Work ON your practice, not just IN it

By April-Lynn Levitt | December 6, 2011 | Last updated on December 6, 2011
4 min read

One of the biggest challenges we see as coaches, is that financial advisors are so busy working IN their business that they don’t have any time to work ON their business. Responding to clients, dealing with staff issues, compliance, paperwork and “putting out fires” consumes most of the day. There is little time left to work on long term planning which will improve your practice, grow revenues and reduce stress.

This phenomenon is common to small business owners and entrepreneurs in many fields and is described by Michael Gerber as “The E Myth”—the fact that most small businesses fail, or do not reach the level of success they could, because the founders are technicians (i.e. financial advisors) who fail to have an entrepreneurs’ vision. To be successful, we need to learn to step outside of our business and wear the hat of an entrepreneur in addition to our day to day activities.

In a typical advisory practice, new business development, management of daily operations and providing advice to clients are all tasks performed by the financial advisor, let’s call him “Joe”. It is difficult for Joe to take extended vacations because things fall apart when he’s not there. He has had several assistants in the past few years and just doesn’t have the systems and processes in place in his business because he doesn’t have time to work on them. Joe’s cash flow is not predictable and he has no idea how he is going to sell the business in the future.

In contrast, over the years “Jane” has built her team around herself to handle the day to day operations of the firm. She has a licensed assistant, a para-planner and an associate advisor. She handles top clients in her practice because she enjoys it, but much of her time is spent on long term strategic projects that will move the business toward her long term vision. She takes time off every quarter and the business runs just fine without her. She has built a brand around her team, not just herself—with the value they provide to clients and her processes.

Surprisingly, Jane does not have to expend much more effort than Joe to achieve a greater level of success and freedom. It starts with the mental shift to see herself as an entrepreneur, not just a financial advisor.

Here are several steps you can take to step out of the daily chaos and gain control of your business:

1) Create a 3-5 year vision for your business. This is best done by setting aside some planning time outside of your office, with your entire team involved. What does the business look like? What are your revenues? What are clients saying about you? Who is on your team? Make sure every stakeholder in your business knows what your vision is.

2) Set specific, measurable objectives for the coming year. As part of your business planning process identify the key activities that will help move you closer to your vision. If you want to hire staff, you will likely need to focus on client acquisition to grow your revenues. What tactics will you employ to do this?

3) Build a great team and delegate. As part of your planning, evaluate all of the tasks that must be done on a daily basis. Are you the best person to do this? See our previous article in for more tips on how to delegate, even if you don’t have an assistant.

4) Make strategic planning time a regular part of your schedule. So many advisors do a business plan only to have it sit on the shelf for the year collecting dust! In order to make this happen you need to set aside regular, uninterrupted time both for planning and working on longer term projects that will move your business forward.

5) Set aside time every week to read or just think about your business. With a blank pad of paper think about what improvements could be made to your business. What trends may have an impact? How are you going to have to change to keep up?

6) Get support. Research has shown that most people need support in order to grow and change – that’s why Weight Watchers was recently voted the number one weight loss system. Having a study group, mentor or coach can help keep you focused on the big picture and accountable in your activities to take you there.

April-Lynn Levitt, B. Comm, CFP, is a coach with The Personal Coach. April provides support to Western & Central Canada financial advisors. She has experience as an independent financial advisor and as a top Financial Consultant and Regional Manager in a Calgary office that managed $1 billion for physicians and their families. You can follow April on LinkedIn.

April-Lynn Levitt