Seven Tips for Newly Independent Financial Advisors
You’ve done your homework. You’ve made a plan. And, finally, you made the leap to independence. But what you probably weren’t expecting was the landscape on the place you landed.
Do you feel your solo practice is on a remote, deserted island with no friendly faces in sight? One of the most significant challenges facing newly independent advisors is the potential for isolation.
After all, you’ve likely gone from a larger firm’s interactive environment—think camaraderie among co-workers—to an office with just you. That transition can be painful – and if you let it, it can hurt your business, too.
Don’t let that happen. The goal is not only to survive, but thrive. Follow these seven tips and before you know it, you’ll have created the business oasis of your dreams.
1. Stay Flexible, But Keep a Schedule
Remember, even the Skipper and the Professor on Gilligan’s Island had schedules (fishing, cooking and attempting to fix the two-way radio).
The good news is, on your island you can choose your own schedule.
Are you a morning person? Do you thrive with a strong start to the day or are you better as you get “warmed up”? Inasmuch as your responsibilities allow you (time zones, client needs, etc.), you should play to your strengths and build your schedule around these productive periods.
Of course, certain times of year (or even the week or month) may be more or less busy. For many advisors, Monday sees a lot of phone calls, and tax season and fiscal year endings tend to be all-out sprints. Preparation and planning will keep you on track and prevent stressful times from becoming overwhelming.
That said, having a schedule doesn’t mean you can’t take off Thursday afternoons to watch your kid’s ballgame! Scheduling personal time is equally important as scheduling work time – and it’s one of the key perks of being the boss.
Keeping a schedule will help you to manage your daily life without losing track of that “big picture”.
2. Spiffy up Your Island Paradise…and Yourself
Leaving the corporate world for self employment often means a more personal and casual working environment than what you might be accustomed to. Although your working environment may be less corporate, it should not be less professional.
While you may not have as much foot traffic in your new office, take pride in its appearance.
Keep things tidy, don’t allow mail to pile up, and use a logical filing system. The more organized and maintained your workplace, the more productive and efficient you can be. You and your clients will also subconsciously “notice” the level of organization in your office. An organized and well-appointed office can inspire greater client confidence and, just as importantly, self-confidence.
Remember to extend that approach to your attire.
Being independent might also mean a more casual style in what you wear around the office. That’s fine, to a certain point, however, but from wearing flip-flops and Bermuda shorts every day, and keep in mind that a client, potential client or business associate could drop in at any moment.
Do you want to give the image of “castaway” or Island Prince? Embrace your own personal style, but be sure to maintain a professional appearance and demeanor.
3. Focus on Communication
On Gilligan’s Island, the Professor was constantly fiddling with the latest invention that would make it possible to get help – and get rescued.
If you want to keep your business running smoothly, you need to focus on communication, too. It’s important to have clear and open lines of communication with your clients, your broker/dealer, and any custodial partners.
For the best results, keep it personal. Phone calls, face-to-face meetings, personal notes and special occasion cards are an important part of maintaining strong relationships. If you need help organizing it, consider using a contact management system to manage information and contact reminders. You could also consider using a service such as Longtermclients, which provides personal note coaching and greeting card services to financial advisors, helping to maintain that personal touch with clients.
Complement those efforts with the benefits of modern technology. Email, your website, and newsletters are a great way to keep in touch and keep clients apprised of what’s happening with you, their accounts, and the markets.
4. Network with Other Natives
One advisor who recently went independent noted that the social aspect at his former firm sometimes detracted from his work. He figured that 2-3 hours per day were wasted on social contact with his peers.
As an independent, you now you have the ability to control and schedule that contact. That means more productivity, as long as you don’t let social support fall off your schedule entirely.
You may not have a built-in social circle with other advisors, so it’s important that you find ways to connect (or reconnect) with your peers. Make the most of the many resources you may have available to you. Take advantage of events and conferences your broker/dealer or custodian may hold. Make use of your wholesalers, who can provide valuable resources and support, training, and other programs that can help your business.
Take time to meet with other business owners, too.
Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce, many of which have monthly breakfast meetings as well as monthly cocktail hours. You needn’t do something every day or even every week, just look at your schedule and figure out what works best for you.
For everyday information and best practices, consider subscribing to practice management sites like Horsesmouth, which provide timely and practical information to financial advisors. They also serve as an online community, where advisors can share information and participate in discussions on various topics.
5. Stay Connected With the Mainland
Balancing family/friends with work is not always easy, especially when you’re building a business. The inclination to put in 60 hours a week is strong.
But make sure to schedule social time into your calendar. Most advisors note spending more time with family as a significant reason for going independent in the first place, so take advantage.
Also remember that taking time to recharge your batteries will help you become more productive. Keep it high quality – eliminating the distractions and notifications of work – and really enjoy this key benefit of being independent. You’ll enjoy it more, and you’re more likely to come back refreshed, recharged, and ready to work again.
6. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
The indie landscape is worlds apart from what you experienced in the corporate world.
After the initial rush, the mundane day-to-day aspects of running a business, such as sorting the mail, paying the bills, and buying office supplies, might start to wear on you. So don’t lose sight of why you decided to go independent in the first place.
Make sure you have a business plan that spells out not only your vision for your business but also specific goals. These should include not only financial/professional goals, but also personal ones, such as giving back to the community, spending time with family, or pursuing a personal passion.
To execute on those goals, find ways to keep the fires burning.
One suggestion is having a coach or an “accountability partner”—someone you check in with once a week who is familiar with your business plan, and who can help you stay motivated and on track. Invest some time in sharpening your overall business skills by reading books, attending workshops or taking classes.
If you want something a bit more structured, consider working with a SCORE counselor, who can provide free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs.
7. Coconut Cream Pies Morning, Noon, and Night? Take Care of Your Body!
When you worked in a firm, you and your co-workers probably took regular lunches. When you’re on your own, it’s easy to eat while working or, worse yet, snacking the whole day through (especially if your office is in your house and the fridge is only steps away).
But skipping meals can result in low energy, poor concentration and overeating. Don’t let that happen.
Keep yourself fueled for the indie lifestyle. Maintain proper nutrition, get plenty of sleep, and stick with regular exercise to give you the energy you need to turn your island into a true paradise… and grant you the patience to deal with stress when it isn’t.
Choose Your Own Paradise
Remember, you’re in charge of creating your business environment. By following these tips, you’ll be able to make yours an oasis of calm and productivity.
That’s because, unlike our castaways on Gilligan’s Island, you’ve chosen your situation.
If you have already done significant planning and created your independent business, don’t limit its potential by letting the details get away from you or giving too little time to these important issues.
Do it right, and you won’t be surviving, you will be THRIVING!