How to Start Your Own Study Group

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When advisors learn that I facilitate high-performance team meetings, sometimes called study groups, they want to know how to set one up where they live. Here’s my advice.

You don't want to focus on a specific topic unless you want the group to meet just a few times. Setting up a team to only discuss investments, for example, will not sustain itself for the long term. Although discussing investment philosophy and other related topics with colleagues is valuable and a subject that comes up periodically in my team meetings, it is not a topic that in and of itself will sustain interest for years to come.

For ongoing meetings, an opportunity for advisors at a similar point in their career to meet regularly and discuss a variety of topics is the most beneficial.

Initial questions to answer

Here’s some general questions to get out of the way before meetings begin:

  • How to recruit participants? If you are affiliated with a large firm, you can see if other advisors are interested in participating on a team. If you are a member of an industry organization such as the Financial Planning Association (FPA) or National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), you can ask around to gain interest from other members. You can post on Linkedin (if you are linked to a number of local financial advisors) or on APViewpoint. Talk with your wholesalers to see if they know someone who might be interested.
  • How many participants is optimum? Typically, six to eight is ideal. You want to have a variety of experiences, but not so many participants that each person doesn’t regularly have the opportunity to be the “advisor of the day“ or to share their expertise.
  • Where to meet? Does anyone have a conference room that can be used? It needs to be a quiet, private location. Parking is a challenge in certain locations, so pay attention to this.
  • How often to meet? Monthly or semi-monthly is ideal to keep the momentum going. Meeting less often than this will make it challenging to keep participants engaged.
  • When in the week to meet? I have facilitated high-performance team meetings on each day of the week and I didn’t notice a drop in interest on any particular day. I have also had meetings scheduled in the early morning, late morning and afternoon. Here again, it has worked out. It boils down to figuring out what is going to work for participants. There will likely need to be some concessions made on the part of participants as trying to get a group of advisors in the same room at the same time is difficult. Everyone has commitments on their calendar and many of those are unchangeable.
  • How long should we meet? My high-performance team meetings are three hours long, once per month with a specific agenda and an advisor of the day.
  • If advisor of the day format is used, who is first, second and so on in the rotation? Once the rotation is set, you keep going in that order, switching only when the advisor of the day who is up next has a conflict and is unable to attend the next meeting.

To get up and running, ask a facilitator to run a few initial meetings. Once the facilitator steps aside, how will the meetings continue? Will one person take the lead, or will there be a rotation of leaders? For my meetings, I am the facilitator. As part of my responsibilities, I help the advisor prepare for his role as advisor of the day. See below for prep information.