Organizing Principles for Disorganized 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,

With 2014 fast approaching, how do I deal with the people on my staff who are disorganized? I am inclined to have everyone set New Year’s resolutions for better time management. I have a couple of people who get three days’ worth of work done in one day, but most of the team gets little accomplished each day and keeps screaming for resources. Any ideas on how to get my employees to commit to being more productive?

Name Withheld

Dear Financial Advisor,

I’m not sure you can convince your employees that productivity is their idea, but I can help you with the problem overall. I am seeing this issue more and more lately. Many firms, especially larger ones, have cut back on anything that looks like support in favor of focusing on new revenue. But someone has to get the daily work done. In too many cases, it is falling on the shoulders of the advisors.

You may not want to hear it, but I would start by making sure you have the right infrastructure support. Some people can do more with less, but many people need a process and structure and someone to delegate to.

Aside from that, here are some time management tips I give my coaching clients that work very well:

  1. Have everyone establish their top three priorities for each day in writing before the day starts. If you want to oversee this process, have them send their lists to you or a central location where you can read them.
  2. Teach best practices around email use. If your system allows it, set up folders for incoming mail. Create a “Waiting for Response” folder for anything you are waiting on. Create a “Needs Response” folder for things you need to do. We are bombarded by emails, and having a method to organize can be helpful.
  3. Have a New Year’s meeting to discuss best practices throughout the firm. Get everyone in a room and talk about obstacles to success. What can your team control, and what can each employee influence? Work through this list as a team.

While you can’t tell people what they should think and do, you can create an environment that encourages best practices in efficient behavior. Good luck!

Dear Bev,

Our company is insisting on fee increases, and the clients are in revolt. We are having to make accommodations everywhere. What’s the point? Doesn’t anyone think of the client’s viewpoint with these new initiatives?

Name withheld

Dear Financial Advisor,

I am not sure how you are defining “anyone.” Your note did not include contact information, so I can’t address the leaders of your firm and give them a dressing down in my column!

That said, this issue is coming up a lot lately. I am hearing from a number of advisors that are in the same boat as you.

The fact is, often it isn’t the fee increase itself that’s the problem. It’s the way the increase is addressed and implemented that creates the revolt.

Clients should be thankful to do business with you and happy to pay more. But if you are going to implement a fee increase, you need to have a plan for communication. As a first step, review the history of fee increases. Many firms that are doing them now have not had a fee increase in many years. Do an analysis of past history and for each client so you are clear about the impact before you talk to clients.

Be sure you remind clients of the value they are paying. Show them – clearly – the competitive difference between your firm’s offerings and those of others. It’s important to re-sell and re-tell clients often. You take for granted that they know your firm’s value, but they don’t. You have to remind them.

Give clients advance notice of increases by reminding them how long it has been since the last increase and what good fortune they have in working with you.

Most advisors who take these steps find that clients barely register a fee increase and continue to be happy, long-term clients.

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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