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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:

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10 Marketing “Musts” To Reach The Finish Line First

Ready to kick your marketing plan into overdrive this year? Consider these 10 marketing ideas used by elite advisors to achieve your goals, increase revenue and take your firm to a new level of production.

When implementing the following strategies, don’t just look at the list, engage in the tactics to make them work. You must apply your tactical plan and stick to it, analyze the results and make changes when needed.

1.      Teach your clients and prospects: Like most firms you probably have a vision and mission statement, but have you created a unique value proposition? Your value proposition should describe what you do along with your promise of value in a few sentences. Focus on providing clients with the words to refer you. Your unique value proposition should be prominent in your marketing materials as well as your conversation.

2.      Form strong strategic alliances: Pay attention to who your clients seek advice from through CPAs, Estate Planners and Attorneys.  Create a list and research to determine which businesses share a common vision with your firm and form an alliance to provide referrals to each other. Lay a strong foundation by defining goals and expectations. Follow up with scheduled meetings to ensure each party is on the same track. Your alliances should not be a one-way street. You don’t need a vast group of alliances. Careful selection within a small group, sharing universal goals and outcomes will be profitable for your firm.

3.      Develop relationships: Get to know your clients on a personal level. Be patient. Relationships take time and consistent effort to form. Start learning more about your clients when they are in your office. Use Ironstone’s Client Personal Interest Worksheet. Client Personal Interests Worksheet  Go a step further to create deep meaningful relationships by hosting small gatherings. Celebrate milestone events in your client’s lives such as birthdays and anniversaries. Ask them to invite a few friends! What a great strategy to solidify client retention as well as implementing another prospecting avenue.

4.       Build credibility: Write, write, write! One of the best ways to build credibility is by providing educational material to your market. Use newsletters, news articles and emails to keep your clients and prospects informed of breaking news and trends in the industry. Offer to write a periodic investment article for your local newspaper. By doing so, you have fueled up your prospect line and those clients that you are working with will be more likely to refer you. Implement your own research and study program to create white papers, articles and blogs. Doing so will set you apart from your competition and create a recognizable name for your firm over time. If you don’t have time, delegate or hire a contract employee to provide research assistance. This is a must do!

 5.      Get Social: There are really two components in this strategy, implement social media and network. If you haven’t implemented social media in your firm, start now. Social media is here to stay and it hasn’t even reached its peak. Outside of the office, get social by committing to time away from the office. Review your community calendar, show an interest in community development and attend events where you can meet community influencers. People like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes within the community. Be certain that you have a genuine interest in the event you attend. It’s easy to spot a fake with ulterior motives. Tip: Your firm could offer to sponsor or host a community event.

6.      Create a referral system: Referrals are still the best and most profitable source for new client acquisition.  Learning how to earn referrals is the key to a successful referral plan. It is easy to ask for a referral, anyone can do it. Elite advisors don’t ask, they earn.  Earn referrals by establishing a trusted friendship with your clients, providing incredible client service and supply resource and educational material readily. Tip: Include a resource section on your website with articles, white papers and blogs you have written. Clients will refer and share articles with their peers.

 7.      Play on your passions: Invite clients and prospects to do something with you that you are passionate about. Create a passion list and choose clients who share the same passions. Ask them to bring a friend to the event. This is a great opportunity to meet new people who share similar interests and to expand your lead generation efforts. Holding three or four of these events each year will provide opportunities to boost your bottom line.

 8.      Establish differentiation: It’s not enough to merely say your firm is different and you provide great service. Everyone says that. You need to show it! When I went to a local drive through restaurant the other day, I noticed an immediate difference from others. What was it? The employees were happy, engaged and initiated conversation with me. They made me smile, laugh and feel appreciated. They made my “drive-through” experience fun! So, I’m easy to please, maybe… But, I can tell you that I will go back and I will be calling the manager to let them know about my experience. They also got my order right! The key is to create an experience clients won’t find elsewhere – don’t be afraid to have some fun!

9.      Understand your niche: You can’t be everything to everyone. Advisors that shoot for the moon may grab a few starts along the way, but it’s much more effective to group the stars that are alike and provide solutions based on their needs. You will position yourself as an expert in your industry, gain credibility and your marketing dollars and efforts will be utilized efficiently.

10.  Appreciate your clients: Let your clients know you appreciate them!Give your clients a reason to be loyal!  Hosting client events are an integral part of your overall business strategy and comprehensive marketing plan.  Taking the time and effort to plan targeted  events will enhance your client retention strategy.

Keep your marketing plan alive by reviewing the status of each objective you implement. You can have the best marketing plan in the world, but if you don’t measure the results continually, the plan will not generate results.

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 branding 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:


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Performance Management vs Performance Reviews

It is that time of year when most of you are beginning to think about annual performance reviews. For most, it’s a dreaded process that is done only out of obligation or outdated processes in your firm.

In a recent Human Resources Forum poll, 16% of the people that responded have no performance appraisal system at all. Supervisory opinions, provided once a year, are the only appraisal process for 56% of the respondents. Another 16% described their appraisals as based solely on supervisor opinions, but administered more than once a year.*

Take your firm to higher levels of standards and accountability by burying performance reviews and adopting a performance management system. Effective leadership encompasses a continuous learning and development program with diminutive reviews throughout the year. Place focus on the goals of your firm.

Implement a performance management system that will:

  • Boost the success of your firm
  • Encourage personal development and advancement of your team members

Performance management will strengthen the foundation of your firm by:

  • Ensuring goals are consistently met
  • Provide focus on fundamental areas in your firm
  • Clarify job expectations and responsibilities
  • Improve communication
  • Compel employee behaviors that align with your firm’s mission, vision and goals
  • Enhance employee engagement and productivity

Performance management is an essential tool for top performing advisory firms.  It may be one of the more time consuming processes you implement, but will improve overall effectiveness in your firm and provide your firm with vast, positive outcomes.

Getting Started

The process of implementing a performance management system is extremely detailed.  Ironstone provides a series of steps to get you started.

  • Update job descriptions that include the purpose, duties and responsibilities
  • Set performance goals that are measurable
  • Prioritize each job responsibility and goal
  • Define performance standards for each component within the job description
  • Schedule meetings with employees to review performance and provide feedback
  • Document a record of performance
  • Implement a learning and development program readily available for employees
  • Incorporate the opportunity to gather feedback from the employee’s peers and/or clients

Encourage human resource departments, managers and supervisors to be accountable for performance improvement.  All components in your firm are part of a system that create value for your clients; the same holds true with a performance management system in that all components must be functioning to create value for your employees and the firm.

Ironstone can assist you in creating a new plan or evaluate your existing plan and collaborate and strategize with you to ensure a strong process with tactics that are cohesive with your firm goals.

We are curious!!  Does your firm hold annual performance reviews or do you have a performance management process in place?  Tell us about it!

 

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 Strategic Planning and Your Firm’s Business Model

  * Step-by-step to a Performance Management System-Human Resources

 

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


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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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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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A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In “Selling Your Firm.” Learn How To Create Your Story And What To Include!

A Capabilities Presentation-A Vital Piece In “Selling Your Firm.”   Learn how to create your story and what to include!

 

Your aim in this endevour is to create a personalized package that outlines your client’s experiences as well as organizes and illustrates the components of your brand and service offerings.

A business card won’t cut it …. Tell Me A Story……

When a prospect or client wants to “see” what you do, you need to be prepared.   By designing a “package” that outlines your brand or unique value proposition, you tell the story of your company and explain the service offerings that can fill the needs of your potential prospects.   It is also an excellent resource that compliments your physical building, your stationary, your email signatures, and your web site.

Your capabilities presentation is more than a selling technique.   You want to explain and show why a prospect should choose you rather than another firm.  Your presentation, whether presented to a group verbally, emailed through power-point, or created on hardcopy and made into a professional folder should:

  • Establish credibility
  • Connect emotionally
  • Reinforce your position
  • Provide solutions that clients and prospects are looking for

 

Let’s look and understand the buying process:  first people “buy” you.  Secondly they “buy” your firm, third and finally,  they “buy” your product and the investment for your product.  The best way to start your capabilities presentation is to show the following:

  • Your Process
  • Solutions
  • Investment Processes
  • How You Communicate With Your Clients
  • How You Keep Clients Informed Of Current Market Conditions
  • A Historical Overview Of Your Company
  • Types Of Products You Have Available
  • Services That You Offer
  • How You Educate Your Clients On Existing & New Services
  • Your Company Vision & Mission
  • Your Unique Value Proposition

 

And last but not least, include a Call To Action.  Include a questionnaire that clients and potential prospects can complete or give them the option to schedule a follow-up meeting with your firm. Include the following questions:

  • How do our values fit with your values?
  • Have you had other experiences with companies like ours?

 

View your capabilities presentation as a key to continue in the sales process.   You want to make your best impression, consider it a resume of your firm.

 We recommend having a professional hard copy brochure or binder available that will “tell your story” as a supplement to your verbal presentation.

Contact us for assistance in following the proper steps needed for a successful capabilities presentation.  If you are having a hard time taking these steps we can support you through the design and development of your presentation and brochure.

View the following examples of presentations that Ironstone has assisted with:

We want to hear from you!  Do You Have A Capabilities Presentation?  Let us know how you use your presentation!

 

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-Staff Meetings