There’s something about a new year that brings out the optimist in many of us. Some try to start fresh by organizing the closets or scrubbing the house clean. Others join a gym, throw out the Doritos, and begin cycling again. Many make financial resolutions to save more and spend less. Of course, personal goals can be hard to achieve. Fortunately, we often have spouses, friends, or coworkers who are willing to help us work toward them. (“I thought you said you were going to run a half-marathon this year? Get your sneakers, and let’s go!”)
Business growth resolutions can be even harder to accomplish on your own. Is this the year you want to upgrade your website, hire an advisor, or put a continuity plan in place? Would you like to boost revenue, increase assets under management, and add new clients? If so, you’ve come to the right place. I work with advisors on a wide range of growth initiatives, and through the years, I’ve noticed that there are some small things that top advisors do that often lead to big results over time.
To help you start out the new year on the right foot, let’s dive into four business growth resolutions for 2018—that you can keep.
1) Set Achievable Goals for Your Firm
When you sit down with prospects, you likely talk about how important it is to understand their goals and objectives so that you can create a financial plan to meet them. When you’re working with current clients, you regularly review their plans with them and discuss progress toward goals. Clearly, you recognize just how important it is to set goals. Yet a surprising number of advisors don’t set goals for themselves.
To tackle the first of these business growth resolutions, I want you to take your own excellent advice: set achievable goals for your firm and start tracking your progress toward them. It’s not enough to say you want to grow by 15 percent next year. How are you going to achieve it? Once you actually put the details down in writing, you’ve started a plan. Most of the top advisors I work with regularly set aside time to work on goals for their businesses, and then they monitor their progress throughout the year.
Remember to use the SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) approach to goal setting. But don’t be afraid to set a few stretch goals as well. Aim high, but not so high that you sabotage your objectives. Share your goals with your partner, who can help nudge you to get off the couch and get your running shoes on!
2) Track Your Activity
Once you’ve set your goals, what are the specific activities that you need to do to hit your targets? For most of you, this will come down to a focus on client-facing activities, as those are the things that get you out in front of clients and prospects on a regular basis. Client-facing activities include a wide spectrum: everything from meeting a prospect at a networking event, to hosting a client event, to posting something relevant on social media.
For help tracking your activities, try Commonwealth’s 20-Point System Template. This simple Excel spreadsheet lists a number of sample activities. You decide which ones make sense for your practice and how you want to grow.
Next, you assign a point value to the different activities. If something is relatively easy (e.g., give a business card to a potential center of influence) or completely under your control (e.g., send a handwritten thank-you card to a referrer), you probably want to assign a lower point value to it than to a larger initiative that’s time intensive (e.g., host a client appreciation event). Each day, keep track of what you do, and make a goal to earn at least 20 points by the end of each week. If you’re looking for faster growth, go ahead and try for 30 points.
Tracking your activity will give you a great indication of where you’re spending your time. As business owners, you’re busy doing a wide range of activities. But the only way you can make money is by being in front of clients and prospects on a regular basis. I’ve worked with many top producers who say that tracking their activity was one of the most important things they did to achieve big breakthroughs in their practices. Why not put their secret to work for you?
3) Get Talked About
Next, write down these words: What will get me talked about today? This is something that you want to have happen on a daily basis. Research has shown that most introductions and referrals are given to an advisor not to help the advisor but to help other people (see Figure 1). For example, what would your client do if a friend mentioned she received an inheritance or a work colleague shared that she’s in the midst of a divorce? These circumstances have financial implications, but did your client think to suggest you as someone who could help? You want to be top of mind for your clients, as you never know when a situation will arise that may call for your expertise.
So, how do you get talked about? There’s any number of simple things you can do, including making an unexpected phone call or sending a handwritten note. Some advisors book time into their calendars just for these unanticipated touches. Here are some possibilities to get you started:
- Be a financial/vacation planner. Are your clients taking a trip? Find tips or an article about their destination and send it to them. A small gesture like this conveys to clients that you were listening to them and, perhaps more important, that you care for them.
- Put a photo on it. Some advisors ask clients to send them their favorite photos and then use the photos to make mousepads or mugs to later delight their clients. You can also use a photo to make custom stamps on several websites. Clients will be astonished to receive a card or note with their favorite picture as the stamp. Be sure to include the rest of the book of stamps in your note to the client; in turn, he or she will likely use them on personal mail to friends and family, widening your reach and impact.
- Share a personal story. Give clients a story they can tell! I can guarantee you that no one leaves your office and tells someone else about your comprehensive approach to wealth management that takes into account his or her unique needs and goals (blah, blah, blah). Instead, share stories that allow clients to get to know you and your firm on a personal level, as that’s what forms the basis of a strong and lasting relationship.
4) Make It a Team Effort
Many advisors tell me they aren’t creative, marketers, writers, and so forth. While that’s sometimes the case (it usually isn’t), advisors often have resources in house that they never thought to tap. You guessed it: your team. Someone running your operations might have marketing experience, or your paraplanner could have a networking idea. What other jobs have your staff held in the past that could help you now? Some of the best client events I’ve ever heard about came because a staff member had a special skill that the firm leveraged, such as photography or ballroom dancing.
Advisors are often shocked to discover they have a staffer who would love to work on a client event or a newsletter. They are even more shocked when that staffer considers it a fun project! That’s the beauty of hiring people to complement strengths on your team—you all bring something different to the table. And when it comes to surprising and delighting clients, you definitely want to get input from your staff. They spend a lot of time with your clients, too, and are likely to bring valuable suggestions from their interactions.
Are You Ready?
I hope you’ll agree that all of these business growth resolutions are well within your capabilities. If you set achievable goals for your firm, track your activity, get talked about, and enlist the help of your team, I am confident that 2018 will be one of your best years yet. So, are you ready? Let’s go!
How will you stay on track with your business growth resolutions this year? Do you have a partner to help you set achievable goals for your firm and stick to them? Please share your thoughts with us below!