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Practice Management

Advisers looking to make a big business breakthrough might be good candidates to sign up for a coaching program.

This Practice Management article is intended for financial advisors only (registered representatives of broker/dealers or associated persons of Registered Investment Advisors).

Financial advisers today want help. Many are feeling intense pressure on their fees and revenues as they see more competition from more types of advisers and advice channels than ever before. Meanwhile, clients still don’t know whom they should trust because of the deep economic and political uncertainty in recent years—leaving advisers casting about for effective positioning and messaging.

But while there’s no shortage of advice about how to build and grow a great practice—conferences, seminars, strategy sessions, business books, and, yes, columns in the financial media—there’s a general frustration among advisers about how to turn that advice into action that generates results.

That’s why some advisers who are looking to achieve big business breakthroughs are turning to coaching and training programs for help. The reason is that while traditional learning outlets such as conferences tend to focus on one or two discreet ideas based on theory, coaching takes a more holistic approach that focuses on how advisers can maximize their entire businesses using strategies and tactics. I should know: I run a coaching firm for advisers.

But let me be clear: I’m not trying to convince you to sign up for my coaching program or any program. Coaching is a great tool for some advisers, but certainly not all. Indeed, we’ll quickly say “no” to those advisers who aren’t the right fit for our programs and point them to a better option for their needs.

What I am asking you to do is examine your situation and goals so that you can determine whether or not coaching is the right move for you, and, if so, to find the right type of coaching program that will give you what you need.

What It Achieves

Coaching is designed to help you implement what you learn to achieve the desired results—similar to how a personal trainer might help you actually do that workout plan you read online. Coaching also can greatly enhance your effectiveness in the key activities that make the biggest differences in your practice.

The result of effective coaching is accelerated success. advisers who go through coaching programs should be able to accomplish in three years what would have taken five years on their own. In particular, a good program should help you achieve at least these four broad results:

  • Stronger revenue growth (at least 30%)
  • Deeper client loyalty
  • A stream of ideal new clients that you generate systematically, month in, month out
  • A stream of ideal new clients that you generate systematically, month in, month out; and more fun—coaching should help you enjoy a better quality of life by helping you be more efficient and effective in your professional efforts.

That’s a general overview. To truly see how coaching might support your success, you need to understand how it can affect your practice. The top advisers in our coaching program tend to see the most significant results in a few key areas:

  • Assets under management—Acquiring the right types of affluent clients and capturing additional assets from existing clients are two of the best ways to ramp up AUM.
  • Type and number of clients—By setting minimums, advisers often end up working not only with wealthier clients but also with fewer clients—even while managing more assets and earning higher incomes.
  • Client relationship management—advisers develop systems to ensure high-quality and consistent client service that affluent investors demand.
  • Advanced capabilities—Many advisers position themselves to address noninvestment concerns (such as wealth protection and wealth transfer) along with their traditional investment management role to meet the affluents’ diverse, complex financial needs.
  • Client-acquisition strategies—advisers learn to move away from mass-marketing strategies like advertising and direct mail to much more effective strategies, such as strategic alliances with other professionals and invitation-only private events.

When It Doesn’t Make Sense

As effective as coaching can be, it isn’t, however, right for all advisers. If you are highly satisfied with your business and your quality of life, you probably don’t need coaching.

But if you are unhappy with some or many aspects of your business or just think you can accomplish a lot more, coaching is worth considering. That said, simply being unsatisfied with your results isn’t enough to warrant coaching.

In our experience, the advisers who tend to get the biggest impact from coaching share one attribute: an entrepreneurial outlook. Many of these advisers actually think of themselves as entrepreneurs first, and as advisers second.

  • This outlook is important to successful coaching because entrepreneurial advisers think big.
  • They want to drastically enhance the client impact for current and future clients.
  • They want to nail the client experience and deliver a world-class experience.
  • They want to attract a steady stream of new clients from client introductions and from working with a group of top professionals.
  • They want to grow net income and equity value a lot by systematizing their business practices from top to bottom.

Part of thinking big is challenging yourself to completely redefine progress. Ideal coaching clients tend to have breakthrough goals, such as tripling assets under management, for example, or cutting the number of clients served by 75%. Such clients also put in the time and energy to make the changes necessary to reach their bold goals. They’re ready, willing, and able to move out of their comfort zones if it will mean big breakthroughs. For advisers with such lofty aspirations, coaching can be a huge help.

For those with relatively small goals looking to make incremental improvements in their businesses, coaching probably is not worth the time, commitment, and expense. Such advisers can probably get the results they want through traditional learning channels, and maybe by hiring a part-time consultant to give their goals a framework for success.

Entrepreneurial-minded advisers are ideal coaching candidates because they tend to be lifelong learners. They look at the world in fresh ways, and that curiosity motivates them to consider new ways of doing things. For such advisers, curiosity drives a search for better ways to serve their clients, for more effective ways to grow their businesses and for more efficient ways to manage their practices.

Finding a Program

The most effective programs are results-based, meaning that they share advice and strategies they believe will work best (ideally backed up by research and evidence). In short, they give you the information and the tools.

This differs from co-active coaching methods that focus mainly on helping you define and refine your vision for your ideal practice. But instead of offering proven strategies, co-active coaches attempt to tease out the best strategies from you—to find your own answers, essentially.

To find a program that is truly focused on helping you generate results in your practice, look for the following key attributes:

  • Proven industry-specific experience—The coaches should have proven track records of helping advisers achieve significantly higher levels of success and share their results freely.
  • Actionable strategies rooted in proven research and facts—The program should be based on best practices and processes that have been shown to be effective.
  • A screening process—Rather than automatically saying yes to every adviser who wants in, a program should evaluate candidates to determine if they fit with the approach and have the drive to reach for big goals.
  • Tool kits—Look for programs that provide a full set of turnkey tools (such as email templates, scripts for talking with clients and white papers with actionable strategies) that make it easy to implement specific tactics.
  • A bridge from knowing to doing—Making great business choices is like trying to lose weight: We know what to do, but we don’t always do it. Getting a tip sheet at a workshop usually isn’t enough to successfully implement big improvements just as an article on dieting isn’t enough to make you stick to your diet. A coaching program should offer support (check-in calls, peer reviews) that turn knowing into doing.
  • The right “feel”—Don’t underestimate your gut feeling. The optimal coaching relationship is the one that is right for you. Connecting with a coach or a coaching team emotionally is a big deal because you simply won’t work well with coaches if you don’t like them or they view the world in fundamentally different ways than you do.

—by John J. Bowen Jr.

John J. Bowen Jr. is the CEO of CEG Worldwide.

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