Invest in support staff for a greater pay off.

It's ironic that financial planners can help others with long-term investing, yet may take a shortsighted view in how to invest in their own practices by hiring "warm bodies." These are people who do little more than answer the phone, open mail and process documents. Cost and immediate needs often dictate this decision.

However, cost and time are relative. Consider the cost of a tarnished reputation when repeated errors, missing paperwork and inefficient procedures result from the "warm bodies" approach. One bad support person can shut down the confidence earned over time with clients. Whatever qualities a financial planner stands for-excellent service, technical savvy, timely advice-should be represented in the support staff.

The cost trade-off for many practitioners is spending their own time to support clients. But when business picks up and paperwork bogs them down, there's no time to find the right person or train someone to continue the same level of service that clients have come to expect.

Cost and time are key factors when growth goals come into play. According to a 1999 practice survey by the CFP Board of Standards, one-third of participating CFPs responded that the size of their client base would increase over the next five years as the primary strategy for expansion. Nearly 20% intended to hire additional staff.

A Reason To Give Great Client Service

With expansion and client service as high priorities, how can financial advisors overcome the cost and time trade-offs when seeking support staff candidates?

Consider taking the long view by investing time up front to find someone who is not only interested in the financial services field but also has the potential to become a financial planner. Those with career aspirations will be motivated to learn the ropes and make the boss look good.

An individual's first financial planning job often is as a support-staff member because of the many barriers to entry in this highly regulated industry: cost, licenses and experience in the financial planning process. Yet if these barriers can be removed through creative investments of time and dollars, then a practitioner stands to gain a more valuable employee to help expand business.

Potential financial advisors have a reason to give great client service if they can earn a salary while learning the internal processes of the business. This can ease entry into a full-fledged planning career. Even if they discover that financial planning is not for them, then the practitioner may lose a protÈgÈ but gain an excellent financial analyst or loyal office manager.

From Warm Bodies To Problem Solvers

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