Technology: Making It Work With What You've Got and When To Upgrade
A few years ago, an advisor told me that I was really good at helping his team leverage the technology in their office. In fact, he took a business card and on the back, penned the title of a book I should write, and I have kept it with me all these years. The title? "How to Make it Work With What You've Got" - 300,000 copies sold by Emily Bennett!
It is a reminder of how I approach technology in the office; you need enough of it to simplify the tasks and keep you compliant, but it should not be the ultimate driver. Having a solid foundational understanding of technology should be the goal. And, once technology fails to meet your needs and goals, it’s time to re-assess how you’re utilizing it in your every day.
I recently read the Top Technology Predictions for 2020 by World Economic Forum. The prediction that most resonated with me was “learning on the job will never stop.” Cloud technologies make it convenient and simple to stay current and to keep that learning momentum; however, most advisor practices fail to determine how technology can be applied and work FOR their business. Server and database technologies require regular upgrades to stay current and avoid any potential security issues. Still, it can be overwhelming to dedicate the time and headspace to keep on top of it. That brings us full circle in, ultimately, technology isn’t helpful if misused or fails to meet your needs and goals.
To understand your current situation, ask these questions:
1. Is your technology compliant? Consider that older servers, systems, and mobile devices run the risk of being non-compliant from a security perspective.
2. Does everyone have the right access to technology where they work?
3. Are you duplicating effort? For example, do you often copy and paste between applications or emails?
4. Are you able to produce reports, dashboards, or analytics in real-time to see how well client services are performing or to identify client opportunities?
5. How is technology part of every transaction with your clients? Are you interacting with your clients the way they want? Does everyone in the office have the ability to enter information about client interactions? Are these notes retrievable by those who need access? Are you reaching out to your clients enough? Too much?
The responses to these questions can help you determine if you need to upgrade your systems or make better use of the technology you have implemented in your office. A more detailed assessment can help find the gaps and build a plan to achieve your technical goals to make the most with what you’ve got.
William Shakespeare penned, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – but would it be as memorable? We’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to help advisory firms across Canada develop compelling brands and company names. Here we share some tips to help you establish a company name that is both personal to you and memorable to others.
Apple, Nike, Mercedes, Amazon, and Google; these names appear to have nothing to do with the type of business they are in, yet these companies are incredibly successful and are household names. As Sasha Stauss, brand strategist, explains, “Successful businesses are not selling a service they are selling an experience, a sensation, a focused promise, and most of all, a story.” Even if the product or service, like Apple or Mercedes, is expensive, the company will still be very profitable. What makes them successful? For starters, they are entirely in control of how they want you to think.
For example, Apple clients believe they are unique and think differently outside of the norm. Mercedes owners believe they perceived as elegant and successful. Even if the car or the phone (remember the iPhone battery debate?) had a reputation for consumer concerns, we would value the brand over any misgivings. As humans, we want to be a part of something that makes us feel good about ourselves.
So how do you go about creating a name for your firm? Do not try to explain everything in a company name. A company name is one part of your brand, just as your logo and slogan are elements that serve a specific purpose within your communication strategy.
Be unreasonable in your creative process. Pick a thing, an object, or a feeling that will connect your ideal clients to your promise. A few of the company names we’ve developed for Financial Advisors are Blue Whale, Aurora, Gallery, Arrival, Framework, Forté. These (like Apple, Nike) having nothing to do with industry, but everything with reflecting the team inside the name.
Don’t be hesitant to pick a name that supports a theme and uses analogies. A past client, Framework Financial, purchased a custom-designed wire sculpture they call the Vision Frame. They use it to communicate their value. It encompasses both theme cohesion and has a local community feel, which reflects the hometown pride that resonates with clients.
An impactful company name is simply a recognizable or interesting word that sticks in our minds. This is magnified if the name reflects the personality of your business. Reg from Gallery Wealth Management has a passion for nature photography, and since most of his client’s come to his office, they converted it into a photo gallery. When clients arrive, they become part of the brand and culture. How do you think this will positively impact the meeting?
Your company name should engage clients to FEEL they are part of something beyond just providing a service.
Finishing The Year Strong. It's Not Too Late To Amplify Results!
It’s hard to believe we’re already at the end of September and the end of the third business quarter as well. A common theme for September is that it offers a fresh perspective - or a “new year”. Everyone is back from summer holidays, the kids are back to school, and it’s time to reflect on how the year has gone, and how you want it to end.
So, how are you doing? This question can be daunting for most advisors to answer because, even if one aspect of your business is thriving, there could be other factors that are demanding your attention and pulling you away from your preferred focus. Also, if we’re frank, most advisors don’t spend enough time working on their business to develop systems for a routine review and to strategize for the future. This realization means you are not equipped to overcome unexpected challenges causing business growth to stall. It can also lead to frustration, stress, and stagnation. Look at the visual below and apply it to your business. Where are you on the S-curve? If you are reaching a breaking point, it could be time to implement something different that will burst you through that ceiling and start you on a new S-curve.
Wait, where’s the “Staples button” because if only it were that easy. When you hire someone new or install new technology or change a process, you trust that it will make a difference. However, it may be little more than a leap of faith unless you accompany it with talent, procedures, or coaching to support the leap to the next growth curve.
So what can be done right now to end the year on a high note? At this late stage, less is more. The best course of action is to reflect on the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Are there any that you identified as integral to the success of the business that are still incomplete? What are your team’s views? Have they identified any items that require your immediate attention? Now is the time to narrow your focus to the critical elements of your original plan. Pick one or two top priorities and implement the necessary changes. Moreover, remember that effective collaboration produces results that are greater than each individual’s contribution. This rule applies to whether you build your team internally or create a virtual team of external resources. There is still time to amplify your results for 2019.
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
Are you looking to grow your business? Save the date for our Generator Event! Tuesday November 26, 2019
If you want to grow your advisory business, get this date in your calendar!
Tuesday November 26, 2019, Cambridge, ON.
This TPC event is for advisors looking to grow their business, double their revenues and achieve time and money freedom. Full event details and sign up information here: www.tpcgenerator.ca.
Alison Ottewell is helping advisors to connect and have an online presence.
Digital shouldn't be daunting! Creating a digital Marketing Strategy that works with your business is realistic and achievable. Engaging videos, compelling blogs and Social Media success is within your reach. Connect with Alison today at email@example.com.
Bridging the communication between advisors and their support staff.
Monday, June 17, 2019
Heather Amlin, Operations & Efficiencies Coach
I can’t believe it’s been a year since I started with The Personal Coach. Since starting, I have felt blessed to be able to take the time I needed to figure out how to use my “unique abilities” (cue Art Schooley’s voice inside my head) so I can best help guide advisors and their teams. I also have Fortunato Restagno to thank. He speaks to his branding clients about their compelling story which inspired me to discover my compelling story.
I spent many years in the financial services business as a Marketing and Operations Assistant in the trenches. Subsequently, I was a co-business owner of an advisory firm who purchased 2 other advisory firms. Finally, I became an ex-business owner transitioning clients and myself into a new role with our merger. You can imagine the many hats that needed to be worn for the merger to go smoothly.
I’ve really enjoyed the challenges of each role. I have especially loved the fact that each role has given me an opportunity to create processes, procedures and work with advisory support teams. It’s something I am passionate about and I enjoy bridging the communication between advisors and their support staff. With that being said, I’ve decided to focus my coaching on developing better operations and efficiencies with advisory teams.
I know first-hand the challenges an advisor has to deal with. It can be challenging to find time to listen to your support staff without distractions. If both the advisor and the staff member(s) are receiving calls, emails and texts, when do you find the time to get ready for meetings, process paperwork, keep an organized office AND create processes and procedures so that things run smoothly? Every advisory firm is unique and different - from the advisor doing it all themselves to the offices with 2-3 advisors and a support team for each. No matter the size, you still need to have processes and procedures in place. Every person in the office should know what those are, even if they don’t have to use each one.
I use a back-office checklist, which focuses on technology, administration, client services, and investment and insurance procedures. Reviewing this with advisory teams has led to great discussions around weaknesses in existing processes and identifying where there are no processes at all. We also review strengths and affirm the areas that are running smoothly.
As I embark on my second year with TPC, I’ve expanded this process to include the integration of new employees into an advisor’s office. We call it the Coaching for Integration Success Program. One of the challenges of working in small/medium team environments is how to set your new employees up for success as you try to train them in the many areas of your busy office. Having a clear agenda for their first day, their first week, and their first quarter is a great step! So, I keep Kim Poulin’s motto in mind and off I go….”Hire for attitude, train for skill.”
Are you an advisor who sees the value in podcasts? Are you wondering if creating podcasts is worth your time and effort? Podcasts are an inexpensive way to position your business and add value.
For the technically disinclined, a podcast is an episodic series of digital audio or video, which a user can download to listen to. If you are already creating content for a newsletter or e-campaign, or have hired The Personal Coach to create content for you, why not summarize your written communications in a podcast.
Consider this before doing so:
Check your dealer’s compliance regulations. Some may have specific guidelines and others may not allow it.
2. Ideal Client
Will a podcast be valued and listened to by your ideal clients? Age, region, occupation and psychographics play a major part in what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your marketing strategies.
3. Hire a Social Media Expert
You may wish to hire a social media expert who has the ability to effectively share your podcast with your network. Send your podcast to your clients, centres of influence and prospects.
4. Compelling and Engaging Content
Your podcast should be educational and help position you as the expert. Avoid bragging or directly selling your services. Any tips or ideas you share should be followed with a sample client story that will resonate with listeners.
5. Other Tips
Have a catchy intro piece with music. Use your slogan if you have one. Use a novel strategy - create curiosity, develop your characters, have a climax and a memorable ending. Make sure your microphone is clear.
Our Coaches, Kim and Heather, have been working away on further developing our hiring and integration programs offered to advisors and their teams. Hiring a team member can be a long and onerous task, especially without guidance or experience. We have discovered that many advisors prefer someone else handling certain aspects of the process – and often, the entire process. Our hiring programs allow you to continue to focus on what you do best and delegate the hiring to us. We become an extension of your team - your human resources and hiring team!
Key elements of the coaching process include, attracting, hiring, retaining and compensating the right team members; understanding each team member’s competencies, skills and responsibilities; having each person in the right role and building team effectiveness, efficiency and cohesiveness.
Services available include:
Identifying the candidate pool
Narrowing the candidate pool
Due diligence – screening final candidates
We also have a Coaching for Integration Success Program that will help you hit the ground running from day one with your new hire. Your customized program includes the following:
A copy of the Right Fit II Booklet - Integration and Development of a New Team Member
A customized agenda to follow for your employee’s first day and their first week
A comprehensive training checklist with a focus on the first 3 months of your employee’s development
On-site training the first day followed by video conference/phone and email consultation with the advisor, training team and the new employee, as required
Failure to hire right can be very expensive and time consuming. To learn more about these exciting services and how to hire and integrate an exceptional team member, please connect at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was invited to speak at a dealer conference to discuss the importance of having the right people around you and how to create a great team. All of the attendees at the conference received a complimentary copy of The Personal Coach booklet, The Right Fit, which is a guide to help advisors make great hires.
At the end of the presentation, “George,” one of the attendees, approached me and asked if I could help him with a hiring project. We booked a conference call for the following week so I could learn more about why he felt that he needed to make a hire for his team, which already consisted of four support staff.
During our call, George shared with me that because of his large clientele and significant asset book, his current team could not handle all of the transactions and client requests. George had concluded that he needed to hire another team member.
I asked George one of my favourite questions, “Do you have too many clients or do you have too many non-ideal clients?” George had never heard this question before and asked what I meant. I shared with him that, as coaches, we see many advisors like him building a large clientele. However, as they evolve and mature as a financial advisor, many of the clients do not fit their ideal client profile. I suggested to George that before we move forward with a new hire, we complete an exercise called Best Case Scenario from Cotton Systems. This exercise examines the 10 best sales that an advisor has made over the last 6 to 12 months. George agreed to complete this exercise with the help of his team.
At our next meeting, I could tell that George, having completed the Best Case Scenario exercise, had experienced an epiphany. He was happy to have spent time reflecting and better understanding who his top clients are and more importantly, was excited to see how we could apply this information to his business model. We used the information from the exercise and completed an Ideal Client Profile (ICP), which we committed to paper. We referred to this for the next exercise by starting to use this ICP as part of our referral/introduction process.
I asked George, “Tell me about how you’ve built your contact management system and when it was last updated?” George said that he has a program called Act! and has been using the system for 8 years. I shared with George that a contact management system is not just a technology tool. It needs to be viewed as a business process encompassing 4 steps:
Building a relationship management strategy for each segment
Identifying a champion to manage the system
Using technology to manage the process – in this case,
it was Act!
George said, “This is all fine but I really need your help in making a hire.” I said to George that I understood this but before we made a hire, we needed to “right size” his practice. I shared with him a number of stories where we had completed this exercise with advisors with large clienteles and in many cases, the advisor decided to right size the practice and by doing so, decided that he/she did not need to make an additional hire. I asked George to go along with me on this one and work on his contact management system before we discuss hiring. George begrudgingly agreed to take this step. I then showed him some sample customized segmentation scorecards that we had created for other clients and I suggested that we build a customized segmentation scorecard for him. He agreed and we built this scorecard with a particular focus on the following items:
Size of assets
How clients value the services
The client history of providing referrals
One of our support team members at TPC created a scorecard with the above items and a rating system to grade each client from 1 to 5. We had 7 items with the maximum score on each item being 5, which meant that the best client score could be 35. We then created a rating system using the numbers so that we could create 5 different segments – platinum, gold, silver, bronze and lead. I left this exercise for George and his team to complete and within a month, George sent me an email outlining that he had the following clients in each segment:
With this exercise behind us, I arranged to book my next face-to-face coaching meeting with George and asked him to have his employee responsible for booking appointments to join the meeting. This employee, “Kathy,“ is very engaged in the business and was quite intrigued with what we were going to achieve during this meeting.
Next, we built a relationship management strategy with each segment. I showed Kathy and George some sample relationship management strategies. We spent the balance of the morning outlining a relationship management strategy that Kathy thought she could implement for each of the segments. Our most concentrated relationship management strategy would be focused on Platinum clients and minimal for Bronze and Lead clients. As part of this exercise, I asked for names of clients that fit in each of these categories so George and Kathy could think about these clients when delivering their strategy. Putting client names to the categories helped us immensely in creating strategies for each segment.
The third step in building the contact management system is identifying a champion. Kathy was up for the challenge and she was excited that she had clarity around managing clients going forward.
The next step after completing this project was to focus on helping with a new hire. George was no longer as eager to work on this project because he discovered what so many advisors discover after this exercise – he felt that a number of clients should be sold off because they did not fit the ideal client profile and decided he wanted to focus on “right sizing” his business.
After having a thorough review of the business, not surprisingly, George and Kathy determined they could sell off 25% of their clientele. This would only reduce their revenue by 10% and then they could focus on bringing in more Platinum and Gold clients. We helped identify advisors that would be interested in buying these clients.
At the next meeting, we shared with the full team what we had been doing. After announcing that we had right sized the business, the other team members were in total agreement with selling off 25% of the clientele. Guess what happened next? They decided that adding a new team member was no longer necessary if they pulled the trigger on the sale!
I suggested to George that we take a coaching break and give the team time to implement what we agreed upon. I followed up in six months and George shared with me that he had almost replaced the 10% of lost revenue because he was now focused on his best clients. Additionally, those best clients are providing him with introductions to people just like them. His team is now more energized, has less stress and everyone is feeling like they are running the business whereas previously, they felt like the business was running them.
Good advisors do an excellent job of building their clientele but quite often, they do not take the time to review their clientele and see if these clients are a good fit for their current practice. Also, some advisors have “FOMO” - a fear of missing out. In other words, they think that they will miss opportunities if they release some of their non-ideal clients when in fact they will find more opportunities when adding Platinum clients in their place.
Here are 5 key business areas that every advisor must review as part of their acquisition due diligence process.
It is not an overstatement to say that due diligence, or the lack thereof, can ultimately define the success or failure of any business acquisition. Simply stated, due diligence is the process of investigating certain key aspects of a target firm’s business, including its finances, client base, operations, regulatory risk profile, technology and culture. Its primary purpose is to help the acquiring advisor answer 3 fundamental questions:
1. Should I buy?
2. If so, how much should I pay?
3. How should I structure the payment price?
One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from advisors is, “What areas of a target firm should I review and what questions should I ask?” Since most advisors are looking to acquire firms that are well managed, compliant and positioned for growth, here are 5 key business areas that every advisor must review as part of their acquisition due diligence process.
1. Strategic (or Cultural) Fit with Seller
One of the most overlooked aspects of any acquisition is the degree to which the acquiring advisor aligns with the seller’s values, business and investment philosophy, and commitment to client service. Generally speaking, the closer the fit, the greater the likelihood of a seamless transition of the business. Imagine the likelihood of success where two advisors have diametrically opposite views on issues such as the value of financial planning, investment philosophy, fee transparency, client service standards, etc. How easy do you think it will be for the buyer to retain clients used to and comfortable dealing with an advisor who has fundamentally different way of looking at these issues? We typically recommend to clients who are buyers that they first satisfy themselves as to the strategic fit and “chemistry” with the seller prior to moving forward in the transaction process.
2. The Target Firm’s Client Base
Buyers should then undertake a detailed review of the target firm’s client base to ensure alignment with their own “ideal client profile,” to understand potential growth opportunities, and to identify potential underlying risks to the business. Specific areas of inquiry should include:
The number of clients that have assets greater than $500K, between $250K and $500K, between $100 and $250K and less than $100K
The average asset value per client
Demographic split by age and gender
The percentage of assets in registered vs. non-registered accounts
Whether there are any product gaps that present growth opportunities
The number of clients that have a financial plan
The number of high-risk clients as well as high-risk product offerings
The target firm’s client base is the lifeblood of its business. Take the time to deeply understand its composition and the quality of the relationships with the seller.
3. The Target Firm’s Regulatory Risk Profile
Buyers should take a hard look at the target firm’s regulatory risk profile by asking, “Does the firm’s workflows, processes and procedures align with regulatory rules and expectations?” We recommend to clients that they select a random sample of the seller’s files and assess the following as part of their regulatory review:
The suitability of each client’s investment holdings
Any improper use of embedded commissions (i.e. instances of churning or use of DSC with elderly clients)
Instances of KYC uniformity across accounts
Sufficiency of notes in the file and instances of signed blank or altered forms
Any client complaints or regulatory sanctions
Whether the advisor has dealt appropriately with elderly clients
Instances of high-risk product offerings
Clearly, the greater the regulatory risk, the less valuable the target firm will be to a buyer. Reviewing the seller’s files from this perspective also gives the buyer a good sense of the seller’s approach and commitment to client care and service.
4. Operational Effectiveness
Buyers should examine the target firm’s operational effectiveness and efficiencies with respect to processing trades, client service, financial management and human resources. Consider the following:
Does the firm rely on one or more key individuals to get things done or is there a set of systems and clearly defined processes and procedures in place that are effective, reliable and scalable?
Has the firm invested in technology such as a CRM system that will make it easier for the buyer to seamlessly connect with and service clients?
Do team members have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and competitive compensation structure in place and a desire to continue to work with the buyer?
Firms that operate based on a system of best practices and procedures are much more valuable than those that do not.
5. Financial Health of the Firm
Buyers need to determine that a target firm is financially well managed and able to deliver stable, predictable cash flow. The higher the percentage of revenue that will continue after a deal closes, the better. Key areas to review include:
Revenue analysis over preceding 3 year period
Expense ratios including expenditures on team members, benefits, technology, rent, etc.
Annual budgets and monthly P&L statements
Whether there are any outstanding debts, taxes or other obligations owed by the seller’s corporation
How a firm manages its finances and profit margins will directly affect its perceived value to a buyer.
Our advice to clients is simply this: do not underestimate the value of due diligence. Most advisors fail to pay enough attention to this part of the acquisition process, which is unfortunate because it is only through rigorous due diligence that an advisor can truly understand the practice they are about to acquire and its true value. If you would like to speak to a coach about business acquisition, please connect at email@example.com.
Afsar Shah, Business & Regulatory Coach at 9:48 AM
Insights on how a team is using Everything DiSC® Workplace assessments to create business momentum
Do you believe one of your biggest assets if not the biggest, is your team? If you said yes, so do we which is why at The Personal Coach, we have a process in place to help teams grow stronger. We use Everything DiSC® profiles from Wiley, which are a personalized, specialized and in-depth analysis used to help individuals develop a broader understanding of themselves, their relationships with team members, explore their own potential and realize unparalleled success.
Everything DiSC® profiles help to develop critical business skills such as:
In a team building session, we discuss the results of the assessments and when needed, coach people one-on-one to assist with implementing the necessary behavioural changes. We recently received feedback from a valued client of ours who uses DiSC Workplace to manage their large team. Keep in mind that DiSC is for teams of all sizes. In their case, they have many team members with different personalities and profiles. So, they have benefited from understanding each other's personalities to best work with each team member.
Our client assigned one team member to be the DiSC® Team Leader to make sure that DiSC was not getting lost in the day-to-day to-dos and was remaining an important aspect of their business that they focused on regularly.
Here is what the DiSC® Team Leader shared with us:
THE IMPACT ON THE TEAM, As an organization, it’s the best thing we could’ve done. Since doing the DiSC® profiles for all the team members, we are much more aware and sensitive to each person’s unique communication and work style. We know that different people prefer, and need, different types of communication. We have incorporated DiSC® discussions into our staff meetings every month to make sure team communication and effectiveness remains top of mind for each team member. Since doing DiSC®, it has also motivated us to do even further research on communication styles and working with different styles. We use DiSC® profiles to facilitate better understanding between team members. Sometimes team members with different DiSC® styles can feel like they are not on the “same page” but having another person in the meeting who understands the different styles can help validate people’s feelings and their reactions to certain scenarios. On each employee’s door frame or work station, we have posted “How to Work with Me” so everyone can be reminded about how to work most effectively with their colleagues. The team is encouraged, on a yearly basis, to update this if anything changes in their preferences. We use terms like “Bring out your inner D” (dominance) or “pull it back when communicating with someone who is not a high D.” Not only does everyone know everyone else’s styles but they understand themselves better which only helps team and individual growth.
AS THE TEAM GROWS, Whenever we have a new staff member, we have them complete a DiSC® profile. I go through a detailed account of our initial introduction to DiSC, why we went through it and how it’s helped us to better work together and be a more cohesive team. Once the profile comes back, I discuss it with the new hire. Most people, when they get them back, are surprised at how precise the results are. I also order comparison reports for the new hire and for the people who will be working closely with them. It helps me to identify any issues that could potentially come up. It’s a proactive move so I can have conversations with existing staff prior to the new person starting work.
We are happy to see the benefits that our clients have realized from working with our coaches and Everything DiSC® profiles. If you are a business leader with a team, big or small, you will benefit from Everything DiSC® profiles combined with coaching.
You will discover:
what your priorities are at work
what you are motivated by
what stressors you likely have
what people will notice about you
what your limitations may be
what your communication needs are
Your team will:
have better communication
better understand one another
realize increased productivity
realize increased performance
improve the hiring process
leverage each member’s skills
Please reach out if you would like any further information.