The Five Steps To Becoming A “Virtual” Fee Based Financial Planner | FEE002 – Transcript
Okay, everybody. Now what we’re going to be talking about today are the five steps to becoming a virtual fee-based financial planner. Now this is a topic that is very, very important to me. It’s very, very important to the way I like to run my business. I don’t want to be tied down to a desk. It really is important to be able to have the freedom to run your business, to make sure everything gets done properly, but not have to be location specific. It just allows me to travel a little bit, to basically not have to be in the office on a daily basis but still get the work done.
So what does it mean to be virtual? My definition is to be able to work anywhere, anytime, and be able to get 90% of your daily work done. Now I say 90% because sometimes you just need to be in an office environment in order to – I don’t know whether it would be to print properly, or file something or whatever. So there are those times when you need to be in an office environment. But for 90% of the time, I want to be able to be completely free from any shackles of being at a desk. So what the non-virtual typical set up looks like it’s this. You’ve got an office that you go to. And in an office you got a desk, you got a chair, you’ve got a computer – whether it be a desktop computer, which is more often the case. Sometimes you have a notebook computer. You got the telephone on your desk. You’ve got your landline. You got your cell phone. You got your assistance that our in-house, sort of in the office with you. The software that you’re using on your computer is all client based. It’s on a server within the office, but it’s still kind of client based in that you’ve got to be there to access it and everything. Or you actually have to login. If you’re working from home, and you login to the server at the office, then you still have to be somewhat tied to things.
Now there are some challenges with all of this. This typical setup is what I’d say 95% of people are set up like. Now more and more people are starting to become more and more virtual, but they’re not completely virtual. They still sense that they have to be in the office. So my goal is to make sure that no matter where I am, it doesn’t matter. As long as I have an internet connection, I’m good to go. So let’s start off with this. So step number one, get your head wrapped around the idea of going virtual. One of the challenges I faced when I first started on this was I really … I like the concept of going virtual, but at the end of the day it seemed to be … it was a mind shift that I had to make it ‘cause I had to understand that I wasn’t going into the office every day. But I was still required to get work done. So I started doing things like testing myself and going and working from a coffee shop, and going to a Starbucks or going to a Tim Horton’s, or going wherever – someplace that wasn’t my home, that wasn’t my home office, that wasn’t my head office, that wasn’t my main office and working virtual and seeing what is it that I’m missing. See, we tend to like our office because it kind of becomes our own little cave, and when we get our cave, we tend to always want to come back to that cave. We feel secure in that cave. It’s our protected place, and we need to start breaking that a little bit.
So the problem with the cave is that the caves get messy, and cluttered, and it’s where old stuff gathers – your inbox. It’s where everything just starts to accumulate, and we want to start getting away from that because the accumulation is clutter. Clutter is mind-numbing, And it keeps you away from being focused on what you really need to do. So going virtual makes us ruthless with our time. It creates less clutter, and we don’t want to carry the clutter around with us because when you’re going basically to a coffee shop, you don’t want to have anything with you. You want to have as little as possible because you don’t want to walk in with all these big stacks of papers and whatnot. So getting over that mindset of saying, “Okay, how can I make all this work, and is this something I’m going to be comfortable with?” And making sure that you’ve got the workflows in the efficiencies in the office that will allow you to become more virtual is important. So step number one, get your head wrapped around the idea. Now assuming you’ve done that, now what you want to do is completely cut the cord. So find a way of saying, okay, let’s cut the cord. So to start off with you’ve got to get away from your desk. You’ve got to get away from having a desk, an office, that sort of thing. So what you want to do is not have a place that you can call your own. You don’t want to have an office. Get away from having an office. Focus on having a bunch of meeting rooms.
So what I did in my practice was I actually moved out of my office and gave my office to somebody else. And then I said okay, “That meeting room is gonna be mine.” Now it’s going to always be available as a meeting room, so I can’t bring stuff there and leave stuff there. At the end of every day it’s got to be completely clean, so anybody can walk in and use it. But while I’m there I’m going to utilize it, and I may spread my papers around and stuff. But I’m only going to bring with me what I need to get done for that day.
So get away – you got cut the cord with regards to having that office. Then what you want to do is get used to not having your own chair. You see we get so … we somewhat have a relationship with our chair. Get used to being in different locations, having different chairs and different setups. Sometimes it’s not going to be as comfortable as they could be. But bottom line is you’ve got to get used to being more transient, more not focused on – not being in your chair. And I know people do spend a lot of time and money on their own chair. But the reality is that if you’re going to be virtual you got to get away from that sort of possessive mentality with regards to chairs. So your chair becomes your boardroom chair, the coffee shop chair, whatever. So don’t get too attached to any one type.
Now on your phone, you’ve got to completely go virtual on that. You can’t have a landline that you rely on because the landline can’t follow you. So you want to start incorporating things like virtual attendants, voice over IP phone systems where you can control them. Really at the end of the day what I do is we’ve got a voice over IP system at our head office. And instead of me having an extension, which is for me, I just said, “Look, I don’t want the extension, but give me an extension number, and I’ll just make sure that that forwards to my cell phone.” So wherever I am, when people call, they call through to the office and it comes through to my cell phone. So I just make sure that I have that with me all the time.
Now that’s really all you need. So you can have simple call forwarding to your iPhone. Again, I’m the real proponent of iPhone versus a Blackberry or anything like that, and there’s a variety of reasons for that. A lot of it has to do with simplicity of use and so on and so forth. Some people say I can’t get used to the keyboard and all that. But you know what – I did, and I was a Blackberry user for years, and years, and years, and I switched over to the iPhone and have had no problems ever since. And now I couldn’t imagine going back. So in any event, you want to make sure that you’ve got your own set up so that you can be virtual, and that it will follow you. And now I also recommend from a phone standpoint – this is more of a time-saving issue. Don’t answer your phone. Don’t answer incoming calls. Now some people will say – and I know I’m going to start getting e-mails on this saying, “What are you talking about? That’s not customer service,” and so on and so forth. Well, I’m not saying you don’t want to call to be answered. I’m just saying that you don’t want to be the one answering it because I did a little test, and I found that almost 95% of calls they came into me could have been handled by somebody else, or shouldn’t have been handled by anybody at all. So what I do is I have it set up where it instantly comes in. If somebody goes to my extension I say, “Unfortunately, I’m not available at this time; however, if you want immediate assistance press 0, and it will go to one of my assistants.” And then that takes care of everything. And what I’ve been doing is you just want to start training people to not call you. Speak with your assistant first, speak with somebody else first, get the information from there, and then basically at that point when the call does come back to you, or when somebody does need you, they’ll come and get you. And that’s when you can spend some focused time on that.
So really focus on not answering your phone. So you can have it forwarded to you, but the only reason why I have it forwarded to me is that I want to know that a call has come in, so I can expect to see a voicemail come through. And if the voice of those come through, then that means that they actually did want to leave me a message. They did want to speak with me. I very quickly listen to the voicemail. And we’ll talk about that because the voicemail that I get are all e-mailed to me. And so they come in, and I listen to the voicemail, and usually I’ll get back to people within a few minutes. So people are really appreciative of that because they’re like, “Wow, I just left a message for you, and that’s great. Thanks for getting back to me.”
The other thing that you want to do with regards to phone system is make sure you have a virtual fax, both incoming and outgoing. So what I recommend as well … on my system, whenever our office sends a fax we image everything. So we don’t have a fax machine. So what we do is we do everything via e-mail. So we have a system where we have a phone … whatever the fax number is that we’re sending it to that’s going to be the first part of the e-mail address. And then we have an @ sign that goes in, just like every other e-mail address, and then we have a certain – I guess it’s a URL or domain that it goes to. When it goes to that, it instantly then since off as a fax, and then it gives us a confirmation e-mail back saying that the fax was sent successfully, for the fax was sent successfully. So we’re able to track. Incoming faxes, again, are all done … they get sent to us via e-mail, so we have one person that basically gets all the faxes coming in. You could even, if you wanted to, you could have your own personal fax number, have it come in so every time a fax comes in … but again, I found as well that any time I went to look at all the faxes coming in, again, 90% of the faxes were either junk faxes or they just didn’t need my attention. So I make sure that everything filters through one of my assistants, and they take care of the faxes. And if there’s something that I need to take a look at, and they make sure I do that.
So from the phone system, I’d completely cut the cord there. Get rid of your landline. Get a virtual attendant, get a virtual system, don’t answer your phone, have all your calls forwarded to your phone, have your voicemail setup so that it e-mails you your voicemails, and with regards to faxing, make sure your faxes are virtual, both incoming and outgoing.
Now we’re going to talk about computers. So with computers, the problem with a computer is most people have desktops when they’re in their office. They have these nice powerful machines. You need to get away from your desktop. You got to get rid of the desktop and go to a Notebook computer that’s got a WiFi system on it. So you can hook onto any Wi-Fi network that’s out there, and if you don’t have a WiFi available, then you want to make sure you have some sort of USB stick. Or what I do is I just tether through my iPhone, and use the data package on my iPhone for gaining access to the internet. So it doesn’t matter where I am, if I can get a cell signal, I can get an internet signal. So that’s great.
So you want to make sure you’re using a system that is a Notebook computer. Don’t go with one that’s very, very large because you’re going to be carrying it around with you. So I just got a little 13 inch that I carry around, and it’s my lifeline. I can’t live without it. So you also want to get yourself a commercial grade properly managed Notebook. Now one of the things when you have a Notebook is that everything is on the Notebook. And as soon as you take that computer out of your office, you now are running the risk of having it being stolen, dropping it, spilling coffee on it, whatever it may be. I mean it is a risk factor goes up tenfold. So make sure the Notebook that you’re getting – don’t chince on your Notebook. It’s got to be commercial grade, properly managed. And what I mean by properly managed is you want to have some sort of the service that manages the system for you. So here’s what I mean by that. So I, right now, am a PC user. Now I’d like to transition everything over to Mac, and were going to get that. But right now I’m a PC user. I buy all of my PCs from a company called No Panic Computing. Now this is in Canada. NPC is the company that I use.
Now the system that I get is a commercial grade HP machine. It’s got all the features. It’s power packed. It’s loaded up with memory. It’s loaded up with speed. It’s just an amazing machine – high-quality, durable. It’s gonna read the case on it. It’s got encryption up the yin yang. I logon using my fingerprint, as the log on. They manage my entire system for me, so I’ve got 24/7 access to them. I highly recommend you do, if you can, and you can get service by No Panic Computing. I wouldn’t go anywhere else. After my first experience with them, I have just … I’ve never had a bad experience with them. They’ve always been there 24/7. I’ve had situations where on Sunday afternoon I think it would a virus. I called them up and basically the guy said to me, “Look, give me a half hour, 45 minutes, I’ll call you back and it’ll all be fixed.” Remotely he dials in, or logs onto the system, goes in, cleans it all up, gets rid of the trojan, the horse, the whatever it is that’s in there, and cleans everything up for me. I didn’t have to do any of it. And the virus I got hit with was a pretty bad one. He got everything set up for me. It also has an off-site backup thing, so every day every night system is … taking any change that was made, any new file that was added to my computer, and it’s backing it up off-site. So my entire system is backed up off-site, so that if anything were to happen – if I have somebody who steals my computer, number one, all my data is stored off-site.
And number two, they got a great system where if your computer does go off-site, and somebody does steal it, you can basically notify them, they push a button. The next time your computer hooks onto the internet, it sends a signal to it, and it wipes the entire computer clean. So you’re basically giving yourself complete protection with that. Protection around your data is incredibly important. So don’t chince on that. Make sure you’ve got a really good, high-quality, off-site backup system – encrypted everything. Everything must be encrypted. Our system is so encrypted if somebody were to grab the computer, take the hard drive out, ditch the computer and just try and plug the hard drive into another computer, that hard drive will not be able to be read by anything but the computer it came from. So if they can’t log onto my machine, and they try and hack it out and put it into another machine to try and read the hard drive, the reality is it’s not going to work. Now the likelihood of that happening is slim to none, but it’s nice to know that that is there.
The other thing that you get when you have a managed system is that all of your licenses for all the software that’s preloaded on the machine they’re all managed by somebody else. I was running into all these issues where beforehand I would have to get licenses for all my staff. And it was a nightmare, and everything was different. It was a nightmare. So I never really enjoyed that whole process. This way, they manage all the licenses, and it all works. The other thing is that they manage everything. I pay one monthly – basically it’s a lease payment – for three years I’ve got a contract with them. They handle everything. They’ve got all the tech support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These guys are good. So this isn’t a commercial for them, but I will say if you are in Canada … and I don’t know if they work with people in the United States. I don’t see why they wouldn’t. But definitely, if you’re in Canada you want to be talking to No Panic Computing. They do actually have managed desktop machines as well for those who want to have your staff set up on desktop machines. But I like to have my staff on notebooks because sometimes your staff can’t come in to work and may need to be somewhat remote. So you want to give them the flexibility as well. So definitely take advantage of the No Panic Computing. We have and we’ve just loved it.
Now, as I said, I do want to migrate over to a Mac. I just think a Mac is just simply a better platform. I’ve just heard so many better things about it, and so we definitely want to do that. If you’re going the Mac route, or if you’ve already gone the Mac route – and I’m telling you I haven’t done that yet, but I am planning on doing that – again, commercial grade, go with the MacBook Pro. My recommendation is max out the RAM, max out the hard drive, get the fastest one you can because you’re going to have it for at least three years, and you want to make sure over that time period it keeps performing to your liking. I would recommend getting the Apple Care support, so you’ve always got somebody to call. Apple – my experience with them and having to call their tech support … they actually are quite good. And so there’s always been some assistance with that. They also … if you’re running a business environment, Apple has a business consultant within each store that you can talk with and sort of work with them on having business plans and that sort of thing. If you’re a Mac user this may be not news to you, but I will probably be moving to a Mac on my next system. But I’m going to be running parallels so I can run Windows because I just want to make sure I’m not caught short. When there’s a program that does need Windows I want to be able to run that on my machine as well.
So definitely get yourself a commercial grade Notebook. If you haven’t gotten one, then it’s definitely where you want to go so that you got that available to you. I use mine all the time. I’m always on the road, and they go to coffee shops. It’s just an amazing experience. Now you also want to how an iPad or a MacBook Air – anything that’s solid state basically. So personally, I have an iPad. I can’t … I use it all the time as well when I don’t want to carry around a Notebook, which is just a little too large sometimes. I’ll take my iPad with me. And because of the way I’ve set up how I access all my data, I can pretty much access anything on my iPad. So you definitely want to take a look at that. The iPad – there’s a program which is called Splash Page. Now if you have a desktop, or if you have a Notebook that you want to be able to tap into, your iPad can actually … you can install this program called Splash Page on there, and it basically gives you now control over your computer at a different location. So you can use anything that’s on your computer. You can actually go onto your iPad, and you can control your computer and sit there as if it was your own computer. So you definitely want to look at that.
The MacBook Air is just … really what it is is it’s a very, very light, easy-to-use, full functioning computer. It has a keyboard. Some people don’t like the keyboard if they like to do a lot of typing. They don’t like the keyboard, the sort of virtual keyboard that comes up on the iPad. I’m actually thinking that I might convert to a MacBook Air because I do type. I’m a sight typer, so I don’t really need to look at the keyboard. I can type really quickly. But when I’m using an iPad, I do have to use the … I do have to watch, and I’m basically typing with my finger. So it slows me down a little bit. But using Splash Page you can put it on both, and you can control the computer. So you don’t want to be … you’re not gonna be storing a lot of information on your iPad for your MacBook. But anyways Splash Page would be a nice solution to allow you to control your computer. They’re very portable. The integration – the simple ease of integration that the iPad and MacBook Airs have with regards to cloud applications is phenomenal. The same thing goes with your iPhone. Again, I said earlier in this podcast I’m a real proponent of iPhone. I think that little device is so powerful. There’s so many things you can do on it. I’m using it all the time. I’ve got podcast better on there. I’ve got data streams that are coming in. I’ve got my e-mail. I’ve got my calendar. I’ve got my database. I’ve got everything. There’s really not much I can’t do if I’m out, and I’ve just got my iPhone. I guess I can write a full financial plan on it, but bottom line is it does give me access to all the critical things that I need when I’m out of the office or not my Notebook computer.
You’re also going to want to invest in a really good USB headset. You’re going to be doing a lot more online-type meetings, so what will definitely come in handy. And don’t skimp on that. I mean, they’re not expensive to begin with, but you can get a $40 USB mic – USB headset – or you can go for $100 one. I’ve got one – I’ve got a couple – but I’ve got one that’s a wireless one. I quite like having the wireless set up, so you just plug in a little dongle into your computer, and then it gives you wireless hookup. There’s also a plug-in one. I’ve gone with a Logitech headset. Anything’s good – just go with the high end one; go with the more expensive one. I think the sound quality is better, and it’s going to be a little more comfortable because you will be using them more and more, and it’ll just come in handy. You won’t regret that decision.
Now, we’re going to talk about software. So when I talk about cutting the cord, I’m serious about cutting the cord. My goal is to make sure that I can run my business from anybody’s computer, which means I don’t want to be computer dependent. I really believe in this strategy because let’s just say suddenly your computer dies on you. It happens. Or let’s say you drop your computer or your walking along and you forget to do up your briefcase. I’ve got sort of a backpack type briefcase that I carry, but it’s got big zippers on it that zip right down to the bottom of it. And sometimes I’ll pick it up and the thing will flop open. Well, I’ve had times where the computer is almost – if it didn’t have that safety strap over the top, it would almost have slid right out. Well, if you’re picking it up, and it’s got a 3 or 4 foot drop on it, a drop from where you’re slinging the backpack on your back, and it flops open and drops the computer, you could damage the computer to the point where you’re going to have to get it replaced. That’s fine. The hard drive can be replaced, and you can basically do a backup and restore of all your information. But it’s the down time you’ve got to pay attention to. The downtime will just completely take you out. You’ll lose your mind not being able to access your information. So what I want to make sure is that I’ve got everything that I can use anybody’s computer from anywhere and never have to worry about not being able to get work done. So that just gives me more freedom because sometimes I may think I don’t even want to carry my computer. I don’t want to take anything with me, but I know where I’m going will have a computer I can use, and so I’ll just simply logon to and take care of it.
So some of the things that I’ve incorporated into our practice is definitely, number one, you want to incorporate Google for Business. Now, we all know Google has the most amazing search engine available. Well, that technology is brought into their e-mail as well. So Google for Business – what that is – it’s a paid service. What it does is it allows you … if you’ve got your own company domain, and you’ve got your own URL, and you’ve got your e-mail address, and it’s your name @ your company dot com or whatever. Well, all you do is you simply set it up so your mail exchange record says, okay, instead of sending it to an exchange server or something like that, just simply send it to these mail exchange servers – MX Records – which are on Google. And you tell Google that your domain is whatever it happens to be dot com. And now your e-mail is all done through Google. So you log into your Google account, and once you’ve done that you’ve got access to all the Google apps. So it starts off with Gmail. You’ve got your e-mail and then, and I love it. I’ve learned to really, really appreciate the importance of having a Gmail account because with that Gmail account there’s nothing I can’t find. You never really delete anything in Gmail. You always just archive it, and that was something that at first it took a little bit of getting used to because I was always pretty clean and pretty clear about, okay, if I’m not going to be this later I’ll just delete it. But now what I’m finding is that just archive everything. What that allows you to do is there may come times when … I know for me it’s happened where I have to think back and say I remember dealing with that person for that topic, and I remember a key word that was in the email. But for the life of me, I can’t remember who it came from or whatever. Will simply just search on that keyword, or that word, and it’ll bring up every e-mail that has that in it. Well, the ability to find things is incredible. So you don’t have to worry about keeping it all organized and whatnot. He just basically archive, and you can always recall anything. And its intelligent nature is phenomenal. So definitely take advantage of Gmail.
I’m also using Google Docs. Google Docs is just sort of … in my mind it’s a less robust version of Word, but it allows me to … if I’m working on, whether it be a podcast show notes or concept or something like that, I can just work on it, and now I can be collaborative with all the other team members that I have. So they can all instantly … I can share it with them, and they can instantly log on. So now what it does is it saves you from having more than one copy of the document. You see one of the problems that you have when you have documents is that you create a version, and then you e-mail a copy to somebody else. They get it; they make some changes to it; they e-mail it back to you. You get that; you make some changes; you e-mail it back to them. Right now you’ve got – one, two, three, four – almost five versions of that same document. Now the question is which ones the latest version? Which one did you like the best? Well, when you’re dealing with a virtual system, or a cloud-based system, you got one document that everybody’s collaborating on. And you can allow people into that. You can share it with them. It’s an amazing way of doing it. You can actually see real time collaboration going on, so it’s a phenomenal system – with the documents, with the spreadsheets, and the videos and PowerPoint presentations. Everything can be stored there – PDF files, whatever. So we kind of have it as like our server in the sky that we just … anything that’s important we kind of save it there and then everybody can collaborate with it. I’ve actually taken it personally where … personally what we do is when we have recipes that we like, we now store all of our recipes on Google Docs. And we have a special folder that we put it into. But the great thing is when you come back and say, you know what … tonight let’s say we’ve got some chicken. Well we’re able to go in, we type in search for any recipe that has the word chicken in it. And boom it comes up, and here’s a whole list of recipes that, that we can go through that allow us to search based on the ingredients we have for that. That has nothing to do with business, but it’s sort of another way that we’ve taken advantage of using Google Docs.
The calendar is phenomenal. The calendar functionality in Google is amazing especially because you can put other people’s calendars on yours. You can overlay them. You can book appointments. You can request appointments for other people. You can see who’s accepted and who hasn’t. It’s very, very robust – probably the most powerful calendaring system I’ve ever seen. And again the great thing is that you can access it from any computer anywhere. Backups are important, and they do have a system. It’s a free system that we’re using right now called Spanning Backup. And it saves all the documents and all the calendar and everything that’s going on there. It saves all that information, so if you accidentally happen to delete something you can go back into your Spanning Backup file and say, “I accidentally deleted that. I want to get back.” And sure enough, it’ll give you the copy back, and it restores everything right back in. You go through the tutorial on Spanning Backup, and it’s amazing. They went through an example where somebody accidentally deleted somebody’s calendar, and sure enough it restored everything. So it’s very, very powerful, very, very safe, secure. I just can’t speak highly enough about it. And I think it costs $50 per user per year, so you can’t beat that. I mean, for all the functionality you get from it and all the colaborativeness that you get from it … it’s just unstoppable.
The other thing that we use is we use SalesForce.com. Now you’re going to hear me talk a lot about Salesforce as we’ve spent I don’t know how many hundreds, thousands of hours. We started out with Maximizer; we then migrated to GoldMine. We customized the bejesus out of it. We got to the point with Maximizer where we tapped it out. It was going, “Uncle, uncle, I can’t take anymore.” You’ve got to then … you got to move on to some other platform. So we’ve moved from Maximizer to GoldMine simply because Maximizer wasn’t able to do at the time what we needed it to do. Moved into GoldMine and GoldMine was great. It really is I think out of all of the solutions that are out there are probably one of the best from a client-based system. But the challenge with GoldMine is that you’ve got to have a certain … anyways they might have some differences now. But at the time I was using it, it was a server based platform. So we had to have a server. My last server cost me close to $10,000. And it was a very expensive black box that sat on the server shelf somewhere and really just didn’t even look nice. So we have that server, had to have that maintained. The database – if it got too much going on on the server it would crash. We’d have to reboot the server. We were constantly doing things like that. And it was getting to be a real pain in the butt. So I looked around and said, “Well, there’s got to be a better solution.” I came across salesforce.com, and when you start looking into salesforce.com, and you realize the functionality and customization work and everything you can do – there’s nothing it can’t do. I’m just able to … I’m blown away by all the customization you can do and how easy it is to do the customization yourself. I was amazed when we migrated from our GoldMine database to a Salesforce database at how quick and easy these guys were able to make the migration happened and customize it to exactly what I needed it to do. And I’m talking customization – not just look and feel – but automating things, having some smart technology built-in so that if you book a client for an appointment, and then the client at the end of the appointment you book a second appointment. And when you move them from one appointment stage to the next, it’s smart enough to say, “Hey wait a minute. If they’re going into a second appointment, then we need to trigger these things to happen.” So it assigns tasks to my staff saying you need to send out this letter to the client thanking them for the appointment, summarizing the notes. Get ready for the next appointment. Put this package together. So it’s got into the technology in it that allows it to anticipates and sort of recognize once you’ve mapped out what the process is and the workflow you want it to follow, then it will make sure nothing gets missed. And it keeps on assigning the tasks to everybody, and as long as everybody follows the tasks that are being assigned to them, everything gets done.
So it’s an amazing system. Their logic behind how it tracks things is amazing. I’m able to now turn all the opportunities that I come across for clients. So as I’m sitting with a client and meeting with them and going through in review, I may recognize certain opportunities. Well, now I have a place that I can store the information so I can very quickly say, “Okay, well what opportunities do I have available to me that I can start working on to generate some revenue?” So as a result, it’s just the way its logic is set up – it is truly is a system that understands the financial planning sales process and how you need to work through … how when somebody’s a prospect, then they become a client. That transition takes place, and when that happens it makes sure that certain … it’s amazing. All this has been programmed into it, and it was very easy to do. So I highly recommend that. The other great thing is that everybody is always on the same version. One of the things that drove me nuts was when a company would come out with a new version or an update, or a patch, or something. Then you had to get everybody’s computer patched, and the problem with that is that you generally need to have some IT guy coming and do it for you. Well, no longer do we have to worry about that because Salesforce when they upgrade a company who’s on their platform – like Dell – when they upgrade Dell’s system, my system gets upgraded too. Everybody gets done at the same time. So whether you’re a one or two person user to a 500 or 600 team user, then it doesn’t matter. Everybody gets the same priority, same update. Everything just works. So it’s an amazing system, but it just works really, really well, and I would highly, highly recommend that.
Now, with the software as well the one thing you want to make sure is that all the different software that you’re using you want to go cloud-based. Cloud base everything. you want to move everything up to the clouds and get rid of your reliance on servers and installing software on your machine because the cleaner your machine is … my machine, I goal is to make it so all I have on my machine are basically some basic little software programs, nothing critical. And everything is then accessed through my web browser. So focus on cloud-based solutions for everything. And you’re also going to want to make sure you have an account with Go To Meeting, Go To Webinar. This system has changed my life. We basically ran into a situation where we had not enough time and too many meetings. We found that it was just getting difficult, and people would cancel, and we’d have periods of time when people couldn’t make it in for … whether it be weather delay or rain delay, or something would just come up, and you couldn’t get everybody in. When we would call and book appointments with people we would then say, “Okay, well we’d like to get together with you.” And they’d say, “Well, we can’t really make it right now. We’ve got …” it’s kids, or obligations, or whatnot. And we say, “Why don’t we do it virtually?” And for review meetings it’s amazing. Once you build a relationship with the client, the review meetings are phenomenal. And when you can do it on a Go To Meeting session, clients love it because they hear you, they see which are looking at, they see all the same pages that you’d normally be showing them in a face-to-face meeting, but it’s all virtual. And it makes people very efficient. I’ve had clients who now – I’d say probably 30 to 40% of our clients now call in … or when we call them to book an appointment with them, they request an online meeting. And not just blows me away. So it makes efficiencies for everybody. Clients love it. I love it. We always offer it as a secondary option. I always want to make sure that I give them the face-to-face time if they want it. But if they want the online meeting, then I’m good with that.
So definitely, step two, cut the cord on everything you possibly can. Go cloud-based wherever you can, go virtual with your system, your computer, your phone. Don’t get too tied in to your desk and chair and all that sort of stuff. But definitely cut the cord.
The third step is you need to now – because you’re really kind of transient – you need to create really good workflow systems within your office. So you want to create office procedures that must be followed inherently. So one of the reasons why I gravitated toward Salesforce is because I could actually map out those workflows in Salesforce. The system was smart enough to know that when this happens, assign these tasks. When that happens, assign these tasks. And I was able to map it out so that nothing fell through the cracks. And I didn’t have to be there to make sure everything was working. The other thing that we do is we image and scan every document that comes into our office. So if it comes in, and it pertains to client, we image and we instantly attach it to that client’s file. So we’ve got a virtual file for them. Now we keep the original, but we got a virtual file for them that we can always turn to because remember if you’re not in the office, you can’t go to the files. So you’re going to need to access that information somehow, and that’s how we do it. So we scan everything in. And all it is is scan it in, make it turn it into a PDF file, attach that pdf file to the client record, and there you go. So making sure you got the office procedures is key. We preprogrammed into our salesforce.com workflow, so that we make sure nothing falls through the cracks. I work constantly updating as we come across and find new things that we can do to automate things, to trigger, to make sure things are always happening, then were incorporating. Scanning all the documents is important. Create a meeting control sheet. Now a meeting control sheet what it does is it allows you – while you’re in your meeting – it gives you the ability to record all of the things, like the next actions that you need to do for a client, the opportunities that he recognized. Anything that you need to do, any notes you need to make, all that sort of stuff, then you want to be able to have a place to record that. So the control she is really the document which records the information that took place at the meeting but also identifies opportunities and what the next actions are, things that you said you would do for the client.
So when I finish the meeting, I walk out, and I basically hand my control sheet over to my assistant, and then she takes it and then images it in so I’ve got a copy of it in the system. She goes through it and then starts logging all the tasks because I’ve been able to say, “Okay, while this needs to be done. Here’s who needs to do it.” Then we log everything down, write any notes to people back and forth, write notes to people so they can see exactly what needs to be done, and then people just go ahead and do it. So it’s a great way for communicating information that is so top of mind, so don’t have to go back after the fact and listen to the things or remember what notes were needed to be done, and to dos, and that sort of stuff. So it’s all done right there, and it becomes very efficient. Then, as I said, the control sheet would then get imaged into the system, so we’ve always got a copy of that that we can refer to if need be. And then the workflow just seems to work. So we’ve got a place for everything.
Now you also want to make sure that you’re creating meeting templates to standardize your meeting workflow. So the thing that I’m doing a lot of now is I’m going through and saying, okay, as I’m going through and let’s say I identify an opportunity where client’s coming up to the point where they’re just getting ready, or maybe they’re getting close to the end of a 10 year term on a term policy. And we know right off the bat that they’re probably not going to want to renew at the rates that the insurance company is renewing at. They’re healthy, and we know we can get the better insurance elsewhere. So we want to do a comparison and say look why don’t we re-shop the market, weekend as the market and see if we can get you a better rate somewhere else. So we go ahead and we do that. Now what I’ve done is I’ve template that process, so it allows my team to put all the information together. So I basically say do a new term versus old term comparison using this certain template. They go ahead and they fill in the blanks, and they put the package together. So basically 90% of the work has been done. I then get it, take a look at the results, and then I can put my fine tuning on it. But it really allows me to get the job done without having to do it myself because a lot of that is kind of just routine, and there’s sort of a process that we follow. So any time that we recognize this process for doing something, we document that process.
The other thing that we do is we document it not only in – what a lot of people do now is they put checklists or that sort of thing together. But I will actually documented in the video format. So we recorded how to do things via video because remember everything is so virtual. Everything is pretty much done on the computer. So what I do is I’ll do it once. I’ll report myself doing it. I’ll narrate what I’m doing while I’m doing it. So now I’m building an online training manual, so that when we have somebody new come in and they say, “How do you do an address change?” I simply say, “Well just go to our system.” And in Salesforce we’ve stored all of our videos, and we’ve got a bit of a library and an interface where you go in and say, “Okay, type in a keyword for address change.” Type an address change and every document and video that has address change attached to it comes up. Well in that case, there’s only one. It’s a video. It comes up, and it basically walks them through start to finish on how to do it. So it’s an instant training tool. I don’t have to worry about training anybody, and it just seems to work. So you definitely want to take advantage of creating workflow systems. Think about how things are getting done. Think about the process you go through for every meeting. And it’s probably quite similar. There may be some small nuances, but the reality is, it’s probably quite similar whether you’re putting together an insurance needs analysis, whether you’re putting together a financial plan, whether you’re putting together an investment recommendation – there’s probably a process to follow. Identify the process, document it, and then you’ll be able to hand out off and create workflows around it. So that’s the third one.
Now we’re moving onto step five. You have now – really if you haven’t done this already, hire an assistant. It will be the most amazing … you’ll get so much returned from your investment on that. I never ever look at my staff as expenses. They’re always an investment because when I hire somebody, if I’m paying them 40, 50, 60 – whatever the number is. When I’m paying them, I need to get a definite return on that investment. And so we always look for ways that they can help me leverage off of that. So the thing about an assistant is they’re the ones that are going to go to the office. They’re the ones that are going to have the presence in the office. They’re going to handle all of the admin. You as a financial planner do not want to be bogging yourself down with admin. You need to have somebody do that. You’re basically losing money every time you touch a document. What I say to clients – because when I first started every client came back to me, and they always wanted me to do things because in their mind I was the one that was going to do it perfectly. Well, I’ve realized that I was just getting bogged down with admin. So we hired an assistant, and basically I think the clients, “Look, if you want it done I’ll do it, but if you want it done right, then you’re going to have my assistant do it.” And they kind of chuckle at that, but they get the message. Then they start recognizing that your assistant is there for a reason. They’re not just somebody that you’re barking orders at. But this is somebody that can handle quite a few things for them. So they handle all of the admin. When you come out of the meeting, they’re the ones that take the file and the control sheet and record everything that needs to be done.
I remember years ago when I was starting out. I remember listening to Bill Good, and he always talked about the first hire you want to do is a data entry person. And I recognize that data entry – I thought what’s the point of all that. What a waste. I just didn’t see the value. Well once I started following this process, I recognize the value because when I come out I hand everything off to my sister and then she takes it. She records all the information, records all the notes. Everything gets put in there, compliance is happy, everything just works, and I can now move on to the next one. So when I come out of the meeting, my assistant takes the file. My sister takes the control sheet. She records all the items and then processes everything ‘cause she knows what the next step is.
They’re the ones – your assistance are the ones – that are going to prepare for each meeting to be spent that they can using your meeting template. So if you’ve done a good job, you should be able to get 80 to 90% of your meeting prep done by your staff because you template, and you’ve put together sort of the core of how things are to be done. And then really what you’re doing is your really checking it over the week before or the day before the meeting just to make sure everything’s done right and it all makes sense. So definitely your final set of eyes are the ones that are going to go on it, but putting those templates together are simply going to make it easier for your staff to be able to handle things. All incoming calls – as I said before – you never want to be answering your own phone. You never want to be taking incoming calls. They are a true waste of time; 99% or 95% of all calls that come in are waste of time. But the way I set it up is when a call comes in I don’t answer it. My message says for immediate assistance they can hit zero and it goes to my assistant. If they do that – nine times out of ten they will. If they don’t the e-mail gets sent to me with the voicemail attached to it. I listen to it immediately, and then I get right back to them, and everybody’s happy with that. So definitely don’t handle any incoming calls. Transfer all that off to your assistant. They’re the ones … your assistants are also the ones that manage your calendar. So all the scheduling, all the booking, all the everything is done by your assistant. So you sort of get into a bit of a groove. Your assistant gets to know what you like, what you don’t, how you like to do it, how much time you like between meetings – all that stuff gets worked out. But it works out really well. The thing I find about it as well is that when it comes time to book meetings, the one thing I was doing as I was always kind of hesitant about, oh jeez, I don’t want the book too many meetings that day. Well, I basically give it to my assistant. She goes ahead. She books all my meetings. I give her some criteria about how many meetings I want to have in a day, at what times I want the meetings, and so on, and so forth. And then she just goes, and she starts doing it, and it’s amazing how quickly … how you can keep your calendar full by letting somebody else fill it up for you. So let them manage your calendar. Now what you can do is you’ll want two every so often go in.
And if you’ve got certain things you need to block off, just block off the time and make sure … and then they just don’t book around that. So that’s the other benefit of having a cloud-based system is that whenever you change, whenever you change it, whether it be on your iPhone when you’re in a coffee shop, whether it be on your iPad when you’re on a plane, or whether it be on your computer when you’re somewhere else. It’s all real time. It all happens immediately, so everybody gets updated instantly. There’s none of this having to synchronize at the end of the day. And that, again, used to drive me nuts. I’ve had too many situations when I would synchronize, something would go wrong, and then I get the double entry of everything. So I had a situation where a sync went wrong, and what ended up happening was the sync basically put everybody on my system twice. So I had duplicate entries. It was a nightmare. So I’m never going to go through that again because everybody’s dealing with one record, real-time, and it happens that way. So lay out on your schedule … you’re going to want to lay out the dates and times that you’re available for client meetings so that your assistant knows when to book. It is kind of a relationship that you build with your system. You say, “These are the times when I’m good. This is one I’m not.” and so really focus on doing that. So step number four – hire an assistant as quickly as you possibly can. Get somebody in the office and then give them the responsibility to book your meetings, handles your calendar, and though all the admin requests, really do all that stuff, give them the resources, the people they can contact you if they have any questions. And let them run their side of the business, which is really the client service.
And then step number five – this one is very important because when you’re virtual you can do anything you want. You can be anywhere you want. So what you want to do is at the beginning between you want to set up what I call your ideal week. Now your ideal week – this is how mine works. So on Monday morning I have a routine that I go through. And I plan my week in advance, so I know exactly what I’m coming up against. I know exactly what’s happening. I’m not reacting to anything, and this is the way it works. So number one on Monday morning. I get up – first thing I do is I print off an ideal week sheet, then I outlined the three most important activities that need to get done that week. These are my three critical to dos. I mean, if nothing else gets done that week, those three things absolutely have to get done. Then I focus on doing those three things as quickly as I possibly can. If I can get those three things done in the first day, then anything else I get done that week is a bonus. So really focus on those three things. Do them as quickly as possible. Try and blow them off. Sometimes you can’t because generally if it’s a really important thing, it’s probably going to require a lot of work. But get it moved forward and focus your energy toward getting those three things done. Log all of the meetings that you need to prepare for, and do all the prep on Mondays. Never ever have meetings on Monday. Monday is a sacred day. Do not let anybody and on that day. It is your day that allows you to prepare for your entire week. So set it up that way. What that means is no meetings for me. I have no meetings on Mondays. I have no phone calls, no nothing.
All it is for me is getting prepped. So I set up my three critical activities. I then look at all my meetings that I have that week. And I go through preparing each one, and I prepare them in the order that the meetings occur. So if for any reason I do run late and I can’t get everything done, at least my first meetings that I got done with meetings for the next day. It sounds pretty logical, but sometimes people tend to gravitate to the easy meetings first. And the problem with easy meetings is at the end you’re left with the hard ones. And if you’re too tired to do them, you probably don’t get them done as well. So what I do, I do them in the order that they’re supposed to be done. That’s the way that I record them on my to do sheet. And they focus on doing it, and I get the meeting done. So that it’s basically the package or the meeting notes, or the meeting documents or whatever are on a file. So at the beginning of the week on my assistant’s desk are all my meetings, chronologically ordered, in the order that I’m going to be having them – complete. I just have to walk in the office, pick up the file, walk into the meeting, and everything is there. That’s the point you want to get to. So by the end of Monday, you never have anything outstanding.
You want to list on your initial sheet – the one that you’re setting up for your ideal week – you want to list the strategic projects that you would like to work on work move forward that week. So your week isn’t always devoted to just client meetings. You’ve also got other projects that you’re working on and things that you want to get done. So you want to list those, and then you want to sort of work that … work your schedule so that you got time to do all those things. ‘Cause there are some things that, you know, for me it could be podcasting. For me it could be coming up with ideas and putting some show notes together for upcoming podcasts, putting together templates, putting together whatever it may be – other stuff that isn’t directly related to meeting with a client, but stuff that has to get done. So those are what I call strategic projects. And so you want to say, well, what strategic projects will want to move forward this week? So you’re not necessarily going to get them done, but you are going to move them forward.
You’re then going to keep the ideal week sheet handy so that throughout the week you can constantly refer to it to keep you on track. There’s nothing worse – and this is what I say about financial planning. Don’t write the plan once and then never looked at it again. You’ve got to keep on coming back to it. So put your ideal week sheet together. Have it with you at all times, and it’s basically the roadmap for your week. Always follow it whenever you get concerned, or whenever you get tired and say well what do I have to do next? Go back to that sheet. Do the next thing on the list, and you’ll always make sure that everything is getting done – especially if you’ve mapped it out, where you got your three critical things that have to get done. You’ve got your meeting prep – all that gets done on Monday. So pretty much by the end of Monday, there’s nothing that’s going to creep up on you as a deadline that you haven’t met. Anything else that you work on that week is going to be somewhat gravy. So look at it that way, and it’s amazing how the mindset allows you to get so much more done when you know you’re not up against the wall.
So what I’ve done as well is I’ve determined the purpose of each day. So I lay out my week. My first day – so this is my Monday – is what I call a prep day. So it’s basically the day that I prepare for everything. Now a lot of this comes back to a person who I think is just – from an entrepreneurial standpoint is phenomenal. His name is Dan Sullivan. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the strategic coach – fantastic program. He has a concept called Free Focus Buffer Days. And really this is my take on that. So Free Focus Buffer Days are sort of the time management system through the strategic coach. And really a lot of this is based on that. So a no-work day, kind of like a free day, that’s where you map out. Of the seven days of the week, what days am I just simply not going to work. Plan those first, so you can look forward to them. You know – okay I got these days off, and when I mean days off, I mean you do not work. You do not think about work. You do not look at work. You do everything you can to stay away from work because those are the rejuvenation days. That’s the day when you’re going to actually allow yourself to be free from the shackles of work and sort of clear your mind and enjoy what life has to offer. Then I have what’s called money days. And money days are days where I note that on those days and making money. I’m doing any tasks, any items that are going to allow me to make money. Those are the things that I do on those days. Those are high energy days. I’m going to focus on those things, and those are going to be revenue generation days.
Then I got prep days. So my typical week, I’ve got Monday which is a prep day, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are my money days. And then Friday as more of a … it could be a prep day, or it could be a no work day. So I could have obligations with … my kids are highly involved in dance, competitive dance. Each one of them right now is in five different competitive dance groups. So we’re not talking moms and dads. We’re dance moms and dads. So we tend to be on the road quite a bit, getting them to and from dance competitions, and dance practice, and whatnot. So I may have a day if there’s a lot of dance, or if there’s a competition that we have to go to, my Friday is going to turn into a no work day. So it’s a day that I can take off, and if I find that in advance, everything seems to work. I do highly recommend as well that you consider just having a four-day workweek. It’s amazing how much you can get done in four days. You can pretty much get the same amount done in four days that you can in five. But the benefit from doing it in four is that you’ve got that fifth day as a free day, as a day off. Now you do have to work harder, but I tend to think that a lot of financial planners are not as efficient as they could be because they’ve given themselves five days to do everything in. Well, you know what? Give yourself four days and say these are the days that I have to work. Do everything in that, and you know what? You’ll probably get more done because you’ll be that much busier, and what do they say about – if you want something done give it to a busy person. Well that’s exactly what you’ll do. So set yourself up for success with that. So determine the purpose of each day, map it out. My core week, as I said, Monday is a prep day. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are my money days, and then Friday is sort of a floating day. It could be a prep day or it could be a non-work day. And then simply execute the week. So once you’ve got all the way down, you want to then simply execute. Basically you’re in execution mode. You’ve mapped it out; you’ve planned it out. You know exactly what needs to be done. You’ve thought about it in advance. Now go and do it.
So those are the five steps. So I’m just going to relist those five steps for you here. So step number one, get your head wrapped around the idea of going virtual. Become that virtual planner. Get the idea, get comfortable with it, and then start moving forward on doing it. Step number two is cut the cord. Get rid of all the things that tie you to any sort of an office environment. Cut the cord so you can work anywhere. And give yourself some tests. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but test yourself. Today I’m going to go, and I’m not going to work from home. I’m not going to work from … I’m going to go work from a Starbucks. Go to the Starbucks and see what you can get done. And whatever you’re missing, start putting things in place that you need in order to get things done by being in a different location. So cut the cord with that. So number three create workflow systems, so you got to then map things out and say, okay, what do I do? How do I need to get things done? Are we going to make sure that everything does get done? Who’s going to do what? And so map out those systems. Now you’ve got those unique methods and processes.
Then hire an assistant. So once you’ve created the workflow, now you can say, okay well then this component of the workflow – this is what you’re going to do. And so you can start to delegate properly, but you can’t delegate until you know what you need to delegate. And a good delegation means you’re delegating responsibility for it as well. So you want to make sure that other people – you’re giving them the control and responsibility for those tasks. That will make them be more engaged in what their job is, and it just makes for a better delegation. So hiring the assistant – now that you’ve hired the assistant, you’ve got to work for them to do, and then map out your ideal week at the beginning of each week by setting up the top three priorities. These are the crucial things that absolutely have to get done that week. Put them up at the top of your list. Not that your week and say this day is going to be a prep day. This day is going to be a money day. These days are going to be three days, or time off, or whatnot, and basically enjoy the week. Start enjoying the weeks. Have every day seem like the Friday or Saturday, and if you can start to live life that way it makes for a much more enjoyable experience. So definitely follow those five steps. Get your head wrapped around the idea. Cut the cord. Create workflow systems. Hire an assistant, and then map out your ideal week, and you will become so much more efficient. You will have so much more enjoyment. You will not have to be commuting, and working … the commute to me is one of the things that really drove me to this process of becoming virtual because I didn’t want to be in my car all time. And so I’ve just been able to set things up so that I can be virtually anywhere, whether it be my home office, my cottage, my coffee shop, the coffee shop down the road from my kids’ dance class, in my kids’ dance reception area – wherever it happens to be. It doesn’t matter. I’ve got all the tools that I need with me that I can get everything done.
So at this point now you want to go ahead. Get out there, start doing it, ask me any questions. Go to www.feebasedfinancialplanningmastery.com, click on episode two, there you can post any questions you have that you want me to answer – anything whatsoever. Just get there, start a communication with me, and I’ll answer everything I can. And also go toward toolbox and recommended reading list on our website on www.feebasedfinancialplanningmastery.com. Go to the toolbox. In there you’ll see a listing of other resources I use to run my successful fee-based financial planning practice. So you’re going to see links to things like Go To Meeting Go To Webinar – anything you need, any software we use. There’ll be links to that there. Some of them are affiliate links. I want you to be aware of that, that I will receive some compensation for some of those. But hey, I’m making you aware of some really powerful tools, so definitely check it out. Go to the toolbox, check out the resources, and build yourself a better practice.
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