Of all the presentations that I do for advisors at conferences and other meetings, time management and practice efficiency remain of the most challenging and frustrating for me (and the audience). It’s challenging for me because I view time as our offering — our only offering. At the end of the day, our time is what we sell to our clients, and how we allocate our time should be our first consideration when we think about how we want to run our businesses.
The audience’s frustration stems from trying to find a way to qualify exactly where their time goes during the day and how they can become more efficient (we all want to be more efficient, don’t we?). They also struggle with balancing the things that have to be done versus the things they want to be done. Although I typically end my presentation with some ideas and tips, I’m not sure anyone comes away with a truly transformative experience.
Breaking it down
Let’s take a look at your business. According to a December 2012 Cerulli Advisor Metrics report, advisors spend their time in the following areas:
• 42% in client-facing activities (including meeting, planning and prep, and solving client issues)
• 15% in administrative activities (including compliance and back office)
• 24% in investment management (including trading and research)
• 6% in training and development
• 13% in business development or new client acquisition
Let that last statistic sink in: Only 13% of the average advisors time is spent on business development or new client acquisition. Wow!
First, how can you reasonably expect to grow your business when you spend less than 15% of your day focused on that activity? And second, if you commit to doing something (grow) and you only do it 13% of the time, can you ever really be good at it? What comes to mind is an old saying that there is a difference between being a business owner and a business minder. The owner looks to the future and is focused on building for it; the minder just takes what he or she has and just minds the store, oblivious to any changes.
Put time to tasks, literally
Earlier this week, I asked a question to 40 or so advisors who attended a “Discovery Day” at SEI’s home office (which I tweeted about): “What is the most important and best use of your time?” In my mind, the answer is pretty easy: whatever puts you in front of clients and prospects a majority of the time. (Remember, time is what we sell.) The challenge for most is to identify just how we spend our time and if that’s the most productive for our businesses.
Here is a suggestion: Next week, start tracking your time. Even if it is just for the week, track it. Put it down on a piece of paper next to your desk, or download Toggl or another time tracking project management application. No matter what you use, track it for a week and put it into the categories from the Cerulli report above. Then ask yourself:
• Are you above or below average when it comes to business development activities?
• Is there an area, or areas, that you are spending too much time on that are not revenue-generating activities?
• What activities do you do during the day (week) that you can cut out, delegate, or even outsource?
Don’t sell yourself short
My father, who was an attorney in a small town in Illinois, had a small picture on the wall in his office. The picture was of Abraham Lincoln and it contained his famous quote, “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” This rings true for advisors as well – you are your merchandise. Are you watering down your offering by focusing on the wrong things?
Create a time sheet for yourself; I think you will be surprised what you can do, once you know what you’ve done.
Add This to Your Calendar: Investment News Webinar Next Tuesday
Speaking of time-blocking, join me on a webinar next Tuesday, September 17th on “How to Add Profitable Services to Your Business.” Want to strengthen relationships with clients? Attend this webinar to find out if adding value-added services, such as estate planning and tax planning are right for your firm. Register now!