Financial Efficiency: The Analyst's Guide To Time Management

The average advisor's day is jam packed with a litany of tasks including servicing client accounts, attending sales meetings, tracking the stock market and calling on sales leads. While these financial professionals are often well compensated for taking on this hectic lifestyle, the long hours and volume of duties are also a major reason why the burnout rate in the financial industry is so high. (For related reading, see Finding Your Place In The Financial Industry.)

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To be clear, there's nothing that an advisor can do to eliminate these duties. In fact, the more successful an advisor becomes, the busier his or her schedule will be. Even so, by implementing better time management techniques, there is a way to reduce stress levels and to make the day more productive.

To that end, the following are some tips meant to help advisors better manage their workdays.

Be an Early Bird
What a broker or advisor does in the morning sets the tone for the day. That's why the most successful advisors wake up early and address personal issues before they come to work. They fix things around the house, make personal phone calls, have their morning coffee, get a haircut and take care of all of the little things that would otherwise distract them during the work day.

They also read, watch programs such as CNBC, peruse The Wall Street Journal or the Investor's Business Daily and make themselves aware of what's going on in the international markets and on the domestic front that could have an impact on the day's market action. Alternately, others might use this time to organize a call list so they'll know which clients they're going to phone throughout the day. (For related reading, check out Keeping Clients Through Good And Bad.)

In short, don't just roll out of bed and come to work. Be productive so that when you come into the office, you're ready to hit the ground running.

Use the Commute
Use your commute to your advantage. Read the latest issues of BusinessWeek, Forbes or Fortune, or listen to a cassette about becoming a better salesperson. Your local bookstore is full of them! Again, the key is to do something so that when you are at work, you can focus on garnering new clients and servicing existing ones.

Another idea: If you haven't already done so, plan your day. Figure out what amount of time you are going to dedicate to prospecting, to servicing existing client accounts and to furthering your education. Again, the more prep work you do now, the less stressed you'll be when you enter the office.

Make Contacts Early and Often
Some advisors fritter away their day, preferring to wait until the evening hours to contact their clients. This is often a mistake because when people get home from work, they're either too tired or too busy with personal matters to talk business. In fact, even if you do get a hold of them, they aren't going to stay on the phone any longer than they have to, much less listen to your long-winded sales pitch.

In addition, if you think about it, it's nearly impossible to fit in all of the calls that you need to make to be a successful advisor during the evening hours. It simply leaves too little time to build relationships, sell your products or talk to more than a handful of clients or prospects. (For related reading, see Targeting Ideal Customers.)

The solution: call clients at work. Many clients won't mind - after all, it's their money, they worked hard for it and they want to be reassured that their investments are in good hands. Your call will serve that purpose. So call early, and call often.

Make Time For Prospecting
Once a broker or advisor establishes a client base, he or she often neglects to prospect for other clients. This is also a mistake. For example, if you were to lose your top two or three accounts because someone died, moved or simply wanted to liquidate their securities holdings to buy real estate, you'd probably see your fee payments or commission runs drop dramatically, right? This is precisely why you need to prospect and to have a constant influx of new customers.

With that in mind, if you are so busy that no matter how you reformat your schedule you can't squeeze in prospecting, consider hiring a cold caller. In fact, if you are a top producer, your firm will probably be glad to provide you with one. If not, consider tapping an intern or a local college student to generate potential sales leads. (To learn more, see Cold Call Without Getting The Cold Shoulder and Alternatives To The Cold Call.)

Work Over Lunch
Brokers and advisors are notorious for taking long lunches. But instead of frequenting the local watering hole, consider reading during lunch. Better yet, use the time to exchange sales ideas with your co-workers, or to familiarize yourself with your firm's research reports. Yet, another idea is to kill two birds with one stone and meet a client or a prospective client over lunch.

Everyone needs to eat, but spending an hour or two away from the office every day will not only make you less productive, it may also have an adverse impact on your money line or commission run.

Look Alive Between Four and Five
When the stock exchange closes at 4pm EST most brokers and advisors get up from their desks, chat with their colleagues and generally pass time until 5:30 or 6pm when they start calling their clients at home.

This is a mistake. Use this hour to your advantage! Call on businesses before they close for the day, or call your clients before they go home from work for the day. Or simply review the day's trades and catch up on some paperwork. Again, many advisors waste this hour. Don't fall into this trap.

Work to Your Limit, Not Past It
Fit as much as you can into a day, but don't exceed your limits. While working late can make you money, it can also lead to burnout. To avoid this, a good method is to come up with a list of activities in the morning that should be completed during the day. Then, once that list is completed, go home! Spend time with your family. Relax. Remember, being an advisor is akin to running a marathon, not a sprint. So pace yourself.

Bottom Line
Being a broker or an advisor is tough work. In this field, time management skills aren't a luxury - they're a necessity in order to increase efficiency and to ultimately succeed.