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Implementing surge meetings is one way I’ve been able to deliver the high-touch service clients can see, feel, and appreciate. Systematically holding client review meetings in designated blocks of time – rather than scattered over the calendar – has also increased our firm’s efficiency, improved profitability, and created a more desirable work environment. In this article, I share my three-step process for how I used surge meetings to turn my chaotic practice around and triple our revenue in three years. Step 1 is in this article, and steps 2 and 3 will be published tomorrow. If you’re a financial advisor who wants to implement surge meetings, follow along to learn what I did, how I did it, and tips for taking action.
To learn how other successful advisors are demonstrating value to their clients, I’m co-hosting a virtual advisor education event on December 8 with Michael Kitces. It’s called the Kitces Financial Planning Value Summit and you don’t want to miss it!
Why I adopted surge meetings
Surge meetings have been a game-changer for me. I now have a systematic meeting schedule that allows me to run my business instead of it running me.
But it wasn’t always this way.
I began my career as a 22-year-old financial advisor at a full-service broker-dealer firm. When I left and started my firm, Define Financial, seven years later, I was staring at a very chaotic practice.
Every client had a different investment portfolio.
I was driving to clients’ houses on any day of the week at any time to meet with them.
And I didn’t have a CRM system.
Not so surprisingly, I was hitting a wall.
With roughly $300,000 in annual revenue, I remember telling my wife:
I don’t know how I can take on another client.
I was working around the clock, doing everything myself, and reacting to every client email and phone call.
In 2017, I met Matthew Jarvis at a conference and was impressed with how he was efficiently managing so many clients while also experiencing record growth.
“Matt must be superhuman,” I thought.
Turns out, his super strength came from surge meetings. But, like many advisors, I immediately discounted my ability to adopt surge meetings because (I assumed) my clients were used to the way we did things. They were accustomed to the idea of scheduling a meeting with me at the snap of a finger.
I began to play out the worst-case scenario in my head: If I try to implement a systematic meeting schedule, all my clients will fire me, and I’ll be out of business.
Ultimately, I was able to integrate surge meetings. I now designate certain times and days of the week to hold client and prospect meetings. I also designate certain months of the year to hold formal client reviews. And one of the biggest wins is that I’m no longer driving around town, meeting with clients at all hours of the day and night.
How did I do it? My transition to surge meetings was a three-step process:
- Identify niche and transition
- Create and deliver client engagement standards
- Develop internal workflows and processes
If your business is running you, and making disruptive changes seems impossible, know that I was once in your shoes. Here’s exactly what I did to regain control of my firm and deliver more valuable services to my client’s.
Step 1: Identify your niche and transition
Sometimes in life, we must go backward before we can go forward. For example, golfers know that when you take lessons, your game suffers in the beginning as you adapt to new techniques. In other words, you make a short-term sacrifice for a long-term benefit.
To get over my growth hurdle and improve my business for the long-term, I had to be willing to take a few steps back.
The first step backwards was to find my niche and transition into it. This process began with getting crystal-clear about who my ideal client was – it could no longer be anyone and everyone. I asked myself: Who do I do my best work for? Who do I enjoy working with? And, where do those two things intersect?
If you’ve ever struggled with this exercise – which most financial advisors have – consider checking out HubSpot’s free Make My Persona tool. Arlene Moss, an executive coach for the XY Planning Network, also published a helpful guide to finding your niche.
When I went through this exercise, roughly one-third of my clients were young professionals and two-thirds were retirees in their 50s and 60s. Some clients were paying me $200 a year (crazy!) and some were paying tens of thousands of dollars per year.
I loved nearly all my clients, including my mother and grandfather. But if I was going to make these changes and have some very hard conversations, I wanted to be sure I was having them with people I truly did my best work for and who compensated me fairly for my expertise.
Ultimately, I chose to specialize in serving do-it-yourself retirement savers over age 50 with investments of $1 million (or more) who wanted help reducing their taxes in retirement. I also implemented a minimum annual fee of $7,500 per year. This niche already represented a healthy percentage of my clients and was a segment I truly felt like I had the right expertise to help.
After getting honest with myself about who was (and wasn’t!) a good fit going forward, I spent time creating a plan to transition clients outside of my niche to a more fitting relationship.
This was not easy.
Some clients had been with me for 10-plus years. Some had just hired me in the last 12 months. And yes, clients that landed on my transition list included my mother, grandfather, and several friends of my mother-in-law. Talk about some tough conversations.
I did what had to be done and carefully transitioned some clients to another advisor in town who specialized in serving their demographic. I also transitioned a few – like my grandfather, who split his money between two advisors – to their other advisor. Others found a new advisor with resources I provided or moved their accounts to Fidelity’s retail channel and began to self-manage their portfolio.
Only one client took issue with the changes I made. The overwhelming majority supported my decision to get more focused and specialized. They also appreciated my candidness and the handholding I provided during the process.
The way you approach this process and communicate these changes is extremely important. I spent time developing a plan and going about it in a way that felt authentic.
Some advisors send physical letters and give the client 30 days to find a new home. Some advisors do it all by email. I had most of my conversations face-to-face.
How you approach this will determine how you feel going through the process and how your client’s will respond to the change.
In part 2 of this article, which will be published tomorrow, I will discuss the next two steps of my process. To read part two of this article, click here.
Taylor Schulte is the founder of Define Financial, a San Diego-based registered investment advisor, and host of Experiments in Advisor Marketing, an Apple Top 50 podcast helping financial advisors grow their business through unique marketing strategies.
Read more articles by Taylor Schulte