Six positive steps to get your business back on even keel

By brian boggs

Leading Minds Academy

Because of an unprecedented set of unique circumstances, we all need to alter course for a time before we come back to true North, or our intended direction. Let's look at six positive steps you can take to put your ketch back on even keel.

When we are sailing offshore and there is a change in conditions such as when big seas or high winds occur, we call for all hands on deck since we need every crew member to help with whatever the changed circumstances require. Now let's use this analogy for the global financial storm we are in. By now your crew (staff, team members) should be manning the pumps, reducing sail and altering course. That’s right, altering course to meet the storm head on, as you don't want to get hit broad side and swamped or, even worse, sunk.

Because of an unprecedented set of unique circumstances, we all need to alter course for a time before we come back to true North, or our intended direction. We must never lose track of our big picture goal or become discouraged. As George Harrison said, "All things must pass.”

To keep your crew and yourself motivated, revisit your mission statement. Why are you in business? What drives you? Revisit your business plan. Chances are you are behind schedule on revenue and inflows, so adjust your sails (and adjust your sales).

Let's look at six positive steps you can take to put your ketch back on even keel:

Number 1: Successful time management is simpler than most people think. Begin each day with a list of the seven most important activities you want to accomplish for the day. That is one hour for each with an hour for lunch. List these in order of priority and don't stop till you get them done. This becomes your to-do list. You can post it under tasks in Outlook, for example, so that your team can see what you want to accomplish. Whatever doesn't get finished rolls over to the next day but goes to the top of the list.

Number 2: Consider that the single most important activity is to be super productive. Take action on the tasks at hand and encourage your crew (team) to do likewise. We don't have time to sit around discussing how great it would be if the markets were up. Focus on reality.
Number 3: During your day, it is easy to revisit emails every five minutes or take every phone call. Don’t. This will rob you of your time and you don't have enough of it. Employ an assistant to take phone calls and respond to email, and then set aside time to return the important calls and emails. Have your staff memorize a simple script. For example: “Thank you so much for your call. I am very interested in talking with you. May I return your call later this afternoon when I can arrange not to be interrupted while we speak?”

But make sure you return every call. No one is going to be upset that you have scheduled a call that will not be interrupted, but they do get angry when calls don’t get returned.

Number 4: Consider blocking out time in your day for quality family time. Make sure you turn up to the rugby practice or dance lessons to support your son or daughter. Remember why you are in business in the first place. Isn't it to create a better lifestyle for your family? Then live it. Lock out time to go to the gym or play golf or go sailing. It's very important to get the family, business and play time right or you will become burnt out and grumpy. I know; I was both before I turned my business and life around.

Number 5: Take action. You are the leader; you are the skipper. Your crew (team members) and passengers (clients) are expecting you to be upbeat and positive. I know it's difficult after 18 months of pounding seas (read constant bad news), and we acknowledge that a lot of advisers are paralyzed by fear on how to best advise their clients because there is so much uncertainty.

But here's the thing. Clients want you to show them that you have the necessary leadership to take action on the next step forward. This is the time you really start to earn those fees. Being a great leader requires an amazing amount of sustained self-motivation so that you can motivate others.

Number 6: In all the surveys we have looked at, the number one characteristic that is most looked for in advisers, overwhelming every other character feature, is honesty. Clients, crew and staff all want to be able to trust their adviser above all else.

Trust is the most fundamental need in our relationships — both in our private lives and in our business lives. It can take years to build up an excellent reputation as a trusted adviser. That distrust can easily be broken — sometimes by outside influences — and once broken, it is very difficult to rebuild. When this happens, relationships fall apart. Often, it starts with small things. For example, these quotes have been taken from a survey of unhappy clients.
  • "He never calls me."
  • "He wouldn't go out of his way to pick up my check. He told me to just stick it in the mail."
  • "I called over the Christmas holiday break after I received a letter from the insurance company saying that I was not insured. When I rang my adviser, he told me that he was on holiday and would ring me back when he returned to work in two weeks time."
I could go on with this list, and you may be alarmed that in these tough times when everyone should be manning the pumps, there are still advisers out there who just don't understand the idea that trust is earned by ongoing exemplary service. But clients will quickly move to another adviser when they perceive indifference.

Show you care. In these troubled times, advisers need to continue to build a very strong, trusting environment. Stand out from the crowd. Step into the spotlight as an excellent role model, not only in your business but in your community. Be known as someone who people can trust.