Craig Snyder, whose firm America Group Retirement Strategy Centers in Southfield, Mich., consists of 52 advisors managing a total $1 billion in assets, is LPL’s sixth largest—and growing.
It got that way, Snyder said, via a simple yet rigorous practice-management technique he’s simplified over the past six years that any advisor can easily adopt.
“Advisors need systems in order to accomplish their goals, whether you’re a large firm or a one-man team,” Snyder said. “You need to track your activity so you can see what else you need to do to maximize your return on investment.”
Snyder now requires his advisors to keep up to date a spreadsheet of five goals. “If we make it onerous, how it should be, people won’t use it,” Snyder said. “If it’s not too difficult, we get more success with buy in.” Snyder’s five goals are based the 36 written goals he uses for himself after attending Dan Sullivan’s Strategic Coach program.
After building an initial spreadsheet detailing where they are and where they want to be, advisors then factor in how much time they spend with clients, how much preparation time they need and when they have free days to spend with their families. “We want to make sure there’s a balance,” Snyder said. “That means organization and leading clients into your specific time structure,” so they know when their advisor is available to talk and when he isn’t.
If that sounds too controlled, bear in mind that for financial advisors, time is money. Snyder has his advisors break down the numbers until they have an hourly value for the time they spend with clients and prospects in a given year. “So if you’re time is worth $100 per hour, you might spend $600 per client per year,” Snyder explains.
Then, advisors have to figure in other costs, just as the office of supervisory jurisdiction costs, the broker-dealer’s cut of revenue and how much an advisor spends on his or her practice. It all comes to around 35% to 45% of total revenue, Snyder said. Factoring all those calculations in with the number of clients an advisor has, and he or she can figure out the total cost per client to his or her business. “Divide that by 100 basis points, and you know how much assets under management you need to break even,” Snyder said.
Breaking things down to these raw numbers shows advisors which clients cost more in terms of time spent than they generate in revenue. “One of the hardest things to do is to fire clients under $100,000, especially when those people brought you to the party,” Snyder said.
But culling the smaller accounts is a necessary evil because it frees up advisors’ valuable time to spend with wealthiest clients, “taking the time to really get to know them, their kids, their dog, their favorite wine, creating a relationship beyond a business relationship,” Snyder said.
Going back to the spreadsheet, advisors should then create an “activity matrix” that plots the number of account reviews and events, but also personal contacts, random acts of kindness and gifts. “Meeting a client two times for business and four times for personal reasons turns a client into a raving fan,” Snyder said. “Have your assistant make small talk and store any personal details in your system. That way you’ll have ammunition when you pick up the phone,” to suggest a baseball game or a wine tasting, whatever the advisor knows in advance the client is interested in.
The goal of spending extra time building personal relationships is to duplicate your top clients by encouraging other clients to hand you all of their assets in return for heightened service. A secondary benefit is that more of your A clients will refer their friends and family. Advisors can take the monetary benefit of both of these outcomes and factor it into the cost per contact, which now will look very different because there is so much potential revenue per client touch.
If this strategy looks straightforward, Snyder is quick to point out that it’s a long, hard road, even if the results more that justify the effort. To make it work, advisors have to find someone to be accountable to. In a firm large enough to justify a layer of management, this is easy, but solo advisors must reach out to peers or even their spouses if they stand any chance sticking to the program. “Filling in these reports when you haven’t ever done so before is very tedious,” Snyder said. “This system works, but you have to fill out your progress report once per week and send it to someone who is holding you accountable.”
While reducing your practice to spreadsheets, sticking to strict schedules and meticulously recording developments is a drag, Snyder reckons that it becomes second nature after a year. The rewards certainly justify the effort: When they stick to the system, Snyder’s advisors can expect a minimum 20% increase in revenue and a $6 million to $10 million increase in assets every year, minimum.