Avoiding the trap of avoiding the work that you need to do.

    Most financial advisors say they want to build a business that generates a sizable income and lets them live the life they want. Yet few advisors consistently do what it takes to create that kind of business. They seem to be very busy, but they're actually engaging in something I call work-avoidance behaviors. If you want to build a successful business that lets you meet your financial and life goals, you need to uncover and eliminate work-avoidance behaviors from your daily routine.
    Work-avoidance behavior includes just about anything that doesn't really serve your clients. Here are six typical examples that I see again and again.

Six Don'ts
    1. Keeping Up with Financial News: Some advisors think they need to know exactly what's happening in the market, the economy or the world. Although what I'm about to say flies in the face of conventional wisdom, pay close attention-reading financial magazines and listening to financial radio and TV are absolutely useless behaviors for a financial advisor. The time you spend following the news is time when you're not building an intelligent business or taking care of your clients. The only people who need to know what's going on in the market, the economy and the world are the people who actually manage money. Some advisors get confused. They seem to forget that they're financial advisors, not money managers, insurance experts, accountants or lawyers.
    2. Getting Ready to Get Ready: I've adopted a mantra at my firm: Bill should only do what only Bill can do. If a task is delegable, it should be delegated. A corollary to that rule is that certain things should be done during prime time, and certain things should be done during nonprime time. For example, you definitely need to spend time creating an image for your company. You must be able to communicate and articulate who you are and what you do. The question is, when should you do that? The answer, of course, is during nonprime time. Unfortunately, many advisors would rather spend time working on their company brochure, marketing materials or Web site than actually asking for and following up on referrals. After all, they can't possibly feel rejected when they're-rewriting their promotional literature for the 17th time!
    3. Becoming Overinformed or Overeducated: Another form of work avoidance is to be informed and educated beyond what your clients actually need. Some advisors do this by studying for every possible designation in the financial services industry. Others do it by reading books and magazines, listening to tapes or attending training programs and conference sessions that are incompatible with the systems they've chosen for acquiring clients and running their business. Which leads to a very good question: Do you have a system for acquiring clients and running your business? Since most advisors don't, they frequently go to conventions and sit in on every session. They don't discriminate between what they need and what they don't. Very few advisors attend conferences with preplanned agendas and then come back with something they can really use. Instead, they come back with pages and pages of notes that they put on a shelf and instantly forget. Before you sign up for your next course or seminar, ask yourself honestly whether it's the best use of your time or whether you're simply engaging in work-avoidance behavior.
    4. Talking About Your Business Instead of Working On It: Many advisors spend a tremendous amount of time talking about what they're going to do, especially during prime time. When I was an advisor, five to eight times an hour, one of the other advisors in my office would walk in to ask me a question or talk about something that was completely irrelevant for prime time. I tried hanging a sign on my door, but that didn't work, so I'd literally barricade my door with my chair in order to get some work done. If I didn't, I'd get interrupted continuously. Prime time is for taking care of existing clients and acquiring new ones. Period.
    5. Putting Out Fires: "Fires" are usually situations that your staff should handle. Many advisors don't empower their staff members to solve problems or serve clients. They unconsciously sabotage their own success because complaining about their staff and then doing the staff's work is frequently more comfortable than doing what they're supposed do, which is asking for and following up on referrals. Managing money, writing financial plans, being a junior wanna-be economist, or doing anything else that could be delegated or outsourced (such as taxes, insurance, legal decisions) are serious work-avoidance behaviors.
    6. "Checking In" to See How Clients Are Doing: Except for emergencies, client interaction should occur on a regular schedule. I've heard statistics that the most successful advisors are in contact with their clients 28 times a year. That could happen through 12 monthly statements, four (quarterly) face-to-face meetings, and 12 additional scheduled contacts, such as monthly phone appointments, nonfinancial newsletters or other written or verbal contacts. Client contact should always be orchestrated; random contact is just another work-avoidance behavior.

Six Do's
Now that we've identified the most common work-avoidance behaviors, you're probably wondering how a successful advisor's work day does look. Here are six areas on which they spend the vast majority of their time.
    1. Holding Their Clients Accountable: Successful advisors report that their highest priority is to hold their clients accountable for doing what they need to do to achieve their goals. Most client-advisor relationships are backwards. When clients and advisors get together, the conversation tends to revolve around trying to rationalize things that aren't rational and can't be rationalized, like, "Why did the market do what it did?" and "What do you think the market's going to do in the future?" and "Based on what you think the market's going to do, what do you think we ought to do?" Most advisors waste time answering these questions, but successful advisors tell the truth: "I have no idea, but I do know that if you behave this way-if you invest your money this way over time and stick with this plan-you will achieve your goals." Competent advisors hold their clients accountable to do what needs to be done so goals can be achieved in the face of the truth, which is that we don't know what's going to happen. I often say that the success of what you're currently doing is built on the foundation of what immediately preceded it. When you create the impression that you have access to some magic information about the future, sooner or later you're going to be wrong. If that's the basis for a relationship, your clients will leave when they realize you can't predict the future.
    2. Helping New Clients Get Clarity: The most successful advisors spend a considerable amount of time helping potential clients get clarity about what's truly important to them (their core values), helping them define their goals, and benchmarking their current reality so they can make the smart decision to hire the advisor to create and implement a written, comprehensive financial plan. Don't overlook this important step. Remember, you can't help your clients get what they want until you know what they want and the reasons those things are important to them.
    3. Harnessing Their Resources: To create a plan that gives clients the highest probability of achieving their goals, successful advisors spend time harnessing their resources. This includes both the resources at their company and the external relationships they've developed. Their resources might include a plan writer, a money manager, an insurance expert and several tax and legal experts. Remember, it's your job to build a team of experts who facilitate the delivery of your promise to the clients, which is to help them achieve their goals for the reasons that are important to them.
    4. Execute a Referral System: Successful advisors want their appointment calendars to be full, with as little time taken away from serving clients as possible. There are many ways to fill your appointment calendar, and the least expensive, least time-consuming and most effective way is through referrals. Make sure you have an effective system for obtaining and following up on referrals.
    5. Hire a Competent Staff and Keep the "Machine" Running Smoothly: Successful advisors hire competent staff people and hold them accountable to develop and implement effective operational and administrative systems to serve their clients. The size of your staff will depend on how many clients you have and how little you want to work.
    6. Write Your Own Financial Plan: You'd be surprised to learn how many advisors neglect this step. They recommend financial plans for their clients, yet they fail to write a plan for themselves. Walk your talk! The most successful advisors take time to write their own financial plans, then they build their businesses so their financial goals are actualized.

© 2005 by Bill Bachrach, Bachrach & Associates Inc. All rights reserved. Bill Bachrach is the author of four industry-specific books, including his newest book, It's All About Them; How Trusted Advisors Listen for Success. For more information about his services or to order his books, call (800) 347-3707 or visit the Web site, www.bachrachvbs.com.