There’s something about September that signifies change — and fresh starts.
The fall season is critically important to most advisers’ production. It’s often make-or-break time, when carefully nurtured prospects are moved into a practice, months of meetings with retirement plan sponsors could yield a “yes,” and increased demands for your attention leave you frantically looking at a calendar, wondering how you’re going to get it all done. This is a great opportunity for a reset.
REVISIT YOUR BUSINESS PLAN
Take a deep breath, step back and revisit your goals for the year. (Hopefully, you made your goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.) Although you may have thought your goals were impossible to achieve when March’s volatility was causing stocks (and spirits) to drop, the market recovery might mean some of your goals are still within reach. Look at your goals and business plan with fresh eyes, and consider these three questions:
1) What’s most important to get done before the end of the year? Think carefully about this — then do the most important things first. It’s human nature to procrastinate and complete easier tasks first, but with less than four months remaining in the year, try to focus on goals that will have the most impact on your business. That might mean bringing over assets from new clients or closing with prospects on their decision to join your firm, or it might involve installing new technology or spending time to gain efficiencies with existing technology. Think about what will move the dial for you and your practice, then attack the project.
2. Who needs to do it? Although it’s important to determine what the critical work is, it’s equally crucial to establish who will do it. The answer might be you, but be sure the goal is really something only you can accomplish. It might help to think of your hourly fees when considering who should work on a goal. If you charge $350 per hour for planning services, for example, ensure that you are doing activities that warrant that rate. Strategic and leadership goals (such as a decision to go fee-only) can seldom be delegated, but many other tactical ones can. You don’t need to do all the legwork to start a podcast, for example. Your staff might welcome such a task and could help you get up to speed, find examples of great podcasts and explore publishing options. If you can’t delegate, think instead of who could help motivate you, and choose an accountability partner to keep you on track.
3. When does it have to be done? If you intended to work on your social media presence for the past two years and still haven’t done it, a few more months won’t make a difference. If, however, a plan sponsor sent a request for proposal or a business owner is selling her firm in December, those deadlines should be prominent on your calendar and priority list. Put all the key dates in your calendar and work backward to make sure that you know when all the deliverables are due. Then block your calendar, giving yourself time to get the work done before your appointments pile up.
TURN YOUR FOCUS FORWARD
Looking back at your goals for the year might make you nostalgic for the simplicity of planning in a pre-coronavirus environment. That leads to one final recommendation: Cut yourself some slack. This year hasn’t turned out as anyone expected, so you’re not alone if you find your priorities have changed. Don’t dwell on what hasn’t gone according to plan; instead, reset your focus to what you can accomplish. You still have time.
Kristine McManus is vice president and chief business development officer for practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network.
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