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The Best Laid Plans

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The Best Laid Plans

Kurt Dupuis:
Welcome to The Whole Truth, where two wholesalers help financial professionals build great practices and thrive in a rapidly changing industry. We’ll bring you the stories and voices from those on the front lines of this change. And we’ll have some fun along the way.

Steve Seid:
This is more than a podcast. We’re building a community of financial professionals who are growing, forward thinking and want to get better. Thanks for listening and contributing to the discussion.

Disclosure:
The views expressed herein are those of the participants and not those of Touchstone Investments.

Steve Seid:
And welcome everybody to The Whole Truth from the Bay Area, California. I am Steve Seid.

Kurt Dupuis:
From Atlanta, Georgia, I am Kurt Dupius. So, cool episode. We’re going to unpack a conversation you had with a community member that took a really different take on client service.

Steve Seid:
Our traditional approach has been okay, well, what are the types of contacts we want to do? And how many do we want to do with each? And so, for example, if I’m going to do two formal reviews in a year with “A” clients, and I’m going to do a birthday email, and I’m going to do a … whatever it is, you lay it out and then we spread it out.

Kurt Dupuis:
So this is just a different take. It’s a completely different spin and different formula for doing that. So I’m very curious to dig into that. And then secondly, you know a lot of fiscal years are just beginning here, and then the calendar year is right around the corner. So we thought we’d take a step back and talk about business planning. Just some of the lessons learned, things to think about, how to schedule that, how to think through some of those things. So you just got Steve and I today, no interview guests, but a lot of good stuff coming your way.

Steve Seid:
Yeah, it’s been a little while since we did a solo episode.

Kurt Dupuis:
It has!

Steve Seid:
I’m amped up about it!

Kurt Dupuis:
Yeah, we did some great interviews.

Steve Seid:
We did a bunch of it as Kurt alluded to. We did three different episodes on building a model. We did a different one, a supernova with Mary Mock, but we spent a good amount of time on this. And again, the idea was, okay, how do we want to service these people? What are the touches? And let’s spread them out over the year. And I had someone in our community, Lisabeth from Walnut Creek, who’s interacted with our show before. Who’s a dynamo, services a ton of clients, way more households than we suggest. The way that she does it was quite interesting. And I’ll just jump into it.

She uses a campaign based system for touching her clients. So what does that mean? Well, each month she’s going to get together with her team and they’re going to develop something that they’re going to be wanting to engage their clients with. And that’s what they spend their month focusing on. You follow me Kurt? So it’s not just like, hey, we’re spreading out these contacts. Each month, we want to do something with a purpose. Let me read a couple of examples, because this will bring it to life. This month, for example, is re-papering every trust account as the IRS is doing backup tax withholding on all trusts if the name on the trust is not an exact match. So in that case, she has 22 trust accounts. The clients will get that call that she says, hey, they feel well taken care of.

Kurt Dupuis:
And that’s it? So for the month, those 22 folks, that is the service for the month.

Steve Seid:
Correct.

Kurt Dupuis:
Besides probably some regular reviews and other pretty standard stuff.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. She’ll have her client reviews. She’ll have her reactive stuff, but her team is focused on that activity with those relevant clients. I’ll share you some other ones. April’s when we were calling all Roth holders to ensure they have max funded prior year. November is when we reviewed designation of beneficiary, prior to the season when people get together with family.

So you get the point here. People will build in client check-ins, that they’ll want do with people. And then you’ll be like, well, what does it mean to check in?

Kurt Dupuis:
What are we checking in about? Yeah.

Steve Seid:
What’s the purpose? I’ll be honest, if someone was doing that to me, just checking in without a purpose, I’d be like, please stop calling. If you have a purpose, let’s talk. You know what I mean?

Kurt Dupuis:
For sure. Okay, so what we’re saying is, it’s a scheduled touch point with an overlay of seasonality. So when does that touch point make sense? Whether it’s spring, call it pre IRS deadlines or maybe end of the year, if you got to get an RMD in. So just scheduling those in the time of year that makes sense. So, this is almost like a “1. A” client service. Because you’re still going to be doing those reviews and you’re probably still going to have a birthday call or card or something like that. This is like a “1. B” of campaigns to run throughout the year. Is that fair?

Steve Seid:
That is fair. Having the purpose for reaching out and that being the primary model. This struck me as something that was a really good way to approach it, is using a campaign system. So if you want to tackle this, your takeaway is, get together with your team, talk about what your campaigns look like.

Kurt Dupuis:
It’s a different take on a traditional way of looking at it. The point is, service the hell out of your clients and you’ll get more client service, equals growth. A lot of the people that I work with at least are coming around to that notion as well, that we really have under serviced for a long time, or at least under emphasized the service that we’re giving.

Steve Seid:
If you want to work with us at all on client service, we’d be happy to do it. Reach out to Kurt and I directly or email us at thewholetruth@touchstonefunds.com. Please make sure that you’re subscribing to the show wherever you’re listening to it, share it with a friend. We’re looking to ramp up our numbers, which are looking pretty darn good, but we want to grow this thing. We put a lot of effort in it and we’d appreciate your help. We’re going to come back with a segment on annual planning. That’s going to be the core of our show today. Here’s The Whole Truth, stick with us.

And welcome back. So we’re going to get into team planning. Let me make a couple of comments on team planning up front. Team planning is a really difficult thing to do well. Most people don’t do it well. Most teams don’t do it well.

Kurt Dupuis:
Easy to check the box.

Steve Seid:
Easy to check the box, easy to build some plan. And it sits on the shelf and it doesn’t get implemented. And you feel good that you go through the process. But what we’re suggesting is, there’s opportunities to make it really matter.

Kurt Dupuis:
We do these every quarter. A lot of firms require this. You have to submit some sort of business plan or business strategy for the year. And so, there’s a check the box element to it, but we’re trying to go further than that and say, what’s actually useful.

Steve Seid:
Does it matter? Does the discussion that we had, does the things we’ve committed to each other actually roll through and influence our business? That’s where we want to get to.

Kurt Dupuis:
We’re trying to make some sort of livable document that it actually drives activity, it drives behavior, and hopefully, ultimately, it drives outcomes. We want to revisit a conversation. We had our colleague Johnny O. talk about a book called Periodization. And the foundation was in the context of athletes training and breaking up their training into quarters. And the author suggested that people do the same with their business planning. And that annual business planning kind of doesn’t make sense. And I tend to agree. So that’s, that’s step number one, is think about quarterly planning, not annual planning. But the second thing is, gather input from other folks on the team, fairly obvious, but make sure the team, the whole team’s collaborating.

Steve Seid:
I would even add something to this. It hard to step back, create an environment where people are willing to share, whether it’s what you want to hear or not. When you get into the discussion of business planning, not dominating that conversation. Good business planning should get input from everyone and try to be as equal as possible.

Kurt Dupuis:
Haven’t you been part of those, even internal meetings where the boss says, “We’re going to discuss how to do this. Who’s got an idea?” And there’s three seconds of silence. And then they jump and say, “Okay, well here are my ideas.”

Steve Seid:
Absolutely.

Okay. So that’s just some of the things we want to say up front. You want to do this more than once a year. You want to make sure that teams or everyone on your team is willing to participate. So let’s talk about the planning and the structure itself. There’s numerous different approaches and frameworks analyzing a business, my favorite word. Let’s spend a minute on a SWOT analysis, fairly easy concept. You’re going through strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s a way to just get the dialogue going. And there’s no shortage of these frameworks. If you’re looking for a new one, we can provide seven of them. But start with something like that. That’s usually filled in in advance. Everybody get into the mind frame of thinking strategically about the business.

So we want to have some framework. So in other words, do you do something like, a team offsite or is it something you’re going to do in the office? Are there things you’re going to have your participants fill out in advance? Are there things that are going to be done after that session? How many sessions are we doing? All of that is to say, if you can create a process around this, your outcome is likely to be better. And there’s some other key components. What kind of data do you need? Should you bring in outside help? Whether that’s a speaker, whether that’s a coach, whether that’s a facilitator. All those things, just thinking holistically about what the process looks like, is helpful to getting, we think, a better outcome.

Kurt Dupuis:
We started doing some of those a few years ago. This was one of the more intimidating things I’ve done as a wholesaler, but we host these, we call them VIP offsites, where we try to get teams outside of the office to facilitate exactly this. And it was one of those moments on the path of prioritizing practice management as a wholesaler. It was a like, my goodness, these are deep waters I’m about to jump into.

Steve Seid:
You have to run a day –

Kurt Dupuis:
It’s intimidating.

Steve Seid:
Of strategic planning.

Kurt Dupuis:
It is super intimidating. And I had help the first couple times, but it’s something, if we are fortunate enough to be in a position to help teams with that, I love that, because you don’t get to know a team better. There’s no better way to get to know a team than by helping out with something like that. But it’s also, it’s fun. It’s interesting. I like the fun side, so I always try to structure a couple games in there to loosen everybody up.

Steve Seid:
I think with those, where you get hung up in the beginning is thinking that you’ve got to come in and tell this team what to do and be this domineering coach type. And really, what you have to do is just facilitate the conversation. And challenge them and share ideas. And shut people up when they’re talking too much. And call people out when they’re not talking at all. But it’s really just about facilitating the conversation.

So what else do we want to say about offsites? I’d alluded to this before, but I’ll make the comment again. And this is a direct quote from Harvard business review. A strategic offsite success is largely determined by what happens before it convenes. So I mentioned before, something you should have the team do individually to create feedback and ideas without the influence of everybody else on the team. Even something as simple as, what are a few things we should stop doing? What are a few things that we should be doing more? Again, the whole purpose of this is to do the pre-work.

You have this pre-work, you have some structure of a session. Ultimately, what we’re moving towards is some sort of goals. So let’s talk about goals for a minute. So the terminology around goals is SMART. That you want them to be simple, measurable, assignable, realistic and time related. All of those are really, really important. Complex goals, not particularly good if you can’t measure it, bad. Who’s doing it? Is it realistic and over what time period? So that’s the key. The other thing I want to make though is that, I’m so stunned with how goals just come out of thin air. You know. Poof!

Kurt Dupuis:
Poof!

Steve Seid:
It’s a nice round number. So let’s do that. I get it. I want to be a million dollar producer, a $2 million or a $5 million producer. I get all those things, but don’t you think we should get a little bit more thoughtful than that?

Kurt Dupuis:
All you’re doing is suggesting that those types of goals do not implement the SMART system that you just outlined. Using data to inform decisions, rather than just pretty round … we did X last year, let’s slap 20% on it. Point is well taken. But another thing with goals that I have found to be helpful, so rather than thinking of annual goals, think about the activities that drive those goals and then cut them down to more, think subscription timeframes.

So what I’m saying is, if our goal for net new is 10 million dollars, well, let’s back into how many new clients is that going to take, and then what are our client acquisition activities? And so rather than say, we want to bring in $10 million of net new, we’re going to need this number of new clients on a monthly basis. Which means, we’re going to need this number of marketing outreaches or client service campaigns. It’s breaking it down to the process level, rather than the outcome level. And then I think when you set those processes up with shorter time period, you enhance the probability of having positive outcomes. That was a really wordy way of saying that.

Steve Seid:
No, no. It was perfect, actually. And I would just add on, you don’t want to have 15 goals. You want to have, we like three, we like the power of three.

Kurt Dupuis:
It’s like, everytime we talk about the power of three, it’s so funny to me how you hate pithy, Buzzfeed, like, these are the top three things you need to know about the... yet, there’s so much social science to suggest. I think.

Steve Seid:
I like three.

Kurt Dupuis:
Power of three works.

Steve Seid:
Power of three absolutely works. You’re you’re right, I don’t like articles.

Kurt Dupuis:
Buzzfeed Business Plan! Ha ha.

Steve Seid:
I don’t like articles to be written that way, but to your point about activities, I think that they should be scheduled. So if we can draw a direct line between our goals are this, here’s what we need to hit our goals. What are the activities that you were describing that drives that? Those activities should be scheduled, I think. Unless you’re naturally somebody where that’s going to be a priority. I would like to see, what are the time and resources and energy we have to dedicate. And then boom, make sure that that’s locked into what we’re doing.

Kurt Dupuis:
Schedule high impact activities, and then measure them. It’s like the Bill Parcell’s school of thought. We care about the process. The process is more important than the outcomes, including my arch nemesis that happens to be in the state next to me. Processes are important. So schedule them, measure them and worry about those a lot more than you do the outcomes from those processes.

Steve Seid:
The last point we’ll make about this before we transition into what happens after you do the strategic planning session or sessions is, you’ve got these goals, let’s get the obstacles on the table. So talk to your team and say, okay, our goal next year is A, B and C. For each of those, if we did not hit this, if we’re sitting here a year from now or six months from now, or a quarter from now, and we didn’t hit this goal, what prevented us from getting there? Because if we can get that on the table, maybe, just maybe, we could destroy that obstacle or have a contingency plan when that obstacle happens. You’re calling an audible out the line.

Kurt Dupuis:
Omaha! Omaha!

Steve Seid:
Why is it always Omaha?

Kurt Dupuis:
I’m talking about the pre-mortem. So rather than, on the back end, diving into a circumstance that happened and deciding how it went wrong, you’re doing that before it goes sideways on you and saying, what steps can we take?

Steve Seid:
So that’s the meeting itself. Let’s talk about after. I can’t emphasize this enough, the importance of accountability in the execution, the importance of ongoing planning. Keep it moving. Have some accountability in some way, whether it’s an outside person, peers keeping each other on track, whether it’s the boss keeping the subordinates on track, whether it’s an outside partner. We do a lot of that work to ensure that we’re actually taking the steps to work through that plan, I think is really important. We use something called action plans. That works well, pretty darn simple. What’s everyone doing right now? But the key is, execution is going to be everything here.

Kurt Dupuis:
So hand up. When we do our quarterly plans … last quarter, I had something that I wanted to accomplish that I didn’t, and that was have a monthly marketing event. Now I think I could put a lot, a lot of my excuse would just be COVID, but best believe it’s going to be on it for next quarter and it’s going to stay front of mind. So the point I’m trying to reemphasize is, this is a living, breathing process. If you’re not both mentally and physically checking in with these things, it’s not valuable.

Steve Seid:
Agreed. Why bother?

Kurt Dupuis:
So this next one, I’m throwing out to you Seid, because I think we might have divergent opinions here. So there is a school of thought out there that, you should dream big. Is it worth it to set outrageous goals?

Steve Seid:
Not really, in my opinion. So here’s how I would think about that. So, when you’re talking about the mission and the vision of the organization, where do you ultimately want to be? Why do you do what you do? What are we working towards? Then, in those cases, the big goal makes sense. It could be, we want to be a billion dollar team. And there could be some qualitative elements, but it could be a billion dollar team. But if you’re sitting there, here, at one tenth of those assets or three tenths of those assets, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense in these shorter term plans, whether it’s a year, six months, a quarter, to be putting that on. You can remind people of that. But the question is, what does it make sense for this year? I’m worried about, in these plans, maximizing what we are going to do in the next, whatever period.

So I don’t know, reminder maybe, but it shouldn’t be in my mind a big part of the process. Because, you want to know why? This is the problem with that. If you have something on your plan, that’s just like, hey, I’m going to put it on there. How easy is it to blow the rest of it off? It’s like, I want to build something that we are going to execute and live by and hold each other … and if you’re just willing to blow stuff off because it’s too big of a goal, I don’t know. It doesn’t resonate.

Kurt Dupuis:
That’s a good point.

Steve Seid:
I just think for busy people, I’ve always taken the approach of, goals that are more achievable than less, so you don’t blow them off.

Kurt Dupuis:
You love the embarrassingly-

Steve Seid:
When I come to financial professionals, I want embarrassing goals. And why? Because if they don’t do it, they’re embarrassed.

Kurt Dupuis:
It’s embarrassing.

Steve Seid:
You should be.

I guess I’ll just sum up real quick. The whole purpose of this episode is for you to reflect and think about your planning process and make it better. So how did we think about doing this? The first is, to develop and think through the process of that. What does your planning process look like? The second is, how can you engage your team more, empower them more, pull out greater feedback, all those things. The third, a way to think about goals. How should you think about goals? What are the activities to drive them? And then after you’ve gone through all this work, how do we take it to a point where it’s not just this thing sitting in the shelf, we’ve got execution, we’ve got accountability. So if anybody wants to work with us to improve their planning process, we’re here to help.

Kurt Dupuis:
If you want to work with us, reach out to us. Chances are, we have looked at more practices and had more of these conversations than you might have because you work on one team. We work with a bunch of them. So if you’d like a little insight on how we do things and can at a minimum, make it more fun. And I’m speaking for me, not Seid. Ha ha ha!

Steve Seid:
I could be fun. Sometimes.

Kurt Dupuis:
Reach out to us. So after a quick break, we’re going to come back with Costanza Corner. I’m going to share something a little personal that I’m working right now. So stick with us. We’ll be right back.

Steve Seid:
And welcome back everybody. This is our Costanza Corner. Kurt teased us, something he’s working on. I’m excited. I don’t know where he is going to go. Proceed please, buddy.

Kurt Dupuis:
Well, I don’t know where I’m going either.

Steve Seid:
That’s a good start.

Kurt Dupuis:
That’s the headline of my life. So, we talked a little bit about how we both play a little music. Play around. I have been playing guitar since I was probably a teenager, grew up playing in church band. And playing with a few different instruments. And then, as life happened, you get away from it, and kids and work and everything. So something has happened that I’ve just been really reinvigorated to playing music again. We have this list serve. So I reached out to the entire neighborhood and asked, hey, is anyone like me? Do you play music? But you may not have done it much in the last few years and interested in getting together. I had over a dozen people reach out to me. So basically, I’m forming a neighborhood band.

Steve Seid:
That’s awesome.

Kurt Dupuis:
That’s my good news for this episode. So we’ll be scheduling something in the next week or two, have a little jam session. Talk about variability of outcomes. This could be a complete train wreck.

Steve Seid:
My father-in-law’s a professional musician.

Kurt Dupuis:
Oh, I didn’t know that.

Steve Seid:
He’s like, the dude can wail on a banjo, man. I just want to give him an electric guitar, because this guy should be playing Metallica solos because that’s how quick he is. But he does it on a banjo and it’s equally impressive and whatever. But his message was, to get better, you got to play with people and I’ve never crossed that threshold. So I give you a huge kudos on that idea. Will you update us?

Kurt Dupuis:
Absolutely. The point is, I’ve made this point before, I’ll make it again. I like things where I’m on the edge of nervousness, not knowing what’s going to happen. And I just jump in both feet first, because again, this could be a train wreck or I might start gigging.

Steve Seid:
Hope you’ll give me an audition.

Kurt Dupuis:
I think we need to bring guitars to the next sales meeting, man. We need to have some jam sessions.

Steve Seid:
Let’s just play, man. Thanks everyone for listening. We’ll see you next time.

Kurt Dupuis:
You can find The Whole Truth and subscribe for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. We’d love it if you took the time to rate and review the show on Apple Podcast, it helps others find the show. And for more episodes of The Whole Truth, go to www.touchstoneinvestments.com/thewholetruth. That’s touchstoneinvestments.com/thewholetruth. All one word.

Disclosure:
Please note that this content was created as of the specific date indicated and reflects views as of that date. It will be kept solely for historical purposes and opinions may change without notice in reacting to shifting economic, market, business and other conditions. Touchstone funds are distributed by Touchstone Securities Incorporated, a registered broker dealer and member FINRA and SIPC.