Building Your Ideal Practice
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Once upon a time, three advisors were working hard and long. They never had enough time to get the results they wanted.
Adam, Ben, and Tiffany were all professionally proficient. They cared about doing good work for their clients. They just wanted more time to do it well while also growing their firms, without giving up their lives.
Fed up and frustrated by their struggles, the three decided it was time to start their quest to discover their holy grail: a $1 million practice that delivers deep value to clients, while affording them the income, time and freedom to enjoy it. And in the three years following their first steps, they each more than tripled their revenue, income and time off, while delivering deeper value to clients than they’d ever imagined they could.
That may seem like a fairy tale, but those are actual results. The idea that you have to toil for decades to build a business that supports your success is the story you’ve been told over and over again – but that doesn’t make it true.
The idea that such growth and success will somehow be achieved at the expense of clients, diluting the value they receive rather than deepen it, is another myth that needs to be dispelled. If you follow the 10 shifts that I laid out for Adam, Ben and Tiffany, you, too, will deliver deep value to clients and run an excellent practice that allows you to enjoy the ride and the rewards.
Shift 1: Elevate your thinking
Our conditioned thinking, belief systems and thought habits, driven by primitive survival systems that evolved in our brains over the course of millennia, are good at keeping us safe from saber-toothed tigers. But it also serves as an invisible force field that keeps us stuck and leads to choices that compromise our success. We're conditioned to maintain a safe, comfortable, but compromised status quo, favoring safety and survival over quality of results and experience. The voices in our heads tell us we can’t or shouldn’t, that we aren’t good enough or don’t know how.
If your belief systems steadily remind you that more success and money make you bad, greedy or require too much of you, your brain will find ways to sabotage your efforts. If you believe you’re flawed, that success means you’ll leave people behind, or suffer from imposter syndrome, your brain will stop you from making the changes you need to truly thrive in this world.
This is your first challenge: Elevate your thinking about what’s possible.
Shift 2: Define your model practice
The next shift is to get clear on the business you want to build. This isn’t about setting goals. It is about intentionally designing your firm to meet your preferences.
This shift consists of four simple questions that guide how you design your business.
- What size and style of firm do you want to build?
- What clients can you do your best work with, and what experience do you want them to have?
- What experience and lifestyle do you want to create for yourself?
- How can you best invest your time and energy to create these results?
Getting clear on the size and style of your ideal firm will set the direction for your strategy. Knowing who you do your best work with allows you to focus your energy and growth efforts to create a steady pipeline of qualified clients. The services, client experience and value you deliver sets the scaffolding for your ideal service model that delivers the greatest value to your clients. The lifestyle you want to create for yourself is paramount to making decisions that further your goals. And getting clear on how you can best invest your time and energy helps you focus your time on energy-creating, revenue-producing work while leveraging people, process and platform to reliably deliver the balance.
The series of questions above provides a reliable blueprint for building your business.
Shift 3: Take agency over your time
This shift is all about taking back your time and re-applying it in ways that further your goals. Here are a few of the strategies that I recommend:
- Before each year begins, create an annual calendar that sets the priority time blocks for the year. Start with four weeks of vacation time and every other Friday off. Next, schedule your conferences and client meeting periods. Then set aside time for important priorities that require your attention, including business planning and growth efforts.
- Create a weekly schedule that sets forth how you will focus your time. Mondays can be set aside for planning, team meetings and client meeting prep. Tuesdays through Thursdays are used for service, growth, education and free time during non-client meeting periods, and be allocated 100% to client meetings during meeting surge periods. Fridays are free or flex days, where you either invest in something that fuels your goals or you enjoy a free day.
- Implement client meeting surges to create a systematized way to deliver a specialized experience. This one shift can lead to massive productivity gains. By batching client meetings into dedicated periods, or meeting surges, you can deliver deeper value to clients in a massively more efficient way. Most advisors can comfortably manage 3-4 meetings per day, completing surges in 4-8 weeks (typically in the spring and fall), while others build the stamina for 5-6 meetings per day.
- Check email no more than twice per day. Anything more than that is a compulsive habit that you indulge in at the expense of your productivity.
Shift 4: Communicate your value
In this shift, you come to understand that your value is advice, not information or pages of plans or projections. You serve as the trusted advisor, delivering advice not as a patriarch prescribing actions but as a guide and problem-solving partner here to help clients achieve their financial goals.
Your focus moves from producing pages of paper and explaining extensive projections to clarifying, simplifying and organizing client goals, progress and ongoing actions into a simple one- or two-page plan document. Think of this as the client’s personal dashboard: a goals-based focal point for managing the client’s plan, progress and personal priorities over time, and helping to convey the ongoing value that you deliver.
Shift 5: Tell your story
In this shift, you learn to communicate who you are, what you do, the value you deliver and the fees you charge – without any need to sell your story. You apply this shift across every facet of your business, from the story you share on your website, to how you articulate your role, value and approach to prospects, to the way you continuously reinforce these messages over time with clients, in word and action.
Shift 6: Staffing for success
You can’t have an efficient $1 million practice that delivers time off without creating a small team of happy high performers. This means it’s important to be clear on the roles you want to fill, and then hire, train and manage your staff or team in ways that create shared goals and outcomes.
This shift is all about recognizing that your time is best spent on energy-creating, revenue-producing activities that you enjoy.
Shift 8: Deliver specialized value with scale
In this shift, you move to a process-driven service model, relying on today’s tech platforms to deliver a three-tier ‘wedding cake’ style service model over the course of the year. The client meetings focus on standard agenda meeting items like financial planning work and market updates; specialized items that apply to specific target niche clients; and a personal tier where you address what you need to put on your clients' radar and what currently has their attention.
This tiered service structure allows both niche and general firms to systematize a very specialized experience while allowing for deeper, more personal advice. Rather than cramming a year’s worth of content into one or two meetings, we standardize and systematize the delivery of all services, which drips value to clients over time and frees up valuable meeting time to focus on the contents of that simple one-page plan: the client’s goals and what has their attention right now.
Shift 9: Gear up your growth
The secret to effective marketing is on the back of your shampoo bottle (apply a small concentrated dose, lather, rinse, and repeat). The best marketing doesn't have to be sexy. It doesn't require you to be the world's most charismatic person. It does require you to have a clear and compelling story and to show up in the right places to speak the right message at the right time – so that the right people raise their hand and say, yes, I would like to learn more.
Shift 10: Planning and performance
At this stage, your job is to continuously manage planning and performance through an annual ”vision and goals” strategic planning process. Distill your business plans into one page, but then include three-year personal action and accountability plans that help you manage people, projects and priorities across the firm.
The goal is an ongoing planning process with a continuous feedback loop that lets you know whether you are aligning your decisions, focus, and resources on those things that will truly move the needle toward helping you build that $1 million practice.
The more you align your business with these 10 changes, the faster you’ll find yourself enjoying a $1 million practice that affords you a healthy six-figure income and up to 100 days off each year. Adam, Ben and Tiffany implemented these shifts in their professional lives, resulting in 3x growth in their revenue, income and time off.
Armed with this information, what will you do with yours?
To learn more about how to implement the 10 shifts to create a more satisfying success in your business, join me on November 16th or December 7 for “How to Build a $1M practice & Life you Love”. Adam and Tiffany will join me to share how they created 3x growth in revenue, income and time off, and how you can too.
Limitless is offering Advisor Perspective readers a $1500 discount on the Lifestyle program and a $3000 discount on the Leaders program using the promo code AP22 when you enroll.
Click here to enroll.
This link will take you to register for the November 16th webinar until it is complete. Then it will be switched over to the December webinar.
In her 20+ year career, Stephanie Bogan has authored The Power of Practice Management, written columns for Investment News and Financial Planning magazine as well as articles for Kitces.com, FA Magazine, and Advisor Perspectives, has been named an Industry Influential, spoken at nearly every major conference and remains a highly sought-after speaker, business strategist and executive coach. She is the founder of Limitless Advisor Coaching, now in its fourth successful year. In addition to her coaching work, she is a recognized industry thought leader and consults to various corporations, boards, and private equity firms on trends and opportunities in the industry.