The other day my 14-year-old daughter came home from school and told me one of her friends was moving. Another victim of the economy? No. Much worse, the father died–suddenly.
Here is a business owner who was holding his own in 2009. He always ran the company efficiently and was careful to manage his enterprise. But like many business owners, taking time to plan with his advisor was never a priority. Now, everyone in his family will suffer with a new set of circumstances. And what about the business? The employees? Their families? Sound familiar?
As professionals with plenty of clients just like this guy, advisors need to impress on business owners the urgency of planning for such eventualities as death or disability. To that end, they can’t just depend on product to carry the sale.
Getting back to basics
Today, the noise level a business owner deals with is deafening, and information overload is a constant impediment. Not to mention the hoards of advisers who continue to add to the confusion. No wonder business owners are numb. They have been beaten into submission. Their response? Do nothing.
I believe, however, there is a silver lining. Given the current state of the economy, business owners are likely to examine their own situation and be receptive to doing proactive planning. If so, now is the perfect time to re-introduce what we really do and help our clients focus on one thing: identifying risk.
Set aside the latest product discussion and put away that asset allocation model. You won’t need it (yet).
It’s not that business owners don’t want or need the right products to protect their business and personal assets; they do. But they just don’t want to spend time learning about them. It is simply too complicated. And once you start down that road, you will have lost that individual. As far as they are concerned, we all want to “sell” them something.
So, forget about your new idea for estate planning; everyone has one of those, and it’s the best. Instead, find a way to engage your client on an emotional level. Once you accomplish that, the sale will follow. But you have to start the conversation.
And while you’re at it, why not involve the CPA or estate planning attorney, or the community bank. They all deal with business owners. These professionals have a vested interest in helping their clients survive as well.
Every home office has some marketing initiative to involve centers of influence; and every advisor knows these individuals represent fertile ground to find and attract new clients. (Check any website. CPAs, attorneys and bankers, all advertise that they are advisors to business owners.)
How much has the economy affected their businesses? How many CPAs will turn down the opportunity to reach out to their clients (proactively) and have a conversation about protecting assets or planning for potential changes in the tax laws or asking about succession planning, etc.? Not many. That’s because the market is competitive and customer retention is their top priority.
Banks, too, are in need of new ideas. They could certainly use a hook to lure business owners, and at the same time start a little positive PR. Why not come up with a creative way to communicate with clients?
Dealing with the loss of a parent is something no advisor or insurance policy can fix. The product is not supposed to do that. But if an unexpected tragedy does occur, let the family focus on what’s really important. Our goal as advisors is to help the surviving members keep the house, the school, the friends, and maybe even the business.
At the end of the day, it makes me feel better. How about you? Start the conversation. That’s job one.
Michael J. Mainardi, is president of Selling Technologies, Langhorne, Pa. You may e-mail him at [email protected]