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Industry Spotlight > RIAs

Should We Ask More Questions of Clients?

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In my last blog, I discussed getting clients engaged in the implementation process. This week, I’d like to talk a little about the planning process and the structure of the engagement.

I’m sure many of you know this universal truth: the better the information we collect, the better the advice we can render, or GIGO. Most of the time, getting information from clients is not a problem, meaning they are willing to provide it. Some may be more organized than others and get it to you sooner, while others may have a harder time gathering it. Ironically, it may be the clients who are slower in getting the information to us, those who are the most disorganized, that need us the most.

The point I’m trying to make is this, “How long should the planning process take?” Does the client expect that you will be able to gather all necessary information, crunch the numbers, and present the plan inside of 30 days? 60 days? 90 days? Sure, it depends partly on your client, but what is their expectation? If we’re to meet or exceed their expectations, we need to know what those expectations are.

Perhaps we need to ask more questions?

The Structure

In the past, I’ve met many good planners and have found there are as many different ways to conduct business as there are economic forecasts. One planner collects the entire fee upfront, another collects half up front and the balance at the presentation. Others may charge an assessment fee for an initial evaluation and then determine if they can help the client. If they feel they can help, they prepare a proposal indicating the duration of the engagement and cost of their services.

To me, this may be a better way to engage the client. As planners, we are trained to process a lot of information since our discipline is so broad (assuming you’re doing comprehensive planning). For clients, I’m reminded that they need to receive information one bit at a time. Too much information at one time may create confusion and confusion breeds inactivity. Inactivity then brings about the exact opposite of what your client and you expected, or wanted. Since the results are found in the implementation process, it’s very important that the recommendations are adopted.

Maybe the turtle had it right all along. Slow and steady wins the race.

Thanks for reading.


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