This is the fourth in a five-part series defining success for retirement plan advisors by Liz Davidson, who as president of Financial Finesse has a unique vision of who the most successful retirement plan advisors are, and what they have in common.–Ed.
I’ve talked a lot in this series about the key role of innovation in growing a retirement plan advisory practice. There’s another side of the success story that’s equally important and sometimes even more difficult to accomplish: implementing that innovation. Many advisors may have the foresight needed to stay afloat in this industry—they pick up on trends in their clients’ planning needs and network with other professionals who collaboratively help them identify where the market is heading. But the implementation process is where many of us entrepreneurs go wrong. Some have a great idea that either never gets played out into real practice. Sometimes the idea does get implemented, but in a way that doesn’t resonate with your target market. As a result, many opportunities to grow our businesses and stand out in this crowded industry are lost, and then—lo and behold—someone else comes along and does it more effectively.
There is, however, a unique way to approach the implementation of new ideas in one’s business which any advisor can use. A firm that has successfully used this approach for 11 years is Chicago-based Plan Sponsor Advisors. PSA specializes in advising mid- to-large-market plan sponsors around plan design, like payout options and automatic features, to the communication and education efforts around the plan to increase employee participation. This boutique firm has been able to advise clients on over $19 billion in assets and is one of the most recognized advisory firms in the nation. They’ve been able to not only see ahead of the market, but also how to develop and position new services that met market needs before others were doing it. Jennifer Flodin (left), co-founder of PSA, credits these traits for the success of her business.
In a nutshell, PSA’s approach is to think about its business long term, position its services, communicate with clients and develop partnerships. No matter how innovative the ideas or how wonderful PSA’s services are, Flodin and her partners know they won’t get across to clients unless they implement them well. Here are some tips any advisor can use to better implement new ideas to meets client demand and elevate their practice to national status:
Countless behavioral science research shows that putting information into a framework helps us better identify, relate to and understand it. The problem is that creating frameworks which resonate with our target market is much easier said than done.
I’ve personally come to realize that there is a delicate balance between making things simpler for clients and coming off as too simplistic. Advisors face this with their own services—frameworks can make our businesses come across as “cookie-cutter” with no room for customizing to the client’s specific needs.
But Flodin and co-founder Don Stone (right) have mastered the use of frameworks to grow their business. PSA has seen their business grow 26% since implementing their R21 framework which gives plan sponsors four main action steps that PSA will accomplish upon being hired to consult with them on their plan: re-think, re-invent, re-design and re-engineer. Their framework simplifies their services for clients without sending the message that what they do is simple or that it is a one-size fits-all proposition. For tips to creating frameworks, see sidebar in this article.