Building your advisory business, Part 2: Actions that may hinder success

In my first blog post of this three-part series, I discussed activities that financial advisors can do to accelerate the growth of their businesses. In this blog post, we are going to discuss what activities limit your success.

A recent Cerulli Associates study found that 40% of investors surveyed say they need more advice than before the pandemic—and 56% are willing to pay for it. That’s up from 51% in 2019. Think about that. A large percentage of investors want more advice and an increasing percentage of them are realizing the value of that advice. So stop wasting time on activities that limit your business growth.

I think it’s safe to say that you already know what many of these time-wasting activities are. I would venture to guess that you have thought about this already. No one in any role is efficient 100% of the time. That’s why I truly believe that the limiting factor is not time. It’s our own focus.

Think about how many times you have had a busy day, and completed numerous tasks between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Then you just stare at the clock for a while wondering what to do for the next few hours. You had a great day, got done what you needed to do. The limiting factor was not time. If we are following the great Dolly Parton song you still have ‘til 5’. The limiting factor was your focus. So, what activities steal focus but don’t move the ball forward? You can call this stuff the work that pays you the least.

  1. Answering the phones – For some of you this isn’t possible, but how many times does a client call and completely throw your day off track? How many of those times could the call have been handled by someone else or you at a later time?

  2. Meeting preparation – Who prepares for appointments? When should you do the preparations? I will say that the most successful advisors have a system. Spend some time when you are not actively marketing and come up with a procedure. Write down what information you need. I have a checklist of information that I need before a meeting. It allows me to get the information faster and even delegate when possible.

  3. Taking and entering notes into the system – When possible, delegate this activity. Make sure at the very least you know what notes you must consistently enter into the system. Make it a systematic and easy-to-follow process.

  4. Meeting follow-up – This can be really draining. Not only because it takes time, but because clients don’t always follow through. Two things to consider. Do you really want to have clients who don’t follow through? Studies have shown we only have the capacity to handle about 100-150 relationships. Keep that number sacred. Second, set expectations right away. This could really cut down on the amount of time it takes to follow up. Say something like “It’s my job to keep this top of mind, so as part of my value I am going to follow up on Monday." Then make sure you do it.

  5. Scheduling meetings with current clients – What’s the process on review meetings? How often do you schedule them? If you need help, we have a ton of resources around this. Also, when possible have someone else schedule these meetings. Clients will understand, and those phone calls just suck up your valuable time.

  6. Entering information into planning software – When possible, try to have someone else enter the data, no matter the system you use. That’s a task that is very easy but can take up time and focus.

  7. Investment research – This task does not pay you directly. You must be knowledgeable about the investments you offer to clients, but there is a point when it’s too much. How many different investments do you have in your book? Are you spending time to research each of them? If you want an inventory analysis reach out to your wholesaler. According to the Cerulli survey:
    1. Advisors report they spend approximately 50% of their time on investment management and research
    2. Advisors report they spend approximately five hours, per investment product, per year on research and due diligence
    3. In 2013, affluent clients were polled on who was best suited for investment expertise. 47% of them said their individual advisor. In 2017 that number plummeted to 33%.1 This is something to think about. If clients don’t think you are the best suited for investment expertise, why not outsource?

  8. CE credits or professional designation – While good to have, they should not be done at the expense of outbound marketing activity.

  9. Compliance – How much training do you have to do in a given year? As with professional upgrading, time spent on compliance training shouldn’t be included in the hours allocated to clients.

  10. Financial stress – This one is kind of a curve ball, but sometimes your own financial stress can really be a burden and drain your focus. Make sure to pay yourself first and free your mind from that anxiety.

  11. Negativity – Do you have someone, such as a co-worker or client, who is consistently negative? Talk about a focus drain. Find ways to reduce negativity and enhance positivity.

Now, here’s the rub. All of the limiters listed above are necessary to accomplish your job. So how can you still get them done but save yourself time?

It really boils down to:

  1. What can you get others to do for you?
  2. What can you get more efficient at doing?

I think the real trick here is knowing when to outsource, then once you have found the things you can’t delegate, making sure there is a process for getting those tasks done as fast as possible.

What activities when done and when not done may help guarantee success? This sounds funny but once you think about the activities that you need to do, and the activities that you must do—but that steal your focus—then you already have the answer. The next blog in this series will include MY answer.

1 Cerulli: Subtract, Add, Multiply- The formula to efficiency