There comes a time in every financial planner’s journey when it becomes clear that something needs to change. You might not even know what that change needs to look like - you just feel it in your gut. So how do you evaluate what piece of your practice needs to be addressed? And how do you go about implementing new strategies?
When is it time to switch things up?
There are a lot of reasons that you might be feeling like something’s off in your financial planning practice. Here are a few (and this is certainly not the end of the list!):
- If you aren’t loving your clients.
- If you’re not generating the revenue you need.
- If you want to switch to a more virtual-focused practice model.
- If you want to grow in another direction (ex: going from lifestyle to ensemble).
- If you’re interested in having more flexible scheduling.
These are just a few things that might inspire you to shift gears. Of course, shifting gears can be intimidating! But make no mistake: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result. If you want to continue growing and improving, the best thing you can do is take a hard look at the problem you’re facing and figure out what needs to change to solve it.
What changes can you make?
You don’t need to completely overhaul your financial planning practice to get the results you’re looking for. In many cases, a small change implemented correctly can make the world of difference - and get you back on the track to success.
Taking on More Clients
One change you can make (that’s sometimes easier said than done) is taking on more clients. The question isn’t necessarily where you’re going to find these wonderful new clients - it’s how you’ll be able to best serve them. Are you working with the right technology? Are you focusing on the niche that gets you fired up? Do you need support staff? Sometimes outsourcing the business tasks you don’t like - like marketing, social media, email response, and bookkeeping - can free up time to take on a significant number of new (well-paying!) clients.
Creating a Business Plan
If you feel like you’re no longer inspired by your business, it’s time to create or revisit an existing business plan. You may be surprised at how things have changed since you got started. Your new and improved business plan may reaffirm your existing goals, or you might decide it’s time to rethink the dream.
If you’re not interested in changing your business plan, and you truly don’t feel like you have the capacity to take on more clients, raising fees might be the way out of your funk. However, “raising fees” isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are a bunch of different ways you can go about this, and the right way for you largely depends on your motivation.
If you feel like your current clients are wonderful, you’re just not generating enough revenue, you might look at raising fees across the board. If you want to take on new, higher-paying clients, start by raising fees for incoming clients only. If your primary motivation is bringing on a different set of new clients (either outside of your niche or otherwise), you could also consider adding an “entry level” service. This works great if you’re trying to reach a younger audience. On the other hand, if you’re feeling like you want to steer away from that, you could consider taking your “entry level” service offering off the table. It’s okay to start having minimums - don’t feel guilty.
You might also try something completely different - like changing your fee-style from AUM to retainer. Maybe you just increase the frequency of payments - changing from a quarterly retainer to a monthly fee. You might add hourly planning into your list of offerings to shake up your day-to-day workload. You can put together a combination of any of these ideas to find what’s right for you.
Changing Your Marketing Approach
I find that when an advisor is in a funk, the problem is often rooted in the amount of attention they’re giving their marketing. This can swing both ways. Some advisors are so marred down in the nitty-gritty marketing tasks that they’re no longer doing the financial planning they love. Other advisors are working in the business so often that they forget to work on the business, as well.
Of course, there are a billion different ways that you can market yourself. Some things I usually suggest if you feel stuck in a rut are:
- Increase or decrease your amount of in-person networking events and marketing strategies depending on your niche. Sometimes getting in front of people is exactly the marketing change that extroverts (like me) crave. However, if you’re introverted, this may not be your speed! Maybe the hour-long Q&A sessions at the local library you’ve been hosting are bumming you out - and that’s okay. Feel free to adjust as necessary.
- More or less social media. If you’re not doing it at all, that’s a problem. If social media is literally all you’re doing, that’s also a problem. The solution to both of these issues is the same - when in doubt, outsource it. There are loads of fabulous virtual assistants and social media marketers who can help you create a time-saving plan or take the post-scheduling off your hands entirely.
- Change your medium. If you’re doing webinars but feel uncomfortable in front of a camera - try blogging! If you’ve been spending hours working on a white paper that’s not going anywhere - try recording a podcast, instead! Find out where your niche is getting their information, and figure out what you can do that you’ll enjoy to reach them.
When changing your marketing strategy, always ask yourself: what do I love to do, and is what I’m currently doing working? Once you answer these two questions, you’ll be able to better hone your marketing strategy and make the changes that are necessary.
You may say, “My scheduling tool works great!” And that may be accurate. But, unfortunately, simply having an online scheduler doesn’t make your business schedule very organized. When you had a lot of down time at the beginning of launching your financial planning practice, you may have allowed things to get a little bit messy.
If this is the case, and you’re feeling like you don’t have room in your days to get work done and enjoy life, or like you don’t have room to take on the clients you’re dying to work with, it’s time to tighten up your schedule. To do this, you may need to simply rearrange how you structure your daily and weekly work calendar. Check your lifestyle balance. Are Saturdays being spent with your family? Are you working 7 days a week? Do you need to reserve a Thursday or a Friday each week to work on projects and not take client calls? Asking yourself these questions will help you restructure your schedule and get back in touch with why you love what you do - by regaining balance.
How do you know which change is right for you?
The easiest way to decide which change to make is to figure out which part of your business isn’t working. The key is to change one or two things at a time to decide what truly has a positive impact on your business. Set a timeline for yourself where you implement new strategies - be it scheduling, a new marketing method, etc. - and fully embrace the change during this time period. I usually suggest people check back in around the 3-6 month mark to determine whether their new approach has helped or hurt their practice.
When you’re ready to measure whether or not a big business change actually worked, there are a few different things you can look at.
- If you’re working to take on new clients (or a different kind of client) you can determine the average time it’s taking to close a client (or the total time they spend in your pipeline).
- The end-goal may have been to generate more revenue. After you’ve implemented a strategy to reach that goal, measure your average revenue per client. Has it gone up? Is it where you want it to be?
- If you were searching for a better work-life balance, or improved scheduling, measure the amount of hours you work. Have new approaches helped you work less and enjoy more? Alternatively, are you working more efficiently? Both of these things are good indicators that your big change is working out!
- You can also measure your happiness level. Maybe the change you implemented hasn’t drastically impacted your business, but you feel so much better. That in itself is worth it, in my opinion.
Making big changes (and small changes) in your business can feel intimidating, and we’re often unsure of where to start. I encourage you to make changes that are important to you. Once you know your why, you’ll be able to confidently adjust aspects of your business. And when it comes time to “check in” you’ll know what success indicators you’re measuring - because you know why you made the change in the first place!
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.