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SWOT Yourself! How I Saved Hours Every Day & You Can Too

fly swatter“Boss man, I just don’t have enough time to get everything done!” How often are you hearing this from your rock-star team? This time of year we should be feeling a sense of renewal and experiencing a fresh start! Often times, the opposite occurs as we are inundated with year-end reports, implementing new strategies and keeping up with daily business.

Embedded in my mind are the weekends as a youngster. Every Saturday, like clock-work, my mom and I had “chores” to do inside the beautiful farmhouse where I grew up. She always told me, “We have to finish our work first and then we get to go have fun.” Why that is stuck in my mind 30 years later, I have no idea. What I do know is she knew how to manage time.

We have all read hundreds of articles on time management tips, taken time management courses and received multitudes of advice. All of these workshops, articles and advice have provided me exceptional tools as well as vital components to effective time management. Time Management models will vary for each person on your team but the goal will be the same – Effective Time Management. I have found the best way to keep myself on track is through the development and use of a “model day” format where I create blocks of time from my job description.  I have taken my so-called short fallings from last year and incorporated time for interruptions, time for NO interruptions and time for unplanned urgencies. Start your new year with these simple steps, perform them yourself and then share with your team.

SWOT Yourself!  

Most of us have participated in SWOT analysis projects, but usually related to our overall business plan.  Have any of you or your team members performed a personal SWOT analysis? You can incorporate an individual SWOT analysis into your overall business plan; link them to personal team development, tracking goals and performance reviews. Once you have completed your analysis, incorporate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats into a list of tasks to complete with an action plan and make it happen!.  

Download Ironstone’s SWOT Analysis Template Here

Create Your Time Management Plan

Having a snapshot of how you intend to perform your day is essential to effective time management.  Time and time again I end up with “to-do” lists scattered everywhere, 10 post-it notes stuck on my desk serving the purpose of reminding me what needs to be done. Rather than giving me a sense of organization, I am bogged done with stress, anxiety and a sick feeling in my stomach caused by ineffective time management.

We have created a model day template to assist you to:

  • Manage time effectively
  • Improve organization skills
  • Boost time management skills

Ironstone’s template allows you to organize, track and monitor progress by providing 4 tabs within one worksheet.

  • My Model Day Your model day is your intended plan for completing job duties. Use this as a guide to manage your time each and every day.
  • Time ManagementUse the time management worksheet to gain understanding of how much time is spent on projects scheduled in your model day plan. You don’t need to do this on a daily basis; a periodic check will give you insight on how much time you are using wisely, wasting or necessary adjustments needed to improve time management.
  • Priority ItemsAt the end of each day, allow yourself time to organize and prioritize the most important tasks you want to accomplish the following day. This will allow you to start each day feeling energized, empowered and organized. Keep your priority items to 5 or 6 tasks depending on the amount of time you anticipate will be needed for each.
  • Other projects I like using the “other projects” worksheet to record my never ending list of things to be done. Having this worksheet incorporated into my time management plan allows me to keep my “to-do list” in one location and transfer projects easily to my priority worksheet as others are completed.

 Download the Ironstone Model Day Worksheet  HereTip- add a worksheet to the template with a monthly calendar.

Question: What challenges do you face in your office with time management?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.    

Additional Time Management Resources;

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:

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6 Tips To WOW Your Clients Through Client Surveys

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Client surveys are a critical component of your overall business plan and should be incorporated into your marketing plan as well. Your surveys measure satisfaction or dissatisfaction in alignment with services you offer to your clients. Client surveys should be designed to determine vital needs of your clients and build and deepen personal relationships. The results of your survey will aide your firm in building invaluable loyalty and prompt existing clients to provide qualified referrals.

Firms that incorporate client surveys within their overall business and marketing plan, will  position themselves ahead of their competitors. However, it doesn’t stop there – you must be prepared to process the information you receive from your surveys and take action in order to have an impact on your overall strategy and incorporate excitement among your clients.

Benefits Of Client Surveys

Client Retention: A well planned client survey allows your firm to gather client feedback which can greatly improve client retention rates.

Performance Opinions:  Clients are your best judge of your products, services and performance.  Utilize your client survey to determine where areas of improvement are needed.

New Trends/Innovative Ideas: Gain knowledge through your client survey by taking advantage of suggestions to improve products or introduce a new one.

6 Must Do’s With A Client Survey

Increase Your Bottom Line: The sale doesn’t stop when your client signs the paperwork. Unfortunately, many firms don’t have a solid client communication process in place. Part of your system should include a survey once a prospect becomes a client. Demonstrate the importance of your survey to your clients by communicating how the survey enables you to better serve them. Incorporate surveys into your new client process to aide in your client retention strategy.

Don’t Focus On Numbers: Create the stage and allow your clients to tell a story. A survey with number rankings will not produce the information you need to toot your horn or make changes. When clients can illustrate what you and your team did well, you will want to replicate the process to be certain it becomes routine.

Develop Meaningful Questions: Craft your survey to encourage open-ended feedback by incorporating open-ended questions. Yes and no answers will not provide you with the comprehensive information you need. Dig diligently to find the questions you want answered and integrate ways for clients to refer to specific examples.

Be Ready For Change: Avoid taking the time and effort of creating and distributing client surveys without the intention of making changes or improvements. Assimilate surveys into your marketing plan to leverage opportunities to stand ahead of your competition. If clients are asking for more information regarding certain topics or say they never read your newsletter, be certain to take the suggestions to heart. Assign someone in your office or a team of people dedicated to collaborate and brainstorm for ways to implement survey responses. Announce changes through email blasts, social media and newsletters. This will create excitement amongst your clients, especially the ones that made the suggestion.

Test Different Survey Methods: Most clients will complete a survey as long as they know it is confidential; they don’t want you to know who is making comments. Avoid putting your clients in an awkward position by offering different survey methods that are also easily accessible. Some options include using a third party, email surveys, website feedback, or a free survey site such as SurveyMonkey. Many firms have reported significantly better results through a simple phone conversation with clients. Test the water to find what fits best for your clients and provides you with valuable information.

WOW Your Client: If you use a survey method where you can identify the client, create added value by sending a handwritten thank you note or calling them to say thanks. How many times have you been thanked for completing a survey? Thanking your clients will show you genuinely care about their input and build stronger relationships. This will earn you a WOW factor!

In Conclusion

Consider client surveys an empowering and enlightening tool essential to your business and marketing plan and incorporate comments into your strategic SWOT analysis. Keep surveys brief, if they are too long, no one will return them. In addition to offering your survey at the beginning of your relationship with a new client, implement a recurring survey strategy to capitalize on new market trends and opportunities. You may want to take a leap and survey prospects as well. A well managed survey process will reveal a client focused culture.

Join the conversation! Let us know how your firm uses client survey’s!

Ironstone is available to help your firm develop productive client surveys.

Contact us for more information!

Ironstone’s Vision is to forge and guide the personal and professional lives of entrepreneurs and business professionals alike to realize their full potential. Coaching and consulting allows us the opportunity to form an environment where success happens and goals are reached.

Read more about our coaching and consulting program here >>

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Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started! 

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• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
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Do You Have A Bucket List For Your Firm?

Most of us have a bucket list created for our personal lives living in our thoughts or being utilized as a functional document.  A bucket list is the thoughts, dreams and goals that we want to achieve in our lifetime.  It serves as a roadmap to guide and lead us to reach each of those goals.

A bucket list outlines:

  • A list of your life goals
  • A reminder to focus and live by your personal values
  • How you will find joy by fulfilling your goals

Your business plan should serve as the bucket list for your firm.

Developing your initial business plan is essential in achieving the goals you have realized in your mind and will provide you with a written plan to follow, evaluate and revise.   Just as you achieve and make changes to your personal bucket list, you will do the same with your business plan.

A bucket list can change your life.  A business plan will improve results.

Ironstone’s research shows us that approximately 40% of financial advisors actually have a written business plan and even fewer have a marketing plan.  Those firms that implemented a completed business plan have 50% more profits and revenue than firms without a plan.

Your business plan will:

  • Provide you with a complete view of your firm and allow you to examine its viability
  • Show you potential areas for growth and success
  • Ensure that your entire team is committed to each goal
  • Communicate your vision and mission
  • Help you gain an understanding of opportunities and challenges facing your firm
  • Outline areas to create strategies and tactics to reach each goal

In our blog, “Creating A Roadmap For The Success Of Your Firm”  https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/business-plans-creating-a-roadmap-for-the-success-of-your-firm/ we provided 13 focus areas to include in your business plan.  Refer to the focus areas when developing or updating your business plan by incorporating each to gain optimal benefits.

A well thought out “bucket list” or business plan will lay a comprehensive strategy and timeline, both personally and firm wise, for achievement and promising stages of growth.  Download our Business Overview Snapshot to get started on creating your firm’s business plan.   Business Overview Snapshot

Have a Plan B

Be sure to create back-up plans.  We all know there is one constant in life, change.  Examine the challenges you might face and determine how you will overcome them by redefining your existing strategies.

Once you have developed your business plan, don’t file it away until the end of the year.  Use your business plan as a GPS guidance system for running your practice.  Update it often; real-time changes are ideal.  Doing so will ensure  you are following your plan, creating actions to meet your objectives and allow you to hone in on areas that need re-crafted strategies.

Communicate your business plan to your team in order to effectively bring it to life and track milestones to enhance your overall business focus.

As you begin to develop or review your business bucket list, contact Ironstone for templates, tips and best practices that will assist you in taking your firm to the next level.  We have numerous tools and aides available for you and insight that will help you reach the goals you have set for yourself and your firm.  Consider a team development workshop on creating bucket lists – we can help!

Last but not least, enjoy the journey!

We are curious!!  Share your bucket list with us!  What do you want to accomplish in life?

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Coming up next, learn about business development and your referral network!

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Using a Job Description as a Multifaceted Tool at Your Firm

Effectively developed employee job descriptions summarize the roles and responsibilities of each team member in your firm providing them with the foundation needed to reach desired goals and outcomes.

We outlined the components job descriptions should include in our blog, “Learn why Job Descriptions are Essential for Overall Effectiveness at Your Firm.” https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/learn-why-job-descriptions-are-essential-for-overall-effectiveness-at-your-firm/

Understanding each component and realizing their value will aide you in modifying and updating job descriptions by:

  • Establishing the role that each position plays in attaining overall firm goals
  • Determining how critical each job is
  • Deciding how positions in your firm interact with one another
  • Defining current employee roles and identifying the characteristics and skill base needed
  • Attracting qualified new candidates and aide in hiring
  • Evaluating performance accurately based on the expectations of the position

A job description needs to provide a positive impact fostering consistency and clarity for everyone involved.  Creating, reviewing and updating job descriptions should be included in your overall business strategy.

Using Job Descriptions as a Multifaceted Management Tool

Although job descriptions are utilized as a valuable hiring tool, a well-crafted job description should be used as a communication tool and a means to review other workplace functions such as:

  • Performance management:  Set measurable and attainable performance goals      based on the duties included in the job description.
  • Training and team development:  Review each job description      for areas that can be used in training and team development workshops.
  • Salary:Outline a compensation program that shows      minimums and maximums for each position in your firm.  Doing so will demonstrate growth      potential for your team member resulting in increased production, loyalty      and overall job satisfaction.    
  • Incentive Plans:  Use your job descriptions as      a baseline for salary;  include      incentives and rewards for employee’s performance levels that go above and      beyond.  
  • Discipline:  If an employee is not meeting      the requirements set forth in the job description, schedule a meeting to review      the requirements and focus on areas to aide them in      achieving goals effectively.

Flexibility is the key when it comes to creating and modifying job descriptions.  Consider creating broad-based descriptions utilizing attachments which delve into the specific tasks required of each employee.  A more generic job description is easier to maintain and won’t require a complete modification as minor changes that takes place.

How often do you use or refer to the job descriptions at your firm?  I’m curious?

Contact us for assistance in developing job descriptions that can be used as a multifaceted tool at your firm.

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  Strategic Planning-Business Plan

• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Connect with us:


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Success Systems For Your Firm

We are in our second cycle of blogging about Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™, and sincerely hope that you are gaining additional guidance and support for implementing best practices in your firm.

Ironstone focuses on 4 key fundamentals that we refer to as the Fundamental 4.

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

Each of the 4 key fundamentals have 8 sub-categories that you will use to begin creating your systems.  Visit our website to see each sub-category to start your system processes.  www.IronstoneHQ.com

In series one, “How To Increase Your Effectiveness,” https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/how-to-increase-your-effectiveness/   we reviewed how you can increase your effectiveness by using reports and tracking systems in your firm.  When you define your standard operating procedures and create multiple tracking and reporting systems the operational effectiveness of your firm is improved.

Clients and prospects come into direct contact with each of your systems.  To provide extraordinary service you must pave the path by implementing and updating each system.

How To Start

Start by developing the external and internal processes for each sub-category of the 4 key fundamentals.  Formally communicate these processes with clients and team members in order to achieve the mission and vision you have established for your firm.

 “Inch-By-Inch It’s A Cinch!”

For each process/system that you create, follow these steps:

Step 1:  Introduction

Your introduction should include the following components:

  • Title – name the process
  • Purpose – describe the intention/objective of the process
  • Scope – identify when and to whom the process applies
  • Roles – list the roles and functions of those involved in the process
  • References – include any reference documents that help form parts of this process.

Step 2:  Steps/Procedures

Begin writing a list of each step needed to perform the process.  Each set of procedures must be followed to accomplish a given task.

Step 3:  Mapping

Describe the event and the amount of time that is required for the process.  Describe the inputs, activities, sequences, and decision points within the process.  Use flowcharting to provide a visual aide to the process.  Within this step Ironstone has found that a checklist of each output will help to validate that the action is completed.

In the Mapping Step you should also include exit criteria.   Describe an output’s state (or condition) required before the process or procedure can be considered “complete”.

Step 4:  Metrics

For most processes that you create, you will want to ensure that the process is measured to determine its contribution to your firm.  Determine what key metrics you will monitor and compile data that will demonstrate the ROI from the process. Be sure to review any areas that should be improved.

Step 5:  Document Control

Create a chart that contains the history of any revisions made to your document.  In the chart, include the date, the revisions that were made with a brief description, and the person who made the revision.

Your systems and processes will provide consistency throughout your practice, and Ironstone can provide you with templates and checklists to help you get started as well as review your current processes to identify the gaps that are most commonly overlooked.  Contact us for assistance in creating proven and effective systems for your firm.
 
 
Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™! 

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  The Human Element-Leadership


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Business Plans -Creating A Roadmap For The Success Of Your Firm

The main objective of strategic planning in your firm is to create an uncomplicated plan that clearly defines the direction of your practice. A business plan embodies your set of business goals and how they can be attained. Overall, a business plan supports the business model and explains the steps to achieve the goals of that model. You will want to be as specific and detailed as possible in each area of your business plan.

The goal of your business plan should be to create a roadmap for the success of your firm.

Ironstone’s research has shown us that approximately 40% of financial advisors actually have a written Business Plan and even fewer have a marketing plan. Those firms that implemented a completed business plan have 50% more profits and revenue than firms without a plan.

Your business plan will help you:

• Evaluate your firm and your position relative to your competition
• Provide a laser like focus to your marketing efforts
• Support your infrastructure to provide for the needs of your firm
• Diagram a route for your success

Focus Areas To Include In Your Business Plan:

An executive summary – Include your unique value proposition, how you will obtain new business, client retention practices, and your competitive advantages.
Practice Overview – This snapshot of your practice includes how it’s organized, its essential purpose, and other formalities such as founding date, legal licensing, location, etc…
Situation Analysis – Interpret the state of the environment & describe your competitive position along with the operating & financial conditions of your firm. Use a SWOT analysis in order to define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Market Summary – Describe your niche markets.
Market Analysis – Stay abreast of new market strategies and understand the needs of your community. Research current trends and potential growth in your demographic area and industry to explain how you will improve your position in the market. Include statistical information showing your current position in the market share.
Market Needs/Service Offerings – describe what your firm provides to clients & prospects. Items to include are pricing, how you will meet the needs of your clients, advertising and client service.
Competition – Analyze your competition & how your processes outweigh your competition. Explain where you want to be in relation to your competition and how you plan to reach that goal
Keys To Success – Identify three or four areas that you will focus on for optimal success.
Critical Issues – Identify three or four goals or issues that your firm plans to achieve during the year. Develop a strategic plan of how you will obtain each objective
Marketing Strategy – Attach a copy of your marketing plan.
Marketing Objectives – List the objectives of your marketing plan.
Financial Objectives – List the financial objectives of your firm and include your sales and expense forecasts along with checkpoints that will gauge performance levels.
Exit Strategy – Outline your succession plan – timeline, person(s) to retain your practice.

Once you’ve developed your business plan, don’t file it away until the end of the year when you’re making the appointment to see your CPA.   Use your business plan as a GPS guidance system for running your practice. Update it often; real-time changes are ideal, quarterly at a minimum.  Communicate your business plan to your team in order to effectively bring it to life and track milestones to enhance your overall business focus.

As you begin to develop or review your business plan, contact Ironstone for tips and best practices that will assist you in taking your firm to the next level.  We have numerous tools and aides available for you and insight that will help you reach the goals you have set for yourself and your firm.
Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: Business Development – Referral Networks
• Email us at info@ironstonehq.com
• Call our office at 800-917-8020
• Follow us on twitter @ https://twitter.com/#!/AndreaSchlapia
• Join us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/IronstoneCommunications
• Connect with us on LinkedIn @ http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=29647364&trk=tab_pro


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Learn The Fundamentals Needed For Your Marketing Plan

Learn The Fundamentals Needed For Your Marketing Plan

Developing and executing your marketing plan are a part of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™ in Business Development.  The goal within Business Development is to create a clear strategy, a simple plan, and to carry out systematic execution that drives business building results. This includes creating networks, niche targets and uniqueness within the industry.  It is not enough to create the company’s core values, vision, mission, and common message as a team, but to have these elements become “living” themes within a practice.  Incorporating these key elements into the marketing materials, the client experience, and team communication is essential.

What are the first steps you need to take in creating a customized marketing plan for your firm?  In order to choose the best tactics and strategies, you need to be clear about your goals.

  • Expand your market
  • Bring in more clients
  • Client retention
  • Generate more prospects
  • Tap into a new niche market

Once you define your goals, you will have a solid foundation to plan your marketing efforts.  Knowing exactly who you plan to market your services to is a starting point for any marketing plan.  Ironstone  can help you zero in on your ideal client, where to find them, and assist you in defining their needs.

Building a winning marketing plan involves asking the right questions and starting with the end in mind.  Many firms make the mistake of starting with the budget rather than what they want to accomplish.  Start with your goals, then your strategies followed by the tactics you will use.

Keep in mind that too many goals will decrease your focus.  Choose three to five goals that you want to accomplish and rank them by priority.

Implementing Your Strategies

Now that you have set your goals (what you plan to achieve) you will want to identify the means of how you will achieve them.  Some broad strategies to consider:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Increasing Lead Generation
  • Enhancing Client Experience
  • Thought Leadership

Strategies should match up to your specific goals.  If the goal of your firm is retention, your strategy should be to enhance the client experience.  Alternatively, if the focus is brand awareness, you may entertain the possibility of re-branding.

Finally plan your tactics.  A tactic explains exactly how you will carry out each strategy.  Some tactics that you may want to consider adding to your marketing plan:

  • Blogging
  • Email Campaigns
  • Webinars
  • Social Networks
  • Seminars
  • Direct Mail

Ironstone will help you build a successful marketing plan, identify gaps in your marketing plan, collaborate with you, and execute a solution to help you get the results you are looking for.  We will work with you on creating detailed goals that go deeper than the surface.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your marketing plan.

We want to hear from you!  What are your best marketing ideas and what areas of assistance you need in developing a marketing plan to take your firm to the next level!  Share them here along with a link to your website!  We always love hearing from you!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!

  • Strategic Planning
  • Business Development
  • Operational Effectiveness
  • The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  Operational Effectiveness-Client Segmentation