How's your production growth and what's your game plan? Traditionally, 33% of advisors are growing their books by more than 10% on a yearly basis, 33% remain essentially the same, and the last 33% are losing production.

But I have been running into a growing number of advisors who seem stuck in a rut. Whether it's because of the changing brokerage landscape or our fragile economy, they have had no production increase over the last two or three years. Or if they have had growth, it's not over that 10% mark, and they can barely keep pace with inflation. Kind of depressing, eh?

I asked some advisors who have been knocking the ball out of the stadium and a couple who are in the midst of reinventing themselves what's working and what's not. Here's what I learned.

Drilling Down on the Practice
Darryl is an advisor at a wirehouse who has 18 years in the business, with $240 million in assets under management and almost $2 million in production. He was up by 40% last year. "I'm working a lot!" Darryl says. "I have over 2,000 accounts." He believes that the large number of accounts helps to minimalize his risk, and since the markets have cooperated, he has experienced a huge bump.

When I asked him if being at a wirehouse helped him attract this wide client base, he said initially yes. But now the business does so well independently that he doesn't need the wirehouse anymore. Ultimately, Darryl could move his book to an independent model or RIA in the next couple of years and be just fine for the rest of his career.

Meanwhile, he has spent a lot of time and money marketing himself and continues to do so. He's self-motivated, and his support staff is well compensated. Darryl's reinvestment plan is working.

Tweaking the Business Mix
Between them, John and his son Gary have been in the business for more than 40 years. Their assets under management grew from $350 million to $450 million last year. The biggest explanation for that, John says, is that they switched a lot of their business mix into managed money. They are at 80% managed money now versus less than 50% two years ago. "It simply pays more than what we were doing, and the risk is minimal," John says. What's more, "our clients have gotten excellent returns."

John and Gary had gone on for years before they realized that their business mix just wasn't working for them. Why? You can wear only so many hats and do a great job at them all.

Ultimately, they both came to the conclusion that they are really good at gathering assets and guiding their clients in the right direction. Both spend a majority of their days doing what actually gets them paid versus staring at a monitor and wondering if they made the right decision to double down on Apple.

Moving to Fertile Ground
Switching firms can also help you get out of a rut. Trish had been at the same wirehouse for almost 20 years, but she had been stuck at the $400,000 mark for the second half of her time there. She finally became convinced that she would never be able to grow in that environment.

Trish had gone for so long at her level of production that she would never have been able to get the attention or resources to grow her business. In a sea of producers where she was always in the third quintile, she was treated as such. Now, a few months into her move to a smaller and more nimble firm, she is happy that she made the change.

"I wish I came here a few years ago," she says. "When I was there, it was like being in the fog of war. It's hard to know exactly how bad it is when you are in the moment."

About 75% of her assets have transferred thus far. She moved everyone she wanted. "Moving makes you focus so much on clients—more than you would otherwise," she says. "I ended up getting two unsolicited referrals because I was focused."

It's not all roses at the new office, however; the culture is a bit more competitive. At the new office, Trish's numbers are posted every day for all to see. At the old office, it was once a week. She already has a business plan written and met with management a couple of weeks ago to discuss it.

Trish understands that it's not just about developing the plan; results come only if it's executed thoroughly. And by implementing it, she has managed to reconnect with lots of her old contacts.

Being with a smaller firm has helped Trish in one unexpected way. When she was at the larger firm, she would run into contacts who were already clients of the firm. Trish is now free to revisit a lot of contacts whom she was prevented from working with before.

Barry made a move in the other direction. He was in a rut, even though he was No. 1 in his office, with $2.2 million in production and $250 million in assets. Then he moved to a larger firm a year ago. Now he is No. 5 in the new office. But he's competitive by nature, and every single day is driven by wanting to be the best in the office.

After coming aboard, Barry developed a business plan and sunk a lot of money into his practice. He hired a financial planner for his team and added a coach as well. Ultimately, it will take him about two years to attain the top spot in his new firm, according to his business plan. This past year, Barry was up over 5%, and for the first year after a move, that's quite commendable.

Ultimately, if your book isn't where you want it to be, you need to concentrate on what exactly it's going to take to get it there. As these scenarios show, there are many paths you can take. The key is finding the right plan for you, your clients, and your family.

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Carri Degenhardt-Burke runs Degenhardt Consulting in Jersey City, N.J.
For further information, call 201-395-0222 or visit

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