The Practice Doctor is IN
by Al Depman, CLU, ChFC, CMFC, BH
Practice Management Consultant
Over the past few months, I've been polling the advisors I work with on "advisor burnout." It started with a conversation with a very discouraged advisor who described his own burnout. We slowly worked through it and now he's back on an even keel. But bigger questions emerged from that encounter:
- How does an advisor recognize signs of burnout?
- What can be done to prevent burnout?
- When burnout happens, what can be done?
There were some general "preventive maintenance" themes that became evident in avoiding burnout:
- The need to plan for getting away and disconnecting from the technology.
- The power of having someone to hold the advisor accountable to get away and disconnect.
- The sense of "belonging" to more than just the career; to have pockets of people to fall back upon when burnout rears its head. These pockets include family, churches, teams, volunteer organizations, and causes that fill deeper needs in the advisor's psyche.
I've collected a number of burnout observations, so we'll let the advisors speak for themselves!
How can financial advisors recognize the signs of burnout?
"They get sick frequently, are short tempered, and their dog runs in the other direction when they come home from work at night. The advisors who feel they need to be available to all their clients 24/7 are candidates for burnout. This is an unsustainable dream-world. That's the value of having a gatekeeper assistant, to deflect the B and C clients. A few AAA might have that privilege, but only a very few." (Vickie Intriago, Advisor, Torrance, CA)
"It's the feeling that one's time and energy is being increasingly spent on defensive activities such as compliance, routine client reviews, and paperwork instead of solving new problems for new and current clients." (Jeff Busbee, Advisor, Cedar Rapids, IA)
"I think I can tell when I am getting burned out when all the little things that my clients do annoy me. They probably are not doing anything different from what they usually do, but my perception is just that when I am not in a good frame of mind. I tend to shut down and avoid making productive calls and spend more time doing non-productive things." (Rick Cooper, Advisor, Muncie, IN)
"Financial advisors will at times become burned out for several reasons. They will get complacent when the workload gets monotonous and tedious, especially when they feel that their work is unappreciated by both their clients and providers/employers. Burnout may also come when they feel that no one is listening to their message." (Scott Haeffner, Advisor, Butte, MT)
"Burnout for me is when I find a lack of urgency creeping in. Not caring about the client as much as I did in the past. Working longer hours without results. Simply getting bored with the same old same old." (Ed Yesbeck, Advisor, Richmond, VA)
"In my almost 23 years in the industry and working with advisors, I have one word that would sum up 'burn out', and that word is ‘complacency.' Top producers and ambitious advisors are rarely content with the status quo and continually push themselves to grow and be better." (Scott Yeomans, Senior Practice Development Consultant, St. Paul, MN)
What are some steps advisors can take to prevent burnout? What can advisors do if they find themselves burned out?
"Grow professionally through learning new problem-solving processes or personal growth through a program. Best of all is to engage a Practice Management Coach! Also, become more diligent about personal health and fitness, giving back to your community, and doing something new—hobby-wise, or sing or act in a community theatre production." (Jeff Busbee, Advisor, Cedar Rapids, IA)
"When that happens, I schedule more appointments out of the office to have some alone drive time, and I take some time off, if even just an afternoon to do something that I love doing like babysitting the grandkids with my wife. Just getting away from phones, faxes, paperwork, and emails for an afternoon works wonders." (Rick Cooper, Advisor, Muncie, IN)
"What to do? I'd say one option is to enlist the help of a junior peer to help serve your clients well. Another option is to take more time off to relax and refresh. Do something fun and recharge the batteries. Another option may be to increase time spent with your top 20 clients and see if they have above and beyond needs that need to be addressed in an out-of-the-box fashion—something that is different from the normal routine that can add a new perspective to serving your client base, like family estate planning meetings or doing a personality matrix with top clients to help determine their real desires and concerns." (Frank Allen, Advisor, Memphis, TN)
"If you find yourself burned out, then rediscover why you are in this career in the first place: to help people in the most personal way—planning their financial future. If you do that properly, they will embrace you as not only a planner but also in a lasting friendship. Otherwise, you might make lots of money but miss the best payoff: a grateful friend for life." (Bill Regenold, Advisor, Germantown, TN)
"Building a team keeps me young and nimble. It's all about delegating and trusting others to leverage your time and talents so that everyone can exercise their talents and perform their duties to the fullest extent possible. I've seen some advisors flame-out like a meteor. Most had out-sized egos and were control freaks." (Tom Gaertner, Advisor, Wawatosa, WI)
"The mind of an advisor changes over time as their cognitive learning evolves—they may see themselves differently as their body and mind changes with age. Also, the feeling of belonging to something important has a tremendous value to one's inner self-worth. If caught in time, they may be able to reprogram their sense of value." (Scott Haeffner, Advisor, Butte, MT)
"It is important in this business to schedule vacations and also attend conferences and other industry events. Both will recharge you and help to reengage in the business. Work with younger advisors who are excited to be in the business. Their excitement can be contagious!" (Matt Urbanski, Advisor, South Bend, IN)
"Proper diet and exercise—that's absolutely number one. At work, I find a lot of comfort in deliberate and well-oiled business systems and procedures. The more everything looks, feels, and smells the same, the more I'm able to isolate stressful situations without total breakdown, as well as leverage my staff. I believe in intentional time away from work, possibly a vacation. I'm an avid angler, specifically fly fishing. I find the more technical the task, the more my mind is put at ease from what can be a very high stress career. Also, mobile devices are a gift and a curse. I try to put it down whenever I can and only make myself available at certain times." (Jon Carroll, Advisor, Daniel Island, SC)
"Three day getaway for the girls—my mentor tells me that I need to take it, and that it prevents physical exhaustion. Let the high maintenance clients know—and then unplug. Don't carry a cell phone." (Vickie Intriago, Advisor, California)
"To prevent burnout, first look ahead and incorporate personal goals into the business plan. This means having vacation plans built into the business plan on January 1. Also, have recharge days built into the plan. All financial advisors know they if they want to succeed, they have to put effort into a business plan. Not all financial advisors know they should include vacation and downtime in that plan. When I feel burnout coming on, I disconnect from technology for 24 hours and reboot!" (Peggy Fisher, Advisor, Torrance, CA)
From the mouths of good advisors comes great wisdom. If you have some thoughts to contribute, let me know and we'll share them in a future column.
The Doctor is OUT
© 2015 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 email@example.com.
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