My Boss is Never Happy with Our Success
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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We have a fine-tuned marketing effort in our firm. We have regular client events and because we do, clients often bring friends. We have found it to be a great source of referrals. We have a direct mail campaign; when things change in the market, we invite people in surrounding areas for a free consultation. We work closely with two accountants in our building and we are able to exchange leads several times a month. We’ve worked hard over the last 15 years to identify and establish what’s most important to us and continually execute them.
But it’s frustrating because our boss thinks it is never enough.
He wants to know what else we are doing to create new opportunities and leads. It has become so difficult that we avoid meetings when he calls them, knowing he wants to brainstorm new ideas. I read a lot of your writings. Maybe I’m not objective, but it seems to me we are doing much more, and much better, than many other advisory firms of our size (eight people in total).
Is there a way to educate him on the success we are having so that he gets off our backs about new ideas? I’m open to being told I am wrong and we need to be doing more. But I don’t think that’s the case.
You are writing about many of the tactics you employ and the new tactics he wants, but is anyone talking strategically about the goals and objectives? Are you reaching your new client goals in terms of numbers added, or new AUM or referral goals? Do you have clear goals set and communicated? Are the activities you are currently engaging in sustainable? Do they need tweaking or improvement or will they guide you to your goals over the next several years?
Before you defend all of the things you are doing and suggest your leader’s behavior is not necessary or inappropriate, consider whether strategically and sustainably you are pursuing all of the right things. It’s possible the head of your firm could be looking at something you aren’t – fees coming in, distributions going out, trending down in some of the activities you are pursuing and so on. It’s possible he is operating from a place of knowledge and concern and wants to ignite new ways of doing things to pre-empt problems within the firm.
It’s also possible your leader is an idea-guy. Some people, from a behavioral lens, are always looking to shake things up, come up with new ways and approaches, try out new things and status quo is never satisfactory for them. They want newness, change and challenge. He might just be wired this way in which case you won’t have much luck changing his behavior.
Whichever one it is – and it could be a combination of both – step back and put together a plan with goals, measurements and milestones. What you are doing does sound very productive but it should all be part of an overall plan for new business development.
Gather your team together (or suggest the lead advisor does this the next time he calls you into a room) and work on goals and outline exactly what you will do to get to these goals. Put monthly, or quarterly measurements in place so you can track how you are doing and what’s working and what’s not.
The activities could be great but you don’t want action for the sake of action, you want steps leading to the outcomes you desire. Perhaps taking a step back and orienting everyone in the same direction could help.
My business is booming and I realize I’m a recipient of the success many others in our industry have enjoyed because of market conditions. I know I do the right thing by my clients. But I hesitate to ask them for referrals. Part of me worries if they send someone my way and the market turns, I’ve hurt someone they care about. Another part of me worries I will come across as too salesy and not interested in serving them for the sake of doing the right thing, but rather I have an ulterior motive. I need to get out of my head and get focused but these thoughts keep me from moving forward.
You don’t say much about the type of advisory firm you are running. But assuming you are doing more than investing, for example offering full-scale planning consultation, your first fear is unfounded. Not that new clients would not possibly harbor resentment against you if they joined and the market turned and they blamed you, this is human nature and always a potential downside to being an advisor. But, I minimize it because if you are planning and examining all aspects of their situation, they will be much better served to have answers, and a plan and a thoughtful approach if the market does lose steam or take a turn. Wouldn’t it be better for someone to have a plan in hand than to be left wondering what they need to do?
I do understand the concern but the second point you raise, about being too pushy or aggressive, might be the bigger concern. Sometimes people put up smokescreens when they don’t want to do something and I think the first “worry” really has more to do with the second one – you don’t feel comfortable asking for referrals and think it is messy business to do so.
Don’t ask for referrals. But do ask your clients if there are people they care about, people they want to see served well in their financial lives and people who need support making good financial decisions. Don’t ask for referrals. But do ask whether your clients know people who are going through a transition and might need someone with experience to talk to about their options and decisions. Don’t ask for referrals. But do let your clients know you are interested in growing your practice and believe there are many people out there you could be helping but you can’t figure out how to get most of them to know who you are and what you can do.
Change your frame on this. It’s isn’t about asking for something, it is about offering something of value.
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.