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The Practice Doctor is IN

Study Groups (Part 2)

by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant

Al Depman photoLast month we described the five types of study groups:

  1. The natural study group
  2. Specific-goal study group
  3. The interdisciplinary study group
  4. The open exchange study group
  5. Common beliefs and passions study group

The structure for each of these study group types will vary, of course. The open-exchange groups might not even truly have a structure and the specific-goal groups have a very structured, pre-set agenda.

What follows is a broad overview of what an advisor should consider in joining a study group:

1. Why are you together? Keep the purpose of the study group clear. Agree on a mission or vision statement, or common goals for the group. As the group evolves over time, continually restate the statement or goals if they change. Goals may include a combination of:

  • Increasing productivity
  • Understanding all the facets of a particular market
  • Sharing case studies
  • Exchanging sales ideas
  • Motivational support
  • Life balance
  • Product knowledge
  • Financial and tax perspectives and updates
  • Book and material research

2. How will you communicate as a group? Some combinations:

  • Face-to-face supplemented with regular teleconferences
  • Weekly meetings at the office
  • Off-site, weekly, monthly, quarterly
  • On-line collaborations
  • Web seminars
  • During annual conference trips

Face-to-face is the preferred method because relationships are best developed in person.

3. What are the expectations of each group member? What are the rules for the group? Some common ones:

  • Everyone must participate
  • Everyone will rotate leadership from meeting to meeting
  • The leader will take care of logistics for the meeting site: materials, equipment, food and drink, reminder notes, directions, etc.
  • Everyone will be on time and prepared to participate
  • Open and honest dialogue
  • Accurate and up-to-date sales and activity statistics
  • Respect for all points of view
  • Each member held accountable for growth
  • All members will pay their own way

4. What is our standard agenda? For study groups who physically meet, a structure for the group makes it easier to get the meeting going and staying on track. Agenda items to consider:

  • Length of the meeting — set a time limit that is fair for all member schedules
  • Set a time for individual segments such as reviewing sales & activity statistics, case studies, or presentations
  • Have a time-keeper to ensure meeting segments keep moving
  • Start with a reading, invocation, prayer, or other call to business
  • Members share a positive in their business or personal life at the outset
  • Members share an issue that is causing a problem in their business or personal life
  • At the end, summarize the meeting accomplishments and arrange to provide and follow-up materials to the group

Where does one find a study group?

Reaching out to other advisors is the best method of finding a study group that is open to new members. Organizations such as the Financial Planning Association, Million Dollar Round Table, and the American College try to foster study groups among their members as do many firms, companies, and broker/dealers. Local chapters of NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors) may also sponsor study groups.

And don't forget: you can always start your own!

Let me know if you have any additional experience with study groups and I'll be sure to share it in a future column. Email me at

The Doctor is OUT

© 2014 Al Depman

Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH, a.k.a. "The Practice Doctor", is's Business Practice Consultant, and contributor to "The Wall Street Journal." 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

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