CHICAGO – An in-depth analysis of how you and your team are spending your time is a key step in building a sustainable practice that achieves the goals you’ve set for your practice and your life, says Susan A. Riley-Hayes, who owns Highpointe Wealth Advisors, part of Ameriprise Financial Services.

“I have three kids under five,” says Riley-Hayes, speaking at SourceMedia’s Women Advisors Forum in Chicago. “I work about 40 or 50 hours a week and that’s purposeful. I’ve structured my team and my home life to support a work/life balance.”

But it’s a balance she could not have achieved without a careful analysis of where she and her team were spending their energy. To that end, Riley-Hayes, who manages about $115 million in AUM, and her team, which includes her husband, also an advisor, went through a 30-day time management study. Everyone kept track of their activities for every minute of the day, in 30-minute increments, for 30 days.

The results were surprising: “It allowed me to see how much time various clients were taking,” she says. “It also allowed me to see how much staff I needed, and I learned I was understaffed for my client level. The study allowed me to quantify that. It also allowed me to analyze how much I should pay the staff and how many hours they should be working.”

Riley-Hayes, whose practice is based on Sandy Springs, Ga., also applied the same sort of rigor to analyzing her client list. She itemized the needs of each client (from a list of 25 areas, like financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, business ownership, etc.) so she had a clear picture of which ones were complex relationships that were demanding more of her time and energy. With that information, she could begin “to make sure my fee structure was correct for the level of complexity” each client represented.

This analysis let Riley-Hayes put the time in where it would yield the most value for her and her clients. It also gave her information she needed to answer the question, “Am I the best person to serve this client?” she says. It’s a difficult question, but one she felt had to be answered in order to provide the highest level of service while also maximizing the efficiency of her practice. Lastly, it allowed her to create the four-tier pricing model she now offers to her clients. Giving clients options sets expectations from the beginning about the service level and fees each client can expect. It also fosters on-going relationships as clients grow and become more successful themselves, she says.

“You don’t want to have a client that outgrows you because you didn’t do a good job of telling them all the ways they can engage with you,” she says.  

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