40 INVESTMENT ADVISOR JULY/AUGUST 2019 | ThinkAdvisor.com
she handles all the financial needs of
each client: financial planning, portfolio
design and management, estate
planning, insurance, etc.
We’ve found that most advisors are
far more productive if they focus on a
specific area of service, say financial
planning, with other advisors taking
care of the clients’ other financial needs.
This allows advisors to greatly narrow
their focus, expand the depth of their
expertise and decrease the
amount of time they spend on
the needs of each client.
Think of Henry Ford’s
assembly line. Instead of each
mechanic building an entire
car, each worker specialized
in a specific auto part as the
demand for cars and their
production increased. Doing
so increased productivity
Shorten time spent with
each client. In their efforts
to form bonds with clients, most advisors actually spend too much time with
them. Finances are only one part of clients’ lives. The best relationships with
clients are built upon trust. What people, generally speaking, most want from
their advisors is to be comfortable with
their financial plan and know that they
are on track with it.
If advisors decrease the number of
client meetings they have with each
client as they grow their business, they
leave room for additional clients. The
key is to ask clients how many times a
year they would like to meet. Give them
the control to determine what level of
interaction they have with you. When
given the choice, clients might require
fewer meetings than you expect.
Streamline advisors’ contact with
other professionals. Many advisors
coordinate with clients’ other professionals, such as lawyers, accountants
and insurance agents.
What if, instead of having a phone call
each time you need to coordinate some-
thing with other professionals, you send
them a detailed overview of instructions
and “need to know” items?
Have an agenda and allow other
professionals to do their job with the
information you give them. I’ve seen
advisors, for example, send checklists
over to other professionals; if these indi-
viduals have questions, they can call.
Hold less meetings and rework
decision-making. Owner-advisors need
to reduce the number of “firm meetings”
and shorten the get-togethers that they
hold. Yes, firm meetings are important
to coordinate everyone’s activities. But
every minute advisors spend in these
meetings is time they aren’t working
Owners need to create a culture of
trust in which each person knows the
boundaries and who makes the final
decisions. By doing so, advisors can
spend more time with clients.
Encourage advisors to figure out
how they can work with more clients.
And then give them the support they
need to do just that. Some advisors work
better at odd hours, early in the morning or late at night. Others work better
Owners need to be flexible with “time
requirements.” (After all, these folks
are professionals.) The focus should be
on how many clients they can service
without any deterioration in the quality of that service, not where or when
Once you’ve knocked out some of the
quick fixes mentioned here, the key to
growing your advisory business is to
increase its existing capacity — the ability to work with more clients.
The alternative to hiring is organi-
zational (re)design. It’s rethinking your
workflow, systems, procedures and
structures to streamline the delivery of
financial advice without clients “feel-
ing” like they are getting less.
How do you accomplish
this? Here are the main steps
to follow (in the best order):
1. Define your core busi-
ness. Simply put, what will
you and won’t you do for cli-
ents? This creates boundaries.
Advisors often over-service
clients as their numbers grow
for fear of losing them.
When you determine the
boundaries, services won’t
get out of control. What’s
more, when you put up boundaries you
increase client trust. This also rein-
forces your core competence.
2. Streamline workflows. At
this point, many advisory firms start
documenting everything. But the goal
is finding faster ways to do things
(like switching paper signatures to
electronic signatures). When there is a
better — and faster — way to do it, why
stick with the old ways?
3. Push the system. Years ago, a
business owner told me his advisors
could not work with more than 40 clients each, which was low by industry
standards. I told him we were going to
push it to 80 clients per advisor. His
team found a way to do it.
If you want to be truly efficient, ask a
busy person how they do it. Then, organizationally design a system around
what those productive people are doing.
Angie Herbers is an independent consultant to
the advisory industry. She can be reached at
We’ve found that most
advisors are far more
productive if they focus on a
specific area of service, say
financial planning, with other
advisors taking care of the
clients’ other financial needs.