What Should You Be Focused On Right Now To Optimize Your Practice? (Hint: it's not prospecting)
Are you still working your business but seeing indecision and delay from your clients? Are you feeling slow, stuck or like your practice has been put on pause, despite efforts to drive forward in spite of uncertainty?
You are not alone. While we recognize that the situation facing our nation is unprecedented in our times, as advisors, we also recognize the resilience of our economy, market and global citizens. Advisors are routinely tasked with being the voice of emotional reason for our clients. So, it is easier for us to see that, like all other crises and bear markets, this too will eventually end... and that perspective is invaluable when trying to give clients peace of mind during times of significant uncertainty.
What is different this time around is that the financial stress and uncertainty that always comes with significant and sustained market volatility is not the only worry. On top of potential employment and real financial uncertainty, the current environment also carries the social stresses of social distancing and a real, invisible threat to our physical well-being, and that of those we love. With no precedent of how best to handle this novel virus, our path is fraught with doubt, second-guessing and Monday-morning quarterbacking, which adds great weight to managing financial uncertainty with a level head.
While these are unique times indeed, the technology and connectedness of the world makes us better equipped than ever to weather this storm. Hence, the plethora of well meaning advice out there that "now is no time to take our foot off the gas." Clients do indeed need our guidance more than ever and we are indeed fully equipped and capable of working our businesses "as usual" from home.
While there is truth in this view, there is also fallacy. Clients DO need to hear from us, to know we stand ready for them as needed and to both ensure and reassure that they are financially prepared for this. Helping fill any major, immediate gaps in planning for the unexpected will also be as it usually is - financial preparedness, is after all, our primary duty.
What the view leaves out is a full appreciation for the natural progression and cycle of business. Like the seasons, business has inevitable cycles. Those who prepare for and make the most of what each season has to offer will not only be best positioned to thrive, they will be least disappointed by unfulfilled, off-season expectations.
Let's explore what each season looks like for business:
Winter: Reflection & Planning - a time to reflect, plan, invest and prepare for the opportunities to come
Spring: Planting - a time of heavy labor, acting on the carefully constructed plans of winter and laying the seeds for growth
Summer: Growth - a time for carefully cultivating the labors of spring, growing, and fine tuning methods to optimize and speed that growth
Fall: Harvest - a time for enjoying and celebrating the fruits of labor before again beginning the cycle of planning for a new and improved season
Where are we now? While many of us do our annual planning in December and would think we're in spring, the unforeseen events this year have thrown us back head-first into winter. People are hunkered down, waiting for renewed certainty that spring is around the corner before acting. When they do act, they are cautious; they bundle up tight and prepare to return home should they sense that the conditions be too severe or that a storm may be coming through.
Make no mistake, you CAN drive your business forward in winter with these adventurous folks, but it will be slower, feel harder and carry a greater risk that they reconsider as they watch the unpredictable winter weather.
Alternatively, walking alongside our clients in winter - staying in touch, having real conversations about concerns and reassuring them with our calming role is one PERFECT way of deepening our client relationships during this season of investment.
Putting energy towards deliberately PREPARING for the spring we know will come is another way to optimize our winter energy. Turning our focus internally on our team, our practices, our systems, our efficiencies, our skills... Unlike the spring and summer efforts of targeted, relentless prospecting and pipeline building which are likely to yield diminished results in the current environment, effort spent NOW on planning and investing in your practice can yield 100% returns to your practice when spring comes.
What does this mean in practical terms? Get to know new tools, test out items you've previously moved too fast to consider or learn (e-fact finder, CRM call list strategies, advanced financial analysis, new products, planning strategies or service offerings), create streamlined systems & processes with your team, hire and train a new team member to be ready to offer leverage when spring comes, create a more sophisticated strategic plan to put these new tools and strategies to work, have an actionable plan that ensures you can produce your intended results for 2020 in the shortened time-frame we will have for spring and summer, hire a coach, mentor or invest in online training to help with any or all of the above.
Top advisors I work with are keenly aware that the season has changed. While they never take their foot off the gas completely, they know that pressing harder on the gas at this exact moment only reduces fuel efficiency and wastes our most precious resource: time. They are therefore keenly focused on investing in relationships, improving their internal practice and team, leveling up their strategies and being 100% ready to hit the ground running when spring comes. Are you among them?