Los Angeles—“We’ve got so much going on in our practice, everybody is working, but I don’t really know if we’re prioritizing properly,” Michael explained. “Do you know of a simple way in which we can get a handle on this?”
In the busy world of a successful financial practice, it’s easy for everyone to get caught up in the reactive whirling dervish of day-to-day affairs. The telephones are ringing all day, support personnel have been trained to answer the telephone by the third ring at the latest, they attend to whatever the client calling is requesting, and the beat goes on—all day long.
When it comes to time management, we focus on three critical factors: total households, client segmentation, and service models. At this stage, most financial advisors have segmented their client base. Although everyone labels them differently, some version of “A, B, C, and D” client sorting has usually taken place. That said, we always recommend that advisors include two qualitative components: upgrade potential and spheres of influence. Top advisors typically have two service models, one for their top revenue generating clients, and a second for their other clients who generate less revenue but are still good, profitable clients.
I’m not going to get into service models in this issue, nor am I getting into our complete client segmentation process. For the purposes of establishing priorities within your practice, I’m going to assume you’ve got a handle on the aforementioned. But to Michael’s question, where the time is going on a daily basis is a different story. Client segmentation and service models are meaningless without a good handle on where everyone’s time is going. Effective time management is really about establishing and managing priorities.
To that end I recommended Michael engage in a two-week Time Motion Study that we’ve been using to help advisors begin to get control of this issue. As I share this exercise with you, I do so with a warning—it’s work, and it is usually not embraced by support personnel (because they “don’t have the time”). For this reason, the value of the exercise needs to be explained and it must be driven by the senior advisor of the practice.
Time Motion Study
Objective: Determine the clients who are requiring the most time and attention on a frequent basis and compare the time required to the revenue generated. The goal is to prioritize activities, eliminate wasted time, and provide more personalized service to top-tier clients.
Time Line: A two full-week time line provides a fairly accurate assessment of the day-in-the-life of a financial practice. Make certain to conduct this study during two complete 5-day weeks, a total of 10 working days.
Participants: Anyone on the team who takes incoming calls; senior advisors, junior advisors, practice managers, assistants, receptionists, etc. (Michael, like many senior advisors, never takes incoming calls as they are screened by his assistant, so he didn’t have to participate.)
Materials: Legal pad and pen (low tech).
Dispatching the Time-Motion Study: Determine the personnel who are going to be involved, and communicate clearly that this exercise is not “big-brother” looking over their shoulder. Whoever is participating must understand that this project will eventually save them time, lessen the reactive, hectic day-to-day routine, and enable them to devote more personalized time and attention to top-tier clients.
Step 1—Write the date at the top of a blank page on their Time-Motion Study legal pad.
Step 2—Log every call that day on the designated page in the following manner: name of caller, nature of the call, length of the call, and time required to fulfill the client’s request.
Step 3—Repeat steps one and two for 10 consecutive working days (two weeks).
Step 4—Upon completion of the study, meet as a team and compare the time required by the client with the revenue generated by that client.
Step 5—Adjust priorities accordingly following the basic time-revenue formula; if 20 percent of your clients are generating 80 percent of your revenue they should get 80 percent of the time available within your practice. If 25 clients of those 20 percent are generating a significant portion of the revenue, they get a significant portion of your practice’s available time.
Every time we’ve coached advisors through this drill, ah-ha moments surface. How so? Because advisors and support personnel start realizing that far too much of their time, which is a finite commodity, is being sucked into a black hole controlled by smaller clients.
Michael’s experience was no different. Initially his staff resisted, but he persisted by offering a reward (dinner-for-two certificates), and they discovered that approximately 70 percent of their time was being usurped by smaller clients who had no influence or potential. Since recognition is 50 percent of recovery, they were on their way to getting a handle on their priorities. Within a month, Michael had jettisoned the majority of these smaller clients to another advisor, and the last I heard, his team was revising their service models. Time management is priority management.