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How to Make Next Year Your Best Year

It starts with finishing this year strong.

By David Bach

I believe the secret to making 2019 your best year ever is how you finish this year. But how are you ending it? Be honest. Are you crushing the end of the year or coasting? Have you done your 2019 planning yet, both individually and with your team?

During my nearly 25 years of experience in our industry, I’ve noticed something that never ceases to amaze me—many people wrap up their work for the year ahead of the holiday season and don’t resume real engagement until the second week of January. In publishing, the other industry I’m involved with, forget it—the year is practically over.

Yes, you read correctly. By Thanksgiving, many people consider themselves done for the year. Now, they don’t actually say that, but they act like it. They come in later to the office and leave earlier. The marketing has stopped. The seminar programs are done. Review meetings—maybe. A holiday party—probably.

We’ve all seen this, right? And it’s a huge mistake, especially for independent advisors. The best registered investment advisors and independent advisors don’t pull up at the end of the year and coast. They sprint to the finish. We, for example, have top advisors at our network running marketing campaigns all the way through the end of the year. We have informational seminars being taught in November and December.

Why? Because there are still prospects to be reached and clients to serve.

You can’t hang up your gloves in November and expect to come out swinging after the first week of January. You have to stay active with internal and client- and prospect-facing initiatives all the way through to the final week of December if you’re serious about accomplishing goals for your clients and your firm in the New Year.

Especially if you own the firm.

Below are some tips on how advisors can lay the groundwork for a strong year-end finish. This is exactly what I do, and you can copy it even with only a few weeks to go.

Focus on The Positive

Most people will create their 2019 goals by first looking at what wasn’t done in 2018. Don’t start by reviewing disappointments. Instead, I recommend you make a list, both by yourself and with your team, which focuses on what got done in 2018.

We use a special Positive Progress Report Card, but you can create one yourself—and it doesn’t need to be complex. Simply make a list of what got done, who did it and celebrate it. The key to this is that it gets done in writing, as opposed to just chatting about it. Putting the progress down in writing—even on a white board in a conference room—can be a game-changer to help you increase your confidence as you align your team around next year’s big goals.

Plan Your 2019 Goals In December

This is so obvious I almost feel embarrassed to write it—but the top firms and top RIAs already have their goals for 2019 completely done, in writing. Their teams are already aligned on their 2019 plans. If you’re reading this and you haven’t done this yet, then get it done this month, after you’ve completed your own positive progress report.

Do Less, Not More

I manage my life and business with a “Yes Now List.” And there are only five things on that list, including No. 1: Focus Now for the Quarter.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with things you want to get done for your practice and your clients before the New Year begins. To optimize your time and maximize your potential outcomes, write down up to five goals to accomplish by Dec. 31 on a Yes Now List of your own. These are the most important goals for you and your team members to complete by the end of the year.

Everything else you would like to get done should be recorded elsewhere, on what I call the “Not Now List.” While all ideas for improving your practice and client service are important, not all of them can get done before Dec. 31 and not all of them are urgent to address.

Separating out the most crucial year-end tasks to accomplish gives your team a better chance of completing them thoroughly, which helps your practice begin the New Year on a powerful note.

Furthermore, Yes Now and Not Now Lists can be just as effective for helping advisors and their families work together to manage priorities and complete tasks.

Keep Adding Value, and Remember to Say “Thank You”

The easiest thing you can do at the end of the year, other than planning and attending your holiday parties, procuring and distributing client gifts, and conducting year-end revenue meetings, is make proactive calls to your clients and truly thank them for their business.

A simple, “I just wanted to say thank you for trusting us to be your family’s financial advisor,” followed by, “Is there anything more I can do for you before the end of the year,” can go a long way.

Trust me—test this tactic on 50 clients in December and see what happens. If 50 sounds like too much, try making one call a day for the rest of the year.

Our industry requires a year-round effort, and a strong finish at the end of the year will give you the momentum you need to succeed in the New Year.

Remember—how you end this year is how you start next year.

David Bach is co-founder and director of Advisor & Investor Education for AE Wealth Management.

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