Practice management tips: Start playing football, Pt. 1

By Katherine Vessenes

Vestment Advisors


Practice management for financial advisors and broker/dealers is a lot like sports.

As practice management coaches and consultants, we have discovered every financial advisor starts out playing golf. The nice thing about golf is it’s a solo activity. All you really need is yourself and a good set of clubs. If you are more successful, you might have a caddy to help you cart the sticks down the fairway. With a caddy, you can preserve some of your energy, play longer and make more shots.

Many advisors are playing golf their entire life. The business is strictly up to them. They not only call all the shots, they must make all the shots in order to bring home a steady income.

Some advisors become so successful, they want to move their financial practice to playing the next game: basketball. In basketball, five sweaty athletes do their best to get the ball down the court and into the hoop. It is a game where defined positions don’t mean much because the entire goal is to get a person in the right place at the right time to shoot. If one person cannot sink the ball, the ball is passed, sometimes many times, until finally someone else is in the right spot to make a goal.

Once an advisor starts playing basketball, all the employees and staff are scurrying around just trying to help make the shots or close the sales. Their jobs are not fully defined, their roles are fluid and their tasks overlap with everyone else’s. The shot, or closing the sale and bringing in more income, is their sole focus.

Sooner or later, the superstars must transfer their practice from basketball to playing football. Football is a much more role-defined game. In basketball, players are in free-form motion, trying to get close to the hoop and become open to take a shot. In football, you have 11 players, each with a defined role for each play. All players must, in their individual roles, be working in harmony in order to score a touchdown.

The left offensive tackle may be required to move four steps back and two to the right in order to protect the quarterback. If the tackle decides that on this particular play he really does not feel like doing that and would rather move three steps forward and two steps to the left, he will not protect the quarterback, who will likely get sacked. Scoring becomes impossible. The same is true with the employees in your practice.

As financial advisory and insurance practices get larger, they have to stop playing basketball and start moving toward playing football. If they do not, chaos follows.

In following articles we will be discussing more about moving to football.