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2019-09-17 15:46:41 • 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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2019-09-10 16:43:14 • 3 minute read

I was speaking with a consulting client around this time last year who excitedly informed me that their new Thanksgiving Day card process had just been initiated for the first time.

Those that read our weekly articles and have seen us in the field are likely aware that we at Pareto are fixated with process, and it is always a thrill whenever we hear that one of our clients has taken it to heart and applied process within their own practice.

As well, this specific process is one that we feel particularly impassioned about because we have been promoting the notion of giving out Thanksgiving Day cards for about 15 years now.  In fact, we always get rave reviews from the advisors that have employed it.

Although it is fine to send a Happy Holidays or New Years card, we have always argued that sending a Thanksgiving Day card will set you apart.  There are a lot of gifts and communications going back and forth around the New Years and Christmas holidays, and your Christmas card tends to blend in with the many others.

Historically speaking, the Thanksgiving Day card has never been a strong tradition. Therefore, when you send one out, it is quite likely the only card that your clients will receive.  You stand out as someone who is genuinely interested in them and sincere about wishing them a great Thanksgiving holiday.  As well, in this age of the Internet it is often rare to get a physical card of any kind for any occasion.  This last point creates a further opportunity to really stand out and to make a statement about your level of commitment to them.

In order to execute this Thanksgiving card idea effectively, there are a few things to consider, and one of those is the all-important message on the card.  Many advisors look for a quote which resonates with them of course.  Perhaps they might speak to the state of the nation, the time of year, and of course the clients they are sending it to.  In today’s world, it takes but a few moments and an Internet search before you have several worthy quotes to choose from.

Next, arrange to have your chosen message written on the card by someone in your office or inner circle who has admirable and legible handwriting.  I realize that you may think this is a lot of writing, but it is well worth the effort.  It is important to note, based on your service matrix, this is not going to be sent out to all your clients – it is going to be sent out to your best clients.  You also have to decide who will sign the cards.  My personal preference is that the cards are signed by all your team members (if this applies).  Again, what is the statement that you want to make to your best clients about the level of service that you provide, and the respect that you have for them?

Your Cards should have Impact and Shelf Life.

Lastly of course, what kind of a card do you want to send?  In short, we have always suggested that you send the nicest card you can possibly find.  It has to be something that someone really doesn’t want to ever throw away (we often call this ‘owning the mantle’).  It has to be so attractive a card that the client will keep it on their mantle or desk for months to come.  

Now, as it relates to our client, I was curious as to what steps they had put into their Thanksgiving Card process, and reviewed it.  It was airtight.  Anyone, even brand new to the office, could have followed it with ease - perfect for documenting in a Procedures Manual, a great bonus.

Step 1, which was already in motion, was to order the cards by a ‘drop dead’ date to ensure that they would be sent out in a timely fashion.

They had called me that day because they were taking the “best card you can find” to heart, really wanted to “wow” their clients, and felt a bit stuck at finding something suitable so I told the about Lavish Cards. Their cards will set you apart from others as they are stunningly beautiful and produced on the highest quality paper, and they have a very diverse selection of beautiful photographs.  I personally have ordered them for use with my friends and family, and often get phone calls from friends thanking me for the card (if you can imagine that).  One friend framed one.  I love it that people enjoy them so much.

So remember: take process seriously at all times.  Don’t leave anything till the last minute and even though it is still many weeks away, it is a great time to plan and begin executing your Thanksgiving Day card campaign.  If you are initiating change and sending Thanksgiving cards yourself for the first time, be sure to order them soon.

Continued success!

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2019-09-03 18:29:34 • 3 minute read

Integrating FORM into Your Client Goal Setting Process

Of the many steps of the personal branding process that can fast-track clients to advocacy, integrating FORM has to be among the easiest. When you on-board a new client or have a review meeting with an existing client, ensure that there is a tab in their Personal Financial Organizer (The PFO Binder that is the central hub of your relationship) that outlines the importance of FORM. Simply explain that you take a holistic and panoramic approach to client relationships and that part of your process is to know as much about your clients' Family dynamics, Occupational issues and Recreational interests as you do about their Money.

Many clients will be amazed that you are so thorough and comprehensive. A few will wonder what the real benefits are. Either way, to drive the point home further, integrate FORM with your client goal setting process. But again, be panoramic and all encompassing. Sure you want to understand their financial goals, but you really want to understand what money means to them holistically as it relates to their family, occupation and recreational aspects of life.

We recommend our advisors use our W5 goal setting process with clients and include that document into the FORM tab within their PFO. This is a tangible and meaningful way to effectively make connections for the client as it relates to Family Investment Legacy and Transition issues, Occupational Retirement goals as well as Business Succession objectives, Recreational wish lists, etc - all of which become more predictable when tied into the solutions you provide.

When the Why is Clear, the How is More Appreciated

When you and your clients are crystal clear about all the reasons why they want to achieve financial independence, they place far more value on how you plan to get them there. This competitor-proofs your clients in a way that ensures that anyone trying to steal your clients will meet resistance and dead ends with every dripping effort.

And again, you get a double-win because the more your client buys-into your process and understands and appreciates it, the easier it will be for them to describe your process to someone else.

On that point, many advisors tell me that their clients have told them that they don't talk about money with their friends and family members. In truth what they are saying is that they aren't clear about your process or how endorsing you to someone will ultimately reflect back on them, or they are concerned that you will try to sell their acquaintance on buying an investment product and becoming a client. If that ever happens, use the misconception as an opportunity to re-frame their perception and start the process of helping them understand your commitment to stewardship rather than salesmanship. To accomplish that say something like this: 

"Fair enough. The reason I'm asking is because a major component of my value proposition is in making myself available to act as a sounding board for friends and family members of my clients. They do not need to become a client of mine to take advantage of this service. Especially when it comes to family members because I have developed and refined a Family Investment Legacy Process for clients who are thinking about succession issues. So no worries if this isn't relevant or something you are comfortable with. I just want my clients to be aware that I will make myself available to be a sounding board for people who are important to my clients. Frankly it's the most fulfilling aspect of my job and one of the primary reasons I became a financial advisor."

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-08-06 20:28:41 • 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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2019-07-30 18:54:35 • 3 minute read

If you have read any of my articles, you will know I talk about about the importance of describing what you do for your clients and prospects as a process. Too many advisors, when asked what they do, say things like:

"I help my clients manage their assets and risk."

It has been proven to resonate far better, not to mention be far more memorable, to say:

"I've developed and refined a process that enables me to manage my clients’ assets and risk."

When you refer to your approach as a process rather than simply suggesting that you help people, it adds so much persuasive impact to your messaging because it sounds official and organized rather than generic and abstract. You see this all the time in the marketplace where a firm will give something they do a name by basically calling it something. Westin Hotels refer to their beds and showers as Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Showers. I can tell you that I've stayed in a lot of hotels and I'm not sure that their beds are any better than any other comparable hotel but many people are convinced that Heavenly Beds are better. In the minds of many people, every other hotel simply has beds, while Westin has Heavenly Beds - again because that's what they're called. And, let's face it, when it comes to selecting one hotel over another a good bed and shower is ultimately what people crave.

As I've said, a branding strategy addresses what your clients’ want, not what you do or who you are in the classic sense. So what do your clients want? They want to face the future with anticipation rather than apprehension and they want to feel confident with the track they are on. An advisor with a process projects that far better than an advisor who simply "helps clients...." 

From Vapour to Paper

You can't stop at just saying you have a process, you have to demonstrate that you actually have one. I say that because advisors ask me all the time, "How can I create this process you keep talking about?You already have a process, the problem is you don't refer to it as such and you don't have anything to show them what it looks like. Think about it, when you on-board a new client and align solutions to their needs, you use a process. So start referring to it that way.

I ask coaching clients of ours to sit down and simply get their process out of their heads and on to paper - even in point form. A very effective advisor was shocked to realize that there are actually eight steps to her asset management process. But she never thought of it in those terms before. Now that she has listed out the steps on to a sheet of paper she can now show a client and prospective client with far more persuasive impact. It is now referenced as a bullet point on her agendas and she can help demystify what she does and help people conceptualize her approach and appreciate her more fully by showing them.

Among the many benefits, this is an essential step to ensure that your clients are telling their friends:

"You should meet my advisor, he has an excellent process and he's a great guy."

As opposed to:

"You should meet my advisor, you'd really like him, he is a great guy."

Your Clients Will Do Your Prospecting for You

Again, your clients can do a great job positioning you in their friends’ minds as an ideal alternative to their current advisor and begin creating a nagging feeling in their minds that you are a far superior option.

You can take that one step further by providing an Introductory Kit as part of your introduction process. This is as important for the client referring as it is for the prospecting you are hoping to attract. For example, when you say to a client:

"If you ever have a friend or family member that you would like to introduce to me, simply call me to get the wheels in motion and I will put them into my introductory process. I'll reach out and have a brief initial conversation, I'll send out my introductory kit so they can get to know me a little better in advance and then I'll carve out the time to meet with them to get to know them better and be a sounding board to help them make some informed decisions."

Your clients can envision this in their mind’s eye and describe you in a more compelling way. Your prospect gets to hold something in their hands and gets to know you a bit before they even meet you (and send it via 2-day courier to elevate its importance and increase the value the person places on the upcoming meeting). Of course, you further validate your professionalism by providing a printed agenda in the initial discovery meeting, and outlining your on-board process and personal financial organizing binder in the fit meeting. Again, tangible things they can hold in their hands that reinforce that you have a process. All of this has been proven to enhance a prospective client’s motivation to take action. You don't have to convince them with a closing strategy, the prospective client comes to his or her own conclusion.

I'm not suggesting that your clients will start referring to you as their Heavenly Advisor, but I can guarantee that their description of you will be far more effective than before. I can also guarantee that your prospective clients will perceive you as a professional with a process and will be drawn to you like never before.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2019-07-23 15:58:55 • 3 minute read

How many times have you heard the phrase, 'It’s not the quantity but the quality that really matters'? This statement is definitely true when considering a financial advisor’s book of business. Yet despite this reality, a large number of advisors have a difficult time grasping the concept that bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, more often than not, advisors dream of building a very large client base. It seems that in this business, there is a false belief that size does matter! One thing’s for sure, in this day and age, a large book of business means one thing – considerably more work. Gone are the days where an advisor can be assured that a client is competitor-proofed with an annual or even bi-annual call. 

Client right-sizing is one of the first areas we tackle when working with a new client in our one-to-one coaching program. However, it is often a difficult subject to broach as many advisors going through our Pareto Systems program are looking for guidance to grow their businesses in order to increase their net incomes. Instinctively, they believe their action plan should begin with increasing the number of clients in their book, not paring down their number of clients. This is where many advisors miss the mark.

Are you looking to boost your income by increasing the size of your client base? If so, you should consider some important questions. Before answering, think hard about what each question implies:

  1. Could your business, as it’s running now, handle a dramatic increase in new clients?
  2. Would a substantial increase in business create some level of chaos in your office? As you know, there is a lot involved in bringing on even one new client (or at least there should be!)
  3. Would an influx of new clients result in a decreased level of service for all your clients as a whole?
  4. Would you need to add an assistant to the team in order to keep track of all your clients and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks?
  5. Might the new business, in fact, cause you to lose focus on the clients who really matter in your book, your Top 20%? And if, as a result, you lost even a handful of your top clients, would that have a dramatic effect on your practice?

There is a specific process to “growing one’s business.” It is often important for an advisor to reduce his/her number of clients before adding new ones. The point is to clear out the old ones to make way for the new (and improved) ones! This gives the advisor the opportunity to let go of clients who aren’t necessarily adding to his/her income but are certainly draining on time, or have attitudinal quality that don’t align with the advisor’s.

If you take anything from this article, please remember that to increase your income, you don’t necessarily need more clients, just different ones and more engaged ones. Another thing to consider is that to remain at the same income level you are at now, you could most likely drastically reduce your client base by letting go of clients who are not significantly contributing to your business.

To begin client right-sizing, it’s important that you first take a hard look at your client base (hopefully you are already utilizing a fully encompassing client classification system), then make some critical decisions. Who is your ideal client? Who is no longer suitable as a client? Who takes up too much of your time? As you can imagine, by re-evaluating who an ideal client may be, then letting go of the clients who don’t , or most likely always won’t, fit the bill, you become much more efficient overall. Let’s face it, some clients are more of a hassle than they should be. They may eventually cause you to lose focus of the clients who really do deserve your full attention and your valuable time.

With a smaller book of business, you are once again able to gain control of your practice. By going through this process, you are now in a position where you are able to really service your top clients. As you know, when you spend more quality time with the clients who count, they really begin to appreciate your services, regardless of what is happening with the market. As long as you are in constant contact with your top clients, they will feel as though you are looking out for their needs. If at the same time, you are in the habit of re-stating your introduction process, those same top clients will brag about you to their friends and family. This will no doubt increase your rate of introductions and soon enough, more ideal clients. 

So before haphazardly taking on new clients, remember this: bigger is not always better!

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-07-16 16:08:49 • 3 minute read

As you can imagine, social media is a hot topic in the financial services sector. At presentations and in conversations with advisors, I am constantly asked for tips and suggestions about what works and what doesn’t. Social media invariably comes up in the consultations our clients have with our coaching staff as well.

While this article will only scratch the surface, it should get the wheels in motion for you as you research your own social media strategy going forward. And consider this, while your success as a financial advisor doesn’t hinge on embracing social media, it is inevitable that the wave will continue to grow to the point where social media will become an indispensable and productive utility in business. So why not ride the wave?

It’s Not Too Late to Become an Early Adopter of Social Media

Clearly social media is not new. Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and others have been around for a quite few years now. For a variety of reasons though, including compliance, lack of free time and the perceived complexity for making it worthwhile, most of the advisors who have engaged in a social media strategy have really only dabbled to this point. Furthermore, while the existing players may hit a saturation point and plateau (as it seems is the case with Facebook), the concept of social media is here to stay.

Don’t Major in Minor Things

Social media can play a complementary role in your business building efforts. Just be sure to keep your priorities clear to make social media work. You shouldn’t pursue social media at the expense of your core advisor productivity strategies such as a call rotation, advocate process, service matrix, etc. That said, if your foundational systems and procedures are in place and being consistently deployed, social media can bolt on nicely and can become a powerful business development solution.

Start With the People Who Are Already Convinced

As a starting point, the most powerful benefit of social media is enabling you to efficiently strengthen your existing relationships with clients and partners. You can’t take existing relationships for granted. A natural “loyalty fatigue” can develop over time and you have to continually communicate your value in order to competitor-proof your relationships, uncover new opportunities and attract referrals. And when it comes to referrals, social media can be the final frontier, and here’s why. When a client is talking to a friend and you come up in the conversation, it is much easier for your client to steer his or her friend to your content than it is to introduce them to you directly. Social media can become a bridge to help prospective clients get to know you before they even meet you.

The Power of Predisposition

All prospective clients have a current financial services provider that they will contrast you to when they first come in contact with you. Social media can enable you to activate the Relationship Cycle, which unfolds as follows:

  1. Create Awareness – they get to kick the tires in privacy without fear of being pressured
  2. Develop Interest – they get to know you and your approach at their own pace
  3. Establish Trust – contrast is established and they become self-motivated
  4. Earn Empowerment – they are at a stage-of-readiness to meet with you and become a client
  5. Generate Endorsements – they are able to introduce you to the people they know

Don’t Sell, Educate!

You want your followers to have anticipation for your communications, not apprehension. If you have a mindset of stewardship rather than salesmanship, you develop a “Trusted Guru” status that ensures your postings get read and get forwarded. This is essential if you want your strategy to go viral.

All Roads Lead to Content

Become a content machine! Develop a habit where your knowledge and insights can become valuable intellectual properties that can be shared. You can create case-studies, white papers, and your own tip of the week with topical commentary on the fly. If you want to go from “surface to serious”, you can create a multimedia strategy with webinars, podcasts and even create your own YouTube channel for video postings. Obviously you need to get into a rhythm with compliance so as to not be out of bounds or lose your momentum, but the branding possibilities are immense.

The Power of Integration

One of the most remarkable aspects of social media is seamless convergence. All of your micro-blogging efforts and other postings can be efficiently integrated to give you maximum reach with minimal effort. I don’t want to oversimplify things because social media requires a balance of knowledge and effort. But if you are a serious student learning as you go and you set realistic expectations, you will incrementally gather momentum and get into a groove.

Knowledge is Power

With a little research and some trial and error, you can launch a simple “surface” campaign and run it yourself at a cost of about an hour a day. Remember, contrary to the old cliché, time is NOT money. Time is more valuable and the best way to ensure a solid ROI is to develop a skill set and be consistent and patient. If you want to get “serious”, I suggest you interview some consulting firms who specialize in social media support. But don’t out-source the work entirely. Instead, work along side the firm so that you can hold them accountable and learn valuable skills that will serve you going forward.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-06-11 19:11:02 • 3 minute read

As I started to this article, the phrase: ‘the devil is in the details’ popped into my head and I made a mental note to try and squeeze it into the article somewhere. I then got curious as to where the phrase comes from, and was surprised to learn from Wikipedia that it was derived from an earlier phrase ‘God is in the detail,’ expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly, i.e. details are important. So there you have it, you can interchange ‘God’ and the ‘Devil’ in that phrase depending on your mood, and mean exactly the same thing! Who knew?

Indeed, the little details, the little things we do in our office, such as the way we answer the phone, the way people are greeted, how we dress, all these seemingly little things, all in concert with one another, are really the things that brand who you are and that build your reputation, for better or for worse. Without the little things, every office would be similar to the next one, and each would be a sterile office devoid of life and personality.

One of my clients that I am working with now has only recently started to pay attention to the little things, and he admitted as much to me early in our coaching together. Now that he is starting to see how is clients are responding, he is kicking himself for not paying attention earlier. I see it all the time. The best part is that he is having fun. He told me that too. It’s awesome!

Just last week he was doing a call rotation to one of his best clients. This is a call we at Pareto Systems recommend that advisors make to top clients on a quarterly basis. The call rotation concentrates on the clients’ Family, Occupation and Recreation matters. Money is not to be brought up on the ‘call rotation’ unless of course the client brings it up. My coaching client learned that one of his clients, a successful and extremely busy business owner, just had his son graduate from University. The father was ecstatic. My client also learned that the gentleman was also about to go on an annual hunting junket.

Now for most people, that phone call would happen, the client would be congratulated of course, and then the whole thing would become a distant memory by the end of the day; another ‘little’ opportunity squandered. My client; however, has evolved.

My client reflected on the joy in the father’s voice, he soaked it in, and then decided to act. That very afternoon he went by the client’s business unannounced, and dropped off a big bottle of Crown Royal. He included a lovely card that congratulated the father on his son’s accomplishment, and also wrote something to the effect of: “Hope this keeps you warm on your hunting trip!” (My client is now keeping great notes on his clients’ family and recreation information, and had learned on a previous call rotation that the client was partial to this particular whiskey.)

As you can imagine, the client was blown away. What does he do? He takes my client advisor by the arm and walks him to the other side of the plant and says: “I want you to meet my brother-in-law.” 

Just one little thing, that someone did not ignore, that culminated in an impromptu introduction. I always find these types of stories to be mind-blowing stuff. 

Pay attention to the little things, be consistent, and let your disciplines compound, and you will have a better business than most! God is in the detail after all…

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-06-04 20:13:16 • 3 minute read

Here are a few of the goals professionals have opened up to me about in relation to re-setting their approach: 

I want to restore liberation and order to my life. I’m tired of fire-fighting, micro-managing and babysitting. 

You want to run the business so that it’s not running you, but it has to be more than a goal. You have to apply a process that helps everyone on your team to get the business out of their heads and into a playbook. It’s a process to turn your book into an actual business, rather than having just a book of business.

I don’t want any dead branches in my business. It’s time to prune the high- maintenance clients but I’m not sure where to start. 

You’ve heard the expression that there are only so many seats on the plane and you have to respect that capacity? Right-sizing needs to be done and it needs to be done professionally and respectfully. It must to be based on mutual fit and, if done properly, you create capacity for more first-class passengers while ensuring an environment that affluent clients aspire to belong to.

I want to transition to a fee-for-service model but I’m nervous about how my clients will respond. 

If clearly communicated as an upgrade, with tangible improvements to your client service model, your clients will focus on what you’re worth rather than what you cost. Later in this book, I’ll go into this particular transition in detail. 

I want to stop trading my time for money and start building more equity value in my business. 

When you de-personalize your business by going beyond raw talent and instead focus on your ongoing and progressive process, you can evolve from a production mindset to an asset mindset. Your business can be worth far more than it is today. 

The gist of this is simple. A strategic planning process can reveal where adjustments and refinements can be made in your business. Few advisors I work with are way off track, or need dramatic wholesale changes to the way they conduct themselves.

Case in point, in our on-going practice management coaching with professional advisors, I often remind our clients of this simple fact: Being a great professional advisor, in and of itself, is no guarantee for success in this business. I 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 of the need to possess strong business acumen along with vital core skills. One of my favorites is the rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, two inventors who both made enormous contributions to society, but who had dramatically different outcomes in life. Edison’s company became General Electric, while Tesla sold his patents to Westinghouse and died alone and in debt.

While you can argue that Tesla was a better inventor than Edison, Edison’s business skills were far superior.

I will never trivialize the importance of being a skilled professional in your core solutions, but it is a given that you are effective there. My point is this: There is little correlation between how professionally skillful you are 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 a path to your door are long gone. Ongoing professional development to sharpen your skills is essential, but do you invest the same amount of time sharpening your practice- and relationship-management processes? They are of equal importance.

Many professional advisors I work with are successful, enjoy an impressive lifestyle and should be content, but many of them are still ambitious and are frustrated because they have hit a plateau. While every advisor’s scenario is unique, often the plateau stems from inertia confidence. Simply put, the advisor is busy repeating habits and patterns, and has been for an extended period of time. They are getting results, but they can raise the bar and achieve more.

Every advisor can drift into a rut when they haven’t stepped outside of their business to kick their own tires and assess where they can make refinements to their approach. This is especially important if you want to continually increase the quality of clients you are attracting.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-05-28 18:47:36 • 3 minute read

Full Disclosure Leads to Full Empowerment

When we coach a financial advisor on how to improve his or her productivity, profitability and efficiency, we start a process to identify their untapped opportunities as well as any overlooked vulnerabilities.  This enables us to quickly establish where the low hanging fruit is, as well as any issues that are undermining their ability to achieve a breakthrough.

Often, the most startling untapped opportunity stems from clarifying the distinction between a customer and a client.  A Customer does some business with you but they also have needs fulfilled by one or more other service providers.  A Client empowers you fully.  You are their personal CFO.  Every need they have, they empower you.  And just as importantly, when a new need presents itself, the client instantly contacts you looking for a solution.  A customer goes shopping.

But this goes beyond just the status of your existing clients’ needs.  Money is constantly in motion and needs are continually evolving.  It’s essential that you have a process to ensure that you are the go-to advisor when a new need emerges.  This way you don’t have to go chasing the business.  You attract it.

So the question to ask, as part of your own strategic analysis is, do you have any customers among your client base and what are the benefits of taking action to convert them?  The next question is, how would your business change if you started all new relationships from the perspective of full empowerment?

The practical benefits are obvious.  A business made up of fully empowering clients means that you can grow the amount of assets you’re managing without growing the number of relationships you manage.  Plus, you don’t have rely strictly on a client acquisition strategy to convince new people to come on-board.  Convincing people can be draining – like pumping up a leaky tire.  When you work with the people who are already convinced, as new money in motion develops, they contact you to meet those needs.

All of which, brings me to a series of symbolic benefits too.  Sure, a client that calls you for a college plan for a new grand-daughter isn’t going to impact your next paycheck very much.  But the action speaks volumes.  Clients are more loyal and they are better equipped to describe you persuasively to others.  Clients tell their friends that “My financial advisor takes care of everything for me and does a stellar job.”  That is advocacy in action. Customers say, “I have a couple of different people who handle my investments, insurance and other things.”

The key is to have a process that enables you to get in front of unmet needs so that the moment they appear, you are getting the phone call.  Going forward, you need to re-frame your existing relationships so that they see the merit of this strategy and become trained – for lack of a better term – to anticipate contacting you immediately. And with new clients, you want to plant seeds early in the on-board process to future-pace how the relationship will look as it unfolds.

On-Boarding New Clients

The key with a new relationship is to explain how you conduct yourself and the role you will play in the client’s life as your relationship progresses.  The best way to do that is to present an impressive binder loaded with tabs and explain your service process to set expectations for how you will conduct yourself.  A good starting point is to say your own variation of this:

“The financial planning process is very dynamic and there are many pieces to the puzzle.  My job is to put those pieces into place as your life unfolds and your needs evolve.”  Then present a document – we call it a Personal Financial Organizer (PFO) – which contains a listing of every single service you provide along with a Take Action box beside it. You then say, “This is a listing of everything I provide for my clients.  Many of these solutions aren’t relevant to you and your family today but they may become relevant in the future.  As part of our review process, we will use this tool to anticipate needs and strategize your personal plan to align with your goals to ensure everything is taken care of in a precise manner.”

Re-framing Existing Customers

In your next review meeting with clients and customers, simply present the PFO and say this:

“We take great pride in providing exceptional service to our clients and ensuring that we anticipate needs and provide solutions that complement your complete personal financial plan.  But we never want to become complacent and we know that we can always raise the bar.  So going forward this binder will become the centerpiece of our review process and become an important hub for the important documentation we send you.”

Then, as part of your agenda as you walk through the binder, introduce your document that outlines your various services, and outline a modified version of what we discussed above. You’ll be amazed at how many of your customers/clients will say to you, “I didn’t know you did all of that.”

The binder becomes a tangible symbol of the strength of your process.  It locks relationships down, uncovers assets that are placed elsewhere, and ensures that it’s a knee jerk reaction that clients call you when money is in motion.  It also makes it easy for clients to conceptualize your value and easy for them to describe you to friends and family members too. 

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-05-21 18:04:46 • 3 minute read

Be Organized & Professional: Use an Agenda

An Agenda is instrumental in ensuring you deliver a consistent and professional financial planning review meeting process. It’s really not that difficult to implement. And, once you start to see the benefits it creates in terms of simplifying both meeting preparation and delivery, you’ll be hooked. Not only that, your clients will take immediate notice of your more structured and organized approach to meeting with them. Who knows, maybe some of those ‘hard to get in’ clients won’t be so difficult any more. This could be exactly what they were waiting for. 

When you provide an agenda to each meeting participant, you are signalling the beginning of the business part of the meeting. Therefore, before you do so, be sure you start the meeting off with some rapport building with the client. Establishing rapport is important to set a positive tone before diving into business. Limit this to no more than 5 minutes and then begin the meeting. 

Here’s an overview of how to walk through our standard review meeting agenda.   

  1. Meeting Overview. You need to begin by providing a brief overview of the meeting, which simply means walking the client through the bulleted topics on the agenda. The “Meeting Overview” should be at the top of all of your agendas.
  2. Introducing Us to Others. It is important to remind your clients in a consistent way that you have a defined process for how others are introduced to you. That way, when your client knows someone who could benefit from your services, they will already understand the process you have for bringing them on. Remember, this is not an ask; it’s an educate. There is a profound difference. And, for that reason, be sure you cover this part of your meeting in a very matter of fact, low key manner. Although this topic only takes a couple of minutes to cover, it’s very important and can have a significant impact on the quantity and quality of introductions you receive from your existing clients. We recommend you develop a script to follow and commit it to memory.   It is also important to note this agenda topic is deliberately at the front of the meeting agenda and should stay there. This process is important and you don’t want it to be perceived as an after thought. The “Introducing Us to Others” should be included on all of your agendas.
  3. Our Approach. Next you need to take a few minutes to quickly review with your client your financial planning approach. Again, this serves as a reminder and ensures we don’t take for granted that they know all that we do. This reinforcement ensures that when speaking to others about you, your clients are very clear about the types of financial planning services you provide. We also recommend you develop a script to follow and commit it to memory. This item should also be included on all agendas.
  4. Review Your Clients Goals and Objectives. Here’s where the financial advisor focus ends and the client focus begins. You should begin with a quick recap of the goals and objectives of your client. This will reinforce the long-term focus of your financial planning services; it’s the “why” that supports the “how” in what you do. It will also provide you with an opportunity to capture any relevant changes with respect to their goals and objectives, which may impact the financial strategies you implement on their behalf. This is important for you to continue to do the best job possible for your client.
  5. Strategy Review. This is a main part of the meeting where you would review all of the financial strategies you are implementing on their behalf. This may include the following types of strategies: retirement savings, educational savings, family security, insurance and estate planning – and anything else you are implementing on their behalf. Of course, any concerns or changes you would recommend about these various strategies would be discussed at this time. Similarly, we would expect any clients to discuss with you the concerns or questions they have about any of the strategies you are implementing for them.       
  6. Investment Update. This is where you provide an update specific to their investment strategies.  This can involve more detail and may or may not evoke questions from your clients. Any changes you recommend to their investments would be communicated at this time. 
  7. New Business. This provides everyone with an opportunity to discuss items not included on the standard agenda. This is an important feature to ensure clients know their financial planning concerns and issues will be discussed and/or addressed in the context of their review meeting. It also allows you to record any new items that need future follow up.
  8. Where Do We Go From Here? At the conclusion of the meeting you can wind up by letting them know what happens next. This may be one of the following scenarios:
  • Everything is fine and you look forward to seeing them at their next financial planning review meeting in six months or a year (however frequent their review happens to be scheduled). Make sure you tell them you are always available should they have any questions. And, end by letting them know it was a pleasure to see them again.

OR: 

  • Changes are required and will be managed accordingly. This may trigger follow up actions by you, your staff and/or the client. Let your clients know what to expect in terms of their next point of contact on what was discussed: this includes who and when.

It is important to document all follow up items accurately so nothing falls through the cracks. Use your agenda as the place to record follow up action items accordingly. This makes it easier to delegate and hand off to your assistant who can trigger the follow up actions accordingly for those involved. Again, make sure you tell your clients that you are always available should they have any questions through this period of transition while the changes are taking place. Again, end by telling them it was a pleasure to see them again.

You should always conclude each meeting with a “Where do we go from here” type of wrap up. This ensures both you and the client are clear on the next step in the process.

And with that, the review meeting concludes. Everything was covered. You finished on time. You are pleased with the process and even more so, your clients are. It’s clearly a win-win.

Finally, it’s also important to standardize any meeting tools you use during the course of your client review meetings. This might include financial fact finders, questionnaires, reports or process diagrams. So, once you have your agenda templates completed, you can endeavour to tackle that. The more consistency there is in the client meeting process, the better – for everyone. 

Continued success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2019-05-14 16:17:00 • 3 minute read

I was speaking with an advisory team last week, and they told me a process story.  

This team has bought in completely, and it was a major shift in mindset and process for the team. They had committed to keeping on Pareto’s process as closely as possible. 

They recently had a new referral. They went through the pre-appointment process as outlined and had the first appointment, pretty much exactly as scripted. They made the follow-up phone call 48 hours later, and agreed they were a good fit. The next appointment was set to follow in two weeks. 

The CSA was tasked with getting in touch with the prospective client and letting him know what info was needed for the second appointment. The prospective client said he needed more time, and rescheduled an additional week out. 

When the CSA contacted to confirm the appointment, he moved it again. Then emailed and moved it yet again. The appointment was now set two months out from its initial date.

The Advisor decided that they couldn’t go that far off process, so he called the prospective client and, in effect, told him that their process involved moving forward, and they couldn’t know what their capacity would be in two months. So if prospective client wanted to revisit the fit process in two months, he asked that they get in touch and that the Advisor’s team would look at possible fit again.

The reaction? The prospective client hung up the phone, and said “they fired me!”

A couple of hours later, the prospective client called the advisor and apologized for being negligent, and for disrespecting the advisor’s process. He asked if they would please allow him to get together all the needed financial information and meet in two weeks. 

Following this interaction, the Advisor said his strategy in dealing with client challenges going forward, is to “throw the process under the bus when necessary” – effectively highlighting that it’s not a whim on the Advisor’s part that things are done on schedule. It’s not personal; it’s the process that the Advisor follows in order to best serve his clients.

Contributed by Elaine Christakos 

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2019-05-07 14:16:15 • 3 minute read
Make measurable progress in a reasonable amount of time. ~ Jim Rohn

I started my Spotlight with that powerful Jim Rohn quote, because it has always been one of the main themes of my Business Development coaching with Advisory Teams across North America.

I have fabulous, warm relationships with my coaching clients, but if my clients aren’t practicing incremental implementation of the necessary activities, then the work is ultimately useless. It becomes a feel good exercise, and although I guess it ‘feels good,’ we’re not really accomplishing much if the clients aren’t implementing.

Wisdom, uninvested, is meaningless

I take great pride in holding my clients accountable to implement the necessary work, so that they can achieve both their production and personal goals, and achieve their Ideal Life. That’s one of the many reasons that they hired a coach. So although my coaching relationships are mutually enjoyable experiences, I strive to hold my clients to task.

Memorably, one of my clients once told me: “Terry, I have to admit that one of my most productive times is the 24 hours before we have a call together.” I laughed pretty hard at this, and as a coach, I enjoyed the feeling that my clients were feeling the good pressure that comes with accountability.

Seek to understand, before you are understood

We have a full curriculum of Best Practices that I help clients implement into their world, and although the basic principles of what needs to be done don’t change from day-to-day, what does change is the specific needs of each client. Everyone is different, and it is imperative to take those proven Best Practices and customize them in a way that is a natural fit and style for the uniqueness of each team. A significant part of my coaching relationships are spent first getting to know the team, and understanding what is important to them.

Getting to hear my clients’ stories of success

I will never get tired of my clients telling me what happened after successfully implementing some of our Best Practices. For me, it’s incredibly rewarding, and for clients, it’s a motivator to achieve even more. It’s one of the main reasons I love my job so much.

A favorite story of mine was from a client that had really done a great job at implementing the New Client Process. This is, of course, our process to help Advisors bring on a new client in a way that is attractive, memorable and referable. It also ensures that Advisors bring on clients that are a match for their Ideal Client Profile. Even though he had only been using this process for a couple of months, this Advisor had already received a handful of referrals. Good ones, too.

In fact, one client that he had recently on-boarded sent an Introduction to the Advisor several weeks after becoming a client. That Introduction became a client, and then the same client sent another Introduction several weeks later. Each time, the client would call the Advisor and explain that he had passed along the Advisor’s name to a friend, and could he reach out to the friend to explain his process.

On one of these calls, the referring client explained to the Advisor:

“I don’t want you to worry: I told my friend that you don’t work with just anyone, and that it has to be a good ‘fit’.”

The Advisor, who for his whole career had previously used a rather sales-oriented approach to ‘close’ new business, was now the one being pursued by prospective clients. As he’s telling me this great story, the Advisor says to me:

“Terry, this has never happened to me before. My only regret is that I didn’t start this approach 15 years ago!”

The Pareto Business Development Coaches hear that a lot.  

Terry Gronbeck-Jones: Pareto Systems Certified Consultant | Practice and Relationship Team Management | Franchise Ready Specialist-Scalability | Train the Trainer | Author

Learn more about Terry: https://www.paretosystems.com/coach-terry-gronbeck-jones.html

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2019-04-30 16:43:13 • 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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2019-04-23 16:12:00 • 3 minute read
We can, if we so desire, refuse to cooperate with the blind forces that are propelling us. - Aldous Huxley

The gist of this article is very simple; a gap analysis 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 advisors 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 favorite 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.

The Gap Analysis

When we conduct a Gap Analysis, we remind our clients that there are three numbers that have to be dialed into the combination to unlock their full potential:

  • Be a solid asset manager
  • Be a solid practice manager
  • Be a solid relationship manager

Our diagnostic approach reveals quickly that the advisor does in fact have a solid process and structure tied to the solutions he or she provides, but there are gaps when it comes to running the business like a business and maximizing client relationships.

Not to oversimplify it, but we often see that the advisor has done 80% of the work needed but is only seeing about 20% of his or her full potential. There is a vein of gold to be tapped into and its often easily attainable.

From Commodity to Communication

This was revealed recently in a conversation with an advisor who primarily has a B2B (Business to Business) approach as opposed to a B2C (Business to Consumer) model. This advisor provides group plans and related products to business owners and was spending a lot of time explaining his core solutions to prospective clients, but spending very little time understanding the nuances of each business nor explaining his service model and value proposition. As a result, he was swimming in a pool of sameness and had an average closing ratio. Worse than that though was that the quality and quantity of referrals he was attracting was brutal. After analyzing his communications methodology, branding and service process, I provided some minor adjustments that he could deploy. Today he spends far more time being interested in the prospective client’s business, outlining his points of difference and setting expectations as they relate to ongoing service – all driven by process. Business owners understand the importance of process and they can identify when someone is just trying make a sale versus when someone’s focused on the lifetime value of a client relationship.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-04-09 18:09:24 • 3 minute read

Steve Phillips is a longtime friend and partner of Duncan MacPherson and the entire Pareto Systems team, having first engaged with Pareto as a client in 2010. With over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry as a speaker, team leader and passionate educator, Steve was an early adopter of the processes around practice management, business refinement and client acquisition. It was a natural next step for Steve to become a Pareto Certified Practice Management Consultant, and part of the Pareto Coaches Network.  

After living, working and consulting in Scottsdale AZ for 5 years, Steve and his wife Laurie recently moved back to their home city of Overland Park KS. They have two grown daughters, Lindsay and Leigha and stay busy being involved with them and other family members living in the Kansas City area. Steve and Laurie are movie buffs and also enjoy traveling. 

Interestingly, Steve's college study was herpetology and he spent those formative years collecting and working with venomous snakes. As he describes it, the study and love of the snakes and their natural history remains in his blood and he still gets out on collecting and observation trips with colleagues as often as he can. 

Pareto: Why did you buy into Pareto’s process as opposed to what the industry was doing?  

Steve: Pretty simple actually. After doing presentations for thousands of advisors over 15 years, it became increasingly clear that the path to sustainable growth for already successful advisors was not around product or marketing. Moreover, the idea of working with the ‘already convinced’ in a practice, and turning current clients into advocates who then became the best client acquisition initiative anywhere, was the absolute proof that these proven processes work year after year. Helping the advisors I worked with create professional contrast in their communities and seeing what a shift to a philosophy, planning strategy and process approach meant to creating enterprise value in a firm, not only changed the trajectory of the firms and advisors I worked with, it changed my own path and in fact my life. 

Pareto: After becoming a founding member of the Pareto Coaches Network you founded the initial version of Advisor Protocol nearly five years ago and I know that through the collaboration with Duncan and Pareto Systems you’ve seen significant growth in the last several years. Talk to me a little about what AP does for its advisor clients. 

Steve: Well first, all of us at Advisor Protocol are thrilled to have had this relationship with Pareto for the last 5 years and Duncan has certainly been a guiding resource for us all along the way and was instrumental in the idea around what Advisor Protocol could become. We take the “In Collaboration with Pareto Systems” very seriously.

We’re actually a brand and coaching consultancy, so we develop and create personal and professional branding strategies, which of course leads advisors to articulating their value so that clients and prospects fully and completely understand and appreciate everything they do. As Duncan would say, we help advisors take the 50 or 80 or 100 things that they may be able to provide to a client over the life of a relationship, condense it into the 7 Pillars and then down to the One proprietary Process. We provide client-facing branded marketing pieces all based around the principals taught in the Pareto System, TCE and Blue Square.

We don’t let our advisors confuse a logo or fancy marketing pieces with the brand though. When you think of famous logos like Nike or Apple those are not just logos or pictures. They are the outward-facing representation of a deeply seated brand. For example, when you see the Nike Swoosh what do you think? “Just do it” of course. That’s a brand not a logo. So we work deeply with our advisor clients and their teams to identify, capture and bring to life their unique brand. You can imagine then what happens when we create the client pieces or provide coaching, not to mention the reaction of clients and prospects after the brand has been created.

Pareto: So in short, what affects or changes have you seen on the practices of advisors who participate in the AP program?  

Steve: Well within a matter of weeks of engaging with us our advisors see an increase in the quality and quantity of introductions they receive. The Pareto mantra of course. The thing is, is that once the brand is created and advisors can communicate it with passion and emotion, it of course gives clients a compelling way to share the experience they have with their advisor with friends and family members and instead of “sending referrals” they now “make the introductions.” And there’s a big difference there, as you know. Additionally, the strategies apply to both new client acquisition and to re-framing of current client relationships so think retention as well.

Pareto: So, your processes affect both acquisition AND retention. Speak to that for just a moment 

Steve: Again, applying what we’ve learned from Duncan and through our own experience with advisors, I think it’s safe to say that competition and commoditization will continue to increase and not go the other way and we believe, and have heard from some of our client advisors, that retention might be the most important aspect when it comes to increasing the enterprise value of their firms.

So through our branding and coaching we teach our advisors that “the words matter” whether or not they’re speaking with a new client for the first time or re-framing the relationships of their best clients. The opportunity to create professional contrast always exists, maybe now more than ever. The focus always has to be on providing an elevated and perfected client experience, and to move prospects and clients up the loyalty ladder to advocates.

To date we are extremely pleased and gratified about the response we have received and certainly about the ongoing collaboration with everyone at Pareto. 

For more information on Steve or Advisor Protocol visit: https://www.advisorprotocol.com/

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2019-04-02 17:28:38 • 5 minute read

As a coach in the financial service community, I continually ponder this very simple question:

Why are some Financial Advisors more effective than others?

You already know that the quality of your client relationships is just as important as the quality of your advice. And while I will never trivialize the importance of providing sound financial strategies and solid investment decisions, they alone won’t guarantee success. In fact, it has been proven that there are three numbers in the combination that can unlock an advisors full potential:

  • Sound investment advice
  • Consistent client relationship management
  • Predictable deployment of best practices

To validate this, we often scrutinize what separates the best from the rest in this business. We look at why some advisors are more successful than others and what it is they are doing that others don’t.

But what’s really fascinating is that this study transcends the financial services industry. The most successful consultants, accountants, dentists and other skilled professionals aren’t just effective at their core roles, they are also proficient at creating exceptional client experiences that lead to loyalty and refer-ability. The quality of the core deliverable is crucial, but that alone is not enough.

One of my favorite examples would have to be dentists.

First Things First

One of the most important things dentists realized was that their time is their most valuable asset. Your dentist doesn’t call you to confirm your next cleaning. Someone else does that (in fact, try to get your dentist on the phone. It’s not easy. They guard their time.). A good dentist creates organization and structure and empowers people who make $25 per hour to do $25 per hour tasks. In the process this liberates the dentist to focus on what he or she gets paid to do while creating scarcity that is attractive.

Master the Things That You Can Control

Somewhere along their specific evolutionary curve, dentists also clued into the fact that their vocation was close to the top of the list of professionals that many people despised, and then they got smart and did something about it. They started concentrating on the things that they could control. One thing they could control was preparing an environment that was so memorable and relaxing that people felt great even though they were visiting the dentist! With this historical move, dentists finally realized that they too could make use of word-of-mouth advertising! For the first time, people were talking about their dentists, and yet it wasn't in the context of pain! They were talking to their friends, families and colleagues about this special brand of 'instant rapport' that they had experienced, and it was at a dentist's office! People hearing about such things could have remarked to themselves: "I must check this out! My dentist basically uses pliers and rum!"

The other smart thing that successful dentists did was to help their patients map out a foundation for good dental health. As a part of this foundation, clients were taught that they would need regular and never-ending visits to the dentist to ensure that this strategy for good dental health was to succeed. In other words, it was an ongoing process that never ended until the patient died or lost his/her teeth. Clients are trained to empower their dentist.

Every new service provided by a dentist is communicated to clients in a forthright manner and positioned as a benefit to the client rather than as a sales opportunity. Clients become aware of their unmet needs before they even realize the need exists. And they take action.

Where is this all going? Is it such a stretch to think that we can implement the same kind of atmosphere and professional processes into the office of a financial advisor? Dentists realized at some point that the overwhelmingly negative public predisposition toward their kind was out of their control. Once they started mastering the office visit and educating their clients about the link between great dental health and how that was directly proportional to a lifelong relationship with their dentist, they have never looked back. The good dentists attract, they don’t chase.

Be Referable 365 Days a Year

Is it your fault as an advisor that the markets are volatile and the future is uncertain? Not in the least. However, if your clients tend to refer you only when things are rosy in the markets, you have a serious vulnerability in the way that you have positioned yourself with your clients. Things do not have to be this way!

If advisors would simply take a page or two from a profession that has already gone through this brand of disharmony, 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 as we speak. 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.

What's Holding You Back? Your Clients WILL Embrace This Approach!

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 financial 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 financial advisor, repetitively and forever as their lives and needs unfold.

Like the dental 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 financial advisor for an occasional or sustained hit to a balanced portfolio would be akin to blaming a dentist for your root canal.

The end result is that the 'instant rapport' and the Client Process are what the clients learn to value in dealing 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 we hear from the clients of financial 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 refer-able. Scrutinize everything and create a refer-able experience.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-03-26 16:14:08 • 5 minute read
"On a personal level, what I love about coaching is helping people to define and then achieve their goals. To me, nothing is more professionally rewarding." Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton was recently interviewed about his role as a coach and Pareto Systems Consultant. Here is a portion of that interview.

How did you get started in the financial coaching business?

I’ve been working with financial planners and advisors for most of my career. First as an estate planning attorney and then as a financial advisor and life insurance provider to high net worth ($25M+) clients throughout the country. I considered coaching a big part of my job. I would work side by side with advisors to help them demonstrate capability in the high net worth market.

What made you pick Pareto Systems as a consulting process?

When I practiced law, I was a client of Pareto Systems. Maybe not the best student they ever had.

But a few years ago, I reconnected with Duncan MacPherson and Pareto and I was immediately attracted to the platform and the process. The tools they have are phenomenal. I was looking for a career change and just felt that Pareto was the right choice. Time has only made my commitment to the Pareto Systems program stronger.

Who are your ideal coaching clients?

My current clients include solo advisors with $100M under management all the way to complex teams with over multiple billions under management.

Like we preach in Pareto Systems, my ideal client is a triple A client. They have a successful business and they want to see that business get even better. But they also want to make sure that they have time for family, friends and community. They are great people to work with. Constantly learning, looking for improvements. Willing to listen to advice and even more ready to execute. On top of that, they are advocates for me and for Pareto Systems. They don’t introduce me to their colleagues to help me grow my business. They introduce me to their colleagues because they know that we can help.

What trends are you seeing in the industry?

What I see over and over is that advisors want to drive more profitability and process in their businesses and want to have more control over their personal destiny. Of course, growth is a hot topic today. And I see many advisors considering a change from a wirehouse-based operation to an independent regime.

Pareto systems allows the flexibility to coach on these business issues as they arise.

What is your favorite thing about coaching?

On a personal level, what I love about coaching is helping people to define and then achieve their goals. To me, nothing is more professionally rewarding.

Pareto Systems focuses on the importance of FORM. Tells us a little FORM information about you.

For those who don’t know, FORM is an acronym for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Money. It’s based on the concept that as advisors, we need to know as much as we can about the first three areas for our most important clients before we can focus on the money.

In my case, I am married to Kim Hamilton for over 34 years. Kim is a successful business owner and together we have 4 adult children and 3 grandkids. In my free time, I play guitar and sing in a country music band here in Chicago.

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2019-03-19 18:24:52 • 3 minute read

Legendary personal and business development philosopher and speaker Jim Rohn often said that "The winds of opportunity blow the same for all of us. The difference that separates the best from the rest is how they set their sails."

As a financial professional, you invest a lot of time with your clients helping them face the future with confidence thanks to your investment planning process. The question is, do you yourself have a plan - both personally and professionally - and have you set specific goals for where you see yourself in the future?

The following is a simple process called W5 that you can use to get your vision for the future out of your head and onto paper, or in a journal. Many advisors have told me that they have used this format as a complement to their goal setting approach with their clients with great results too. It's also very effective to use with kids to get them visualizing a blueprint for the future.

* WHAT are you grateful for? With so much emphasis on the future, it's easy to overlook what we've accomplished to this point in our lives. The elusive goal called "balance" suggests that we be both ambitious and content. Gratitude allows you to savour your accomplishments and fuel your aspiration to higher levels. It's a good place to start and the outcome is a double win.

* Where do you see yourself in the future? - Be all encompassing as you create a wish list. Many people focus just on production and income goals but ultimately make us valuable. It's an important piece of the puzzle but really a means to an end. Write as many items as you can as you go through this step.

* When do you hope to accomplish these goals? Simply walk through your wish list and define them with specific timelines of 6 months, 1, 3 and 5 year goals. Then identify one or two that you feel would have the most profound impact on your life when you achieve it or them.

* Why is this so important to you? This question asks you to drill down and identify the key motivators that will drive you to see past the obstacles and adversity that you will surely face as you strive to achieve your goals.

* Who do I need to become to achieve this? This is heavy question that requires some soul searching. To turn a dream into a reality you'll have to elevate yourself out of your current mold. As the saying goes, "After all is said and done, more is often said than done." The results we'll achieve in 2018 won't change much from 2017 if we don't change. Which leads us to the ultimate reality check:

* How will I accomplish my goals? You'll need an action plan to achieve a breakthrough. We've all fallen into the "Illusion of Skill" that suggested that through talent, perseverance and brute force alone we can accomplish bigger and better things. Without a guidance system though, we tend to drift or spin our wheels and mistake motion for action. If you want to sell your business for maximum value in three years, you'll have to get the business out of your head and your assistant’s head, and create a procedures manual that can lead to predictable, sustainable and duplicable systems that the buyer of your business will pay a premium for. If you want a higher quality and quantity of referrals you'll need a service matrix to ensure the top 20% of your clients get 80% of your attention. If you want to simplify your life, you may need to right-size and lay out a process to disassociate yourself from clients that are not a good fit. That all probably sounds like work to you, but if the "why" is clear and concise, the "how" will get that much easier.

And that is the power of well-rounded goal setting process.

Continued Success,

Duncan MacPherson

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2019-03-14 15:12:02 • 2 minute read

Implement the process, and the results will come.

From one of my trusted consultants Robyne Zimmerman: www.paretosystems.com/coach-robyne-zimmerman

"An email from my client read:

We want to personally thank you for all your efforts, as we are definitely enjoying the results from the whole Pareto process. It must give you great satisfaction for making a big difference with the many teams you have coached over the years.

I really do get satisfaction from having such a big impact with the teams I work with. Our major focus when engaging with our clients is implementation. When I can help my clients to implement, the results come, each and every time. To hear feedback like this is great validation for the process, but it’s the clients that are doing the heavy lifting and who are the major reason they are seeing their success.

It puts a smile on my face knowing that the work we do really does make a difference in their lives and in their office. Not many people can say that about a job that they do - that they're able to really make a difference. It's not a job for a job sake. I thrive on it. I love it and it makes it all worthwhile.”

Learn more about becoming Pareto Certified: www.paretocoachesnetwork.com

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2019-03-12 18:37:02 • 3 minute read

One of our clients, Perry has been in the business for about four years, and manages the assets of about 200 households. Perry heard about the concept of doing a Client Advisory Council some time ago, but really couldn't picture what the outcome would be, and as a result, procrastinated about doing one. After attending a session with a Pareto Systems’ speaker, however, he liked what he heard and decided to take the plunge.

A Client Advisory Council (CAC) is an elite group of your very best clients. The group meets regularly to act as a “board of directors” to help you shape your business. They act as a forum for exploring customer service ideas. Another advantage of the Council is that it gives you the opportunity to spoil your top clients rotten. A CAC can be anything from a lavish dinner to--well, you name it. The sky is really the limit. After all, the more fun CAC events are, the more likely you are to exceed expectations, and the more likely it is that your best clients will talk about these events with their family and friends. This will, in turn, stimulate referrals.

Perry’s experience with the CAC is typical of the stories we hear from our clients. Perry told me that he recognizes that a lot of advisors seem to think this kind of activity is frivolous. Plus, though he was pretty sure he was doing a good job with his clients, before the CAC he had some trepidation about what he was going to hear. However, now that the dust has settled, he says the council was the best thing he ever did for his business.

So, what happened that night? Perry said that his clients left feeling extremely secure and positive about their choice of advisor, and that he left feeling totally empowered about the way he was running his business. In fact, towards the end of the evening, when Perry asked the question "have I earned the right for you to recommend me to your friends and family?" he said his clients started trying to one-up each other with referral suggestions! He said it was basically a mutual admiration scenario. It was the perfect environment to competitor-proof his clients and to reinforce his recommendation process.

By the way, Perry is going to be hold another CAC meeting in 6 months, and his manager now wants to do one as well.

Hopefully, you find Perry’s experiences inspiring and you want to host your own Client Advisory Council so that you too can develop your business, competitor-proof your best clients, and enjoy a steady stream of quality, qualified referrals.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-03-05 18:35:29 • 3 minute read
“Unlocking my client’s potential and achieving liberation and order in their life, is my guiding principal.” - Marci Fried

Marci Fried- Strategic Consultant/Professional Speaker

I have the advantage of partnering exclusively with a select group of highly skilled and successful teams, therefore their experiences provide insight that might otherwise not surface and I believe it is my responsibility to share these insights. 

As a seasoned Business Advisor, my responsibility is to listen, consider and when appropriate, point out fine tuning opportunities to our Advisors and their teams using learning moments and challenges to step back, slow down and focus in on what makes their clients tick.

Something to consider: 

I have been speaking with our Advisors and their teams about year-end volatility and why this was perceived as different. 

All my teams without exception, felt confident that they had positioned their clients prior to December 2018, that the likelihood of volatility was evident, while at the same time staying focused on the “plan” and the “process”. They all agreed that focusing on what they could control – as per Shoot Your Trailer - and firmly positioning the team as their client’s personal CFO (Complete Family Office), was firmly in place. Why, then were they receiving calls from a number of their best clients concerned about their year-end statements? The answer, as they knew, was December 2018. 

Why was this year-end different? Or was it not different at all? 

We all are familiar with the classic Ibbotson Chart, and have heard story after story. You think to yourself ‘well if you think it’s bad this time around, you only need to look back at other significant events including the Kennedy assassination, the crash of ‘97, and so on.’ 

The point is, it’s not if something will happen, it’s only a matter of when. It is essential to have a plan and a process; stay the course and when necessary fine tune, based on the direction the clients’ lives take, as their life unfolds and their needs evolve. 

Again, was this year different or not? 

I believed one of my Advisors tapped into the essence of why clients may have viewed this time differently, and it is rooted in behavior. 

Clients are confident that their Advisor and their team serve as their personal CFO and that goes hand-in-glove with monitoring their progress (i.e. Monthly Statements) but the year-end statement, in particular the month of December, was different. Remember, too, that in many cases the client will be sharing their year-end statement with their accountant, who will have their own commentary. This is where we witnessed unprecedented levels of volatility. It was stunning. Even the most seasoned client could not help but notice the jaw-dropping numbers, regardless of how prepared they were for volatility, but that was the reality of December 2018. Fast forward a matter of weeks to January 2019 and the trajectory was forward and up.  

This may have addressed why this behavior surfaced, but in hindsight, what could the Advisors and their teams have done to prepare for the December/January statement reality? This is where we find a learning opportunity, a moment to reflect and put into place a process for addressing the inevitable.  

Thinking with the end in mind, our Advisors and their teams by nature always seek to raise the bar in terms of the client experience. We need to be reminded to never take anything for granted in terms of what the client may be thinking and feeling, the Law of Familiarity is a reality and with this in mind we need ensure that we convey clarity, confidence and conviction.

To paraphrase Andrew Grove, author of Only the Paranoid Survive; regardless of the Advisor’s positioning leading up to December, clients may have listened, perhaps even prepared in their mind, but human behavior is strong. It can take over and make the reasonable sound unreasonable. 

We have a philosophy at Pareto Systems: The voice of our Advisors and their teams are the most important voice we listen to. I would like to share a recent conversation I had with one of our teams around this topic. 

“We have had a number of conversations with our clients and continue to schedule appointments with our best clients. We believe that it is imperative to get out in front of issues that impact our clients, and naturally the January statement was one of those topics we needed to address. We follow Duncan and use the Pareto strategies and resources to reinforce our messaging. We have our Agenda, we acknowledge their concerns and then we get back to what we can control. Our mission is to keep all this in context, basically not leaving our clients to their own devices, which could negatively impact their plan for years to come. We remind them that we never lose sight of what is most important to them and we circle back to stories around their family, occupation and recreational pursuits. We continue to keep the focus on their aspirations and goals. We address the “how”, we will continue to work together as their lives unfold and needs evolve and that the beauty of our Process, which is designed to address the ebb and flow as their life unfolds and needs evolve. We then shift to the Strategy and Tactical Review Meeting Agenda items and we get them back on track and excited about their future. We have a process.” 

Marci Fried: Pareto Systems Certified Consultant | Franchise Ready Specialist-Scalability | Enterprise Relationship Specialist -Train the Trainer | Practice and Relationship Team Management Expert, powered by the Pareto System.

Learn more about Marci: https://www.paretosystems.com/coach-marci-fried.html

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2019-02-26 16:49:54 • 3 minute read

How Being Interested Makes You More Interesting

Whether you’re speaking to a client or a strategic partner, you can improve your refer-ability by getting them to think about their own refer-ability. When you’re having a conversation, 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 good chance that your client or partner will say:

“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 gives you permission to restate your value proposition and reinforce your personal branding strategy. You might say:

“Thanks for asking. 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.

In keeping with not looking needy, frame the reminder with this phrase: This is part of our process. It’s a value-added service our clients find to be of benefit.

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

There is an old saying that giving starts the receiving process. The world is round and positive actions come back full circle to us in time. 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. It conveys your mindset: You like to identify opportunities where there might be an alignment of interests. In the process you attract referrals rather than chase them.

It’s good karma to be looking out for your clients and partners while demonstrating that you are interested in them and are bringing value to them. 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 your favorite because they are interested in your business and are often trying to add value 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,

Duncan MacPherson

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2019-02-12 17:56:28 • 3 minute read

Through many market cycles over the years, I’ve been saying that a good financial advisor is at his or her highest level of refer-ability during times of volatility. Money becomes more topical and many people start to have nagging doubts about the track they are on – both in terms of their current advisor and financial plan. As a result, friends and family members will often confide in and then bare their souls to your clients: 

“Are you happy with your financial advisor, because I think I’ve just about had it with mine.” 

Capitalize on this growing stage of readiness so that your clients will feel compelled to shine a light on you at that moment of truth. Trigger a moment of recognition and awareness for your value through proper positioning and imprinting. 

Getting Out in Front 

Call all of your favorite clients. A proactive call can serve as a mid-course correction to prevent them from drifting into a mindset where they fixate on specific products, pricing and performance, back to an enlightened philosophy, panoramic planning strategy and methodical process around financial independence. 

From MORF to FORM 

Be certain that you also bridge your “how” with their “why”. Transition yourself from the traditional Money, Occupation, Recreation and Family approach. Instead, focus on their Family Investment Legacy, their Occupational pursuit to a work optional lifestyle and their Recreational bucket list. This way, you can keep Money as a means to an end. The more they stay focused on why financial independence matters, the more value they will place on how you get them there - and in the process you will de-commoditize yourself. This is essential to keeping clients focused on what matters and what they can control.

Imprint Your Value 

“Just before I let you go, as you can imagine, I’ve been speaking to several clients recently, many of whom have friends and family members who are a bit unsettled and are starting to look to the future with apprehension rather than anticipation. I’m telling you this because I want to remind you that, as a value added service, I will gladly be a sounding board for anyone who is looking for a voice of reason. And keep in mind, they do not need to become a client to take advantage of this service. If they’re important to you, they’re important to me.” 

Act on Their Permission 

Many clients will thank you for your comment. Others will give you permission to elaborate by saying:

“I wasn’t aware that you did that.” 

Tell them WHY you do it – it’s because of your sense of purpose

Tell them WHO you do it for – by defining the person who fits your ideal client profile

Tell them HOW to make an introduction – by demystifying your process 

You ultimately aspire to become a client’s personal CFO, ensuring total client engagement over the lifetime of the relationship. You can’t achieve that by solely being their CIO. They need to know you are a CEO who runs the business like a business, creating a solid client experience, and you need to be a CMO with a marketing, branding and communication process that ensures clients understand and appreciate your value and continually focus on what you’re worth rather than what you cost. 

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-02-05 17:55:45 • 3 minute read

Let me sum up the interplay of branding and process that I have repeatedly touched on.

You want to be perceived as a consultant with a process as opposed to a salesperson with a quota, but you have to define yourself. Tell clients or prospective clients you have a process. Repeat it. Keep reminding them. If you don’t define yourself, you will be defined automatically.

It’s amazing how much trouble many top-caliber advisors have with this issue. Some advisors try so hard to make their value proposition unique that they end up reciting a long-winded elevator speech or mission statement that is, frankly, just a collection of words and sounds like everyone else. The goal isn’t to create something earth shattering or esoteric, the goal is to create something simple and clear while instantly differentiating and elevating you.

When someone gives you the opportunity to explain your value proposition, I want you to ask yourself, “What does this person really want?How you define yourself shouldn’t address what you do in the literal sense, it should address what the person craves; a relationship with an expert who helps them achieve what they aspire to - financial independence and a greater sense of control.

By adding the phrase “I have a process”, you get their attention and you are instantly more attractive and compelling.

This goes beyond how a prospective client perceives you; it also addresses how an existing client describes you. Over time, through consistent communication, your clients will absorb this phraseology and weave it into their conversation when they have the opportunity to describe you to a friend or family member. Wouldn’t it be great if a client shined a light on you by saying,

“You should talk to my advisor. I’ve never felt better about the track I’m on with my investments and, best of all, he has a process to ensure all the pieces of my financial puzzle are in place.”

or

“I’ve had other advisors in the past that didn’t even come close to the professionalism of my current advisor. She has a process to ensure that everything is addressed and her service is impeccable.”

That is just the beginning. A personal branding strategy helps people connect with you on a deeper level. The firm you represent has its own brand, but you need to build a brand within that brand. This adds credibility to your overall brand, but people are connecting with you, the messenger, not just your message in terms of solutions, products or rates of return.

You have to take your branding strategy beyond just the words you verbalize in a value proposition. It has to be integrated into all other forms of communication and every step of your process.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-01-29 19:16:38 • 2 minute read

The Power of the Introductory Kit

If you have read any of my articles, you will know I talk about about the importance of describing what you do for your clients and prospects as a process. Too many advisors, when asked what they do, say things like:

"I help my clients manage their assets and risk."

It has been proven to resonate far better, not to mention be far more memorable, to say:

"I’ve developed and refined a process that enables me to manage my clients’ assets and risk."

When you refer to your approach as a process rather than simply suggesting that you help people, it adds so much persuasive impact to your messaging because it sounds official and organized rather than generic and abstract. You see this all the time in the marketplace where a firm will give something they do a name by basically calling it something. Westin Hotels refer to their beds and showers as Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Showers. I can tell you that I have stayed in a lot of hotels and I'm not sure that their beds are any better than any other comparable hotel but many people are convinced that Heavenly Beds are better. In the minds of many people, every other hotel simply has beds, while Westin has Heavenly Beds - again because that's what they’re called. And, let’s face it, when it comes to selecting one hotel over another a good bed and shower is ultimately what people crave.

As I’ve said, a branding strategy addresses what your clients’ want, not what you do or who you are in the classic sense. So what do your clients want? They want to face the future with anticipation rather than apprehension and they want to feel confident with the track they are on. An advisor with a process projects that far better than an advisor who simply "helps clients...." 

From Vapour to Paper

You can’t stop at just saying you have a process, you have to demonstrate that you actually have one. I say that because advisors ask me all the time, "How can I create this process you keep talking about?You already have a process, the problem is you don’t refer to it as such and you don’t have anything to show them what it looks like. Think about it, when you on-board a new client and align solutions to their needs, you use a process. So start referring to it that way.

I ask coaching clients of ours to sit down and simply get their process out of their heads and on to paper - even in point form. A very effective advisor was shocked to realize that there are actually eight steps to her asset management process. But she never thought of it in those terms before. Now that she has listed out the steps on to a sheet of paper she can now show a client and prospective client with far more persuasive impact. It is now referenced as a bullet point on her agendas and she can help demystify what she does and help people conceptualize her approach and appreciate her more fully by showing them.

Among the many benefits, this is an essential step to ensure that your clients are telling their friends:

"You should meet my advisor, he has an excellent process and he’s a great guy."

As opposed to:

"You should meet my advisor, you’d really like him, he is a great guy."

Your Clients Will Do Your Prospecting for You

Again, your clients can do a great job positioning you in their friends’ minds as an ideal alternative to their current advisor and begin creating a nagging feeling in their minds that you are a far superior option.

You can take that one step further by providing an Introductory Kit as part of your introduction process. This is as important for the client referring as it is for the prospecting you are hoping to attract. For example, when you say to a client:

"If you ever have a friend or family member that you would like to introduce to me, simply call me to get the wheels in motion and I will put them into my introductory process. I’ll reach out and have a brief initial conversation, I’ll send out my introductory kit so they can get to know me a little better in advance and then I’ll carve out the time to meet with them to get to know them better and be a sounding board to help them make some informed decisions."

Your clients can envision this in their mind’s eye and describe you in a more compelling way. Your prospect gets to hold something in their hands and gets to know you a bit before they even meet you (and send it via 2-day courier to elevate its importance and increase the value the person places on the upcoming meeting). Of course, you further validate your professionalism by providing a printed agenda in the initial discovery meeting, and outlining your on-board process and personal financial organizing binder in the fit meeting. Again, tangible things they can hold in their hands that reinforce that you have a process. All of this has been proven to enhance a prospective client’s motivation to take action. You don't have to convince them with a closing strategy, the prospective client comes to his or her own conclusion.

I'm not suggesting that your clients will start referring to you as their Heavenly Advisor, but I can guarantee that their description of you will be far more effective than before. I can also guarantee that your prospective clients will perceive you as a professional with a process and will be drawn to you like never before.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2019-01-22 18:47:30 • 3 minute read

Take a moment to think back to the last time you stumbled upon a fabulous idea. Maybe this new concept was about your financial practice or maybe it had more of a domestic spin to it. Regardless of the idea, the all-important question is whether you followed through with your plan. I would bet that you achieved some of your initial goal but that your progress stalled somewhere down the line.

What happened? Was it that you were too busy to get your idea off the ground? Perhaps there was a major change in your life that had you side-tracked. Regardless of the specific details causing you to leave your plan unfinished, your inactivity can be attributed to the “Law of Diminishing Intent.”

In simple terms, the Law of Diminishing Intent states that when it comes to finishing a task that seems absolutely crucial at one moment, our motivation wanes at about the same rate as the task’s significance in relation to other aspects of our life and business. This is largely due to the fact that the emotion associated with the action dwindles, causing the motivation required to finish the project to fade.

A classic example of the Law of Diminishing Intent unfolds every year on New Year’s Day. January 1st is a time of new beginnings. On this day, we are highly motivated to put negative thoughts, habits, or character flaws behind us. We commit to change and dutifully begin to follow our resolutions. Perhaps we start a new exercise regime, decide to establish a new work ethic or to implement organizational plan. Despite these good ideas, the rest of our lives eventually get in the way and we fall back into our old routine a few months (or weeks or even days!) later. When it’s all said and done, we chalk it up to a good try and resume our old ways.

What does it take to move forward with a new plan -- to make sure nothing stands in the way of our success? When you decide you want to start something new, be sure to ask yourself whether you really want to accomplish your goal in the first place. It is possible that, subconsciously, you are sabotaging your success even before you start. It could be that in the back of your mind, you might already know that you don’t have the infrastructure in place to maintain your success once the task is completed. The first thing you must determine is whether you have what it takes to finish such a task. You also need to identify whether the result will ultimately improve your situation.

Consider, for example, that you decide it’s time to take the bull by the horns and do everything you can to grow your business. You resolve that the easiest way to increase your assets under management is to multiply your number of introductions. However, in the back of your mind you are not sure how to handle an influx of business. You’re already running at maximum and are a little nervous about the outcome of more business. Chances are that because you are a little wary of the outcome of your plan, you are not going to give this new resolution the energy it requires for completion.

Once you have decided that your goal is indeed one you want to achieve, it is imperative that you take action right away. You need to get the ball rolling while you are still excited and motivated; before your attention is drawn to different areas. The sooner you put your plan into action, the more likely you are to achieve your goals.

It also makes sense to start your quest in logical order to make sure everything runs smoothly every step of the way. In the example above, before increasing your number of clients, it would be wise to implement ways to handle the new business.

So to avoid the losses associated with the Law of Diminishing Intent, make sure to take action right away. Decide that the goal is one you want to achieve. Then look at your plan logically and confirm that you are pursuing your goals in the best order. And establish milestones so that you can mark your progress and remain motivated to reach your goal.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-01-15 18:19:19 • 3 minute read

From a philosophical perspective, one of the most important qualities in an advisor is in having a mindset that says "My goal is not to see how big I can get, but rather how small I can stay." That sounds like a contradiction from a buyer’s perspective. Why else would someone want to buy a business other than to grow, rather than do it methodically and organically? It's still a great idea to accelerate growth through acquisition but the focal point should be on the quality of the clients, not the quantity. An advisor who was disciplined in only attracting advisors who were a good fit rather than accepting anyone with a pulse, is the ideal advisor to purchase a business from. The same holds true in terms of selling a business to an advisor with a similar mindset because ultimately you know your clients will be transitioned and on-boarded professionally and will enjoy a very soft landing thus ensuring the sellers legacy in the process.

Consistency is Crucial

Advisors who tend to consistently attract the same type of clients in terms of average asset size and other commonalities is another item on the ideal alignment checklist. The average size of the client and the platform they are on, is more important than the overall amount of AUM the selling advisor has.

Within the Same Firm

For a variety of reasons it is also a good idea to align with an advisor within the firm you are with. That's not to say that there can't be exceptions, but the clients have a degree of comfort and familiarity with the firm's systems and procedures, and fewer disruptions in terms of trust, optics and deliverables contributes to the clients’ confidence in the transition.

Maverick Talent vs. Documented Procedures

The ideal business to acquire, and the ideal advisor to sell your business to, share a common thread in terms of a good fit: they operate a business on a foundation of best practices. The business is not in their heads, it is documented in a playbook. There is an allocation of time that is tied to client classification and a service matrix. Compliance history is solid because clients are receiving proactive and reactive service that is consistent. The advisor uses a CRM that ensures that relationship history is archived and KYC (Know Your Client) is accessible easily.

How Did They Start Relationships?

The ideal financial services professional uses a fit a process rather than a sales process. He or she doesn't try to convince someone to become a client, he or she establishes an alignment between the person’s needs and the advisor’s solutions. Their clients are enlightened and in synch with the advisor’s mindset about wealth management. Other questions as part of the dual-track due-diligence process are:

  • What is the client acquisition history in terms referral genealogy?
  • What percentage of their clients were referred from the 20% who generate 80% of the business vs. From the 80% who generate just 20% of the business?
  • What percentage of their business was organically acquired vs. absorbed from within the branch or acquired by purchase?
  • Were cold-calling, mass marketing and seminars used to acquire clients?
  • What percentage of their clients are actually partial customers who dabble with other providers vs. fully empowering clients?
  • What is their process to communicate their services professionally to consistently attract new money as it goes into motion?
  • Do they have meaningful "two-way street" relationships with accountants, lawyers and other partners?

Fees vs. Commissions

Many people have oversimplified this by saying that the best business to buy is one that consists of clients who have bought-in to a fee-based compensation model. What it really comes down to is the degree of communication the advisor has used and their consistency to ensure the clients are competitor proofed making them either fee-worthy or commission worthy. Whether they receive commissions for advice, or fees for management, is secondary. The bottom line is there will be more sellers than buyers and consequently there will be many fee-based businesses for sale in the future and not all of them will be worth acquiring.

Entering the Retirement or Acquisition Red-Zone

Whenever we coach an advisor on performing solid due-diligence on a potential buyer or seller, a common response is as follows: "This sounds like work!" And it is, but use the potential of a multiplied ROI as the beacon that helps you see past the hurdles and noise that will try to conspire against you. Much of the value of the business you are trying to acquire or sell is intangible and abstract especially if it isn't defined or documented. Get out in front of the process, get your intellectual properties out of your head, and subscribe to the maxim that says "Done is Better than Perfect." As I've said before - and contrary to the old cliche - time is NOT money! Your time is more valuable than money because once it's spent you can't earn it back. Invest your time in a process and put the odds in your favor. We've seen first-hand where an advisor invested 6 to 12 months of sweat equity into the business to position it to be sold and then multiplied their outcome meaningfully. We've also seen how a well prepared acquisition and methodical transition multiplied the profitability of the combined practice measurably as well. Either way, deploy a process and execute with precision and you will unlock more value.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2019-01-08 18:01:11 • 3 minute read

Each week I spend a considerable amount of time speaking to clients, answering their questions and suggesting possible courses of action. Without a doubt, one of the most frequent pieces of advice I offer is to keep going. Keep going with structured and reliable call rotations, keep mailing letters to your clients and prospects, keep communicating with your inside champions and/or Client Advisory Council, and keep the faith that you will realize a breakthrough.

Don’t make the common mistake of assuming that because you work with people similar to your target market, those people will want to hand you their investment portfolios. You cannot get around the fact that you are a stranger to them, so you have to take time to build familiarity and create in them the desire to meet you, and the desire to know what you believe in as a person and a financial professional.

Above all else be interesting and patient

In your written pieces, identify with your readers. If you know that most people are busy and reluctant to read a stranger’s newsletter or emails, state that fact right off the top. By doing just this one thing, you already distinguish yourself from every nearly other financial advisor.

Always try to send an interesting magazine article or newspaper clipping with your paper communications, or links to informative articles with your email communications. It will highlight as much about your client service as it does your professional services. A popular article used by several of our clients outlines the pros and cons of buying versus leasing a vehicle. While it may not seem like much, your prospect will come to understand over time that things like this separate you from other financial advisors.

Consider the effect of an article with a personal note that reads:

I recently met with a couple and, among other things, we discussed their plans to replace their existing car. After the meeting, I searched my article library on my computer and found this item to send them. It helped these particular clients decide between leasing or buying. I hope that when the time comes, you will find it helpful as well. Keep it handy.

Other article ideas include health and fitness, vacation destinations around your area, on-line directories of local businesses and restaurants, etc.... Do not fall into the trap of ‘sameness’, and send another article on mutual funds or other strictly investment-related content. 

Don’t stop sending until they ask you to

So what happens when you invite people to one of your social or open-house type events and they don’t come? Well, you could choose to ignore them, but that won’t get them ‘in the door’ for an initial discussion. I suggest that you follow-up with them via email or letter and tell them that you were sorry you didn’t see them there, that a great time was had by all, and that a lot of information was shared. Pass along a few of the questions that were asked together with the answers, and then point to your next event or remind them you are always available to meet to act as a sounding board on their investment and retirement plans. 

As we stated near the beginning of the article, keep going, and ensure you keep differentiating yourself, and positioning yourself as a professional so that you will attract them when you reach them at their correct stage of readiness.

Continued success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2018-12-26 18:11:51 • 3 minute read

If you have read any of my articles, you will know I talk about about the importance of describing what you do for your clients and prospects as a process. Too many advisors, when asked what they do, say things like:

"I help my clients manage their assets and risk."

It has been proven to resonate far better, not to mention be far more memorable, to say:

"I've developed and refined a process that enables me to manage my clients’ assets and risk."

When you refer to your approach as a process rather than simply suggesting that you help people, it adds so much persuasive impact to your messaging because it sounds official and organized rather than generic and abstract. You see this all the time in the marketplace where a firm will give something they do a name by basically calling it something. Westin Hotels refer to their beds and showers as Heavenly Beds and Heavenly Showers. I can tell you that I've stayed in a lot of hotels and I'm not sure that their beds are any better than any other comparable hotel but many people are convinced that Heavenly Beds are better. In the minds of many people, every other hotel simply has beds, while Westin has Heavenly Beds - again because that's what they're called. And, let's face it, when it comes to selecting one hotel over another a good bed and shower is ultimately what people crave.

As I've said, a branding strategy addresses what your clients’ want, not what you do or who you are in the classic sense. So what do your clients want? They want to face the future with anticipation rather than apprehension and they want to feel confident with the track they are on. An advisor with a process projects that far better than an advisor who simply "helps clients...." 

From Vapour to Paper

You can't stop at just saying you have a process, you have to demonstrate that you actually have one. I say that because advisors ask me all the time, "How can I create this process you keep talking about?You already have a process, the problem is you don't refer to it as such and you don't have anything to show them what it looks like. Think about it, when you on-board a new client and align solutions to their needs, you use a process. So start referring to it that way.

I ask coaching clients of ours to sit down and simply get their process out of their heads and on to paper - even in point form. A very effective advisor was shocked to realize that there are actually eight steps to her asset management process. But she never thought of it in those terms before. Now that she has listed out the steps on to a sheet of paper she can now show a client and prospective client with far more persuasive impact. It is now referenced as a bullet point on her agendas and she can help demystify what she does and help people conceptualize her approach and appreciate her more fully by showing them.

Among the many benefits, this is an essential step to ensure that your clients are telling their friends:

"You should meet my advisor, he has an excellent process and he's a great guy."

As opposed to:

"You should meet my advisor, you'd really like him, he is a great guy."

Your Clients Will Do Your Prospecting for You

Again, your clients can do a great job positioning you in their friends’ minds as an ideal alternative to their current advisor and begin creating a nagging feeling in their minds that you are a far superior option.

You can take that one step further by providing an Introductory Kit as part of your introduction process. This is as important for the client referring as it is for the prospecting you are hoping to attract. For example, when you say to a client:

"If you ever have a friend or family member that you would like to introduce to me, simply call me to get the wheels in motion and I will put them into my introductory process. I'll reach out and have a brief initial conversation, I'll send out my introductory kit so they can get to know me a little better in advance and then I'll carve out the time to meet with them to get to know them better and be a sounding board to help them make some informed decisions."

Your clients can envision this in their mind’s eye and describe you in a more compelling way. Your prospect gets to hold something in their hands and gets to know you a bit before they even meet you (and send it via 2-day courier to elevate its importance and increase the value the person places on the upcoming meeting). Of course, you further validate your professionalism by providing a printed agenda in the initial discovery meeting, and outlining your on-board process and personal financial organizing binder in the fit meeting. Again, tangible things they can hold in their hands that reinforce that you have a process. All of this has been proven to enhance a prospective client’s motivation to take action. You don't have to convince them with a closing strategy, the prospective client comes to his or her own conclusion.

I'm not suggesting that your clients will start referring to you as their Heavenly Advisor, but I can guarantee that their description of you will be far more effective than before. I can also guarantee that your prospective clients will perceive you as a professional with a process and will be drawn to you like never before.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2018-12-04 18:14:04 • 3 minute read

A Goal Setting Process for You and Your Clients

Does it boggle your mind that the movie E.T. hit the theaters 36 years ago?  Do you shake your head when you consider that Black Monday occurred 31 years ago?  From my perspective, that time span seems like a blink of the eye. But here is the surreal part: as fast as the last 25 years whipped by, I'm convinced that the next 25 are going to zip by even faster.

With that in mind, and considering that 2018 is winding down, this week's article revolves around the importance of goal setting and a simple process for designing your vision of the ideal future.  My suggestion is that you set aside some time to walk through this process to galvanize your thoughts on paper.  If you have a team, you might want to consider an off-site team meeting and incorporate this into a team goal-setting session.  And lastly, many advisors have told me that they've adapted this approach into conversations with clients to create a more panoramic approach to help them set personal, professional and family goals to focus on what really matters to them.

Long ago, I learned of a perfect metaphor related to designing your future:

It's not the winds of opportunity that determine our level of success, it's the set of the sail.

I've learned that if we don't decide what direction we want to head in, the winds will decide for us.  Maximum achievement is by design, not by chance.  Sure it is nice to have a tailwind, but we can't rely on external dependencies.  Life is about choices, and truly accomplished people will tell you that documenting your goals is one of the best decisions you can make.

When we coach a client of ours through a personal goal-setting consultation, we have a simple, sequential process to get their wheels turning.  W5 is a framework that you can use, and it consists of these questions: What, Where, When, Why and Who. These can be a good starting point.  As you get on a roll, you can drill down and then use what you've written down as a tool to help you navigate 2019 and stay on course.

What Are You Grateful For?

One of the best ways to slow life down a bit is to reflect on the past before you plan for the future.  There is so much emphasis placed on achieving new goals that we can often trivialize what we've already achieved.  The most effective, well-rounded people possess a unique blend of perpetual ambition and palpable contentment.  The very essence of a Zen lifestyle is that you could live to be 100, or it could all be over tomorrow.  When you savour your successes, you create a foundation of peace and fulfillment.  Ironically, this activates a new level of appreciation for your value and self-motivation for your untapped potential.

This process also helps you distill everything down to what ultimately matters in your life. You can tune out the noise and do mid-course corrections in case you've drifted away from your core purpose.

It reminds you of the importance of loving what you do.  It's hard to improve on your skills and the value you are bringing, if you don't love what you do.

And finally, I believe that gratitude amplifies other important qualities to pure success in life.  Forgiveness, self-responsibility and humility are the wellspring of a balanced life that result in an inspiring legacy.  I was told long ago that lessons can be learned from every person’s code of conduct.  Every life is either a warning or an example.

Where Do You See Yourself?

Once you've looked back and reflected on your accomplishments to this point in your life, you can then invest the past into the future and create a wish list of achievements you'd like to make in the years ahead.  The key here is to pour it all out.  List out everything you'd like to accomplish going forward.  How much do you want to earn?  Where do you want to travel to?  What do you want to acquire?  What do you want to get better at?  Get it out of your head and put it all on paper.  Take your time and marvel at all that is possible for you.

When Do You Want to Accomplish This?

Once you've created your wish list, start putting timelines beside everything you've written down.  You should create a spectrum of 1, 3, 5, and 10 year goals and beyond.  Then I'd like you to circle three items that you feel you can accomplish in the next 3 years.  These should be the goals that are of paramount importance to you and will become the beacon to help you see past short term obstacles and setbacks.

Why Is This So Important To You?

Ultimately you are going to need to create a plan to help determine HOW you are going to accomplish your goals.  But something that is just as important as the HOW is the WHY.  As legendary personal and business development guru Jim Rohn often said, "The How is the process, the Why is the purpose.  When the WHY is clear in your mind, the HOW becomes that much easier."  This process is what amplifies your personal drive and sense of purpose.

Who Do You Need to Become?

Many people focus primarily on monetary goals when they go through this process initially.  In time though, they realize that while how much one earns is important, it isn't the key factor to success in life.  It's not what we earn that makes us valuable, it's who we become as a person.  So the last number in the combination to unlocking your full potential so you can breakthrough any self-imposed plateau is to focus on the skills you need to develop.  We have to make the time to develop ourselves.  If we want to earn more, we have to learn more.  If we want to become all that we can, we have to continually improve our skills.  To paraphrase Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we can never convince ourselves that we are too busy cutting wood that we never have time to sharpen our saws.

This is especially important during times when the world seems to be focusing on all that is wrong.  It's easy to get faked out and look to the future with apprehension rather than anticipation.  But you can't control any of those issues. We can't hope for conditions to get better or easier.  We have to get better and focus on what we can control.  As I often tell my kids, the best ten 2-letter words ever put together in a personal pledge are these, "If it is to be, it is up to me!"

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2018-11-27 18:15:00 • 3 minute read

Don't Sell a Book, Sell a Business

Many advisors who sell a financial services practice are really only selling a book of business, not an actual business. What is the difference between a 1X transaction and a 2X or better multiplied transaction? Well clearly one of the most important issues is the quality of the client relationships. That has been proven to be just as important as the quality of their assets. How loyal are the clients based on how they have been served to this point of the relationship? Have they simply bought investments, or are they bought-into a professional process? Metrics on empowerment, referrals, demographics and commonalities, commissions vs. fees and several other issues are key as well. 

Put Time on Your Side

The bottom line is it is essential that you get out-front and be well prepared to multiply the value of the asset and make the outcome as smooth and predictable as possible. Deploying a process demystifies the experience and ensures there is minimal opportunity leakage and that you don't squander your time.

There are More Sellers Than Buyers

As a seller, when you tighten up your business through organization and structure as well as essential best practices, you unlock hidden value in your business that differentiates you from all the others with similar aspirations. In 12 months or less you can execute a panoramic practice management process that a suitor will recognize as extremely valuable. Remember what a buyer wants; only pleasant surprises. They want the transition to be smooth, and the integration into their core business to be virtually effortless.

Many buyers in the past have acquired sketchy books thinking there was a vein of gold or all kinds of low hanging fruit just waiting to be uncovered. As a result, the buyer was fixated on the price of the acquisition rather than the quality of the asset resulting in an outcome that spiraled downward. With the benefit of hindsight came a lot of regret.

Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty - Confucius

Remember, quality relationships last long after you paid for them. So get clarity on the issues that will impact your transaction and get organized with a plan and process. As a potential seller, the longer you wait and the less prepared you are, the less value you will get from your asset. Preparation will help you squeeze more juice out of the orange.

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2018-11-20 20:21:59 • 3 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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2018-11-06 16:45:04 • 3 minute read

Why “Done” is better than “Perfect”

Of the many universal laws and principles that affect us all in life, the one that intrigues me the most this time of year is The Law of Diminishing Intent. This natural law suggests that if I get exposed to an idea I feel would positively impact my life, I must take action immediately otherwise the likelihood that I will ever implement fades quickly.

After All is Said and Done, More is Often Said than Done.

In life, the pendulum often swings between ambition and contentment. Ultimately we want to savor what we have while continually striving to achieve our full potential. Many of us set goals in late December or early January as we strive to achieve new levels of personal and professional success in the coming year. And while our ambition and self-motivation may be strong, the velocity of life can be so intense that distractions and noise compete for our attention and conspire against our initiative. This pushes our goals off to the side and eventually right out our minds.

The bottom line is this, change is hard.

Aristotle provided a maxim that is very helpful: “Quality is a habit not an act. We are what we repeatedly do.” We are products of our habits and rituals. But creating a new habit can be very difficult because traction and meaningful results take time to manifest. Our daily routines get hardwired into our mindset and whenever we deviate we often subconsciously revert back to our original ways of doing things.

Not to oversimplify things, but an important step is to develop an approach where you take action and build the bridge as you cross it. If you know you have to start doing something that’s in your bests interests or, for that matter, stop doing something that is not in your best interests – creating a new habit or breaking a bad one – take action and let the momentum of your new habit compound over time.

If, for example, you know that you should be doing an ongoing call rotation or send out birthday cards to your best clients, but you never get around to it, start with a small number of say 10 or 20 clients. Calling 100 clients every 60 days can seem ominous, but calling 20 seems pretty easy. Once you get into a rhythm of consistency you can simply increase the numbers as you go. Follow the process and as the results become obvious, you will be motivated to not only expand the process but to also continue with it.

Minor Adjustments Can Lead to Major Improvements

Which brings me to an important observation. The Law of Cause and Effect suggests that our ongoing activities determine our productivity. In other words, we have to look at the actions we need to take on a regular basis that contribute to our overall effectiveness. Now apply that along with The Pareto Principle. If 80% of our productivity stems from 20% of our activities – meaning we make 80% of our income in about an hour a day – we have to identify, master and continuously deploy the activities that matter the most. These habits and rituals make up our code-of-conduct that earn the trust of our clients, lead to predictable results, and impact our branding in terms of how we are perceived by everyone we interact with. Talk really is cheap. Actions really do speak louder than words. The key is in constantly refining those actions so that we aren’t mistaking movement for achievement.

What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

But there is another reason why we don’t take action and develop a new habit before our intent diminishes: fear. As easy as it is to change, it’s always easier not to if there is uncertainty or risk. I talk to advisors about this all the time and I often share my personal view on how I try to overcome the core issues that lead to procrastination. I continually remind myself that life is short and I don’t want to be defined by my fears of failure. I’m also driven by the fact that my sense of purpose and fulfillment in life stems for the fact that the things that cause me anxiety or stress are never as big as they appear. Furthermore, ultimately I am one of seven billion people on earth. I’m just a small speck in the grand scheme of things. Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong self-esteem but it does help to keep things in proportion. I read recently that a NASA telescope that can see further and deeper into space has determined that there are at least 17 billion planets about the size of planet earth in the universe. That gives me perspective not to major in minor things and motivates me to take action and live a little. Sure I want to be rational and prepared using sound judgment but I refuse to let the fear of failure shackle me. Regret is always a possibility but I want to approach life looking forward at “what could be” rather than looking back at “what could have been”. Regret is always a possibility but I want to approach life looking forward at “what could be” rather than looking back at “what could have been”.

If you are a fan of reading biographies of high achievers you know that the people who are the most gratified as they reflect back on life are those who took action, overcame adversity and lived life to the fullest. I’ll never trivialize the importance of knowledge but it’s the reputation of action that creates the most interesting legacies. What we know will never matter more than our results. Knowledge isn’t power. Knowledge invested in action is power. And along the way you become an inspiration for others that leaves an indelible mark on the world. So let’s all be brave, be relentless, and be patient for results to appear as we take action through the year. As legendary philosopher Jim Rohn often said, “Do it for what it makes of you, not just for what it gets you. It’s not what you get in life that makes you valuable, it’s who you become that really matters the most.”

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2018-10-09 16:39:51 • 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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2018-10-02 16:36:47 • 5 minute read

Why do people refer a professional to their friends, family, or people in their inner circle? Usually when I am discussing this topic with Financial Advisors, invariably the answer the Advisors come up with is that “they want to help that person.”

I don’t deny that this is probably true, but our belief is that the motivation is more ‘selfish’ on the part of the person that is referring. Yes, they want to help their friend or family member etc., but ultimately they want to hear back from that person, and they want to hear validation about the recommendation in question. That is true whether or not it is a Financial Advisor they referred, or a good book, or even a terrific bottle of wine.

Just as giving to charity makes us feel good inside, having someone come back to us and say: “Thanks so much for introducing me to John, he is a true professional” or “That book you recommended was amazing, thanks,” go a long way to validating the choices we have made in our own lives. We want to share the special things we have discovered. Put simply, when we get the positive feedback at the end, it feels great. We are also doing a good deed in the process, so let’s call it ‘enlightened self-interest.’

I mention all this because when someone has just signed on with a new Advisor, the new client’s propensity to refer that same Advisor to someone else is at its highest right at the very beginning. That said, this last fact is entirely dependent on the Advisor’s process for how that client was brought on at the beginning.

Did the Advisor use an agenda when we had our first meeting? Or did he take notes on a legal pad? Was there a pre-appointment process that made me feel I was heading into something special before I even met with the Advisor? Or did he see me within two days of the initial contact, projecting absolutely no scarcity in the process? When the papers were signed, what happened then? Did the Advisor just move on the next conquest, or was there a New Client Welcome Process that continued to validate my decision to work with that advisor?

All these things in concert with one another create an experience that makes people want to share the experience with someone else, and right off the bat too. If the Advisor is consistent with all of those things, and the person that I refer has the exact same experience that I did, I know that person will come back to me, and they will say:

“Wow, it was just like you said. I wish I had done that five years ago.”

Of course that makes me feel special, and the feeling I get is that I want to do it all over again with another friend so I can get that same emotional payoff. Better yet, now I am even more assured of the Advisor’s consistency because of the feedback I received. As a result, I am even more confident about referring someone else!

Examine your process for taking on a new client. Is it memorable? Would you refer someone into your process? Would you be confident that you would get glowing feedback from the person you sent there? These questions and answers have huge implications as to the number of referrals you receive.

If you don’t have a pre-appointment process, start one. Make it good and stick to it; you know; just how the dentist does it. Send out a letter, an Introductory Kit perhaps, and then make a courtesy call the day before the appointment as a reminder.

If you are not using agendas, start! Decide on a nice Welcome Gift that is sent out when all the paperwork is signed, and then be consistent with it. Also, when selecting an appropriate welcome gift, don’t pick something that looks like you walked approximately 20 feet down to the company gift shop. Make it seem as if there was some effort, and that will reflect that you genuinely value your new relationship with that person.

From what I have seen in my experience, this type of attention is so rare in today’s business world, that if you decide to get serious about some of the things I am discussing (hopefully all of them), people will be referring you all over the place. When you exceed someone’s expectations, not only will they contrast it with their prior experiences, they will tell others. It is basic human nature, and we all do it. Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2018-09-25 07:16:25 • 2 minute read

As the commoditization of your industry continues prompting clients to focus on what you cost rather than what you're worth, there are small steps you can take to differentiate yourself and elevate how you are perceived and described. 

One example - and in the spirit of "facts tells, stories sell" - you can transform the abstract, transactional and commoditized nature of your technical wealth management and planning abilities to be more fluid, dynamic, conceptual and proprietary by giving your overall process an identity that symbolizes how you navigate clients through their journey addressing their many critical life events so that they can look to the future with anticipation rather than apprehension. 

This symbol can essentially become your Nike Swoosh that triggers a moment of recognition and appreciation for your people, practice and process rather than focus on products, pricing and performance. Remember, your process isn't promissory around short term performance, it's a promise of a client experience - in other words what it means to be your client for a lifetime and then into multi-generations. 

A great place to start is with the greeting cards you use and the wall decor in your office. One of my favorite and artistic examples is an Inukshuk - which is used by the Inuit of Northern Canada as a navigational aid for hunters and translates to mean "in the image of man". Our friends at Lavish have a beautiful card you can use to pay tribute for birthday, referral recognition and for new client onboarding. A print on your wall is something you could point to during a strategy and tactical client review meeting to center them back to the value of your process. 

Other examples of imagery our clients imprint are a Swan (symbolizing how clients sleep well at night), a sailboat (symbolizing how it's not the wind but rather the set of the sail that determines your destination) and a bridge (symbolizing how you are the bridge to your client's goals). 

Speaking of bridges, one advisor who imprints bridges consistently told me not long ago that one of his clients recently mentioned that every time he sees a bridge he thinks about the advisor and another who called to introduce a friend and said that he explained to his friend that his advisor has a "process that puts all the pieces of the financial puzzle together and builds the bridge as we cross it to our financial goals". 

If you verbalize your value using a symbol, you make it easier for your clients to internalize your value and then socialize it to others. 

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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___________________________________________________

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Lavish's beautiful, gallery-style cards are the perfect way to show your clients that you value their business and, more importantly, you value the relationship! And there's still time to order your Thanksgiving Day cards! But don't delay, order today!

Ordering is simple and the product is exceptional. Visit LavishCards.com or call 1.888.599.7599

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2018-08-28 19:08:14 • 5 minute read

What would happen if you took a month off - starting tomorrow? Would your business spiral into chaos or would it run like a Swiss watch? What would happen if one of your key team members told you that he or she is resigning starting immediately? Would your business be severely disrupted or would you be able to hire a replacement and fast-track him or her to competence?

As strange as it may sound, true business success can only be achieved when you have made yourself obsolete. When the day comes that you don’t need to be present and your business can still be productive, you are on the verge of a breakthrough. Furthermore, when your business practices are documented, you not only liberate your staff to be more efficient but you ensure that you are never at the mercy of maverick talent. 

Another one of the biggest benefits of deploying and maintaining an organized and structured business is predictability. The outcomes and results you are striving for become predictable in terms of productivity and the business serves your life instead of the other way around. It also has tremendous impact on your client relationships too. You set expectations for your clients and deliver a consistent client experience that amplifies the trust and confidence they have in you. 

When we consult with a financial advisor on a one to one basis, at this point of the strategic analysis we reveal that overall their life is good. They earn a good living and have earned the right to be content. However, deep inside, ambition nags at them. They know they could break through the plateau. But they just can’t seem to take their business higher. And, of course, they have a lifestyle to support and cannot allow their business to go any lower. 

Ultimately, they don't want to work harder. Of course, they could work more hours, but the collateral damage to their personal lives would be unacceptable and would take them down the path of diminishing returns. Furthermore, fear of rocking the boat inhibits them. If it isn’t really broken, why try to fix it? In other words, if they attempt to tinker with or re-engineer their current approach, they risk adjustments which might not lead to improvements or could possibly even set things back. 

As one advisor put it, “I can’t afford to be right, eventually. My monthly expenses on both business and personal levels require results right now.” This mindset results in people sticking with the status quo and maintaining a business which simply hovers. 

So, you can’t work any harder. And you’re not prepared to resign yourself to “this is as good as it gets.” What is the answer? 

More often than not, one, two or all of the following three factors must be addressed in order to take your business to the next level, to evolve from survive to thrive. 

Mistaking Motion for Action 

When we ask a financial advisor, “How are things?” nine times out of ten, the answer will be, “I’m extremely busy.” Our response is always, “Busy doing what?” The Law of Cause and Effect states that your activities will determine your productivity. If you want your productivity to increase, the first place you should look at is the activities you engage in which give you the best return on your investment of time and energy. Think about it. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your productivity stems from about 20% of your activities. In other words, you make about 80% of your income every day in about an hour. So, what goes into that hour? Talking to and meeting with your favorite clients and the most predisposed prospective clients available to you. All other activities must support these two essential activities.  

Unless you are a one-person operation, one of the most obvious ways to increase your capacity to do more of what you really get paid to do is to delegate as many supporting activities as possible. 

For many entrepreneurs, managing people and all the accompanying hassles can be a big issue. Many perceive managing people as actually exacerbating the problem because it can be a distraction. Hiring new people adds yet another expense and could potentially upset the chemistry of the staff currently in place. 

These concerns can be addressed if you step back and scrutinize your business. Determine whether it is truly built on predictable, sustainable and duplicable systems driven by accountability and consistency. Does everyone on your team know their job description? Do they follow predetermined systems and procedures, or are they left to their own devices? 

We have seen many, many entrepreneurs with successful businesses supported by talented people but who unknowingly created self-imposed limitations because, frankly, everyone in the organization flew by the seat of their pants. Time after time, the creation of an Organizational and Structural Chart followed by the refinement of systems outlined within a Procedures Manual has proven to be essential. 

Systems Create Success 

The Organizational Chart is simply a snapshot of everyone on your team with a brief description of what they do. One sheet of paper is required and, when completed, becomes the cover sheet of the Procedures Manual. Now if you have never done this before you may be wondering, “Is this worth the effort?” Time and time again, when conducting a Business Evaluation Process (a strategic Gap Analysis) for one of our coaching and consulting clients, we have determined that in order to develop a systematized business this is an essential step back in order to take several forward.

The Random House Dictionary defines systems as "a group or combination of things or parts forming a complex or unified whole." Does this sound like your business? Dry as it may be, it fits not only the dictionary definition, but is critical for your success.

Take a good hard look at your operation. Would it continue to function like a Swiss watch if you weren't there all the time? Could you convince us, today, that your enterprise is a true business and not just simply a company that sells things? Have you created something with great value, predictable outcomes and ironclad systems? Could you provide documentation detailing exactly how to operate and run your business right down to the smallest detail?

If you have created a business with true systems, you probably already know the freedom and control it has brought to your business and personal life and your buiness is truly Franchise-Ready. The haphazard approach simply cannot compare.

So where do you start? If you are going to build a business based on systems, the first step is to clearly define each individual’s responsibilities within your organization. You and your team have to sit down and determine who does what and when. On a daily basis, you and your team engage in proactive and reactive activities. Based on the Law of Cause and Effect, all of these activities affect your productivity. You and your team need absolute clarity of who is accountable for each of these activities. 

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2018-08-14 14:58:35 • 3 minute read

You are probably conscious of gaps that need to be dealt with by now, have crafted your trailer, your personal value proposition and have a basic handle on your branding. Let’s climb to the 40,000-foot level and take a strategic look. And before you are tempted to put it off, 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 and deliberately create a plan for the coming year over the next few months, rather than on a Sunday evening over the holidays in December, you’ll create a plan that better serves you as a guidance system, is more actionable and predictable, and consists of goals that are balanced, clear and attainable.

If anyone knows the power of advice and the importance of planning, it’s a knowledge-for-profit professional. Think about it, what would you tell someone who told you they don’t see the value of professional advice and planning? If they said to you, “I’m doing it myself because a professional 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.” It would be like a person with a tooth-ache deciding to work on their own teeth.

Your plan has to be an ongoing, living process. It’s not ‘once a year and done’. It won’t surprise you that one of my pet peeves in business is centered on the lack of implementation of a strategy. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It is the implementation of an idea that sets it apart from everything else and brings it to life. A plan lets you implement efficiently.

With that said, I admit that when I hear the words “business plan,” I often feel a wave of discomfort sweep over me which I have to shake off, perhaps after muttering some foul language under my breath for good measure.

Why the reaction? Consider what happens with about 90 percent of the annual business plans that professional advisors prepare. This is one probable scenario: It is late December and you start to wade through the 20 to 30 pages of the business plan that your company provides for you, and perhaps even requires you to complete. You pick at it over a few weeks, and then, with the deadline looming, you set aside a couple of hours and plow through the document as quickly as you can. A sense of relief rushes over you as click the “save” button and send it off to head office. You may even print a copy which you sit marveling at for a few minutes before you file it away in a drawer, never to be seen again.

Well, at least until year-end when you may use it to help you figure out what to write in the next business plan.

Regardless of my reaction and the “usual scenario” as detailed above, strategic business plans can have real value if they are referred to regularly and adjusted as needed. Are you meeting your targets? What can be done to bring you back on track? What needs to be adjusted in your business activities to ensure the desired outcomes? What changes have to be implemented with your clients?

Reading the plan again can create awareness of your shortfalls, and can ignite a flood of new ideas that can be used to get you back on track for the year. Each new idea requires some planning for implementation, and detailing the necessary steps to be taken to actually bring the idea into fruition within your business, but with your overall plan in place, these will be minor adjustments.

Don’t wait until the end of the year. Any time is a perfect time to pull out your strategic plan again and look at it as a jump start - a new beginning, if you will. When I do this, it always seems to me like a second New Years, and I have the opportunity to evaluate what I want to accomplish over the remaining months of the year.

Take a few hours to review what you wrote last year and make some decisions on what adjustments you can and should make right now. I guarantee that reading it again - examining what you wanted to implement, and considering what you actually did - will make a huge difference in the remaining months of this year and, ultimately, for years to come.

Keep your old plans. Every time the document changes, archive what was previously written. Over the course of a year you may end up with three, four, or even five versions of your business plan as it adapts. They become a progression and an evolution. Your course of action can be tracked and accounted for, and your strategic business plan can become an established process for planning and implementation going forward.

Whether you use a business plan template through a CRM, or create your own document yearly on your computer, the most important point is that you take the time to plan, create, update and utilize one.

Perhaps the next time I hear someone talk about a business plan, the conversation will be around how it has become a constant and invaluable reference point for their business, as opposed to something that is filed away and forgotten.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2018-07-31 20:49:30 • 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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2018-06-19 19:49:48 • 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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2018-05-22 14:18:13 • 3 minute read

I'm often asked for ideas from people who are looking for unique items to give to clients as gifts whether it's for referral recognition, on-boarding, birthdays, milestones and the like. And while I've passed along many suggestions over the years, this has to be one of my favorites - and not just because it supports my wife's business!

Transparency Alert!

OK so clearly I'm biased but this really is a good idea. My wife Shawni sources vintage keys from all over the world and turns them into unique key chains and jewelry. The keys themselves are intriguing and interesting and harken back to a simpler time. They not only have good energy but they ultimately symbolize your value too - after all, you are the key to unlock your clients goals.

Furthermore, think about this - what are the 2 things pretty much everyone takes with them everywhere they go? Their phone and their keys. A vintage key chain not only has a positive impact - it also has enduring shelf life meaning clients will keep it for a long time.

Multi-sensory Marketing

An interesting twist to the vintage key gifts is that she also can add a small aroma therapy diffuser to the key chain or jewelry that produces a subtle scent. The sense of smell triggers vivid memories and with the right essential oil it can create a sense of calm and rejuvenation. I'm a big fan of the diffusers too because they promote deep, intentional breathing. As you may know, typical breathing can be shallow at times and can contribute to fatigue.

Bang for the Buck

So if you get a chance, take a look at www.keyeragifts.com and send her an email at shawni@keyeragifts.com to arrange a time to discuss if there is merit to adding this into your client gift-giving mix.

But Wait, Don't Order Yet...

With every order, KeyEra Gifts will also include a couple of beautiful vintage key inspired thank you cards that you can send to a client to pay tribute to moments of truth like referrals and to unlock the full potential of your relationships. (See what I did there?)

Thank You!

Duncan MacPherson

P.S. Mention my name when you speak with her - it can't hurt..

Take client gifting, and your business, to the next level with www.KeyEraGifts.com.

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