Creating a business plan is the first step to growing your practice.

During our tenures in the business, we have observed thousands of financial advisors, some highly successful and some not so successful. In most cases, the unsuccessful advisors were not following certain practices that the successful advisors were. We labeled information from those certain practices the keys to success.

We both believe strongly in the importance of learning from your mistakes, but wouldn't you agree that it is much easier and less costly if you can learn from other people's mistakes instead of your own?

The purpose of this article is to examine some of the keys to high-level production and then share with you some proven ideas on how to move your practice to the highest levels.

Key #1 Write a Business Plan

Perhaps the easiest mistake to make as a financial planner is to focus entirely on financial planning without applying planning to your own business. Sounds crazy? It's not! You are in the financial planning business, and you need to run it like any business-with a formal, written business plan.

Unfortunately, many financial professionals do not focus on how to run their business properly, and proceed without any clear goals or plans on how to achieve those goals. Many other advisors were taught by these same professionals and entered the business focused solely on calling all the people they knew to get themselves started. They also may have felt that they didn't have the capital to properly establish a business and ended up simply "shooting from the hip." Sadly enough, once they did have the capital, it may have seemed easier to continue on with the same approach.

If you, like so many others, have fallen into the trap of working day to day without any long-term vision or written game plan, take a step back right now and ask yourself this question: "If your company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, would you recommend it to your clients as an investment?"

All quality companies have established formal business plans in order to achieve their long-term goals, and so should you if you are going to have a successful practice.

Survey after survey shows one of the major problems financial advisors have is that they are so busy running their business they forget to sit down, take a look at the big picture, and plan their business.

We did a survey of high-level planners and found that most of these advisors did not have a written business plan. They only had either:

a list of goals,