Advisors Dealing with Illness in Their Family

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues.  To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I am in my mid-50’s and run a fairly successful practice. For the last two years I have been dealing with significant personal issues. My only brother is dying of cancer, my parents have both moved into nursing homes and we have a sick son who is in need of care. Given the number of advisors in my age category, I can’t believe my situation is unique but I don’t read about this anywhere nor do I know where to turn for support. I am maintaining my business but I can’t focus on growth. Any suggestions on how to find resources to help me?

John G.

Dear John,

Let me offer my condolences for everything you are dealing with right now. It sounds very difficult. I agree that I have not seen much written on this topic or programs specifically set up for baby-boomer advisors who are also in the “sandwich generation” dealing with elderly parents and younger kids — and in your case, sick siblings too.

The truth is that illness arises in the family, this must become the primary focus. It is hard to get motivated or to start an aggressive growth plan when you don’t know the next time you will be called by the doctor and need to go to an appointment.

That said, there are a few things I will suggest that could help you continue to be committed to your family but also put an emphasis on your practice and growth plans:

  1. Engage other employees in your practice if you have them. You don’t say if you are running a solo practice or if you have other staff members. Assuming there is at least one other person, be sure to leverage any other employees. Look at all of the things on your plate and delegate the less important ones, so that with the time you do have, you can be focused on the highest-gain activities.
  2. If the budget allows for it, consider hiring a resource to help you with the business aspects you are not able to focus on. This could be a full-time hire, or it could be an outsourced temporary solution. There are a number of options, from virtual assistants to websites like, and others. It only makes sense if you can afford it, but having someone else with the responsibility to do a piece of this could alleviate some stress.
  3. Be sure you are getting support somewhere, be it a therapist, a caregiver’s support group or a friend who will listen. While talking doesn’t “solve” anything per se, it can be very helpful to know that someone else understands and cares. The person may also have practical ideas to support you.
  4. Manage your physical and emotional health. Whenever the healthy care for the sick, there is always the danger of pushing too much and ending up sick too. While it can feel almost impossible to find time to take care of yourself, it’s imperative. Be sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising each day.

As always, I’m interested to hear from other readers who have dealt with this topic about possible solutions.

Dear Bev,

Rule of thumb on how many times you can follow up with a prospect before becoming a jerk?

Tom C.

Dear Tom,

How do you define “jerk”? I guess it depends on your method of follow-up. If you are harassing the prospect or being overly aggressive, than it probably takes just once! However, if you are following up as the prospect has asked you to or as you have both agreed upon in discussions together, there could be an unlimited number of times before you enter the “jerk” category.

This issue goes back to something I speak about often, which is the importance of setting expectations in the sales process. Early in the sales process, it’s important to clarify the expected steps you and the prospect will take together and how you will communicate. Be sure you identify:

  • What steps does the prospect need to take to make a decision?
  • What information does the prospect need from you?
  • What is the timeframe within which the prospect expects to make a decision?
  • What might get in the way of that timeframe?
  • How does the prospect like to be communicated with, and what options should you use if the prospect becomes difficult to reach?

If you clarify much of this early on and engage in a partnership with the prospect – even if that person ultimately chooses not to work with your firm – you won’t have as much difficulty with the follow-up and feeling like you are being a pushy jerk.

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers.  She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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