We have found that financial advisors just like you have four desires from your business. You want to enhance the value of your business, increase your profits and revenue, increase your personal satisfaction, and improve your lifestyle from this business vehicle you have chosen. Standing in the way of that are a number of roadblocks.

Of these roadblocks, I want to focus on just one in this session: staff and support. And in particular, I want to focus on the three keys to engaging your people and creating loyal, passionate people. You will be able to take away from this presentation some real tactics, tools, and techniques that you can gain value from over the next 365 days.

The first key is to clarify your direction. Your people want to follow someone who knows where he or she is going. The second key is about creating a culture that brings the best out in your people and identifying the DNA that makes your business character. The final key is about using collaboration, moving beyond cooperation in your team and harnessing the power of people who want to create and be part of a dynamic business.

Clarify

The critical factor in clarifying your direction is to fall back in love with your business, refocus your purpose and become passionate about what you do again. I refer to this as the big why. You need a big why to do the uncomfortable and the inconvenient, to change and evolve when everything in your eyes seems good.

You can call this your manifesto. What do you stand for, and where in your business is that articulated? I am not talking about a mission statement, which has been sanitized for client consumption. I am talking rather about the goal that is bigger than you and that will live on after you. That becomes your big why.

There is a four-part formula to discovering your why: message, method, milestones, and momentum. What message do you want to pass on to people that connects with you, clients, colleagues, team members, your professional and local community? What method will you use to achieve that goal? What vehicle will most effectively take you to your why? What milestones will determine that you are making progress? And what will you do to maintain your momentum?

Once you know what the big picture looks like, it is time to define your goals, strategies, and tactics for the next 12 months by creating a one-page business plan. This is a 20-30 minute activity that provides you with the foundation and milestones to measure your progress. This is where you need to engage your people, work with them to create this plan, gain their buy-in and input. The four key components of this one-page business plan are financial goals, marketing goals, operational goals, and people goals.

What do you want to achieve as a business in each of these areas over the next 12 months? What milestones do you need to achieve in the next 30, 60, and 90 days as a team? What projects are different people on your team working on so that they are delivered within that timeframe?

Culture

Just as each of us is designed with a variety of genetic attributes, every business has its own type of DNA. What is your business DNA? What characteristics, qualities, attributes, and attitudes best describe your business?

Is your DNA serving your business as you move toward your manifesto, the business of your dreams and your business plan for the next 12 months? What characteristics do you want to inject new people with when they become part of your team? It is these characteristics that build your culture, which continue to shape the characteristics of your business.

To give you just an example, one client in Canberra hosted an annual two-day business retreat, where he and his team spent the morning of the first day defining their DNA: what their culture was going to look like; how they wanted to be regarded by their clients; with whom they wanted to do business; and what they stood for in their business. They also defined what they did not do in their business and what their non-negotiable standards were.

I wish you could have been there as his team of 10 people got involved. As you engage your people in the same process, you will move one step closer to having more passionate people working with you and fewer employees just going through the motions.

Collaboration

There are four levels on which most teams operate with each other: conflict, confusion, cooperation and collaboration.

Cooperation is about getting along to do what’s required and work well together. Collaboration is about harnessing the power, ideas, and synergy that come from people working toward common goals and finding better ways to improve the business. It’s also about channeling intellectual property into innovative strategies that create a better service experience and enhance operational effectiveness.

To that end, you need to create time to connect with your people–not just to communicate with them. Involve them in the process of working on your business so that they can take ownership of the challenges and the successes. This is one way to create people who are motivated to care about your business.

One company that has done this exceptionally well globally is Toyota. Over the past eight years, I have been fortunate enough to work with Toyota globally, and one of the great things about that organization is they have a wonderful culture of collaboration. Part of the Toyota Way is Kaizen–Continuous Improvement.

If your people feel that they are contributing, then they feel engaged. And when they are engaged, collaboration will happen. Result: You can work on activities that yield a high payoff.

A financial planner client took this concept to heart. Now every Friday morning, he brings in a temporary staffer to look after the telephones so that he and his team of eight people can work on their business.

They have whiteboards all around their boardroom filled with ideas: those they have generated; concepts that are works-in-progress; projects that have been implemented.

Some examples: During the first six months after the program was introduced, his team members designed a new welcome pack for clients and created a process for prospects that don’t do business with them. The team also redesigned the seminar presentation it delivers to prospects and developed a better sales and service process to provide a client experience that is memorable, repeatable and referable.

This effort requires a commitment–but first a decision on the behalf of the business owner to let go and involve people.

I have spoken to you about the three Cs–clarify, culture and collaboration. Now, this is where the rubber meets the road for you. After this conference, if you are going to have the business of your dreams, then you need to engage your people.

Whether you have one or hundreds of team members, these strategies work. Will they work for you? Only if you are deliberate in your implementation plan, focus on the right outcomes and have a big enough why for doing it. Take a moment now and list down what ideas are going to form your MDRT365 list of ideas to implement and gain value from all year round.

My final message to you today is this: If you want to plant for days, then plant flowers. If you want to plant for years, plant trees. And if you want to plant for eternity, then plant ideas.

Keith Abraham, CSP, is professional speaker, author and consultant to financial advisors based in a Queensland, Australia. You may e-mail him at keith@keithabraham.com.au. This is an abridged version of a presentation he gave at the MDRT annual meeting in Vancouver.