It's the beginning of a new year, which is always a good time to take stock of where you are in your career and define your objectives for the coming year. One goal for 2010 should be to find yourself a mentor or coach if you don't already have one.
While self-assessment is important, there are many benefits to seeking outside support. For example, a mentor or coach can help you define career plan, keep you focused, and hold you accountable for the goals you set. A mentor or coach can also provide encouragement and bolster your self-confidence when things aren’t going according to plan.
“Advisors are talented investment professionals in their own right, trusted by their clients and able to manage their businesses,” said Beverly D. Flaxington, co-founder of The Collaborative, a sales and marketing consultancy in Medfield, Mass. “But, many times they don’t avail themselves of a mentor or coach—a person to provide an objective outside view and keep them focused on their goals and objectives.”
To be sure, there are many different ways to forge a mentoring or coaching relationship. Mentors, for example, can be someone from within your firm or outside, but it is typically a voluntary relationship, whereas coaches are usually paid. What’s most important is not what you call the relationship, but the purpose it serves for your business.
“Mentoring, coaching and training are all development tools that help you get to where you want to be,” said Dr. Lois Zachary, author of three books on mentoring and president of Leadership Development Services, LLC., a consulting firm in Phoenix , Ariz.
Recognize that you might need something different at different points in your career and also that mentoring and coaching aren’t mutually exclusive. You might need a coach or training, for example, to help you build a particular skill set, while a mentor could serve as a sounding board as you develop your business.
“If you stay the same and are static, you’re never going to grow your business to its capacity. You have to be at the top of your game and avoid complacency,” Zachary said.
Realize also that the desire to make more money isn’t the only reason to work with a mentor or coach. “Most people are chasing some prize that doesn’t exist,” said Jeff Gitterman, a financial advisor and branch manager of the Woodbridge, N.J., office of ING Financial Advisors. Gitterman, who coaches and mentors many advisors, said people often come to him because they’ve made a lot of money, but don’t feel fulfilled. He helps them find what’s missing. “Your goals have to be about what you want your life to look like, not what you want to have,” he said.
Before you can find a mentor or coach, you first need to identify what you’d like to accomplish. “If you need a business coach, you should hire a business coach,” said Zack Shepard managing director of Matson Money, a Cincinnati-based investment advisor, which also offers coaching services to advisors across the country. “If you want to sell annuities, you want to find a coach who specializes in selling annuities,” he said.
Then you have to find someone who has done it already with success. “You don’t want a coach or a mentor who hasn’t played the game before and won,” he said.
Shepard also advises reps to think of any expenses related to mentoring or coaching as a business growth cost. Instead of focusing on the outlay of money, he suggests they concentrate on the value of the program. “Put it in perspective. If you spend $30,000 in one year to help your practice, and in the end that means $1 million per year in perpetual income free from the need to sell, isn’t that worth it?”
It was to Janice Thompson, president of Strategic Financial Solutions Inc. in San Diego, who describes the coaching program she went through as “a life-changing experience.”
Thompson had a thriving financial advisory business, but she felt she no longer had any quality of life. That all changed due to a year-long coaching program she enrolled in through her broker/dealer Securities America Inc.
Through the program she learned how to identify her firm’s core strengths, identify the clients she most enjoys working with, and change her fee structure in order to be more appropriately compensated. As a result, she said, revenue is up, clients are now the right types of clients, and she has more time to focus on the business.
According to Kirk Hulett, senior vice president of strategy and practice management at Securities America, which offers several coaching programs, advisors generally see a 20 percent bump in revenue in the first year following the coaching relationship. The firm has also found that the increased business tends to continue at that same rate for several years if advisors continue the coaching relationship.
“It gets advisors to implement changes that need to be made that they haven’t been able to do themselves. It helps advisors focus on running their business like a business,” he said.
For Thompson, having to answer to another person was critical. “I could have read it in a book, but it was the accountability and the support that the coach gave me that really made me excel,” she said. “I feel we’re running the business now instead of the business running us.”
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