Maria’s Musing: Don’t Make This Technology Mistake!

It’s one that I made this year.

While attending coaching school, one of the many lessons I learned was to do as I tell my clients to do.  My clients create systematize to improve their firms operations and marketing.   They also review each planning system yearly and other systems after one year and then every 3 years for efficiency.  I do the same.

This was the year I updated my own virtual workshop system.  I began by looking at the various technologies I have used over the last 16 years:

The resources I’ve been using for years now include many new features.   I found resources from companies that didn’t even exist 3 years ago.

ID-100313645It’s important to always keep clients in mind when upgrading any system.  So, I asked my clients what technology they preferred using to attend virtual workshops and what their concerns were about each technology.

They preferred a webinar format over teleconferences because watching the workshop as well as listening to it helped them retain more information.  This format also makes it easy for them to rewind and listen to areas again.  If they live outside the USA, they especially liked the webinar platforms where they weren’t required to call a US-based phone number to listen to the workshop.  They preferred to watch, participate, and listen to the workshop online.

Everyone also wanted the option to listen to the workshop again or to read the transcription.   None had attended a teleclass where breakout sessions occurred.

Because of this feedback, I thought, “OK, I’ll go with a webinar service.”

What a friggin’ disaster!

Some participants couldn’t hear the event on their speakers.   Those who had a microphone got a lot of unwanted feedback because they didn’t have a headset, too.

Many attendees didn’t pre-register or test whatever digital device they planned to use.

Most people got to the call late.   Helping people with their technology problems delayed the workshop by 10 minutes.

I offered local phone numbers — even international numbers for participants to call in — but there was so much noise on the phones, I had to mute everyone.  That prevented people from asking me questions.  Half the participants left the call early.

Oh my!


After every project, I write out “Lessons Learned”  My clients do the same, often with their team.  What’s are the lessons I learned in this case?

When I included my clients in my decision-making process, I forgot that when they were new clients, they used very little technology!  After all, I was the one who set up Skype for them so we could meet “hands free” for sessions.  And while they have since incorporated the use of Skype in their businesses, I often push them to use more technology and social networking than most financial advisors use.   I was speaking to more advanced technology users in my niche.

I’ve always advised that it’s necessary to get clients’ opinions when considering a new process for your business.  But I’ve learned that it’s also important to speak to or survey others in the financial industry and conduct more research before making a big technology change in my business.

This October, when I run the “Count on Success Summit for Financial Advisors”, each of the workshops will take place via the teleconference platform.  I want to conduct the program in webinar format, but a teleconference is the best platform to reliably reach and help masses of financial advisors grow their firms without experiencing any technical problems.  In order to help participants who learn better with a visual component, each of the 20 speakers will provide handouts that listeners can download before the program and view as they listen in.


What about you?  Have you ever made a change, thinking it would improve your business process, but it blew up in your face?  What conclusions did you come to?  Please share!


(c) 2015  Elevating Your Business


Photo by Boians Cho Joo Young.


OFFICE 365 Training for Financial Advisors

Microsoft Office 365 contains numerous features that help an advisor run a dynamic business practice while continuing to meet and maintain compliance requirements.

Stop running your business with a "personal" email account.  Office 365 Email is secure, reliable, and professional.
Office 365 Email is secure, reliable, and professional.

It’s said that we use between 10-20% of the features of the software we own. Through this Office 365 course you’ll learn how the software can help you run your business more efficiently.  You’ll also leverage features and practices that are essential for compliance.  Affordable at $29 each or all 12 for $99.

View class offerings on the bottom of

P.S.  Let Robert know that Coach Maria sent you.

Image copyright:  123RF Stock Photo/alexwhite

What’s Special About My LinkedIn Connection, Robert Clark?

Robert is just another Microsoft Partner. Or is he? Robert is special because his niche is the financial industry. He’s also the first MP I’ve ever come across that “gets” the industry.

RClark 2 sq gray cropAn Microsoft (MS) Partner is an independent company that provides MS products, offers services that back up those products, and helps customers with IT solutions. Here’s more on MS Partners:

In addition to what I described above about MS Partners, Robert teaches RIAs, advisors, planners, etc. how to best use the products. One of his virtual courses is called “Office 365 and Compliance”  

If you don’t yet have an IT specialist on your team, I recommend that you contact Robert.  While his office is in the Tri-State Area, namely Connecticut, he can easily link to a computer or your firm’s IT system and work virtually with your firm, too.  Learn more and contact him today through his website

P.S.  Tell Robert that Coach Maria sent you.

Advisors: Say No & Set Boundaries for Freebie Seekers

Establishing where free ends and fee begins can be challenging, difficult and even nerve racking! However, learning the art of declining gracefully, when that’s really what you want to do, is an essential skill that helps you focus on what’s important in your practice.

“So, you’re a financial advisor…have any hot stock tips? What should I be buying? Can I take you out for coffee, pick your brain, and get your opinion on my portfolio?”

Sad but true, you’re probably shaking your head, rolling your eyes, or chuckling knowingly to yourself. If you only had a nickel for every time someone asked you for free, off-the-cuff advice, right? But be honest — how often do you set aside your reluctance, give in to a sense of obligation and actually answer the questions?

Even though I haven’t been a Wall Street trader for many years, the questions about tips never stop coming. As a business coach to advisors and planners, at least twice a week I’m asked out for a cup of coffee because the person wants to pick my brain. My standard answer is: “That will be a cup of coffee — in Italy, please.”

Take heart — you’re not alone. As long as you’re in the financial arena, own a service or work at a business that is in a service industry, you’re going to be asked to work for free. 

Financial professionals endure a specific set of boundary-crossing issues. Timothy Yee, a corporate/non-profit retirement planner from Green Retirement Plans Inc., says this about the people I call “freebie seekers”: “It is amusing to be asked if they can buy a no-sales- charge/ultra-low-expense fund through me and not pay me for my time. I can’t imagine the same person going to a doctor and asking to fix a broken leg for free. Why has financial planning allowed itself to be turned into a commodity?”

Why indeed. And these requests don’t always come just from friends but from current clients. I’ve known advisors to take on the extra-mile tasks of mediating family feuds, buying cars, researching colleges, and selling homes for their clients — all for free! While these may be extreme examples, it is the everyday, “innocent” requests that rob you of big chunks of time.

Please note, I’m not saying you must never provide free information or services to prospects and clients. Setting professional boundaries means striking a balance between everything you could provide for free and what you’re in business to do — and charge for.

Free vs. fee

It’s difficult to say no to people because we don’t want to disappoint them. We choose careers in the financial industry not just to make money (as much of the media claims), but to help others. We want our clients to achieve their business, personal, family and retirement goals. We want to provide impeccable customer service, too. But at times, our own fear of rejection keeps us from rejecting others’ requests. Wouldn’t it be great if saying yes guaranteed that we’d get a yes in return when we want to manage more assets? Alas, we know this isn’t always the case. See: 10 indispensable questions for advisors to ask — and 10 to answer — at networking events.

Saying no might feel selfish or violate your definition of good service; however, neglecting to set professional boundaries will hurt your ability to help the people who will benefit from your services the most. Creating clear boundaries between “free” and “fee” gives you more time to attract and work with your ideal clients.

Relationships with prospects start when you invite them into your company’s marketing funnel with an offer of free and helpful information: informational brochures, a book list, an audio you’ve produced, or referrals to other advisors who can better assist prospects who aren’t the best fit for your firm.

Paula Harris, co-founder of WH Cornerstone Investments LLC, a fee-only firm, described an incident where a family with no active contract declined a meeting when they heard their personalized consultation would not be free. She concluded, “It told us all we needed to know — they were not relationship-oriented and not a fit for our firm.”

Your ideal “AAA” client makes a financial obligation, but also an internal commitment. He or she has decided to transition from stranger to prospect to client because you’ve built a relationship. Such clients have grown to know, like, and trust you and your firm. When you help them overcome obstacles or achieve goals, you serve them and everyone else who touches their lives. Spending most of your time with these clients not only yields the best results for them, but the most fulfillment for you. See: 10 reasons for advisors to just say no to less-than-ideal clients.

How to decline gracefully

Every year, during your planning week, it’s important to get your team together to review and redefine where “free” ends and “fee” begins. Of course, you want to create value for prospects. But remember, being in business means earning a profit, and it’s hard to be profitable when you’re giving away the store.

It’s helpful to create a message, in your own words, that you can retrieve whenever you have to say “no” to someone who has requested something outside your professional boundaries. Get comfortable with the wording of your “no” statement for when you must deliver it in person. Prepare a version for e-mail, to which you’ll make adjustments for individual situations. Regardless of delivery mode, always reply with respect, knowing you are serving yourself and others with integrity.

Here are some examples to get you started:

“Are you looking to hire a financial advisor? I’d love to talk to you about that. Our fee for an initial consultation is ____. “

“Yes, I do work with clients on [name the issue]. Would you like to set up a consultation? Our rate is ____.”

“Well, the answer to that question depends on many variables. Would you like to set up a time for a consultation? We charge a flat rate of ____.”

“A complete answer to your question is going to take more than a few minutes over the phone. Let’s set up a ____ on ____. Are you available? Our fee for this service is ____.”

“I have really enjoyed talking with you and would like to help more. May I send you one of my brochures — I’ll include our fees?”

“I can give you five minutes.” When the five minutes is up — and you should time it on your watch — say something like: “This is really something that we should spend more time on. When would you like to schedule a more in-depth consultation? Our fee is ____.”

Action steps

Look at where you’re expending a lot of time and energy because you aren’t saying “no” appropriately. These areas are leaking profits as well as time. List areas where boundary issues arise and calculate the cost to your firm. Do you want to continue saying “yes” when these issues arise? Can your assistant, manager or another advisor handle these client situations? If you’ve realized that having few boundaries is taking a bite out of your bottom line, create at least three “no” statements for your firm — and make them a consistent part of the way you conduct business. See: How a change in mindset and business structure can get you off the hamster wheel.

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Since starting your small business, what have you learned about taxes?

Read what 10 experts are saying about the subject here.



Here’s #9  (from me!)  As seen on the My Corporation website

9. “The biggest tip I have regarding taxes is to hire a bookkeeper to update whatever accounting program your firm uses. Depending on the size of your small business, they can arrive at a business weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Small business owners are best left to work with clients, vs. do their own bookkeeping. Have the bookkeeper leave you with printed reports that will help you see where your money is going and look at the sales tax, income numbers, and employment taxes for accuracy. It’s so much easier to catch mistakes (yours or theirs!) when you look at the reports often. And your accountant or CPA can then take a copy of your file at year end to do your taxes, too.” –Maria Marsala, Elevating Your Business