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Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Treat Your Clients Fairly, But Not Equally—It’s OK!

In Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™, Operational Effectiveness, we take a challenging look into creating a service matrix that serves as your reference on how you will serve each client fairly, but not necessarily equally.  Developing the proper client segmentation is vital in creating, growing and evolving your firm and then applying that segmentation to a service matrix.    To make a service matrix effective, you must determine the type of services you offer and client contact frequency to promote clear communication to clients and prospects.

Determining the best way to align client services within your matrix

A service matrix should be based upon the characteristics of your firm, needs and goals of your firm’s processes combined with the uniqueness of each client and prospect.  Your clients are not created equal in terms of their needs and desires.  Your job is to determine the specific needs of groups within your client database, use the levers in your control to grow revenue and provide first-class service and sales effort.

You owe each client your best effort – not every service

In our blog, “Understanding Purposeful Meaning In Your Client Service Matrix,” https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/understanding-purposeful-meaning-in-your-client-service-matrix/ we outlined the principles inside a service matrix.

 
A client service matrix serves several purposes:
• Encourages clients and prospects to use your firm for all of their financial planning needs
• Clarifies what service levels each client can expect
• Aligns advisor time and resources
• Provides a way to thank your most loyal clients

A service matrix will allow your firm to deliver services to different client segments through the use of multiple channels and aide you in delivering outstanding service by defining what activities you will perform based on the profitability of each relationship.  Position your firm to use your service matrix as a central tool in servicing clients and to show differentiation from your competition.

Using your matrix as an external and internal tool for success

 A service matrix serves as an external and internal managerial tool.  Use your matrix internally to:

  • Determine if proper staffing is in place to provide desired results and services
  • Plan, develop and implement tactics for future growth
  • Schedule service items that will be provided to your clients/prospects
  • Generate reminders to all team members

Utilizing your matrix will ensure all services within the matrix are being provided and will allow you to support proactive client/prospect service and ensure you are delivering on the promises you made.

Employing a service matrix is a useful tool when you evaluate the strategic changes in your firm’s service operation.  By paying close attention to the challenges associated with each classification, overall firm performance will improve.

The end result, your firm will be more strategic, efficient and likely more profitable.

“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises,

 but only performance is reality.”   Harold Geneen

We are curious!!  Does your firm utilize a service matrix?  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 the human element and hiring and onboarding!

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

• Connect with us:


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Relationship Management or Incentive Plans? Which Will Inspire Your Team?

Incentive plans should not be misconstrued as a means to motivate your team.  You first need to  build concrete goals and then inspire your team to reach each goal with conviction.    It is imperative to communicate overall firm goals with your team.  Group and one-on-one meetings provide an opportune time to discuss and evaluate strategies to reach each goal.  Allowing your team members the opportunity to contribute to the overall success of your firm will instill motivation, confidence and passion that incentive plans cannot do on their own.

Before implementing an incentive plan, make certain your team members are fully engaged and committed to the position they hold at your firm.  This will mean you, as a manager, must realize offering an incentive plan will not magically transform a disengaged team or team member.   In our blog, “Learn How to Make an Employee Incentive Plan Effective,”  https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/learn-how-to-make-employee-incentive-plans-effective/  we stressed the importance of being a good manager by guiding your employees to work on what is most important and then implementing an incentive plan as a reward.

Employee incentive plans are a significant component for firms wanting to stay competitive and on track with the pace of evolution in the workforce.   You will need to do your homework for your plan to be effective:

  • Recognize all factors that affect your team’s behavior.
  • Look at the type of culture you have in your firm.
  • Understand each of your goals and the processes you will use.
  • Develop a measurement system for each goal.

At Ironstone, we have found many employee incentive plans simply don’t reap their intended results because  they were implemented for the wrong reasons.  Don’t be fooled in believing that an incentive program will counter poor behavior, performance or disengaged team members.

Start your incentive plan after you have managed your employees to the level of being:

  • Engaged
  • Passionate
  • Productive
  • Loyal

Once your team is instilled with the qualities listed above, you can implement your incentive plan by including the following critical elements:

  • Identify your desired activity/goal
  • Develop the tactical plan and how employees will work toward achieving each goal
  • The amount of time allotted to obtain each goal
  • The reward for achieving the goal

Remember every aspect of your plan needs to be measured to ensure the program’s success in achieving each goal.  Make sure your firm’s strategic goals are concise and specific which provides team members a clear understanding of what is expected from them.

Goals should be challenging, yet achievable.  The incentive plan will be destined

 for failure if goals are interpreted as being unattainable.

A successful incentive program requires that each feature is suited to your team members’ interests.  Find out what motivates your team.  Adapting each element of the program to fit your team will provide you with engaged participants and enhance the effectiveness of the program.

Ironstone can assist you in strengthening relationship management at your firm which will lay the foundation needed to implement a successful employee incentive program.

Readers, we are curious!   What are your thoughts on employee incentive programs?

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-Prospecting

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


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Reducing Operational Costs Without Sacrificing Client Service

Living in today’s unpredictable business environment, one of the most frequently asked questions we receive is, “How can we cut our operating costs?” 

Streamlining business operations, while containing overhead costs, is the real secret to profitable growth.  Without coming to grips with reality, your firm will face the risk of severe loss.

Steps that you can take, starting today, to ameliorate issues and make your office more effective and efficient:

  • Establish a Budget –  Before you decide where you can afford to cut costs you must have control over your costs. A budget helps you both analyze expenses and income, as well as allows you to forecast financial variances.
  • Develop and implement systems for everything you do in your firm Implementing workflow processes increase efficiency which will in turn have a positive impact on your bottom line. Many firms tend to overlook their operational systems and workflows especially during a good economy.  Review your firm’s operational systems regularly recognize the static processes because “that is the way it’s always been done”, and be flexible to change.  This is imperative to reducing your operational costs and remaining viable amid the rising costs of operation.
  • Align the responsibilities of your staff members to their specific needs Review workflow for areas that need improvement or display a lack of clarity.  Making revisions in a workflow and ensuring that there are no duplicate efforts or wasted energy will prevent you from superfluous costs.  Besides cost savings, you benefit from significant increases in productivity.
  • Invest in more training –  It may sound ironic to invest more money while trying to reduce costs,  however, investing more in your employees shows them that they are valued.  There is an endless source of training models available online, which in-turn will also reduce your travel expenses.   Employees who feel valued, are more engaged and more productive at work.
  •  Build Strategic Alliances – In our blog “Strategic Alliances Build A Strong Foundation For Long Term Success”     https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/strategic-alliances-build-a-foundation-for-long-term-success/   we talked about how building strategic alliances positions your firm to stand apart from the competition.  Share expenses with your alliances by implementing joint advertising/media promotions, shared mailing lists and shared educational workshop expenses.  You will reduce your costs and improve your bottom line by meeting client needs.
  • Outsource  Review the organizational structure of your firm.   Pinpoint which roles could be outsourced, such as payroll or mailings.  Also consider contract employees.  Hire contract employees for special projects or ongoing tasks.  Outsourcing and utilizing contract employees will give you more time to focus on building your business.
  •  Reduce office expenses –  Consider converting to an electronic paperless system when possible and order supplies in bulk.  Shop around for lower prices and negotiate a better price if you agree to purchase all of your supplies from one vendor.  Reduce utility bills as much as possible, but not at the detriment of team effectiveness.

Reducing your operating costs without sacrificing the team’s operational effectiveness, the quality of service, and the value that you provide to your clients, will go a long way towards improving your bottom line.

Keep these principles in mind and implement them.  You’ll find that your reduced operating costs will lead you down the path to substantial growth before you realize it.

Ironstone can assist you in developing the strategies needed to reduce your operating costs while strengthening your relationships with existing and potential clients.  By being held accountable and responsible for the cost cutting steps above, you will gain control of your expenses and move towards a better bottom line.

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

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

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


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Workflows & How They Enable Execution Of Your Business Strategy

The objective of Ironstone’s Fundamental4™ –Operational Effectiveness and the New Client Workflow serve as the foundation of your unique process to solve problems, manage interaction, automate tasks, and provide consistency for positive and repeatable impact to the client experience.

In today’s highly competitive market, wealth advisors need an effective Client Workflow System that enables execution of business strategies consistently and cost-effectively. A workflow system consists of a series of written procedures with supporting checklists and templates that document and systemize every aspect of how a firm operates and delivers client service.

The absence of any workflow model in a firm is a primary culprit for office inefficiency.

Client workflow systems should create two primary objectives for your firm, improved efficiency and profitability. They provide the mechanisms needed for all team members to work together seamlessly providing a high level of client service.

Processes that you should include in your client workflow system are:
• Client relationship management
• Internal/external marketing
• Automation of processes between team members
• Generation of management reports
• Integration to back office systems
• Regularly scheduled communication among team members

Each of the processes within your client workflow system are inter-related. Workflow systems will benefit your firm by enabling you to continually provide excellent client service, concentrate on your areas of strength, build accountability for your practice, enable you to deliver more comprehensive services, assist in managing regulatory and compliance related issues, and add value to your firm for re-sale purposes.

Ironstone has found that two key factors are important when implementing a client workflow process; technology and strategy.


Technology:
From a technology perspective your client relationship management system (CRM) should meet some minimum requirements:
Easy to use– Information is easily captured and shared, enhancing your ROI.
Adaptable-Because advisory firms experience a magnitude of change in approaches, regulations and investment climate, you will want a CRM (Client Relationship Management) system to be able to support those changes.
Workflow Engine-One of the most significant areas of productivity improvement is the use of workflow engines that are included with leading CRM solutions.

Strategy:
When developing your new client workflow center your strategy around two priorities, client retention and client acquisition.

Client Retention Workflows aide in client retention for your firm by automating reviews, prompting client interaction, scheduling service reminders, and storing other important client information. With automated processes, you will feel comfortable that things aren’t falling-through-the-cracks and know that your firm is not missing opportunities.

Client Acquisition Position your firm with the capability to be pro-active. When you can deliver targeted marketing and track results, you can transform a prospect into a client. Workflows will automatically trigger logical steps in acquiring a client to ensure that your marketing efforts are executed on a consistent basis.

A workflow system should always be a work in progress. Your practice will evolve and grow, and your firm will encounter regulation, compliance and industry change. Accordingly your workflow process should continue to evolve and be updated.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a comprehensive new client workflow. 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.  A great way to start is by building checklists.  Download our “How To Create Checklists.” 4.24.12Checklists   Checklists get repetitive activities and routines out of your brain, and let it rise above to focus on the hard stuff.

Contact us for assistance to develop, implement or review or new client workflow. 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: The Human Element-Communication ~ Knowledge is Power, But Fruitless if Poorly Communicated. “
• 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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Understanding Purposeful Meaning In Your Client Service Matrix

A service matrix is an established unique resource in the financial industry. It provides you with a comparative analysis of your service offerings and differentiates you from your competitors.

Creating a service matrix will help you identify the level of service your clients will receive when they work with your firm. By clearly defining and evaluating your services, you will have the ability to provide value to your clients and the level of service they desire. Build your service matrix to gain strategic insight into the unique needs of each of your client groups and continuously modify it as a part of your firms client engagement strategy.

A client service matrix serves several purposes:
• Encourages clients & prospects to use your firm for all of their financial planning needs
• Clarifies what service levels each client can expect
• Aligns advisor time and resources
• Provides a way to thank your most loyal clients

When creating or evaluating your client service matrix consider surveying your current clients to determine what services they would like. High net worth clients will be attracted to your firm as you provide more personal attention. Create a list of the services you currently provide and a separate list of the services that you would like to provide. Determine which clients will receive each of your services.

Two levers that you can control in your service matrix are service level and sales effort.
Service Level: determine the appropriate level of service to provide to the different levels in your client segmentation plan. (read our blog on Client Segmentation-insert link here)
Sales Effort: control the level of effort that you will put towards client retention, gaining referrals, adding new services and promoting new products by pursuing the right opportunities with aligned client segments. This will provide increased revenue for your firm.

In order to maximize on your services, focus on what you do best. Providing high-quality personal service to your clients and prospects is more important than providing many mediocre services.

As you create and evaluate your service matrix, assess each process in relation to attractiveness (is it what clients want?) and is it providing your client with value. Evaluate processes that can be eliminated and identify which processes align with your mission statement. Your services should have few competitive alternatives and your firm’s offerings should be very strong.

Your client service matrix will allow you to hone in on the unique needs of each of your clients. Understanding that each of your clients has unique needs will ensure efficient client service delivery.

“In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.” Harold Geneen

Ironstone can assist you in developing a client/prospect service matrix. 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 Service Matrix. We want to hear from you! Share your best ideas here! What services do you provide that are unique from your competitors? We always love hearing from you!

Follow us as we explore each of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™!
• Strategic Planning
• Business Development
• Operational Effectiveness
• The Human Element

You won’t want to miss our next in the series: The Human Element-Hiring & Onboarding
• 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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Take The First Step Towards Greater Efficiency With Client Segmentation

 Client segmentation should be one of your first steps towards creating greater practice efficiency and profitability.   Yet we have found that advisors are skeptical about client segmentation due to the fear of losing clients.  Firms that have implemented client segmentation have found that segmentation aids in the retention of your ideal clients.

Client segmentation is about improving customer service for all of your clients.  Use it to deliver solutions more effectively by streamlining and automating the services you offer.  Aligning the right level of advisor support to the client’s specific needs results in increased client satisfaction and in turn may even result in more client referrals.

Start your segmentation process by defining client value.  Viewing each group with different needs and priorities will present you with the ability to serve each segment based upon their needs, not the firm’s profits. Advisors often discover that they can expand some client segments, when they know specifically what costs they will need to put against projected revenues.

Begin your segmentation process by following these steps:

  •     Define client value – Identify the drivers of value in your client relationship
  •     Quantify client value – Create a rating system to gauge each client
  •     Test your system
  •     Define Segments
  •     Track segmentation data
  •     Define & Update Processes

A firm’s defined segments may look something like this:

  •  A+=top 2% of your client database
  •  A=next 18%
  •  B=next 10%
  •  C=next 50%
  •  D=next 20%

To make segmentation truly effective, determine the type of services and frequency to promote clear communication to clients and prospects.

Trying to provide the same high level of service to everyone can make it difficult to focus on the more complex clients and on the inevitable changes that come with growth and business development.

Ironstone can assist you in developing a client segmentation plan,   identify gaps in your existing plan and collaborate with you to develop a solution to achieve the results you are looking for.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your client segmentation plan.  View our Segmentation Guide!  SegmentationGuide

We want to hear from you!   Share your best ideas here, we always love hearing from you!

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

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

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


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

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

You are a fantastic multi-tasker!   What used to be a benefit is now in the top 10 of common time management mistakes!

We listed it in our New Years Resolutions NOT to make- ”Do Not promise to multi-task”.  To view our newsletter:   http://eepurl.com/ilLek

Have you hired a new employee because they are great multi-tasker? Are you praising your office manager who is always busy doing five projects at once?  The results of multitasking are documents and projects full of errors.  Survey’s are showing that there is a sixty to eighty percent reduction in productivity levels and a lack of concentration when employees try to multi-task.

What other areas are eating away at your day without you even realizing it?  Like many others, you have probably considered these to be assets to productivity, but in reality they are draining your employee and wasting time.  Do you value the employee who:

  • Has time to take on every project
  • Thrives on busy
  • “Never-takes-breaks”
  • Can never say “no”
  • Micro-manages
  • Gets a rush when they are busy or when the team is on overload

All of the above listed so-called qualities will lead to lower performance levels, lower team morale and stress in the firm.  They are merely misleading you to believe that effective people are busy.  The reality is that this busy addiction rarely means that you are effective and again leading to more stress in your firm.

Consider each of these so called assets in your employee a waste of time!  Train yourself, your managers, and your team to re-evaluate their time management systems.  Have everyone in the firm take a personal time-management quiz, and learn to slow down, focus, and provide quality instead of quantity.

 Other areas that you will want to evaluate:

·         How You Manage Distraction – employees can lose up to 2 hours a day from distractions

·         Procrastination – if a task seems too big, dedicate a small time each day towards the task and complete the task over time.

·         Scheduling Tasks – schedule low-energy work (like checking your email, returning calls, etc.) to the time of day when your energy level is at its’ lowest

·         Goal Setting

·         To-Do Lists

Time management really boils down to knowing how you can schedule your time effectively.  Know what your daily priorities are and know your goals.  By being aware of priorities and goals you will be able to create a schedule that is beneficial for you and your firm.  The next quality to teach your current employees or to look for in a new hire is……time management skills.

 

Ironstone has several aides available for your firm in developing healthy, productive time management skills.  Download our Time Management Survey Here!   TimeManagement

 

We want to hear from you!  What strategies are you using to improve your time-management skills?

 

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

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

 

You won’t want to miss our next in the series:  The Human Element-Culture In Your Workplace: What Culture Are You Cultivating At Your Firm?  Healthy or Toxic?