From the May 2008 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

Evaluate a coach's worth

David Rosenthal knew something didn?? 1/2 t feel right after a corporate restructuring led to the elimination of one level of management and, hence, one of his mentors. Beth Sparks knew she wanted to take her business to the next level, but she knew she had to make more efficient use of her time. For Anne Bedinger, a lifetime of sports had taught her that extra guidance was a necessity.

Each of these advisors has made use of a professional coach, and they all are advocates for coaching services.

?? 1/2 If you derive your income from your daily performance, you ought to find at least one good coach,?? 1/2 says Bedinger, RPC, associate vice president, investments, Raymond James and Associates in Boca Raton, Fla. ( ?? 1/2 Consistent performance requires discipline and focus. We are human; we are bound to get off track.?? 1/2

A coach is someone who can help advisors maintain focus, stay on track, create difficult but attainable goals, and separate the urgent from the important. A good coach will not, however, do any of the work for the advisor.

No magic bullet

Advisors who hire a coach and expect him to come in and fix everything are expecting too much; they should possibly hire a consultant. Coaches are going to work with advisors on making what is already in place stronger. They will force financial pros to think about things in different ways and value certain activities and strengths above others. They will make advisors think.

?? 1/2 He asked me questions that he knew would prompt my thought processes,?? 1/2 Rosenthal says of his coach, John Nagy. ?? 1/2 He could have told me the same things, but he wanted me to develop the thoughts on my own.?? 1/2

Rosenthal, CFP, a Severna Park, Md.-based senior financial advisor for Ameriprise Financial Services (, says that Nagy?? 1/2 s methods were effective because Rosenthal does the same things with his clients: help them arrive at comfortable conclusions and show them how to work together to get there.

Sparks, CFP, vice president, investments, The Sparks Group (, Columbus, Ohio, a 22-year industry veteran, feels the same way. She says her coach, Dr. Denise Federer, helped her to hone her systems and focus on the time-saving tools available to her. There were no earth-shaking revelations or career-defining moments, but Federer?? 1/2 s input made it possible to focus on what was important and to do those important activities without letting the urgent get in the way. That philosophy is not new ?? 1/2 taking care of the important activities before the urgent ?? 1/2 but it is something too many professionals have difficulty doing. Some gentle prodding helps.

?? 1/2 Changing a behavior is hard,?? 1/2 Bedinger says about not letting the unimportant rule the day. ?? 1/2 A coach helps do that.?? 1/2

Bedinger says that after working with Dr. Federer, she finds it easier to say no when certain ?? 1/2 urgent?? 1/2 things arise, especially if they are going to displace an important activity. That ability to say no is due to stronger self-confidence, which is one of the intangible, unexpected outcomes Bedinger and others found through coaching. She says other such outcomes include better boundary setting, the ability to think more fully about outcomes of activities, a more clear and direct style, and a greater feeling of control.

With a coach, Sparks says she receives validation that she was on the right track with many of the things she was doing. She is able to focus more on the job at hand. Rosenthal says he has become a better listener and a better business owner. He?? 1/2 s able to shift gears when he needs to, which is something he had trouble with in the past.


At the surface, coaching appears to help. But does the process really affect the bottom line? That is what many busy, successful professionals are going to want to know before they commit. Are the time and effort measurable? The answer seems to be yes.

Sparks says her business was up more than 40 percent last year, and while she points out that not all of it can be attributed to coaching, she?? 1/2 s clear that her coach has been a boon to her bottom line.

?? 1/2 She?? 1/2 s helped me focus on those who I can help and add the most value for,?? 1/2 Sparks says. ?? 1/2 I now realize I don?? 1/2 t need 1,000 relationships. I can be more effective as their advisor if I have fewer quality relationships.?? 1/2

Bedinger echoes that sentiment. ?? 1/2 I focus on the people I am going to add the most value for.?? 1/2

Paring down an unproductive client list is one of those behaviors that is difficult to change for most advisors, but it is an effective way to boost the bottom line and better serve clients.

Rosenthal says his practice is much more successful than it was five years ago. This is growth that has been driven by his desire to succeed with Nagy?? 1/2 s support. Its growth he believes could possibly have come without a coach, but he?? 1/2 s happy to have had the help.

?? 1/2 I may have eventually come to the same conclusions,?? 1/2 Rosenthal says, ?? 1/2 but working with John shortened that time. That is a measurable outcome.?? 1/2

As with anything of value, taking full advantage of a coaching program is worth doing right. Whether the coaching takes place as part of a group or one-on-one, it is going to require a time commitment, time that already busy professionals may not feel they have. But if they view the coaching program as an important activity instead of an urgent one, they will find the appropriate hours to dedicate to it. And they will find a coach with qualities they are looking for so they can build a long-term relationship that yields results. Just as no two advisors are the same, no two coaches are identical. Advisors who honestly assess what they need will have the best luck finding a coach.

?? 1/2 Know what you want out of a coaching relationship,?? 1/2 Rosenthal says, ?? 1/2 and find the person who can fulfill that.?? 1/2

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