Is your professional advice to clients so good that you should take it yourself? Like, right now?

I’m betting that sometime today or tomorrow you will be meeting with a client to present or review an Investment Policy Statement (IPS). Over the course of this year, you will do the same with many clients because you know that the IPS is an essential tool to help your clients achieve their long-term financial goals— and “a sound intellectual framework for making decisions,”in the words of Warren Buffett.

Thanks to you, your clients’ financial goals and plans are well laid out and in writing.

But are your firm’s goals and plans as well documented?

Or did that yearly planning process get squeezed by clients’ needs or other priorities? Are you thinking that your lack of planning is okay because its absence can hurt only you and not your clients? It should not be okay.

Think about it: an advisor without a current business plan is like an estate attorney without a will.

Business planning for your firm must command as much of your energy as reviewing and updating an IPS for your clients each year.

Consider the parallel values: The IPS is critical because it defines a portfolio’s purpose and helps measure success at fulfilling goals. It also:

  1. Instills discipline
  2. Clarifies strategies
  3. Helps clients stay the course in challenging times
  4. Reflects an agreed-upon commitment
  5. Plans for the long term
  6. Sets realistic expectations
  7. Provides the steps needed to achieve those expectations
  8. Establishes a written touchstone that can be reviewed regularly

All eight of these benefits also apply to yearly planning for your advisory practice.
But don’t panic, this process doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it might even be fun. To get in the groove, try these three easy steps for putting together your plan for this year.

  1. In 50 words or less, write down your Single Most Important Measurable Result Or Goal (SMIMROG) you would like to accomplish for your firm by 12/31/13. Print it on five index cards, laminate them and put them in the five places you are most likely to see them.
  2. Use your imagination! Think of the many enjoyable things you could do (or have done for you) that could move you closer to that SMIMROG. If you want to add 15 new ideal clients, then you might think of ideas like: (a) doing a client segmentation, (b) calendaring some small, unique and targeted client events, (c) defining a niche you have been thinking about, (d) visualizing your next staff member and the tasks you will never have to do again, (e) laying out an easy client communication plan, etc.
  3. Now, calendar at least one thing a month from your list. Obviously, you’ll need to do more detailed scheduling eventually but at least you will have some immediate, measurable steps and activities all designed to reach your SMIMROG. You’ll have a written plan to dedicate the two essential elements to that goal you control—time and money.

This simple framework has the same objectives of an IPS, particularly the accountability and roadmap features.
Maybe it’s time to talk to yourself the way you talk to your clients. What did you say the last time a client gave you some push back on doing an IPS?

When it comes to planning, follow your own advice: Keep it simple, keep it visible and keep yourself accountable!

Special thanks to Kevin Cullen, Loring Ward Director of Practice Management, for his assistance.

Steve Atkinson is EVP and Head of Advisor Relations at Loring Ward, His team is dedicated to helping the independent advisors who partner with Loring Ward to grow their businesses through ongoing support and coaching. 


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