5 Ways Financial Planners Can Avoid Making Early Mistakes
When starting a financial planning firm, advisors often fall into traps around:
- Who they work with;
- How they work;
- And the systems and processes they implement.
The five mistakes listed below provide examples for how these common traps play out, and offer solutions for how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Working with anyone who will pay you.
SOLUTION: Have a niche and trust your process, fees, and expertise, allowing you to say no when needed.
When you spend a lot of time building expertise for one or two clients outside your niche, you take time away from marketing to and serving those in your niche. While you may have time in the early days of your firm, these clients will likely become time-consuming distractions as you grow.
While you definitely need to close new business, carefully consider how each prospect fits into the goals you have for your firm. Will the time you spend serving a client outside your niche today limit your ability to acquire and serve more clients inside your niche in the future?
Mistake #2: Trying to accommodate client-specific requests early on for a process that will not scale as your firm grows.
SOLUTION: Set expectations and clearly articulate your process in advance.
Even clients that fit into your niche can ask for exceptions around your process. One example we see at AdvicePay is that sometimes advisors are hesitant to ask clients to create another log-in. Educating clients about the technology tools they’ll need to use as part of their relationship with you is one helpful way to properly set expectations.
Resist the urge to provide a workaround for clients who hesitate with technology. Instead, explain why and how you prioritize using the best tools for your clients, which will mean sometimes making changes. Help them to understand that the visibility and convenience they receive from your processes and tools are part of the benefit you provide. When you avoid one-off exceptions, you maximize the efficiency of the technology you use and reduce errors and oversights by minimizing manual processes that live outside your systems.
PRO TIP: Password Managers. Introducing clients to the benefits of password managers is another way to make the technology aspect less intimidating or overwhelming for them. One more login certainly won’t be their last, and a password manager can be a valuable tool to help increase their overall online security and organization.
Mistake #3: Thinking you’ll be able to remember every client interaction and quickly find any file.
SOLUTION: Document important client information and have a structure for saving and naming files.
When you first launch your firm, you probably don’t have employees or clients. This means you aren’t delegating tasks or sharing key information internally. Maybe with your first few clients, you feel you can successfully keep everything in your head or on a notepad. You might even feel too busy or overwhelmed to properly document things, but, as you grow, it becomes imperative that key information about your clients is clear and accessible for both yourself and future employees.
PRO TIP: Best Practices for Client Documentation. Take the time to implement these two steps to make a significant difference in your efficiency:
1. Keep notes in your Client Relationship Manager (CRM). Under each client’s record, document key information and track client interactions, including meeting notes.2. Be consistent with where you save things and how you title them. This makes finding relevant client documents much easier!
Mistake #4: Focusing on the wrong tasks and (falsely) feeling that you’re making significant progress.
SOLUTION: Plan your week in advance, setting aside time for the most important tasks first.
When starting a firm, you need to focus on acquiring clients and serving them well. Yes, your firm name, logo, website, and deliverables matter - but the key to success is bringing in clients you can profitably and successfully serve. Structure your week in advance so you block off time for the most important tasks first.
Next, add time for other important tasks that are susceptible to getting drawn out indefinitely. This might mean allowing yourself just three hours one week to improve your website, but no more.
Finally, set aside time for tasks that are easy to check off your list - and are often important - but could end up filling your entire week if you don’t plan ahead. This can include checking email, utilizing social media, or arranging your work environment.
Evaluate often: are you doing what you most need to do in order to be successful today? Some tasks might be very worthwhile, but only after you have clients. Spending weeks on a sleek template for your financial plans is important, but it’s not essential when you don’t even have clients!
Mistake #5: Selecting technology based on where you want your firm to be at its peak.
SOLUTION: Select technology you can afford and that can scale...at least for awhile.
Don’t pick the most expensive technology out there in anticipation of having 100+ clients and multiple employees down the road when today you are a solo shop with just a handful of clients. If you’re a member of a network, such as XY Planning Network, consider the options available to you for free or with significant discounts as part of your membership. AdvicePay is one of those options. In selecting your tools, it’s about finding the right balance between technology that will serve you and your clients well now, won’t require a costly or timely change too soon, but also isn’t too expensive for where your business is today.
How AdvicePay Can Help
AdvicePay is designed specifically for financial planners to be the secure, compliant, and efficient billing software you need when implementing the fee-for-service model in your business. It allows you to spend less time billing your clients so you can spend more time serving them. Various levels of subscription are available and affordable, whether you’re establishing a new practice or growing into a larger firm.
Curious? Explore AdvicePay for yourself. Sign up for an online demo >>
Posted by Lucy Robeson, CFP®
Lucy uses her leadership skills to guide the AdvicePay team, while implementing the company vision, mission, and long-term goals. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and has extensive experience in comprehensive financial planning, directing firm operations, and (unrelated) swimming with bull sharks while living in Fiji. Lucy is passionate about promoting the fee-for-service business model and helping financial planners understand how and why to adopt it into their businesses. When she’s not working, you can find Lucy on the tennis court, hiking in the mountains, and cheering on the Virginia Tech Hokies.