With the Standard & Poor's 500 40% lower as of this writing than its high of October 9, 2007, it may not seem precisely the moment to tell you to break out the champagne and celebrate. But if you take a step back from the torturous panic terrorizing markets to see the bigger picture, it's clear that the self-destruction of Wall Street's giant brokerage firms creates the opportunity of a lifetime for independent advisors.

A new competitive landscape has been created. On the spot where Wall Street's behemoths have fallen, independent advisors will rise-if they act strategically and swiftly, and if they do the right thing for people.
It matters little whether the stock market recovers much of its losses very soon or continues its terrible descent. Even in the depths of this financial disaster, we can rest assured that people still need advice. Arguably, in fact, they will need it more than ever. And we can also rest assured in knowing that the main source of investor advice-the once-mighty giants of the financial services industry-are disgraced, discredited and decimated financially. You, Mr. and Mrs. Independent Advisor, have an opportunity to communicate your message to investors who never before would listen.

Wall Street's biggest firms were complicit in nearly bringing down the American economy. Greedy Wall Street executives perverted capitalism's foundational precept-to pursue profit-by recklessly leveraging capital far beyond prudent standards to make promises they could not keep.
The question is: What will you do with the opportunity that has come to you, albeit through such a painful reckoning? The market's plunge does complicate the opportunity before you. But cowering under your desk and waiting for the comeback-if there is a comeback anytime soon-is no strategy.

What you need to do now is talk to your clients and begin planning strategically to respond to the terrified investors who are now receptive to finding alternatives to the Wall Street brokers. Here are some thoughts about what you can do now.

Graze On Good Grass. Mute CNBC, CNN or any other TV station. TV in times like these is a distraction. It's a poor source of information. The talking heads that you see every day are the same, and they limit your points of view. Moreover, the shouting matches that invariably break out are a waste of time. TV is good at covering live events, but the print media are better sources for breaking news and analysis. Subscribe to news alerts at www.NYT.com (The New York Times), or www.CNN.com. They're free. Most alerts from http://online.wsj.com/ (The Wall Street Journal) are free but there is a premium service you must pay for, and all alerts from www.FT.com (Financial Times) require a subscription. Relying on these sites for alerts and keeping the TV muted or turned off will prevent distractions while allowing you to stay on top of breaking news. Moreover, getting in-depth analysis from these three print publications is far better than relying on TV financial news. CNN's and Fox's coverage is repetitive and superficial. The financial TV channels are limited by the nature of the medium. Sources and interview subjects for TV's financial stations are often chosen based on who offers the best sound bites or who is able to make it to the studio at the moment. The print media select experts from all over the world based on their knowledge. Financial reporters at these newspapers are themselves experts and they ask questions to the world's smartest people after doing more research than TV news personalities generally have time for. And print reporters filter their comments to bring you the most intelligent analysis. You need to know more than your clients, so spend at least an hour a day reading the best financial newspapers in the world.

Routine. In times when things feel out of control, it's easy to get sucked into the chaos. So bring order to your day. Get up at no later than 6 a.m. and begin each day by exercising. If you have not been exercising, start now. If you don't have a home gym or gym membership, walk briskly for an hour or run. Get to the office early, no later than 8 a.m. Spend 30 minutes planning your day, writing down what things you must accomplish and prioritizing them.

Besides your hour spent reading the news, block out sections of time to call clients and prospects. Devote an hour or two each day to a marketing program-a Webinar, blog, newsletter, letter, video blog or whatever ways you feel most comfortable communicating. Clinging to structure when things feel uncontrollable is important.

Be There. I've covered every market turndown since the 1987 crash and after each one there are stories about advisors not answering the phone. The other night on Jay Leno, comedian Dana Carvey joked about phoning his broker only to hear the strange voice of a Chinese woman answer to say in broken English, "No broker here. Bye, bye." You don't want to be one of those pathetic jokes. In fact, you want to be proactive. By doing the right thing in the next few months and being there for your clients, you will naturally bring in more business and lose fewer clients.

Get To Work. As the shock of the crash subsides-assuming it does not extend into November-clients will need emergency care. Call each client personally and tell each one that you are reachable anytime, day or night, weekend or weekday. Schedule an appointment to meet with each client for an in-depth review. Tell your staff that they are working every weekend for the next six or eight weeks, and let your clients know about your expanded hours. You are about to find out who among your staff can be depended on. Make that clear to them. Schedule a staff meeting every day to be sure everyone understands his role and knows about any special situations.

Plan it. Start by meeting clients that you know are less affected by the market's crash. Don't start with your most important clients. Spend time preparing for every client meeting and phone call by looking over the details of the client's portfolio and goals, and jot down the two or three main points that you must communicate to each client before each call or meeting. This will help prompt the appropriate response from clients and prospects.

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