it’s also the most important. Don’t leave this to chance.
Changing your own habits and those of your staff definitely isn’t easy – if it was, everyone would be doing exactly what needs to be done to have a top-performing practice. The good news is that others have gone before you, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Talk to other financial advisors and business owners to find out what has worked for them.
TIP: Network. Find a mentor. Hire a coach. You need to obtain input and feedback that you can trust, and then act on it to get better.
Advisors can be their own worst enemy when it comes to running a productive and profitable financial services practice. Faced with research, case studies and tools for improving their business, financial advisors often find ways not to adopt the habits that will ensure their success.