The Elements Ironstone Blog

Current news and trending topics for sales and financial industry professionals


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Learn The Fundamentals Needed For Your Marketing Plan

Learn The Fundamentals Needed For Your Marketing Plan

Developing and executing your marketing plan are a part of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™ in Business Development.  The goal within Business Development is to create a clear strategy, a simple plan, and to carry out systematic execution that drives business building results. This includes creating networks, niche targets and uniqueness within the industry.  It is not enough to create the company’s core values, vision, mission, and common message as a team, but to have these elements become “living” themes within a practice.  Incorporating these key elements into the marketing materials, the client experience, and team communication is essential.

What are the first steps you need to take in creating a customized marketing plan for your firm?  In order to choose the best tactics and strategies, you need to be clear about your goals.

  • Expand your market
  • Bring in more clients
  • Client retention
  • Generate more prospects
  • Tap into a new niche market

Once you define your goals, you will have a solid foundation to plan your marketing efforts.  Knowing exactly who you plan to market your services to is a starting point for any marketing plan.  Ironstone  can help you zero in on your ideal client, where to find them, and assist you in defining their needs.

Building a winning marketing plan involves asking the right questions and starting with the end in mind.  Many firms make the mistake of starting with the budget rather than what they want to accomplish.  Start with your goals, then your strategies followed by the tactics you will use.

Keep in mind that too many goals will decrease your focus.  Choose three to five goals that you want to accomplish and rank them by priority.

Implementing Your Strategies

Now that you have set your goals (what you plan to achieve) you will want to identify the means of how you will achieve them.  Some broad strategies to consider:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Increasing Lead Generation
  • Enhancing Client Experience
  • Thought Leadership

Strategies should match up to your specific goals.  If the goal of your firm is retention, your strategy should be to enhance the client experience.  Alternatively, if the focus is brand awareness, you may entertain the possibility of re-branding.

Finally plan your tactics.  A tactic explains exactly how you will carry out each strategy.  Some tactics that you may want to consider adding to your marketing plan:

  • Blogging
  • Email Campaigns
  • Webinars
  • Social Networks
  • Seminars
  • Direct Mail

Ironstone will help you build a successful marketing plan, identify gaps in your marketing plan, collaborate with you, and execute a solution to help you get the results you are looking for.  We will work with you on creating detailed goals that go deeper than the surface.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your marketing plan.

We want to hear from you!  What are your best marketing ideas and what areas of assistance you need in developing a marketing plan to take your firm to the next level!  Share them here along with a link to your website!  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 Segmentation


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Do You & Your Staff Hold The Key To Organizational Skills?

Do You & Your Staff Hold The Key To Organizational Skills?

It seems so simple that organizational skills and their importance often get overlooked as a necessary quality of good leadership.

Effective management of organizational details lie in the art of being able to see how everything works together to complete a project.  Hone these skills to create a razor sharp team.

“For entrepreneurs, ignorance is not bliss. It’s fatal. It’s costly. And it’s for losers. You either get organized, or get crushed.” – Donald J. Trump

Increasing productivity and remaining relatively stress free requires three BASIC organization skills

  • Prioritize – Make a list of everything that needs to be done on a daily basis.  Once you have created your list, put them in order of importance.  Finally, estimate how much time it will take you to complete each item.  The difficulty sets in when assessing a “time-value” to each item, as it is human nature to underestimate the time it takes us to complete a task or project.
  • Manage Your Time – While you are assessing “time-values” to your tasks and projects, identify other things that are wasting your time.  What can you do to change or eliminate time wasters?   Some things may be out of your control, like interruptions from a co-worker or boss, however much of it is in your control if you are able to distinguish the urgent versus the important.
  • Eliminate Clutter – It takes time to eliminate clutter, but will save you time in the end.  Eliminating clutter will improve your productivity by clearing your mind and surroundings, which in turn will lower stress levels.  By keeping your things sorted you will be able to find what you are looking for quickly and easily.

The purpose of this component in Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™ (The Human Element), is the development of individual and team efficiency and effectiveness for the benefit of the business.  The evolution of this fundamental revolves around organizational skills, management of teams, refined roles and responsibilities, and accountability for performance.  This opens the lines of communication throughout a team to create a positive culture.  “Everyone is on the same page” is very simple to understand but in reality, there are many directions and agendas driven by egos, greed, and lack of leadership.

Use our Personal Management Matrix to organize & Execute around your priorities.

PersonalManagementMatrix

We want to hear from you!  What tools do you use at your firm to improve time management?

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-Compensation

 


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When Was The Last Time You Attended A Productive Meeting?

When was the last time you attended a productive meeting? 

If it’s hard to remember, you’re not alone.  Poor planning and preparation contribute to zero results and low returns on investment.

We find that many advisors and managers skip over holding staff meetings.   While most staff meetings are usually described as boring, useless, and intimidating, they are an integral part of building the winning team.

Ironstone has several job aids available that can help you through the process of holding regular staff meetings.  View Ironstone’s Meeting Agenda Template:

Meeting Agenda Template

How can you improve your staff meetings?

Successful meetings will require the involvement of management before, during, and after the meeting.

·         Before the Meeting to Ensure Effective Meetings

  • Plan the Meeting
  • Make Sure You Need a Meeting
  • Distribute and Review Any Pre-work Prior to the Meeting
  • During the Meeting, Ensure Appropriate Participation
  • After the Meeting, Create an Effective Meeting Follow-up Plan
    • Publish Meeting Minutes
    • Review of the meeting for continuous improvement

If you are neglecting any one of these meeting management requirements, your meetings will result in productive time being wasted.

If you’re looking to improve communication within your firm, perhaps even increase efficiencies among staff, regular meetings are a good place to start. The key, however, is to begin scheduling the meetings for positive reasons, not negative ones.  Other staff meeting tips you should keep in mind:

  • Stay on track
  • Add some fun
  • Use incentives

Ironstone has designed a workshop that covers the what, why, and how to produce results through meetings.

You will define and create an action plan with the following aspects in mind:

Are they Necessary – desire vs. need, timewasters, alternatives, explore different types of meetings

Coordination & Preparation – before, during, and after

The Leadership Role – guiding your group towards the objectives

Information delivery & Enthusiastic Involvement – prepare the right kind of questions for the right kind of conversation

Control and conclusion – keep things on track, avoid deviation for speedy wrap-up

We want to hear from you!  What are you doing to make your staff meetings successful?

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:  Organizational Skills-Do You & Your Staff Hold The Key To Organization?

 


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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

 


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Stabilize Your Operating Costs: Balance The Demands Of Increased Client Service Expectations

Stabilize Your Operating Costs:  Balance The Demands Of Increased Client Service Expectations

Surprisingly many business owners have an unclear view of their operating costs, which is key to achieving sales goals.  What are the ongoing costs for operating your business?

Operating costs are the expenses that you have related to the day-to-day operations at your firm.  Your operating costs will be in one of two categories:

  • Fixed
  • Variable

A fixed cost is, as the name suggests, costs that you will incur regardless of how much business you do.

Some examples of fixed costs are:

  • Salaries
  • Office rent
  • Utility bills
  • Loan payments for any start up costs
  • Banking Services

Variable costs are those which will change according to how much business you do.  Variable costs play a role in projecting your profit and break-even points for your business. Some examples of variable costs are:

  • Sales
  • Sales Commissions
  • Marketing

You will be facing choices that begin to increase your operating costs.  For example, you add a team member to assist in keeping up with the service expectations of your clients, thus, for each salary added, the more clients you must add to cover your costs.

The time you spend with your clients is a service that you don’t want to compromise.  There are other ways that you can re-evaluate your operating costs.  Consider outsourcing items such as;

  • Web-site maintenance
  • Mailings
  • Compliance
  • Marketing Initiatives
  • Printing Services
  • Kill your power
  • Rent instead of buy
  • Stay out of the airport
  • Get rid of your printers

Sure, some of these ideas cannot be cut completely.  Compliance issues will prevent you from ridding of hard copy documents.  Streamlining business operations, while containing overhead costs, is the real secret to profitable growth.

 

Ironstone can assist you in estimating the costs associated with owning and operating your firm and will guide you through re-evaluating projections if appropriate.    We have templates available for your use.

We want to hear from you!  What steps are you taking to reduce your operating costs?  Share your ideas!

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- Capabilities Presentation,  How Do You Share Your Firm’s Story?  Learn How!


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Begin With The End In Mind

Your succession plan should start when you make plans to open your firm.  If you want to create a purposeful life and path for your career, as you start your business think about what your exit game plan will be.  Regardless of being in the midst of success, if you do not have a succession plan, make it a priority this year. 

How should you start the process?  Think of yourself as replaceable and begin to delegate tasks to others.  Other key questions to answer in developing your succession plan:

  • At what time would you like to transition out?
  • Who will you sell to?
  • When will you make the transition?
  • How will all of these work together?
  • Are annual recurring revenues growing over time consistently or are they up and down and somewhat volatile?
 

Predictability is the preference in appealing a buyer to your firm.  Higher net cash flow and higher recurring revenue will give your firm a higher valuation. 

How long should an exit take?  Each firm is different, however, it can take months to years for the entire succession process.  When pursuing a sale the following steps can take 1 to 2 months per step and are critical in successful succession planning:

  • Preparation
  • Marketing
  • Negotiating
  • Due Diligence
  • Final Transaction
 

 Other considerations to include in your succession plan:

  • Prepare your team & your clients. Make sure your clients will receive the same level or better quality of service that they are currently receiving.
  • Train your clients so they are used to you being out of the office.
  • That the buyer can have a profitable practice.
  • That you will be compensated fairly for your practice.
  • Look for businesses that are compatible with your firm.
  • Is the business a fee-based or commission-based firm?
  • Is the firm financial-planning based or investment-management service based?
  • What is the firm’s client service philosophy?
 

As the owner of your firm, you are sure to be experiencing feelings of loss of control, loss of significance and grief.  Be aware that your team is experiencing an elevated pressure of anxiety if you leave them in the dark.  It is vital to communicate the tactics of your succession plan to your team.   

Purposeful planning is key to the entire succession planning process.  “One of the best things you can do is to work ON the business not just IN the business.”

 We want to hear from you!  Is your succession plan in place?

Contact us for assistance in following the proper steps needed for a successful succession plan.

 

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- Branding & Value Proposition-Does Your Firm Have A Value Proposition?  Learn How To Create A Unique Value Proposition For Your Firm.

 

 

 

 

 


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How To Increase Your Effectiveness

How To Increase Your Effectiveness

Ironstone believes that one of the best methods for operational effectiveness is to define your standard operating procedures for your practice and create multiple tracking and reporting systems that measure your results.  You should create reports and checklists by observing your current projects and processes, including the sequence of each.

For example, a powerful client engagement process consists of the design and creation of Financial Advisor service teams, client segmentation, service matrices and new/existing client workflow systems.  The fusion of these elements increases the efficiency of managing the workload while increasing the level of the client experience.

It’s imperative that each project and/or process that you are using in your firm has a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).   The goal is to be efficient and effective.   The SOP should include:

  • The name and description of the current project/process
  • Define the sequence of events from the start to the completion of the project
  • Outline the implementation steps to complete the project
  • Create checklists or use supplemental information to aid in the management of the project
  • Determine the key metrics to be measured and how
  • Set a schedule of regular communication regarding team progress
  • Periodically review the processes to determine if any changes or updates are necessary

At Ironstone we find that the best way to start is to observe your current projects and process (or lack thereof) by taking detailed notes and surveys of day-to-day activity.   Make your list of what processes are in place or need to be in place and then create the standard operating procedures for each.

There are many areas within your personal and professional life where you can put this into practice.  Some of these include (but are not limited to) time management, methods for prioritizing, balancing life and work goals, staff meetings, marketing plans, client appreciation/retention, demographic analysis, and database management… just to name a few.

We know, it sounds like a lot of work, right?   You can’t have a full understanding of your business without tracking results along with measuring and analyzing internal processes.

Let us know how you create and manage your Standard Operating Procedures, your best practices, and what areas of assistance you need in developing effective operating procedures.

Contact us for assistance in starting and improving your internal reports and tracking systems.  You will also want to download our Reports & Tracking Checklist!   2.14.12Reports&Tracking

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-Leadership



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How To Define Your Business Model And Set The Objectives That Will Bring It To Life

How To Define Your Business Model And Set The Objectives That Will Bring It To Life

Follow us as we explore the first of Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™ – Strategic Planning:  The main objective in this fundamental is to create an uncomplicated plan that clearly defines the direction of the practice.  Primary focus areas include business and succession planning, creating organizational structure, and collaboration amongst the management team.  It is crucial for management to develop realistic goals and objectives creating the framework for team member focus.  Even more crucial is management’s ability to communicate these goals so that the common focus permeates throughout the team.  Plans and models that are stored on a computer are seldom implemented and likely to be forgotten.

What type of business model are you following?   Solo, Silo, or Ensemble?

Strong ownership mentality helps drive success and creates focus to leverage services offered.

  • A Solo Firm has a single professional advisor position, typically the firm owner.
  • A Silo Firm is a producer group in which multiple advisors collectively share overhead and expenses but remain independent and have separate client bases
  • An Ensemble Firm is a multiple advisor firm that operates as one firm, with advisors generally paid on a defined compensation model.

Are you following the right business model for your firm and what is the difference between a business model and a business plan?

  • A Business Model ascertains how your business makes money.   It will identify the services that your clients find valuable.  The business model will focus on the largest income generator for your firm.  
  • A Business Plan embodies your set of business goals and how they can be attained.

Overall, the business model explains the flow of money within the company and the business plan outlines the structure needed to obtain that flow of money.  A business plan supports the business model and explains the steps to achieve the goals of that model.  If you change the business model, you will also need to change the business plan.

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every firm.  Ironstone works with highly successful firms operating with different business models.  You can make your business model decision after considering your goals and objectives.

Contact us for help in preparing your Business Model.  Use this guide to help you get started on setting the goals and objectives that will serve as the foundation of your Business Model.

 

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 post in the series:  Business Development – Niche Marketing

 

 

 


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Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

10 Tips to Make Your Resolutions Stick

Encountering a setback is one of the most common reasons why New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned.  But first knowing what a resolution is plays a key role in keeping that resolution.  It’s common to frame a resolution in the form of a promise or oath.  This often makes it hard to keep since it is instant failure if you break a promise.  It may be easier to carry out by defining resolutions as decisions, course corrections, or a new direction.  Tackle your year with these ten tips to help you maintain your 2011 resolutions.

Get over the honeymoon period: It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of ‘a new start’ and to have a strong sense of commitment to change.  Before the initial excitement wears off, make a list of the benefits of your resolutions instead of the reasons why you need the resolution.  For example, if you need to manage your time better focus on the fact that you will be more relaxed and more confident because you are on top of things, instead of focusing on not being late for everything.  These positive associations prolong and renew your motivation rather than constantly remind you of the negative things that need to be eliminated.

Be Proactive: Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.

Play to your strengths: Some people are more likely to achieve their goals if they set specific objectives and write them down, while others are more likely to achieve their goals if they go public and share them with their family and friends.  Why not do both, and cover all your bases?

Consider levels of motivation: For the less committed this means recognizing the progress made so far – look how far you’ve come.  For the more motivated this means pointing out the work that still needs to be done – look where you’re going.

Change the name of the game: Why does it have to be a new year’s resolution?  If you aren’t afraid of making resolutions at any time during the year, they are less likely to lose the luster they are born with in the presence of the New Year and the shiny disco ball you were dancing under all night.

Start small: Taking on too much often derails resolutions.  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.

Change takes time and patience: Habits take time to develop, and therefore take time to break.  Don’t try to change all your unhealthy habits at the same time.  Try to replace one unhealthy habit with a healthy one before moving onto the next.

Empower yourself: We are human and by definition, not perfect.  Know beforehand that you may stray from your goals, but that the quickest recovery will be to recognize the set back and take immediate action to correct it.  It will only waste time to wallow in the mishap and criticisms about it.

Ask for help: While asking for help is often looked upon as the presence of weakness, it is actually quite the opposite.  It takes a significant amount of courage and trust to reveal our vulnerabilities and needs to others.  A helping hand (in whichever shape of form you need) strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress.

Take some time: New Year’s resolutions are usually last minute decisions, and therefore don’t encompass the entirety of the changes that you will benefit from.  Take some time to think about what things will affect the most positive change in your life.  Don’t begin your resolutions with the phrase: “I will never…”.

While you keep the above 10 steps in mind, it is important to realize that there will be stumbling blocks.  One way to help you be proactive about obstacles is to keep track of your progress.  This way you will see which strategies led to success and which ones did not.  Throughout the process, it’s important to remember that the start of a new year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes, but rather to reflect on past behaviors and resolve to make positive lifestyle modifications.


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Top 10 Lessons From Comeback Women

Women, as the more creative of the human species, can also be more resilient. Following are creative strategies for success culled from the lessons learned from women who have failed a few times along the way.

1. Do guy’s stuff: Kathryn Bigelow has taken a lot of criticism over the course of her career for doing action and violence. It works for her!

2. Work-family works: Today’s work culture is more sensitive to the needs of families. If you do not have flexible work options, show your boss the mounting research on flex options and increased productivity.

3. Seek empowering workplace cultures: Bigelow was in the director’s chair.  Workers who have more decision-making authority over their daily job functions are less susceptible to stress, burnout and absenteeism.

4. Age and experience matter: Women of a certain age are just moving into their own. Forget about ageism in Hollywood casting line-ups; direct the movie and do the casting.

5. Working smart: Long hours are not the way to the boardroom. Use your time wisely.

6. The engineer’s mindset: The strong demand for women in fields such as engineering is re-engineering out dated mindsets. Keep in mind that today you have more power in the equation.

7. Quantify everything: Women are at the top in sales for an important reason – performance is transparent and measured.

8. Balancing work and family: Family is a stress buffer, not another event to juggle on your schedule.

9. Take the Initiative: Women still need to do more to get to the same place. Work smarter not overtime. Be proactive. Look for opportunities to take anticipatory action.

10. Get up, brush yourself off, and start over again. Sandra Bullock said it best in her Oscar acceptance speech, “Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?”