On paper, it looked like a great two months: We brought on 16 new clients in our target market. Most advisors would have been happy with those numbers over a year.
The problem? Both the team and yours truly were going crazy with the service work to support our existing clients and the prep needed for the new ones. Frankly, I was most concerned about the team. We have great people, It is truly the dream team. Everyone is smart, dedicated, ethical and willing to do whatever it takes to help our clients. They are so great, I didn’t want to burn out a single one.
Here are the steps we are taking to reduce stress from too much business.
1. Meet as a Team
The very first thing we did was meet as a team. I wanted every member to know how much we valued them and how committed we were to improving their stress levels.
I then asked them to make a list of their three biggest stressors and come back with some suggestions on how to fix them.
The team had some great ideas and they seemed to appreciate being open and candid with us. Sometimes it just helps to vent and know someone else cares. I think we are much stronger as a group going through this exercise.
Immediate changes: We were able to hire some temporary help to prefill some of the paperwork and more skilled assistance in creating the financial plans. We also started interviewing for hiring a permanent addition to the team to start in January.
This provided both temporary relief and hope for the future. We also explained that while we were happy to make these changes, unfortunately they would eat into our budget for holiday bonuses. We asked how they felt about that. Every member was happy to give up a little of the bonuses for the additional help.
2. Eliminate Non-Essential Steps
We reviewed the details of our client experience and eliminated portions that didn’t actually improve our clients’ experience. As you may know, I hate the words “sales process,” because I so strongly believe that we are not sales people but problem solvers. We call the whole process of “loving up” a client “the client experience.”
We sat the entire team down and talked through our process. Now I hesitate to change anything that is working. Clearly our process works well—we are constantly getting unsolicited referrals. However, there is a limit to how much we can take on and still live a sane life.
Small changes here could have a big impact. For instance, we have been drafting a detailed, customized action plan for every case, even cases that are so small we are losing money. After reviewing our process we decided some cases would be fine with a template version of the gaps/solutions. We save the customized ones for our largest, most complicated cases. Time savings: about one hour per case. In the last two months, this would have saved us at least 12 hours of staff time.
3. Outsource Some Research
Fortunately we have a fantastic insurance broker’s general agency. They have offered to do more research for us and we took them up on it. Whenever we present insurance options to a client, we need to consider different funding levels and different carriers. This takes a lot of time to run the illustrations and then synthesize the data into one, easy to read document for the client. Approximate time savings per case: 0.2 hours. We estimate over two months, it would save us three hours.
4. Keep My Mouth Shut
This is probably the hardest part. I have a tendency to start offering one-off research projects to even our smallest clients. It is not unusual for me to offer to have someone on our team research the asset protection laws for IRAs and variable annuities for a small client who lives in another state. For one small client, we may research the average mill rate for their real estate taxes. Unfortunately these one-offs can seriously eat into a team member’s time and not provide a lot of additional value for the client. Time savings: five hours.
5. Limit How Many Clients I See Per Day
This one was particularly hard for me. I felt like there were so many potential clients out there that I had to see them all as soon as possible. The team finally convinced me that I couldn’t do more than four meetings per day. On a pure numbers basis, this makes sense, because it could take the team approximately 10 hours of service work for a one-hour meeting. This didn’t exactly reduce the time spent, but it did spread it over a more reasonable time frame, thereby reducing the current stress.
My concern was that it would cost us money initially for me to cut back the number of clients we see. The team made a very persuasive argument though: The fewer the clients, the better the service, the happier the clients and the more referrals. We are still in the process of putting this into play. I think they are right, though.
6. Hire a Personal Trainer
I know my weaknesses. Unfortunately, the more tired I get, the more projects I can dream up for the team to do. Leave anyone at the office with me at the end of a long day, and they will have four new marketing ideas to implement in the morning. Yes, I know it is annoying. I have to make myself stay away from the office when I am over-tired, because I know the poor team will be inundated with new ideas if I am there.
I decided a better way to reduce my stress would be for me to sign up for a tough-as-nails exercise routine. So I have a trainer and some goals. Whenever possible, I am trying to leave the office and work out. By that time, even I am too tired to think of new projects.
So hopefully in a couple of months, I will have a calm, invigorated team, lots of happy clients and a rockin’ new body! It can happen!