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Your associates need you.

To build a reputation, rookies need determination and talent, and also a helping hand.

Today's veterans were often mentored by senior colleagues, who took the time to help them create business plans and network with lawyers and accountants to expand their service offerings.

But times have changed.

The recession's made clients more demanding of your time and expertise. You've likely had to trim expenses because of lost assets and lower returns. As a result, you may no longer have the time or resources to train protégés.

One Alberta-based advisor told me, "A large-scale mentor group needs to be started in Canada, but most dealers are more concerned with regulation and compliance." She adds firms' training programs are short-lived and sales-oriented.

Big firms focus on production. They set monetary targets for new associates, and hold up established advisors' revenues as benchmarks. But they don't spend much time highlighting how well these top producers serve clients.

And if head office isn't going to provide holistic training, you have to take the lead. If you don't, you could waste years micromanaging unsuitable hires.

By guiding them and testing their skills with challenging assignments, you'll spot your strongest and weakest employees. You'll also limit the number of mistakes you'll have to fix. Even better, they'll understand your expectations, and know which skills to refine.

Simply saying you have an open-door policy and then overwhelming them with reading material won't work. Instead, follow those handouts with short meetings to discuss the content. Establish regular office hours and tell associates to book time with you when they have questions.

Most companies require yearly performance reviews, but new hires need more frequent feedback. Let them know what they're doing right: recognize good work and offer quick suggestions for improvements. Doing so will help them both set and meet goals.

Manage expectations

"Your business plan should take into account your goals and earnings targets for the life of your business, rather than just the first few years."

– a veteran advisor

More importantly, immediately let them know when they've faltered to stop bad habits from forming. If they don't learn from these warnings, you'll quickly see their limitations.

Invite new employees to sit in on high-level meetings as observers so they'll learn how to approach critical clients. And, if a staffer is having trouble with a customer, lead a short simulation. Act as the difficult party and let the associate refine his approach.

By using these strategies, you'll not only make your job easier, you'll also grow your practice faster. Are you ready?

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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