When I was competing in bodybuilding, in order to become number one in the country I needed a coach. Similarly, I have found that when my business has grown the most, it has been during those periods in which I have had a mentor or coach. Today, I have a business coach that I use to help me build my business. Likewise, I serve as a business coach and mentor to many advisors in their retail practices.
What’s nice about being on both sides of this relationship is that I have been able to use all of my experience as a protégé to enhance my abilities as a mentor. The lessons I have learned in seeking to get the most from my own coach have allowed me to teach the advisors I work with precisely how to maximize the value I am able to bring to them as a coach. The fact is, the coach or protégé relationship involves work and commitment on both sides of the equation. Specifically, I would offer the following items as the essential “ABCs” of getting the most from a mentor or coach:
I have found that—as with most things in life—planning and preparation greatly increase the value of time spent with a mentor or coach. I interact with my mentor on a weekly basis, and I know that I get much more out of that weekly call when I am well prepared with a hit list in advance of that call. By the same token, I find that the advisors who get the most out of their regular calls with me come to those calls well prepared. They come with a list of questions or things they need to focus on right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an agenda for our conversations. A good coach should be proactive. But to expect the coach or mentor to have an agenda that is totally appropriate to your situation, when they don’t really know the specific struggles you are facing in your practice, is asking too much.
Virtually everyone has a smartphone, and smartphones have a notes section. When I come across something during the week that I want to talk about with my coach, I’ll put it into the notes section on my phone. It could be a little thing, or it could be something significant and strategic, but everything goes onto that list. This is important, because if I have a call with my coach scheduled for Wednesday, and something comes up on the previous Thursday, I guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will forget about it before the Wednesday call if I don’t write it down. In the course of a busy week, there is simply no way anyone could effectively capture all of the situations and issues that a mentor might potentially help you with without actively writing them down.
Focus on “The Big 4”
When financial advisors are working with mentors, there are four basic areas that should be addressed on a regular, ongoing basis. The “Big 4” are as follows:
1. Self-improvement – This is the foundation of everything. That includes goal setting (I’ll talk more about this in a bit) and maximizing productivity. It also involves increasing your knowledge level—which includes not only technical financial knowledge, but also knowledge that helps you become a better business owner and manager.
2. Marketing and Branding – It is frequently helpful in these calls to know your metrics and to be familiar with which programs are generating results and which are problematic. That will help your mentor offer guidance to either fix programs that aren’t working or swap them out in favor of an alternative approach.
3. Sales – Similarly, metrics are important here as well. Monitor your closing ratios with various programs so you can identify your successes and struggles. Here’s where using the notes section of your phone pays off. When you get done with a particularly tough appointment, and you’re simply not sure what you could have done better to turn this prospect into a client, jot down the key elements of the appointment. Again, I guarantee you won’t remember all the details a week later.
4. Practice Management – A lot of advisors will readily admit that they are excellent financial advisors and great salespeople, but they are lousy at running their own business. Things happen during the week from a practice management standpoint that may be frustrating. You handle the issue, but you’re not sure you handled it in the best way, and you could probably benefit from some feedback from your mentor. Again, get out your smartphone!
Having a coach or mentor is one of the keys to true success. Sure, you might be smart and tenacious enough to eventually figure things out on your own. But why take five years to achieve a breakthrough when a mentor can get you there in two? There are no points to be won by rugged individualism. If you don’t have a mentor, consider finding one. If you have one, make sure you’re doing all you can to wring the most value out of this important relationship by following these “ABCs.”