5 Ways To Eliminate Invisible Expenses & Earn More in 2014

Supported by the Wise Words of Benjamin Franklin

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” — Ben Franklin

pocket watchYou can cut budgets in many areas, but often, activities that waste your time can cost you the most.  Savvy financial advisors see that soft or invisible costs translate into hard dollars lost.  To help profits, focus your energy on repairing the “small leaks” in your firm and measure the value of how, and with whom, you spend your time.  After assessing which activities add value to your business, eliminate time and energy wasters. Below are five ways you can narrow your focus and enhance your efforts to grow your business, complete with Ben’s wise words.


1. Networking events:  If your goal is to improve the overall caliber of your clients, you need to attend events where you’ll find better ones.  Don’t continue your memberships in organizations out of habit.  As Ben put it,  “Never confuse motion with action.”  Participate only in groups that provide great contacts and actual business.  To figure out which networking events are most worth your time, ask yourself, “Which events draw more of my ideal clients?”  Don’t be afraid to be the only financial professional at a networking event.  If your ideal clients are attending specific events, it only makes sense for you to be there, too.  For example, if your ideal clients are high net worth individuals, consider attending philanthropic advisors’ meetings.


2. Business friends:  Have you been spending social time with the same colleagues for years because you’re comfortable with them?  Are they at the same level of business as you?  Cultivating business relationships is like playing tennis.  If you “play” with people who are better than you, your game improves. If you associate with people at your level or below, your game plateaus and you forfeit forward motion.  The people you’re meeting for coffee or meals should truly add something to your business and vice-versa.  Ben’s useful advice:  “Observe all men, thyself most.”


3. Social media:  You can spend half your day Twittering your every move, posting interesting comments to Facebook, and searching for new LinkedIn contacts.  Needless to say, if you’re using social media for business purposes, you should remain focused and resist the temptation to check out the pictures your colleague posted of his new Mercedes.  Also, you must observe the restrictions set by your compliance department.  When your social media activity has been approved, it can be a legitimate online marketing tool, but be realistic about your objectives in the Web 2.0 arena.  Start writing a blog about things you’re passionate about.  In this way, you’ll connect personally with your ideal clients.  Join industry-based social media platforms, such as FAtoday, to connect with other financial advisors in a safe environment to discuss topics from business development to portfolio management.  As with networking, join LinkedIn groups that your ideal clients join.  When you Tweet, post your own messages, but also share information on subjects your ideal clients find interesting.  Ben’s useful advice: “Time is money.”


4. Newsletters:  Recently, I realized that my inbox was cluttered with newsletters I was receiving simply out of habit.  You may think receiving extra email is no big deal.  But listen to Ben’s wise words, “A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.”  Just the time you focus on deleting emails (multiplied by several checks per day) erodes your profitability.  Now, as newsletters arrive in my inbox, I ask myself, “Do I depend on this newsletter for useful information that I can apply to improve my business?  Is their business at a level I want to achieve?  Do I often learn how to do business better from them?”  If the answer is no, then I unsubscribe.  Also, consider subscribing to newsletters from people outside the financial industry who may provide new strategies for approaching common challenges all business owners face.


5. Clients:  This is a hard cutback to make, especially in this economy.  Marketing guru, Seth Godin, wrote that pandering to the masses and casting a wide marketing net leads to “dumb” customers.  Dumb customers don’t spend as much, don’t talk as much, don’t blog as much, don’t value your services as much, and don’t evangelize on your behalf.  It’s hard to turn down money, but “dumb” customers may take more of your time and energy than their accounts are worth.  As Ben said, “Those that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.”  To attract the clients who value your services the most (and who you can help the most), have a clear vision — in writing — about your firm and your ideal clients.  When you have a written vision of your company’s direction and know everything humanly imaginable about your ideal client, you’ll be less likely to dumb down and much more likely to start attracting high-quality clients–those who know what you do and value the results you produce for them, and benefit the most.


Action Plan  

Evaluate the five areas above A.S.A.P. (as soon as possible) so you can turn them into good habits before 2014 even begins! The more energy and time wasters you trim from your daily schedule, the quicker you’ll be on your way to growing your firm.  By taking charge and focusing on the things that add value to your business, you might even enjoy your work more, delight in your clients, make the money you deserve, and own more of your time.  Ben’s final word?  “Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure.”  


©2013 Maria Marsala guides high-achieving independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in <em>Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine</em>, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, <em>Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base</em>.


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Financial Professionals: Let’s Write an Article on Productivity Together!

Dear Financial Advisors, CPAs, Accountants, Benefits Managers, Bookkeepers, Insurance Agents, etc.


I haven’t done this since 2003, when I wrote a Top 10 Article on the Ways to Say No to Freebie Seekers…

I’d like your top two tips for saving time in regards to EMAIL. For each tip I use, I’ll credit you (your name, title, website URL and twitter account).

Below are a few tips in the right format (title, paragraph, your name, title, website twitter account URL):

Create a REMOVE Folder

Always unsubscribe to newsletters you realize you don’t want. However, instead of taking the time out to find the unsubscribe link, then make sure the link really did unsubscribe you etc, do this instead. Create a REMOVE folder in your inbox. Quickly move any unwanted emails into that folder. Then each ____ you pick the day ____ (I like Friday afternoons) go into that folder and unsubscribe to anything you no longer want.
Please create your tip in the form of a paragraph. If you have a title for it, provide it. If not, I’ll provide one for you. You can send me your tip by hitting reply. Thanks much! I’ll let you know if your suggestion has been chosen and tell you when it’s on my blog for you to share OR use on your blog, too.
— Maria Marsala, Business Coach to Financial Advisors, www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com. >@mariamarsala


Here are a few tips I’ve received from my newsletter subscribers and LinkedIn followers:

Automatic Emails

I create ‘standard’ email responses for questions I consistently receive.  I maintain these responses as Drafts in Outlook  Then, when a question comes in, I click on the draft, forward the email, take out the “FW:”, customize as necessary and hit send.  HUGE time saver.
— Kim Bryant, CPA, Lincoln, NE http://bryant-associates.com/ @bryantcpa

[Maria’s comment: I send myself the email and maintain them in a folder called AutoMessages].

Create Rules

Use email that come in from certain carriers, vendors, and clients to automatically go to certain staff members.  That way your staff can be informed and help get a jump start on tasks.  Have conversations ahead of time with your staff so it is clear who takes the initiative and responsibility.  You can also use rules to block spam and certain vendors to reduce e-mail clutter.
— Elaine M. Shanley, CFP®, AIF®, Partner at Young and Company, Brooklandville, MD www.yco.com

[Maria’s comment: Spend the time and learn how to use Rules. They will save you oodles of time! Start here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/create-a-rule-HP005242897.aspx


Just One Click (For MS Outlook 2010 Users)

Is there someone (or a group of someone’s) you often email? Instead of starting to type out their email address and hoping it’s in the list of people you’ve recently emailed, use “Quick Steps”. Introduced in Outlook 2010, you can perform frequently performed Outlook tasks in one click! Quick Steps are located on the Home Ribbon. Leonard send me his instructions on this tip, however, I’m unable to post the photo’s in this article. You can find the instructions on the Microsoft website, here
— Leonard N. Katz, CRC®, RFC®, MFP™,  S K Management Consultants Inc, Long Island, NY  http://www.SKmgmt.com/

[Maria’s comment: When I finally upgrade, I’ll be using this tip a lot!]

Use the latest tools to streamline your inbox

Most of us are able to keep spam out of out inbox with strong filters  – but what about BACN? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bac – the stuff you have subscribed to and would like to read, if you have time, its just not ‘real email’!   I use a tool called www.sanebox.com which has a clever system to filter out your non urgent/essential emails automatically. It has saved me countless hours and stress staring at an overflowing email inbox!
— Alan Smith, Capital Asset Management, England & Wales www.capital.co.uk,  @alanjlsmith

[Maria’s comment: Thanks Alan for teaching me about a different type of bacn!]

Dealing With Several Email Accounts

Having a few email accounts, my tip is to make folders in each account along with setting up rules for mail to automatically be moved to each folder. I have folders for each of the associations I’m a member of, each client, prospects, etc. I check my daily and sort what didn’t get in the files. I review emails from client I’m working with that week or association whose meeting I’m attending soon. If I don’t have time to read them in the morning I read them at my leisure at night. Because I use folders, I take care of what most important first and then read the rest later.

Cindy Worden, Founder, Bookkeeping Etc., Piece and Kitsap County, WA www.linkedin.com/in/cindyworden/

[Maria’s comment: If you use Outlook (and a few other email programs) set up all your emails to come to 1 place. I have a few (older) personal email accounts (using Comcast, Gmail or Yahoo). When I send/receive in Outlook, I automatically get ALL my emails. I also set up a rule so that the mail from each personal account automatically goes into a folder named that email account.]

Submit your tips here, on my blog as a comment, OR send it to me at www.CoachMaria.com/ticket/

NOTE: Only tips from financial advisors, planners, professionals, etc. will make it into my article, but anyone who wants, can contribute a a comment and tip here on my blog.


Maria Marsala

Financial Advisors’ Accountability Coach, Speaker, and former Wall Street Trader


P.S.:  Do you like this idea?  Consider asking your clients to help you create an article on a topic of interest to them! Then send it out in your newsletter (with proper Compliance OK of course)