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Mitch Anthony's Intuitive Advisor

The Practice Doctor is IN

Advisors as Managers

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

Al Depman photoRecently, I had the opportunity to be part of a roundtable discussion about how advisors can be better managers of their staff and team. Since this can be thrust upon them as a practice grows, many advisors lack the formal training to be effective in this leadership role. There were three major questions asked:

What are some of the specific ways advisors become better managers?

Al: Be sure the practice's core business systems (client acquisition, client management, sales process, case development) are documented and are in a transferable, trainable format. This keeps the practice from taking a dip in production when turnover, vacations, and health/relationship issues inevitably occur. The practice should keep all this in a "best practices manual."

Peggy Fisher, advisor, Torrance CA: Take advantage of the compliance training your broker/dealer has to offer and supplement it with seminars and courses on understanding how different generations like to communicate and what is important to them. One good example is fifty-somethings who don't expect to be told they are doing a good job: they feel if they still have a job, that is their boss's way of telling them they are doing a good job. Thirty-somethings need to be constantly told they are doing a good job.

Rich Preuss, advisor, South Bend, IN: Communicate more of their expectations to staff. Clarity of expectations is paramount: be sure staff can feed back your expectations clearly. A big lesson in being a good manager is letting go of things that staff can do by trusting them to get it done. Meet the needs of staff as well as clients. How many advisors ask their staff what they want?

Al: Listen to or read good management books. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey) and The E-Myth (Gerber) are two that I keep coming back to.

What are some of the things advisors can do for staff to become better managers?

Cristin Rose, practice manager: Enter into conversations with your staff regarding expectations, so as to clarify those expectations from both the perspective of the manager and the employee. Learn what is important about the job to the employee and what motivates the employee to do quality work. Maintain the relationship in such a way that the employee knows the manager cares about the employee being happy in his or her job. Also, set guidelines within, so that the employee is given choices as to how to get the job done.

Al: Lead by example. Demonstrate the attitude and work habits you'd like to be the hallmark of your practice. If you're short and curt with clients on the phone, don't expect your staff to be charming and chatty. Also, be sure to have two ongoing forms of meetings: the daily triage to quickly identify what the day's priorities are for advisor and staff and the weekly formal staff meeting with a structured agenda to keep progress toward the bigger picture in mind.

In working with advisors and their staffs, one of the more abused items is scheduling a weekly (or bi-weekly) meeting—and getting too busy/distracted to hold it. The reason: "Well, we are always seeing each other and we are in contact constantly. We just don't see the purpose of a regular meeting." True enough. However, what they are describing is informal communication. Informal communication is predominantly of the "now" and is very practical and short-term in thinking. There is an equally great need for formal communication: looking at big-picture progress towards goals and personal development needs and strategizing next week's appointments to maximize their effectiveness and environmental (technology, marketing, staffing) issues. I have a best practices agenda for these formal sessions if you need one.

Peggy: Start with a really good job description; one that manages everyone's expectations and follow up with established guidelines that are reviewed periodically.

Rich: Challenge them to grow, trust them, and as I mentioned before, not do things that the staff should be doing.

Cristin: Provide the resources that the employee needs in order to do a good job and that allows the staff to continuously improve the quality of their work. Give a fair and competitive salary, acknowledge quality work, and show respect and gratitude for the staff's work and their role on the team.

Al: A lot of these best practices can be addressed in the hiring process. I recommend having the expectations of staff positions clearly defined before going into the hiring process. For example, it's normal to want a marketing assistant and an administrative assistant. Have clear job descriptions for each position. But when interviewing candidates, the advisor might find someone who would enjoy (and be capable of) handling both sides. We should be flexible enough to say that perhaps this is a practice manager (like Cristin) who can then be full time while employing some part-timers to do the routine work. The original job descriptions are simply rearranged, not voided.

What are the management mistakes to avoid?

Al: The biggest mistake I learned when I failed miserably as a sales manager (after having a great sales practice), was trying to make others fit into my behavioral mold: everyone has unique skill sets, and the manager's job is to uncover them and magnify the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.

Peggy: The number one mistake is forgetting you are a manager. Another mistake is not having established guidelines (a best practices manual).

Rich: The biggest mistakes to avoid are micromanaging, not communicating expectations, being impatient, and doing staff duties when the staff doesn't do them (see my previous remarks).

Cristin: A big mistake is to assume money is the primary motivator. While money is typically very important to someone, it is usually not the primary internal motivator.

If you have any additional thoughts, let me know! Until then...

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, 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 al@mitchanthony.com.


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