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Top 20 Practice Management Tips for Advisors
In January, Financial Planning magazine reached out to advisors across the nation in search of tips for building a better advisory practice. In case you missed it, here is a full list of the 30 tips featured.

This month, we took that list and broke it down to the 20 best that advisor can use to build a better practice.
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Tip #1: Improve your Time Management. – Matt Halloran, Top Advisor Coaching
Time blocking is one of the best and easiest ways advisors can improve productivity (and their quality of life), says Halloran. “If you are constantly interrupted by email, the phone or staff, you will never produce high quality work,” he said. Instead, he says, advisors should allocate 15 minutes at a time, three times a day, to check and respond to email and voicemail.
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Tip #2: Fix your Contact List. – Craig Faulkner, FMG Suite
Regular client communication is an important element of an advisor’s practice. You (and your staff) spend time preparing client communications and sending out emails, but what if they aren’t even going through? Update your e-mail list.
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Tip #3: Upgrade your To-Do List. – Ray Sclafani, ClientWise
Before worrying about how many things you need to handle each day, first eliminate the things you don’t need to do, says Ray Sclafani, founder of advisor coaching firm ClientWise. The resulting notes will eliminate the things you don’t need to do to carve out the list of the day’s essential items.
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Tip #4: Make Time for Networking. – Mike Greene, Ameriprise Financial Services
If you want to grow your practice, you need to get your lead generation efforts in shape. That means making time for networking.
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Tip #5: Make Five Phone Calls Today. – Michael Silver and Eric Sheikowitz, Focus Partners
You may already have a number of people in mind that you’ve been meaning to connect with. If so, you know who to call and what to ask for. Keep your pipeline of potential new businesses open.
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Tip #6: Write Thank-You Notes. – Chris Kirby, Securities America
Automate your thank-you process: Have your staff prepare two complete handwritten notes each week, Kirby says, and use them to thank someone who is valuable to your practice. “When you put your thank-you system on autopilot, you’ll be amazed at how much the ‘thank yous’ come back to you and your team.”
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Tip #7: Re-learn How to Ask for Referrals. – Ray Sclafani, ClientWise
To avoid stunting future growth, Sclafani says it’s important to make a concerted effort to break free. That might mean , relearning how to ask for client referrals or scheduling time every week to network.
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Tip #8: Schedule a Late Night. – Michael Silver and Eric Sheikowitz, Focus Partners
Designate the occasional evening to work beyond your normal hours. “Use this time to get your office and practice better organized,” Silver says.
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Tip #9: Find a Partner. – Mike Greene, Ameriprise Financial Services
Advisors should have at least one alliance with a certified public accountant, says Mike Greene, senior vice president of Advisor Business Development Group and Financial Planning for Ameriprise Financial. “You just can’t serve clients well if you don’t have the setup,” Greene says. “Find CPAs that have mutual expectations and accountability baked in.”
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Tip #10: Fix your Elevator Pitch. – Chris Kirby, Securities America
Once advisors clearly define the true value of their service, they should incorporate that statement seamlessly into their daily lives, building a consistent “brand” for themselves and their businesses, Kirby says.
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Tip #11: Improve your Bottom Line. – Mike Greene, Ameriprise Financial Services
“Spend a day understanding what your real costs are,” says Mike Greene, senior vice president of the Advisor Business Development Group and Financial Planning for Ameriprise Financial Services. “Most practitioners built their practices on their own, and kept their costs on their own,” he says.
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Tip #12: Segment your Client Base. – Mike Greene, Ameriprise Financial Services
Should you give all of your clients the exact same level of service? Even if you wanted to, would it be best for your practice? Instead, consider segmenting your client base. “Advisors talk about it, but very few actually do it,” says Mike Greene, senior vice president of the Advisor Business Development Group and Financial Planning for Ameriprise Financial Services.
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Tip #13: Get Better Client Feedback. – Stephen Wershing, Client Driven Practice
You can’t please all of the people all of the time -- but you do need to find out exactly what your clients do want. Consider asking new open-ended questions at end of meetings, or holding a client advisory board meeting to get this feedback.
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Tip #14: Delegate Responsibility. – Mike Greene, Ameriprise Financial Services
Giving up control can be difficult. Advisors should understand that they aren’t the only people who can help develop a strategy for their clients, says Greene. Consider outsourcing parts of the financial planning process to an outside vendor or delegating them to someone in the office. This will increase your efficiency and allow you to focus on other important tasks.
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Tip #15: Tackle your Succession Plan. – Michael Paley, Focus Financial Partners
Get started today by asking yourself some difficult questions: How is the business prepared to serve clients if something happens to me? How would the staff be affected? How about my family?
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Tip #16: Focus on the Big Picture. – Ray Sclafani, Clientwise
It’s easy to get stuck on autopilot and lose sight of the bigger picture, but if you can reconnect with what you do and why you do it, you will be serving yourself, your practice and your clients. “Reflecting on your purpose keeps you motivated and protects against distractions,” Sclafani says.
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Tip #17: Develop a Steady Communication Plan. – Mike Greene, Ameriprise Financial Services
As busy as you are, you know keeping in touch with clients -- on a regular and timely basis -- is crucial. Whether you're facing market swings or macro issues, if you aren’t in front of your clients with information, they’re probably on their way to you with questions.
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Tip #18: Build Alliances to Expand your Practice. – Marie Swift, Impact Communications
Being visible and focusing on others can help create a caring face for your business and provide opportunities for conversations with new clients, Swift says. “Co-hosting events and positioning yourself as a local business booster gives you reasons to send out invitations and news releases, generate email and social media campaigns, and contact new strategic partners.”
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Tip #19: Create a Social Media Schedule. – Craig Faulkner, FMG Suite
Advisors need to use social media tools to effectively engage clients and prospects through that medium. “Set up a social media marketing program and stick to it,” says Craig Faulkner, chief executive officer of digital marketing firm FMG Suite.
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Tip #20: Learn from your mistakes. – Ray Sclafani, ClientWise
“If you have reflected, learned from it and then applied what you’ve learned, then you have wisdom,” Sclafani says. And if you keep repeating this process, you’ll have success, he says: “Being honest about the cause of your failure is what separates those who learn from their failures from those who are doomed to repeat them.”