Post-Pandemic Planning for Advisors
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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Not only was the pandemic not a bust but it was mostly a boon for advisors. Many of us have grown our firms exponentially during this time. We do occasionally struggle to meet with our older clients online. If they refuse to come on screen, we are reduced to phone calls.
How do we keep this up? How do we keep our teams motivated to keep looking and growing? We have advisors who believe they have done enough. They are saying things like “burnt out” and “maxed out” and “at the pinnacle”.
I don’t plan to retire anytime soon. To me, we’ve just begun.
Are there secrets to motivation? Is great, good enough? Is it time to slow down and enjoy what we’ve done? It’s late April. Everyone can take a summer break or vacation if they choose to, but why would we stop now and rest on our laurels?
Congratulations on the growth. What has the growth done to your team? I’m going to surmise there is something else going on here creating the disconnect between your enthusiasm for additional growth and their resistance to it.
Many times advisory firms grow, but they haven’t considered efficiencies on the back end. The onboarding process, the client management process, the transition process for investment portfolios all take time and concentration. If your advisors are the ones managing everything, for every new client, they may be overwhelmed. In most firms, the new client process requires a great deal of time and focus. And if you are a firm steeped in planning, this process alone can take many hours to create the plan and begin to implement it with the client.
Are they resistant to growth, or are they trying to let you know that they are maxed out right now? Talking to new prospects, or asking clients for referrals, is not a one time, get it done, sort of activity. Each of these conversations also entails a process – the advisor has to engage, follow up, keep the person in the pipeline and then potentially close them. They might be feeling daunted by all of the current activity and then adding this in as new activity.
I suggest you convene one of my favorite sessions – a goal-setting and obstacles to success discussion. Outline the goals you see for the remainder of 2021 in terms of new business. Look at what you were able to accomplish last year and extrapolate for what you want to do this year. Then, ask your advisors first to confirm these goals. Do they agree? Are they too aggressive or not aggressive enough? Ask about ideas for how they might help reach these goals?
Then, ask them about obstacles. Ask them what is in the way, or could potentially be in the way, of their meeting these new business goals. Allow them to talk – don’t get defensive or push back and challenge. Just listen and list. Then, organize the obstacles – what can you and the advisors control, what can you influence, what’s out of your control?
Create working pods of advisors to focus on those things within their control or within their influence to address the identified obstacles.
It may be that your advisors truly do need a bit of a break. Times have been good in our industry but I know from speaking with dozens and dozens of advisors every single week, it has also put a great deal of pressure on many people and many are working harder than they ever have before.
Be open to what you learn and be willing to modify or negotiate if needed.
Entering the nice weather, we really want to do an offsite. It will likely be outside and probably will be a half-day event. We have often done this before but to be honest given this virtual experience we’ve lived through for the last 14+ months, I don’t even know where to start.
It’s not that we haven’t met. In fact, we’ve met more over the last year virtually (on-screen) than we would normally do. It is awkward to start off a meeting with goal setting, or doing the planning that, in past years we have always had a standing agenda and have talked business but in a nice, informal way.
How do we re-introduce ourselves, or re-engage, to make this a productive, yet enjoyable, experience all around?
What a great question to be asking and what a caring leader you are to be considering the emotional intelligence (EQ) dynamics that might go on when transitioning from virtual interactions to in-person. Do people hug? Shake hands? Spend time sitting together and just asking about their COVID experiences? Sharing a sleeve roll-up to point out where they got their vaccine, or if they didn’t why they decided not to? It’s a brave new world and many of the former assumed practices or approaches are out of the window now!
To that end, set some standards in advance for the meeting. Will people have to wear masks? Will you social distance? Are there rules around touching or sitting too closely to listen to one another? Will there be outings, dinners indoors, teambuilding activities?
Don’t take anything for granted so the first step is to map out a clear agenda that outlines exactly what will happen and when and that sets ground rules for the meeting. If you haven’t answered these things yet you might want to survey your team and ask what people are comfortable with, and what they want to accomplish or do. This would be a nice way to engage people pre-event and get them oriented toward what to expect.
Add in some teambuilding whereby people can share what they have done during the pandemic. I had a virtual group and we talked about the best learning from the virtual experience, and the thing they experienced they wished they could have done differently. It was a great opportunity for people to talk about something that connects all of us, and to hear from peers.
I recently ran an online team-building session and we did the “six word memoir,” which can be a fun way to share with others on the team. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a movement to put your life into six words. You can learn more about it here. The group I had ended up taking all of the memoirs that were shared and putting them into a company document for circulation. While some teams may know the profiles (i.e. Meyers-Briggs or DISC or Kolbe), this is a much more personal, from-the-heart kind of exercise.
You have time to plan – use it. Engage your team. Set ground rules. Outline the structure and what to expect. Embed some personal, connectivity sorts of exercises. Then, when you’ve done all of this, add whatever business agenda you need to get through!
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.