Managing Old-School Advisors

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

We are using for tracking new prospects and existing clients. We rely on the data in the system and need everyone in our practice to use it. But one of our top advisors refuses to input data in the system. He is still putting some client notes into paper-based folders. He’s a senior guy who has an old-school work style. Some days he has his support person taking dictated notes. Other advisors think it is unfair and want the same support, which I can’t afford. He needs to behave like everyone else in the office. It bothers me that he thinks he can get away with this. How can I approach him to make him understand he can’t be singled out and treated differently?

Name withheld

Dear Financial Advisor,

If I had the answer to how to get everyone in a firm to adopt a client-relationship management (CRM) system and input what is expected of them, I would be a very wealthy person! This is one of the ongoing challenges I see firms – small and large – struggling to overcome. The data are important but you have to rely on staff to input it. The old “garbage in, garbage out” adage I learned in college years ago still applies.

Don’t give up the quest! There are a few options here. It sounds like this person is a top performer in your practice and may deserve some special treatment. While your other advisors are complaining about what’s unfair, the truth is that you can’t always treat everyone within a firm equally. I know I will take some flak for saying this, but it isn’t always “even” within firms. People who are performing above and beyond consistently deserve a little extra support to help them continue to succeed.

I usually recommend if you have a strong contributor and they simply will not put the necessary information into the system, get them a support person to do it for them. Some people are not wired for data and details. It is why top performing salespeople are rarely good at populating the system. They need to do it – they should do it – but they often don’t because it isn’t their strong suit. The perception can be they think themselves too good for it, but it’s more about aptitude and ability. And top producers often make a choice about what they will spend their time on and choose something clearly revenue-producing over something mundane.

Continue to tell this advisor how important the system is to the firm and continue to communicate how much you need him to participate and do what everyone else is doing. Make sure he is trained on the system and knows what, minimally, is expected of him. Make sure the support person is getting the information in there so you have it and can track it.

But, outside of that, unless you have some way to reward or “punish” him – i.e., by tying this to bonus or salary, you won’t see much difference from what you are seeing now!

You need the data and you are getting it, through his support person. Stay focused on that goal.

Dear Bev,

The CPAs we work with haven’t been referring to us. What can we do to light a fire under them and get them involved in our business?

Todd F, Massachusetts

Dear Todd,

How interested and motivated are you about their business? In my experience advisors look at CPAs, attorneys and other centers of influence (COIs) as a good source of business, but not as human beings with needs, opinions and desires.

The COIs you are dealing with are no different than any prospective investor who walks through your door. For example, do you know if they are motivated to refer business to you? Or maybe they just aren’t well educated about what you do, so they cannot be enthusiastic about it? Do they know exactly the type of client that you best serve? Do you know the types of clients they are working with or the issues they are struggling with in their businesses? Have you taken an active interest in understanding what they do, and how they do it on a day-to-day basis?

I have interviewed hundreds of COIs over the years, asking them why they do or do not work with an advisor and actively refer. Most of the time, they do not because the advisor hasn’t taken the time to establish a true relationship with them. They don’t have a window into the advisor’s business and the advisor doesn’t have one into theirs.

The COIs might even want to refer, but they may be unsure of how best to do it. For example, have you thought about a relationship agreement that you both could structure and sign? You could establish the rules of engagement together, how you will communicate, how referrals will take place, how you will update each other on progress with clients (within the limits of confidentiality or approval by the client, of course) and what you will do to keep active and informed of one another’s businesses.

If a CPA is unmotivated and doesn’t have an interest in growing his or her business, or in referring clients, there isn’t a lot you can do. But I encourage you to take some of these steps first before you assume lack of motivation and interest. Sometimes you have to show a person how something is possible before they are motivated to do it.

Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995; in 2008 she co-founded Advisors Trusted Advisor to offer dedicated practice management resources to advisors, planners and wealth managers. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate students Leadership & Social Responsibility. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).

She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal,, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.

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