Advisors trying to expand their practices need to know how to focus their efforts to get the best returns.

That was the key takeaway during a session Tuesday afternoon by consultant Angie Herbers at the Raymond James Financial Services annual national conference in Dallas.

She suggested the following six effective actions that that advisors could to take to get a payoff at their own firms. Implement the principles one quarter at a time, she counseled -- not all at once.

1. REDUCE STRESS

Advisors need to slow down and think differently about time, Herbers said. She urged listeners to take time to think about a new idea or plan before acting.

Ideally, advisors should strive to maximize performance by reaching a level of stress halfway between boredom and burnout, she said. Advisors should rate their stress levels between one and 10, Herbers said -- then strive for a peak level of 5 to avoid “over-innovating and overscheduling.”

2. FOCUS ON CLIENT SERVICE

Firms should set client expectations and goals deliberately, she said. Clients should feel they have control over pricing, and the firm’s offerings should also be carefully defined.

As an example, Herbers cited one firm that offers three delineated tiers of service:  investment management only; advisory planning services plus investment management; and investment management, planning and ancillary services including tax preparation, business services and retirement planning services.

3. MANAGE ON GROWTH

Strive to avoid the ups and downs of chaotic growth, instead aiming for steady, systematic growth, Herbers counseled. Successful firms protect owners’ incomes by investing in the company’s culture, she said, through purchases such as laptops and hiring additional staff.

4. CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN

Your plan should have a few elements, Herbers said: A vision statement, articulating where the firm wants to go, what it wants to do and how the firm wants to act; as well as five-year, 12-month, six-month and 90-day goals.

The firm should review the plan every Monday morning for half an hour, Herbers said, measuring performance against the goals.

5. FOCUS ON PEOPLE

Preparation, pay, perks and productivity are key, Herbers said.

Teach employees as much as you can, to prepare them for client requests, she advised. Pay should include a fair wage and a bonus based on revenue, not merit or profit. Perks should be connected to employees' lifestyles. (Life insurance for pets is currently popular, she said.)

6. PRIORITIZE TECHNOLOGY

To boost productivity, make sure employees have the latest hardware and software available, Herbers said. Besides giving employees the tools they need, hire a tech consultant.