Time to build your business

By Deanne Gage | June 8, 2009 | Last updated on June 8, 2009
3 min read

A known truth about recessions: they eventually do end. But the question is, where will advisors be situated when this particular downturn is over? Will they have used the downturn to their advantage or will they become victims, forced to take down their shingles? These questions were posed to the 300 advisors attending the Canadian Institute of Financial Planners’ national conference in Halifax on Monday.

“It’s not so much about the crisis, it’s how you react to it,” explained Lou Schizas, equities analyst with Relentless Economics Inc. in Oakville, Ontario. “You’re being challenged and that’s good because it will help you to grow. When there are challenges, I have never been more committed, creative and I have resolved to make sure that I get to the other side.”

Managing through the downturn won’t be easy by any means, he said, noting that the advisors who survive will earn their success by putting in the time, effort and commitment. That means working harder and smarter.

He suggested advisors free up at least six more working weeks per year to concentrate on their practices or other pursuits. He notes that getting up one hour earlier each day equals the six working weeks. “I get up before my clients because I have commitments to them,” he said.

If giving up an extra hour’s shut-eye is out of question, Schizas recommended “getting more efficient” by eliminating time wasters in your day such as dealing with technology or administration issues — delegate to an assistant or outsource these tasks instead — or “getting there sooner” by moving closer to your office and eliminating one-hour-plus commute times.

Having the right attitude also helps. Schizas recently received an e-mail from an advisor complaining about the fact that his clients are always unhappy and never say thank you. “I told him he has the wrong attitude,” Schizas said. “If you are looking at your clients as a problem, you’re never going to be identifying the opportunity.”

Schizas asked for a show of hands to determine how many attendees have demanding clients. Three-quarters of the room raised their hands. “You know why? You’ve got all their money,” he said. “Funny enough, they have expectations. So they are going to be uptight, they are going to want you to jump when they call. That may not fit your needs and you’re going to have to manage your book. But the reality is they need you to respond to them and you need to educate them.”

He noted that advisors often fail to evaluate all of their client accounts by profitability and likeability factors, which prevents them from properly determining the best clients versus the pain-in-the-ass (PITA) ones.

In severe cases, the PITAs may have to go, but a better solution is to avoid taking them on in the first place. Most advisors can sense a PITA from the start, and Schizas suggests advisors confirm this sense by brushing up on their interviewing skills when meeting with prospects. Take fees, for example. Ask prospects straight up, “Are fees your only concern?” If the answer is yes, they are probably not going to be a client who values professional advice.

Consider reinvesting in your business when others traditionally cut back. Real estate leases can be renegotiated and technology companies are pricing their product “at a level you cannot ignore,” notes Schizas. When Schizas surveyed the room on whether advisors had their data backed up, only a handful did.

Schizas, who also teaches part-time at Ontario’s Sheridan College, recommended advisors take up a similar pursuit as a way to build up their profiles and at the same time, work and stay in touch with younger people who may be interested in entering the financial services industry. “I have found there are motivated people looking for an opportunity and you don’t have to get them for 40 hours a week,” he said. “Some are happy to work eight or 10 hours. They need experience. They need people like you to show them the ropes and you need people like them to [help you].

He recommends approaching college students over university students since they are more likely to accept grunt work.

Want someone more seasoned for your practice? Schizas said there’s never been a better time to hire. “There’s high quality labour available for the first time in decades,” he said. “And the high quality labour is negotiable in this environment.”


Deanne Gage