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When advisers reach burn out point

David J Scarlett provides mentoring and business coaching for advisers running their own businesses. In a series of interviews ABR editor Rob Kingsbury talks to him about some of the key issues advisers are raising and the advice he would provide to help resolve them.

Advisers running their own businesses can find all they do is work. In this interview, David outlines six ways for advisers to turn that around and achieve a better quality of life in the process

“It’s the quality of thinking that shapes the quality of business and the quality of life that an adviser is leading.” David J Scarlett

Rob Kingsbury: You mentor advisers running their own businesses. What particularly issues come up time and again?

David J Scarlett: I’m finding that almost every adviser that approaches me, no matter how successful – and I’m talking to people who are creating gross revenue in excess of £1 million a year, not through flogging product but through genuine financial planning – invariably has two questions:
1. How do I fulfill my role without becoming jaded and burnt out. That’s what a lot of people find they are facing, too many hours at the desk and exhaustion. What they are really asking is, how do I find more time for me?
2. How can I find more time to work with only the kind of clients I absolutely love working with?

RK: I imagine there are many advisers who would relate to your comment about spending too many hours at their desks and not having enough time for themselves. How do you advise people start to tackle it?

DJS: It is a bigger problem than many people like to admit. They like to pretend that they love being busy and that busyness is part of their badge of excellence, if you like. That’s nonsense. Spending far too much time in work and far too little time doing what they really love to do or that they aspire to do is just not clever. And it’s only when they reach an exhausted state that they realise something has to be done.

When people come to me in this almost burned out state I suggest a number of things:

1. Just slow down. Stop pretending that busyness is effectiveness.

2. Spend some time thinking through exactly what type of client you’d love to work with. Stop running around frenetically, trying to service every client that you have because you have a social conscious. It doesn’t help clients and it certainly doesn’t help you and you can actually end up being ineffective.

3. Look at what you are doing in a week. Stop cramming your week with masses of activity, give yourself time to sit and think and ponder. That’s when the quality of strategy and the quality of service really begins to happen, when people think more clearly. Any idiot can do lots; it’s the quality of thinking that shapes the quality of business and the quality of life that an adviser is leading.

4. Stop actively engaging in social media. Social media is a great thing if you know why you’re using it – most advisers don’t and they get caught up in the frenetic activity that social media often demands. My best results have been where I’ve asked advisers simply to stop messing around with LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook; just for a while until they work out why on earth they are engaging and what it’s bringing their business.

5. Be careful about chasing marketing strategies. Spend far more time thinking carefully about working with quality existing clients and how you can get quality referrals from those clients. You have to earn the right to do so and that’s where you need to think about how your clients perceive your business, how they perceive your brand, and why your service and your firm is more attractive than every other service and firm around them. If you can’t crack that then you won’t create a differentiation, the thing that will attract the clients you want and you will continue to attract the same clients as you have been and you’ll continue to be consumed by people you really shouldn’t be working with.

6. Finally, cut down the days/hours you work. I advised two people last year to stop working five (and more) days a week and to cut down to four days to see what happened. They both did that and as a result their home life became much more enjoyable, their working life became much more enjoyable and because they became more focussed on the clients that were making them money their revenues went up. Everything was gained and nothing was lost by simply saying ‘stop working so many hours and take time out for you’.

RK: So in effect what you’re saying is that there is benefit in taking a step back from the business and looking at how the business can work for you not you for the business?

DJS: Exactly. Let me give you a real life example. I had one client come to me who was exhausted and the stress was really beginning to show when we first met.

I advised him to get out of his main office and set up a separate small office away from the rest of the team, with enough room for a desk a PC and a chair. Then he had to give his PA instructions that he was not to be interrupted by clients or members of the team for the whole day every Friday. What he found by working in that small room was that by noon of every Friday he had finished his day’s work.

What that meant was he then had a choice. He could get up and walk out, which he did frequently, to spend time with his wife and his children doing all the things they loved doing as a family; or he could take the time to think, to strategise and to plan out the next few months for his business. He could do the things that all the busyness had prevented him from doing before.

He is now far more relaxed – he never works on Saturday anymore, he never panics on a Friday that he’s not going to get all the work done. His clients understand that he’s not around on a Friday and they contact him Monday to Thursday.

That half day out of the office means he has stopped running around, he is doing better work for his clients and he is now winning better quality and better paying clients as a result. The benefits to him in his business, his life, his revenue stream and in his emotions have been immense.

If your clients and your staff keep interrupting you that interruption is deadly That’s why I say get out of the office get away from the frenetic, busyness and take the time and opportunity think more clearly. That thinking will create a future that you couldn’t have imagined if you’d stayed sitting in your office filling your day with things you really shouldn’t be dealing with.

Getting out of the office and thinking and not being interrupted is absolutely critical. I would say interruption is one of the biggest problems in business. If you can stop interruption by emails and phone then you’ll think better and you will be able to provide much better service and quality solutions for your client. To me it’s a no brainer.

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