As companies merge, downsize and reduce benefits, employers and their human resources departments are looking for ways to supplement benefits to help employees reach their financial objectives. I use worksite seminars as a tool for helping the HR departments inform and educate their employees.

These worksite seminars are informational programs that we provide at the worksite, where we discuss financial topics of interest to the client with their employees. These usually take the form of a lunch-and-learn or an evening seminar where food is provided.

We advertise the seminars in advance with the cooperation of the HR administrator or director. We usually limit the seminars to 40 participants and we encourage participants to bring their spouse or significant other.

To develop a successful practice using worksite seminars, you need to understand the marketplace and find a way to present your firm to potential clients. When you talk with the HR director, you’ll be able to determine quickly if you can supplement the services already offered.

This model will work for any business, but I have focused my practice on underserved state and local agencies. I started with the judges in the New York state courts, which led to other state groups and unions. I also work with publicly traded companies.

Keys to Initiating and Growing Relationships

The best relationship you can have with any organization is to become a resource for them; they, in return, will market you to their employees. Though most of my revenue comes from working with employees, my real “clients” are HR directors and administrators. They are essential to my success and are the key link between my firm and their employees.

When I work with the human resources directors, I need to determine their greatest need and then develop an onsite program that will help solve this need for their employees.

I offer two seminars. The comprehensive financial planning seminars are 6 hours in length and offer information on several financial options. The lunch-and-learn seminars are one hour long and deal with one to two issues, such as asset allocation, domestic partners or long term care.

To be able to present my firm to clients, I must understand their needs, wants, fears and desires. Establishing your target market will allow you to group clients into similar categories.

For example, clients with children will be concerned with college education planning and retirement. Young clients will want to build a sound investment plan. Some target markets include:

o Married/single individuals;

o Families in need of college planning;

o Individuals nearing retirement; and

o Elderly people in need of estate planning.

From Seminar to Participant to Clients

Subsequent to seminars, I try to get HR people to promote my activity within their organizations and I solicit referrals. I also tell employees that when picking a professional, to remember two things: (1) You need to believe that the professional has your best interests at heart; and (2) that you have to trust them.

After cultivating a relationship with the client or organization, I continue to develop a relationship with managers. I assure them that I can provide them with a valuable service and will deliver on my promises.

I have to make sure I service each client one at a time. To that end, I interview clients, review their needs and develop plans to solve problems and deliver on recommendations. Keeping the client’s best interests and wishes in mind is the best way to ensure a lasting business relationship.

I treat all people seeking advice the same. In a typical seminar with 30 people, 15 to 20 will seek a plan. Of those 15 to 20 people, five will have no money.

Even if my best advice is to tell these five individuals to save more in the company’s 401(k) and to lower their expenses, when they finally do act, they will think of me. Or they will tell fellow employees the seminar was worthwhile and that I provided good advice. And when they tell the HR director I treated them well, the director will know that I am delivering on promises and not cherry-picking.

Keep in mind that for every positive experience people have, they will tell five people; for every negative one, they will tell 20.

Practice ConsiderationsWhat you need to know:

One of the most difficult, yet important activities is to build an organization that can deliver. As many of you have discovered, the skills that allow you to be a successful producer may not always be the ones required to run an efficient office.

I identified my strengths and weaknesses, which allowed me to hire a staff that enhanced my strengths and compensated for my weaknesses. To be successful, I require a staff with diverse skills, knowledge, training and licenses.

A key skill you need to develop is the ability to communicate to your staff what you have promised the client and what the client wants/needs. My employees are responsible–and are rewarded–for delivering on my promises.

Training and retaining an effective staff is a necessary expense. Just as I am an extension of the human resources departments for the companies and organizations I serve, my employees are an extension of me. They are the voice that many of my clients hear most often.

Getting in front of clients and making the most efficient use of my time and theirs is key. In each step of the process, I make sure I am prepared with material and information, that clients have been contacted and meetings are confirmed.

I make sure before leaving the client that I know the next step and start the process for the next appointment. I make sure my staff contacts clients, thanks them for their time and reinforces what we plan to do next.

Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up

People want and need the help and services I provide. But if the client and I are the only ones who understand what we are trying to accomplish, it will be hard to serve customers effectively. To paraphrase a current commercial, the goal is to service each client the right way every time and then repeat that success over and over.

As part of my networking, I ask the HR organizations that I have worked with to tell HR people in other companies about my services. Once they hear that I have assisted other companies, their fears will be eased and they will refer me to other companies, unions, etc.

It took me several years to grow my business to the place it is today. Have faith and patience in your plan and you will succeed, too!

Gary Schwartz is founder, Madison Planning Group Inc., White Plains, N.Y. He can be reached via e-mail at gschwartz@madisonplanning.com.

The best relationship you can have with any organization is to become a resource for them

Limiting the worksite seminars to 40 participants and encouraging them to bring their spouse or significant other are elements for a successful meeting.