5 Quick Steps To Setting Goals That Stick & Energize

Most people set goals, at least yearly. However, the goals don’t stick any longer than the end of January.

Any time of the year, setting goals IS the start of a great process. Even better are turning those goals into (many) doable actionable steps that last throughout the year, and then some.

Here are 5 ways to create goals that stick and energize you.

1) Define 9 goals that include a number for easy measurement and completion date to keep you focused.
Sample: Bring in 30 new clients, 6 each quarter, by 12/15

2) Create 3-5 marketing strategies that you’ll execute consistently during the year to help reach your goals.
Ideas: make your firm referable, create a marketing plan, design a marketing funnel or calendar, run a family event next summer, hold a monthly webinar for your best clients, hold small private events, create a newsletter (in print and online), write blog posts, etc.)

3) Drop or upgrade 5 management strategies that didn’t work for you last year.
Ideas: technology that isn’t working, not cross-training, inconsistent client acquisition processes, no business plan, haphazard HR process, no systems in writing.)

4) Design a way to monitor your efforts; both time and money spent on the project AND result$.
Ideas: create an excel spreadsheet, use post-it notes, buy a white board, use index cards, subscribe to or purchase project management or online performance management software.

5) Take action daily and monitor your efforts at least weekly.
Ideas: catch mistakes as they occur, figure out ways to do more of what’s working, use a Lessons Learned report often.



By the way, what do you think? Do you create written personal or professional goals? Why or why not? How often do you adjust your goals? What tips help you stick to goal setting? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

A helpful goal setting tool is a white paper called Executive Summary: How The One Page Business Plan® Can Help Grow Your Firm.  If nothing else it can get you thinking about a process that has helped more than 250,000 business owners and financial professionals. Request your copy here.



(c)2010. Updated 2014. Maria Marsala, EduCoach(TM) at ElevatingYourBusiness.com Sometimes creating goals or strategies are challenging because you’re so close to your business or practice. When you need some support to figure things out, request a “Just in Time” Energizing Session at http://www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com/calendar/

Help me to help you…

Dear Financial Advisor,

As the summer winds down and business gets back to work as usual, I have a question for you that helps me to help you.

What Are You Struggling With In Your Financial Business Today?

Please comment with your answer and say hello. I like getting to know you. And if nothing comes to mind, it’s ok of course.


Here are the two main ways:

1) They’re great topics for me to write articles that help you.
2) They’ll help me determine what experts to bring into my “Count on Success 2015 Webinar Summit”


Upwards and Onwards,

Maria Marsala's name

30+ Ways RIAs Sabotage Their Firms’ Growth

Hand reaches out from big heap of crumpled papersCould you be sabotaging your business growth? I see it happen all the time: the good intentions of financial advisors gone awry.  Advisors envision operating a profitable business, serving great clients the “right way” and living an exceptional life doing what they love.

Many advisors expect, rightfully, that as they gain new clients, business growth will make it possible to hire help, build a wonderful website, create a great team, and do the things they enjoy in an office they’re proud to have clients walk into.  However, they find that as they grow their firm, frustration and overwhelm set in.

Some advisors prefer running a solo practice, learning everything they need to do for business growth, doing everything themselves, and never hiring anyone.  These financial professionals often find that they can’t run a profitable business and have a life, too!

These are some of the things new clients have told me they’ve done wrong over the years; they are mindsets and habits that prevented them from realizing the firm of their dreams and that stunted business growth.  These are ways NOT to run a business.

How to Sabotage Business Growth

  1. Don’t create a business and marketing plan, and if you do, never follow it or update it.
  2. Don’t monitor the actions that you’ve determined will help you reach your business goals.
  3. Don’t market consistently; instead, practice spaghetti marketing–trying every type of marketing imaginable to grow your firm.
  4. Don’t niche, create an ideal client profile, or segment your clientele and the different services you’ll provide.
  5. Set up your firm so that the business model is 100% dependent on the financial advisor.
  6. Create your firm’s name with your name in it, making it harder on an associate you hire or making it difficult to sell later on.
  7. Take on any client who breathes and receives a paycheck.
  8. Don’t ever pay someone to do anything you can learn to do yourself.
  9. Don’t ever pay someone to do anything you can already do yourself.
  10. Don’t take time off.
  11. Work nights and weekends to catch up on paperwork.
  12. When you rent or buy an office, you decorate it for yourself (with no thought as to what may appeal to your best clients).
  13. Always look for ways/reasons to “not” do something that could attract new business.
  14. Don’t ever seek strategic alliance partners with whom to conduct marketing efforts or randomly choose alliance partners who don’t have the same clientele.
  15. Don’t do any social marketing, or if you do, do it inconsistently.
  16. Don’t update your website every 3 years.
  17. Don’t create sample portfolios (easier to do when you have a niche).
  18. Don’t use technology to automate (like CRM, Portfolio Management, etc.) because you use Excel for everything.
  19. Don’t hire an assistant or firm to take care of your back-office work.
  20. Don’t hire a recruiter to test and interview personnel for you, even though you know you suck at hiring.
  21. Believe that the reason you aren’t getting hired is because you don’t know “everything” or have enough credentials.
  22. Think that only you can do the best job at “x” (marketing, networking, administration, etc.) so no one you hire will ever be good enough.
  23. Don’t be a good mentor (i.e., you want to get paid for services that you don’t do yourself or your family consistently does for you).
  24. You don’t want to be boss (hiring someone to run the office for you so that you can do what you do enjoy doing).
  25. Never hire a coach or consulting company to help you grow your firm or do some of the work you should be doing, but don’t have the time for.
  26. Don’t meet with your assistant every day for at least 5 minutes.
  27. Don’t meet with your team weekly for at least 30 minutes.
  28. Don’t set yearly goals with each staff member or consultant.
  29. Don’t share your business vision with your staff and anyone else you hire, including vendors.
  30. Don’t create job descriptions for each person you’re planning to hire.
  31. Don’t let your staff and clients know that you’re looking for “x” type of clients and that you’re looking to grow your business.

The good news is that there is a way to change or turn every one of the “don’ts” into positive results for your firm.

What are you waiting for?

Business growth starts with your vision. The best way to create yours is to let Maria walk you through the process free. Learn when the next 35-45 minute virtual presentation is scheduled here.

(c) 2014, Updated 2015 Elevating Your Business

8 Strategies for the Wishful Independent Financial Advisor

If you’re considering leaving a wirehouse or B/D, don’t do it the hard way! Instead, carefully plan your exit, taking into account everything involved to make your move in addition to starting and growing a business. Leaving your job before you are really ready will cause you added frustration and big changes are stressful enough!

Your business will have a greater chance of succeeding, independently, if your game plan includes adjusting your attitude, getting your dreams in order, and physically preparing for your new business before you hang that shingle. Many clients I’ve coached, long after they’ve gone independent, wished they had Victoria’s advice below before they got started!

Guest Post: By Victoria Bowen, Consultant for Financial Advisors in Transition

manontiteropeSMID-10075457Perhaps you envisioned going independent, but, for whatever reason (stability and security, education and training, family and home life) you know you won’t be able to turn this goal into reality for some time. Don’t stress about this, as you might actually experience a more successful bid for independence in the future if you instead utilize this period as preparation. Just as a building–regardless of how great it looks or defines space–must be built on a solid foundation to be viable, so must your move to independence.

Here are eight things you can start doing now that will create the structural foundation for a smooth transition to an independent status.

1. Start thinking like a business owner.
When you decide to go independent you become a business owner. Now is the time to start thinking like one and building a business owner’s mindset and skill set. Should you actually choose to make the move from the wirehouse or brokerage to independence, you will need to become a business owner. Do you ever have moments where you think, "Well, if I were running things at the office, I’d do this…"?

Good! Keep thinking like this, and keep a tickler file where you make notes of good and poor business practices that you’ve experienced or observed. Keep in mind advising, this doesn’t translate into being a good business owner. These are two different skill sets, and the sooner you recognize this, the sooner you can start building up the skill set you don’t have. It is great to take systemic/structural examples from your current situation, but apply a critical thought process to aspects of the operation that would apply to a small business, where you may need to be the principal, assistant, accountant, and operations staff. A great book that delves into this concept is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber.

[Maria’s Note: Financial professionals can now purchase versions of the Emyth specifically for advisors, accountants, and even managers. More here.]

2. Practice "visioning".
It might sound like some sort of new-age tactic, but studies show that envisioning what you want–like how your independent practice will look five years from now, what type of office you’ll have, what sorts of clients you’ll attract, etc.–will help you turn your vision into reality. This is because you’re more likely to "see" and keep in mind (even subconsciously) the steps you need to take in order to turn the vision into reality. This process will inform more concrete aspects of your transition, such as developing your business plan, as well as short- and long-term goals.

[Maria’s Note: Boy, I agree with this 200%. You can find visioning resources here.]

3. Assess your business skills…and look for ways to develop the ones you don’t have.
You already come to the table with a set of skills. Some will be critical to owning your own business. But where do you get those other skills you need? For example, maybe you’re great with numbers, but you don’t have the slightest idea about marketing or writing sales letters. What should you do? Read up or sign up. Between the library and bookstore, you shouldn’t have any problem finding books that will help fill in the gaps.

Community colleges often offer classes or seminars with business themes. Your local Chamber of Commerce may hold workshops for first-time business owners, and SCORE’s small business counselors are also a great resource (and their services are free). Bottom line? Be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses–as both an advisor and future business owner. Don’t be afraid to check your ego at the door and have a trusted friend or peer help you with your evaluation. Constructive self-criticism can be restricted by what we are willing to admit and others may be able to provide clearer insight.

[Maria’s Note: Purchase the book "Now, Discover Your Strengths" as a new book and you’ll be able to assess your top 5 strengths online using the unique code in the front cover. Or you can a href=”https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/Purchase/en-US/Product?Path=Clifton StrengthsFinder”>take the test online without buying the book.]

4. Save money.
moneyarrowEYBThere are various start-up costs and ongoing costs related to going independent. The prevailing rule of thumb is that you should have at least six months’ worth of savings to live on while you ramp up your business. Options such as office space are often dependent on your budget and having adequate savings will open up your search process. Given the current economy, saving will be a challenge, but it is important. Your savings will be your working capital and resources while you establish yourself and payments begin to filter in. If you can save eight or ten months’ worth, even better. Keep in mind that there may be some things you’ll need to start paying for right away, such as health insurance or COBRA. Having a "future business" nest egg not only makes sense, but may be crucial to alleviating pressures that can contribute to poor decision-making under stress.

[Maria’s Comments: Figure that it will cost you $10-15K to start a virtual business out of your home. More if you are going to rent office space and fill it with furniture.]

5. Discuss your desire for independence with your spouse.
You’ll need a support network, especially in the early months of your independent practice. If you discuss the idea sooner, rather than later, there will be more time for discussion, negotiation, and "buy-in". Besides, no one likes surprises, and an informed spouse can be emotionally supportive, as they are then "invested" in the business.

[Maria’s Note: Approach your spouse with a plan for your new business, with details about how you will get from where you are to business owner. Be realistic about how this change will affect your finances and the length of time it will take you to build your business to the income level you’re enjoying today. Being prepared will garner more support than just sitting family members down for "the talk".]

6. Continue to build solid relationships with your clients.
This is important, regardless of whether you choose to go independent or not. However, the more solid your client relationships are now, the more likely they’ll follow you if you choose to leave.

Upon becoming independent, a few things will happen. When you leave, your clients will be approached by advisors from your old firm. There are two things that they can do to keep the client. One is to critique the portfolio you have built for the client and the other is to try to befriend the client, and in effect, ‘out-schmooze’ you. You can defend yourself against each strategy, but only if you have been doing the right things all along. Ideally, each client should have had an in-depth portfolio review from you just before you resign, and any client who you feel needs to know you better as a person should have heard from you at a personal level a few times in advance.

But regular portfolio reviews and steady client bonding can’t be done all of a sudden and out of the blue just before you resign! A consistent, steady process of reviews and client bonding is fundamental to a successful practice, and is essential to a successful transfer to your new firm.

7. Avoid building your business around proprietary products and do your homework.
Once you leave your current firm, those products that you’ve gotten to know so well won’t be yours to sell. Instead, focus on "portable" products you believe in that you will be able to represent, regardless of where you end up. Take the time to research other products that you feel good about and complement each other in the markets you work in. Even if you choose not to use them, your deeper understanding will allow you to help your clients make informed decisions, which bolsters the value of your services.

8. Understand what you don’t AND do like about your current situation.
Just because there are certain things you don’t like about your current employment doesn’t mean that your only alternative is to go independent. It could just mean you’re at the wrong firm. Understanding what you like and don’t like about your current firm (go ahead, make a list!) will help you differentiate between a firm that’s making you unhappy or a business model (i.e., you being an employee instead of a business owner) that’s making you unhappy. Also, as an independent you will be able to create your own model and processes, but you can still use those things that work in your current situation.

Remember, starting and running your own independent practice is a long-term process. Building a strong and secure foundation involves considerable physical and mental preparation. The same is true for your future practice. Put the time in now, and experience a smoother transition to independence later.

goingindie©2014 By guest blogger, Victoria Bowen, the founder of Going Indie. Since 2007, Going Indie has been helping advisors considering leaving a wirehouse or captive firm by providing online resources and 1:1 consultations. Victoria is a consultant, recruiter, and former marketer who provides the "personal involvement" that helps breakaway brokers make informed decisions and is available for additional advice once they’ve made the move. Visit Going Indie at www.GoingIndie.com or on Twitter @GoingIndie

Advisors: It’s time you move out of your home office. Now what?

You’ve made the decision to move out of your home office or out of the cafe into a main-street office.  You’ll be expanding in the next 5 years, intend to hire an associate (or two), a full time receptionist/office manager, etc.

This is a real life situation many advisors go through.  Hiring a Realtor is a great idea.  However, if you don’t have a well thought out ideal office list, your Realtor is going to drive you ragged — and it’s your own fault.   (Hint: if you already have an assistant, etc. ask them to brainstorm with you, and your coach, of course, too.)


What is on your ideal office list?

What precautions are important to consider as you make this move? (things that maybe weren’t as important to a home office but will be to a local office)

What valuable information do you have to share with your colleagues who are just now ready to make this move?

What question(s) haven’t I asked that you’d add here!


Please note:  I’m in the process of writing a collaborate article — an article that is written by many people — in this case, financial advisors, planners, and other who work with advisors.   The title will be something like 10 Important Lessons To Learn Before You Move Out of Your Home Office (or something better that my marketing manger comes up with).

If you prefer that your comment or advice is not republished, please state so.

If you’d like to participate, please list your full name, website and twitter URL at the end of your comment.   I’ll email you the draft to approve before the article is published.