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Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Put Time On Your Side, Not Your Back!

Time management has become a topic of concern for many of the advisory firms that Ironstone works with. How do we control the amount of time we spend each day on needed and unneeded tasks while the world around us continually adds new means of technology, greater resources for us to utilize, and an endless supply of emails, tweets, blogs and messages?

In our last Time Management Blog, “ Learn Common Mistakes You & Your Team May Be Making In Time Management,”      https://aeschlapia.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/learn-common-mistakes-you-your-team-may-be-making-in-time-management-7/ we touched on the wasted efforts of multi-tasking. It still holds true today, that we must redirect our focus into single-tasking. If you are a multi-tasker, you will need to develop your own personal plan to switch from doing useless tasks (often involved in multi-tasking) to executing a strategy that ensures you remain single focused.

Ways You Can Change Improve Your Time Management Skills
List Three Top Priorities: Review your task list for the week. Choose three top priority tasks for each workday. This will allow you to hone in on the tasks that are priority items rather than randomly performing secondary tasks.

Scheduling: Block out fifteen minutes each day for planning. During this time, choose your top three priority items so that you can focus on those items at the beginning of each day. Schedule certain times every day for things like emails, phone calls, meetings, etc. Do not allow a fluctuation in this designated time.

Identify your time-wasters: Track what you do on a daily basis for several days. This will allow you to find where you are losing time. Time is valuable, we just need to know how to control and separate what is important at any given moment. By identifying your time-wasters, you can get rid of them.

Change your habits: Make a dedicated promise to yourself to change those things that are your biggest time-wasters. Write out your plan and follow it. Review it briefly each day to see how you did and what areas you can improve on.
Have good reasons to save time and reward yourself: If you make changes to improve your time management, reward yourself. Your reward will motivate you to make changes.

Get Rid Of Interruptions: If interruptions are a big waste of time in your day, find ways to get rid of them. Turn electronics off, disconnect from the internet or try closing your email. (*Tip: add a disclosure on your email indicating how often you check and respond to email.) You will be surprised at how quickly others respect your response. You can live without these interruptions and will be amazed at how much more efficient and productive you become.

Know your key times: Identify specific times of the day when you have the most energy. Align your priority tasks with those times.

Batch Your “To Do List”: We love this idea at Ironstone! Maintaining your to-do list and scheduling specific, allotted time during the day, will help you keep the list manageable and reduce stress. During the allotted time, complete as many of those tasks as possible.

Technology can be used to your advantage in saving time, but make an effort to beat technology time-wasters. If a lot of your time is spent online, surfing websites for the latest content and news, take advantage of having that information pushed directly to you by using RSS or “Really Simple Syndication.”

  • RSS is a great tool that you can use to aggregate news into one convenient location. Ironstone recommends setting up your own personalized page on My MSN, My Yahoo, Google or any of your other favorites.  On a regular basis, your RSS reader will automatically check your selected websites and will deliver the content to you in one convenient display. Watch the RSS video at http://www.efficient-advisor.com/tools-tips to learn how to set up an RSS reader.

Relocate: If you are receiving walk-in interruptions, phone calls, instant messages or even need to rejuvenate your energy levels, consider relocating to a place that will lift your mood and where you can be completely free of interruptions. A conference room, a library, a home office, etc., can aide you in completing tasks on-time in a fresh environment.

Taking Time To Make Time

Take control of your time management – the advantages will drastically improve the quality of your everyday life. When you feel that everything has to be done at once, levels of frustration increase. Don’t forget to celebrate! Time management is not an easy task. If it were, there would not be a significant amount of self help, customized training, checklists, and performance reviews regarding the subject. You owe it to yourself to pat yourself on the back if no one else does. Consider your new management skills a victory and own them! After all, you succeeded!

Take time and reap the benefits of time management.

Ironstone can assist you in improving the time management skills of you and your team.  Check out our Time Management Tool!– (TimeManagementTool)  We specialize in identifying problem areas and then implementing the strategies needed to align with the goals of your firm. Firms with time management programs in place have lower stress levels, peace of mind, a higher sense of achievement, increased energy and productivity and a healthy cultural work environment.

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
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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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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Implementing Team Development Programs-Often Overlooked

Learning management is a strategic component to the overall human capital mission of advisory firms and is paramount to team development.  Advisory firms should start by integrating team development programs in order to enhance employee performance.  Forward-thinking executives are continually improving the effectiveness of their teams by refining roles, expectations, and interpersonal communication in order to create accountability for results.

Your goal should be to apply and utilize a team development method that impacts your firm’s bottom line in order to gain the highest return on your learning and development investment.

Ironstone focuses on four major components that are necessary for a fully functioning workforce and implements the performance approaches to drive development.

By implementing a team development program you eliminate the need for micromanaging.

Preparation — in order to create great teams, you need to prepare to support the success of your team.  Design a culture that fuels passion, purpose, and growth.   Deliver a clear message to your team that their job is important and that you stand behind them.  Give employees the basic knowledge and skills to excel within the culture that you have created.  Share with them effective forms of communications, encourage them to ask questions, and acknowledge their contributions to the overall goals of your firm.

Incentives – Incorporate compensation into the successful execution of the firm’s goals.  One of the most powerful motivators is through the use of a performance incentive compensation plan.

Benefits –  You can become creative with the benefits that you offer to your team.  In addition to the traditional benefits such as medical insurance and retirement plans, many firms are finding that creating a flexible work environment is a good employee motivator –  increasing the desire for individual skill development for the employee.

Technology –  Providing the proper technology and training for your team to perform their job is essential to overall team development.   We have found that many firms do not take this component seriously or place much effort in assuring technology and training needs are met for employees.    Obsolete or barely functional technology tells employees their job is not important and their time is not valued.

Once you have put these components into your human capital mission, you will find that employees are capable of managing their position in the firm.  Support your team members and empower them to be as great as they can be.

“A company that does not support, empower and provide proper development

 to employees can take a great team to a problem in a very short time.”

Ironstone can assist you in developing a team development program.   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 developing or starting your team development program.  We want to hear from you!   Share your best ideas here!  What does your firm do to promote team development?   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:  Strategic Planning-Business Model


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Create A Powerful Asset With An Advisory Board

You don’t need to tread in unfamiliar waters alone. Building an advisory board for your firm will create a powerful asset that will provide advice and objective feedback elevating the level of service you provide and improving the current client experience.

Advisory boards have no fiduciary responsibility. Their advice is non-binding. Your advisory board should provide you with great feedback and will naturally become a powerful referral engine as they gain a vested interest in the success of the firm.

Eight Steps To Creating Your Advisory Board

Determine The Objective – Your advisory board will help you look at your firm with an open mind. Objectives should include; insight to product and business development, marketing and technology, and research that encompasses emerging industry trends.

Define Your Advisory Board Member Profiles – Choose clients that will become evangelists for your firm while mentoring you as an advisor. When forming your board identify clients that can provide you with diverse skills, experience and knowledge. The ideal members of your board will be open minded, thought-provoking, problem solvers and have strong communication skills.

Establish Expectations – Make sure you have clear objectives so that board members know what is expected of them. You should be specific in communicating responsibilities, the areas in which you are seeking help, and how often you will want to interact. If private information will be discussed inform advisory members that they will be signing a confidentiality agreement. You may want to consider having board term limits so that when changes are needed, board members and clients are not offended.

Develop Board Relationships – Ask your board members for their opinions and advice, and establish a mentor/sounding board relationship with them. Express your appreciation frequently and don’t be offended if you hear something you don’t like, your advisory board must be open and honest.

Prepare For Board Meetings – Advanced preparations may include: soliciting agenda items from the board (to prevent unplanned discussions) and distributing important information prior to the meeting along with your meeting agenda. Host your meeting in a location that is free of distractions and stay on track by stimulating dialogue and having a results oriented gathering. Summarize minutes and include recommendations on key issues.

Compensation – Most board members are eager to serve and help firms and will usually not expect or inquire about compensation. Consider making a donation to their favorite charity in their honor. Make sure you comply with FINRA regulations.

Keep Board Members Informed – Keep your board members excited about your business by providing them with updates at times when you aren’t asking for their advice. The fact that they’ve agreed to be on your board means they care about your firm. Keeping them up-to-date will enhance their commitment to your practice and in turn, help them be of greater value to you.

Celebrate– Find ways to celebrate your board members affiliation with you. Create an e-mail list for high-level communication or incorporate your advisory board into your website.

Advisory Board Members can help you see what you are not seeing yourself.

Embrace the insight they offer and remove the personal barriers and

roadblocks that may be preventing you from experiencing positive change.

Ironstone can assist you in developing an Advisory Board Plan. 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.

We want to hear from you!  Does your firm have an advisory board and if so, how are they working for 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: Operational Effectiveness-Client Database
• 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