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7 Ways to Become an Indispensable Advisor — From the Start

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A few weeks ago, I had a video seminar with the students at Texas Tech, which has one of the best financial planning programs in the country. One of my topics was how to interview, negotiate and land your first job in the industry. Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough time with them to discuss an even more important topic: how to keep your job!

My solution to career longevity is simplicity itself: become indispensable. If you are a financial advisor, you want to become indispensable to your clients. If you are younger in the industry or in a support role, and going to work for a financial services firm, then your goal is to become the indispensable employee.

Here are seven dos (and a few don’ts) that can help you keep the job of your dreams:

1. Know your purpose.

Help the firm be profitable: No matter what company you work for or what position you have, you should always be focused on why you are there. Your purpose is to make that company more efficient and thereby more profitable.

You also should be focused on reducing the stress on your boss and co-workers and give your clients the best possible experience. Team members who do this well will always be in demand and able to command the highest salaries.

Takeaway: Part of your unwritten job description is to make your boss and co-workers more successful and less stressed.

2. Establish expectations up front.

It is never to late to ask your boss “What do you need from me for our relationship to be a wild success?”

Take notes. This is going to be your road map to good reviews, bonuses and promotions. It is also a good time to ask “Tell me about previous employees who washed out. What happened to them and why didn’t they succeed?” This also gives you the road map around the land minds. Sometimes just avoiding the bombs can make you a success.

Takeaway: schedule some time with your boss this week, get her expectations, and then make a copy for yourself. Review it weekly and be sure to get her feedback at employee review conferences. Hint a year from now, this can be your roadmap to a raise, too!

3. Have a cheerful, can do attitude.

One of our many beloved team members, Alyssa, has really mastered this. She is literally my sunshine. She sits at the front and welcomes every team member and client with warmth and cheerfulness, but she is much, much more than a greeter or receptionist. She is well on her way to becoming general manager.

I don’t know if she is having any problems at home, with the kids, or even her life in general, because when she is at work, she is all work, with a smile. She never whines and complains and frequently steps in to help other team members who got behind or can’t finish their tasks in time. We just celebrated her first year with us by having a champagne party!

Takeaway: the office is not the place to be “processing” your personal problems. That’s for a friend outside the office or your own therapist!

4. Be organized.

There are very few jobs in this industry that allow you to skate by and do what you want, when you want it. Having a system to organize your many tasks and getting them done on time, is crucial. It never crossed my mind that being organized is a skill that some people need to learn. Apparently they are not teaching this valuable skill in college these days.

One of the tell-tell signs of disorganization is when I have a team member who leaves hundreds (if not thousands) of emails in their inbox. Another is not planning ahead by checking the calendar to see what meetings are one the books. The killer is the team member who only gets things done at the last minute if the guillotine is hanging over her head.

Takeaway: If you are not a naturally organized and efficient person, then read some books on how to get things done or time management at the office. Ask for advice from the most efficient and effective colleagues, and then create a system that works for you. Having a reputation that none of your tasks or projects fall through the cracks, is key for your future.

5. Manage the most valuable asset: the time of the advisor.

My team knows that I get the princess treatment, not because I own the companies, but because my time is their most valuable asset. The more time I can spend in front of clients, the more profitable we will be (and the bigger the team bonuses!).

Any advisor should get this treatment in our model because they are doing the most important thing we need as a firm—spending their time prospecting, meeting with clients, and securing the client relationship. We call this PMS.

In the back of their minds should be the thought: what can I do for the advisor that will make this meeting efficient, effective and accomplish our objectives? If I have all the paperwork I need at this meeting, I can get that task accomplished easily and efficiently.

If my team forgot the paperwork, or didn’t think it was important, it could me an extra meeting to get it closed up. This is extra work for the team member and for me—the exact opposite of efficient and therefore unprofitable.

When I first learned this system, I was assisting a local firm that had 12 advisors, each averaging $1.2 million a year in production. (This was 15 years ago when $1.2 million was considered a lot of money!) If I get the princess treatment now, at that firm, I was empress. I never once made a doctor, dentist, or hair appointment for myself.

Sure it only takes about 5 minutes for me to make the call and log the information into my calendar. This company understood that if there were 10 tasks like that in a week, it would cost me 50 minutes. That is enough time to meet with another client, thereby adding to the firm’s revenue.

The team members who understand this are invaluable. They will make copies for me, scan documents, pre-fill forms, call back clients, in short anything that will save me time so I can spend more time loving up our clients in face-to-face meetings.

Takeaway: put some thought into how you can save your boss time and print up a suggestion list of things you can do. Run it by him to see if he has any other ideas. Note this is not the time to tell your boss how he can be more efficient!

6. Provide excellent work. 

To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, we strive for perfection and if that is impossible, we will deliver excellence. This is particularly important in the financial services industry—we are dealing with people’s money.

Everything must be done to perfection. If you miss a trade order, or do it late, it can cost your firm thousands of dollars. I have even seen judgments against financial advisors when their tax advice was wrong, cost the taxpayer a lot of fines for underpayment of taxes.

Typos also drive some clients crazy. Secretly they are thinking, if they can’t do something as simple as use spellcheck, how can they possibly be taking care of my money? We can eliminate that subconscious fear by making sure everything your boss and your clients see, is your most excellent work.

Takeaway: double check your work. Make sure there are no typos and everything you present to your boss should be your best effort.

7. Do what you say you will do on time and under budget.

Probably the best way to build trust and comradery at your employment is to be trustworthy. In my mind that is as simple as just following through. Do what you say you will do and deliver it on time. This is so rare today—you are sure to stand out.
Takeaway: under promise and over deliver.

One final word to the millennials who are reading this: As you know, many in the industry are afraid to hire you, due to the bad publicity millennials have gotten for not being reliable, organized or trustworthy. Here is your chance to shine. Follow these principles and you will quickly become the golden child of your firm.