Know Where You Stand
Includes Q&A - with Duncan
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Now is a perfect time to conduct a self-assessment to identify gaps in your approach. Duncan MacPherson and the team at Pareto Systems have developed and refined a webinar presentation to help you do just that.
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2022-06-21 15:42:13 • 20 second read

There are many benefits to evolving your business from just having clients “trust you” to having an IP-driven enterprise. Growth is consistent, the client experience is consistent, your team is stable, and hassle factor is reduced, among other things.

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2022-06-14 18:56:01 • 20 second read

Life is full of lessons that come in the form of examples and warnings; examples of things done properly, and warnings where errors in judgment were made.

The most effective people in virtually all fields of endeavor study and assimilate both the lessons of adversity through mistakes (external forces) and adversity engendered by misconduct (internal forces). Learning from that information creates predictable outcomes for themselves in the future...

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2022-06-07 14:45:43 • 20 second read

If you think about a twenty-minute conversation with a great client, you talk about their Family, Occupation, Recreation and Money. The first three relate to why financial independence is important to your clients. The last item speaks to how you get them there…

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2022-05-31 13:21:05 • 20 second read

I just want to point out - and again, it happened this morning - but I noticed a trend that more financial professionals are, among other things, trying to achieve red-line and plateau avoidance. Everyone’s working hard, but they’re trying to unlock another level of professional contrast, productivity, and grow further up market….

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2022-05-24 14:01:08 • 20 second 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.

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2022-05-17 16:54:24 • 20 second read

Now that you’ve taken the stewardship over salesmanship model on board and are a serious developer of your personal brand, you may be wondering to what degree social networking and the on-line ecosystem can affect your strategy and overall business development efforts...

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2022-05-10 15:52:38 • 20 second read

One of the best ways to put the odds in your favor and fast-track the process is to create content and virtual deliverables that enable a client to subtly plant the seed in a friend’s mind, so that friend can begin to evaluate you on his or her own terms…

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2022-05-03 19:10:06 • 20 second read

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

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2022-04-26 19:26:22 • 20 second read

The challenge nowadays, and particularly if you deconstruct the educational system and how we’re teaching young people, is that there is so much pressure put on them to be perfect at such an early age that there’s a paralysis of failure embodied within those younger generations.

I see it all the time. I am constantly contacted by parents with kids who they think have elite-level potential…

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2022-04-19 19:40:54 • 20 second read

I’ve seen business leaders, CEOs, high net-worth financial advisors who just, at some point in their career, decide they’re going to turn the dial down. They’re going to throttle back the effort - and I don’t necessarily want to expose it as “complacency” because I don’t think that’s what it is...

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2022-04-12 20:08:57 • 2 minute read

Is your business predictable, sustainable, duplicable and scalable? That is driven by your proprietary process. It’s documented. It’s not in anyone’s head. It is a pure intellectual property that supports all the things that I can only get from your business.

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2022-03-29 19:20:54 • 2 minute read

If you want to improve your productivity, the best place to start is by examining your activities. Look no further than the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. In most cases, about 80 percent of your business stems from about 20 percent of your clients. It makes sense, therefore, that you consistently invest 80 percent of your time – both pro-actively and reactively – on that 20 percent.

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2022-03-22 17:20:55 • 2 minute read

What would happen if you took a month off tomorrow; would your business run like a Swiss watch, or would there be chaos?

One advisor summed up the responses of many professionals quite well: “The only thing scarier than me taking a month off would be if my assistant took a month off. I don’t really even know what she does fully…”

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2022-03-15 19:29:27 • 2 minute read

Professionalizing every aspect of your business - from your agendas to your onboarding process to your office itself - and infusing each element with your brand, governed by replicable process, is the key to moving from the business running you, to you running the business. Documenting your process absolutely builds enterprise value.

If you’re going to tell people you have a process, it helps to actually have one. You can’t just tell them about it, either. You have to show it to them.

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2022-03-08 16:47:42 • 2 minute read

When it comes to market predictions, the media likes to stoke fear. They squeeze a topic for all it’s worth and then zoom off to the next. Why? Fear and uncertainty achieve better ratings than good news and stability.

Historically, we know that the more the media tends to stir the pot about some issues, the less impact those issues actually have on us...

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2022-03-01 18:50:56 • 2 minute read

One of the easiest and most powerful branding strategies you can deploy to exceed the expectations of your high net-worth clients - and make yourself indispensable to them in the process - is to adopt a train-the-trainer mindset. Help them to encourage their children to develop a solid financial philosophy and approach.

Many first-generation financially independent people make the lives of their children incredibly easy. These self-made, affluent people worked hard and sacrificed to achieve their goals, but they often don’t hand down the same work ethic or delayed gratification mindset to the next generation. As a result, many of these kids develop a sense of entitlement and have difficulty overcoming adversity on their own later in life.

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2022-02-23 19:08:07 • 2 minute read

To revisit definitions briefly, let’s look at triple-A. The first A speaks to the alignment of the person’s needs with your value. This isn’t about minimums (or even maximums) – it’s not about a number. It’s about alignment. Write out the demographic reality of where the client is in their life. Write out the socioeconomic reality of the complexity of their needs based on being a business owner, professional or executive.

The second A refers to attitude, which, over the lifetime of your working relationship, is actually more important than assets. What is their attitude toward you? Do they focus on what you cost or what you are worth? What is their attitude about empowerment?

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2022-02-15 19:18:29 • 2 minute read

An important dimension to the right sizing process – and this is where Knock-Out Factors are critical - is to get clarity on your rules of engagement and then to stick with them going forward. Here is a simple checklist to ensure you’re on the right track:

  • Define your ideal client based on assets, attitude and advocacy and determine who fits and who doesn’t. Define your Knock-Out Factors
  • Define how you allocate time. Clearly define times when you return calls. Insure you are not randomly taking calls. Clearly define time frames for meetings. How much time off you will take, etc.

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2022-02-08 16:22:12 • 2 minute read

Have you ever told your current clients, prospective clients and strategic partners who your ideal client is? Don’t keep it a mystery. This is an important step in improving the quality and quantity of referrals you receive, and is knowledge that needs to be folded into your information technology and communicated consistently...

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2022-02-01 19:14:16 • 2 minute read

Let’s create a scenario. You’ve been introduced to a prospective client. You have reached out and had an initial phone call. After the call you sent your introductory kit by two-day courier and now you’re about to meet the prospective client for an initial appointment.

Many of the most successful professional advisors I know have increased their persuasive impact by radically altering their sales process with prospective clients. These advisors (many of whom used to be salespeople) have evolved into professional consultants; they now strive to attract new clients rather than chase them. Instead of using the old school sales process to close business...

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2022-01-25 14:03:53 • 20 sec

You have the clients who deserve a lot of attention and then you have the clients who need your attention. Your most deserving clients are often the least demanding. They’re busy, they’re successful, they’re respectful of your value, and sometimes we take them for granted. However, these are the clients we really want to competitor-proof, maximize and replicate. We want to make sure you’re not spending time with those who need your service at the expense of those who deserve your service. Use technology to help ensure consistency with these clients and in your ongoing service model.

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2022-01-18 19:03:40 • 2 minute read

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

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

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2022-01-11 16:08:05 • 2 min read

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

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2022-01-04 19:38:50 • 20 second read

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

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2021-12-28 21:14:01 • 2 minute read

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

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

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2021-12-21 20:22:16 • 2 minute read

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

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2021-12-14 17:24:06 • 20 second read

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

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2021-12-07 20:09:09 • 20 second read

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

Want to learn about podcasting from the experts? Talk to the team at

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2021-11-30 16:29:16 • 20 second read

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

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2021-11-23 20:01:36 • 20 second read

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

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2021-11-16 16:59:45 • 20 second read

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

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2021-11-09 17:15:36 • 20 second read

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

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

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

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2021-11-02 20:48:21 • 2 minute read

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

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2021-10-26 20:05:48 • 2 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-10-19 19:29:48 • 2 minute read

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

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

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2021-10-12 20:45:27 • 2 minute read

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-10-05 18:22:21 • 2 min read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-28 19:32:30 • 2 minute read

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-21 18:59:59 • 5 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-14 19:05:14 • 2 min read

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-09-07 19:09:35 • 2 minute read

That moment of truth is a big one. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-08-31 19:13:12 • 2 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-08-24 19:12:11 • 2 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2021-08-17 20:54:09 • 3 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-08-10 21:10:44 • 2 minute read

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

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

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

Connecting With Your Clients on a Different Level.

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

A Simple, Easy-to-Implement and Effective Idea

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

A Deeper Dive 

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

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

Giving Starts the Receiving Process

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

It Sounds So Corny!

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-07-27 15:10:28 • 2 minute read

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

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

Know Your Client

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show Your Client

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

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

Grow Your Clientele

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2021-06-22 16:52:16 • 3 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson

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2021-06-08 19:08:03 • 3 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

Be Panoramic

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

Create a Checklist

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

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

...and on it goes.

Share it With Clients and Prospects

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

Rules of Engagement and the Power of Checklists

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

Continued success!

Contributed by Duncan MacPherson


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2021-06-01 20:00:11 • 2 minute read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you don’t mind me asking…

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

The reason I’m asking is….

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

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

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

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

Pareto Systems
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