An advisor's staff is key to a firm's success - that's something most of us can agree on. Yet too many advisors underutilize their staff members.

At Commonwealth, we hold an annual conference geared for staff in advisors' offices. This past year, I asked attendees a simple question: "How many of you know that Commonwealth sends out three weekly emails to keep the field up to date on our latest technology offerings, programs for advisors and client service enhancements?" Hands shot up - every participant knew what I was talking about.

Yet when I ask advisors the same question, I often get a deer-in-the-headlights look. The message was clear: Staff members are a crucial link in getting the word out to advisors and helping them stay on top of all they have to manage.

With that in mind, Commonwealth is rolling out a series of workshops designed for advisors' staff members. Here are a few of the ideas we'll share in our road show - and that you can implement in your own office.

Empower your staff to make change. One of my favorite best practices is to put staff members in charge of documenting the firm's core processes with flowcharts and checklists. Core processes are the functions most essential to a firm, such as preparing for and following up on review meetings and responding to common client questions, such as requests for cash distribution. Firms that nail down these routine processes in writing (and consistently follow them) achieve scale, reduce costs and ultimately increase margin. Since staff members are key players in many of these activities, it is essential to involve them in the documentation process.

Have employees help you manage them. When asked to define great workplaces, employees cite knowing what is expected of them and receiving regular feedback on their work, according to research by Gallup. Most advisors recognize the importance of these items, but few actually make them a priority. If you're not doing so already, ask staff members to initiate an update to their job descriptions annually and to schedule regular performance review conversations with you.

Assign staff members to keep you up to date. With the slew of emails, brochures and other publications that advisors receive, it's far too easy to overlook important information. Your staff can make a huge contribution by reading certain communications - including (of course) emails from your broker-dealer designed to keep branches up to date on the latest offerings - and bringing the key points to your attention at weekly staff meetings. That's the one simplest thing staff members can do to make your life easier, and help ensure that your firm remains as productive as possible.


Joni Youngwirthis the managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network, an RIA in Waltham, Mass.

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