Most financial planners do an amazing job when it comes to planning for their clients’ lives and financial futures. But for whatever reason, they tend to do far less planning for their own lives, especially when it comes to their business.
In this column and my next column, I will supply the exact formula I used (and you can model) to set your business goals and create your strategic plan for 2021.
If there ever was a year when strategic planning is important, this is it. COVID has disrupted many of the rules of our game, many for the better. For example, before the pandemic, working virtually would have been considered impossible. With video conferencing, it will more than likely become the preferred method. After all, if you can sit in your home office wearing gym shorts (and a tie), what’s not to like about that? This is just one example of how your business has changed and therefore, your strategic plan must change with it.
One of the most important elements of a great strategic plan is to anticipate some kind of surprise or disruption that could affect the course of your plan. As I alluded to above, not all surprises are bad. Some actually become the conduit that allows you to catapult your business to the next level. Not once in my 30-year career did everything go 100% according to plan. More years than not, we had multiple surprises.
So how do you use these to your benefit? First, how are you interpreting these surprises — in other words, asking the questions, “What does this surprise mean for your business, or what could it mean for your business?” Second, it’s important to see any surprise, good or bad, as a gift and, as quickly as you can, look for ways to turn any potential lemons into lemonade.
Finally, in most cases, it’s important to realize that surprises that happen to your business are typically happening to your competitors as well. Things like the dot-com crash, the Long-Term Capital debacle, the 2008 financial crisis — all of those things happened to every adviser. The key is being able to quickly identify how you are going to seize the moment and capitalize on the crisis while many of your competitors are frozen, waiting for something to change.
SCHEDULE A MEETING WITH … YOURSELF
On to planning. The No. 1 contributor to my business success was having a weekly meeting where I focused solely on planning for my business. For me, it was every Sunday night.
When my son was growing up, I used to cook for somewhere between 12 and 22 people every Sunday night. My rule was that our friends could not show up before 6 p.m. and had to be gone by 8 p.m. — with the dishes done — so I could start my workweek at exactly 8 p.m. every Sunday night. Our son would go up to his room — not necessarily go to bed, but he knew mom was working. And it went that way for my entire career.
Every Sunday night I would go through the calendar and review the notes on every appointment that had occurred throughout the previous week.
If I wasn’t aware or couldn’t remember what went on in a call or meeting, I would look for the written download from that meeting in the client file (all meetings and calls were documented). If I had not been in the actual meeting, I would read through the download to see if I could spot any red flags or follow-ups that needed to occur. Funnily enough, my staff knew they had better have their downloads done by Sunday night at 8 p.m. or they’d be getting a call from me. I always believed that if someone on my team had not gotten the outcome I had expected in a call or meeting, I could go back in and recover.
Next, I would list all of the prospects I was going to call or meet with in the coming week. I always had 20 “hot prospects” I was working on. When one became a client, a new name went on that list. I believed was that it was my job to stay laser-focused on revenue-producing activities: prospecting and closing prospects to become clients. That was it. Over time, I hired people to do everything else in the business.
On Mondays, I’d review my notes over a cup of coffee and be armed with very clear plan for the week. I did this every week, and it worked.
YOU SET THE BAR
My team relied on me for a clear plan and I delivered it.
Your team looks to you for their cues. If you are unorganized and undisciplined, I can assure you that your team will, more often than not, follow suit. Arrive before they do, have the coffee brewing and be ready to go with your plan, and you will inspire and affect their behavior.
Bottom line: If you want to grow your business, you must be disciplined. Establishing a weekly planning ritual is a great place to start.
In my next article, I will share the how, what and why behind my annual two-day offsite each December, which set the stage for my growth strategy and operational plan.
If you’d like to learn more about Erin Botsford and her program, and attend her year-end webinar, register here.
As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.