Psychologists the world over say vacation is important because, “The brain needs a break,” but it's surprising how few advisors give their minds a true rest during their time off.
It's my experience that those who have built strong financial advisory practices are the most comfortable with taking real vacations — those that don't feature regular phone calls to the office and marathon email-checking sessions.
Of course, being cut off from stress involves much more than simply taking a vacation. This point was driven home to me recently during two high-net-worth coaching sessions. In both sessions, the advisors had recently returned from a week of vacation, but each had a dramatically different story to tell.
Houses on Rock, Houses on Sand
The first advisor, who we'll call John, is well on his way to building a successful 21st century financial practice. He understands that setting goals is but a first step toward achievement, and he places a high priority to planning each week around the fixed daily activities that are connected to his goals.
As he approaches each day, John subordinates his personal life to completing those activities — typically face-to-face meetings with high-net-worth clients or prospects. As vacation time approached, John did what he normally does: He made certain everything would be covered by his partner and assistant while he was gone. He then scheduled two to three appointments a day for the three weeks following his vacation, beginning with the second day after he returned.
Phil, on the other hand isn't as far along in his practice building. He still wrestles with “losing his freedom” to his processes. He sets goals, but likes to keep his options open just in case “unforeseen opportunities” come his way. Phil is pretty good at “winging it.”
As his vacation time approached, Phil was eager to get away. The stress was getting to him, and he needed a break. However, he had a new assistant and wasn't confident he could assign her anything major while he was gone. She was instructed to call him if she had any questions. (Phil, by the way, has had trouble keeping assistants.) Right up to 5:30 p.m. the day before his vacation, Phil was still wondering whether or not he should take the time off.
The first thing I asked both John and Phil after they returned was, “How was your vacation?”
John told me all about his trip — what he and his family did, all the usual mishaps and how much fun they had. He talked about how energized he was, not simply from the vacation, but also because his business had been well cared for. After a day to get into the flow of things, he was able to jump right back in with a full schedule of appointments with clients and prospects.
Phil told me nothing about his vacation. Instead he complained about the frantic phone calls from his assistant, things that didn't get done and how his vacation has him buried. Of course, now he “doesn't have time” for any prospecting activities.
John had been able to cut himself off from stress, not only by making certain everything was covered while he was gone, but also because he had the right fixed daily activities in place to make sure he would not miss a beat when he returned. Phil, on the other hand, carried his job stress right on through his vacation.
Going on vacation is a change in our daily routine. For that period of time, our relationship with what we do, where we do it and whom we do it with changes. This creates stress, and it can only be a positive influence if we can truly “get away.”
It is crucial that we take steps to insure the continuity of business development efforts, client review meetings and the resumption of normal activities following our vacation. John did that; Phil did not.
Guess which one is in a serious growth mode?
Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.