The average age of an advisor today is 56, give or take a few years. That means that most advisors got into the business around 30 years ago—a time when your office was just you and your partner. At that time marketing your business meant having a company picnic and the only financial news your clients received was from your quarterly meetings. My, how times have changed.
From the throng of new products that flood the market each week to the complex world of social media tools now at your fingertips, today’s business isn’t your grandfather’s planning firm. And with decades passed, many advisors have realized that their practice isn’t what they thought it would be 30 years down the road. Whether they’ve hit a block in the number of clients they can serve or they don’t have the time they hoped they’d have at this point to spend outside the office, most advisors don’t have their ideal practice. That can change.
To close this gap, the first thing you must figure out is just how big the gap is—and what’s missing. To do that, Diane MacPhee, a former advisor and now a business coach at DMAC Consulting Services, recommends writing your ideal week on the left side of a piece of blank, unlined paper. On the right side of that paper, write down your actual week. This should include what time you get to the office in the morning, how many hours you work, how much work you get done each day, the types of clients you work with, plus anything else that illustrates what truly happens on any given day at your firm.
Read this over a few times. Now, in the center of the paper, take a different colored pen and describe what you see as the difference between the two columns. Or, in other words, what’s missing from column B?
Don’t worry if the line items don’t match up or about keeping in any order. What’s important here, MacPhee says, is identifying where the difference lies between what you really want for your practice and the actual behavior you exhibit on a daily basis.
Now you’ve identified the gap between where you are now and where you’d like to be. See, that wasn’t so hard. Certainly a wake-up call, this should also serve as a very uncomfortable catalyst, says MacPhee, who insists that nothing drives individuals to pursue success like discontent, frustration and yes, even jealousy of someone who’s doing it right.
The trick is doing something about it. Take that sheet of paper and make a plan. For each item in the middle column, write a list of action steps that can help you make the jump from Column B to Column A or, in general terms, your ideal practice. If you’re not sure exactly how to fix something, confer with the other people in your office. How would they fix the problem? What do they think you can do better to get there—and how can they help? Don’t stop until you’re sure that each of your action steps will get you to that ideal place.
MacPhee recommends scheduling one issue per week, though this can often take longer and should be adjusted as necessary. Timing’s not important; what is important is making sure you’ve corrected one issue before starting on the next.
Now you’re well on your way. Within just a few months, or maybe even a year, you will have transformed your business from the one that you’ve grown tired and frustrated with, into the practice that you’ve always dreamed you could attain. Sure, there will be obstacles along the way. But as you continue to assess each issue, things will get easier—and time and money will become more accessible. Keeping yourself honest and sticking to your action plans will provide results—and are sure to make you a whole lot happier.