Sharpening the axe: Ongoing education for advisors

April 01, 2020 by Devin Rivera

Sharpening the axe: Ongoing education for advisors by Advicent

About the author

Devin Rivera

Account executive

Devin started with Advicent in the support department, working with existing partners to help them leverage our tools. Now on the Advicent sales team, he works to help advisors find the solutions that best suit their needs. Devin believes that, in any aspect of life, a well-made plan provides freedom. He is here to enable advisors to help their clients achieve financial freedom.

"Time spent in sharpening the axe may well be spared from swinging it."

-Josiah Strong

This week, I have taken some time out to literally sharpen my tools - both in the kitchen and the woodshop. It is something that I always tend to put off for too long. In the scope of a single day, the twenty minutes it takes to set up my stones and sharpen a knife far outweigh the few extra seconds it takes to chop vegetables with a dull one. But a sharp knife does not just save time. It makes the work way easier and more enjoyable, and it leads to a better end result.

Whenever I finally get around to putting in that extra time, I kick myself for not having done it sooner. What is it that you keep putting off? Educating yourself and your team? Streamlining your processes? Implementing an organizational system?

Today we are all responding to an event that has brought much of the world to a halt. Many people feel powerless to do anything about it. Some of the more ambitious among us think that by keeping their nose to the grindstone, they can control everything. But grindstones are made for tools, not noses. Everyone has spent the last two weeks answering client calls and calming the panic. Now the initial shock is over, but life is not yet back to normal.

Exactly what the coming months will look like will vary from firm to firm. I have already seen that a lot of financial planners have had an influx of inbound requests, while those focused on asset management are not quite so lucky. Either way, there are not a lot of in-person meetings happening right now. Many of us are working from home, and nearly everyone’s daily routine has shifted. Since change is already upon us, I invite you to use this as an opportunity to reset and plan for the coming year.

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Ongoing education in these times

Ongoing education is essential for all of us, both as professionals and just as functioning adults. But while it is critically important, it is rarely an urgent need (unless you have a CE deadline coming up). Many advisors rely on conferences both for education and the accompanying credits, but the conference season is taking a major hit this year. The next logical choice is probably online courses and webinars. These can be a great option, and there are several available for CE credits. But many online options have limited capacity and are filling up quickly.

Now may be a good time to look into the self-study options that many programs allow for. Even if you are not looking for CE credits, take some time to ask yourself if there are any topics you wish you knew better. There is no shortage of books, audiobooks, and courses out there. (Personally, I’ve been listening to an audiobook on behavioral psychology while working in my shop; so I can sharpen while I sharpen).

Growing as a team

While considering education, you should also think about educating your team, or at least encouraging them to study something themselves. Whether advisors or admin staff, a well-rounded team always brings more value to the table. Would they benefit from a better understanding of certain industry topics? Does anybody (yourself included) need to spend more time learning how to leverage your software stack?

I talk to advisors all the time who tell me the same thing. They know their CRM, financial planning, or portfolio management software can do way more. But they have not yet had the time to really learn it. Maybe you can assign each team member a specific tool and task them with becoming the team’s expert on that topic.

Look towards the future

What do you like about your business? What do you dislike? What do you want it to look like one, three, or five years from now? When is the last time you stopped to seriously ask these questions? The coming year will likely be tumultuous. And if you don’t know where you want to go, circumstances will certainly take you somewhere else. Do some goal setting. Indulge in some vision casting. Make sure your team is on the same page.

Once you know your destination, take a look at your day-to-day processes and organization. What is slowing you down? What is missing? What are you stuck doing manually that you wish was automated? Have you been meaning to move to a new record-keeping system? Does your team need a better process for sharing calendars? Do you just need to organize your desk? Use this as an opportunity to pause, reset, and hit the ground running toward where you want to go.

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