A physical checkup is a great idea once in a while, especially as a person ages. Our businesses also need an annual physical. This is the time of year that most practices will have a slowdown in business. It’s an opportunity to evaluate past success and determine what is necessary for success in 2015 and onward. There are several questions I want to get answered about my practice. The next five articles in National Underwriter will address what I believe are essential to developing a vibrant, profitable and sustainable practice.

How relevant is your practice? At the turn of the last century, automobiles were becoming a part of the American landscape. There were businesses across the U.S. that would be greatly impacted by the advent of the automobile. New businesses and industries would be spawned by this new invention. Unfortunately, many old businesses would be adversely affected.

At the time, a popular and effective mode of transportation was the horse. Blacksmiths, ferriers, and leather smiths had businesses that catered to the needs of horsepower transportation. As the automobile became more popular and more affordable to the common consumer, the practicality of horse-drawn transportation would, over decades, erode and wipe out the viability of many small businesses.

These small business owners had a choice. They would either continue to stubbornly stay with dying professions or adapt to their changing world. Instead of buggy whips, tires and parts needed to be manufactured. Instead of farms offering feed for horses, oil was needed. Instead of horseshoes, saddles and leather goods, America needed leather seats and upholstery.

Financial practices are undergoing a similar sea change. Practitioners who relied on the sale of health products have seen huge changes in the last 10 years, especially with the implementation of PPACA. Long-term care insurance may become completely unaffordable and impractical in the years to come, especially if carriers continue to stop offering it. Maybe it’s time to put an insurance license to better use instead of stubbornly going down with a sinking ship. New products are being created with life insurance and annuities that address this battle with long-term care.

A recent conversation accentuates the point of this article. An insurance agent, who has been a good friend for many years, called me recently with his dilemma. He just restarted his practice after a 10 year run with an insurance wholesaler. Since he has no clients, he was struggling with restarting. He has found it very tough, using his 10-year-old methods of marketing. I told him that his marketing isn’t broken, but his practice is.

The old way of selling annuities is fast becoming obsolete. He is a CFP so I advised him to start taking assets under management on a fee basis that will allow him to create a client base for annuity sales. By approaching clients on the basis of what they want, he can educate them on the advantages of annuities after he has developed a trusting relationship. Many of his clients will have a need in the future for fixed products, but approaching people who are accustomed to securities as investments is difficult.

If you are questioning the viability of your practice, now is the time to it address the issue and improve your future. For my own career I created what I call the 11th commandment. Don’t look for it in the Bible, it’s not there, but it works for me. It’s “thou shalt not kid myself.”

My practice has had two major remakes in the last 15 years. I switched from an emphasis on life insurance to annuities in 2001. In the last year I switched from an emphasis on annuities to a fee-based practice. I still sell life insurance and annuities with excellent results, I just change the way I dress for the party.

A sincere, reflective and honest evaluation of your practice may make it a better one for years to come.