Advisors: What Will Distract You Next Year? What Can You Do About It?


A few weeks ago at a parent teacher conference, my wife and I were told that while our son was doing well, he was easily distracted by others in the classroom.  About 20 minutes later, we had almost the same discussion about our other son. I am sure the teachers had some interesting things to suggest about how we could work on the problem. However, during the conversations I noticed that the flagpole outside was at a slight angle, and was wondering just how the flag would look waving if the wind was coming from a different angle. Then my phone buzzed and I wondered who could have been sending me a text at this time… Oh yea, I’m sure they get the “easily distracted” gene from their mother. What I do remember is that, for the most part, the conferences went well.

If you know me, and especially if you have been in meetings with me, you know that the paragraph above is not really a stretch.  It’s pretty well known at SEI that I have a relatively short attention span.  In fact, Raef Lee regularly calls me out to bring me back to the task when we are working on our whitepapers. Over the years, I have developed tricks and put myself in positions where the distractions are minimized. But, what about you?  What is going to distract you next year?  More importantly, what are you going to do about it today?

Our changing environment

We live and work in a highly distractible world. Our business is filled with one-off client requests, and ever changing financial news. We hear of emerging technology and new regulations that may or may not make our business more complicated. It’s easy to spend most of your day looking at the markets and testing new technology, but how does that really help your business?  I think the first step in being less distracted is to acknowledge the problem – it is us!

Early in my career, I worked in an office where I moved myself from a cube in the center – one with a great view of Grant Park in Chicago – to a space away from everyone and with a view of a brick wall. Today, I can regularly be seen in the office with a pair of headphones on (listening in to white noise) to avoid hearing conversations. These are some of the tricks that worked for me. Here are some ideas for you:

Technology:  When you think about technology, most are looking for that one cool new gadget or piece of software that will really change their business.  Maybe it is a sales tool or maybe a way to present to clients. More often than not, after the purchase many advisors are disappointed because the technology did not fit the problem that his advisor was having.

For 2018: Rather than trying to find a software or device that will fit into your system, look at your system first and see if you can incorporate more out what you have. It has been our experience that most financial software is not used to its fullest and time would be best spent maximizing the resources that you already have.

  1. Put a moratorium on any new software purchase until you have completely reviewed the existing packages that you already own/use.
  2. Work with the vendors to review the best practices of others and look for what you may be missing in your use.
  3. If you are still looking at new software or gadgets, create a document that outlines the reasons why the purchase is needed, who will use it, how it will be used and what you expect to get out of it (cost benefit analysis).  Is it worth it?  More importantly, are you willing to change your behavior to use this tool in the correct manor?
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Client interaction – fire drills

Clients, of course, pay the bills so we have to be very reactive to their needs and desires. However, what happens when your office gets a one-off request?  Just that one, seemingly simple request can throw the whole office into turmoil, which will negatively affect everyone.

For 2018: You are never going to get rid of every fire drill but you can limit the number by holding more frequent and organized client interactions. In addition, if all of you are using workflows, the disruption is greatly reduced.

  1. Most advisors meet with their clients one or two times per year and rely on newsletters, blogs or other passive contacts to keep their name in front of their clients at other times.  Many successful advisors have created a meeting call schedule so the client gets a personal call during months that they are not meeting. This is not just a “hi & how are you” call; the goal is to foresee any changes and upcoming needs that may necessitate action.  Getting in front of a request instead of a fire drill can really avoid the turmoil.
  2. When the inevitable one-off call comes in, how you handle it can really make life easier.  Automated workflows spell out who does what and when. They are built into your CRM and have an audit feature for client service (and the regulators). Being prepared for the one-off can make things go smoother and re-focus you on the priorities.

More?  Read this book:

Admitting the problem is half the battle.  Avoiding the distraction is the best thing, but if you know it’s coming, you can be prepared to act – and then get back to what you should be doing.  For those of you who admit the problem, I recommend reading “The Distraction-Proof Advisor” by Paul Kingsman. Paul is an Olympic Medalist, financial advisor and advisor coach who motivates people to up their games.

A shiny new object will get your attention next year.  A new software will take the industry by storm. The markets will probably be more volatile. How you react will be important. If you are prepared for the distraction, it will go away and you can get on with your business – and your clients.

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John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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