Five Steps to Get Out of a Rut
Why better ideas aren’t the answer
One of the traps for advisors like Laura is thinking that the solution to change lies in finding the right ideas, and if only you can hit on the right idea, then change will follow. The truth is that we’re all drowning in great advice and great ideas waiting to be acted upon.
The recently launched AP Viewpoint service provides a forum for advisors to exchange views on important issues. After my recent article on what to do in the first meeting with a prospective client, there were a couple of excellent suggestions.
Sue Stevens of Stevens Wealth Management outlined how she starts meetings with prospects with the words, “How can I help you?” Another participant wrote about the importance of researching background on prospects in advance of the meeting.
Also, many fund companies provide terrific resources around practice management. As just one example, here’s an interview from Janus with an advisor whose receptionist offers everyone who comes to their office a menu of beverages to choose from, and then makes a note of their choices for their next visit.
Four years ago, I wrote about an advisor who blows clients away by sending them books related to special events in their lives – the births of grandchildren, retiring and trips to Europe. To do this, she has a cabinet with books on 20 different topics. Any team member can take a book, write a note in it and pop it in the mail after a conversation. This has been incredibly cost-effective. This advisor ranks at the bottom of top-performing advisors at her firm in spending on client entertainment but at the top in satisfaction and loyalty. This advisor shared her list of books with me, adding that she’s talked about what she does at her firm’s conferences, had advisors walk away incredibly excited – yet not a single advisor has adopted the idea.
A prescription for action
Most advisors have heard terrific ideas such as these, nodded their heads and said, “I should do this” – and then done nothing. Since the difficulty in making change isn’t a lack of ideas, it must lie elsewhere.
To find the source of the problem, look no further than words written 400 years ago in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar: “The fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves.”
Given the power of habit and inertia as obstacles to change, you need to put explicit strategies in place to alter the course of your business. Here are five proven steps to make change happen in your business:
Pick one thing on which to focus
A common problem is when advisors leave a conference incredibly excited by what they’ve heard and with a laundry list of things to do – and then they get bogged down. The more new ideas you try to implement, the lower the odds that any of them will happen. Conversely, the fewer things you focus on, the better your chances of success. Indeed, Marshall Goldsmith, who’s coached over 150 CEOs, suggests in this article from Bloomberg Business Week that you should pick one and only one thing to try to change.
Get excited about that change
If you’re only going to focus on one goal, it has to be the right one. We’ve all come across the acronym “SMART goals”:
To that list, I’d add two qualities. First, it has to be high impact – achieving it should make a big difference. And second, it’s got to be something about which you can get really excited and passionate. In his article, Goldsmith suggests a simple exercise: Take your goal and insert it after the words, “When I get better at…” and then outline the benefit that will follow. Keep going until you’ve run out of payoffs that would result from making that goal happen, and then consider your enthusiasm level. If you aren’t truly excited, find another goal.
Make routine work for you
I wrote earlier about entrenched habits as the biggest obstacle to implementing new ideas. One strategy that’s worked for other advisors is time blocking. One advisor blocked off two hours a week to write a blog for his website, so that there would always be updated content. Another decided to prioritize establishing closer relationships with his key clients’ accountants. He added an agenda item to meetings to get clients’ permission to contact their accountants, then scheduled 15 minutes in his calendar after each meeting to call the accountants to set up a time to talk.
Track short-term progress
Every advisor knows the importance of planning and of setting three-month, six-month and 12-month goals. But to change habits, you also need to set daily and weekly goals – and then track progress against those goals
Make yourself accountable
The final proven practice that drives change is establishing accountability, whether as part of your weekly team meetings or with a trusted friend. One group of four advisors has made substantial strides by meeting at 10 a.m. each Monday for a 30-minute coffee – during which time they cover three things: their progress in accomplishing their top three goals for the past week, what they learned in the past week and their goals for the coming week.
If, like Laura, you feel stuck in a rut, know that you’re not alone. The good news is that by focusing on the right idea and incorporating new habits into your weekly routine, you too can get out of that rut and move your business forward.
Dan Richards conducts programs to help advisors gain and retain clients and is an award winning faculty member in the MBA program at the University of Toronto. To see more of his written commentaries, go to www.danrichards.com or here for his videos.