SAN DIEGO -- A well-organized business can help give advisors an edge, says Michelle Brennan Hall.

During a session titled "Secrets of a Top Producer," the president of Dallas-based Brennan Wealth Advisors spoke to attendees at Advisor Group's W Forum on Monday about the importance of developing a vision and putting it to work.

"When I didn't have a mission and vision for my team to communicate and my clients to understand and for my community to identify with, it resulted in unintended consequences," said Brennan Hall, whose hybrid firm and OSJ has $180 million in assets under management.

She offered three  questions that advisors can use to refine their firms' direction.

1. WHAT'S YOUR UNIQUE ABILITY?

Brennan Hall says she set out to build her practice's vision by taking the time to learn what each of her team members brought to the table -- both as advisors and as individuals -- and using that to shape a common goal while refining the role of each individual within the practice.

"That's what mission and vision follow," she said.

"Your unique ability is not that you can put together great portfolios or create an income stream that can last a client's lifetime," she added. "Unique ability is what we each have that is innate in who we are, something we've been able to do since when we were born -- because despite being in a family business, I could not put together portfolios at 5 years old."

Brennan Hall said she realized that her unique quality was a desire to promote confidence in herself and among her peers. She frequently motivated her siblings throughout her childhood and found herself doing the same with friends as a young woman in college, leading them “from point A to point B.” Now, she leads her team.

2. WHAT MILESTONES WILL YOU AIM FOR?

Every October, Brennan Hall sits down with her team and brainstorms what the following year should look like.

Language matters, she said; her firm avoids goals and instead focuses on "milestones" as an acknowledgement that, sometimes, unforeseen circumstances can push you off track.

The team then puts together a comprehensive calendar of what their milestones should be and when they should occur -- but allows flexibility when things change or go wrong.

"What I realized is that the goals were either right and we didn't get there or they were wrong and we blew through them, in the end we weren't happy," she said. "We wanted to make sure we had a direction we were all working toward, but we didn't want it to be a goal because that gave us negative feedback. ...  It just became something that was a paradigm shift."

In preparing for the coming year, the team discusses four questions, she says: What are they doing right that they should continue? What should they stop doing? How can they help each other reach those milestones? And, finally, "What did we do badly that needs attention?"

Some trouble spots "are things we do badly, [but] that doesn't mean we scrap the idea," Brennan Hall said. Among the problems could be poor execution, forgotten follow-up or the failure ask for a referral.

"There are things we will do from year to year that we want to be able to do," she said. "We need to ... not take it personally and try again."

3. HOW WELL ARE YOU WORKING WITH OTHERS?

A huge part of providing the best client service, Brennan Hall said, involves making sure each task has the right owner.

"When I was first an advisor I felt like I had to be the smartest person in the world," she said. "I never felt comfortable saying 'I don't know, I'll get back to you.'"

She now aims to have other people on her team with different strengths, and outsources the things that her firm doesn't specialize in, Brennan Hall said.

"Our clients will always expect us to have a person ... who does things I don't do well. They really do understand that what's smart is we do what we do best," Brennan Hall said. "When you're more valuable, the people around you will work to make it work."

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