Imagine the following scenario. A new client walks into your office to ask for some guidance on his or her finances and some potential investment decisions. As you start talking with the client, you hear that the client doesn’t really want to talk about setting retirement goals or identifying what he/she will need to focus on in order to achieve them down the road, but just wants to address the immediate concern right now. As a financial professional, you’d probably have a difficult time helping them and determining which retirement offerings would be best suited for them, right?
Not having goals and a plan is like going on a trip, but you don’t know where you’re going or what you need to do to get there. You could just get in your car and start driving, but what if you can’t get to your destination by car? Or, what if you are driving in the wrong direction? You may eventually get there, but it will take more time, effort and resources.
Why building a business plan is important
While we used examples of planning for retirement or a vacation, we can apply the same principle to business planning. Have you implemented a plan for your business? Industry research indicates that only 50 percent of financial professionals currently have business plans in place for themselves1. As a financial professional, a business plan helps you define, map out and stay on a set path to achieve your goals and grow your business. It can also help you eliminate distractions along the way and ensure optimal productivity and efficiency within your business.
The time to start your business plan is now
Why do so many financial professionals not have a business plan in place for themselves? One of the main responses by financial professionals when asked why they don’t have a plan is simply that they don’t have time, or they keep meaning to get to it and they don’t. In addition, as we get further into the year, it can feel as if it’s not worth starting now, and instead, maybe we will start again fresh next year. But now is always the best time to start a plan.
At Nationwide, we’re committed to using business plans to help our teams and our wholesalers be successful. We’ve used the concepts mapped out by Brian Moran in “The 12 Week Year” to successfully do so. One of the key concepts in this book is that the difficulty with annual plans is that we always think we have more time to achieve our goals. Because we think this way, we lack a sense of urgency and act accordingly. Then, when the deadline (year-end) approaches, we kick it into high gear. Moran goes on to explain that for many agents and firms, December is often the best month of the year, and fourth quarter often represents 30 to 40 percent of annual sales. Just think what we could accomplish if we applied those behaviors every month, every week, every day!
The difference between annual planning and 12-week planning
So, if we toss out annual business planning and take a 12-week approach, how does that benefit us and how do we put that kind of plan together? Moran explains some important distinctions between 12-week business planning and annual business planning. First, predictability is much greater. Unless you have a crystal ball, you have to make a lot of assumptions about what will happen through the year. Trying to determine the right actions to take several months into the future is very difficult, if not impossible. With 12-week planning, you can have much more certainty about what you need to do as you think about each week over the next 12 weeks. The great thing about this is that you can link specific actions to the results you want to achieve, and course correct much sooner if you need to.
Additionally, 12-week planning is more focused. Instead of trying to squeeze a year’s worth of activities into your plan, you can focus on the few things that will have the greatest impact during those 12 weeks. This allows you to drive toward those goals with that sense of urgency and energy that you might associate with that ‘final push’ in December. Now you can work to achieve those same great results in 12-week increments for even greater results by the time you get to year end!
How to start a 12-week business plan
So, now what? You see the benefits of planning in 12-week increments, so how do you do that? Here are some tips on creating an effective plan structure to get you started with a basic business plan.
- Make tasks specific and measurable: When creating a goal, it is important to be specific and make sure you quantify and qualify what success looks like. Maybe ask yourself, how many appointments will I set each day with current and prospective clients to be successful?
- Be Positive: Being positive in any situation is crucial, as it helps you become more relaxed and not as stressed. Instead of focusing on something you weren’t successful at, think of it the other way. Rather than focusing on how you don’t want to spend time doing assistant-level work, consider increasing an assistant’s responsibilities in a way that makes you more comfortable.
- Ensure a realistic stretch: Make sure the goals you set are achievable and not too far out. For example, instead of asking for referrals in every client interaction, which may be too much, set a goal to ask for a referral in at least three client meetings a week.
- Assign accountability: This may be the most important step of all. This applies to people who are helping you with a certain project. If that is not the case, the accountability is on you. Knowing you are accountable can help you push and motivate yourself. When you do assign tasks to your assistant, make sure you are holding him/her accountable and giving feedback as well. It will be something they start to expect as well, which is one more step in keeping both of you accountable.
- Be time-bound: Includes dates by which the goal is to be reached, or when a project is to be executed.
These steps will allow you to evaluate which tactics are adding to your success. Weekly goals ladder up to 12-week goals, making it easier to measure the success. Twelve-week business plans have worked for our financial professional teams here at Nationwide and I hope these steps help you take the first step to creating your own 12-week plan.