Kelvin Krips’s business had plateaued.

Five years ago, the Red Deer, Alta. advisor with Everyone Benefits was consistently selling group RRSPs, but realized he needed to present a more cohesive image.

But he was too busy serving clients to get a clear view of his operations. Krips scoured business books in search of direction, but says he needed more specific help, preferably from someone who knew his industry well. When he saw an ad for coaching geared to financial advisors, he emailed the company.

“I do a lot of obstacle races, such as The Spartan and Tough Mudder, and have used trainers with great success,” he says. “I wanted to extrapolate that success [for] my financial practice.”

Krips met with April-Lynn Levitt of The Personal Coach for a complimentary one-hour needs analysis.

“She asked me how my business ran and what I saw as the issues,” he says. Levitt followed up with a summary letter outlining Krips’s challenges: he didn’t have a proper business plan, he wasn’t diligently tracking expenses, his marketing materials were inconsistent and his staff lacked clear client processes to follow.

Impressed by these insights, he signed up for a year of coaching. Levitt created a colour-coded calendar, blocking off time for business development planning, as well as for the usual appointments, paperwork and leisure time. Then, the two worked on the top priorities, such as tracking expenses on a monthly and quarterly basis.

“Analyzing my income statement on a regular basis made me realize I was running my own business and needed to treat it as such,” says Krips. “This included setting a budget and production goals for the year. It helped me with my vision and was easy to execute as I knew what my objectives were for the year, and I could discuss my progress with April.”

Krips and Levitt came up with vision and mission statements, as well as objectives, strategies and action plans to achieve them. They defined roles and responsibilities for staff, such as setting up appointments and calling clients in for periodic reviews.

“This freed up my time to grow the business and be in front of clients, rather than getting lost in day-to-day activities and administrative work,” Krips says.

They also created a series of quick reference books with steps to take in various circumstances, such as the arrival of a new client (what should be in the welcome package, what contact information and forms were needed). In addition, Krips ensured his marketing materials had a consistent look and theme, and he now keeps track of the number of appointments he makes, how many policies he writes, any new assets under administration, new group RRSP cases and expenses.

“I show her my numbers on a quarterly basis,” he says.

He’s renewed his contract with Levitt five years in a row, crediting her coaching with helping revenues double during the first two years of the relationship and their consistent rise since. “She gave me the confidence and the direction to do the things I needed to do,” he says. Things are easier for staff too. “We’re not so helter-skelter. We’ve got systems in place.”

But coaching isn’t cheap: Krips estimates he’s spent $30,000 over the past five years.

Fees tend to range from about $100 to more than $500 per hour. Although an International Federation of Coaching (IFC) survey indicates 86% of those who invested in services said they “at least got their investment back,” that still leaves 14% who said they didn’t benefit. Here’s how to ensure you’re not one of them.

Do you need a coach?

Some advisors find they’re on the go all the time, but aren’t growing their books or revenues. Others seek help for specific problems, like hiring or time management. “I would say at least 80% start out that way,” says Levitt. “But many times we end up working with them for a number of years because other things come up.”

Simply having problems to fix isn’t enough, says Simon Reilly, founder of Leading Advisor Inc., a telephone coaching business based in Parksville, B.C. You have to block out time for calls and assignments, and commit to follow through on action plans. Reilly says he knows a relationship won’t work if, “before we’ve even done the needs analysis, we’ve rescheduled twice.”

And, for advisors shopping for a fit, if a coach won’t let you talk to previous clients, asks for a lot of money up front or fails to detail his process, “that would be a big red flag,” says Levitt.

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