10 Laws Of Insanely Successful Fee Based Financial Planners

Perhaps I should have titled this post “Ignorance is bliss…” because I never knew I shouldn’t have been able to do what I have done.

Yes, it was 1993 when I hung my financial planning shingle.  Much to my parents dismay, I left University without a degree.  But, this move allowed me to lay a solid foundation that I stubbornly just kept building upon.

I went to the University of Guelph and was enrolled in a B.Comm Hon’s program.  While at school, I became enamoured with financial planning (when I started University, I wanted to be a lawyer… phew, glad I dodged that bullet).  I enrolled in the Chartered Financial Planner designation program while doing my B.Comm.  To say I was busy, was an understatement (thank goodness for the option of basing my University marks on 100% of my final exam scores).

Then, in the middle of my third year of University, I couldn’t take it any longer.  I needed to get out into the real world and launch my financial planning business.

My guidance counsellor told me that I almost had enough credits to graduate with a general Bachelor of Administration, but I was three “Arts” credits shy of my degree.  So, I enrolled in a black & white photography course to get missing credit #1 and off I went, into the real world.

The long and short of it is that I have learned a lot along the way.  All of what I have learned was mostly due to mistakes I made from lack of guidance, poor judgement and listening to the wrong people.  But, as a result, I have amassed a series of immutable laws that continue to guide me, and protect me.  Laws that have made me what I am today and protect me from my mistakes from the past.

So, here is a listing of the 10 laws that are simply required if you are planning on getting to that next level.  Building a solid foundation takes time, energy and determination. But, it’s all worth it…

10 Laws of Insanely Successful Fee Based Financial Planners

1. Your list is your greatest asset

My history with this point is mixed.  When I first started my business, I had no list of prospects to turn to.  Financial planning wasn’t my second career, it was my first.  So I didn’t have relationships with old co-workers.  I was 21 and all of my friends were still at school.

So, I began to offer interesting content to targeted markets in exchange for people’s names and addresses.  This worked like a charm.  Provided me with people to tell my story to and hopefully, if they needed help, encourage them to use my services.  The problem was, it worked so well that I stopped doing it because I was saturated with prospects to talk to.  What I should have done was put the whole process on auto-pilot.

When I started, the internet really wasn’t main stream. Heck, I didn’t even have an email address until my third year in business.  So, automating at this point was much more involved than it is today.

My point to you though is to put this list building process on auto-pilot and continually nurture and build a relationship with this list.  I have been doing this for many years and it is amazing how many people I meet with today, for the first time, who say – “I’m meeting with you today because you are the only one who has kept in touch with me for many years”.

2. Fail forward

One of the biggest hurdles you need to overcome to be successful as a fee based financial planner is your fear of failure.

Here’s the way I look at it.  Failure is simply valuable information that tells me what not to do any longer.  Which, when you really boil it down is invaluable information on what to do.  Looking at it simply, if you hit a fork in the road and need to decide whether to go left or right, just choose and go.  What’s the worst that can happen? If left doesn’t work, you re-group, take a few steps back and go right.

What you will find is that when you take that step back, you will meet a lot of people who are still standing there wondering which way to turn.  They will be discussing the pro’s and con’s of going left.  Then, the pro’s and con’s of going right.

But you, as a result of what you know will just walk on past with an air of confidence that other’s will long for.  Why are you so confident?  Because you have more information than most.  Because you failed forward.

The great thing about failing forward is that the more you do it, the easier it gets and as you flex this decision making muscle, your decisions get better and better and you will have more and more instant successes as a result.

It takes a lot of failures to become an overnight success.  So, fail forward right past your competition.

3. Take the long view

As a fee based financial planner, you need to be congruent with your message and your branding.  I’ve seen far too many people put the long view aside for a quick buck today.  They get caught up in selling the latest product incarnation as opposed to focusing on quality.  New is not necessarily better.

I have watched many “new” products crash and burn a few years later.  These are not conversations you want to have with your clients.  If something is so great, watch it for a while.  Good things take time.  Don’t be afraid to be patient.  Your clients will thank you for it and your messaging will remain consistent.

4. Ruthlessly control your time

The most valuable resource we have is our time.  You must not let others control your time.

I have found the key to my time protection has more to do with me than it does with anyone else.  I start my week with a plan.  I identify everything that needs to be done for every client meeting I have – and I make sure that every meeting is 100% prepared for on Monday.  Then, I identify the three most critical items that just have to get done for the week.

Next, I identify the strategic projects I would like to move forward and I list them.

Now, I have my week all planned out.

I attack my Monday.  I ruthlessly focus on my meeting preparation in the order that my meetings will occur.  I lay out each meetings documents so I can pick up the pile, walk in to the meeting and nothing get’s overlooked.

Next, don’t do anything else accept the first most important thing on your list.  Then move to the second.  Then the third.

Anytime you lose your focus, go back to your Ideal Week Worksheet to remind yourself what it is that you should be working on.

This process will ensure that you are never unprepared for a meeting and always moving your most important items forward.

If you want to find out more on how I do this, check out this podcast episode.

5. Diversify your revenue stream

Rule number one to protecting anything is don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  It’s good advice…

Recognize that as a fee based financial planner, you will (and should) have multiple revenue streams.  Building a practice that is not solely reliant on investment revenues or insurance revenues or fee revenues is a the key to consistency and confidence.

6. Delegate and Outsource

You have got to get out of your own way.  Sure, you are capable of doing everything, but would you hire “capable”?

Businesses don’t grow on their own.  They need to be supported.  Hire an assistant as quickly as you can.  Then, delegate properly.  Delegate to people who are better than you and focus your time on what you do best.

7. Take care of yourself

This is a demanding career.  Fee based financial planning is not easy.  If it were, everyone would be doing it.  But, be careful.  Working can be addictive.  Work can become your “crack” and can very quickly encourage bad habits.  If you are serious about this business, you need to be serious about keeping healthy.  The best information I have ever come across pertaining to how to live a healthy lifestyle without sacrifice is Mark’s Daily Apple.  I encourage you to download the material on this site, read how conventional wisdom regarding what is healthy and what is not is simply flawed.

8. Be valuable first

Value creation should be at the core of who you are and what you do.  Short term tricks and tactics to get people to work with you will end badly.  Focus on creating value with everything you do.  I like to ask myself this question to see if I am a value creator or not: “If I had to rely on my clients success first, before I got paid, would this do it?”  Focus on value creation.  It’s your path to success for everyone.

9. Weed

This one is a law of nature.  If you don’t weed your garden, your most beautiful plants will not flourish.  In his book The Pumpkin Plan (which is a book every fee based financial planner should read, highlight and dog ear), Mike Michalowicz uses the analogy of how to grow the worlds largest pumpkin.  You need to constantly weed out the pumpkins that are going to suck the life out of your best pumpkin and then water the hell out of your best pumpkin.

Looking at this from a fee based financial planning firm, identify your best clients and weed out the one’s who it is not appropriate for you to be working with.  Then, focus your value creation on your ideal clients.

10. Mastermind

There is nothing more powerful than a mastermind group you can turn to.  Put 10 – 20 entrepreneurs in a room, throw a problem in the middle of the group and watch the magic unfold.  A problem to a group of entrepreneurs is like putting blood in the water of a pool of sharks.  Just watch how quickly the problem is consumed and digested.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the mastermind groups I am a part of.

So, there you have it.  My 10 laws.  Let me know what you think.  Have I missed any?  Probably.  But, if you just work through these ten, you will be in awesome shape.

What was your number 1 law?  Which did I forget?  You know I read all of the comments so have at it…

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