Building a Business Setup for Acquisition
Includes Q&A Session
Thursday, February 10th at 12 pm ET
Have you considered your exit strategy? If you are considering selling your business within the next 5 years, or the next 30 years, this webinar is for you.
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2022-01-18 19:03:40 • 2 minute read

Every action you perform three or more times, or which has three or more steps in the process, should be documented in your playbook.

That is the Rule of Three Get everything out of your head and the heads of your team members. The benefits of a playbook go beyond just consistency and continuity. The efforts compound over time creating momentum - regardless of who is deploying them. If a business is driven by maverick talent who operate daily out of their heads, the value is lower than a business driven by the procedures contained in a playbook...

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2022-01-11 16:08:05 • 2 min read

I stress worth as the measure you need to be judged by, rather than cost. Let’s delve into how a Service Matrix can help smooth your route through transitions or troubled times and encourage clients to see you as deserving of your compensation while, at the same time, ensuring that you are investing your time on the clients who generate 80 percent of your income. Click to read more on LinkedIn

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2022-01-04 19:38:50 • 20 second read

How deep do you go to understand your client’s goals and aspirations? As you know, many of your competitors only scratch the surface and instead go deep on data dumping and industry jargon. It is essential that you constantly focus on the aspects of your business and relationships that are proprietary to supplement the aspects that are commoditized... Click to read more on LinkedIn

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2021-12-28 21:14:01 • 2 minute read

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had many intense calls with very high-caliber teams about the concept of becoming a multi-family office (MFO). Part of entering the space to becoming an MFO is to approach it as a progression. It doesn’t have to be something you jump all-in, 100%. You can test the waters, and there are many benefits to that. One of them is on the merit of “growing down” to grow up-market.

On that point, with one of the teams I spoke with, we talked about the mindset…

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2021-12-21 20:22:16 • 2 minute read

We’ve all heard the concept that you are only as good as your weakest link. And, when it comes to the knowledge-for-profit practice of Financial Advisors, those servicing your clients have a profound impact on how your clients perceive you and your entire practice. So, if everyone on your team isn’t totally on board and motivated to help you achieve your vision, then you aren’t fully maximizing your team...

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2021-12-14 17:24:06 • 20 second read

Consider demographic forces. How many people in your sector are five years or less from an exit and have no continuity or succession plan? How many businesses are looking for options as unexpected market forces come into play? This week’s article discusses the importance of incorporating succession planning into your process and the benefits it can have on both you and your clients....

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2021-12-07 20:09:09 • 20 second read

There is a substantial amount of noise in the world, so I put a big emphasis on the concept of the signal to noise ratio. You want people to tune out the noise and tune into your signal. Podcasting can help you stand out from the crowd as well as attract new clients. To read more on LinkedIn, Click Here

Want to learn about podcasting from the experts? Talk to the team at www.ProudMouth.com

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2021-11-30 16:29:16 • 20 second read

Market volatility, political uncertainty, competitive forces and various external dependencies are facts of life for a knowledge-for-profit professional. Strategic Planning is an important part of being prepared for whatever comes your way. Click to read more on LinkedIn

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2021-11-23 20:01:36 • 20 second read

You’ve heard that facts tell and stories sell, but do you know how to tell a story that communicates your value to a client? In this interview with Chris Jeppesen, head of Practice Management for First Trust, we discuss how addressing need and using an applicable story can help an advisor stress how much they’re worth rather than how much they cost. Click here to read more on LinkedIn

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2021-11-16 16:59:45 • 20 second read

Have you considered your exit strategy and the enterprise value of your business? In this interview with Ted Jenkin, Co-CEO and founder of oXYGen Financial author and intergenerational wealth expert, we discuss how Advisory Practices have been undervalued, and how the world of private equity is changing the game in terms of their enterprise value. Click to read more on LinkedIn

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2021-11-09 17:15:36 • 20 second read

Have you defined your ideal client? If you haven’t, or even if you have, ask yourself these questions: Are you telling the world you’re not all things to all people? Are you positioned as all things to some people? Do you narrow-cast rather than broadcast? Do you activate professional scarcity and encourage people to belong to your small, desirable community?

The first step in building a real value proposition is to define what an ideal client is. Your ideal client is a triple-A client when their assets align with your expertise; attitudinally, the relationship is compatible for the long-term; and they’re not just clients, they’re active advocates for your value and for the people they care about.

I trust you have a triple A ideal client profile and that you stick to it, but let’s make that profile client-facing. In other words, if I were to ask you “what do you do?” I’d like you to say something like... Click here to read full article on LinkedIn

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2021-11-02 20:48:21 • 2 minute read

The Best Thing to Happen to Me In all sincerity, the best thing to ever happen to me is that nothing, and I mean nothing, came easily. I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I spent a fair amount of time contemplating what I’m grateful for. My terrific wife and fantastic kids instantly come to mind, of course, but when it comes to my own personal and professional development, the best thing to ever happen to me was that success was hard. In this weeks article I discuss how you can invest your past into your future and how that can impact the enterprise value of your business. Click to read more on LinkedIn

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2021-10-26 20:05:48 • 2 minute read

We all know how the dynamics of supply and demand work. The scarcer something is, the higher the value people place in acquiring it. The question is how you can put this immutable law to work in your business. I would ask you to start with your lexicon, because the words you use continually, matter.

For example, when a client or a strategic partner asks you, “are you looking for more clients?” Do you pounce on that? Or do you activate a counter-intuitive reaction by saying something like “We do have some capacity, but it’s never about who we’re looking for, but rather about who we’re suited for.” What does someone hear and how long does a statement like that resonate?

When you meet a prospective client for the first time, convey this: “Let’s use this meeting as an opportunity to vet each other, to see if there is an alignment and a good fit. Nobody has to make any decisions here today.” What do they hear? How about when you start deliberately shifting more attention to your very best clients? As part of the process, tell them, “We’ve actually started to grow our business down. At our peak, we had close to 400 relationships, but going forward we’re going to start being all things to some people, rather than some things to all people. Soon we’ll have closer to 200 relationships, so that we can go deeper as their needs become more complex and continue to evolve.

What do they hear when you repeatedly imprint that “we only accept new clients who were introduced to us?” How does it reflect on you when you remind your clients that there is “a very specific reason why we have second- and third-generation clients” - and to what extent do you amplify your professional contrast?

When you explain that, while others use a sales process trying to chase down new business, “we adamantly stick with stewardship to attract the clients whose needs and philosophy are in sync with us,” you activate a sense of belonging for existing relationships.

The right people will want to be a part of the elite small community that you’ve carefully created. They will also want to share that with the right people, essentially coming to the rescue for people they care about, the way advocates do.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-10-19 19:29:48 • 2 minute read

As a financial professional you’ve undoubtedly had clients asking questions about Bitcoin recently. As a consultant to elite financial professionals as well as being an investor and serious student of crypto currency and the blockchain space, I wanted to put this brief whitepaper together to supplement your awareness for this rapidly emerging segment of the financial services sector. At a minimum, you have to be able to engage your clients in a meaningful way if they have questions. Regardless of whether or not you ever have a physical position in this space, you must develop a philosophical position on this space. Notwithstanding where your firm and your compliance department stands currently, there is a good chance that at least a couple of your clients are already active in crypto outside of your deliverables.

As a lifelong planner, the key is to always be looking down the road at trends and trajectory. Two quick points right up front: in March of 2020, the overall market cap for the many thousands of crypto currencies was just under a 1 trillion USD. In mid-April of 2021, it approached 2.2 trillion - which is incidentally close to the GDP of the United Kingdom. When you consider the adoption curve, crypto is clearly tracking towards an inflection point.... Click here to read the full article on LinkedIn

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2021-10-12 20:45:27 • 2 minute read

I wanted to share this with you because I just had a conversation with Chris Jeppesen, who is, as you might know, the co-author of The Advisor Playbook. He also heads up the best practices department of First Trust Portfolios. We were prepping for a podcast and discussing how revealing the past 18 months have been, especially between the teams that are cresting and potentially on a collision course with a plateau, and those who continue to climb with limitless potential for growth. We ended up talking about the Tour de France and it’s a great analogy. I don’t know if you follow it at all, but most cyclists on the flats look pretty comparable, but on the climbs you start to see how the best-prepared and those who really put in the work start to put distance between themselves and the pack.

Those distinctions are subtle and gradual, but very revealing. If you look at the leaderboard, the winner of the Tour de France was the Slovenian Pogacar, who compiled an all-in time of just under 83 hours of race time. What’s fascinating to me is that the South African racer Meintjes came in 14th - also world-class, but it was only a combined 34 minutes behind the leader. So it was a small gap, but a huge difference in rewards. That’s the winning edge.

Admittedly, if you’re into sports, cycling is one that requires immense will to achieve success. There are other sports that require both will and incredible skill. If you look at tennis, for example, the longest play in the history of the majors was Djokovic and Nadal, who hit a combined 54 shots at the highest possible level. In fact, the year before, they played in something like a six-hour marathon in Australia. Look at hockey. The longest continuous play between whistles was just over 11 minutes, and again, at the highest level. LPGA player Jane Blalock made 299 consecutive cuts over 11 years. Sport is truly an incredible metaphor for what separates the best from the rest.

The bottom line is this: Sit down with your team and take a moment to savor your grit, your passion, and resolve to continually improve while overcoming friction and uncertainty in the marketplace. Discuss what has been revealed within your team and not just what you’ve learned, but also who you become as a result of your accomplishments. Keep in mind that opportunities for innovation and refinement don’t just present themselves when you’re going uphill. Difficulty is still revealing, but there’s an awesome YouTube video of Michael Guerra who was going downhill in a cycling race. He pulled away from the Peloton by laying out flat on his seat, like Superman on his bike. So while all his other competitors were peddling madly, he reduced friction and blew by all of them without expending any effort. So remember it is often just slight adjustments, breaking away from accepted norms.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-10-05 18:22:21 • 2 min read

There is a cumulative effect that comes from adopting a panoramic goals-based planning approach and developing a Value-Added Support Team (or VAST) referral network. In addition to amplifying your fee-worthiness, you also become indispensable to a client because your trusted advisor status gets even stronger. The world has become noisier, surreal, and in some cases downright bizarre. While I’m very optimistic about the light at the end of the tunnel, in the meantime I’d like you to consider re-imagining your relevance to a client’s life.

Money is a means to an end. The question is, do you want to stay in your lane entirely around bringing value to a client’s money, or perhaps converging that with having an interest in and delivering value to those ends? There are essentially three tiers to this type of value-add: Developing the skills and credentials yourself, collaborating with other thought leaders and experts, or simply endorsing others with areas of expertise and overarching skill.

We could all stand to develop and refine the lost art of listening. There are several great YouTube videos and no shortage of resources on the Socratic Method of listening - the ability of mastering active listening and resisting the temptation to provide immediate answers to a question, but to understand that many real issues are two or three questions deep. That allows you to draw out more context and emotion behind an issue. That can create a very engaging exchange, especially if they can come to their own conclusions about a course of action to address an issue by sharing it with you and thinking out loud.

Going deeper, there are many credentials you can add to your repertoire, including assisting families with special needs and philanthropy, just to name a couple. Talk to your team, have a conversation about this potential bolt-on opportunity. They could be very surprised from a collaborative perspective. Another idea is that you could identify a business broker to do a webinar or a podcast with and outlining and providing a checklist on continuity, succession and other dynastic issues. High net-worth families need to consider looking down the road. Collaborative content marketing is the next frontier to professional contrast, and there’s all types of expertise out there that you can join forces with.

Lastly, you can develop a reputation as being a well-connected professional, who knows a vast array of specialists from many areas that you can introduce when there’s a need. You can stir up a lot of very positive and productive energy from that, but you can’t dabble at this. You’ve got to establish crystal clear rules of engagement, and have the credibility that comes from having used the solutions yourself, where possible. I’ll give you an example of that, the power of eating your own cooking, so to speak. I was having a conversation with a good friend, a long-term client of mine who had disclosed that he had just overcome an illness by, among other things, taking what is called a ‘regimen of plant stem cells.’

It’s essentially a company he found that prunes and harvest a small batch of buds from various plants and creates extracts that provide rejuvenation to the body. I’d never heard of this concept, but because of the conviction of my friend and the degree of respect I have for him, I was beyond intrigued and sought to combine the best of modern medicine with the best of naturopathic treatment. It was fascinating, but it wasn’t just the results he got that made him an advocate. He said to me, “You don’t have to wait to become sick to adopt this. There are many detoxifying qualities that can help to fortify your natural ability to fight illness.” Again, I was intrigued, so I took action and I ordered a specific proactive health regimen for myself, and am now a flag-waving advocate for a company called Nature Provides. But the genealogy of that sequence of advocacy happened in real time.

In closing, developing life-coaching value-added skills will sound “out there” for some people, but we’re in an era where people want to belong to a community of trusted and honorable service providers who look out for each other. In the process, you get to work on yourself on your business and on your relationships in a way that makes you very attractive; random acts of kindness, addressing unmet needs and solving problems. Being a proactive advocate for well-deserving professionals, that’s appreciated now more than ever, not to mention being fulfilling and rewarding. 

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-28 19:32:30 • 2 minute read

I have never been a big fan of the jargon that exists in this space: "Book of business", "production", "circle of influence" and "holistic planning", just to name a few. To me, they speak more to the advisor’s interests, or are simply not intuitive to a client. It’s the lexicon of salesmanship rather than stewardship. I would much rather you refer to your value as being addressed by a panoramic process. To your network of trusted service providers, as a value-added support team. Some might consider that semantics, but I think everything matters and that everything should be client-centered.

To that end, I’d like you to consider formalizing how you engage other professionals into your process such as trusted accountants, estate planning attorneys, and real-estate agents to name a few. Rather than simply referring clients out to a different professional, formally create a listing of trusted and vetted professionals. There could be two tiers - core strategic partners that compliment your technical ability as well as others, including clients, who deliver value in a specific area. Consider this; I’m sure you’ve had clients who have recently opened up to you and possibly even started baring their soul to you about the things going on in their lives. Good and bad, silver linings about new or rekindled hobbies and interests. Getting into shape, taking better care of themselves. Newly discovered benevolent activities and the like, all the way across the spectrum to relationship, strains, fears, and anxieties, even mental health issues and the like. Make a listing of services - not specifically names, but areas of expertise – from which a professional provider can reach out to those specialists and inform them that you want to create a value-added support team from your vast array of relationships, whereby you could introduce someone where there’s a potential need.

If they see the merit in being involved, ask them “if an opportunity presents itself, where I can make an introduction, what would you like me to say? How would you like me to describe you?” Be ready for a very lively conversation, punctuated by the same question asked of you, to which of course you can reply by quickly outlining the strength of your people, the quality of your practice and the panoramic nature of your process. You can even go so far as to exchange introductory kits to bridge intent to actual consent. When it comes to introductions, stirring the pot like this will create a culture of advocacy and reciprocity and an elevated client experience. You will find yourself with more opportunities to collaborate in terms of events, webinars, and in social media, so that you can be exposed to the first-degree-of-separation relationships. That could be not only your MVPs, but their clients and acquaintances, some of whom could be your future most valuable prospects.

I don’t want to oversimplify this initiative. It requires a logistical process, a commitment and patience. If you want it to become a steady burner, rather than a shooting star, you can add value to client relationships, making them more “sticky.” You convert professional relationships into a mutually beneficial two-way street network, and you can be consistently introduced to more entrepreneurs and professionals that closely resemble your ideal client profile. There is an art and science to this, but in the end, giving does start the receiving process. 

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-21 18:59:59 • 5 minute read

Do your clients understand the difference between a financial plan and financial planning? A financial plan is an essential blueprint to provide clarity on the trajectory of your relationship and the pieces of the puzzle that need to be addressed by your people, your practice and your process, but that plan can become obsolete the moment any significant change occurs in the client’s life. Ongoing financial planning, on the other hand, is the keystone to your relationship. It is the lifeblood of your fee-worthiness, primarily because it’s fluid and dynamic and all-encompassing as the client’s life progresses.

One of the most profound changes you can make is enhancing your role as a goals-based planner. I’m sure you already show interest in why financial independence matters to a client and what goals they hope to achieve in life. I’d like you to consider professionalizing it further and then embedding it into the seventh pillar of your process (Value-Added Services). You can use social proof when introducing this to a client by saying that “you are starting to have many deeper conversations with long-term clients about their evolving goals and aspirations, and that you’re getting an even clearer appreciation for what financial independence really means to a client. It’s not just about a number - it’s a means to many important ends.”

So look for cues from the client and see how they respond to this introduction. If they engage, ask them if they see the merit in kick-starting a deeper dive using your approach to formalizing goal setting. If they say yes, simply ease in with this question, “Would you say that you are today where you thought you were going to be, or where you said you were going to be five years ago? In other words, five years ago, you had a beacon set for the future - and not just financially - are you there today?”

If the conversation that ensues is meaningful, pick your spot and then segue to the next question by simply asking, “What does Nirvana really look like for you in the future? If everything falls into place, what does that look like?” It’s not uncommon for the client to open up like a flower in the sun, outlining a wish list. Be sure to capture and chronicle everything they say.

With clients that really get into it, you can go even deeper and tie them into your financial planning process. If they are engaged, simply write five W’s on the backside of the agenda you’re using for the meeting, or simply ask them to write them down on a sheet of paper if you happen to have this conversation over the phone.

Explain that you’d like to frame goals around W5 and expand by filling out What, Where, When, Why, and Who. The first question in goal setting is what are you grateful for? This may seem counterintuitive because goal setting is generally about what you want, but currently lack. However, gratitude for what we already have is a powerful force to propel us towards what we want. Aspiration is fueled by appreciation. It can be a good idea to show the image of Maslow’s hierarchy as a reminder of the things humans strive for, but it also reminds us not to take what we already have for granted. You’ll see the conversation go deeper.

Then you can invest the past and the present into the future by pivoting to the next question, “Where do you see yourself in the future?” You can either remind the client or introduce the client to the acronym FORM (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Money) and talk about the importance of getting goals out of one’s head and onto paper, or you can fuel the conversation by providing examples of other clients, family, occupation, recreation, and money goals. Be sure to write everything down because you will summarize what they said and archive it into their Personal Financial Organizer. Once they have verbalized 10 or more goals, ask them, “When specifically, do you hope to achieve those goals?” As they’re responding, you can add some commentary around the importance of cause and effect - the power of compounding incrementalism, patience and how the most enlightened clients you discuss this with are clear and at peace with expectation management, external dependencies, and other key facts of life.

The conversation can get a little heavier in the next question. “Why is all of this so important to you?” It can feel heavy because it focuses on the esteem and self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy. One’s sense of purpose and reason for being and how it’s as much about who we become as a person as it is about how much we earn and accumulate.

Finally, the question that starts to bridge the client’s goals and pursuits to your relationship and your value. “Who do you need to become? And who do you need to associate with to make all of this a reality?”

The lens for how important the Law of Environment is becomes more focused. Who we associate with and delegate responsibility to is crucial. The degree that we empower and not micromanage, the value we place on liberation and order that we achieve because of the professionals we engage with. The importance of aligning ourselves with people who are philosophically in sync with us, and the degree that their value is not just relevant to us today, but also in the future; all ensures that we focus on what that professional is worth rather than what they cost.

I won’t be surprised if you talk about how you learned that you had to disassociate from people who are not a good fit.

As you grow your business down to a natural capacity of ideal clients you are perfectly suited for, your relationships will strengthen your fee-worthiness, referability will increase and your level of fulfillment will intensify.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-14 19:05:14 • 2 min read

As we head into a new era, there’s a tremendous opportunity for a financial professional to deepen their relationships with high-value clients and to put more distance between themselves and everyone else vying for the same clients.

Before I get into that, I’d like to ask you a couple of simple questions. Do you want to swim in a pool of sameness, by simply hoping a client will select from a generic menu of products and services? Or do you want to achieve professional contrast by having a client buy into your proprietary process?

Do you want a client to ask you if you sell, for example, long term care? Or do you want a client to ask if long-term care is part of your panoramic process?

Lastly, do you want to find out that a client bought a product or service from another provider because they weren’t aware that it was a solution you could have provided? We’ll be releasing three more articles on the Seventh Pillar over the coming weeks. We’ll lay out for you how to rejuvenate relationships, activate future pacing and ensure clients understand and appreciate your value fully and completely. If you’ve already adopted and customized our ‘Seven Pillars, One Process’ approach, you know how to frame your value, and this series will help you go even deeper. In this series, we’re going to place a specific emphasis on the seventh pillar (Value-Added Services), because it’s the most important for amping up your fee-worthiness and decommoditizing your value.

So as you can see from the Seven Pillars, in essence, you’re not an asset manager. Asset management is part of your process. You don’t sell insurance products, but risk management is an essential part of your process. On it goes to the seventh pillar, your value added services that clients will find to be of immense value. Not just because you are a good person, but because it’s all part of your well-thought-out process. It wouldn’t surprise me if you had 15 distinct value added services. Developing a financial plan, providing fluid and dynamic planning advice, being a sounding board for friends and family members, deploying your service model and so on. My three favorites - which we’ll drill into over the next three articles – are being a goals-based planner, being a trusted life-coach resource and providing a formalized Value Added Support Team (VAST).

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-07 19:09:35 • 2 minute read

That moment of truth is a big one. 

When you have to have a conversation with a client about an upcoming transition, such as selling your business, it can feel ominous and overwhelming to the client. However, with a little preparation, and by positioning it in the right way in terms of your clients’ best interests, it can help to alleviate any fears they may have had, and help them to embrace the upcoming transition as a benefit.

Transitions can include having to allocate a client to a different model, delegating the client to a different service provider within your bench, disassociating from a client altogether or even switching firms.  

In this article I will be speaking in the context of how to position your eventual departure from the industry and/or your retirement, because that is something that happens to everyone. However, the positioning I will discuss applies, to a greater or a lesser extent, to all of these cases.

Like all transitions, you want to frame it around the past, the present and the future. Order your talking points in that progression and start by honoring the past. Explain how much you love what you do. “It’s not a job. It’s a calling.” You’re very, very fortunate. You have a sense of purpose. You’ve enjoyed your client relationships. It’s been a tremendous honor, but ultimately - like your clients - you’ve aspired to having that work-optional lifestyle. 

You’ve got many things that you want to pursue and many other chapters in your life to write. It’s not that you’re “getting away from this”, it’s just a springboard into an evolved future. Then talk about the fact that you are a lifelong planner and you’ve been very methodical about this, and you’ve done extensive due diligence to ensure continuity and succession was addressed properly. Explain that you didn’t take that lightly. Talk about the fact that you’ve identified a new team who will be taking over. Qualify that around expectations. Explain that this will be a gradual wind down and that you’ll be retained as a consultant into the future. Again, touch on “You don’t have to do this, you get to do this. This has never been a job.”

Then talk about the future. Talk about the new team that’s acquiring your business and frame that in people, practice and process. Talk about how much you like and respect the people based on their credentials and skills and qualities. That they’re really good at what they do. But again, hit on your sense of purpose and passion for this very noble profession. Talk about the practice and how innovative they are and how they’ve adopted best practices to create a consistent client experience. That you were incredibly impressed relative to some of the other professionals you talked to. Talk about their process; talk about the fact that they have developed and refined a process that puts every piece of the puzzle together and how impressive that is. 

What’s really important here is that this isn’t interpreted as a hand-off. It’s an upgrade. It’s not that the past was flawed. This is just part of the evolution. They’ll be in very good hands and their client experience will be elevated. While you’ll still be involved in their lives, this is positioned as an opportunity for them to “level-up” going forward. Watch how your clients’ energize. On your side, note the liberation and order that comes in your life and how the appreciation for your value is rejuvenated. You’ll probably want to stick around and still be relevant, but on your terms.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-08-31 19:13:12 • 2 minute read

After all these years the most powerful campaign to deploy in the fourth quarter, when it comes to relationship management and business development, is still sending your clients and strategic partners a Thanksgiving card. It’s so incredibly powerful in terms of bang-for-the-buck and return on investment of time. Besides, I never get tired of hearing the stories.

The impact is both quantitative and qualitative. If you’re already sending out cards like this, you know it’s not uncommon for clients to call you up and thank you for thinking about them and sending out that beautiful card. That’s meaningful quantitatively, right?

Quantitatively, you’ll get a great family referral and when you call up the Rainmaker to say thanks for the introduction – and ask what prompted the conversation that led up to it, the Rainmaker will have told the story over Thanksgiving dinner. Usually with a family member having noticed the card and asked, “Who sent you that?” And the client said, “Well, my financial advisor did.” And the relative will have said, “Well, my financial advisor doesn’t send me cards like that.”

If you’ve consistently communicated your process and value and elevated your service, the client will go on to say something along the lines of, “Well, it doesn’t just stop there. I mean, they really take this seriously and they run their business like a business. The client experience is impeccable.” The next thing you know, the advocacy door is wide open.

Remember, you’re not just managing money, you’re managing how people perceive you and describe you and feel about the future. Advocacy means I, as a client, want to share that with others. So this human touch, this little meaningful gesture, can be profound.

If you send out the cards, keep going. Don’t stop. It’s got to be part of your ongoing process. If you haven’t done it yet, give it some serious consideration. In the fourth quarter, your clients interact with a lot of friends and family members, and certain things are topical. Just give them an opportunity to shine a light on your value and wave your flag.

You’ll ultimately come down to two very important decisions: Who and how. Who are you going to send these cards to? Are you going to limit it to the 20% of your clients who generate 80% of the business? Are you going to open it up and send it out to all of your clients and all of your strategic partners and just really help activate this sense of Thanksgiving and appreciation for good fortune? It doesn’t just mean money. It’s that they have the good fortune of having a relationship with you. That’s what a card like this can trigger.

In terms of the “how” - are you and your team going to DIY this, or are you going to outsource this to elevate the precision and put some more sand in your hourglass by giving you the gift of time, both in terms of the quality of the card, but also the execution? There’s fulfillment in sending these cards out professionally and in a timely, predictable manner. You probably already know that I feel very strongly about Lavish Cards (LavishCards.com), but, first of all, the cards themselves have incredible impact and shelf life.

By impact, I mean that you will own the mantle. It’ll be the nicest card they receive. And in terms of shelf life, again, so many stories come out of this. You’ll have clients that will tell you that they put all of the cards they received from you at Thanksgiving over the years on their dinner setting. Some will frame the cards. For others, it prompts them to send a Thanksgiving card to their close friends and family members. So while the impact and the shelf life is profound, there’s also the fulfillment.

Just taking that seriously in terms of a best practice is powerful. Give your clients something to think about, give them something to talk about. Ultimately, giving starts the receiving process, so be prepared to get a lot of recognition in terms of goodwill and introductions.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-08-24 19:12:11 • 2 minute read

I’m sure you’ve noticed, but the common quality of the very best in any field of endeavor, whether it’s an athlete, a performer or a fee-for-service professional, is that they share a relentless commitment to studying, practicing and refining their craft. Nobody out-works these people. If you’re familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s work, you know the concept of “10,000 hours” and how the cumulative investment of effort incrementally creates mastery and these incredible outcomes. This effort isn’t just to get them to a level of achievement. It’s to keep them there and to push back against any plateau now or later in life.

I’m sharing this with you because recently in a consultation with one of our clients, we talked about philosophy and how we see the world. I simply said that, “you know, my approach is ‘Always On’. Always work on myself personally and professionally and try to always be on.”

So there’s no bad days, no off days. It was a great conversation, but it led to the question of the origin of that philosophy. Where did that come from? For me it really gathered steam in the mid-nineties, sparked primarily by five books.

The first book was by Jim Rohn called The Seasons of Life, in which he said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on anything else and be a serious student.” Number two was Michael Gerber’s book, the E-Myth in which he said, “Don’t work in the business, having a job; work on the business, building an enterprise.” He also said, “Every business is built to be sold.”

Then I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, where, as you would know, one of the habits is to begin with the end in mind. So things started coming together for me.

Then I read Harry Beckwith’s book, Selling the Invisible. He writes about the distinctions and nuances of not selling something tangible or physical in a bricks-and-mortar setting, but being a fee-for-service professional. In your case, promoting the promise of the future, right? The ability to look to the future with anticipation instead of apprehension. That can be a bit abstract, but that’s where the importance of stewardship over salesmanship really occurred to me. Your value is bought, not sold. I know the book couldn’t have been called Make It Easier to Buy the Invisible, but you get the point.

Lastly, there was Tom Stanley’s great book The Millionaire Next Door. He gave a great overview of the mindset of first-generation self-made affluent business people and all the benefits, but also the commonalities and the consequences. Especially when first-generation earned money goes into motion and becomes second generation found money. But what was really interesting in that book for me, was when he talked about vetting a financial advisor. He said, “Look, if you want to be on the same wavelength, full disclosure, full transparency, you ask for the advisor’s personal holdings and portfolio. You ask for the advisor’s financial statements and understand their net worth and where they stand financially at the same time that you show yours.” I thought, ‘isn’t that interesting?’

So where am I going with all this at this stage in your life? It can be summed up in one question: How much emphasis do you place on enterprise value?

You’re building something. Now you might say, “Well, I’m not thinking about selling for five, 10 or 15 years.” Maybe it’s not even occurring to you. That’s fine. By being a process-driven financial professional, who’s adopted and deploying best practices. You are slamming money in the bank. It’s your savings, and it’s not just money. It’s also time that’s being saved when the day comes that you do decide to sell your enterprise. The valuation will go so far beyond just AUM.

So the clients you have and the amount of money you manage, it’s all important. Revenue, EBITDA, all of it, very, very important, but the multipliers that are occurring today, I’ve never seen before. A lot of it is driven by continuity and consistency, best practices, intellectual property, and so on. I’m asking you to think about this because, again, every business is built to be sold.

Begin with the end in mind. There’s a two-for-one benefit that comes from being process-driven. When we work with a team, they are going to competitor-proof their clients. They’re going to capture money in motion. They’re going to convert clients into referral generating advocates and, yes, they’re going to restore liberation and order to their lives. The business is going to serve their life - not the other way around, but every investment of effort will contribute to their enterprise value.

Your reward is both value and time - how quickly that transaction will occur, how much money will be realized - through the biggest asset you possess. Your clients being in good hands, because your fit process will make sure there’s a good fit. There’ll be no anticlimactic outcomes or seller’s remorse because of the process-driven approach you will take. So work on yourself personally and professionally and work on your business. They’re both incredibly valuable.

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2021-08-17 20:54:09 • 3 minute read

Despite, and partly because of, the disruption in 2020-21, as we move forward some advisors are going to substantially grow their practice. Those that do will be the ones who understand the human nature component to every interaction with clients. Whether in a reframing meeting or meeting with a new prospect, the minor adjustments you can make to the conversation have incredible lasting impact.

The commonalities of elite teams, and who have just added fuel to their growth, is their ability to achieve professional contrast, stand out, and amplify their branding strategy by addressing the human nature component.

What’s often misinterpreted is what branding does, rather than what it is. Ultimately what it can do is activate the human dynamic. It can activate advocacy. Clients are open to the idea of waving someone’s flag, but they need to feel compelled to do so. Advocacy does not happen because someone is asked to do it - they do it because they feel they need to.

During the disruption there were advisors who were losing relationships because they didn’t know how to communicate their value, or even the services they provided. And even when they were trying to communicate, it was lost on their best clients, who were left asking "What are you asking me to do?"

There are clients that want a way to talk about their advisor and the experience in a compelling manner despite the chaos of the world at any given moment. If you reverse engineer from advocacy and what this does, there’s a multitude of benefits. 

First of all, look at disruption as an opportunity. Take the opportunity with existing clients by discussing and defining the current challenges which can help in countering loyalty fatigue. These conversations will help you to accentuate your fee-worthiness and will allow you to be more forward-facing with your clients so they know where they’re headed. 

This is about being proactive, not reactive and remembering that you are more than your fundamental, professional skills. Your skills are great, but they can also be bought instantly in online form if all you do is “asset management.”

You don’t just manage money, you manage expectations, you manage emotions, and you manage their concentration - their ability to tune out the noise and distraction. 

A related question is this: Do you have clients who may think you don’t know what’s going on in their life? Everything we do has a “human nature component” and it’s important to bring that into conversations with your clients. There are relationships being left on the table by not making that simple shift to what connects on a real level – and the cornerstone of connection is trust.

We constantly ask fee-for-service professionals “What, specifically, do your clients trust?” While there was a time your credentials and technical ability and integrity as a person were enough. Today, the key is to make sure that they identify with the practice, the client experience it creates, and your process. Further, how that process puts all the pieces of the puzzle together for your clients lives no wand into the future. If you can internalize all three of these sub-brands - practice, process and client experience -there’s an outcome where one plus one plus one equals such incredible outcomes, especially in periods of stress or resistance.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-08-10 21:10:44 • 2 minute read

As a practice-management and business development coach, financial advisors give me a lot of credit for having "good ideas". Truth be told, any semblance of "creativity" on my part simply stems from my ability to conceal my sources. All kidding aside, financial advisors constantly share with me what works and what doesn’t and I act as a conduit by sharing my observations along the way.

My point is this. There are a lot of so-called experts in this business speaking at conferences, conducting webinars (and distributing tips via email) talking about ways for you to get more referrals, make more money, run a better business and the like. And while there is some merit to all of that, chances are what you really want to know is "What are other advisors doing that’s working today?"

And here is the best part, the things that are working really well out in the field are typically simple, easy to implement ideas that you’ll actually enjoy doing. Let’s face it, a lot of practice-management and business building strategies that you hear from coaches sound good enough in theory but they also sound like work.

Connecting With Your Clients on a Different Level.

On a recent online virtual conference I was conducting, I was talking about the importance of an advisor injecting some personality into his or her client communications strategy. It’s one thing to think of your business as an actual business but I’d also like you to think of it as a community that your clients want to belong to. Building long-term client relationships isn’t just about the returns you help them achieve, it’s also about how being a client of yours makes them feel. And the better they feel about your community the more likely they will stay loyal and introduce a friend or family member to you.

A Simple, Easy-to-Implement and Effective Idea

A great idea that came out of that conference was this: have each of the advisors and support staff in your branch bring in a picture of their family and create a collage of the pictures in a large frame and display it in the reception area. I’ve known of other advisors who have done a variation of this by putting the family pictures as well as photos of team initiatives like fund raisers and other charitable events in a photo album and leaving it on the coffee table in the client waiting area. In every case, advisors who have done this talk about how favorably people respond. Prospective clients aspire to belong to the community, clients feel good about belonging and your staff love the vibe this concept creates in the office.

A Deeper Dive 

Take the concept of creating a community feel to another level. I know a financial advisor who sponsored a young swimming sensation (from a financially challenged situation) so that he could travel to swim meets and compete at the highest possible level. A picture of the swimmer displayed in his office was always something that clients, prospective clients, fellow staff members and wholesalers spoke of.

Another advisor helped with a portion of sponsorship so that a high school class could go on a mission to a developing country to help build a small school. That picture of the students displayed in the advisors office is something that virtually everyone gravitates to. Another advisor did a client event where he rented a movie theater for a screening of a Disney Pixar film and the cost of admission for the kids was to bring a can of food for the local food bank. The picture of the kids standing beside the mini mountain of food outside the theater is a recurring topic of conversation in the office.

Giving Starts the Receiving Process

The Law of Reciprocity is powerful. And to quote Norman Schwarzkopf on the topic of leadership, "People always follow character first, strategy second." When you put a human touch to your business development efforts, and in the process express your gratitude to the community, you become more attractive and more compelling to everyone you come in contact with.

It Sounds So Corny!

I will say that there have been occasions where I've presented ideas like this at a seminar and some of the audience rolled their eyes to the point I felt like I was talking to slot machines. Remember, you aren’t marketing to yourself. Furthermore, at the end of the day you are in the relationship management business. With the velocity of technology creeping into our lives accelerating, it’s the human touch that really stands out and get’s people’s attention. Don’t get faked out by all the fancy and esoteric business building ideas that sound good at a conference and then go to your head to die. Long-term relationships built on trust stem from your credentials as a financial advisor and the chemistry you build with your clients.

And from my years of experience I can tell you this; the feedback loop on initiatives like this can be faster and more positive than anything else you do.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-07-27 15:10:28 • 2 minute read

Have you ever considered what your practice's most valuable intellectual property is? Would it surprise you to know that your financial acumen is not at the top of the list? What you know about money is important; however, the real asset is what you know about your clients.

When you take the time to complete extremely thorough profiles of your clients and efficiently archive these records, you are able to offer your current clients better service. When you are able to interpret and leverage the data you collect, you can attract better quality prospective clients.

Know Your Client

In recent years our industry regulators have mandated that advisors comply with the ’Know Your Customer’ rules which requires them to identify their clients and ascertain relevant information pertinent to doing financial business with them. It’s a mistake to confuse the due diligence requirement with actually knowing your client. Often, we encounter advisors who review a client’s previous year’s income tax returns or who ask for a copy of their wills. This type of financial reconnaissance is a great start, but to really know your client, you need to learn about more than just their financial situation.

We recommend that you collect data about your top clients in these four categories: Family, Occupation, Recreational pursuits and Money. This is FORM information. It’s no accident that 

‘Money’ is last on the list – knowing about your top clients’ money is a given in your line of work. It’s your job to discover the rest of the story. In addition to asking for every detail about their financial affairs, you need as much information as possible about their family, what they do for a living and how they like to spend their time.

Why does having this information matter? Knowing this information sets you apart from other financial advisors. The proprietary, non-financial information you know about your clients is one of the main things that keep your competitors at bay. Without this, your competitors can only talk shop with your clients. Your clients are with you because they like you, not because of anything spectacular you have done with their money. They especially like you when you show an interest in their lives.

When you combine the extremely valuable, non-financial information with a highly professional approach, your clients will feel like they are part of an exclusive club. The details you know about them are the ties that bind them to you.

What if your client has assets spread between multiple advisors? In most cases, this occurs because none of you has proven yet to be the superior advisor. How do you change that perception? Do you want to become your client’s exclusive advisor? You have to differentiate yourself on something other than portfolio or investment performance. The best way to do this is through building trust based on the knowledge you have about FORM.

Develop an action plan to gather and store FORM information about your top clients 

Use FORM as a guide to determine what kinds of questions to ask when talking with your clients at review meetings or during call rotations. Advisors using a CRM (Client Relationship Manager like the BlueSquareToolkit.com) should record every detail of their client’s lives - from their culinary preferences to the name of their family pet. You should have contact information for your client’s other professional advisors attorneys, bankers, accountants. If your clients do have assets held elsewhere (with Discount Brokers, Insurance Professionals, etc.) you should have the names and phone numbers of these providers as well. If you already know the answers to some of the FORM questions for a particular client, begin there and write the information down. Your staff should participate in FORM collection process also.

Show Your Client

Once you have collected FORM information, you need an effective way to store it. If you are able to easily retrieve your FORM data, then you can leverage it to create the type of service model that will set you apart from everyone else.

FORM is an integral part of the Blue Square Toolkit. When you utilize FORM information in easy to access contact records, you and your staff are well informed whenever you deal with clients. With a web-based system like the ToolKit, you can review a particular client’s information on your desktop while you are on the phone, even as your assistant is working with the same client record.

Grow Your Clientele

When you pay attention to details that are important to your clients, providing them high-quality, personalized service based on the knowledge you have of their lives, you will create long-lasting relationships based on trust. Your clients will become your advocates. They will be comfortable with the work they do with you. They will talk about you when the subject of money arises with their inner circle of friends, family and associates. These people will compare the great service you offer with the level of attention they are currently receiving, get the nagging feeling that they are receiving sub-par service from an inferior advisor, and then ask to be introduced to you. This phenomenon is a great example of referability, client service and client acquisition all working in concert!

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-07-06 16:54:45 • 2 minute read
“We can, if we so desire, refuse to cooperate with the blind forces that are propelling us.” - Aldous Huxley

The strategic planning process can reveal where minor adjustments can be made in your business, and highlight that it’s usually minor adjustments that can lead to major improvements. Very few advisors I work with are way off track, or need dramatic wholesale changes to the way they conduct themselves. But the adjustments needed aren’t always obvious without a fresh set of eyes to identify them.

Case in point, in our on-going practice management coaching with financial professionals we often remind our clients of this simple fact: being a great financial advisor in and of itself is no guarantee for success in this business. We have seen time and time again where the most effective advisors with limitless growth and progress potential aren’t necessarily the most sophisticated asset managers. The common thread however is that they are the most effective at practice and relationship management.

History provides countless examples in many walks of life that demonstrate the need to possess strong business acumen along with core skills. One of my favourite examples is the rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, two inventors who both made enormous contributions to society but also had two dramatically different outcomes in life. Edison’s company ended up becoming GE while Tesla sold his patents to Westinghouse and ended up dying alone, impoverished, and in debt. Many argue that Tesla was as good, or even a better inventor, than Edison but Edison’s business skills were far superior.

Clearly I will never trivialize the importance of being a skilled asset and risk manager. But it is a given that you are effective there. My point is that there is little correlation between how effective you are as a financial advisor and how successful you will ultimately be in terms of unlocking your full potential. The days of building the better mouse trap and the world beating path to your door are long gone. Sure ongoing professional development to sharpen your asset management skills is essential, but do you invest the same amount of time sharpening your practice and relationship management processes too? They are of equal importance at the very least.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-06-22 16:52:16 • 3 minute read

The ‘elevator speech’ is a sales technique that has been around an awfully long time. Although it may certainly have its place for specific types of salespeople, I for one sometimes feel it is extremely ill-suited in the Financial Advisory world.

If you truly wish to have that consultative style practice, where referrals are the norm, it might be wise to abandon some of the sales approaches that were imprinted onto our psyches from day one in the business. The elevator speech is one of those approaches.

For an advisor looking to attract affluent clientele, the very notion that I can compel or predispose someone to become my client because of some snappy banter upfront, is unlikely at best.

I’ve heard Financial Advisors many times, and in various social situations, attempt to do this very thing. As an observer, it seemed that if they accomplished anything, it was probably turning the listener off and inspiring them to seek better conversation elsewhere.

The irony of it all is that people are attracted to things that they cannot have, or that are ‘hard to get,’ so why do we work so hard to ‘chase’ with the elevator speech, when we really should be working on trying to ‘attract’ instead?

That said, if you think about it, the elevator speech completely goes against basic human nature. Further, although the words have been prettied up greatly, the elevator speech basically announces to the world that you are on the hunt for clients. This is not attractive to me whatsoever. Is it to you?

So what then is the alternative? This is a recurring situation, in a variety of business and social interactions where we are asked what we do for a living. How best to make that compelling and attractive?

The answer lies in trying to paint a picture, in as few words as possible, that describes your business in a way that the listener wants to be a part of. You then stop talking about it. You then start asking that person questions about their life and their business. Trust me, even if you don’t say another word because the person is telling you their entire life-story, they will recall you later as that amazing conversationalist at the party. You know, the one with the exclusive Financial Advisory practice?

An example of some anti-elevator phraseology (delivered in a low-key and casual tone, and of course with a smile):

“Oh, well. I am a Financial Advisor. I have a practice in town here that intentionally has a smallish number of very terrific clients, and you know, ever since I started working with people that I like, it’s a lot more rewarding for me, it’s more exclusive, and I am really enjoying some terrific relationships with my clients. You know, I really wish I had taken this approach years ago. It is just a really exciting time to be in this business. Well enough about me. How about you Dorothy? What do you do? Oh really? How interesting, please tell me about that.”

So, to dissect that suggested phraseology, you have just described an attractive situation that any reasonable person would want to be a part of, but you made no overtures to doing business together. You alluded to your approach by talking about the great relationships you have formed, which displays your integrity.

You also projected great scarcity for yourself in the process, and you have made yourself attractive. Anyone reading between the lines sees someone who clearly does not need the business, and your probing questions about them show charm and confidence.

I know of a young advisor that used this exact approach. He worked previously at one of the ‘Baby Bells’ (phone company), and continued to network with his past colleagues, and some other local groups, and in seven months had seven clients that all had three-million or more each in investable assets. This last fact was by design as well, for he had set an ideal client profile for himself that stated his target market was people in the three-million plus range in investable assets, and he stuck to it religiously.

This advisor had incredible discipline and word started to get around. Every time one of his ex-colleagues asked him what he was doing these days, he stated his anti-elevator mantra, and then started gathering F.O.R.M. (Family, Occupation, Recreation and Money) information on whoever he was speaking with.

Because of his discipline, you can imagine it was only a matter of time before someone said: “You know, I am not that satisfied with my Financial Advisor right now. Are you taking on new clients?” He would reply: “Well, that possibility is there for sure, but it has to be a good fit for me, and for you of course. How about you give me your number, and I will call you when I am at the office. I have an initial meeting process I use whereby the two of us can mutually determine whether or not we might be a good fit for each other.”

After this, they would get back to having fun, or business, or wherever it is they happened to be. It is an incredibly disarming approach, and unlike what many have come to expect in those all-too frequent situations.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2021-06-08 19:08:03 • 3 minute read

The Difference Between a Client for Life and Once in a Lifetime

Many people in business are transactional in that they sell something to a client but that may be the one and only time they do business together. Think of a car salesman, real estate agent, or the guy who sold you an air conditioner or installed your pool. There is a very good chance you will never do business with them again. Sure you might refer someone their way or you may need servicing down the road, but more than likely it will be "one-and-done".

Transactional sales people essentially trade their time for money and are always on the prowl for the next deal. Because of that, they don't need to worry too much about whether or not they like the customer they are dealing with. They simply get the deal, earn the commission and then move on. For a financial advisor though, the relationship lasts long after the initial commissions have been earned and spent. The lifetime value of a client relationship is where the real value is. This goes beyond just the recurring advisory fees or trailers. It also impacts money in motion opportunities as well as on-going referrals.

It is for that reason that having a panoramic Ideal Client Profile is essential. Now here is where it gets interesting. Virtually every advisor already has some kind of ideal client profile but they often have two or three substantial shortcomings: 

  1. It only focuses on assets
  2. It is in the advisor's head
  3. They keep it to themselves

Be Panoramic

Many advisors create a profile that focuses on investment "minimums" and the like. The ideal client is a good fit because his or her investment needs mesh with your expertise AND because they have attitudinal qualities that are aligned with yours. Assets can change over time while attitudes are often hardened. It costs you more than it gets you to deal with a client with great assets and a lousy attitude. 

Create a Checklist

Get it out of your head! It can be abstract to simply say that "I only work with nice people." List out the attitudinal qualities you are looking for. In other words, "My Ideal Client...":

  • Focuses on what I am worth, not what I cost
  • Sees the value in empowering me fully and exclusively
  • Lives within their means
  • Doesn't micro-manage
  • Is responsible and accountable
  • Is consistent
  • Is enlightened about the ebb and flow of the markets
  • Is respectful and courteous with my staff

...and on it goes.

Share it With Clients and Prospects

This checklist will give you and your staff clarity and focus in terms of sticking ardently to an Ideal Client Profile. But don't stop there, show your clients, prospective clients and partners your detailed profile during a review meeting, fit conversation, etc. The benefits of taking the abstract nature of an Ideal Client and documenting it into something people can conceptualize is powerful on many levels. New clients develop a sense of belonging and accomplishment that they are a good fit for you. They don't feel they are buying investments in a transactional way, they feel they are buying-into relationship with a professional. For partners, you become more refer-able because they feel more comfortable endorsing a consultant with a process. And you get to re-frame your value with existing clients and turn them into power brokers. They become re-acquainted with you thus increasing the quantity, and especially the quality, of people they endorse you to. 

Rules of Engagement and the Power of Checklists

Airline pilots are great examples of professionals who rely on checklists. Even though they have flown hundreds of times and could probably take off and land in their sleep, they still go through a checklist to ensure nothing gets overlooked. Create a panoramic and all-encompassing Ideal Client Profile and show it to people as part of your overall process. Demonstrate that you are all things to some people and that you are methodical and deliberate in your approach. Along with the natural Law of Expectation, this process and mindset will help you predictably attract the type of clients you are looking for. Some advisors call this a self-fulfilling prophesy. I say that when you clearly establish and then communicate what you expect, you tend to attract it into your life.

Continued success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

 

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2021-06-01 20:00:11 • 2 minute read

The Best Way to Improve What You Do is to Listen to the People You Do it For

All elite professionals understand the importance of ongoing personal and business development. Top performers know that they have to be continually sharpening their skills. It’s true, to earn more we have to learn more. But it can be a challenge to make the time and to measure the ROI. That said, and as the metaphor reminds us, you can never be too busy cutting wood that you can’t make time to sharpen your saw.

Now you might be thinking that I’m going to recommend that you attend seminars and boot camps, hire a coach, read books and participate in virtual learning programs to improve your skills and deliverables. All of those options are fine. But before you ever listen to an outsider giving you advice, listen to your clients. They are far better equipped to tell you what you need to do to improve. As Mark Twain said, “The customer is the only critic whose opinion really counts.”

There is a double-win when you listen to your clients. Not only do you get a clear sense in terms of how they perceive you (and describe you to others) but you also can use this initiative to drive business. The ideas in this Actionable Tip of the Week can create an invaluable foundation for on-going client acquisition. We’ve seen several advisors achieve meaningful breakthroughs using some of these simple strategies.

You can start with a low-key and informal survey using probing questions during your next round of client call rotations. As you know, we recommend that you consistently reach out to your best clients via the telephone as part of your ongoing service process. As you also probably know, we suggest that you approach each call with the goal of being interested rather than trying to be interesting. You aren’t calling to sell something or be the bearer of profound news or insight. You are simply touching base and asking good questions. This is about competitor-proofing and long-term relationship management. Obviously you want the initial questions to be about the client and their  F.O.R.M. (Family, Occupation, Recreational interests and Money) But there is a natural segue in every call where you can shift the focus to you while still asking their opinion.

1. To ask to get a sense for their satisfaction and loyalty is:

What’s the one thing that you really value most about our relationship?

2. To see if they understand everything you do and provide:

Have we done an effective job explaining our full array of services?

3. To get the client thinking about people they could introduce is:

When you talk about me with a friend, what do you say? How do you describe me?

It’s a good idea to start a question with this simple softening statement:

If you don’t mind me asking…

And then clarify the question with a little more details by saying:

The reason I’m asking is….

The key here is that you aren’t marketing to yourself. It’s easy to get into a bit of a vacuum with your business development efforts and lose objectivity. These questions get the clients engaged so that you can get a sense for where you stand.

From a loyalty perspective, your clients are exposed to countless competitive messages. You want to show them that you don’t take them for granted. From a money-in-motion perspective, your clients’ needs are constantly evolving. As a new need presents itself, you want the client to instantly think of you as the person to fill that need.

From an advocacy perspective, you don’t know when a referral opportunity will come about but when it does you want to be top of mind with your clients so that they will be compelled to endorse you.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-05-25 16:40:01 • 2 minute read

Clients should be loyal to a process not just to a person and performance

Stephen Covey, the legendary author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, advised that we should always begin with the end in mind. It is for that reason we suggest that you apply a mindset of building a business with the intention of selling it for maximum value at some point in the future.

Your Business Should be Built to be Sold

Even if the thought of selling your business hasn't really crept into your mind, or is a distant vision for many years down the road, it's still a good idea to apply the philosophy of maximizing the equity value in your business on an ongoing basis.

This goes beyond just practice management in the traditional sense. Sure deploying best-practices creates a client experience that generates loyalty and refer-ability. But if you don't document those procedures you are still only trading your time for money. You have a job that ultimately generates an hourly income for you. Don't get me wrong, you can earn a tremendous living that way but you still want to keep an eye on the prize - maximizing the equity value of your business beyond just Trailing Twelve Months (TTM).

Beyond Trailing Twelve Months

The best business is one that earns you a living and builds your legacy. This dual-track stems from creating and deploying predictable, sustainable and duplicable procedures that are documented in a playbook and are consistently implemented. This creates the consistency that your clients crave that insulates them from competitive factors and other issues beyond your control. But the double-win is that when it eventually comes time to sell your business, the suitor realizes your clients are loyal to your process, not just to you and the performance you generate. Additionally, they realize that your procedures have not only created a durable business - he or she can also apply your procedures to their existing business. 1+1 really can actually equal 3.

When it comes to maximizing a business valuation, the buyer wants to ensure continuity through and beyond the acquisition process. When all of your processes are documented in your playbook, and you present a transitional process to professionally communicate with clients well in advance of the transition, predictability elevates. And this applies even if you plan to sell just a portion of your business through a right-sizing process.

The Rule of 3

Every action you do three or more times and that has three or more steps in the process, should be documented in your playbook. Get everything out of your head and the heads of your team members. The benefits of a playbook go beyond just consistency and continuity. The efforts compound over time creating momentum - regardless of who is deploying them. If a business is driven by maverick talent - talented people who operate daily out of their heads - the value is lower than a business driven by the procedures contained in a playbook. Remember, the faces on your team may change over time but the processes remain.

That's not to say that you will always remain on auto pilot after you create a playbook. The Law of Optimization suggests that every process can be refined over time. It's funny, when I ask an advisor "Why do you do things that way?" The answer is often the same: "That's the way we've always done it." They unconsciously drifted into a pattern and then arrived at a set-it-and-forget-it mode. Einstein was right when he defined insanity as being the repetition of an action over time and expecting a different outcome. This explains why many advisors who have been in the business for 15 years really have one year of experience 15 times. Sure they are making a living, but they aren't building a business that is valued for more than the industry average.

Let Pareto Systems help you create a playbook to harness and deploy the true value of best practices. The value of your business will increase and so too will the fulfillment you realize from it.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2021-05-18 16:57:13 • 2 minute read

If you are like many Financial Advisors who have a team of associates and assistants helping you run your business profitably and efficiently, then you undoubtedly have strategic planning sessions to kick your own tires and identify untapped opportunities, areas for refinement, miscues and the like. Whether these sessions are held weekly, monthly or quarterly in your office or even yearly at an off-site retreat, one of the key points of discussion should be "Do we deserve what we want?" The word de-serve stems from the Latin words "to serve". In other words, is the level of service we provide in proportion to what we expect to earn from our client relationships.

So in your next team meeting, set aside some time to go through this simple process. A Service Matrix is a listing of all the services you provide and identifies which clients receive which services based on their classification. Clearly a Triple-A client will receive every form of service you provide. They deserve it. A Double A client will receive every form of service you provide as well because they could be on the verge of Triple-A status. But a Single-A, B, C or D client will not receive the same level of service. You can't be all things to all people. A Service Matrix ensures you are all things to some people. 

Here are the steps to creating a Service Matrix:

  1. List out all of your proactive and reactive services - everything from call rotations, to thanksgiving cards to review meetings and client events. Get them out of your heads and list them. You'll be shocked and then impressed at the length of the list.
  2. Identify who on your team provides each service deliverable - let there be no doubt about who is accountable. This is an essential step to consistency and predictability.
  3. Ensure the services are documented in your Playbook - Empower your staff to document each process into a best-practice and turn it into an intellectual property.
  4. Apply your client classification - AAA clients receive everything - AA clients receive everything, A, B and C clients receive less 
  5. Be clear about your rules of engagement - identify qualities you hope to attract and traits that you have no interest in going forward
  6. Recurring services - use a CRM (like the Pareto Toolkit) to create automated processes for recurring activities to create efficiency and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

They Don't Let Everyone into the Airport Lounge

Once you have done this quick and easy process, be consistent and clear in your execution and communication. You aren't being elitist or disrespectful, you are simply ensuring that your clients receive the level of service they deserve. And along the way you will earn the right to expect your best clients loyalty, empowerment and advocacy.

Be Clear and Forthright and Transparent About How You are Compensated

Getting back to compensation for a moment, in review meetings with existing clients and in fit meetings with prospective clients it is essential that you communicate your compensation in a proactive manner. It's on their minds so take the mystery away by discussing it in a casual yet prepared manner. In the process you can create an aspirational environment when you outline that you have a service matrix and project scarcity because of your approach to providing the highest levels of service to the most deserving clients. It's amazing how much opportunity can be uncovered simply by explaining your code-of-conduct and commitment to best practices.

The Only Down-side

So what do you do when a Single-A client with great assets and a poor attitude and no advocacy discovers that they aren't invited to a client event or don't get taken out for lunch on their birthday. You apologize for not being forthright about your commitment to best practices and that you have a service matrix that ensures that your very best clients receive and enhanced level of service. In other words simply say this:

"I apologize for not being clear about this until now. But I made a decision that I wouldn't try to be all things to all people but rather all things to some people. My most deserving clients are those who fit my ideal client profile based on Assets that fit my expertise, an Attitude that is complementary with mine and a mindset of Advocacy meaning they introduce friends and family members to me as our relationship unfolds. And while you've been a great client in terms of Assets, we've had some issues regarding chemistry and you've never been inclined on the Advocacy side. I should have been more clear about how I pay tribute and say thanks to my Triple-A clients."

Don't be surprised if your Single-A clients says, "That's all it takes to be a Triple-A client. It never occurred to me to introduce people to you because I didn't even know you were accepting new clients. But I want to take our relationship to the next level." 

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-05-11 19:15:08 • 2 minute read

As a business development consultant, I am often asked to critique a business owner’s value proposition, mission statement or elevator speech. More often than not, my first observation is that the individual’s attempts seem pretty much like everyone else. Even though they use words like “unique” and “differentiate”, ultimately the communication is interchangeable, bland and easy to dismiss. Furthermore, the focus tends to be more on “What I do” and “How I do it”, with very little emphasis on “Why I do it”.

Don’t get me wrong, your process and professionalism are key components to being attractive to high quality clients. But your purpose is just as important as your process. In other words, when the WHY is clear, the HOW and WHAT become that much more powerful.

This is especially important when it comes to refer-ability. In order to increase the volume and quality of endorsements you receive, it doesn’t really matter what you believe, what matters is that your clients and partners believe what you believe. Unless, and until they do, their ability to relay your value persuasively to someone else will be hampered.

There is an old saying in marketing, "Facts tell, stories sell." This has never been more applicable than today as the commoditization of this industry continues to accelerate. Your value-proposition has to be interesting and engaging. To achieve that, when you are communicating your value, you have to put as much emphasis on you the messenger as you do the message. The services and solutions you provide are the message but you are the messenger. That’s what people really lock into, and what differentiates you from the pack.

In my travels, I've noticed a trend that supports all of this undeniably. When it comes to referrals, there are really only two camps: the advisors who effortlessly attract referrals and build a business with 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generation clients. The other consists of advisors who hit a plateau and can't seem to get off the client-acquisition treadmill. Naturally my goal has been to determine what distinguishes these two groups of advisors. And while there are several distinctions and commonalities, the common thread I see is that the most refer-able financial advisors have a clearly defined sense of purpose and they communicate it consistently to their clients and strategic partners.

The question is, do your clients know why they should refer someone to you? Have you communicated why you will make yourself available to speak to a friend or family member of theirs? Are you clear as to why your clients aren't referring people to you now?

Again, drive the concept of a referral with your sense of purpose. Use a personalized variation of this scripting:

“Let me tell you why I make myself available to be a sounding board for a friend or family member of a client. I became a financial advisor to help people make informed decisions with their financial affairs. Financial success is a matter of choice, not chance. I like helping people make informed choices. Frankly this is the most fulfilling part of my job. Bottom line is this, if they are important to you, they are important to me. And you can hold me accountable that they will view this process as a tremendous investment of their time. And as you know, a friend or family member does not need become a client to take advantage of this service”

When you position the concept of a referral as a service you are providing rather than as a favor you are seeking and then drive it home with your sense of purpose, refer-ability is amplified. You don’t look needy and your value is easy to describe to others.

Richard Branson, the legendary founder of the Virgin Group of Companies has provided us with many memorable quotes. But the one that supports the power of purpose best is this:

“Business has to enhance people's lives or it's simply not worth doing.”

You enrich lives based on your philosophy and process. It’s meaningful and it matters. When you communicate the fulfillment you get from delivering value to someone, you stand out from the pack, you are memorable, and you are more refer-able.

But I caution you, not everyone will get it. As Oscar Wilde said, “A cynic is someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.” Don’t let the cynics dictate your approach. Find the people who share and value your approach and have an alignment of interests. These are the people who embrace you so completely that they feel they are doing a friend a disservice by not introducing them to you.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-05-04 17:29:41 • 2 minute read

You’ve heard the expression that it is more important to reach people who count than it is to count the number of people you are reaching. I bring that up because it is essential that you get focused and establish what are called your MVP’s before you get started.

MVP stands for your Most Valuable Prospects. There are all kinds of prospects out there. The key is to zero in on and consistently attract those who are the most valuable and who meet your AAA ideal client profile based on their assets, attitude and advocacy.

Obviously the friends and family members of your clients are your very best MVP’s and the clients of your strategic partners are a close 2nd. Assuming you have done a good job maximizing your existing client relationships and you have professionally engaged strategic influencers such as accountants and lawyers, and you still find yourself with some time to deploy a pure prospecting campaign, well then let’s get started.

The first step is to understand the difference between narrowcasting and broadcasting.

Broadcasting

Broadcasting consists of classic marketing concepts such as direct mail, cold calling, newspapers ads, tradeshows, etc. We liken to this kind of marketing as spray and pray and it’s often about as effective as cutting down a tree with a hammer. There is an old saying in marketing that half of all advertising is wasted, we just don’t know which half. Broadcasting is expensive, time consuming, laborious and worst of all it sets you up for the most brutal emotion in marketing – it’s called anticipointment. You pour so much into a campaign and it turns out to be incredibly anticlimactic.

Narrowcasting

Narrowcasting on the other hand is far more effective. You simply pin-point a specific geo-graphic, demographic or socio-economic sector in your marketplace and you methodically and relentlessly turn it upside down. Broadcasting is a mile wide and an inch deep. Narrowcasting enables you to go deep and literally turn a target market into an impenetrable proprietary asset that your competitors will never crack.

So how do you identify a target market to narrowcast? The first place to start is to look at your favorite clients and Identify an Inside Champion. A good place to start to is look at what your favorite clients do for a living? I know of a financial advisor who had a great client who was an audiologist. We suggested that he contact the client and ask him out to lunch. At the meeting the advisor simply said,

“Look I really enjoy our relationship and frankly I’m fascinated with what you do. I want to become a specialist in your field rather than a generalist trying to be all things to all people. Tell me, what do I need to know, what do I need to read and where do I need to go to be a specialist to people just like you?”

The lunch meeting lasted a couple of hours. The client did a majority of the talking first by applauding the advisor for his initiative and then went on to counsel him on what it would take to be a specialist to Audiologists. The rest as they say is history. A few years later and after a lot of effort and homework this advisor pretty much owns that space.

He then, with the help of the inside champion, began the process of Developing an Insiders Reputation. This simply means that he developed the knowledge, insight and visibility so that he could connect and relate with his target audience in a way that made him compelling and unique.

And there are no limits. I’ve seen an advisor who owned a BMW motorcycle accidentally uncover that one of his best clients also owned a BMW motorbike. After making the connection that owners of BMW motorcycles are usually somewhat affluent, he approached the local dealer to see if he would sponsor and help promote a fundraising ride for the local children’s hospital. That was just the beginning to what has become an incredible target marketing effort.

I’ve seen seasoned advisors establish target markets with orthodontists and other professional sectors within the health and wellness community all stemming from one existing relationship. I’ve seen newer advisors establish target markets with franchise owners and other entrepreneurs. You can pretty much name it. From airline pilots to zoologists, advisors have built target markets based on a diverse array of affinity groups. Still to this day, one of my favorite examples is an advisor whose assistant’s father, who happened to be a dairy farmer, became a client and quickly developed an incredible relationship with the advisor. That one relationship along with some sustained effort led to dozens of new clients.

And talk about an insider’s reputation, this advisor went to county fairs, wrote financial planning articles in trade publications and today is the go-to guy for dairy farmers in his area. He lived by the mantra that you have to pull in the direction that people are already pushing you.

That is where the momentum develops.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-04-27 15:31:18 • 3 minute read

Developing an effective On-Boarding Process

My favorite topics for these articles stem from conversations I have with our coaching staff at Pareto Systems who share success stories from the field with me. Our coaching staff and I often have “Proof that it Works” conversations where they pass along feedback in terms of the impact our strategies are having on an advisor’s business.

Recently, I heard an interesting example about the importance of the New Client Process. As you may know, this process is the series of steps that take place from the moment you get a referral phone call right up to the point where you officially welcome a new person as a client, and everything in between. Many like to call this the On-boarding process.

At a glance, the New Client Process has five distinct steps:

  1. The Pre-Appointment Phase
  2. The 1st Appointment (or Fit Appointment)
  3. The Second Appointment
  4. The Third Appointment
  5. And finally, the New Client Welcome

Now, some might say that this seems like an awful lot of steps, and they would be right, but these are all necessary steps. This process is extremely attractive to potential clients, and more often than not, as a result of going through this process, the potential client ends up trying to convince the advisor to take them on as a client! On a regular basis, we also see advisors get referrals from someone shortly after bringing them on as a client! We see it happen all the time.

The coach who shared this story with me works with two brothers who have a successful practice in California. Both use this very same New Client Process, and they are enjoying a lot of success from this process and from their terrific implementation of it.

One of the brothers recently met with a prospective client, a wealthy lady who had north of $1,000,000 in investable assets.

As they sat down, and as the advisor pulled out the agenda to start the meeting, the lady announced the following: “I want you to know that I am interviewing different advisors.”

The advisor, in a cool and collected way, replied: “Well, I would be surprised if you weren’t. The reality is that we are interviewing you today as well. It is very important to our practice that my brother and I only take on clients that are a good fit.”

I only wish that I was in the room at the time when they were having this meeting, so I could have seen how the dynamic changed after the advisor replied in this fashion. He didn’t try to sell harder, or any of that nonsense, he simply stated the truth, which was that there were two decisions being made that day, both hers and his.

The wealthy lady became a client. It turned out that she had interviewed four different advisors in total, and the third such interview was with our client. It was just a few days later when a thank-you card arrived at the advisor’s office. It was from the very same lady, and in the card, she thanked them for deciding to take her on as a client. What a change in attitude from that first meeting, and it all had to do with the attractiveness of the New Client Process, and the skill of our client in implementing it.

The woman wasn’t done yet though. Shortly after the thank-you card arrived, my client received an email from her. She had copied her CPA on the email, and the message said: “You guys have to meet each other. The advisor gave the CPA a call, and they got together for lunch.

Over the lunch, my client learned that the CPA had a huge operation with 24 staff, and they specialized in ultra high-net worth types; the richest of the rich.

The advisor and his brother specialize in clientele in the 1-10 million range. The advisor candidly told the CPA this, and also told him that the ultra high-net worth types weren’t really their niche.

Ironically, it turns out that the 1-10 million range wasn’t the CPA’s niche either. His focus was going to remain on the ultra high-net worth types, and he and my client are now discussing the CPA referring over business in the 1-10 million range to my clients as it appears. He regularly receives those types of referrals, but isn’t really interested in that kind of business. The advisors certainly are though!

The next step is to show the CPA the highlights of the New Client Process, so that when the CPA does refer someone, he can take great confidence on that they will be well looked after, and how it will be done.

The bottom line is this. When you apply stewardship over salesmanship with a prospective client, you not only contrast yourself favorably to other advisors, you are also positioning yourself for advocacy with that person immediately. And then the domino effect begins.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2021-04-20 17:46:02 • 3 minute read

I’ve seen it time and time again. Being more productive doesn’t mean that you have to work harder or put in longer hours. You just have to be strict and economical with your time.

You do it every day, without thinking about it. When you buy a power screwdriver to replace your rusty old manual one, you are buying time. You are focused on accomplishing the same job but in less time and with less energy expended.

As I identified earlier, one way to manufacture capacity, free up time and reduce hassle factors is to right-size your client base. Focusing on how small you can stay has worked wonders for several advisors who hit a plateau, but that isn’t to say it is necessary for every advisor. Some advisors transfer B and C clients to a Call Center. Others hire a protégé to manage B clients to free themselves up to provide enhanced service to A clients.

Another approach is to come back to the Pareto Principal. If 80 percent of your business is stemming from 20 percent of your clients then you must invest 80 percent of your time with those clients on a one-to-one basis. And if 20 percent of your business is coming from 80 percent of your clients perhaps a one-to-many approach for your B clients using a managed money platform is the answer.

You’ve probably considered a managed money platform for a block of your B clients but never executed on the concept. I can tell you this - and this stems from countless observations - done properly, following a predictable and sustainable process that is positioned professionally and as a benefit to your clients, this can manufacture time and capacity to ensure that the business serves your life.

The key in that statement is that you position the concept as a benefit to your B clients. I say that because many advisors feel that the optics (from the clients’ perspective) of transitioning all or even just a block of B clients to a managed money program will be negative. Surely clients will feel they are being trivialized and will eventually defect to another advisor? I’m here to tell you that it all comes down to how you position it. Not to oversimplify it, but you can follow this simple checklist as a starting point: 

  • Research - It should go without saying, but scrutinize the platforms available to you and be in no hurry to select one that is the best fit.
  • Apply a two-meeting approach - The first meeting is for introducing the concept and the second is for the actual transition itself.
  • The importance of process - Explain the difference between a financial plan and on-going financial planning. 

This is the recipe for the secret sauce, for lack of a better analogy. With your B clients, you want to explain how this is a proactive and ongoing process that helps you both take a long view to financial planning while at the same time still being nimble enough to react to fluctuations and external events along the way.

Many clients think of financial planning as a one-off event where the advisor diagnoses the client’s issues, identifies their goals and objectives and then creates a 120-page plan that the client probably won’t read or understand but might feel better simply holding.

True financial planning is a fluid and dynamic process that can be affected greatly by Critical Life Events; any one of which can instantly render that 120-page plan obsolete. When you are transitioning your relationship to a managed money approach, you can re-frame the client’s understanding of your role in their life. It is one thing to explain the difference between transactional commissions and transparent asset management fees, but a Fee-Worthy Advisor goes deeper than that.

The Fee-Worthy Advisor uses words like “process”, “consistency” and “predictability” - not in terms of returns on a statement but in terms of advisor-client engagement. They use metaphors like the weather, a GPS and the seasons to help the client conceptualize how the advisor navigates through storms and seasonal swings. The markets are like the weather - you can anticipate some storms and others you cannot. The markets are like the seasons. You can count on the seasons of life but the severity of each season can fluctuate from year to year.

This can help your clients truly understand your role and your value and see past turbulent periods.

Many advisors say that having a Fee-Worthy mindset puts you on the same side of the table as your client. I say that it puts you both on the same wavelength, and that understanding competitor-proofs your clients, minimizes their anxieties about external factors and events and improves your refer-ability. It also has proven to dramatically reduce the daily frequency of inbound client calls because of their renewed confidence in you and your process, and that takes the transitional process from time well spent to the best investment you’ll ever make.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-04-13 19:47:46 • 3 minute read

Is it your fault as an advisor that the markets are volatile and the future is uncertain? Not any more than it’s your fault when autumn becomes winter. Your responsibility, however, is that your clients are prepared for winter, and that it’s not a shock to them when it arrives. However, if your clients tend to refer you only when things are rosy, you have a serious vulnerability in the way that you have positioned yourself. Things do not have to be this way!

If advisors would take a page or two from a profession that has already gone through this brand of disharmony, the dentists in the preceding section being a great example, they would finally have a business where clients can and will refer them regardless of how the markets are doing. This is not a pipe dream. There are advisors who have already integrated these things into their businesses. These advisors have clients who have been taught the doctrine and who are not faked out by volatility. As a result, because their clients’ expectations have been exceeded in the areas that the advisor can control, these advisors are immensely referable 365 days out of the year.

When ‘instant rapport’ takes place at your office and the experience is coupled with a client process where the complexities of financial planning have been simplified and future-paced, clients will embrace your efforts. They will also realize that it would be a disservice not to recommend this five-star service to others they know who are unhappy with their professional advisors.

Through a crystal-clear client process, clients are taught that financial planning is not an event, but a process that involves ongoing interaction with their professional advisor, repeatedly and consistently as their lives and needs unfold.

Like the “dental health” mantra, clients can learn a financial mantra and will deliver it to others just as naturally and eloquently. With this kind of structure, to blame a professional advisor for an occasional or sustained hit to a balanced portfolio would be akin to blaming a dentist for your impacted wisdom tooth. The end result is that the instant rapport and the Client Process are what the clients learn to value in their dealings with the advisor, instead of fixating on the rate of return on their investments.

To those advisors who doubt the veracity of this claim, the number-one piece of feedback I hear from the clients of professional advisors who have embraced this approach of perfecting what they can control and improve on is: “Finally! This is what we’ve been waiting for!” Typically, when affluent prospective clients hear about a superior brand of advisor, they will distance themselves from the transaction-oriented advisor as quickly as possible and gravitate to the full-service advisor.

The bottom line is that everything – every action and reaction – executed by you and your team makes you either more or less referable. Scrutinize everything and create a referable experience so that you can nail down the small changes that makes for major improvement; the processes that sharpen the winning edge.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2021-03-30 18:54:02 • 2 minute read

It's an understatement to say that spring is a hectic time of the year for financial advisors. Tax season and other issues probably have you running at full throttle right now. But with every challenge, a unique opportunity can exist and I've seen in the past how the spring season can be a tremendous time to re-connect with your best clients in a unique and memorable way.

The Signal to Noise Ratio

The velocity of noise your clients are exposed to by news outlets, the internet and competitors is mind boggling. Couple that with the fact that these are still anxious and uncertain times and your clients crave clarity and leadership now more than ever. Your clients' confidence can drift and their conviction in your investment plan and philosophy can be undermined. That said, your service matrix should include a quarterly communication that goes beyond a pure financial message and stands out so that your client tunes you in.

So why not use the seasons as a metaphor in your communications? Send a nice "Welcome to Spring" greeting card. Spring is a time of renewal and with longer days and more warmth and sunshine, people naturally have more anticipation for the future.

The nicest cards you can find that will have the most impact and shelf life can be found at www.lavishcards.com.

Then, in your next conversation with a key client, if they sound a little rattled or uncertain, why not say this:

"The markets are like the seasons. When things are dark and dreary, we're in the middle of winter. But historically speaking, how many times has spring followed winter? Approximately how many times? And then comes summer and then comes the autumn harvest. We have a plan in place to position us to be prepared for the seasons."

If your client starts dwelling on the things out of your control, use another metaphor.

"Well it's like being in a sail boat in the middle of the ocean. We can't control the wind, but we can control the set of the sails. Our long term plan is designed to help us harness the most favorable winds."

This isn't meant as a departure from your usual communication style, simply a complement to inject some personality. Keep in mind, the products and services you provide and firm you represent is your message but you are the messenger. With the commoditization of this business well underway, you need to be creative and communicate in a way that helps you get your clients attention. Everything you say is either a "me-too" that your clients connect with or a "so-what" that doesn't resonate.

They Are on a Need-to-Know Basis

Chances are, many of your best clients don't need to know everything that you know. That's why they hire you. When it comes to your plan and process, they want to know that it works but they don't necessarily need to know how. It's like electricity. I don't really know how it all works, but I know that when I turn on the switch the lights come on.

My point in all of this is that you want to be conscious of being a voice of reason that instills confidence in your clients. And that doesn't always come from technical information. Again, that is the message and if that's all you've got you run the risk of sounding like everyone else and swimming in a pool of sameness.

Facts Tell, Stories Sell

There are other ways to take the abstracts of your business and make them more conceptual while injecting a little personality. One of my favorite books that can ground someone when things are so turbulent was written by John Kenneth Galbraith and is called A Short History of Financial Euphoria. I love this book because it distills several historical events as they relate to the markets and reminds us that circumstances may change but human nature remains the same. 

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-03-24 19:10:40 • 4 min read

The Signal to Noise Ratio

As a financial advisor, you know all about the distinction between the message and the messenger. The message is more about the products and services you provide and the firm you represent. The messenger is more about you and your ability to be the indispensable voice of reason to clients during times of intense turbulence and uncertainty

With elections looming and countless issues swirling around the globe, the velocity of noise that your clients are exposed to is dizzying. Your goal is to help them tune out that noise and tune in your message of clarity and leadership.

Investing the Past into the Future

The prognosticators in the media know that there’s no marketplace for good news. In order to get peoples attention they stir the pot of negativity and gloom. To counter that, I urge you to consider adding an historical perspective to your messaging.

I realize that these are unprecedented conditions, and that people crave predictions and a vision for the future so that they can face it with anticipation rather than apprehension. But nobody really knows if it’s in fact “different this time.” Likely the most important thing you can do is to simplify your messaging and ask your clients to look back – way back – so that we can separate market conditions from human nature as well as the cycles, peaks and valleys of the investing world.

Every now and again, especially when things look notably bleak in the world markets, I like to review this summary I created after reading A Short History of Financial Euphoria* for the first time. John Kenneth Galbraith takes readers on a substantial tour of world history as it relates to the markets and the mindset of investors, and reminds us that while things and events may change, human nature does not. Greed, fear, ambition, self-interest, trust, confidence and other emotional drivers have always played critical roles when it comes to market fluctuations.

So take a quick read through this summary and consider how you might integrate history into your conversations with your clients. It reminds me of simple and immutable laws of investing including this favorite by Sir John Templeton:

“A Bull market begins on pessimism, grows on skepticism, matures on optimism and dies on Euphoria.”

And keep in mind that the most attractive and refer-able financial advisors in the business do not swim in a pool of sameness. They are unique and compelling because they stand out from the pack. They get the attention of clients, and are memorable, because of the effort they put in to their client relationship management activities. 

A Short History of Financial Euphoria – A Synopsis By Duncan MacPherson

In his foreword to the 1993 edition of A Short History of Financial Euphoria, economist John Kenneth Galbraith writes that investors "might be reminded of the way not only fools, but quite a lot of other people, are recurrently separated from their money in a moment of speculative euphoria."

We feel it prudent to revisit this minor classic. After all, in December 1999, Business Week magazine confidently heralded the new century by printing, "We're running with the bulls again this year. The big story of 2000 is likely to be tech stocks, how far and how fast they will rise." As we all remember, that prediction was proven inaccurate, as the tech bubble soon burst and markets fell. How does that old adage about "hindsight" go?

In A Short History of Financial Euphoria, Galbraith examines significant episodes of speculative boom and bust during the past four hundred years so that their characteristics can be defined and understood. With this information, he hopes to equip investors, as well as all people who work with money, with the insight to protect themselves during a market run-up - what he calls a period of financial euphoria. Galbraith is certainly not confident that regulations will ever be able to achieve such security for investors.

According to Galbraith, speculative episodes start with something capturing the financial imagination, driving up an item’s price or the price of an entire sector. This increase attracts new buyers. Speculation starts to build on itself as more investors jump on board. Those on board talk the investment up, further building interest in it.

There are two types of participants in speculative markets:

  1. Those who feel the run-up is under control and that the market is adjusting to a new, higher norm.
  2. Those (fewer in number) who perceive that the market spike is a result of momentary speculation, and who want to ride the upward wave and get out before it crashes on the rocks of reality.

Specific Features of a Speculative Episode

  1. Something new is being offered. In 1636, it was tulips. In the 1980s, it was junk-bonds.
  2. People’s egos and pocketbooks are rewarded (but only in the short term) for getting on board early.
  3. Debt becomes out of proportion with the underlying means of payment. For example, in Y2K, margin accounts were called in when tech stocks corrected, causing further declines in share value.
  4. The market crashes. Things always fall. And with a bang, not a whimper. Financial operations do not lend themselves to innovation. The reason for this sudden downward change is because both groups mentioned above are predisposed to escape quickly. Something, it doesn't matter what nor how insignificant, triggers the exit. None of this information, however, is new.

The period following the crash is marked by anger against those who had been so recently seen as savvy, recrimination and unsubtle introspection. Rarely will the speculation itself be examined. Why? Because too many people were involved; there's no satisfaction in blaming a community of fools. Also, because society holds the market as the "totem of free-enterprise”, it looks to external forces and/or abuse of the market to explain its failure.

Benefiting from Financial Euphoria

According to Galbraith, investors can benefit from a speculative boom if they resist two compelling forces:

  • A powerful personal belief that investment success was intelligently earned.
  • The pressure of public (and seemingly superior) financial opinion.

Resistance to these forces is extremely difficult because it goes against the very momentum of the episode and its advocates. Those who predict a fall are viewed as doomsayers by both of the above groups.

Two other factors contribute to financial euphoria:

  • Short financial memories.
  • The association of money with intelligence.

In the free-enterprise world, the talent for making money is associated with the talent for social and economic perception, and with careful thought: "the more money, the greater the achievement and the intelligence that supports it," Galbraith writes. We also tend to associate this genius with the leadership of the great financial institutions. Specifically, we believe that the more assets under management, the greater the perception of those running them. In addition, we defer to those who have money to lend. Galbraith reminds us of the old industry saying, however, that "financial genius is before the fall." After the fall, no one looks so smart.

After analyzing the characteristics of a Speculative Episode, Galbraith spends the remainder of the book, fully three-quarters of it, examining historical examples of such episodes. He discusses the Tulip Mania of 1636-37 in Holland, the Banque Royale fiasco in France and the South Sea Company bubble in England during the early 18th Century. Galbraith then crosses the Atlantic to analyze the Great Collapse of the New York Stock Exchange 1929 and Black Monday in October 1987 (United States). These analyses drive home Galbraith’s point - that speculative periods follow the patterns he outlined at the beginning of his book.

Lessons Learned from Economic History

In his summary, Galbraith suggests that while history can teach us lessons best not to be missed, economic history lessons are somewhat ambiguous because of the process of continuous transformation in the field of economics. That aside, he feels that when controlling circumstances are the same, the lessons are clear. Galbraith summarizes the lessons to be learned:

The circumstances that induce the recurrent lapses into financial dementia have not changed. Individuals and institutions are captured by the wondrous satisfaction from accruing wealth. The associated illusion of insight is protected, in turn, by the oft-noted public impression that intelligence, one's own and that of others, marches in close step with the possession of money. Out of that belief comes action, the bidding up of values, whether in land, securities or, art. The upward movement confirms the commitment to personal and group wisdom. And so on to the moment of mass disillusion and the crash. This last, never comes gently. It is always accompanied by a desperate and largely unsuccessful effort to get out. Those who are involved never wish to attribute stupidity to themselves. Markets are also theologically sacrosanct. Some blame can be placed on the more spectacular or felonious of the previous speculators, but not on the recently enchanted (and now disenchanted) participants. The least important questions are the ones most emphasized: What triggered the crash? Were there some special factors that made it so dramatic or drastic? Who should be punished?

Galbraith suggests that not much can be done about this situation beyond having a better understanding of the speculative process. In his customary wry manner, he warns:

There is the possibility, even the likelihood, of self-approving and extravagantly error-prone behavior on the part of those closely associated with money. When a mood of excitement pervades a market or surrounds an investment prospect, when there is a claim of unique opportunity based on special foresight, all sensible people should circle the wagons. Perhaps there is, indeed, opportunity. A rich history provides proof, however, there is only delusion and self-delusion.

Things may change, but human nature stays the same.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2021-03-16 15:24:39 • 2 minute read

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Many of the most successful financial advisors I know have increased their persuasive impact by radically altering their sales process with prospective clients. These advisors (many of whom used to be salespeople) have evolved into professional consultants; they now strive to attract new clients rather than chase them. Instead of using a sales process to close business, they use a fit process to fast-track new clients to advocates.

Shake it Up!

When I consult with an advisor as part of our Pareto System Coaching process, one of the first things I'll do is scrutinize the approach he or she uses for prospective client meetings. I then ask these two questions:

  • "Who views it as an accomplishment when you bring on a new client? Are you celebrating because you've closed them or are they excited because they've qualified to work with you?"
  • "Do you ask clients to buy investments from you or do you ask them to buy-into a relationship with you?"

For many advisors, nowhere in their on-boarding process does a new client need to convince the advisor that there is a good fit. It's the advisor doing all the convincing and in the process their salesmanship is actually undermining the lifetime value of the relationship.

When you sell to someone, there is often a sense of anticlimax for the new client and perhaps even a chance that they are feeling some degree of buyer's remorse. The advisor cannot be the only one who gets excited when a new relationship is formed; the client has to have a sense of accomplishment too.

This is one reason that we suggest turning your prospective client process upside down. Instead of pushing prospective clients into making a decision, you can engage and then empower them. Our time-tested, up-front approach has been proven to attract new clients. It combines the use of an agenda with a process that highlights the importance of a relationship based on "fit" rather than one based on pressure and urgency.

When a prospective client approaches your office for the first time, two emotions are front and center: anticipation and apprehension. The anticipation stems from the person's curiosity about you. It is possible for example, that the prospective client is meeting with you because someone spoke highly of you and recommended your services. Keep in mind, every prospective client you meet already has a financial advisor, and is probably meeting with you because he or she is to some degree disillusioned with that advisor. As a result, the prospect is seeking an alternative. At the same time, he or she is apprehensive, fearing change, fearing the unknown and fearing the expected "sales-pitch". People are sold to each and every day. Consequently, they put up walls when they are in a selling encounter. It's a natural self-defense mechanism.

Don't Meet Their Expectations

Most prospective clients walk into a meeting bracing for a presentation in which you strongly promote your products and services. If they assume that your ultimate goal -- your hidden agenda -- is to sell them something, why feed that expectation? Instead, you can do something completely unexpected.

When you meet with a prospective client, shake hands, exchange pleasantries, then sit down and slide a leather portfolio that includes a note pad and pen as well as a printed agenda across the table for him or her to examine. Then launch into the formal segment of the meeting with a personalized version of this opening statement:

"Mr./Mrs. Prospective Client, let me begin by saying how much I appreciate you taking the time to be here today. I know your time is valuable and my goal is to ensure that you feel this meeting was a wise investment. Now, I know you are here primarily to assess my financial planning credentials and approach, and to get to know more about my firm. I will share this information with you during this initial meeting. I wanted to meet with you to get to know you and to determine if we will have good chemistry over the lifetime of our potential relationship. Therefore, because a relationship like this is important for both of us, no one will be making any commitments today. At the end of our meeting, as part of my process, I'll be getting together with my team to discuss your situation, and we'll discuss our compatibility. I'll then call you in 48 hours to let you know if we think we'd be a good fit for you. You can take some time to decide if there is a fit as well. Is that fair?"

A statement like this is a refreshing departure from the usual selling tone of a first meeting. And it has positive results. You will immediately see the prospective client's body language change. Tension and apprehension will melt away when he or she realizes that this is not a typical selling encounter. The prospect was probably expecting the usual selling process, where the meeting builds to the point at which the prospect is asked to "buy" investments. Imagine how much better your potential client will feel when you instead highlight the importance of "buying-into" a meaningful relationship. You will instantly disarm and impress. After all, stewardship is more attractive and persuasive than salesmanship.

The leather portfolio is a powerful and tangible tool that they can hold and take away with them that anchors them to your professionalism. Using an agenda at these meetings is so important because it instantly gives the prospective client a tangible track to follow and it eliminates any fear that you will introduce unwelcome surprises. An agenda is an outline with talking points with prospective client's name on the top and a series of bullets which highlight the main topics that you will discuss at the meeting, things like:

  • Getting to Know Each Other
  • An Introduction to My Firm
  • An Overview of My Asset Management Philosophy and Process
  • What's Important to You?
  • The Uniqueness of My approach
  • Is There a Fit?

It gives the clients a feeling of certainty. The agenda also benefits you, because it establishes where the meeting will go next, so you can actually listen to the prospective client. The agenda also makes it easy for you to explain some of the abstract financial planning concepts because it provides specific talking points. Remember, you are in the knowledge for profit business. You think for a living. You aren't selling something tangible; you are promoting the promise of a comfortable future insulated from external circumstances. You need all the help you can get to demystify what you do; after all, it's not what you say that matters, it's what the prospective client hears and internalizes.

Is There a Fit?

The most important bullet point on the agenda is the last one, which should always be "Is there a fit?" When you get to this point in the meeting, you simply thank the prospective client for attending, and remind him or her that you will now meet with your team. Also confirm that you will contact him or her in 48 hours.

At this point, one of two things will happen. In some cases, the prospective client will thank you and tell you they look forward to hearing from you. More often than not, however, the prospective client will try to close you; they will try to convince you that you should take action right now. I'm not making this up. Because of your forthright and disarming process, the prospective client will have developed a high degree of self-motivation and predisposition. He or she will likely say to you, "I don't need to think about it. I'm confident that there is a good fit and I'm prepared to move forward right now."

So how should you respond to this statement? We tell advisors to say this:

"Mr./Mrs. Prospective Client, I appreciate your enthusiasm however if that is how you feel, that won't change in 48 hours. This is important, so take your time. And this is a process we like to follow so let me discuss it with my team."

Ultimately, you live by the rules you set. If you cave in to the prospective client's request to move ahead immediately, then your entire meeting structure becomes nothing more than a tactic, a gimmick, and you seriously undermine your integrity. There is only one situation in which I would suggest that you could make an exception: if a great client has referred the prospective client to you, and if the prospective client perfectly meets your Ideal Client Criteria based on Assets, Attitude and Advocacy, you can consider making the exception. If you do so, be sure to make it clear that this is an exception. Otherwise, delay instant gratification and stick with the process.

This process empowers a prospective client to come to his or her own conclusions, and to feel great about coming on board with you. Furthermore, you are fast tracking the process of turning a new client into an advocate who is competitor-proof and predisposed to referring other prospective clients to you.

It's funny, when I do presentations on this topic, invariably there will be an advisor in the room who has worked with us in the past and has adopted our approach. Like clockwork, when I finish talking, the advisor will stand up and say, "He's right, this really works!" To that, I respond by saying, "It works because it's right."

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-03-09 17:16:23 • 3 minute read

Planning, philosophy and process are all interdependent. Educating a prospective client as to why this is – or re-framing your value with an existing client through the three Ps – helps them buy into your positioning as a professional consultant. Planning is Panoramic

We’ve touched on Philosophy and Process, but let me expand on Planning.

Planning is a four-fold, panoramic process. In addition to not being a square-peg/round-hole template as you reassured your prospective client in your trailer, there are four central pillars you need clarity on, and that you must communicate to the client.

A planning process for a client encompasses Wealth Management, Risk Management, Tax Management and Debt Management. It bridges your philosophy to your strategy.

A Wealth management process focuses on diversification. It follows the path of selling on rallies and buying on retreats and binds clients to your process rather than the emotional upheavals of the market.

Risk management is just that. As the industry rises and falls, you, as an income producer, make or protect money for your clients no matter the smoothness of the road or the sudden appearance of potholes. If you had a machine that printed money, you’d insure it, knowing that to have insurance and not need it is preferable to needing it and not having it. The market is the machine – your services are the insurance.

Tax management is always a concern for any client. It’s incumbent on the taxpayer to be savvy, not the tax man. That’s why tax management is such a vital function. The tax man will do it for you – but he’ll also take every penny he can get. What’s the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance? About seven years, according to the old joke. Tax management makes sure that remains a joke instead of a sentence.

Debt management is being positioned for anything, at any time. Critical life events will occur, for everyone, and good decisions always stem from strong positions.

Again, the important thing here is not that you, the professional advisor, know all four quadrants of your planning process, how your philosophy infuses them all and how your process delivers them – that’s assumed – it’s that you educate your client or potential client so they know, as well.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-02-23 21:30:55 • 2 minute read

How to Fast-Track a New Client to Advocacy

My favorite articles stem from conversations I have with our coaching staff at Pareto Systems who share success stories from the field with me. Our coaching staff and I often have “Proof that it Works” conversations where they pass along feedback in terms of the impact our strategies are having on an advisor’s business. 

Recently, I heard an interesting example about the importance of the New Client Process. As you know, this process is the series of steps that take place from the moment you get a referral phone call right up to the point where you officially welcome a new person as a client, and everything in between. Many like to call this the onboarding process.

At a glance, the New Client Process has five distinct parts: 

  • The Pre-Appointment Phase 
  • The 1st Appointment (or Fit Appointment) 
  • The Second Appointment 
  • The Third Appointment
  • And finally, the New Client Welcome

Now, some might say that this seems like an awful lot of steps, and they would be right, but these are all necessary steps. This process is extremely attractive to potential clients, and more often than not, as a result of going through this process, the potential client ends up trying to convince the advisor to take them on as a client! On a regular basis, we also see advisors get referrals from someone shortly after bringing them on as a client! We see it happen all the time.  

Terry, the coach who shared this story with me, works with two advisors who have a successful practice in California. Both use this very same New Client Process, and they are enjoying a lot of success from this process and from their terrific implementation of it.

One of the advisors recently met with a prospective client, a wealthy gentleman who had north of $1,000,000 in investible assets.

As they sat down, and as the advisor pulled out her agenda to start the meeting, the gentleman announced the following: “I want you to know that I am interviewing different advisors.”

The advisor, in a cool and collected way, replied: “Well, I would be surprised if you weren’t. The reality is that we are interviewing you today as well. It is very important to our practice that my partner and I only take on clients that are a good fit.”

I only wish that I was in the room at the time when they were having this meeting, so I could have seen how the dynamic changed after the advisor replied in this fashion. She didn’t try to sell harder, or any of that nonsense, she simply stated the truth, which was that there were two decisions being made that day, both his and hers.

The wealthy gentleman became a client. It turned out that he had interviewed four different advisors in total, and the third such interview was with our client. It was just a few days later when a thank-you card arrived at the advisor’s office. It was from the very same gentleman, and in the card, he thanked them for deciding to take him on as a client. What a change in attitude from that first meeting, and it all had to do with the attractiveness of the New Client Process, and the skill of our client in implementing it.

The gentleman wasn’t done yet though. Shortly after the thank-you card arrived, my client received an email from him. He had copied his CPA on the email, and the message said: “You guys have to meet each other.” The advisor gave the CPA a call, and they got together for lunch.

Over the lunch, my client learned that the CPA had a huge operation with 24 staff, and they specialized in ultra high-net worth types; the richest of the rich.  

The advisor and her partner specialize in clientele in the 1-10 million range. The advisor candidly told the CPA this, and also told him that the ultra high-net worth types weren’t really their niche.  

Ironically, it turns out that the 1-10 million range wasn’t the CPA’s niche either. His focus was going to remain on the ultra high-net worth types, and he and my client are now discussing the CPA referring over business in the 1-10 million range to my clients as it appears. He regularly receives those types of referrals, but isn’t really interested in that kind of business. The advisors certainly are though!

The next step is to show the CPA the highlights of the New Client Process, so that when the CPA does refer someone, he can take great confidence on that they will be well looked after, and how it will be done. 

The bottom line is this. When you apply stewardship over salesmanship with a prospective client, you not only contrast yourself favorably to other advisors, you are also positioning yourself for advocacy with that person immediately. And then the domino effect begins.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-01-19 20:29:42 • 2 minute read

Branding is different from marketing in that it more quickly impacts how a prospective client perceives you at the moment they become aware of you. Literally, that first and lasting impression that snaps them out of their fog, gets their attention and resonates over the long haul. Branding also impacts how your clients and other influencers in the marketplace describe you to others when the opportunity presents itself.

Our approach is proven and is drawn directly from our 1:1 coaching program used by some of the most effective financial advisors in the business. It can ensure that you are perceived as a consultant by prospects and described as a professional with a process by clients and influencers.

And that is really the point. How are most financial advisors perceived – as sales people selling investments or as consultants providing an investment process? Many people today associate a financial advisor as a broker asking them to buy investments as opposed to a consultant asking them buy into a process and long term relationship. That’s their expectation and you cannot feed that – you have to differentiate using effective messaging in all of your verbal, printed and multimedia communications.

Furthermore, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the pack because the investment industry is becoming more and more commoditized each and every day. Along with that, there are forces at work that prompt people to focus on what you cost rather than what you are worth. Price is only an issue in the absence of clearly defined and relevant value. A solid branding strategy helps people focus on your unique value.

In addition to standing out, your goal is to get people's attention and be memorable. The velocity of noise your clients and prospective clients are exposed to is dizzying. There is a natural signal to noise ratio in this business – you want people to tune out the noise and tune in your signal. Branding helps you achieve this while ensuring you are positioned as an expert rather than being perceived as a salesperson.

As a consulting company for thought-for-profit professionals, we are often asked what someone can expect from our practice management and business development consulting program. My answer is simple: we want to help you work half as hard and earn twice as much.

That is achieved by helping advisors deploy a full suite of best practices, use a fit-process instead of a sales process and implement a branding strategy that is more compelling and attractive to affluent clients.  

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-01-19 19:56:13 • 3 minute read

As a financial professional, you are in the knowledge-for-profit business. In other words, you think for a living. You aren't selling investments, you are promoting the promise of the future. This can be an abstract business with so many factors out of your control. So it's important to constantly remind yourself of what is truly proprietary and of value in your business. After all, you don't have a job where you trade your time for money, you are building a business with real equity value that should be increasing each and every year.

Your most valuable assets are as follows:

  • Your client relationships and everything you know about your clients
  • Your business procedures and best practices
  • Your time and how you allocate it

Now you might be asking why I haven't made reference to your investment acumen and asset management skills. While I will never trivialize what you know about investing, this business is becoming more commoditized every day and there are forces at work that are constantly emphasizing what you cost rather than what you are worth. Truth be told, what you know about investing is not proprietary. It's a given that you have a solid plan and approach. It's expected. But as you have probably seen, there is little correlation between how much someone knows about investing and how successful they will ultimately be.

What Separates the Best From the Rest?

The most effective advisors don't ask clients to buy investments. They ask them to buy-into a meaningful relationship and in the process these advisors fixate on the lifetime value of a client relationship rather than on transactions. Loyalty, empowerment and refer-ability are built on a foundation of trust. And building trust is a process. It's by design, not by chance. An important component to the trust process is client chemistry. Top advisors strive to be interested rather than interesting. They get to know everything they can about their clients. As you know, the more a client trusts you, the more they reveal to you about themselves. Now you probably know a lot about your clients. Where do you and your team members store that incredibly valuable and proprietary information? In your heads? If it's in your heads, it isn't an asset nor is it an intellectual property.

Done is Better Than Perfect!

You might be saying to yourself, "I get it. But HOW do I do all of this?" You need an Operating Playbook. Some elite advisory teams have an actual procedures manual - a complete playbook consisting of a full array of documented procedures. Updates can be made and this binder and there is no mystery in terms of how predictable, sustainable and duplicable processes are deployed. Other top teams are using software, specifically a XRM (eXtended Relationship Manager) which is a CRM integrated with a full suite of best practices. Either way, when you document all of your daily activities, getting them out of your head and creating an intellectual property you improve your productivity as well as the equity value of your business.

The Process of Client Confidence

There is an entrepreneurial saying that suggests that "You must work ON your business, not in it." Being a good financial advisor goes above and beyond the returns you post. To keep clients for life, you must create a SWAN environment. Your job is to ensure your clients Sleep Well At Night. A sound investment plan along with consistent best practices will create this environment enabling you to fully maximize your client relationships, make your business more efficient and put time on your side.

Your business will serve your life rather than the other way around and when the time comes for you to sell your business, the value will be dramatically higher. It's time to squeeze more juice out of the orange.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-01-05 18:28:15 • 3 minute read
"Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day."  - Zen

My team and I at Pareto Systems speak with literally hundreds of financial professionals each week and we hear firsthand what they’re hoping to achieve in the future. Some goals are quite common, while others are counter-intuitive. On any given day we will speak to an advisor who aspires to more and wants to grow their business, and then on the very next call we will speak to another advisor who strives for contentment and wants to simplify their life.

At the 30,000 feet perspective, on virtually every call we can categorize each advisor into one or more of these three areas:

  • Explore - meaning the advisor wants to conduct a strategic analysis to identify untapped opportunities and overlooked vulnerabilities
  • Evolve - meaning the advisor wants to break out of the status quo and make the refinements necessary to get to the next level of efficiency and profitability
  • Expand - meaning the advisor wants to develop personally and professionally to achieve greater fulfillment and predictability on a daily basis.

When we drill down on our calls and uncover the core motivators, these are the most common goals advisors share with us:

  1. Right-size their business to restore liberation and order to their lives as they focus on their best clients
  2. Transition to a fee-based model in a professional manner so that clients focus on what the advisor is worth rather than what he or she costs
  3. Align with another advisor to create scale, efficiency and a 1+1=3 environment that is more profitable and fulfilling
  4. Be better prepared for market volatility to ensure they thrive rather than just survive in any market conditions
  5. Buy a business from a retiring advisor and predictably integrate it into their existing business 
  6. Switch to a different firm where the culture and core philosophy are complementary to the advisor’s
  7. Sell their business for maximum profit by amplifying the proprietary assets beyond just ‘Trailing 12’
  8. Create Organization and Structure to unlock efficiency and profitability
  9. High Level Client Acquisition by attracting like a consultant, rather than chasing like a salesperson
  10. Developing Outstanding Branding so that the advisor is perceived and described as a professional with a process.

Two Rules Top Achievers Never Break

  1. They don't wing it.
  2. They don't wait for conditions to be perfect.

The most enlightened advisors understand the harmony between planning and taking action with a sense of urgency. Substantial goals after all, are achieved by design not by chance.

 “Dig Your Well Before You are Thirsty”Confucius

When an advisor comes to us with a vision for how they want their business and life to look in the near future, the key mindset we want to support is to get out in front of the issue and proactively drive it with a methodical and sequential plan. Of course that's a lot easier to talk about than it is to actually do, but time and time again we see firsthand how success is achieved by letting disciplines compound over time. We all know the rule of 72, but it's not just money that compounds, disciplines compound as well. So too does neglect. If you have a vision for how you would like your life and business to look in the next 12 months, it is essential that you break down the necessary actions and chip away at it over time. This puts you on a trajectory that enables you to make mid-course corrections quickly so that you don't drift off track.

Successful advisors with serious mileage and experience will tell you that meaningful change takes longer, requires more resources, and is more difficult to execute than expected. To that end they understand that there can be a very positive power that comes from negative thinking. Just as a savvy investor knows that it's dangerous to think "It's different this time", the advisor who aspires for bigger and better things has to temper their optimism and know that external dependencies may not always cooperate. And overcoming that adversity makes the achievement that much more meaningful.

 If it is to be it is up to me!

Those are quite possibly the 10 most powerful two-letter words ever put together in one sentence. And that is what separates the best advisors from the rest. They take action, and they take responsibility for their outcome. They don’t blame conditions or wish things were better. They strive to become better.

 Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2020-12-21 19:13:16 • 3 minute read

From Sustainability to Scalability

The next natural step for a successful financial advisor to take once they have achieved consistent, sustainable organic growth is to then consider scalable, acquisition growth.  

More and more we see top professionals transform their proven best practices into intellectual properties that can be deployed over and over again. This is what it means to turn a book of business into an actual business that has no limits while achieving steadily improving enterprise value. 

From Working IN to Working ON Your Business 

Bestselling author Micheal Gerber captured this premise beautifully in his book The E-Myth.

The core premise is that an entrepreneur must shift from having a job where they sell something (ultimately trading time for money) to building something that has many multipliers in terms of efficiency and value. It's easy to get bogged-down in "busyness" transacting services rather than building a business that puts you on a track to a meaningful and measurable inflection point.

A Force of Nature

 If franchise-readiness is something you've been considering, allow me to remind you of something that supports why your timing is impeccable - demography. 

There is a massive group of current advisors who are 5 years out or less from an exit. This community is thinking about how to take at least some money of the table or to fully monetize the equity value of their business. And the truly enlightened also want to ensure their clients are well taken care of once a transition takes place.  

Interestingly there is essentially a "2 for 1" benefit to this reality. You see there are also many clients of financial advisors who have their own continuity and succession issues too. When someone becomes financially independent at that moment the burden shifts from "will I have enough?" to "what becomes of my legacy?" Who better to become indispensable to that client with a new unmet need than an advisor who has addressed it himself or herself in real time? 

But it gets even better. In addition to the many advisors who are on the home stretch, there are 2 other addressable markets as well. First, you have a large group of advisors who aren't looking to leave the business but are frustrated by the friction that compliance and commoditization present. This group longs to draft in behind an advisor with turnkey and all encompassing procedures that liberate them to do what they enjoy - interacting with clients and not getting bogged down in the minutiae. 

Thirdly you have the advisors who want to transition to a work-optional lifestyle and decide to disassociate from a large block of clients to focus on a smaller group of ideal clients while pursuing other interests in life. It's common to see a process-driven advisor acquire remnants of clients and squeeze a lot more juice out of the orange through an elevated client experience. Just the other day I spoke with an advisor who acquired 10 million dollars of cast-away clients and turned that vein of gold into 15 million in 30 days! A methodical transition and reframing process prompted his newly onboarded clients to say, "Where have you been all my life? This is a dramatic upgrade!" Granted the bar may have been low based on neglect by the former advisor but the elevation and lift were both immediate and measurable. 

Prime the Pump 

So where does as an aspiring franchise-ready advisor start? To paraphrase Michael Gerber again, "Every business should be built to be sold for maximum value even if you have no intention of selling it." 

In other words, get out in front of franchise readiness even if the only benefits are competitor-proofing your existing clients and restoring liberation amd order to your life. Then decide if you want to deploy your scalable growth model. 

Convergence and Conversion 

Those two words are like true-north to the franchise-ready advisor. Convergence means that you get everything out of your head and document it in a duplicable playbook. If what you know resides in your head it is a commoditized skill. If it's documented it is a repeatable intellectual property. 

At Pareto Systems we follow The Rule of 3 - anything you do 3 or more times that has 3 or more steps must be invested into your playbook so that no one is ever left to their own devices reinventing the wheel. Maverick talent transitions to predictable and consistent execution. 

The framework of the playbook is broken into 3 core components: 

  1. The Wealth Management Process - everything to do with deliverables around your core solutions and competencies 
  2. The Practice Management Process - everthing to do with operations, standard operating procedures and the client experience  
  3. The Relationship Management Process - everything to do with how you articulate and communicate your value so that clients fully and completely understand and appreciate your value 

Remember, you don't just manage money. You manage a business and you manage people - all three are of equal importance to your playbook.  

Subscribing to our "Done is better than perfect" mindset, most of our teams get 80% of the playbook done in 90 days. That is the red zone and getting home from there is inevitable. 

As you shift from cobbled together deliverables to a converged and integrated process, you then have to shift to a mindset of conversion. Simply stated you have 3 types of clients: 

  • Customers who dabble with you but don’t empower you fully
  • Clients who empower you fully but don’t send referrals
  • Advocates who are the dream client 

A major part of the reframing process involves going back to existing clients and essentially reintroducing yourself and your value so they have the complete picture and see the merit of converting from customer to client to advocate. 

We all know the power of entropy - nothing improves through neglect. And it's not as if neglect is conscious. Long term relationships are susceptible to The Law of Familiarity which states that over time value can be taken for granted or trivialized. This is where loyalty fatigue is born.  

Partner With Pareto 

If you aspire to become a franchise ready advisor why not buy-into our proven process rather than reinvent the wheel. Not only can we methodically make you franchise ready but we can even shine a light on your success and showcase you to the many thousands of advisors in our community. Start by contacting us and going through an initial gap analysis and together we can determine if there is a good fit.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2020-12-15 18:14:05 • 3 minute read

I'll never forget the first time the concept of client right-sizing occurred to me. An advisor was referred to us, and was inquiring about our coaching process. Within 10 minutes, I learned that he had over 900 clients, that he was making a ton of money and that he had no life. He was stressed-out, out of shape and had a whole host of issues going on in his personal life. Clearly, the business was running him rather than the other way around. Then the advisor said, "I've heard good things about you. I'm thinking about hiring you to help me grow my business."€

My reply to him was simple: "I think the best thing I can help you do is dismantle this thing." My logic was that he had maxed-out and his growth was now starting to cost him more than it was getting him. It wasn't easy, and after some initial resistance, this advisor went from close to 900 clients down to about 200 clients. In short order, his stress and overhead went down while his productivity increased. Best of all, liberation and order were restored to his business and personal life.

Shrink your Way to Success

Many elite advisors tell me that they feel they have hit a plateau and they are having difficulties taking their businesses to the next level. In my experience, they hit this plateau because they still subscribe to the alleged precept that you must continually "grow or perish." For a knowledge-for-profit professional, that is a fallacy. The maxim I suggest you live by is "Profit and progress, or perish". Growth means "bigger" while profit and progress means "better".

Don't get me wrong, I want the assets you manage to grow year after year, but that does not mean that the number of relationships you manage must increase too. In fact, when it comes to relationships, the goal is not to see how big you can get, but rather how small you can stay. Right sizing is often a critical step in moving to the next level; I can't begin to tell you how many advisors we've seen that have taken a proverbial step back in order to take a quantum leap forward. It's counter-intuitive but over the past four years, during the most severe head wind this business has ever seen, this strategy has led many top advisors to a breakthrough.

Minor Adjustments Can Lead to Major Improvements

Advisors who continually expand their client base eventually hit a point of diminishing returns. Once you exceed your service capacity, you can no longer effectively competitor proof clients, gain their complete financial empowerment or maintain a high degree of refer-ability. As a result, you are likely to become stressed and frustrated, and to miss opportunities. Opportunity Leakage occurs. Furthermore, unless you hire and manage more staff (which takes time and money), you cannot effectively deploy your service matrix. In time, you will become perceived as a transactional generalist, and you will end up with a business that is a mile wide and an inch deep.

The question you should ask yourself is this: if 20% of your clients generate 80% of your business, do you invest 80% of your time on those 20%? To generate the qualified referrals that will allow you to build a quality practice, you need to invest 80% of your time in those top 20% of your clients who generate 80% of your income. Right sizing your clientele will allow you to do just this.

I Understand the WHY, Tell me the How!

The first thing to do in right sizing your practice is to properly classify your clients. Through the process of classifying your current clients, you will create an ideal client profile which will allow you to identify the type of clients that you wish to work with. Now, most advisors tell us that they've already classified their clients, but upon closer inspection, we realize that they've really only done a partial job, because their only classification criterion was assets. We encourage you to engage in a more detailed client classification by using our Triple A approach.

The first A in this approach speaks to assets. What asset level and range of needs must your clients have for them to be considered a good fit for your areas of expertise? Most advisors stop at this stage of client classification, but it is only the first step if you want to successfully right size your practice.

The second A refers to attitude, which, over the lifetime of your working relationship, is actually more important than assets. What is their attitude towards you? Do they focus on what you cost or what you are worth? What is their attitude about empowerment? Do they treat you like a personal CFO, or do they insist on having investments with other advisors? Do they have an informed attitude about the way the markets work? Do they try to micromanage you? Are they disrespectful to your staff? Keep in mind, assets change but attitudes rarely do. Many times I have seen an advisor work with a client with great assets and a bad attitude; in the long run, this client winds up hurting the advisor more than it helps him or her.

The third A stands for advocacy. Your top clients will frequently recommend your services. Ideal clients appreciate the merit of "buying into" a relationship with a professional consultant rather than simply "buying" products from a salesperson. They are extremely loyal and they feel they are doing a likeminded friend a disservice by not introducing them to you.

After completing this client classification process, you will be able to identify three types of clients: customers, clients and advocates. A customer is someone who has some business with you, but also has business placed with another advisor. A client is someone who empowers you fully -- who has placed all of their business with you -- but they never refer people to you. An advocate is someone who is an absolute joy to work with, and who recommends your services to anyone who will listen. The value of your business has virtually nothing to do with how many clients you have and everything to do with how many advocates you have. In fact, as my opening story shows, the ideal financial services practice consists of about 150 advocates, not a collection of 500 customers and clients.

Let Prospective Clients Convince You There is a Good Fit

Once you have created an ideal client profile, you need to commit to following it. When meeting with prospective clients, we suggest that you explain that you have an ideal client profile, and that you outline the three As. Include these topics on your meeting agenda, and explain why these features makes you unique. Here is a script you can use to introduce the topic:

I've made the commitment to be a specialist rather than a generalist, and as a result, I am very selective about the clients I work with. Unlike some advisors who are trying to build a big business, and who attempt to be all things to all people, I prefer to be all things to some people. I know my capacity, and if I go beyond that level, it will dilute the service I provide. I can't allow that to happen. While some advisors are fixated on making a sale, I'm concerned that there be a fit between us, because I believe that is the foundation of a successful long-term working relationship. It is for that reason I have an ideal client profile, and that I stick to it.

At that point, you would actually write out three A's and then explain each one. You will find that prospective clients will actually try to convince you that they meet your profile, rather than you having to convince them that they should do business with you.

With existing clients, I suggest that you decide who among them meets your profile, or at least has the ability to meet it within a reasonable period of time. Once you've established that list work hard to competitor proof them, and to convert them to advocate status.

The Moment of Truth

After you have established your ideal client profile, you have an important choice to make about your current clients who don't meet your profile. This stage is where many advisors make a serious error in judgment. Some advisors simply can't bring themselves to let go. They tell me things like, "some of these people have been with me since day one" or "some of these people are like family to me" or "I can't just give this revenue away." The bottom line is this: you live by the rules you set. Ultimately, you can make exceptions but be practical and realistic and try to step beyond emotion and sentiment.

This brings us to the other mistake advisors often make. Often advisors tell me that they really need to "fire some clients". The last thing this industry needs is advisors firing clients. If you have too many clients, you are doing them a disservice by keeping them. For the clients with whom you have poor chemistry or for those that have a high hassle factor, be a pro and bow out gracefully

You're Not Firing them, You're Disassociating Respectfully

The next step in the right sizing process is to call to the clients on your list. (Of course, if your list is sizeable you can launch this by a letter. If you are selling a large portion of your business, you can modify this approach accordingly.) When speaking to each client, it is essential that you the high road with a forthright and rational approach like this one:

Up until recently, I've been trying to be all things to all people, and over time, I found myself becoming a generalist. As a result we've been bursting at the seams, and I've started to see things fall through the cracks. Going forward, I've decided to become a specialist who strives to be all things to some people. I know my capacity, and in order to offer superior service, I have to make some changes to my practice. Part of that includes using an ideal client profile that reflects the type of client who is a good fit for my team and I. (Outline AAA). Based on this profile and our history together, I feel that going forward there probably isn't a good fit. However as a value added service, I have identified an advisor who I feel would be a better fit for you.

You'll be amazed at what this exchange will reveal. Either the client will agree and move on effortlessly, or they will become defensive and ultimately fight to stay on board with you. They'll say things like: "It never occurred to me that I should empower you fully. I can move everything to you" or "I didn't know you were accepting new clients but I can start referring people to you."

In cases like this, you can decide to conditionally keep the client on board, if they agree to respect the rules of engagement. Given this opportunity, many clients will develop from being simply customers into being true advocates. They do so because you clearly explain why it matters and how they will benefit. However, when your instincts tell you that the client is not really going to respond, maintain your integrity. Many of these clients will try to convince you that they can change, but when you sense that they are simply paying lip service, be professional, but firm:

Advisor: "I just don't think there is a good fit going forward." Client: "But I can change, I didn't mean to be a pain to your people." Advisor: "I just don't think there is a good fit, but I'll introduce you to the other advisor." Client: "But I don't want to work with anyone else." Advisor: "I appreciate that but based on the direction I'm taking my practice I just don't think there is a good fit here."

The point of right sizing is to build a clientele made up exclusively of people you want to work with, because these are the clients who will turn into raving fans and sing your praises to their friends, family and associates. These clients are the key to building a successful, profitable practice that leaves you with enough time to enjoy the things that matter to you. After all, your business is supposed to serve your life, not the other way around.

Remember, when it comes to business productivity and personal fulfillment, it's more important to reach people who count, than to count the people you reach. 

Right-Sizing is Seldom the Wrong Thing to Do

We're all very familiar with the concept of supply and demand. The more scarce the supply of something, the demand tends to increase as does the perceived or actual value.

What do you supply? It's not just your investment knowledge for that's becoming more commoditized every day. What you really are supplying is your time. So the question is, do you project scarcity and have a process to ensure that the perceived value for your time continues to grow? Asked another way, do your clients feel accomplished when you accept them as a client? Are they simply buying investments from you or are they buying into a meaningful relationship with you?

Let's drill down a little deeper. Based on where you are today, are you on track or off track in terms of where you thought you'd be at this stage of your life. Are you today where you predicted you'd be five years ago? Are you getting closer to your goals or do you feel that maybe you are drifting away from them?

I'm asking you these questions because they are the same questions I ask an elite advisor when they approach me to inquire about our coaching program. It's still incredible to me that the people who like coaching the most typically need it the least. They are already successful but they feel they still have more to accomplish. Their aspiration is almost insatiable but sometimes it can take them down the wrong path.

Continued Success,

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2020-12-08 21:12:18 • 2 minute read

How being Interested makes you more Interesting

One of the best ways to open up a conversation with a client about referrals is to offer them rather than ask for them. Whether it's a client or strategic partner, you can improve your refer-ability by getting them to think about their own. As an example, if you are talking to a partner or to a client who is a business owner, or ask them this question:

"The next time I'm talking to someone and the opportunity to wave your flag comes up, how would you like me to describe you?"

There is a very good chance that your client or partner will say to you:

"I appreciate that. No one has ever asked me that before, but come to think about it the best thing to say would be this..."

You can then drill-down a bit and validate your question by saying:

"That's perfect. I'm asking you this because I have a pretty vast network and I'm always looking to make introductions where I see an opportunity and potential fit."

Inevitably your client or partner will ask:

"What is the best way for me to describe you when I get the opportunity in the future?"

This of course gives you permission to remind your client about your value proposition and then reinforce your personal branding strategy. You might say:

"Thanks for asking. And as you know, I manage the wealth of a select few successful business owners across the country using a process that we've developed and refined through many cycles and market conditions."

If they inquire further, you can remind them that you make yourself available as a sounding board should they ever feel compelled to introduce a friend, family member or client to you in the future.

Ultimately this approach needs to be driven by a professional philosophy and mindset, not as a gimmick or tactic to simply drive sales. Sure capitalism is rooted in self-interest, networking and endorsements. But you are trying to create a culture of value and an awareness for referrals. And that can be supported by proper positioning.

There is an old saying that suggests that "Giving starts the receiving process". The world is round and positive actions often come back full circle to us in time.

Position Yourself As a Powerbroker

The beauty of this approach is that it doesn't make you look needy and congruently supports the premise of positioning a referral as a service you provide rather than a favor you request. It conveys your mindset that you like to identify opportunities where there might be an alignment of interests. In the process you attract referrals rather than have to chase them.

It's good Karma to be looking out for your clients and partners while demonstrating that you are always interested in them and looking to bring value they will find to be of actual value. The concept of advocacy appeals to our core drivers as business professionals. Think about it, when you ask someone the question, "How's business?" often after they respond they will ask you how business is for you.

Let me add one more scenario to reinforce this concept. Think of your favorite wholesaler. Sure he or she knows their stuff and works for a good firm that provides good returns. But that isn't why he or she is your favorite wholesaler. They are interested in your business and are often trying to add value to your business beyond just good rates of returns. The most consistent professionals in this business who thrive in all conditions don't live solely by the performance sword. They stand-out and differentiate by being interested in their clients. This not only makes you memorable and referable - it makes you indispensable too.

Continued success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2020-12-01 20:55:39 • 2 minute read

Build Your Plan Sequentially Instead of at the Last Minute

I've heard variations of this old saying that really hits home as it relates to the passage of time: 

The days can seem long, but the years often seem short.  

In my view this seems especially true when it comes to running a business and parenting. There are daily stresses that, at times, can make the days drag on a bit but then the next thing you know, another year has gone by. It's hard to believe that 2021 is just around the corner. And if the last year (or even the last five years) seems to be a bit of blur, it's likely that 2021 will whiz by even faster.

I'm bringing this up because right now is the ideal time to start bringing your vision for the future out of your head and galvanizing it on paper. If you patiently but deliberately create a plan for 2021 over the month, rather than the last Sunday evening in December, you'll create a plan that better serves as a guidance system, is more actionable and predictable, and consists of goals that are balanced, clear and attainable.

Now before I continue, I want to qualify something about the importance of advice. My weekly articles can sometimes come off as a little preachy and oversimplified. But if anyone knows the power of advice and the importance of planning, it's a financial advisor. Think about it, what would you tell someone who told you they don't see the value of financial advice? They say to you, "I'm doing it myself because a financial advisor is too expensive and the results can be underwhelming or uncertain." You'd probably tell them - or at least think to yourself - "That is crazy." 

With that in mind, what is your feeling about business advice? Do you continually seek it out to help you break old patterns and self-imposed limits? Are you a serious student when it comes to personal and professional development? Do you focus on what it costs, or on what it's worth? 

"Even turkeys can fly in a strong wind."

As you know, there are some advisors whose business growth is tied primarily to the natural lift of the markets. They're not doing anything special or even deliberate when it comes to business development. These are the same advisors who operate in isolation and end up in a vacuum and eventually plateau. There are other advisors in this business who channel their existing momentum, make continual refinements to proven strategies, address the issues that are undermining their achievement, and document a plan to ensure they continually focus on the things they can control. 

I don't want to oversimplify things too much but that is one of the most important aspects of a plan. The process allows you to tune out the noise and distractions and focus on proven strategies that generate results. A good plan serves as a reminder of what matters as the year unfolds to also ensure that you don't drift off track.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2020-11-24 15:40:01 • 2 minute read

Many business professionals set aside some time in late December or early January to set some goals for the New Year. We encourage financial advisors to use a simple process and write out some goals for the year.

The following is a quick and easy variation of our goal setting process that you can use to get your visionary wheels turning. It's called W5 and if you know a thing or two about journalism you know the power of a diagnostic approach to reveal what's really important. Ponder these questions and put pen to paper so that you have a clear picture for what you would like to see happen in your business and your life in 2021.

  1. What am I grateful for? When setting goals, it's natural to place an emphasis on aspiring for things we don't yet have. In the process we can overlook what we have already achieved and take many important things for granted. Gratitude is a powerful force and can help slow life down so that we aren't completely driven by ambition. Contentment and appreciation in conjunction with aspiration can lead to balance and personal fulfillment.
  2. Where do I see myself at the end of 2021? This is where you take your goals out of your head and put a wish list on paper. Take a panoramic view in this process. Most people feel a wellspring of self-motivation when they go through this process and get very excited about the promise of the future.
  3. Who do I want to become? Back to the topic of balance, this question reminds us not to just focus on monetary or tangible goals. That's not to say they aren't important pieces of the puzzle, they are. As legendary business philosopher Jim Rohn often said, "Who we become is more important than when we earn or acquire." This question ignites other important issues related to our sense of purpose and personal legacy as well.
  4. Why is this so important to me? Speaking of self-motivation and a sense of purpose, this questions helps us cut through the clutter and tune out some of the noise and other distractions that compete for our attention. All of those external issues can conspire against us by causing us to lose focus and drift off course. By finding the answer to this question, we can create a beacon that helps us stay on track.
  5. When will I get started? Ultimately if we are to achieve a goal we have to take action before the Law of Diminishing Intent kicks in. There has to be a sense of urgency. Often the key that separates the best from the rest in life is understanding this simple maxim - After all is said and done, more is often said than done.
  6. How will I achieve my goal? Some goals are more complex than others and because of the Law of Cause and Effect; they require a specific action plan to translate them into reality. Coupled with the fact that most success in life is achieved incrementally, many lofty goals require that new habits be formed and a patient reliance on compounding effort be applied. Solid, consistent activity will often lead to heightened productivity if you have a plan and see it through. 

On behalf of everyone at Pareto Systems, I wish you all the very best for 2021. I sincerely hope it is a breakthrough year for you personally and professionally.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2020-11-17 16:56:14 • 5 minute read

Controlling the Controllable

Market volatility, political uncertainty, competitive forces and various external dependencies are facts of life for a knowledge-for-profit professional.

It would be great if the world cooperated with our plans on a consistent basis, but that is not the way it is. Let’s face it; that’s why clients hire you. Friction and uncertainty come with the territory. Your ability to deal with this reality is a major factor that separates the best from the rest.

Strategic planning is the first step in focusing that ability. In many ways, strategic planning acts like the noise-canceling headphones I talked about earlier. As with your clients, there is a sea of noise competing for your attention, and the velocity and volume increases every year. A strategic planning process lets you tune out the static and improve the signal-to-noise ratio. This ensures that you focus on what matters - the things you have control over and that have real importance - so you can move in the direction of your vision for the future, relying less on hope and more on process. It gives you the guide you need to begin constructing something of greater value.

I’ll come back to the jigsaw analogy: Have you ever tried to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without the picture as a reference to guide you? It can be done through trial and error, but it takes far longer and is far more frustrating without a frame of reference. A personalized strategic plan serves as your guide as you put the pieces of both life and business together.

A strategic plan can help you make critical observations about the track you are on, based on the Law of Cause and Effect, to ensure that you’re engaged in the activities that contribute to your productivity goals. It can help you identify untapped opportunities and overlooked vulnerabilities, so you take action accordingly.

The key is to apply a process, and not go through that process in isolation. My approach to strategic planning is driven in large part by the gap analysis I discussed. Rather than a generic pep-talk that tells someone what they should be doing and has temporary value, I use a Socratic approach, asking a series of questions that act as a strategic analysis and a path to discovery and self-motivation. I’ve had countless exchanges with professionals over the years where our process leads them to their own conclusions about what really matters and how to make it all a reality.

As an example, I was speaking with a professional advisor recently as part of a strategic planning conversation. We were deep into a conversation on business development, client acquisition and on-boarding when we reached the following sequence of simple questions.

“Do your clients fully understand and appreciate your value?” I asked.

After a long pause, he replied with a tentative, “I think they do.”

I then asked him, “How do your clients describe you?”

“I have no idea, really. They probably say they trust and believe in me,” he said.

“What is your process to make your clients the voice you listen to in order to get the pulse on the effectiveness of your communications?” I asked.

To which he replied, “I don’t have one.”

It is common for professionals from all walks of life to drift into a pattern of sporadic client communication and assume that all is well - part of that inertia confidence I mentioned. While their approach isn’t necessarily bad per se, it certainly isn’t firing on all cylinders.

In the scenario I described, I brought the conversation to the tipping point a few questions later by asking about the advisor’s approach to on-boarding new clients. He proceeded to outline his method, which was fine, but which had several gaps. I then asked him why he did things the way he did, to which he replied, “That’s basically the way we’ve always done it.”

It is essential that you constantly scrutinize your procedures in order to optimize and refine how you do things. There is a place for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra, but when it comes to communication - especially as it relates to competitor-proofing clients, gaining their full empowerment as the relationship unfolds, and new client acquisition through referrals - you can’t take anything for granted.

You must continually strive to raise the bar, and to do that you need to know where you stand.

The advisor I just described is a classic example of someone with significant mileage and experience whose efforts compounded over time, but had brought him to a plateau. In many ways he was mistaking movement for achievement. He didn’t need to repair any damage, and he definitely didn’t need to make any drastic wholesale changes or reinvent the wheel. He simply needed to make some minor adjustments.

It’s not an exact science but I’ve seen time and time again how very successful advisors have done 80 percent of the necessary work on their business, but are only realizing about 20 percent of the reward. A few simple refinements are all that were needed to unlock the full potential.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

Pareto Systems
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