Several years ago, I made the strategic decision to change the way I do business. I decided that I would stop selling financial products and start selling comprehensive financial plans. I would also limit my practice to a select group of valued clients, which would result in fewer hassles and more revenue. The key steps I took in my journey toward enhancing the way I do business will provide some useful ideas for agents and financial advisors who are thinking of making this important move.
For me, the transitioning process was rather gradual. It began to gain momentum about a year and a half ago, after I read the classic bestseller, The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber. In this publication, Gerber writes that before you start (or restart in our case) your business, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I wish my life to look like?
- How do I wish my life to be on a day-to-day basis?
- What would I like to be doing two, 10 or 20 years
- How much money will I need to do the things I wish to do?
In committing the time to answer these questions in your own way, you will be crystallizing what Gerber calls your “primary aim” in life. (This is the first step in Gerber’s seven-step business development program.) This crystallization will provide you with purpose, energy and grist for your day-to-day mill, and will pave the way for your “strategic objective” (the second step of the program). The strategic objective is “a very clear statement of what your business has to ultimately do for you to achieve your primary aim.”
When this planning is completed, we arrive at the ultimate business model of high revenue/low stress.
To achieve my primary aim, I decided that my business model needed to be one that provides me with high revenue but low stress. I embraced a vision of running a “six-and-two” business, one that would ultimately allow me to work six weeks and take off the next two weeks consistently, with all cylinders running smoothly when I am out of the office. I realized that the only path to this type of business model was comprehensive, goal-based financial planning across a select group of families, with the base revenue coming from recurring asset management fees.
Building the plan
My next task was to create a comprehensive financial planning process that would be better than almost anything else in the marketplace. This process, I concluded, would have to give my clients a better chance of reaching their financial goals than if they tried to figure it out on their own or went to another provider.
After the process was fine-tuned, I proceeded to sell it to as many people as possible who met my minimum criteria. I carried out this task with the belief that if enough people go through this unique planning process, a certain percentage of them would buy the plan and most likely choose to implement the plan with me. Typically, this involves their turning over the supervision of most or all of their assets to me to manage in a fee-based platform. A fee-based model is a better fit than a commission-based model for this type of business because it creates recurring revenue, which supports the ongoing time we will be spending servicing this limited client base.
The simple math I did quickly told me that if 60 families implement a plan with me, and on average I am supervising $700,000 of assets per client family, the recurring fee-based revenue for those assets will provide for most or all of my business and personal needs. What is most important, this revenue is coming from only 60 client families. Because these are the families who bought my entire plan, chances are that I have meaningful relationships with them or they would not have bought in to the extent they did. All of us have a certain number of special client relationships—relationships with the people we really click with. These are the people who return our phone calls and make life easy for us. The ultimate goal of this business plan is to have 60 of those clients and no one else!
The ultimate model
When all of this planning is completed, we arrive at the ultimate business model of high revenue/low stress. By serving only 60 families who tend to make our lives easy, we can prosper with a small staff of one to two full-time employees. In this way, we can avoid the additional hassles of corporate bureaucracy, which typically comes with mid-sized or larger operations.
At this point, the “six-and-two” model becomes possible, and the only thing left is to decide what to do with the two weeks off every other month. Tennis anyone?
Evan M. Levine, CLU, ChFC, is a financial planner and registered investment advisor with MML Investors Services, Inc. You can reach him at 212-536-6087 or at email@example.com.