Even many experienced financial advisors are not as disciplined as they should be at staying true to their core values and remaining focused on their business goals.
The top of the year is the ideal time to reevaluate your practice. Here are 10 crucial questions that all advisors should ask themselves as they resolve to ramp up business in the year ahead.
- What is my business story? The Venn diagram of an advisor’s business story and why they chose a career in financial services in the first place should resemble a circle. If you’re like most, the root of everything was a desire to help people reach their financial goals and dreams—meaning everything in your practice should revolve around that founding principle. That may seem self-evident, but it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of something so simple after being in business for many years.
- Is my value proposition clear? Write down how you are able to solve problems and improve outcomes for clients in ways that set you apart from your peers. Being able to clearly convey this is a critical part of achieving your business goals.
- What is my mission? Your mission is what you strive to be every day when you wake up in the morning. Staying true to it will keep you focused and on task. Think of your mission as the bridge between your business story and your value proposition. If, for instance, your business story is to help people reach their goals, your mission should be to do everything possible to make sure your clients think of you anytime they have a question, large or small, about their finances.
- Who is my ideal client? Look at your client roster and determine which ones are the most profitable. Then, try to pinpoint common characteristics among that group, whether it’s based on age, profession or even geography. Segmenting clients like this will help you tailor your services to meet the needs of your best ones.
- Am I staffed properly? Many advisors have a staff of one—themselves. With the proper technology and back-office support, that model can work. However, consider whether it would make sense to add a partner or a specialist. That could streamline workflows and add scale, allowing you to spend more time with clients, which is the best way to boost revenue.
- Is my marketing approach well targeted? Younger investors are far more likely to engage with an advisor via social media or email, while some older groups still prefer a phone call or in-person client events. For digital efforts, come up with a plan, charting out well ahead of time when you’ll post or send content and what it will be about, making sure it’s relevant to the season (e.g., taxes or back to school).
- Do I have a contingency plan? The number of advisors today that either don't have a contingency plan at all or fail to update their existing one is unacceptably high. Are you indifferent to what may happen to your clients were you to become incapacitated? Or are you targeting a middling valuation for your practice when you decide to sell your book of business? Undoubtedly, the answer to both questions is no. However, by failing to update your contingency plan—or, worse, by not having one at all—your actions tell a different story.
- How well defined are my goals? Making serious progress toward your business goals demands detailed metrics. Break down your financial goals (assets under management and revenue) and your developmental goals (staffing and professional alliances) by category. For each, list what you want to accomplish over the next year, three years and five years.
- What is my biggest obstacle? Narrow this down to a single problem. Although there may be any number of lesser challenges to achieving each of your financial and developmental goals, there is likely one big obstacle that affects them all. For some advisors, it's time management. For others, it's getting organized, acquiring new skills or securing financing. Determine what it is and then seek out the best way to overcome it.
- Do I have an action plan to achieve my goals? Just as you should create detailed metrics for your goals, you should create a comprehensive action plan that enables you to achieve them. For instance, if you want to grow assets and revenue, specify activities that will allow you to do so —whether it’s through existing clients, by prospecting, by referrals or from professional alliances.
Resolve to Start Now
As you prepare for the coming year, now is the time to set aside at least an hour a week to consider whether you are on track to meet your business goals. Use this time both to prioritize activities that will allow you to meet them and to keep yourself and your team accountable to one another.
Chances are that answering these questions will reveal several business strengths and weaknesses. The more goals you accomplish, the stronger your advisory business will become.
Tammy Robbins is vice president of business development at ProEquities (member FINRA/SIPC), a Birmingham, Ala.-based firm.