The Practice Doctor is IN
Prepare for the Summer Doldrums
by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant
Let's talk about summer. Yes, I know it's still six months away. Yet one of the most prevalent issues I find in working with advisors is that they experience the "Summer Doldrums." This is a cycle of downtime brought on by clients and prospects who suddenly become unavailable as school lets out, vacations are in full swing, and we hear the gentle refrain of "call me after Labor Day." This has a holiday corollary toward the end of the year—roughly from mid-November through mid-January. Here, the refrain is, "Call me after the holidays."
When either of these down cycles are upon an advisor, there is little he or she can do. It's simply too late and the only recourse it to start madly setting appointments for early September or mid-January. A better course of action requires taking steps now to alleviate the "Summer Doldrums".
This was a major issue for Jim Whitehead, a senior advisor at the Shoemaker firm in Germantown, TN. When we began working together a number of years ago, Jim had peaks and troughs of activity and production that lined up nicely with the calendar: peaks in February through June and September through early December and troughs in July, August, late December and January. This yo-yo effect was driving him (and his management team) to distraction.
We developed a game plan to moderate the ups and downs to produce more consistent activity and, consequently, higher overall production and mental sanity. Since we implemented this plan, Jim's revenue has risen for each of the past three years.
The consistency gospel according to Jim includes these four secrets:
- The old saying in the financial services business is as true today as it ever was: as January goes, so goes the year. Getting off to a strong start in the first quarter builds momentum going into the second and third quarters. Jim had been falling prey to the practice of "pipe-cleaning" at the end of the year—that is, pushing everything through in December to maximize possible bonus and recognition levels. This doesn't help eliminate activity troughs—it encourages them. Jim pulled his ego back a notch and sacrificed some recognition for the sake of early, consistent activity in January.
The psychology of this is simple: if you build a head of steam in January and February, you are more likely to want to sustain that fast start and push past your goals. If you have a clunker of a January and February, you tend to strive to catch up all year to previous levels of production versus soaring to new heights.
- Have appointments set for you. For Jim, this is doing joint work with junior advisors. Some are working Jim's book, contacting and setting appointments with Jim's lower tier clients. Some are establishing their own practices and bring Jim in on more complex cases. Jim also used an intern to set reviews with mid-level clients where the relationship is established and doesn't require Jim to personally call them.
A corollary to this comes from Scott Goodling, a West Chester, PA, advisor. Scott's assistant, Fran, does a great job of mining his client base and setting reviews with clients throughout the year. She also spearheads email and voicemail campaigns that run prior to the summer and holiday periods. Responses from these campaigns will usually fill the calendar where there had previously been holes in Scott's schedule.
- Networking COI (centers-of-influence) groups is third on Jim's list. He's been developing and grooming COIs over the past three years and they have been providing an ongoing stream of new prospects. This is also cycle-proof. Jim generates two to three quality introductions a month from this source. He obtains other names of lesser quality that he feeds to his junior advisors.
- Fee-based financial plans have provided Jim a recurring revenue stream that takes the pressure off the downtimes. Financial plans by their very nature extend the implementation of plan elements over time, from months to years. Jim also puts the plans on ACH so the fees arrive monthly and provide another recurring revenue stream. This side effect is one that buoys Jim's income: procuring assets into his money management platform that, as long as the market stays reasonably calm, produce a sustainable income.
Other advisors use the summer and holiday times to have client appreciation events that celebrate the season and provide opportunities to meet prospects in a social setting.
'Tis the season—to implement a plan to reduce and eliminate those productivity troughs! Your thoughts and strategies are welcome. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Doctor is OUT
© 2014 Al Depman
Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is MitchAnthony.com's Business Practice Consultant. He is the creator of "The Practice Management Assessment" tool and materials and has authored numerous articles in professional publications on practice management, and author of the book, How to Build Your Financial Advisory Business and Sell It at a Profit, available from McGraw Hill. Al combined his Liberal Arts studies with 10 years of management experience with McDonald's Corporation to enter the financial services world 25 years ago. Since then, Al has evolved from an MDRT-level sales rep into a full-time consultant specializing in helping others engineer their business practices to the next level. Contact him at email@example.com.
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