One of the reasons I love the work I do is variety. I can talk with advisors all week and never hit the same topic twice.

Interests and needs vary based on what’s going on in their business: challenges with team members, creating a client engagement model that inspires referrals, fine-tuning the succession plan or a host of other issues. However, for most advisors, there’s one topic that tends to resurface fairly frequently – growing the business.

Rather than share a hot tip or provide the list of growth strategies du jour, I believe I can be most helpful by inviting you to think about planning for business development success.

Fully embracing the ready-aim-fire method, this blog identifies three steps you should take before you next solicit referrals, golf with clients or take your local CPA to lunch.

Step One: Understanding Why You Want to Grow

“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” We’ve all heard pronouncements like this, earnestly delivered, from a variety of sources. But perhaps these comments are laced with a wee bit of hyperbole.

Clearly, you must replace the assets of clients who leave or pass away if you want to enhance or even maintain your revenue. But it’s more nuanced than that. People define success in different ways. Growth is a higher priority for some than it is for others. The emphasis placed on growth can also change based on what stage of the career lifecycle you’re in. 

Goals are important – team goals, individual goals, stretch goals and big hairy audacious goals. But I suggest it’s even more important to understand where these goals are coming from. Why are these metrics important to you as compared to other success measurements you can choose? What indicators truly represent what you value most in your business and in your life? How, specifically, do they represent success, and what does success really mean to you? Why have you prioritized objectives in the way that you have?

For example, many of my coaching clients cite building AUM to $1 billion as a principal driver. Interestingly, when I ask why, responses often involve some pauses and stammering as they search for rationale. When they finally land on something, it can often sound rote or insubstantial.

Hey, I understand bragging rights, and no doubt “I lead a $1 billion firm” sounds very cool! But that achievement comes at a price. What’s the cost to you and your team? What will you miss out on from both personal and family perspectives in the quest for $1 billion? Is your life going to be fundamentally better when you achieve that milestone? If James Taylor was correct when he sang, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” what key elements of a life joyfully lived might you miss if you spend years slammin’ hard for an arbitrary goal?

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Step Two: Assessing Capacity for Growth

Next, let’s consider your ability to expand. If your firm grew by 50% to 100% in the next year, would you be uncorking the champagne to celebrate the most amazing year ever, or would you be picking up the pieces from a tsunami that crushed your infrastructure? How much can you grow and still provide exemplary client service – the very thing that created growth in the first place?

Even if you are growing at a more modest clip, do you have the right advisor teams in place: lead, service and support advisors (aka senior wealth advisor, associate wealth advisor and relationship manager)? Do those advisors work well together, clearly understand respective roles and responsibilities, and have capacity to take on new relationships while continuing to deliver exemplary client service to existing families? Have households been delegated to the level of advisor most suited to meet their needs and financial complexity? Are there firm-wide systems and processes in place to deliver consistent, timely client experiences that create indestructible bonds? Does your firm include the number of support staff sufficient to stay in front of ever-increasing administrative and client service tasks? Do you have bench strength?

Answering these questions honestly is critical to assessing whether you have the capacity to grow.

Step Three: Understanding Business Development Tenets

In this final section, I’ll share some fundamental principles of business development that I see playing out day-by-day from my perch in the coach’s chair.

At a high level, I believe there are just two fundamental ways to grow: leveraging existing relationships to create new ones, or beating the bushes to turn absolute strangers into raving fans.

I maintain that the first path is far more effective, more efficient and, frankly, a heck of a lot more fun. Determining the right way to secure introductions from the people who know and care about you, trust and admire you, and who have numerous examples to share of the tremendous impact you’ve had on their lives is time very well spent.

I observe there are business development strategies that work well for every personality type, work style and set of personal preferences. As a raging introvert myself, I know that you don’t have to be a big, front-of-the-room personality to convince people you care, and that you have the skills to wrap your arms around their financial circumstances. You will be happiest and most successful when you focus on techniques that align with your essential self.

A coaching client once said to me that the office is the least productive place an advisor can be. Now, that may have been a little snarky, but there is a huge kernel of truth in the chewy center. Get out of the office! It’s a relationship business, right? So, go hang with your people and the folks they care about.

Of course, you must be in the office some of the time, so think about this take on the ideal work week: 

  • Monday: Client meeting prep, team meeting, one-on-one meetings, other managerial tasks.
  • Tuesday through Thursday: Client meetings and select leadership functions.
  • Friday: Follow-ups in the early morning, and by late morning you’re at the golf course, tennis club or a local eatery with prospects or with clients who have brought along a couple of friends, colleagues or neighbors.
  • Note: if you’re not a sports enthusiast or a foodie, consider these alternatives: Habitat for Humanity, musical performances, vintage or sports car club, bike riding, shooting range, visiting a museum, travel-themed events, photography excursions or any other activity that moves you.

When coaching clients are disappointed about current asset flows, I’ll sometimes ask them what strategies have worked well in the past. After they mention a couple of approaches, I ask why they stopped doing it. Usually they chuckle a little bit, and then say something like, “Well, I don’t really know.”

It’s a classic case of something that worked so well they stopped doing it. Are you guilty of this? I know I have been. What techniques propelled you to your current level? Is there any reason you can’t resurrect them?

In the intro, I indicated that I wouldn’t focus on specific growth strategies. In light of that, I can neither confirm nor deny that client advisory councils and passion prospecting are the specific techniques that offer the greatest return for the greatest number of advisors. Reach out to us at Carson Coaching if you want to learn more about how advisors are gathering substantial new assets with these techniques and many others.

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I know too many professionals who hit the “Go” button without taking the time to ensure everything was ready for that action. Rather than ready-aim-fire, it can become ready-fire-aim. Or, for the high-level Kolbe Quick Starts out there or those who are simply all about brevity, it’s just FIRE!

Let’s not do that. I encourage you to take the time necessary to develop and execute a thoughtful plan. If the organizing, documenting and confirming sounds excruciatingly painful, assign a capable team member to create the plan’s first draft. Then you can tweak it as necessary. That way, at least it gets done.

The rewards can be, as some of you know, HUGE.

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