The Elements Ironstone Blog

Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


Leave a comment

Leadership Audit Checklist-Leaders Leave Legacies-4 Areas To Audit Your Leadership Legacy

Leadership

Are You A Steve Jobs or George Washington Leader?

“Faith In America’s Future” is the foundation theme for this year’s inauguration day on January 21, 2013. As we look ahead to Inauguration Day, we will most likely reflect on the November election and envision what our future holds and study the leadership qualities breathing within the leaders of our country.

True leadership leaves a legacy. Now is the time to audit your leadership style and align it with the legacy you will bestow.  Leadership styles certainly vary as evident when comparing style and leadership qualities between admirable leaders such as George Washington, the first President of the United States, and Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. The two owned very different leadership styles, yet both left a legacy.

THE GEORGE WASHINGTON LEADER

George Washington

 “Although he lost most of his battles with the British, year after year he held his ragtag, hungry army together” – from the EDSITEment resource The American President.

What combination of qualities enabled George Washington to succeed as a leader and emerge as the most significant leader in the founding of the United States of America, to the extent of being called the “Father of the Country”? Resources tell us President Washington embodied experience and strategic thinking as well as being resourceful, quick witted, careful and both gentle and brutal. None of these qualities were cited as the most significant in the man who was able to lead through victory or defeat. Regarded as an indispensable man, his character was the most commonly cited quality, beyond his intelligence and ideas as he emerged to a supreme leader.

THE STEVE JOBS LEADER

Steve Jobs

Most every article you read recalls Steve Jobs broke every rule in leadership.

“He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work”, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera told Forbes.

Jobs’ magnetism was found in his passion, innovation and creativity. Although his leadership style was not adduced by character, it is easy to say that Steve Jobs impacted many lives.

LEADERSHIP TODAY

 Perhaps in today’s world, a combination of George Washington and Steve Jobs would prove to be the epitome of leadership. While expertise and background cling to being vital, it is crucial to develop leaders capable to deal with dubiety and change, to lead and cultivate innovation and creativity, and to make and implement decisions quickly.

#1:  THE VISION OF LEADERSHIP

 Beginning with the end in mind serves as a vital principal to follow in every area of business and personal life. The same holds true in leadership. Knowing where you want to be and what you want to accomplish provides you with a map depicting how you will get there creating viable results.

Leadership requires wrapping surrogate assumptions and paradigms as part of a larger vision that enlivens new representation and inspiring a team to move to a shared vision by building trust.

Avoid setting blanket goals but strive to set specific and measurable goals, which will create increased employee engagement and motivation. Provide employees with an effectual vision easy to understand and concise along with an emotional aspect each team member can embrace.

Inspiring a team to move forward to a shared vision requires building trust: believing a team of people can modify all the challenges that congest creating a future quite different from the present. When your team refers to your firms’ vision, you will equip them with the ability to affirm how their work directly contributes to the big picture of success.

#2:  THE PERILS OF LEADERSHIP

 Effective leadership can be analyzed by reaction to accidental events through effective risk management.  Notable skilled leaders learn from occurrences, employ amended practices and protect team morale.   Effective leaders focus attention on finding a workable solution regardless of the source. Key actions to hone attention towards a solution rather than the sources require leaders to:

· Ask the right questions

· Consult with team members or a focus group

· Embody candor, courage and empathy

Admirable leaders grasp compiled knowledge from their team to recognize applicable solutions. Additionally, effective leaders consult with a mix of people and resources to procure alternative perspectives in order to balance and manage risk.

Regardless of the situation, reacting cogently to change is necessary by uniting a harmonious culture through modeling placid behavior.

Worthy leaders embody candor, courage and empathy through decisions made in the best interest of the firm, team members, clients and their community.

“…You can’t control people through policies, procedures and policing. You can only do it through a strong risk management culture and absolute integrity in all leaders.”

Leadership on Trial, A Manifesto for Leadership Development

#3:  A BAND OF BROTHERS IN LEADERSHIP – Lessons From The Front Lines

Without followers, a leader is simply one person with a goal or an idea. Realization of relying on the support, knowledge and skills embodied in a team is vital to noble leadership.  Successful followers are not idle robots waiting for commands, they understand the vision of the firm and freely support leadership without reservation. The most compelling team members are those that possess the ability to lead and follow.

Followers have the ability to assess situations and respond accordingly without requiring incessant need for direction and supervision.

Followers shift to leaders at different intervals throughout any given day. Being a great follower is just as important as being a great leader to achieve success.

Many leaders and managers have difficulty in refraining from a micromanagement leadership method. Despite the known benefits of delegation and yielding team members authority in departmental decision making, many managers have difficulty in surrendering power. Leaders need teams to acquire triumph. Relying on team members provides:

· Increased ownership in outcomes

· Improves productivity

· Aids in prioritization

 An example of incredible teamwork is displayed during The Crucible in the United States Marine Corp. The Crucible emphasizes trainee teamwork under stress. Recruits get 8 hours of sleep during a 54 hour exercise and are allowed very little food while undergoing tough physical activities. It isn’t long before the band of brothers are tired and hungry, but as they continue going they come to the realization they can call on reserves they didn’t know they had. By day two of the ritual, recruits realize they have to rely on each other.  No one gets through the crucible alone. When leaders support followers, ideas mold into form and visions become reality.

#4:  LEADERSHIP DILIGENCE

 Through challenge, impressive leaders will find opportunity. Without opportunities, development and new obligations are impeded.  In Max Lucado’s book, Great Day Every Day, he shares wisdom each of us can apply:

“You ought to be glad for the troubles on your job because they provide about half your income. If it were not for the things that go wrong, the difficult people with whom you deal, and the problems of your working day, someone could be found to handle your job for half of what you are being paid.

So start looking for more troubles. Learn to handle them cheerfully and with good judgement, as opportunities rather than irritations, and you will find yourself getting ahead at a surprising rate. For there are plenty of big jobs waiting for people who are not afraid of troubles.”

Symbolic occasions make you a better leader whether they take place at work or in your personal life and no matter where they happen they are an important part of leadership development. Link the occasion to a gift of opportunity; step up and be or do something you have never done before.

IN CONCLUSION

Leadership is innately about people which helps us to understand why the most experienced technical expert may not make the best leader in a given environment.

Leaders display the behavior that is compensated. Firms should ensure that performance management systems do not reward individuals who manage only by exercising their authority.

 Leaders are much more obsequious and are people you learn from rather than take orders from. Audit your leadership attributes in the four key areas discussed. Download Ironstone’s Leadership Audit Checklist Here:   01.05.13 Ironstone Leadership Audit Checklist

“Good leaders create a vision, passionately articulate the vision, and relentlessly drive the vision to completion.”

Michael C. Hyatt/Publisher, Former Literary Agent & New York Times best selling author

  We are curious!

Do you have a leadership program or process in place at your firm? Tell us about it!

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

 

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


Leave a comment

Bird’s of a Feather, Flock Together…But… Your Target & Niche Markets Are Not The Same – Why You Need To Feed Them Differently

birds_in_nest

Is your marketing plan a hodgepodge organized mess of sending the same message to all clients and prospects in hopes that your communication may be applicable to a few people in your target market? Let’s get real this year –  place focus on your target and niche markets by identifying the differences and applying strategies to engage clients and prospects and increase client retention.

Embedded in my mind au courant are the many idioms my mom chanted in earlier years. “Bird’s of a feather, flock together”, was one of them. What I didn’t realize is this proverb has been in use since the 16th century. Fully aware of the connotation, “those with similar characteristics and interests will choose to spend time together”, we can now link the adage to successful marketing strategies.

Understand the contrast between target and niche markets:

  • A target market is the identified group of people your firm serves
  • A niche market is comprised of specialty services you offer to small groups within your target market

The Downfall of Generic Marketing

Most firms have a detailed marketing plan in place, but lack the implementation or a plan altogether for niche marketing. Your target market will not respond to generic marketing unless it specifically applies to them at a given moment. Much time, effort and cost is wasted on blindly marketing meaningless, non specific products and services. Therefore, the way you communicate with each group requires uniqueness.

Designing Your Niche Marketing Plan

A high percentage of firms have identified niche markets, but have not implemented a niche strategy; critical to success. A niche market needs to reach beyond targeting age and income. Effectively design your niche marketing plan by identifying a small segment of people who have specific needs and characteristics.  Create a clear and compelling message that speaks volumes to your niche.

Clients and prospects are seeking to find an advisor to meet their needs, challenges and problems. Create a mission statement specific to niche markets detailing the why and how you are relevant to them. If they don’t understand how you can meet their needs, there is no opportunity.

Benefits of Implementing a Niche Marketing Plan:

  • Create multiple streams of income
  • Reduce costs by utilizing meaningful and specialized marketing
  • Become identifiable
  • Increase referrals
  • Acquire expert status in a specific field

Gauge Your Judgment When Choosing Niche Markets, Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • How many people/businesses are in this niche market – will it nourish my firm?
  • Do I have easy access to this group of people or the ability to gain introductions?
  • Does this niche market need my services? Do I offer specific solutions to meet their needs?
  • Do I understand the needs of this niche?
  • Will I enjoy working with this group of people?

In Conclusion

Advisors can differentiate themselves by identifying niche markets and implementing solid strategies to market to them. Complete an autopsy of your target market; dissect the market into small pieces and create strategies to meet their needs. You will send a distinctive message to your audience and your competitors.

We are curious!  What niche markets has your firm identified and do you market to them differently?

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

 

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


Leave a comment

STOP ROLLING THE DICE! 2013 Resolution: Focus on what NOT to do…

yes_no_maybe_red_dice_small

It’s hip to focus on getting things done; check marking and scratching things off the proverbial “To Do” list.  Often times, the biggest challenge is deciding which task to tackle first.  Even more often, we find ourselves either accomplishing nothing or only a little bit of everything.  As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results; so why not try something different this year.  If you have trouble deciding what to do, try focusing on what not to do.  This list of 10 things not to do can help you get closer to successfully attaining your goals.

DO NOT get caught up in resolution overload-
Don’t try to change all of your unhealthy habits at the same time. Try to replace one unhealthy habit with a healthy one before moving onto the next. Set small, measurable and attainable goals that will yield feedback and results within a few weeks. Break goals down into daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly milestones.  Don’t expect them to take the full year to materialize.

DO NOT be owned by possessions-
Go through a “de-cluttering”. You may find that so much of your previous brain activity was run by stress, commitments and money that was put into vehicles, vices, up- grades and space to keep stuff working or just maintained.  Once you look critically at what you truly need, no longer will you need to tolerate all of these additional vacuums for your thoughts and moods.

DO NOT check e-mail constantly-
E-mails can certainly be an important and valuable tool, but the sad fact is people let their inbox rule their day. Set time aside daily where you respond to e-mails, typically later in the day. Earlier in the day you will want to do things that will move your business and daily goals forward. When you are answering e-mails, you’re in the reactive mode – you’re responding to other people’s needs.  Typically, when you respond to an e-mail it only needs to be a few short sentences. If you realize it will take longer, usually a quick phone call will handle it better than an e-mail. Most e-mails can wait 48 to 72 hours for a response. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  The former scrambles your priorities and plans for the day, and the latter just gives you insomnia. E-mail can wait until 10am; after you’ve completed at least one of your critical to-do items.

DO NOT promise to multi-task-
The truth is, there is great power in Single Tasking. If you multi-task, you tend to switch gears between what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t – the important vs. the useless tasks. Every time you shift gears to work on something else, you are not giving your priorities your full attention. It is very important to absorb yourself in one thing at a time; give it your fullest attention and complete it before moving on.

DO NOT carry your cell phone 24/7-
Take a break from daily digital leashes at least one day per week. Turn them off or, better still, leave them in the garage or in the car. Choose one day a week to leave your cell phone turned off and consider leaving it at home if you go out for dinner.

DO NOT let work become your life-
Work cannot fill the void of non-work relationships and activities. Your co-workers shouldn’t be your only friends. Schedule life and defend it just as you would an important business meeting. Never tell yourself, “I’ll just get it done this weekend”.  Parkinson’s Law states, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion” – if you give yourself a week to complete a two hour task,  (psychologically speaking) the task will increase in complexity and become more daunting so as to fill the entire week.  It may not fill the extra time with more work, but just stress and tension about having to get it done. By assigning the right amount of time to a task, we preserve time; which in turn will reduce the complexity of tasks to their natural state.

DO NOT work more to fix overwhelm-
If you don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important. If you define the single most important task for each day, almost nothing seems urgent or important. The answer to overwhelm is not spinning more plates — or doing more — it’s prioritizing and defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your business and life.

DO NOT allow yourself to work while hungry-
You will be less efficient; you will bring a negative energy to the things you do; you will become agitated and ineffective.  The key is to eat small meals with a balance of protein, healthy fats and high fiber every two to three hours.  These meals should sustain you until the next meal. This kind of eating strategy will help you feel good, give you energy and will keep you focused.

DO NOT focus on “lack”-
You are who you are and you have what you have, RIGHT NOW!  Hold on to this strongly and focus on it.  Remember that like begets like and so lack begets lack.  The energy you spend on what you don’t have can more effectively be spent on finding ways of getting what you want.  It is important to find POSITIVE thoughts/things/actions that inspire and help you move forward.

… and last but not least…

DO NOT stop making fun of yourself-
People who take themselves too seriously miss out on a whole lot of fun.

The preliminary step of prioritizing tasks is much easier once we remove the constant static and distractions that keep us from succeeding.  The important and attainable goals will reveal themselves by this process of eliminating your clutter-generating habits.  Once you have clarity on the tasks at hand, you can start setting goals that are not only SMART, but SMARTER…

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timeframe, Evaluate, Reward

Question?  What resolutions have you made either personally or in your business life and

 how did you keep them or did you fall into the resolution trap?

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 >>

 Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

 

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


Leave a comment

6 Tips To WOW Your Clients Through Client Surveys

take_the_survey-300x194

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

  

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


Leave a comment

Great Apps to Keep You and Your Clients Organized and Stress-Free in 2013

get-organized

“If you’re appropriately engaged with your life, you don’t need more time.

If you’re not, more time won’t help.” –David Allen

 (Named as one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders” by Leadership Magazine)

 It’s almost year end with reports due, performance reviews, client surveys and organization seems to disappear with chaos in its place.

Use some of the apps listed below to provide structure, create order out of chaos and reduce daily stress in your office and personal life. Share these tips with your team, your clients, friends and family. They will thank you for it!

My overall favorite organizational app is Get it Done. David Allen, productivity consultant, introduced the Getting Things Done (GTD) method in his 2002 book Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The Get it Done app focuses on the creation of a workflow process, tracking, storing and monitoring of tasks. This ranks as my favorite app but comes at a small price, $39/year. Considering the time I save and the relief of not worrying about things falling through the cracks, it is well worth the money. Get It Done is a task manager for your web browser and your smart phone. Tasks are always in sync.

 Here are some other favorites used by advisors – don’t forget to share with

 your clients, your team and your family!

Calendars

ical

For calendars, I use iCal with iCloud. It works great because it will sync to all of my devices and I can share calendars with other iCloud users. Create an office calendar the entire team can access. If someone adds or edits the calendar, it will sync to all devices. Ical also allows notification of upcoming events either on screen, by e-mail or SMS.

Google Calendar

For Google lovers, this calendar allows you the ability to track business and personal events in one place. The added bonus – you can share calendars with family or co-workers and access calendars from your mobile device with its built-in calendar or mobile browser. You can also set up reminders via email or have text messages sent right to your mobile phone. Google Apps for Business is available for $50/user/per year.

To-Do Lists

Cozi

I like the free Cozi app for iphone, ipad, and Android. It keeps everyone on the same page by allowing you to add recurring activities, appointments and events to a calendar that can be used by your family or the team at your office. You can also send messages to your spouse, kids or co-workers and make and share shopping lists. Cozi has a calendar that will support automatic syncs with Microsoft Outlook. Mac users will need to have Mobile Me to sync iCal and Cozi. I love the calendar feature which offers monthly and three-day views.

Workflowy

Workflowy is a free organizational tool organizing office and personal to-dos. You also have the ability to collaborate on team projects, take notes, write research papers or keep a journal. Workflowy is available for all of your mobile devices.

Remember The Milk

This is a simple (and free) “to-do” list and available on your iphone. You can add, manage and set due dates for your tasks as well as incorporate the map feature to locate where your tasks will take place.(ex: gas station)

Astrid

This is a great app for a beginner “to-doer” or for someone who just likes to keep things simple. This free web app comes with pre-set lists that are easy to click on and fill out. Manage your list online via the app and automatically sync between your desktop and mobile devices. Astrid will also automatically sync with Google Tasks and calendars such as iCal. You can also share or assign tasks.

reQall

reQall is one of the favorites among advisors and myself. This app makes a to-do list easy by telling your smartphone what you want to remember.  I love this!! You can also e-mail, text, IM or call reQall with information. Each morning you will have a summary alerting you of what lies ahead in the day. It gets even better, if you let reQall know where you need to pick something up, it will remind you when you drive by! reQall also offers integration with your calendar via iCal and aggregates important data from various web services you are already using. There is a free version and a pro version available for purchase.  Check this one out, there’s so much more!

Brainstorming Tools

MindMeister.com

Advisors like this free web-based collaborative mind mapping app for collaborating and project management. Teams can brainstorm, discuss ideas (timelines, designs, marketing, etc) type them in the app and MindMeister will turn the idea into a visual map. Teams can share and start thinking sessions easily by inviting users via email or sending a unique and secure direct link. Color-coded effects will highlight changes by other users and the integrated live chat will let you exchange thoughts with peers directly. MindMeister is also available for mobile devices  iphone, ipad and Android.

The Brain

Another free popular app for team collaboration is The Brain. With this app, write notes, save files, web pages, images and emails for instant access on your desktop, web browser or mobile device. It is easy to find a file in seconds and gives you the big picture by bringing your ideas and information together. The Brain also uses visualization to discover information that may normally be overlooked. Keep your data local and have a backup online for remote access and sharing with other team members.

Capture Tools

Evernote/Evernote Business

Evernote seems to be the most popular choice of the advisors we researched. Evernote is a free app that works with nearly every computer, phone and mobile device. It allows you to keep track of nearly everything; from what you find interesting, research for your next vacation and store all of your favorite websites. Search capabilities are easy through your library or groups of items related to a particular topic. You can even take pictures of your written to-do list and locate it through search and tags. Evernote will keep you from ever purchasing a notebook again…with Evernote, you have a notebook for everything you need!

While I’ve utilized Evernote for personal use, Evernote Business is now available. The business version is $10 per user, per month. Users of Evernote Business can discover and share ideas and research within a team to create an effortlessly productive workplace.

Streamline Your News

Zite and Pulse

These free apps help you find news feeds, blogs, newspaper articles and sites that interest you. Who has time to scroll through facebook, twitter and multiple web sites throughout the day? With these apps the news is delivered to you.

Presentations

Documents To Go

Financial advisors find this app handy to edit word, excel or other presentation documents while on the road. This a free app with a premium version available which will sync files stored in Dropbox or other cloud-based document storage services. To edit documents, you will need to purchase Docs To Go Full Version for around $30.00.

Storage

Dropbox

This application is a free service that lets you store your photos, documents and videos anywhere and share them easily. If you have files living all over the place – your office computer, home and your laptop, download Dropbox now to sync all of these files! With Dropbox you will avoid having to ever email yourself or team member another document!  The application makes it easy for advisors to view files on a smartphone, iPad, PC or Mac. Dropbox allows you to share documents with someone who does not use Dropbox via a link. I love the idea of never having to send another email with a document attached! The application is password protected and free with 2GB of storage. You can upgrade (with a fee) to 100GB of storage for heavy users.

Conference/Video Calls

Freeconferencecall.com 

Need to meet with a long-distance client, attend a meeting while out of the office or bring virtual employees together? Free Conference Call is exactly what you need. Free conference calls are simple and easy to use, requiring only a name and an e-mail address to open an account. Once you enter your name and e-mail address, you will be instantaneously provided with a dial-in number and access code for immediate phone conferencing. Your teleconferencing line is available to you 24/7 and there is no need to schedule or make reservations.

Free Conference Call is just like its name….free! Screen sharing for online meetings is available for $19.95 a month, up to 50 participants with instant online meetings.

Skype

Simple Skype! I use this religiously almost every week. With two users you can access screen sharing. It’s hard to beat a free communications network.   Enough said.

Fuze Box

This one comes with a price at $69 a month with a discount if you purchase an annual subscription. This solution will allow you to meet with long-distance clients and employees plus add presentations, word or PDF documents, movies and images. It is free for ipad and Android devices.

Money Management

Pageonce

If you’re looking for a true mobile wallet, Pageonce securely stores all your cards, reminds you when to pay bills and supports bill payments for $0.30 per transaction. If money management stresses you out, Pageonce makes it much easier.

Nest Egg Estimator

Nest Egg Estimator has been rated as one of the Top-10 Financial Planning must have apps! This app will project finances and allows you to try different scenarios for financial planning, retirement planning and more.

Conclusion

Take control of your time and your life. The skills you apply will ensure you are productive and accomplish your goals. The applications will aide you in prioritizing and organizing daily demands. Choose the applications that work best for you and fit your lifestyle and your firm.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Let us know what apps you use in your firm!

Which ones work the best and which ones aren’t all that?

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

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


Leave a comment

Building Your Ark– How To Ensure Your Strategic Planning Meeting Stays Afloat

Noahs-Ark-Cartoon-600x450

While we know that Noah’s Ark wasn’t built in day, we are told Noah had 120 years to plan and strategize before the “flood” to construct an ark. It would be nice to have 120 years to build our strategic plan and to know what obstacles and challenges we will face, but we know the reality of the ever evolving financial world.

I know many financial advisors hold bi-annual or annual strategic planning sessions and year after year follow the same boring format without a true understanding of what strategic planning should be.

As many of you are reviewing year end reports and developing strategies for the new year, implement effective strategic planning sessions throughout the year to achieve the goals you envision for years ahead.

While I believe it is a healthy practice to schedule group strategic sessions, I do believe that firms are failing to carry out the strategies and tactical implementation processes discussed during these meetings. Strategic planning should be evaluated throughout the year by measuring results to identify successes, uncovering gaps in a plan and hunting for improvement opportunities on a regular schedule.

What Is Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning should strive to answer fundamental questions:

  • Where do we want to be one year from now, five years from now, ten years from now?
  • Who is our ideal client?
  • What are our major goals?
  • What is our vision?
  • What is our mission?

Your strategic planning meeting will entail forward thinking to visualize where you see your firm in the future. Review and create modifications to your vision statement in alignment with the goals of your firm five or ten years from today.

Creativity and brainstorming are essential to the quality and outcome of your meeting. Each team member should feel free to share new ideas without criticism but through inspiration. A true leader will inspire and enlighten team members to engage in discussion while feeling a sense of contribution to the overall success of the firm. When your team truly believes in the vision of the firm and contributes valuable ideas that are recognized, you will increase employee engagement, productivity and cultivate a positive culture in your firm.

Incorporate Tactical Plans Into Daily Operations

Once the strategic planning session has ended, dissect your plan by incorporating sub-headings or smaller tactical plans into your daily operations by:

  • Assign specific actions to team members
  • Create or update SOPs
  • Design a time-line or flow-chart for each strategy including specific tactical steps to ensure the goal is measurable and attainable
  • Schedule mini-meetings to measure results of a specific task
  • Share progress and results with the entire team through weekly meetings or by creating a visual blueprint in your conference room

Reviewing Your Strategic Plan

By incorporating your strategic plan into your daily operations, you will have accomplished a major milestone that many firms fall short. However, to be effective and achieve results, your strategic plan needs a time-line or flow-chart of its own. Group collaboration will be effective once or twice a year, but only if the strategic plan is tested and measured year round. Review key fundamentals in your strategic plan by:

  • Assign team members to each key issue in your strategy plan
  • Create time-lines and flow-charts for each fundamental, including review, research and testing times, success measurement and gap identification
  • Apply problem-solving techniques and offer pliable solutions
  • Identify new trends
  • Prepare detailed reports reflecting your findings

When team members become involved in the fundamental goals of the firm, productivity, engagement, employee retention, accountability and professionalism increase. Often, the team is excluded from strategic planning year round, leaving them with an overwhelmed and confused feeling after a long strategic session. Team involvement to reach vital goals year round will result in highly efficient and successful strategic planning sessions.

Following the guidelines above will ensure your “ark” is able to withstand the flood rather than sink.

Read more about Staff Meetings:

Just Another Meeting or A Meeting Of The Minds?

When Was The Last Time You Attended A Productive Meeting?

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

Share your strategic planning session successes or disasters!

 

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


Leave a comment

6 Ways To Expose Your Differences Through A Capabilities Proposal

Dare_to_be_different_by_digitalgod1

Are you using your capabilities presentation to its full capability?

Providing solutions and differentiation to clients and prospects are vital components of your firm’s capabilities presentation and should be a fundamental element in your business development strategy for 2013.

Your capabilities proposal should target your niche markets concentrating on challenges and obstacles they are facing in today’s economy and the solutions you offer. You will also want to include the benefits of working with your firm along with a call to action.

In our blog, A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In Selling Your Firm, Learn How to Create Your Story & What To Include, we reviewed how to create your story and what to include in your presentation. Now that you have created your story, is it in alignment with your firm goals and strategically placed to educate existing clients and attract new ones? Advisors should focus on the following 6 ways to expose differentiation from competitors and to increase client acquisition.

Implement your capabilities presentation through:

• Print marketing materials
• Networking and one-on-one interaction
• Build a strategic alliance program
• Increase online and social media presence
• Develop connections through media
• Provide education to organizations and businesses

Your goal is to spawn new connections, referrals, introductions and contacts by earning trust and sharing your expertise consistently through all marketing and new business development opportunities.

Print marketing materials
Include your capabilities proposal in your core marketing pieces. This may include a marketing brochure given to prospective clients, a 1st appointment brochure or a single brochure dedicated to your firm’s capabilities proposal. Fact sheets are another resource to include in your marketing strategy. Typically a fact sheet is one piece of paper, highlighting services your firm offers or your investment strategy.

Networking and one-on-one interaction
Get out of the office and play a bit. Become involved in community events to interact with COIs, community officers and key board members. When networking and interacting one-on-one, YOU are your capabilities presentation. Before anyone becomes a client, trust needs to be earned. Make certain you don’t become impatient waiting for relationships to evolve. Trust and the relationship sell, not the service or products.

Build a strategic alliance program
Work closely with a select group of partners such as CPAs, Attorney’s and Estate Planners. Lay the foundation by identifying specific goals. Educate your alliances about your firm and provide them with resources and small displays including firm brochures, white paper studies, articles and links to your online presence making it simple to refer clients to you.

Increase online and social media presence
Most firms fall short in recognizing the potential of expanding their capabilities presentation to an online presence. Be certain to include your story on your website along with PDF files that can be downloaded of your firm brochures including links to blogs, market research or other feature articles important to your target market. Statistics provided by HubSpot, reveal that 78% of Internet users conduct product research online. That means your website stands a good chance of being a prospect’s “first impression”. That also means your new business card isn’t a business card—it’s Google.

Develop connections through media
Build a list of local media connections and identify which reporters and editors specialize in industry news. Establish yourself as a local expert by providing proactive information through articles, reports, press releases and interviews with an emphasis on solutions you provide to the needs of your market.
Provide education to organizations and businesses
Offer workshops, seminars or panel discussions to charitable organizations and businesses within your target. Groups are always looking for industry experts to provide interesting and pertinent information.

Strengthen your presence through these initiatives by providing strategic financial information as a solution to your target market needs. Providing consistency throughout each interface will reinforce your capabilities proposal and put your firm in position for growth.

Read more about Capabilities Presentations:

Mistakes In Your Capabilities Presentation-Avoid These
A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In Selling Your Firm, Learn How to Create Your Story & What To Include

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance
Contact Ironstone with your questions & let’s get started!

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

How do you promote your capabilities presentation? Share your ideas!

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


Leave a comment

Stop Confusion With SOPs-Create Your SOP Manual In Simple Steps

What if one of your key employees didn’t return to work tomorrow? Would someone in your office be able to step in and perform their job seamlessly? Probably not, unless your office has SOPs in place, otherwise known as Standard Operating Procedures.

In the aftermath of the natural disasters occurring recently and the inevitable reality of your employees not living forever, it is critical for your office to create SOPs. SOPs are a management tool to streamline your business. They are a living document available to all staff and describe detailed instructions on specific work processes. Your SOP should include:

  • Who will carry out a specific task
  • What supplies and resources are needed
  • Where the task will take place
  • When the task must be performed
  • How to complete the task

SOPs form the foundation of an organization and should be written to achieve specific results. The purpose of SOPs is to support employees in the daily operations of the business, ensure clarity and make certain employees know policies and standard methods for accomplishing specific tasks. They provide written documentation of best practices and a foundation for:

  • Job descriptions
  • New hire and employee training
  • Benchmarks and tracking to measure productivity
  • Performance evaluations

With SOPs in place, management can feel confident that daily operations will run impeccably.

How to Write SOPs

Writing SOPs isn’t as hard as you may think. It sounds like an overwhelming process, but the payoff is critical to your firm’s operation. Use the three simple steps below to get started.

  • Identify who will manage the project. This person will be in charge of coordinating, tracking results, implementation and completion of the SOP manual.
  • Determine who will be involved in the process. Typically it is easiest to have each employee list every task they perform on a daily basis from start to finish. I have found it to be a manageable process by starting with daily tasks, then moving to weekly, monthly, quarterly and finally annual.
  • Finally, employees should take one task at a time and document what they do to complete the task. Download Ironstone’s SOP Template to get started!    Ironstone SOP Template

Tipping Points

  • Test each SOP prior to implementation
  • Identify training or qualification requirements to complete the task
  • Identify resource materials needed
  • Schedule bi-annual or annual reviews of the SOP to identify any updates, gaps or changes
  • Consider onsite and offsite storage of your SOP manual
  • Define terminology that may not be familiar to all employees
  • Upon completion, use a three-ring binder with sheet protectors to house your manual and include a table of contents

SOPs will provide clarity for your entire team and will allow employees to readily take over any specific task whether it be during vacation times or filling a vacancy within the firm.

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

 

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


Leave a comment

The “Bully” Cost To Your Bottom Line

I overheard the following between an Office Manager and an employee, “You have ruined my summer by being pregnant.” Yes, it is true! You can image how the employee felt after hearing that not to mention the rest of the staff walking on egg-shells. Not only was the statement bullying it was discrimination.

You may believe you would never tolerate or allow such behavior to occur in your office or would take immediate action to remove such a person from their position and duties; however there is a general lack of awareness of the behaviors bullying encompasses. This gap makes it difficult to detect along with the fact bullying is typically hidden from the “Chief”, therefore, you may not be aware it is happening at all.

What is bullying?

  • Intimidating or humiliating insults and criticism
  • Gossip and rumors
  • Being ignored, undermined or excluded
  • Behaviors or language that frightens or degrades

Bullying can come in many forms; verbal, emails, written messages, body language, formal documents, text messages etc. Bullying can also take place through office operations. As a manager, if you are assigning duties above or below an employee’s ability, changing to cause chaos and inconvenience, not providing proper resources to complete a job, you are bullying.

A study by the Workplace Bullying Institute,  revealed 35% of workers in the United States have been bullied at the office. The percentage inflates to 50% when witnesses are included. With a tight job market many who are bullied put up with it, but at a cost to both them and the employer.

Reasons We Allow Bullying

Without a solid case, it is hard to convince the head honcho that his Office Manager is a bully. Often, denial is the cause.  If you are being bullied, document everything and go straight to the decision maker.  It is hard to believe that a business owner would justify or allow workplace bullying but perhaps after reading this article, they will see the light. There still are those that can’t let go of the bully through justification:

  • That’s just how they are, they didn’t mean any harm
  • He/She is under so much stress
  • I can’t run this office without them

Promoting a productive, socially responsible and healthy work environment should be standard procedure. Oftentimes business owners and managers don’t put the pieces together until it is too late.

The bully cost to your bottom line

Putting an end to office bullying is of vital importance to minimize costs, maintain efficient office operation, office culture and employee retention. It can cost a company thousands of dollars to replace a new employee or employees who left because of bullying. The bully cost to your bottom line is:

  • Decreased job performance and productivity
  • Increased sick leave
  • Loss of key staff
  • Possible court costs
  • Loss of reputation
  • Cost of hiring and on-boarding new staff

Managers spend a lot of time finding incentives to keep key employees and ways to reduce operating costs.  Perhaps the answer is; Make sure you don’t have an office bully and if you do, take action.

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

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

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

  

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


1 Comment

The “I’m too busy” copout! Create TIME for results

Beware the barrenness of a busy life style

Socrates 470BC-399BC Greek Athenian Philosopher

For most of us, the holidays are the busiest time of the year. Make simple changes starting today to truly transform your work and personal life. We all wish for more time in the day. There is no better time than NOW to incorporate these tips to increase productivity, reduce stress and gain time!

How many times have we read articles on time management or referred to checklists only to put them in the “I’ll get to that later” pile?  STOP! Actually incorporate these tips into your life and reap the benefits of effective time management.

  1. Decide what you really want– Write your goals down on paper. Make certain your goals are clear, specific, time sensitive and measurable.
  2. Use a priority 5 list– Every day, before you leave the office or go to bed, write down the 5 most important tasks you want to accomplish the following day. Having your priorities in order reduces stress and will provide direction, organization and more time.
  3. Stop Multi-tasking– I have repeated this one over and over. Multi-tasking is gone. It is unproductive, results in errors and is a huge time waster. Single-tasking will increase your productivity and quality of work.
  4. Focus– Place relentless focus on the task in front of you. Avoid interruptions, apply “thought-stopping” and FINISH the project you have in front of you. (More information on thought-stopping)
  5. Turn off the noise– By turning off the noise you implement a “do not disturb” philosophy. Set your phone to silent, turn email notifications off (you can really do this so the pop-ups don’t show), turn off the music or tv in your office. Remove yourself from any potential distraction.
  6. Design your office to inspire Create a relaxing environment. Design your office to inspire you by adding comfort. I like to adorn my office with family pictures, candles and soft lamp lighting. Use items that work for you! You will increase focus, engagement, motivation and production. However, you may have to kick people out of your comfy cradle!
  7. Create an SOP for your day– This really works! Take time to record everything you do in your day and assess time values. Refer to your SOP (standard operating procedures) daily and track your time on each item. This will give you a clear view of where your time is spent and how you can improve your time management. The trick is to be totally honest with yourself. If you spend time on emails, phone calls and idle chit-chat, implement ways to reduce wasted time by creating time-blocks.

I have incorporated these tips into my day and found a drastic change in increased productivity, less stress and additional time.  This time, instead of putting this article in your “I’ll get to this later pile”, write down the tips and keep them in a spot where you can look at them daily. Go a step further by incorporating all or some of the tips into your business and personal life. By doing so, you will achieve the same results I have. Who doesn’t what more time, less stress and increased productivity?

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 >>

Start your transformation with Ironstone as your Partner for Performance

Contact Ironstone & let’s get started! 

Have a question or comment for Ironstone? Contact us!>>

More on Time Management:

Learn Common Mistakes You & Your Team May Be Making In Time Management

Put Time On Your Side, Not On Your Back

 

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