Spring usually means renewal and growth - and for my financial planning practice, that is certainly the case.
This spring, we carved out time for our Planning Week, something we have determined is essential to the well-being of the advisors, support staff, and the practice overall. We take the time to do this several times a year because it's essential to building a meaningful and successful practice with PURPOSE.
What is Planning Week?
Planning Week is sacred time we all take to work ON the business instead of IN the business.
Planning Week is the key to automating the next four months in the practice.
Planning Week is when we bone up on skills we need to deliver on the promise.
Planning Week is when we, as a team, step back and assess our progress and our goals.
Planning Week is the first step toward running your practice on PURPOSE!
OK, I think you get the idea. Now, let me share with you some of the rules (structure) we have in our office around Planning Week.
#1 Rule- NO CLIENT MEETINGS!
#2 Rule- Put your business owner hat on.
#3 Rule- Everyone is in the office, this is not a vacation week.
#4 Rule- Be prepared for several epic team meetings.
#5 Rule- Don't forget to celebrate your WINS!
I asked my Practice Manager, Colleen, what process made the most impact on her role in the business. Her answer at the time was aligning all of our client meetings through out the year; meaning, all Financial Plan Reviews at the beginning of the year, Risk Management Reviews in the middle of the year and ending the year with Wealth Management Reviews.
By aligning all clients onto a practice level calendar, we were able to take advantage of economies of scale. We could spend more time developing a valuable agenda and deliver it over four months. We could roll out changes and improvements more systematically. Basically, we could be more prepared and do a better job for our clients.
Let's Talk Structure
Planning Week is actually just a tool to support a larger, over-arching Practice Calendar. The Practice Calendar lays out the entire year so that everyone on the team knows exactly what will be done and when.
If you want your staff to seemingly learn the art of reading your mind, you should institute a Practice Calendar.
Here are the steps to get you started:
1. Define comprehensive financial planning for YOUR Ideal Client (detailed list of tasks to be done annually)
2. Break that list up by themes: Wealth Management, Risk Management, Financial Planning etc.
3. Determine how many meetings your Ideal Clients will receive per year…2,3,4?
4. Break the year up into coordinating segments. Ex. 3 meetings = 4 month segments.
5. Create agendas based on the themes you developed in Step 2.
6. Deliver ONLY that agenda to existing clients during the segment.
7. Schedule a planning week PRIOR to the beginning of each segment.
OK, now that we have set up the Practice Calendar for the year, let's go about setting up a Planning Week calendar. For our example, let's imagine that we are working on a Wealth Management themed segment.
Here are somethings you are going to want to create to support your upcoming meeting cycle:
1. Develope the basic AGENDA for the Wealth Management Review.
2. Determine if you are going to add any FLAIR (new deliverables or ideas) such as ESG Investing, charitable giving strategies, etc.
3. Create client-facing template EMAILS:
a. It's time for your meeting!
b. Thanks for scheduling, here are the things to bring.
c. Fantastic seeing you, here is your homework.
4. Create a data-gathering WORKSHEET to support the meeting and provide a compliance trail of the work you have done.
Once you get going with Planning Week, you will find a hundred things to do during this period. However, if all you ever do is align your meetings into a Practice Calendar and create supporting documents, you will be WAY ahead of the curve compared to the average firm.
Your staff will love you, your clients will think you are an absolute pro and you will step off the treadmill once and for all!
Creating a Vision
If you are anything like me, you don't aspire to be a "manager." However, managing people is part of any successful advisor's life.
There in lies the conundrum…
My approach to virtually all problems is to ask myself, "How could I build this into the process so that it happens on auto-pilot?"
A key part of Planning Week is series of team meetings to create a vision of the next segment (four months) and to evaluate how we did in the last segment.
During the team meetings we start by looking at things from the practice level and work down. We answer the following questions about the next segment together:
1. What is our planning focus?
2. How will we improve the practice?
3. What are our production goals?
a. New Clients
b. Planning Fees
c. New Assets Under Management
d. Total New Revenue
Once we have a vision for the work we will do in the next segment as a practice, we drill down to the individual level. Every single person in the practice, advisor & staff alike, need to identify the following:
1. Professional goals or areas for improvement.
2. Personal goals or areas of improvement.
3. Rewards for doing the work to achieve those goals.
We don't just care about the PROFESSIONAL development of our people, we also care about how they want to grow PERSONALLY. By sharing both personal and professional goals as a team, we can all support and hold each other accountable to them.
Very often practices are set-up to support the goals and objectives of the founders/advisors, but not enough attention is paid to the breadth of the team. If you want to develop a loyal, fulfilled team, you have to care as much about their needs as your own.
When people become better people just by being part of your team, they will never want to leave!
Putting the Pieces Together
Thus far we have talked about what Planning Week is and why it is important. We have covered how to use Planning Week as tool to deliver on the promise of comprehensive financial planning. We have also discussed how to put your team management on auto-pilot by using team goal-setting and accountability.
Now let's put all the pieces together in a comprehensive Practice Calendar.
The goal is to end up with a comprehensive list/calendar of all of the components of your practice over the next four months.
Remember the length of a segment is determined by the number of meetings you deliver to your Ideal Clients each year. In my example 3 meetings = 4 month long segments.
As a team, work to determine how all of these items will fit into the next four months and who will be accountable for each item:
1. Client Communications
2. Client Events
3. Training (in-house and external)
4. Time-off and Travel
By putting all of these items on one comprehensive Practice Calendar, you can begin to see exactly how the next segment will flow.
Look at the calendar and assess:
Do we have any conflicts with travel?
Have we balanced the work and deliverables over the segment or are they all bunched up?
Do we need to work to fit more meetings in during open time to accommodate time away from the office?
Do we have the resources to successfully execute on these deliverables?
Advisors secretly don't want to be "in-charge" of everything, all the time. They want staff who can take the vision and run with it, but they don't do the work to make that possible.
Incorporating the Planning Week and Practice Calendar processes into your practice gives your staff the opportunity to "read your mind" and truly run the practice without your day-to-day input.
Isn't that every advisor's ultimate dream!?