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Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals

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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.

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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


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Performance Reviews-Take The Beast Out!

It’s that time of year again for performance reviews… I’m sure we’ll all agree that the traditional top-down performance review system is not only ancient but flawed, ineffective, and loathsome for all parties involved.  For appraisers, the responsibility is overwhelming and for those on the receiving end, there is a fear of the results.

Based on Ironstone’s research and our work with multiple advisory firms, we have experienced first-hand the harmful consequences of these flaws, which are numerous and fall within the following categories:

Clear, Consistency, & Connected:  Ineffective performance reviews often have performance goals that are either complex and therefore difficult to fulfill; inconsistently measured among team members and result in competitive and conflicting behaviors; or disconnected from any kind of common purpose.  The basis of performance goals should start with a common connection, which is the client’s need.  Every goal should be defined in terms of how it will impact the client, which results naturally in a consistency among all goals not matter what level or department.  By outlining tangible actions or objectives in this manner you automatically create clearly defined goals without even trying.

Not Goal Oriented:  Improvement goals can be both short-term and long-term, however are seldom aligned with a company’s 5 to 10-year goals.  Significant long-lasting changes don’t happen overnight and while performance goals should be attainable, they should also be realistic.

Output vs. Input:  A performance review is more than just inaccurate when it only captures results and not the work that goes into achieving those results; it is discouraging and counterproductive.  All objectives may be fulfilled and yet an employee may have performed at the minimum standards (or displayed exemplary standards).  Without recognition or rewards for “going the extra mile”, those extra efforts will wither away and team members will be reduced to mere clock punchers.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative:  Often times, there is too much emphasis on a numerical rating, leaving any qualitative comments practically useless and merely cosmetic.  In such cases, numerical averages are the only influence over incentives and employees are quick to pick up on whether their efforts make a difference to the company’s bottom line or their own.

Beyond the Dollars:  Employees are influenced heavily by what behaviors have the highest financial return because in most cases their end-of-year bonus is on the chopping block.  At a minimum, the performance interview should never include the conversation about compensation.  Beyond that, the performance interview should include an inquiry about incentives that exceed compensation and therefore uniquely important to each individual.

Power in Numbers:  Key advisors seldom focus on more than 10% of team member efforts, so when review time comes, it is impossible to rate the remaining 90% with the same accuracy and depth and almost always involves an unhealthy amount of bias.  This only provides a snapshot and therefore paints an inadequate picture of performance and renders the review system futile.

Too Little, Too Late:  On the one hand, annual performance reviews rate results over the last 12-month period and team members expect to get an accurate appraisal of objectives (whether they were projected or not).  On the other hand, regardless of the rating, there is little to no effect one can have on outcomes that have already occurred.

In our efforts to help our advisory firms implement best practices, we have developed the following checklist to create a performance review that not only rates performance but empowers employees to achieve more.

Always Be Coaching!

These checklist items are essential to the ABC’s of performance reviews, inspiring you to…


This is more than just a title and description. This is the foundation of your expectations and all aspects of your performance review.


Define tangible and intangible traits/behaviors, and create a scoring system that allows employees to know what to work toward.


Determine what motivates employees beyond the dollars to define tangible and intangible consequences of actions. Build a tailored portfolio of recognition and rewards that will create a wide winners circle and not a losers circle. Meaningful recognition and incentives result in gravitation toward desired behaviors. Some of the most common favorites are: work from home, casual day, gift cards (coffee, gas, books, etc…).


A performance review should consist of more than just an annual checklist of excellent, good, fair, and poor. There is power in numbers and is therefore important to gather information “… from people who work for, with, and above the employee, as well as those outside the company …”.*  This approach relies heavily on a high frequency of reviews and goal setting. Regular (quarterly) performance reviews and goal revisions are proven to increase performance results**.


Create performance logs that supply concrete examples to ensure raters (managers and subordinates) know how to rate what they observe, and provided guidelines on appropriate vs. inappropriate criteria.


Sort the data per employee in order to make sense of it and identify the trends. Draft your interview agenda, which should include employee feedback and action items to implement.


While meeting with the employee to review the data you have collected you need to make rating consistent by keeping the interview structured for all interviewees. To alleviate the anxiety in this part of the process, see it as a collaborative learning experience for positive change based on reaffirming job expectations, correcting problems, and answering questions.  As confirmed by the Alexander Hamilton Institute, Inc., feedback can have significant legal and practical management effects.  Recommended feedback requires the following preparations:

  • Gain experience by talking to other managers and drawing from your own experiences.
  • Have a clear understanding of the message you want to convey and what you want to achieve.
  • Be fair and objective.  Focus on performance and not the personality or character of the performer.
  • Don’t give all your feedback in one session – this may be overwhelming and possibly demoralizing if negative.
  • Be consistent with company policy.
  • Take the emotion out of feedback by judging the situation realistically and practically – use specific examples.
  • Have something tangible (if necessary) to back your words up, for e.g. sales figures, written warnings, client approval, etc…
  • Allow the employee to respond.


You know the saying “gone but not forgotten”? Well, this step in the review process is often gone AND forgotten! Regularity is an inherent characteristic of the 360-degree performance review, which ensures continuous monitoring and execution of objectives and goals that have been set.


The key to any successful program is following through, constant monitoring of effectiveness. Review the successes and failures to refine process and create a performance review that works for your firm. Take a look at the most common Do’s and Don’ts and the performance review audit below to assist in this process.

The volume of information that is collected from this type of performance review can be overwhelming, but the impact on motivation and results is undeniable. Focus on the continuous process of goal setting and a development plan to Always Be Coaching! The success rate will soar and the gratification from the initial reward is replaced with a genuine desire to produce and grow for the betterment of the firm and its employees.

We’ve outlined pitfalls that hinder effectiveness in order to help you build pillars for performance:


  • Clear job descriptions
  • Clearly communicated performance expectations
  • Conscientious documentation
  • Relevant rating system
  • Listen – explore all possible explanations in order to devise appropriate and effective solutions


  • Personal bias and emotions cloud judgments
  • Compensation concerns will detract from the evaluation of behavior/performance
  • Extreme ratings are signs of excessive lenience/strictness or false assessments
  • Prohibitive communication – condescension, comparing, overemphasizing problems
  • Lack of follow-up – strong coaching cultures encourage higher employee performance

Take this audit to evaluate your current performance review process.


Ironstone can assist you in developing a custom performance review process for your firm. We specialize in identifying gaps in your existing plan and will collaborate with you to develop solutions that are parallel in achieving the results your desire.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your Performance Review Process.  We want to hear from you!   Share your best ideas here!

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-Investment Models

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Performance Review Do’s & Dont’s

Here are some of the most common pillars for performance and pitfalls that hinder effectiveness:

  • Clear job descriptions
  • Clearly communicated performance expectations
  • Conscientious documentation
  • Relevant rating system
  • Listen – explore all possible explanations in order to devise appropriate and effective solutions


  • Personal bias & emotions cloud judgments
  • Compensation concerns will detract from the evaluation of behavior/performance
  • Extreme ratings are signs of excessive lenience/strictness or false assessments
  • Prohibitive communication – condescension, comparing, overemphasizing problems
  • Lack of follow-up – strong coaching cultures encourage higher employee performance