Helping Clients Who are Worried About the Market
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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Our firm is very successful. We’ve grown significantly annually for the past five years. We’ve got a good team of multi-generation advisors and everyone is working well together. The problem is that I feel like a failure despite the success we are having.
I look at some of the things my colleagues are doing and I don’t feel I am making enough change. We have the same client-servicing approach we’ve used for years. We grow by attracting a certain target market that knows us well. There aren’t challenges and we’ve grown stagnant.
But every time I make changes, I get bogged down by the day-to-day of what needs to be done. I am a hands-on manager and want to be involved in most of the decisions. I am 62 years old and hope to be doing this work until I am 80+. But I also realize if I am going to make changes, I need to implement them now.
Am I being too hard on myself? Should I just look at the wins we are having and be satisfied? My wife and brother, who is my confidant, tell me I am crazy to put so much pressure on myself. But success is measured in many different ways. I don’t see myself as successful if I am unable to get the things done I want.
Is this common for other advisors? I am not comfortable talking about it with my peers lest they think me greedy or insecure.
It’s certainly not my place to say you are wrong or suggest you should be content with what you have and ignore these punishing feelings. In fact, it’s hard for anyone to tell another person that they should not feel a certain way. Feelings are, by definition, very personal. No one should tell you to ignore them and move on.
That said, you would benefit from setting a goal of one of these changes you want to make, and then creating a plan to move towards that goal so you can feel more accomplished. You’ve clearly designed and managed a successful advisory firm and overcome challenges many advisors face, especially given your multi-generational environment. Personally, though, you are missing out on things that matter to you.
You talk about getting bogged down and wanting to be involved in many of the decisions. You need to make some choices about what is most important to you. There are only so many hours in the day and how you choose to spend those hours will dictate your outcomes.
As a first step, capture the goals you hope to accomplish in a clear and concise way. Start with just one goal and create your desired outcome – what does success look like to you once you have reached this goal? Be clear and specific so that you could turn around and explain or describe this goal in detail to someone else. Sometimes people think they should be doing or accomplishing something, but they aren’t clear on what the “thing” should be! Start here and make sure you are clear.
Consider your obstacles – what gets in the way of you putting plans in place and executing them to get closer to this goal? Be honest with yourself and don’t beat yourself up, but identify where you get off track or distracted. Again, be as specific as possible so you can catch yourself and make a plan to do something differently. It may mean prioritizing things in a different way – perhaps one day a week you choose not to manage as closely in favor of spending time putting steps in place to get to your goal.
Have a plan. What do you need to do? When do you need to do it by? Who could help you with any of the steps? How will you measure success and keep yourself on track? Who could be your coach or supporter to help you stay on track?
Most of the time people don’t reach a goal or take the necessary steps to get where they want to go because they don’t have clarity about the outcomes, or don’t acknowledge and identify their obstacles. They can’t work through or around them and don’t have a clear plan of action. Create this with just one of the things you hope to do, and see if over the next few months you can’t make more progress than you have been making.
Clients are nervous. Things have been good for so long and, as one client told me, when she asked us to move most of her assets into safe instruments, “What goes up will eventually come down and possibly come down really hard.” We don’t agree. We expect corrections but we don’t foresee wholesale disaster in the markets. But we don’t know how to get this message across when clients are nervous and don’t trust us. Is there a way to help them see what we see so they don’t panic and lose out on opportunities?
Do you struggle to help all of your clients understand what’s happening in the markets or just in selected cases such as the woman you mentioned in your note? Are the clients who are panicking ones who would not have enough money to withstand a “disaster” and could be getting nervous about being unable to retire or reach their goals if something goes awry? Do you have opportunities to re-tell and re-sell clients often enough so they do get a picture of what you are doing and why and are able to build confidence in your approach?
Validate your clients’ concerns without telling them they are right. In other words, there is a lot of noise and many people are nervous or they have lived through a serious correction and are afraid of it happening again. You might be overlooking the chance to validate their fear as real, and then help them talk through the different options available to them to figure out what’s best. Maybe for someone to sleep at night, they do need to be in safe instruments. But there might be a tradeoff in goals in order to do this. Often a smart professional sees things from the perspective of data and information and not from feelings and fear. You could be falling into the trap where you are addressing the concerns with logic and data instead of helping clients work through their emotions.
Or you might be educating clients so broadly that you aren’t targeting the ones who are truly afraid and need your more customized attention to address their needs.
Take a step back and instead of trying to figure out how to convince them you know more than they do, understand the source of their fears and help them consider options and work through what’s most important – to them.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.