Be the Best Boss: How to Make Your Team Happier and More Productive

January 25, 2023

Talk to a Workflow Expert

As a financial advisor, you need to understand the importance of your team for delivering on your client promises. The best financial advisory firms are reinvesting into their back office. This includes a new focus on driving business process automation, digital transformation of the client experience, and addressing the talent gap by keeping back office workers happy and productive.

This enlightening fireside chat with Linda Leitz, PhD, CFP®, EA and Dani Parris-Exline, AFC® provides insights into how to create a successful financial advisory firm by being the best boss you can be.

Fireside Chat Recap

Don't have time to listen to the entire conversation? Here is a quick recap of some of our favourite quotes from this fireside chat discussion on how to be a better boss and lead a happier and more productive team at your financial advisory firm.

Q: There is often a temptation for you to duplicate yourself as an advisor. However, instead you decided to bring Dani onto your team who came from HR and Operations background. How did you decide that Dani was what you needed for your team?

Linda:

It's such a temptation to say, "oh, I need somebody exactly like me", especially if they're gonna be a successor... But what was really important in terms of, with Danny and me in particular, was that philosophically we are the same. We have a lot of the same skill sets, but we also get excited about (and what Dani calls our happy places) are different.

Q: How did you setup your roles in the firm - from who is responsible for what and how did you measure each other success?

Dani:

Talking about what that looks like for your firm, talking about what's your zone of genius is one of the ways that they talk about it.The things that you would get up on a Saturday morning to do, don't give that up. The things that you would rather go hide in the bathroom than do this next thing, find somebody else to do that. That is the best way. And then to do that successfully, you've got to outline it. You've got to be able to write it down, explain it, gift wrap it like in a little box and hand it to somebody – and let go.

I come from an engineering background, standard operating procedures, they sound boring but they're lifesaving. Because you can hand somebody a task and you can say, "here's what I need you to do"

Once you've given them that role, they become the expert in that role, and it's really important and really empowering for them to know what you expect. Know that they can do it, and then when they get next level (as that frontline person who really understands the role) they'll come to you and say, "Hey, we should change this", or "I'd like to tweak that". When they have that ownership, when they have that empowerment, that's when you start to see those team members really shine.

Q: You have created a firm the empowers your back office operations team. How has this effected your firm and your relationship with your clients?

Linda:

They're not my client or Dani's client from a financial planning standpoint. They are our clients and they're not just Dani's and my clients, they are the firm's clients.

The only single person that they are assigned to, which could be replaced if needed, is their Operations Specialists. We have three operations specialists and one of our mantras in the firm is you have to love your clients.

That really helped us start to figure out which clients are we working with that really aren't a match? We cringe when the phone rings, we kind of don't look forward to seeing them.

Almost an internal joke, we have a sort of a vetting appointment with a prospective client. I'll go out and say to one of the operations specialists and say; "guess what"

And they'll look up at me and say, "they were delightful?"

"Yes, they were delightful. We'd love to work with them."

Q: How have you set it up so that the operational team members are interchangeable or able to take a vacation?

That's where having documented processes, and having multiple people who understand those processes and ways to do the baton pass. When you're serving clients as a team, it's not a solo race. It's, it's more like a relay. Sometimes it's a little chaotic, but you gotta have those baton passes. People have to know who's got it now, who gets it next, has it been passed, and what those expectations are.

Writing things down is a very simple way to start to do that – and then making sure you don't have single point failures. That is my worst nightmare. If there's only one person who knows how to do that, that means that person never gets to go away.

Q: How do you remove key person risk at your company?

Linda: 

What I was terrified of [before Hubly], because I do love my clients and I feel a huge responsibility to them, is that something would happen to me and no one would know what to do. And suddenly the clients would be panicked and they'd be running for the hills and not knowing where to go for advice and wondering if their money was okay.

The people who were not financial planners at the time would do everything they could, but there wasn't the same type of relationship. Once the process is there, and once everyone is empowered to do what they need to do for the clients, the clients have a greater sense of firm.

If I did get hit by a beer truck and Dani had somebody new come work with at Peace of Mind, they could step right into my office, right into my shoes, right into the workflows that we have and do what we do.

Q: What is one of your biggest concerns or fears of not have your business systemized?

We  learned, and this is something I learned in Strategic Coach, don't look for who's gonna do it, look for what service is gonna do it. We have an outside bookkeeper. There are just certain things that it's like, why would we be doing that? Yes, as business owners, we want to have a sense of the finances of the business and a lot of those things, but do we really need to be doing the debits and credits every day?

Do we really need to be paying invoices? Sure, we need to know what the cash flow is, but we don't need to be the one that goes in and says, click here to pay this invoice.

When we run into a hiccup we don't just charge on and make and make it worse. Take a pause. Don't search for the guilty, but figure out where the breakdown was, what caused it, how do we fix it. Fix it, and then keep moving.

Q: Looking back, what's one thing that you would have done sooner?

Linda:

I definitely would've hired at least administrative staff sooner, whether it was a 1099 person, or a service, or something.

One of the things that was said by Michael Kitces last year at XYPN was;

Let go of the things that are not what you get paid for.

How many of your clients say, "I love how you filled out that Roth paperwork"? That's not why they hire us. They hire us to tell us they need a Roth, to do a Roth conversion, to tell them the tax implications.

I'll invoke one of my mentors, Bert Whitehead. One of the things he said is;

when you hire someone to do something that's not your unique ability, one of two things will happen. Either they'll do it worse than you or better than you, and egotistically, they're equally painful.

Dani:

I'm going to lean on the team and bring up one of their pain points – because that's part of being a good boss is addressing your team's pain points. Scheduling and meeting reminders.

Our calendars are insane. The fact that they manage that on a day-to-day basis amazes me. But finding tools, that smooth out those pain points with less human interaction can really help.  

Check our Linda's Podcast with Michael Kitces on Finding the Confidence to Avoid Discounting and Charge the Fee You're Really Worth.

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