Most advisors don’t use a business and marketing plan to drive or guide the growth of their business. Then one day they decide it’s time. They come to me kicking and screaming about writing a plan, not wanting to do it, but somehow innately knowing that a plan is overdue.
Why don’t advisors, who help their clients plan, create a plan? The explanations go something like:
- “I don’t need funding, so I don’t need a 50-page business plan.”
- “My plan is going to change anyway, so why should I waste my time creating it?”
- “It will take too much time.”
- “I started to and found it overwhelming.”
- “I didn’t start a business to do the types of things I did when I worked for someone else.”
- “I don’t want a big company. I don’t want employees.” (I just created a J.O.B. for myself.)
- “I don’t know which planning program to use; there are so many out there.”
- “It’s expensive to plan and I need to spend my money on other things.”
- “I don’t need to plan; I just want to work in my business.”
Yes, ask them, and they’ll tell you “I know I SHOULD have a plan.” In the report The 7 Stages of Enterprise Growth by James Fischer, Fischer reminds us that the states of growth, for a business or department are: Start up, Ramp up, Delegation, Professional, Integration, Strategy, Visionary. Going through a planning process helps create that roadmap through those states.
For the most part, “winging it” from day to day works—until it doesn’t. You could be at the $60,000 or $2 million a year level. It takes time (and some amount of pain) before an owner is willing to spend time or money to create/update processes or hire employees. Looking at a business from a wider scope is made more difficult when a person is running a business alone or on a shoestring budget.
I find that most owners or managers will work on a plan if someone else does it for them. That’s a big no-no in my book. The tangible result of planning—the written plan—is only half of end result. The other half is the experience of the process including talking through the questions you’ve put off answering. If someone else creates the plan for you, you lose those two parts. But just like creating a plan with your clients, if you create your plan “with” an expert planner, you’ll walk though the process and end up with a written plan. A win-win.
The Care and Feeding of Financial Professionals
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” That old quote is appropriate here. Advisors feeling a “pain” (or two, or three) are usually ready and compelled to take a “drink” from the strategic planning process. Here are some common pains advisors have reported:
- They have been producers and are ready to be more entrepreneurial – in fact they have to change their mindset in order to grow their business.
- They’re not attracting enough of their ideal clients and are tired of working with clients who drive them nuts.
- They need to be making more money so they can grow their firm.
- Their spouse informed them that if they don’t spend more time together, they’ll likely file for a divorce.
- They’re retiring in “x” years and want all the work, time, and money they invested in their business to be their nest egg.
- They realized that a business is an entity to grow, not just work at.
- Someone important to them told them they had to create a plan.
- Someone told them that their marketing is “all over the place”.
- They need help managing their company or department.
- They’re turning 50 and want to examine the next “x” years of their business with someone who isn’t as invested in their business.
- They want to eventually put their business on autopilot and take more time off to start a non-profit.
The bottom line is that the “pain of growing” occurs when it’s time to get better (or more) clients, grow a team, take more time off, and live a more enjoyable life.
When the Light Bulb Flickers
Eventually, advisors realize that there isn’t anything more to try to grow their business. Here are what they say to me when they’re finally taking the plunge:
- “My original business vision has been thrown to the wind.”
- “I’m sick and tired of putting out so many fires each day. I want to work with more clients.”
- “I woke up and realized that the business in my vision is not the business I have. I don’t like the business I have.”
- “I read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited and realized I need systems.”
- “I’m getting older. In order to earn top dollar for my business in (5, 10, or 20) years, I have to have a turn-key business. My business is anything but turn-key.”
- “I’m getting bored of running my company, and want to get it ready to sell/hire a CEO.”
- “I have tried to grow my business for the last two years and what I’ve done isn’t working.”
- “I want to start my business right; I know I need a plan.”
- “I want to earn more money.”
- I’m frazzled. I network and market all the time and am not seeing the results I once saw.”
- “There is a position in the company I want to create and I need to bring the concept to my boss in an organized way.”
- “Although I work for a company, I’m paid on commission, and I need a plan to expand.”
- “I want to open a branch office, but I can’t see having two disorganized offices. I need to get one office organized and systems created before I start the second.”
- “I like my business model but don’t know what to change or how to do it.”
- “My business does not have an inner brand, niche, or focus.”
Fifty-page plans can be helpful because of the in-depth process they provide. However, a majority of advisors need a tool that is much shorter and more useable. A process on 1 to 8 pages is more apt to be used daily to guide and monitor business. What’s important is that planning strategically is done before attempting execution or implementation. And while you may think “Sure, that’s how it’s supposed to be done!” many entrepreneurial financial advisors waste precious time experimenting with new strategies or the latest marketing “bling” before they sit down to create a plan.
Implementing before conducting a planning process is sure to waste a lot of time.
Find a flexible planning process you’re willing to do and learn a system that can be reuse in the future to make your life easier—and create a more profitable business that will be your nest egg, when you’re ready to exit.
I have a way for you to get your business and marketing plan done quickly and painlessly. Would you like to join me and just 7 other advisors in this exclusive workshop? I call it Strategic Planning on Steroids. Click here to check it out and save 20%!
© 2011, Updated 2019 Elevating Your Business. Maria Marsala has helped hundreds of advisors and service business owners create one-page planning processes to uplevel their business. Learn more here.