Successful Financial Advisors Have a Process

On the surface you might say Southwest gets this done primarily through their customer experience, common sense approach to customer service, and their ability to be transparent and competitive on their pricing.  However, Southwest is able to do these things by being efficient, creating processes that minimize and avoid the trivial and maximize flexibility for travelers. Their turnaround time on arriving and departing flights is one of the fastest in the industry (process). Their no-assigned seat boarding (process) allows for flexibility as they accommodate changes for customers easily and efficiently (process). Even their website workflow (process) is simple and straightforward. The people who work there love it and it comes across to their customers. Southwest is a great example of how creating and adhering to very well defined processes and routines can make all the difference. They certainly are not winging it (pun intended).

This concept is the same in the financial services industry. Diagnosing the exact differences between the wildly and mildly successful is sometimes not as difficult to pinpoint as you may think. Simple process checklists often do the trick.

There is a very important balance that exists in the management of a financial advisory business and anything that upsets that balance can have very severe consequences. The big three can be summarized as the (1) investment management processes, (2) client acquisition process and (3) client service strategy. These are three very different roles, but all are critical to success. In a recent meeting with an advisor, we discussed why his business growth had plateaued. It didn’t take any time at all until we arrived at a pretty simple conclusion, he was trapped in a cage of his own design. He was working 8 to 10 hours every day and every other Saturday. He talked extensively about his investment management process and how he evaluated and selected stocks and bonds based on technical analysis. His multi-screen desk set up resembled a space shuttle cockpit and he was strapped in tight.

His investment management process (IMP) had grown out of control at the expense of everything else. He barely had time to proactively execute on his client service strategy. It wasn’t something he particularly enjoyed doing but his process trapped him. Intuitively, he knew that he had all but abandoned his new client acquisition process.

We agreed that he would change his IMP to find and utilize some independent money managers. In doing so, he could turn the conversations with his clients toward financial planning. This would free up time for him to take advantage of opportunities and expand his business.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer in productivity and process engineering, who said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process then you don’t know what you are doing.” It gets me very excited when I see people whose businesses really take off and the electricity that makes that light shine bright for so many is the realization of need and dedication to a business process.

Jonathan Bernstein is the Sales and Marketing Director at Stringer Asset Management, a participant in the ETF Strategist Channel.


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