Indie - no Sales Asst

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Jul 17, 2009 9:17 pm

Curious to hear from Indies working with no SA support.
How do you manage your day to day?

I just finished week 7 as an Indie, working without an assistant, and grossly underestimated the difficulty of going thru the transition this way.

Most of my accounts are in, but there seems to be constant sh*t that needs to get done. Emails about a missing signature, forms not submitted properly, etc. Did a mailing to my clients today, took an hour to do the mail merge, and get it out. I get a check in, its 20 minutes to scan it in and do what i need to do to be compliant.

Its seems like there is an endless stream of minutia, and its easy to say ignore the minutia, but its minutia that needs to be addressed.
And i don't have a big book - only 50 households. I feel like i must be doing something wrong, because it shouldnt be that hard.

Right now its no big deal, i understand i am still in transition and dont know the systems that well, but i feel like its always gonna be this way.
Any insights would be helpful

Jul 17, 2009 9:22 pm

Why are you doing $15/hour work?

Jul 17, 2009 9:52 pm

I dont have a sense yet as to how much gross i will do my first year. And i think my business might not be big enough to warrant hiring one at this point. I have enough work to screw me up, but not enough to keep even a part time SA busy all the time.
I thought i would be able to handle it for now.
Like i said, i underestimated.

On the other hand, i know there are a lot of indies who do it alone.
I know of one in my area who does over $1MM with no support. Tried to ask how he does it, but didnt really get an answer.

So my question is the same - and its directed at those who work without support - how do you systematize things so that it doesnt get in your way, without

Jul 17, 2009 11:25 pm

Who is your B/D?  I'm working with Schwab Institutional.   No assistant.  About 3 months in as an RIA.  Very difficult and time consuming dealing with the admin crap in the beginning, but I've found once accounts have come over and I've gotten a feel for the new platform, things have become more manageable.  I've also found Schwab to be light years ahead of my old B/D (UBS) in terms of helping with getting account issues resolved.   Like you, I'm holding off on hiring a CSA until I have a few quarters of revenue under my belt.  Gotta keep fixed costs down.         

Jul 18, 2009 10:40 am

This strikes me as a core issue with independence, and in particular what the threshold of profitability might be. I look at my own BOA, realize she's doing about 3 hard core hours of work a day and figure that would take me at least four in a new environment. However, two things will change over time - that level of work will subside (I won't be "creating" 50 accounts a month) and my skill will improve.

 
I'd suggest this: Assign X hours, every day, to the task at hand and do the tasks in a particular order every time. Create a routine to work through (either do, or read about ACATS, 11am to 11:15) and some best practices. Treat that work as if you were assigning it to the SA, because eventually you will. For me, folders work pretty well in that environment.
 
Follow your BP slavishly. This worked when I didn't have a SA in my first days; it kept things orderly. When the time was up, it was up and those things not completed it either went to the next day or after my sales activity was completed. Consider this: if your SA worked for you, and s/he didn't get the work done today, wouldn't they just leave for the day and get to it tomorrow? You need to do the same. 
 
Obviously, assign time each day for proactive new contacts. If you don't, you'll surely starve in two months. Hope that helps.
 
Tally-ho.
Jul 18, 2009 12:34 pm

I work without an asst. and have for sometime now. My 2 cents comes down to organization and then the wild card is what your b/d requires..


First of all missing signatures, forms not submitted... My guess that is just getting use to the systems or carelessness. Either way you can fix that easily. When I first started i had the b/d walk me through what was need on every form(that I would need) and I filled out my own info and keep that as a reference copy.
 
 Did a mailing to my clients today, took an hour to do the mail merge, and get it out. (seriously.. it takes 30 seconds once you have the letter written out, if you are older and not real good with computers, you might want to invest in a younger person to do this for you)
I get a check in, its 20 minutes to scan it in and do what i need to do to be compliant.(This varies per b/d. At mine all i have to do is scan and keep a copy of the check then off in the mail it goes.. maybe 5 minutes(and only if i am eating lunch does it take that long) 

And i don't have a big book - only 50 households. I feel like i must be doing something wrong, because it shouldnt be that hard.(it does take some time(3-5 days) to figure out what needs to be done. Work some nights(6-9pm working on b/d rules,procedures, regs, compliance)

I would focus on all items after your are done conducting business. I have a friend who has spent 60-90 days trying to figure everything out during prospecting hours. What a waste. Like I said pick 2-3 nights a week to learn some procedures(not everything just what applies to you)
Jul 18, 2009 3:27 pm

Thanks for the productive responses - great ideas

Georgiaclose - thanks for letting me know i am not the only one.
 
I think it is probably true that it will get easier once I have my accounts all in and set up, which is a point that i am very close to.
I had a list of about 20 docs due, or missing or incorrect, that was driving me nuts, so i came in today (Saturday) and cleared it all up, faxed down what i could and created a system that i can use to follow up and make sure everything is resolved and accepted at home office, without spending too much time on it.
One of my issues is that i have a small office in an executive suite, so no room for another desk. BUT - there is a large university about a mile from my office, and i am thinking for $8 an hour i could get a college kid to come in and do basic stuff, marketing, filing and also organize my files better so that i dont get bitchslapped on my first audit.
I could probably give them 3 hours a day 2-3 days a week and that would help a lot.
 
Thanks again for your feedback.
Jul 18, 2009 3:30 pm

Sportsfreakbob, maybe it is so hard because you suck at it.

 
I know that I do.  I will never become good at administrative work.   It will always take me more time than it should and I'll never enjoy it.   More importantly, doing it myself would be an absolutely stupid business decision.
 
I can't answer the question as to what you should be doing if you don't have an assistant, but I can explain why you should hire one even if you have to borrow the money to do so.
 
Let's assume that you can hire somebody part time and it will cost 20K.  That will obviously free up some of your time and allow you to make more money.  Let's further assume that this extra time only allows to earn an extra 10K.   You've lost 10K on the deal, so hiring an assistant will have proven to be a mistake.  That's wrong.
 
It ignores the fact that, depending upon your business model, you will probably make another 10K-100K on that business in the future without doing all that much work.  It ignores the fact that those additional clients will have additional investments in the future which will be easy money for you.  It ignores the fact that those clients will give you referrals in the future which will be easy money for you.  It ignores the fact that the sheer act of having more appointments will allow you to become better at your job. 
 
As long as hiring an assistant will allow you to meet with more people, not hiring one is a very short sighted business move.
 
When I look at my numbers, every kept appointment is worth about $250 in current year commissions.   The point is that it doesn't take too many extra appointments for staff to pay for themselves.
Jul 18, 2009 5:51 pm

Why hasn't anyone talked about hiring a temp? Why not hire a temp to get through the burden of transferring for, say, 3 months, then make a decision at that time about whether to keep the person (or someone). And there has to be plenty of stay-at-home moms or getting-back-into-the-workforce moms that would LOVE the chance to prove themselves, even if it were just 4 hours a day. Man, I've got 3 clients banging down my door just to do on-call work. What would 4-5 hours a day, for 3 months cost? $2000? Is having help during the transition NOT worth $2000? I seriously question the wisdom and business savvy of some of the "business owners" out there that are indies.

Jul 18, 2009 6:13 pm

Hire part timers from the local college for $8-$10/hr. Don't pay benefits, you can get a real good assistant who is competent (or learns fast). Post an add in Craigslist. No problem during a transition.



Keep 'em on after. Less than $600 a month. Nothing.

Jul 18, 2009 6:24 pm

Anon you make good points.

The more i think about it though, the more i think that once i am done with the transition, which is almost NOW, it will be a lot easier. My B/D gives a lot of support, and once the paperwork is all straight, everything should be easy.
 
I do think i will hire someone from the local University, as i said in my last post, and as Moraen suggested. To me that makes the most sense for now. If i get 8-10 hours a week, it costs me practically nothing, and my stuff stays organized. Thats really all i need, when i think about it. I will have plenty of time to see prospects.
Being in an executive suite, i already have someone answering my phones. There is no need for me to spend money hiring someone to work more hours than i need. If i get that 8-10 hours a week, from a low paid, intelligent intern, who wants something on his resume, i think that takes care of all of it for me. 
Jul 20, 2009 9:17 am

Yup.  They are in charge of hundreds of peoples' life savings, and they can't even manage their own little business.

Jul 20, 2009 10:59 am

SFB,

 
I think this is a difference in cultures past and present.  Coming from a wire I presume?  Really once the transition is over (including your ability to create systems and efficiencies) you will most likely be just fine.  Doing something new is generally with much effort, especially when you have 2 different cultures (emloyee ====> entrepenuer), and a difference of b/d requirements which as all of us who have made the change can attest, no 2 b/d are operating under the same requirements.  FINRA interpretations vary dramatically, and so do systems.
 
Hiring a p/t sales rep at this point means you have to fingerprint, background, sign waivers yada  yada....and you end up learning right with them.  Instead of the mail merge, copy/past all the email to a word doc, and then refer to it for copy and pasting later into email Bcc field.  Just don't try to do too much but the core issues:  TALK to them, SEE them, and get transition  papers done.  Remember when you were new, you wanted to tell every prospect how smart you were.  Well you are new again (understand) and you want to justify the change to your intellectual psyche by doing all of everything.  I think it was a natural progression of the transition phenomenon.  Suddenly you feel inept after working very hard under derest, let alone the current market conditions.  Take a brief vacation, come back recharged and just go with the flow.  Learn something new about the tech capabilities at the new b/d and master them and incorporate systems over the next quarter.  Take a deep breath and just chill a bit.  We all have had the same feelings.
Jul 20, 2009 11:21 am
iceco1d:

I smell an EDJ vs Indy war brewin'

 
No, no, no.  I actually think most indies can probably manage their businesses better than Jones people, because we pretty much have our model dictated to us.  My only point was that I can't believe someone would make a decision to open their own shop, and not even have the foresight to get a little help.  It really had nothing to do with Jones or me being at Jones.  I just happen to have a lot of experience prior to Jones managing businesses, so simple business decisions seem more obvious to me.
Jul 20, 2009 11:28 am
B24:
iceco1d:

I smell an EDJ vs Indy war brewin'



No, no, no. I actually think most indies can probably manage their businesses better than Jones people, because we pretty much have our model dictated to us. My only point was that I can't believe someone would make a decision to open their own shop, and not even have the foresight to get a little help. It really had nothing to do with Jones or me being at Jones. I just happen to have a lot of experience prior to Jones managing businesses, so simple business decisions seem more obvious to me.





This is true, but most advisors are notoriously cheap. Especially running a business that as of the day you quit your old job has no revenue. Personnel is usually the largest cost, but if you are smart about it, you can keep your costs low and get help.



Most people leave thinking they can build a better mousetrap, but don't really think through the minutiae of what they will have to do. That's why I think planning a year in advance may not be enough. You may need to plan two years in advance.



We're just now getting a lot of bugs that should never have been bugs fixed (internet, email, phone issues, employee handbook, etc.). You think, all I have to do is hang a shingle, send out a letter, and start transferring clients.



Coming from Jones it's a little bit easier than most, but I can't imagine moving from a wire or bank, where everything is pretty much done for you.

Jul 20, 2009 12:02 pm

Actually B24, and the other genius who decided that you are an idiot if you open up without an assistant, I disagree.

I am not saying it wasnt a little tough, it was, thats why i posted what i did.
I have run businesses before. Prior to comning into this industry, I owned a sales agency that did pretty good business. I managed pretty well with a part time assistant and got my moneys worth out of her. I grew it to its full  potential andf made some decent coin doing it, and so i think i am at the very least, not an idiot or an }"ermployee mentality"
 
The reality is, as tough as it was, i got 90% of my assets in within 6 weeks and have most of the loose ends tied up. The reason i did it the way i did was
1. i was able to send all the paperwork down to the home office and have THEM open the accounts
2. i didn't see the need to create negative cash flow on top of a cash flow that was already negative.
3. i took an office for the first year that really doesnt accomadate a second person. I emphasize this is why i signed a one year lease.
 
I am starting to see that i have a much better infrastructure at my B/D in terms of giving me the help i need. So as tough as it was, i am not regretting my decision. I will probably hire an intern for 8 hours a week come September. I think this is a wise business decision. It will be cost efficient and i won't be paying someone who will have any down time  and its enough for me to get all my work done.
One more point - i planned to do no prospecting for the first 3 months, so this was no surprise.
 
"They are in charge of hundreds of peoples' life savings, and they can't even manage their own little business"
 
Regarding the above comment, having brought over 90% of my assets, n a pretty short period of time, after the worst market in our lifetime, i guess i aint doin to bad a job."
 
Sorry B24, you generally post pretty intelligent and useful stuff on here, and i respect you for that, and i am not in the habit of tooting my horn or defending myself, but your comments in this case came off a little pompous to say the least.
 
Have your say and then lets bury it, so this doesnt become on of those ridiculous threads.
 
Peace
Jul 20, 2009 1:23 pm
B24:

Why hasn't anyone talked about hiring a temp? Why not hire a temp to get through the burden of transferring for, say, 3 months, then make a decision at that time about whether to keep the person (or someone). And there has to be plenty of stay-at-home moms or getting-back-into-the-workforce moms that would LOVE the chance to prove themselves, even if it were just 4 hours a day. Man, I've got 3 clients banging down my door just to do on-call work. What would 4-5 hours a day, for 3 months cost? $2000? Is having help during the transition NOT worth $2000? I seriously question the wisdom and business savvy of some of the "business owners" out there that are indies.

 
This is a good point, but when you're dealing with compliance and company software (That many advisors that have been around for years still don't master) and checks and applications, do you want to entrust someone who's willing to work for spare change for 2-3 months with that important of stuff?  To be honest, training the person on the software, getting them certified to be allowed to handle the incoming mail and log checks, and teach them what pages of insurance, annuity, certificate, IRA, NQ, replacement forms, 1035 exchanges, etc. of forms clients need to sign, and THEN the stress of hoping on a prayer that they are getting it 100% correct wouldn't be worth the hassle, and would probably take up more time anyways than doing it yourself for the first few months.  If someone's willing to work for you for a couple months for just a couple grand, it means they haven't been able to find a full-time gig somewhere and are more than likely unqualified. 
 
If you find the right person (spouse who has free time, someone you used to work with that was an assistant, trusted friend or trusted friend of a friend) then by all means its probably a win-win.  But I think with the regulation of this industry you don't want to put just any college intern or someone responding to an ad on craigslist as the person who has access to client files, client info and large checks.
Jul 20, 2009 2:11 pm

SFB,

 
You're right, and I probably went off a little too hard.  I know nothing about you and your business.  Actually, I think my thoughts recently (if you happen to catch some of my other threads) revolve more around some of the things I have witnessed lately in this industry.  So it wasn't actually directed at you, more the industry in general.  This is quite the tangent, but I feel like our industry is shooting itself in the foot.  I feel like we are moving further and further away from being "professionals", and more towards, well, I don't know what to call it (for fear of offending someone in another industry!).  But much of that is the result of greed at the very top (not the FA's) - look at what it did to the wirehouses.  As much as the wirehouses get their share of bashing, I truly believe that the Merrills and Morgans and AG Edwards of the world were critical to the reputation of our industry.  As went those firms, so went the reputation of our industry.  Not that the industry didn't have some negative connotations already.  But those names represented something.  And now you have shells of their former selves, and a small handfull of huge banks running all the big firms. 
 
Sorry for the tangent, and sorry for how I came across.  Peace out.
Jul 20, 2009 2:46 pm

Sportsfreakbob,

I disagree with the college kid idea.  I would find, or try to find, a recent retired female who comes from the banking, insurance or accounting field.  The learning curve will be less and the old timers will actually give you 100%(most anyway).  It will also give your older clients some relief to see a more mature individual in your office.  If they're retired, may not need the money, so okay with limited hours.  They also have friends who they could possibly refer.  Just my 2 cents, it works for me.  I have one, and she works as many hours as I want. If I don't need her a day or two during the week, she's happy to be off.  I do open between 10-20 accts per month, rollovers, new accts, annuity paperwork etc.  She can handle all of it on 4 hrs per day.  She handles my contact manager for calls, birthday cards etc...
 
Jul 20, 2009 2:48 pm

I will hedge my last post with the fact that the last few months are making me think about giving her more hours or bring in someone else to train.  I think she would balk at a permanent 40 hours per week.