The career of a financial advisor is full of challenges and opportunities. Dealing with those constant challenges and relentlessly chasing down those opportunities can be tiring, even on the best days, and can stop your business cold on the worst days. How do you navigate the highs and lows of your business and create a career that grows with you? How do you find and maximize those business-growing opportunities while handling the challenges (and crises!) with ease? It all starts with a business plan—and not just any business plan.
Some advisors just follow the tactical steps that their firm gives them. Other advisors have a plan that is simply too high-level to be practical. And some advisors are frankly wandering around without a clue but desperately know they need to get one fast if they are going to survive in today’s business climate. Regardless of where you are in your business (whether you’re just starting out or have some experience under your belt and are advancing to a higher level), creating a business plan is an investment of your time and effort now that will see a higher ROI in future months and years.
If you’ve never developed a plan before, start with a business plan for at least this coming year. Put some good habits in place. Once you are working a plan, then you can start thinking long-term. Build a plan for three to five years. Then 10 to 15 years. Yes, things will change (i.e. technology, social media, marketing methods, industry regulations, etc.) but a plan will help you navigate these inevitable changes.
1. Develop a vision: Start by dreaming about your future. Envision what the perfect career looks like to you. Create this vision in your mind and write it down on paper: The more detailed, the better. Really get in there and live it in your mind’s eye! Have a vision of yourself at your best and consider the qualities that will take you there.
2. Set goals: Next, identify what needs to be in place to achieve that vision. A strong network of clients and colleagues, for example, requires networking and constant relationship management. Create goals around those elements so that you have some specific things to work toward, and break those goals down so that your smaller, short-term goals will contribute to larger, long-term goals.
Remember to create “SMART” goals—Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound—to help keep your goals achievable rather than amorphous.
3. Create an action plan: Goals don’t achieve themselves! They take action from you. For every goal you set, create a list of actions you can take within the next year to achieve those short-term goals. Veteran advisors will want to also add actions that work toward their three- to five-year goals. Remember to keep your actions realistic so that you can get up every day and do them without wondering, “What should I do today to build my business?”
Although creating a business plan can go much deeper than this, smart financial advisors start by creating this easy-to-write, easy-to-follow vision/goals/action business plan that takes a lot of the guesswork out of their business and turns dreaming into doing.
4. Identify your Centers of Influence (COIs): Centers of Influence help you grow your business by connecting you to others. They act as “networking hubs” and referral sources. Identify the Centers of Influence in your business (often they include lawyers, attorneys and accountants, but don’t stop there).
Cultivate these COIs by constantly adding more COIs and deepening the relationship you have with existing ones. Consider how you can intentionally grow your business with them and don’t forget that you need to add reciprocal value to them as well.
5. Work with an accountability partner: With life stresses, work stresses and time management issues, it is easy to avoid, neglect or pass over necessary goals. Having an accountability partner will ensure a greater motivation to stay on track. What to look for in an accountability partner? A good listener who understands how to support and encourage you; someone able to provide a different perspective and to springboard ideas. Remember to be clear in what you are asking your accountability partner to hold you accountable for and when you want to have them follow up.
6. Now, work the plan: A plan is only useful if you put it into action. Don’t let it grow dusty on your shelf, but use your plan as a “daily operations checklist” to take the guesswork out of your day. Push yourself to implement the plan and stick to it—consistency leads to the best and fastest results. Schedule time to periodically review your plan so that it remains flexible to the changing business environment.
Start today with taking that first step and see yourself having a successful career doing something that inspires and excites you. As any elite athlete will tell you, they see themselves doing their routine perfectly over and over again in their mind before they do it. So see yourself making a successful call or doing a flawless presentation. You can then start to build a warehouse of successful experiences by seeing what you want.
Get excited about a limitless future and start with the here and now. The best year of your life won’t just happen by luck or when you have more time. It’s about living each day with a passion for your business and choosing what actions you’ll take to be a greater version of yourself.
Create an intention that this is the best year of your life and chart your path with clarity and focus. This intention is that you are the pilot of your own plane, and you can choose your destination. Remember you have the power to make it happen and get what you want.