Keeping your head above water. Drowning in paperwork. Trying to stay afloat. Up a creek without a paddle. Smooth sailing. Have you ever noticed how many water-related expressions there are for describing the way you do business? That’s because the concept of water creates such great metaphors, which you can easily relate to.
Do this little “water” exercise. Take out a piece of paper, draw a horizontal line across the middle and pretend it is a water line. Above the line, list all the activities that really matter in building a successful business. Below the line, list the distractions that could keep you from being a successful financial advisor.
Basically, only three activities belong above the line.
Nearly everyone agrees that brand-new advisors should spend a huge amount of time on client acquisition. Unfortunately, many established advisors don’t think the rule applies to them. They often ignore this first, crucial above-the-line activity. Instead, they spend their time on all the activities below the line and soon find their businesses starting to go under.
The second above-the-line activity is serving clients, which simply means delivering what you’ve promised. Meeting your clients’ expectations is an absolute must for keeping your head above water. This includes ensuring the timely delivery of financial plans, money management services, and advice about insurance, budgeting, debt reduction or elimination, cash management and emergency reserves.
Unless you’re doing things to acquire clients, serve clients or build your team, you’re spending your time on below-the-line activities.
The third above-the-line activity is building your team. This means organizing your employees and creating successful relationships with outside resources that can provide the services your clients need.
That’s it. Unless you’re doing things to acquire clients, serve clients or build your team, you’re spending your time on below-the-line activities that do nothing but distract you from becoming a successful advisor. Here are five common examples.
1. Overeducating yourself: Some advisors think their job is to know everything about insurance, investments and financial planning. Instead of harnessing the knowledge of experts, who can best serve their clients, they spend all their time becoming educated in those areas. If you’re paying a money manager to manage the client’s money, you don’t need to know everything the money manager knows. You simply need to know which questions to ask the client so you can give that information to the experts, and they can provide accurate advice. Your job is to serve your clients by holding them accountable for acting on that advice. That’s what it really means to be a Trusted Advisor.
2. Reading financial “pornography”: Watching 24-hour news reports, reading financial newspapers, tracking the prices of oil and gold and trying to guess the impact that the next terrorist bombing will have on the market is a waste of time, yet advisors are consumed with that kind of stuff. Your clients really want you to help them achieve their goals. And for the record, beating the market is not a goal. Focus on your clients’ real goals, which include things like sending their kids to college, funding their retirement and buying a vacation home.
3. Wasting time at unrelated conferences: There’s nothing wrong with attending industry conferences, but sitting in sessions where you are learning information you don’t need to know is a below-the-line activity. Before you attend your next conference, look at the agenda and ask yourself, “Will this conference and these specific sessions help me achieve my main goals, which are the things above the line?” If the answer is no, don’t go.
4. Hanging around with the wrong people: If you’re hanging out with people who have average businesses with average client satisfaction and average productivity, then chances are your business will be a lot like that, too. Don’t confuse consensus with wisdom. Just because most of the financial services industry is living below the line doesn’t mean it’s the right place to be.
5. Failing to delegate: As a financial advisor, you don’t need to sit in front of your computer and learn how to create financial plans, be a money manager or give insurance advice. Trying to do everything yourself is the last and probably worst example of a below-the-line activity. Many advisors spend time on activities like these for one of two reasons: They don’t want to delegate, or they don’t have the money.
When advisors don’t want to delegate, they’re usually avoiding work that might feel uncomfortable, such as asking for referrals. When advisors can’t afford to delegate, it’s because they aren’t spending enough time working above the line. It’s more important to learn how to hire and manage a couple of people than it is to learn everything there is to know about writing a financial plan, being a money manager or giving insurance advice.
Don’t be a salesperson. Be a Trusted Advisor.
©2005 by Bill Bachrach, Bachrach & Associates Inc. All rights reserved.
Bill Bachrach is the author of four industry-specific books, including his latest, It’s All About Them: How Trusted Advisors Listen for Success. For information about speaking services, The Trusted Advisor Coach program, 3-Day Values-Based Selling Academy, or to order his results-oriented books and learning resources, contact Bachrach & Associates Inc. at 800-347-3707 or visit www.bachrachvbs.com.