What are the most common obstacles we’ve seen successful advisors challenged with in 2013?

As another year-end rapidly approaches, we thought it would be a good time to recap what our team has learned from talking with many advisors in 2013. What we often find is that certain business practices frequently end up preventing good-intentioned advisors from moving forward and achieving the businesses they really want.

So many advisors we consult with tell us they truly want more of a lifestyle practice. Unfortunately, if they continue certain business practices simply out of habit, these routines may ultimately create roadblocks which can keep them from reaching their goals.

On that note, here are the Top 6 Most Common Roadblocks we’ve seen successful advisors facing in 2013…

The Top 6 Most Common Roadblocks Preventing Advisors From Reaching Their Goals

  1. Lack commitment to creating a high level plan
  2. Don’t have a handle on their big picture due to a lack of useful technology or other tools
  3. Don’t have documented processes
  4. Conduct a business model that no longer works for them
  5. Aren’t willing to give up control to competent staff or providers
  6. Have hired employees who may not be the right fit for what they’re doing
  1. Lack commitment to creating a high level plan
    Real change requires a commitment to creating a plan—and actually setting aside time to accomplish this task. In our ongoing conversations with successful (and therefore busy) advisors, we often find that they don’t commit a (relatively small in the scheme of things, but concentrated and effective) amount of time to design a high level plan. This makes it impossible for them to make big changes.

  2. Don’t have a handle on their big picture due to a lack of useful technology or other tools The firms we’ve consulted with whom have not effectively made the transition to the lifestyle practice they say they want are the firms that really don’t have a handle on their big picture. Advisors may not realize where all their assets are located, or have their arms around their business in regards to where their revenue is generated or which clients are unprofitable. It may also be very difficult, if not seemingly impossible, for them to run reports containing this information from their systems.

    Similarly, advisors may not be getting the most from their technology due to a lack of knowledge or time to more effectively learn or train on it—or, just as commonly, they may not have the technology in place that could better assist them with their reporting, CRM, billing, or other processes and needs.

  3. Don’t have documented processes
    Tied into #2, many advisors don’t have tightly documented processes, so not only is it incredibly hard for us to help them with a business analysis, at some point it is a given that they (will) have compliance issues if they don’t streamline and document today.

    If advisors have assets in many different places, or are using different investments for many clients, documentation for why this is the case must be in place. Firms need to document their selection (buying and selling) and ongoing research process—as well as their process for determining why one client is in a particular investment while others are not.

    On a related note, if an advisor’s goal is to run a highly efficient, scalable practice, it truly makes sense to create and implement a true, repeatable, documented investment philosophy and process. This goal can be easier achieved by utilizing model portfolios for at least a portion of clients.

  4. Conduct business in a way that no longer works for them
    Another common roadblock we see advisors facing is that they began doing things a certain way years back and continue doing them this way today…even though they recognize they are no longer good practice for their business. For example: When an advisor started working with clients several years ago, he/she began sending them quarterly reports and/or meeting with them each quarter. Fast forward to today: Although these routines don’t feel necessary now—or even beneficial—for the advisor (nor most of his/her clients), the advisor simply continues doing business in the same manner.

    Another illustration of this is that an advisor may have put a fee structure in place at the outset of a client relationship, and has never changed it. Even if his/her trading, administrative, investment management, or platform fees have increased over time, the advisor continues to absorb these higher costs—often times without his/her clients even realizing it.

    Finally, perhaps an advisor has wanted to transition certain clients or accounts from commission to fee business—or go entirely fee-only—yet year after year goes by and he or she isn’t able to make the time to create a plan to talk to clients about this and accomplish it. Therefore many clients still have a handful of accounts, each potentially managed or maintained in a different manner, resulting in multiple systems the advisor must oversee—and a business model that isn’t working for him or her.

  5. Aren’t willing to give up control to competent staff or providers
    Although they say (and intuitively recognize) that they have too much on their plates, when it comes down to it, many advisors are simply not willing or able to give up control or delegate to competent employees or outsourcing providers.

  6. Have hired employees who may not be the right fit for what they’re doing
    And finally, on a similar note, advisors may have hired current staff who they realize are not the right fit for the job they’re currently doing; however, unfortunately they continue to keep these employees on staff out of a sense of obligation or force of habit. We’ve frequently helped the advisors we consult with to develop a new job description or role to better suit certain staff, resulting in a more efficient, satisfied, and productive team.

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