From the May 2007 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

May 1, 2007

Stop sabotaging your success

Advisors who can't seem to manage time, or who have reached a level of success they can't seem to rise above, would do well from seeking the services of a professional coach; those who -- to use a coaching phrase -- feel like they are working in the business instead of on it. And if skeptical advisors think coaches can't help drive the bottom line, they should probably look at some of their own habits.

Financial advisors too often engage in acts of sabotage against their own business. They hurt revenue by working harder instead of smarter. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was fond of telling his players, "Never mistake activity for achievement." Never assume something is being accomplished merely because something is being done.

Time management, something adults work on their entire lives, becomes a revenue stealer. If an advisor isn't in front of clients and prospects, he isn't making money. If he, in the words of time-management expert Stephen Covey, is prioritizing his schedule instead of scheduling his priorities, he isn't using his time effectively. A coach can get an advisor focused.

After working with a coach, says Don Wetmore, J.D., president of The Productivity Institute in Stratford, Conn., many advisors find there is "little correlation between the quantity of time they put in and what they achieve."

"Advisors have to realize they run a business," adds John S. Nagy, CEO of Coaching for Success Inc. in Tampa, Fla. They're not just advisors, Nagy adds, they're business owners and have to act as such.

Nagy says other egregious acts of self-sabotage include:

  • They forget to work on their referral pipeline.
  • They don't budget their time.
  • They review their results infrequently.
  • They focus on quick fixes.
  • They set fuzzy goals.
  • They focus on the big house, big car, big boat.
  • They delegate poorly, if at all.
  • They don't use checklists.

These are just a few of the things advisors can do to undermine their long-term success. Most advisors can add many more if they think hard enough. It's what they do to overcome the deficiencies that get them to the next level.

"It's likely they'll be a success," says Wetmore. "The question is whether they want it sooner or later. Getting a coach goes a long way to accelerate success."

Held to it

"Accountability is the whole reason for coaching," says Bill Cole, CFP, president of Signal Mountain, Tenn.-based The Complete Financial Advisor.

Cole likens the setting business goals to making New Year's resolutions. People fail in their resolutions because no one to holds them accountable. Financial advisors are the same way. But if they set a goal of meeting with 20 prospects in a given week, a coach will hold them accountable. This issue is especially important for advisors who run small practices.

"Unless they've put together a board of directors, who holds them accountable?" asks David Carter, president and owner of ActionCOACH Business Coaching in Philadelphia.

One answer is the advisor's staff. If delegation is something the advisor tells the coach he wants to work on, Nagy recommends the advisor make a list of tasks that could be given to members of his staff. The advisor's staff should make a similar list. Once the lists are compiled and combined, the advisor can offer rewards to staff members who catch the advisor doing something on the list, giving him constant reminders that he has the power of delegation.

"Delegation needs to be hardwired," Nagy says. Empowering staff to remind the advisor of that supplies one more layer of accountability.

Realistic expectations

While coaching services will hold advisors accountable for their actions, they're not a magic formula that has all the answers.

"Coaching is no silver bullet," Carter says. "I bring silver-bullet strategies to clients, but I can't just fix [whatever isn't working]. They have to do the work." And change isn't going to happen overnight. "I set the expectation upfront of needing a year to bring about change."

Perhaps the biggest mistake advisors make when considering the coaching option is concentrating too heavily on the upfront cost.

"This is an investment, not a cost," Wetmore says. "You should look at what you're going to get. If I can save you two hours a day, that's 500 hours a year, that's X amount of money based on the value of your time."

"There is no magic formula for increasing your profits, say, 20 percent," Nagy adds. "Coaching is more about bringing about systems that create higher returns. The bottom line is impacted by how players use the coach."

If an advisor hires a coach and uses him like most people use self-help books -- 95 percent of which go unused, according to Wetmore -- the advisor will realize no gain. He has to be willing to implement the suggestions coaches make, and he has to empower the coach to hold him accountable.

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