Welcome back to the 233rd episode of the Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today’s podcast is Patty Kreamer. Patty is the Co-Owner of Productivity Uncorked, a productivity coaching firm that specializes in helping financial advisors become more organized and efficient, in order to have time to focus on what’s most important in their professional or personal life.
What’s unique about Patty, though, is that the heart of her methodology isn’t around implementing technology tools to create efficiencies, but rather, around how financial advisors can reduce “clutter” in their work routines and better focus their time and attention on the things that get them out of the bed in the morning and that they’re most energized to get done efficiently.
In this episode, we talk in depth about how, no matter what systems and processes a financial advisor has implemented within their practice, if they don’t have a concrete plan for what they’re going to get done that day, they’ll have a hard time accomplishing very much, why as an entrepreneur herself Patty realized the most important part of managing her own time is by knowing what she doesn’t want to do versus what she does want to do, and why learning to say ‘no’ is such big deal, especially for financial advisors, who so often build their businesses early on by saying yes to anything that can help them survive the first few years but then get trapped in the habit even when it’s no longer actually beneficial.
We also talk about the process that Patty uses with her financial advisor clients to help create space in their professional lives, starting with a Needs And Values exercise (which identifies those things they ‘Need’ to make their lives work, and the Values that they stand for), and then moving on to an Ideal Week exercise (which helps advisors see what they want to accomplish in and out of work during the week so they can start taking control of their time), and how Patty helps advisors clarify how they work with their clients in order to set clear boundaries and expectations (because one of the most common reasons advisors can’t get anything done is their daily workflow is constantly being disrupted by being too accommodative of outside interruptions).
And be certain to listen to the end, where Patty shares some practical tips that advisors can use to increase their productivity and focus (particularly for advisors who have cluttered email inboxes), how trying to do whatever clients want in the name of “good service” can end out undermining the advisor’s service quality, and why the key to gaining more growth momentum isn’t really about productivity but the self-confidence that comes from knowing that if the firm grows, you’ll have the capacity to handle it.
So with that introduction, I hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast, with Patty Kreamer.
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Patty Kreamer
- Productivity Uncorked
- Productivity Uncorked Books
- Ideal Week Spreadsheet
- McClanahan's Engagement Standards
- A Woman's Way by Patty Kreamer and Michelle Donovan
Michael: Welcome, Patty Kreamer to the "Financial Advisors Success" Podcast.
Patty: I am so excited to be here, Michael. Thanks for having me.
Michael: I'm really looking forward to today's discussion, and talking about the theme of productivity. I know you come to our industry as a productivity coach. And I'll admit, I've long been fascinated around the dynamics of productivity and trying to squeeze as much out of the day as I can, for which, I guess I have a pretty good reputation for because a lot of people ask me if I sleep. The answer is, “Yes, I do.”
But one of the things that's fascinating to me, even my own sort of journey around productivity is, when I was young, I came to productivity like, “I'm trying to find the cool new tools, the cool new apps, the cool new things to automate more and get more out of my day and squeeze a few more minutes here and there.” And I use a decent amount of that stuff to make pieces of my day more productive. And I know this aligns well to a lot of the philosophy of how you come to coaching about productivity as well. But what I've found over time is, overwhelmingly, the biggest thing that really drives productivity outcomes is essentially, just where we decide to put our own time and focus versus not.
We saw a mini version of this, even in the financial planning study we did recently, that advisors who use a bunch of technology in their financial planning process are not materially faster at planning than the ones who don't use much technology. The biggest thing that determined who has a faster financial planning process? The people who just don't schedule as many planning meetings. That was the outcome. Like, markedly straightforward. Like, you want to get through your planning faster? Do it in a three-meeting process instead of a four-meeting process. Or at least if you're going to have a four-meeting process, make sure you're charging commensurately for the fact that you've added a lot of time with an extra meeting. It's the choices we make much more than anything the tech that we use that really drives the productivity outcomes.
Patty: Absolutely. I think that technology can certainly enhance your productivity once you get to where you are functioning and have really good systems in place. But the funny thing that I find, Michael, is that financial planners don't always plan for themselves. And that just goes for the day. So, no matter what systems you have in place, if you don't have a plan, you come into the office, and you sit down and you look around, and there's 19 things on your desk, and you don't know what to do first. So you go and fill your coffee cup, and you waste another 10, 15 minutes talking to somebody else, you come back, you still don't know what you're doing. And so, no matter what your systems are, if you don't have an idea of what you're supposed to do and when you're supposed to do it, it's probably not going to get done anyway.
So I think that's a big issue is just not really paying attention to what is done with their time. And that is what I find an awful lot of. I don't know if it affects you or not, but you probably have an exact idea of what you're going to do during the day.
Michael: Yeah, although, I'll admit, for me, I think it really has evolved a lot over the years. If I think back just earlier in my career, first it was “Okay, I'm an advisor, I need to go to clients.” So what I do with my day is pretty straightforward. Like, prospect, prospect, prospect, prospect. That was what to do. I didn't have any clients anyways, there was nothing else to do but go prospect.
At a later stage of my career, I was a director of financial planning and so my day was a little bit more spoken for in, “Okay, I've got people to manage and things to check in on and plans to construct a review.” And because there was ongoing work that needed to be done for clients on an ongoing basis, the day ended up being fairly defined for me by just sort of that continuous flow of client deliverables that our team was accountable for.
For me, it was really, at the point I made the transition and became a business owner. And all of a sudden like, “Well, I get to decide what I'm doing or what I'm not doing or what I'm hiring for and what I'm not hiring for. What I do versus someone else does. Versus we just say we don't do around here for people.” Like, it was at that point that it really started to hit me and impact me just how much control you have with that as a business owner of like, no, you really just get to say, “We don't do that for people here. That is not part of our offering. We don't do that.” Like, wow, that saved a lot of time to just to say, “We're not going to do that anymore.”
And at the same time, to get the decision of what am I going to do and what am I going to hire for or expand our team to do so we are going to do it, but I don't need to do it.
And the cool thing about entrepreneurship and business ownership is you basically get to design that any way you want. And the really hard thing about entrepreneurship and business ownership is that you get to design that thing any way you want.
Why Being Able To Say “No” Is So Empowering For Financial Advisors [08:01]
Patty: Right, right, I'd say, in my estimation of people that I work with, when I coach clients, probably about 90% of them are in control of their own time. Nobody tells them what to do or where to be. So, entrepreneurs, even if you're within a firm, you still have your own book of business, and you're running your own practice, and nobody's telling you what to do. And so, at that point, when you do shift around and you say to yourself, “I am a business owner. I now get to pick and choose who I want.” Then you start to work on the business, which I know is such a trite thing to say, but you work on the business and not just in the business. And you get a whole different perspective of what it is you want. And I find that beautiful. I've been in business for myself for like 27 years now. I find that it's more important for me to know what I don't want to do than what I do want to do.
And to be able to say ‘no’, you talk about being empowering. Oh my, when you can say, “That isn't something we do,” like you just got done saying, “I don't do that. But let me tell you who does,” and you refer it or you delegate. It's a beautiful thing. And you let all that clutter, I guess, it's a good way of saying, all that stuff that you don't want to do just fall away. And then you can really hyper-focus on the things that do set you on fire every morning to get out of bed. Otherwise, you're doing stuff and you're just wishing you didn't have to do it. And that's never fun to get out of bed and do stuff you don't like.
So if you're a financial advisor, a planner, and you get out of bed, and nobody's telling you what to do. Stop for a minute. That's what I do with my clients, is I create space for them to literally stop and think about what it is that they want. Because so often, they don't think about that. They don't stop and say, “What is it that I want this to look like? What days do I want to work with clients? What days do I want to not work with clients? What do I want at the end of the week? What do I want at the end of the day? Who's most important to me?” All the things that I bring into their life, I literally give them the actual space to stop and think about that. And most times it's the first time they've done that, for that amount of time, to give them the space that they need.
So I think you nailed it. Whenever you have your own business, even though you might not have framed it that way, it's a good time to think about that and stop long enough to say,” What is this all about? Why am I doing what I'm doing? And how do I want it to look?”
Michael: Yeah, I love the way that you framed that. Being able to say no is very empowering. And I was struck. I don't know if it was deliberate or just the way that it came out. But you kind of framed it as being able to say no is very empowering. I find there's just a progression in how our businesses evolve in the advisor world, that the early years, it's so brutal. It's so desperate. It's like we're just trying to get any clients who will engage us in any way, for any level of revenue to try to survive and get to the next week, the next month, the next year. So that eventually, it grows to a point where it's not quite so pressured. It's really hard to start a business from scratch. It's really hard to start an advisory firm from scratch. And we just see it over and over again in our data on the industry benchmarking research that we do that just it pretty universally takes three years before it stops being so sucky. There's really no other way to put it.
And I find it gets a lot of us into this mentality that when you go for several years of that much of a grind and that much pressure of always trying to find another client, some more revenue, anyone who will say yes, that just it's anathema in the early years to ever imagine saying no. Like you don't say no, you get through their no’s. You get them to say yes. You don't say no. It just drills into us to the point of habit that the problem I find that crops up so often is at some point, we actually get to a certain level of clients, a certain level of revenue, a certain level of business and financial success. You hit a crossover point where it's actually okay to say no. And we're so hardwired that the only no’s come from the client and you try to overcome them, that it just doesn't occur that, “You know, you actually have gotten to a point where it's okay to say no.”
Patty: Right, right. In 1999, I started my practice. I'm a professional organizer. Now I'm a certified professional organizer. And in 1999, I started that. And nobody even knew what a professional organizer was, including myself, but then I decided to figure it out. So I started my business. And it's usually two and a half to three years also in that business, as well, to see how long it takes to start having the phone ring the other direction, at least a little bit. And then you start to realize all the things you've done for the past several years that you don't want to do, and you start to get a little more particular. And that's when people come to me is whenever they hit that point. There's no particular year, but they feel stuck. I think people sometimes get to that point where they don't say no, but they want to say no. And their business has plateaued and they're leveled out and they want to go up, but they don't know how. And oftentimes, it's because they can't say, “No, I don't want to work with you.” Or, “No, I don't offer that service.” Or, “No, I'm not going to invent something to figure out how to make that work for you.” Because that's what a lot of times we do. We say, “Sure, I'll figure it out.” And you spend three months trying to figure something out.
And so I think that if anybody's listening, and they're thinking that you get to that stuck point, sometimes that's something to think about. Are you able to say no? Do you say no? Can you say no? Will you say no? And if the answer to any of those is, “No, I will not do any of that,” then you might be stuck because of that. And I think that just being able to say no to things, just small things, to begin with, can really be the stepping stones to get into the bigger things.
Michael: Yeah, it's an interesting question of I think, just for anyone to consider. Like, what size would your practice have to be? However you measure. Like, AUM, clients, revenue, whatever it is. At what size would your practice have to be for it to be okay to say no to the next prospect who is willing to work with you and you realize you just don't want to work with them? Maybe it's about personality fit, maybe it's about service fit, maybe they clearly are going to want to demand things that you don't really want to provide in the business because it's not time and cost-effective, and they're not going to pay extra fees, whatever it is. Like, whatever it is that would otherwise disqualify them. You're really on, you would say yes because you feel you have to say yes to everyone because we're just trying to get the revenue in the business to a certain place. So what threshold would it have to be for it to be okay to say no? And are you actually already past that point?
Patty: Yeah. Yeah. I think people need to pay attention to that. Because again, it's that stopping long enough to think, “Am I there? And if I am there, how do I get to that point where I feel comfortable saying no?” And I think that is a huge part of it. I think once you learn to say no and you try it, what that does is it literally unleashes you because now, when you say no to the things you don't want, the things that you do want start to flood in. It's really kind of a bizarre universal thing. Like the universe just speaks. They see you saying no to the things you shouldn't do. And all of a sudden, the right things start to show up. Of course, you have to make a conscious decision of what it is that you do want. And it's like clearing the clutter. Have you ever cleaned out a room, cleaned out an office, you cleaned out your car, whatever it is you cleared out, just all the clutter. All of a sudden, things that are meant to be in your life start to show up, but they can't as long as there's a huge bunch of junk in the way. The same thing when you keep saying yes to the wrong things, then the right things can't show up, but when you say no, the right things do.
What Happens When Financial Advisors Get Clear On What They Want To Say Yes To [16:13]
Michael: Yeah, well there's all this, to me, just strange attentive focus that starts to happen as you just get clear on what you actually want to say no and yes to. I always think it's the phenomenon of that type of car that you never really feel you saw that often. But you really liked it and you decided to get one and then you bought that car and then suddenly you see it everywhere. It's like, “Oh my gosh, I feel like everybody else has this car for real.”
Patty: Reticular Activating.
Michael: Yeah. Just because now that you went and got one, you're more attuned to it and you're watching for it more and you start noticing it all over the place. Just like it was there all along, but you just didn't notice it until you were ready to put some attention in that direction. And I see the same thing very much so as well of what happens when you just start getting more clarity on what you want to say no to and what you want to say yes to. The truth is those good opportunities were out there already. Either they were coming to you or they were maybe one step removed. But in the past when you were drowning, you didn't have any time to think about it, to pursue it, to follow it up, right?
Like someone would say an offhand thing in a conversation of someone that they know that might need some help that you just didn't even want to pursue because you're like, “Yeah, I got three other plans this week. And I'm completely drowning. I don't even really want to take on a new client right now.” So you don't really follow up on that thing. But when it turns out they're from a company that you're actually trying to form a new specialization in and you say, “Hey, wait, I'd really to follow up with that person, can you give me an introduction?” Because you said no to some other things, and you have more time. And it turns out, they're one of the senior executives at the firm. And that becomes the pathway for your entire new niche that you now form. And grow your business within a couple of years, all from this one transition moment. That like, it was there, but you weren't ready to pay attention to it before if you were drowning, and everything else.
And just what I find is when you get clear about what you want to say yes to and what you want to say no to, you start finding those secondary doors and pathways as well that just you weren't going to pursue before. You just didn't have the time, didn't have the mental bandwidth.
Patty: Right. And you know what else is so many people know what they want, they even know the niche that they want to carve out, but they have this thing about guilt. Or people thinking that they're not serving everybody. Like, I feel bad that I didn't help that person. Well, that's not the person you're here on this earth to help. There are other people that are there for that. And so there's a crossroads where people get to that point, and then they have to deal with all the emotions that go along with it. Like, “I don't deserve to do that because I have to continue to do what I've been doing and talk to anybody who has a pulse, because that's what I'm here for.” But when you make a clean decision, and you say, Okay, I'm going to focus on that, you cannot look back and worry about the people that you're not serving because they weren't your people anyway. But that's a huge hump to come over. And that's that whole confidence level that I help people with because I think that we get so... You might be completely competent but your confidence is so low that you don't even know how to get past that.
And so realizing and testing out again saying no to certain things to see what happens. And you'd be amazed that people don't hate you or people don't get mad at you, they just go to ask the next person. If you say no, they're just going to say you're probably the third person they asked because the other two said no. But you have to get past that emotion and get the confidence to say,” I can't work with you but I know somebody who will if you know somebody. Or here is who we work with. If you fit those criteria, I'm happy to work with you, otherwise, I don't think we're a good fit.” And those are some words that don't take a lot to say, and they're so well received on the other side, because who wants to work with you if you're not the right person for them. And if you're being dishonest and being frustrated with them and dreading every time you see the caller ID with their name, you're really not doing a service, you're almost doing a disservice.
So there's all kinds of ways of shifting that, looking at that, saying “I'll work with you but I really don't want to.” To say, “I don't want to work with you,” and having the confidence to say that is, again, that word empowering. It's like a million bucks being handed to you when you can do that.
Michael: You make a really good point that I do think there's a phenomenon that we sometimes build up in our heads of like, this prospective client came to me and I'm a good advisor, and I'm good at what I do. And like, I will break their heart and ruin their future if I don't say yes to them because they need help and I'm right here. And if you actually get to the point of managing to say no, turns out you're the fourth advisor they talked to already and they already have people on their list. So they're totally fine. They're not broken up. No one starts crying when you tell them no, I'm not going to work with you. Or I can't or this isn't a good fit.
That we build it up a lot sometimes in our in heads that we are the only person who could be this client's savior and that we will destroy their financial future if we don't take them on. And, well, I'm not trying to say we don't do great stuff and that everyone listening isn't a wonderfully fantastic financial advisor. Like, there comes a point where we might be taking ourselves a little bit more seriously than we need to. Like, there are other good advisors out there. If you can't serve them, find another good advisor and refer them out. And if you're not sure where to find another good advisor to refer them out, welcome to the stress that your clients have trying to figure out who a good advisor is.
Actually, I've had a few advisors I know that did this and it changed their own marketing. They went and tried to find an advisor to refer people out to, couldn't figure out who to refer people out to by looking at advisors' websites, they realized how not good their own website marketing materials were because they didn't actually have the information there that you need to figure out who to refer people out to, or how to get clients as an advisor when it's your marketing as well. So if you think it's hard to find an advisor to refer out to, go through the trouble of doing it anyway, you'll get a whole other perspective of what every single prospect goes through in trying to figure out whether you're one of the legit advisors or one of the sketchy ones.
Patty: Yeah. Exactly. And there's also those people that you have a personality clash with. I don't know if you've ever taken on any clients that you really just don't like. Whatever that may be. Chances are that three other people didn't like them either. And that's why they're with you. And if you’re saying, “I'll work with you,” you're just being the sucker.
Michael: Oh, that's a good way to put it. Yeah. There's a reason why this one flowed down to you.
Patty: Yes, exactly. And just let it keep flowing on down to the next one. Because it's the person. Not everybody is perfect. And not everybody needs to be fixed. And nobody's anything, it has to be a good fit. If you think of your practice. Envision what it is you want, your biggest ideal client, what do you want? And if you had all of that, your life would be awesome. So why would you want to let anybody in besides that? Because it's not why you started your business. You didn't go out there to be aggravated every day. You going in there to help people, and the ones that really respond to you and are a complete fit for you and you feel that authenticity between the two of you. Otherwise, you don't have to say I'll work with you. It's too much hassle, too much hassle.
Michael: So I'm just imagining you having these conversations with some of the advisors that you work with where we start down this exact conversation. And I'm going to bet the next sentence is usually something to the effect of, “But Patty, you don't understand how my firm has these unique challenges and problems. I have to take these clients. I have to work with these people. I have to do this. I have to do that. We hear it, but our firm and our situation is always the exception that doesn't fit what sounds really cool framework that you're otherwise espousing.” So how do we get unstuck from that?
Patty: Well, I agree. Everybody's unique just everybody else. When you're a financial advisor or a financial planner, your business is built on nothing more than relationships. And if you hear that and you think that I'm right, that's great. If you don't, I want you to hear it again. Your business is built on relationships. And so if you think that you are unique, which is great, everybody does have certain things, and every person in the world is different. They have a different brain, they have different thoughts and everything else. And if you think that what you have is different, great, then find the people that that is aligning with. It kind of goes back to the same thing we were just talking about is not taking clients that you don't want to work with. If you like the person and you think you're a fit, because sometimes that's a criteria for some of my clients. They create their ideal client. And it might be just somebody that I really like. Down to earth. “I don't care how much money they have. I just want to work with people that are awesome.” And that's fine. So if you think that you're unique, just find those relationships that also think that you're unique and build those relationships. Develop them. And I think that going from there, I think that's the direction need to go and you just base it all on the relationship.
How Patty Helps Advisors Create Boundaries And Set Expectations [25:53]
Michael: And so, for advisors that may start to get comfortable in this direction. Like, okay, I'm going to try to start saying no to some things or some bad fit prospects. I'm going to try to get more focused in on what we're going to go after. I know for a lot of advisors that the sticking point isn't actually really what to say no to. Often, at least deep down, we usually have a pretty good sense as to who's a good fit, who's not a good fit, right? Well, the math of it usually is pretty straightforward. If it's a client of limited means, if it's really not a good personality fit. Usually, Spidey Senses tingling first.
Like, I cannot remember any situations of a client who was a surprising pain to work with but seemed so completely pleasant in all ways with no warning signs and the initial meetings. There was always at least some warning signs, in retrospect. Maybe ignored them. And that's how they ended up being a client. But there's always warning signs if you're watching for them.
So I find that the surprise usually isn't who we should have said no to. It's what are we supposed to say yes to? Like, what are we supposed to be going after? And a fear that I find crops up for almost everyone, “I don't want to make the wrong choice. I don't want to pick the wrong niche, or the wrong specialization, the wrong ideal clients, the wrong direction in my business, and then regret it and have trouble later.”
So, we've talked a lot about finding the courage and being able to say no to some things that aren't a good fit. How do you figure out what the yes things are supposed to be?
Patty: Well, that's, again, looking at who you to work with, and what it is that you're looking for. But I think that you can really clarify, once you decide, yes, I want to work with this person, the next step is to have an upfront conversation with them, which is the step before they become your client, and lay out how you work. “This is what I do. This is how we work. We have two meetings a year. One is in-person, one is virtual.” Whatever it is that you do. “And the first meeting, we're going to talk about this. The second meeting. Then next year we move on to estate planning. Whatever it is. However you work. I'm not available on weekends. If you need something you can email, I'm sure somebody will see it. I typically don't have evening appointments.” These are all the things that you can say.
Michael: Which is essentially, just like a giant list of setting expectations. Like, if you're going to be a client, let me just explain to you how it works around here.
Patty: Exactly. In a very kind way. It's a conversation.
Michael: Yeah, not a negative, but just like, in a very literal sense. Like, let me set some expectations about how this is going to go if we work together.
Patty: Right. “I don't do texting.” Tell them all the things that you do, and all the things that you don't normally do. You can use the word typically. “We typically don't meet in the evenings. We never meet on the weekends.” Be very clear, because that upfront conversation, sort of, becomes an agreement. And if there are objections, well, “I can only meet in the evenings on Wednesdays.” And if you never are available on Wednesday evenings, and you're just going to say, “That's probably not going to work for us.”
And those are the things. That's just how you eliminate those questions, those "surprises" for the client later. They're like, “Well, you never told me you didn't meet in the evenings. You didn't tell me you weren't available by text.” The things that are later discovered.
So I think once you decide who you want, you need to clarify how you work, and then deliver that information upfront before you sign them on just to give an idea. I think that is so appreciated on the other side. If you imagine yourself as a client, going and speaking to somebody that you're going to hire, knowing what the rules, it's just basic common courtesy so that know what to expect. And I think you can weed out a lot of people, and usually, by then, they're pretty much in. And you may have mentioned a lot of those things. But having that solid, even a checklist or just a letter or something that spells it out and having a conversation about it just saves so many headaches later on down the road.
Michael: Yeah. It reminds me, many years ago, we had Carolyn McClanahan on the podcast. And she had shared, she actually has a standardized document. She calls it her engagement standards. And it's like a three or four-page document that just lays out like, here's what we do and how we work with you. And actually, it has a whole section of like, here's what we expect from you as the clients to work with us. Like, “You will be responsive to our emails and phone calls in a reasonable time period. If you're not ready to reply when we send you an email that we need your tax return for this thing, you're not a good fit for us.” And so they lay out all of these details. And it's just like a three or four-page document. I think they spent a couple of years of like, “Oh, we had a thing come up with a client, let's put that in the engagement standards that it doesn't come up again.” They've built it iteratively. But it just becomes a thing that every new client signs when they're coming on board so the expectations are set.
Patty: Right. And I actually, am a recipient of that my advisor said in the very beginning, "If you can't meet us two to three times a year, and come into the office," of course, the pandemic sizzled that a little bit.
Michael: So, “Come to the virtual office now.” But yeah.
Patty: But they said, "If you can't do that, we really can't work together, because we value the relationship. And we like to stay in communication and touch base, at least two to three times a year, sometimes four." So going in I knew that up front. And that was fine with me. If she just said “You're only going to meet once a year,” I'd had to decide if that was enough for me. And I don't know what I would have decided, but I just knew. And that makes so much sense.
The problem with not having the upfront conversation, though, is I have a client, his name is Dave, and he feels bad if he can't meet with a client. This is a part of that emotion thing. So there was no upfront conversation. And this one client has been meeting with him like at 8:00 at night for years. And I said, "Well, how can you change that?" And he said, "I really can't. They'll get mad, and they'll probably leave." And I'm like, "Well, would that be so bad?" At that point, you have to weigh that out. Now he has kids and you just don't know if he wants to spend his Wednesdays at 8:00.
How Clients Usually React When Advisors Start To Set Expectations [32:37]
Michael: It gets right back to that point. Like, “Dave, is your firm at a point where if they said, ‘Okay, if we can't meet this way, we're out of here,’ would you be okay?”
Patty: And you know what? I think I worked with him for three months. So we have a two-sided approach to our coaching. And then he went to work with Michelle because she helps do business development. And he worked with me, we cleared a schedule, we cleared everything out. And he kept hemming and hawing about these clients. And Michelle talked to him for 2 calls and he just got rid of 30 clients. He just let go of 30 clients because they were just not serving him. And he made room for the others.
So he felt so bad, then all of a sudden, he started realizing “This is taking my time, my family time, my everything time.” And he had a pretty nice book of business. And he decided, I didn't need those 30 on his books. And he gave them to somebody else, which was perfect. So it's just thinking that through. And now we're working on his upfront conversation so that in the future he doesn't bring somebody on who doesn't know what to expect.
Patty: Yeah, I think there's such a powerful point to that story of just that conversation of, “Well, Dave, what would happen if you told them that you just can't meet on Wednesday evenings anymore because you want to spend time with your family?” And he said, “Well, they might fire me. They might leave.” And it's like, “Yeah… aaaand?
Patty: And? “And what's your point?” Yeah.
Michael: “So you're outright saying that you would rather take their money than spend your time with your kids on Wednesday night?”
Patty: Mm-hmm. And there's some really clean language you can use. You don't have to be mean. People are like, But I feel so bad and I feel so mean. You don't have to be mean. You're not being bad or anything. All you need to say is, “My practice is growing and changing. And we had to rearrange a few things. We're bringing new people on to help do things. And going forward, we're not going to be able to have evening meetings.” You can cushion it and be very clear on it. And as long as you're being obviously, honest about it. And people go like, “Oh, okay.” They don't really care as much as you think they do. I think we think our clients think about us all the time.
Michael: Got into the habit. Like, they got used to it.
Patty: Yes, you set expectations. And the cool thing is you can change expectations too and reset them so that people know what to expect going forward. Those boundaries and expectations are movable, and they're solid while they're there. But if things need to change, the world does not end. If it did, we'd all still back in the Stone Age, or before that. Because what's the one thing? Healthy things grow, and growing things change. That's something I learned like 20-some years ago, and somebody said that to me, and I thought that was really cool. So healthy things grow and growing things change. Your practice, your life. Everything about you is a healthy thing and it's growing and it's going to change. And people can change with you. They're not going to wither and write bad letters about you and go on social media and bash you. They're going to say, “Okay, now I know the new rules. I'm on. Okay.” Or, “I don't like them. I'm leaving.” Okay.
Michael: Yeah, yeah. One of the early firms I worked at had this policy that, so, over the years, they had accumulated a lot of clients. It was 3 advisors and probably, like 800 clients, cumulatively, over the years, if I remember it correctly. As you would expect, some people we were working with on an ongoing basis, some people we hadn't seen in a year or two, or they would just call every now and then out of the blue. And so, the business was at a pretty good place to the point that it was not reliant on any one client, we'd reached that crossover point.
And so there was a process every year in December, where the team would get together, not the advisors, all the rest of the employees would get together and we got to vote three people off the island. Like whatever the three most dreaded client phone calls are. Every firm's got those. It's you find out so and so is on hold and it's, “Uuuuugh. I'm just going to leave him on hold for another 15 seconds. I need to mentally prepare myself before I pick up the phone and deal with whatever it is because it's always something.” We all know who those clients are.
So, every year, the staff got to pick three clients who were always on that list. They scored very high in what we called the PITA factor.
Patty: I know exactly what that is.
Michael: Yeah. And people who are a pain through the year, it wouldn't even be a conversation like, who's going to be on the PITA list at the end of the year? That was not a good exchange. If they don't straighten up for them for the rest of the year, you'll be on the PITA list in December.
So we would get to pick three clients every year that would get voted off the island. In the grand scheme, very trivial revenue impact, just because the firm had grown to a size that it could absorb that and it was still growing well so we could replace that revenue. The morale lift and time savings was exponentially higher than the revenue that was lost. So very good ROI for the business.
But I remember, because I was still very early in my career at the time, I got to sit in on the meetings for the lead advisor when he told them. And I'd never seen what it was to basically fire clients who otherwise didn't necessarily know it was coming. And so very much, I think the mindset for most of us, like we're going to go in there and we're going to tell the client, and there's going to be this, they're going to scream, “How dare you?” And then flip the table at us and start ranting in the room. All those things that we build up in our head. And what happened, every time without fail when you John would go in there and say, “We've worked together for a while, but I don't think this is really a good fit anymore.” And he would start this conversation of just, “Hey, we've grown in different directions. And this isn't a fit anymore.” I forget the exact language he used. But like that was the essence of it.
And like, the first comment from clients was always the same thing. And it was never like, “How dare you? I'm so insulted.” All that stuff that we fear. It was just, “Well, where do we go now?” Like, all they wanted to know is, “Okay, if I'm being retired, where do I go now? Like, do you have another advisor? Am I supposed to go someplace?” They didn't care about us! They just cared about them! They're like, “Okay, so what do I do next? Where do I go? What happens from here?” It's like if you go through an awkward breakup moment with someone, one of the most awkward moments right after you break up and you're still just sort of sitting there across from each other like, “So, what happens now?”
Patty: Yeah, so true.
Michael: That's all they care about.
And so the firm's process was finding three other advisors that they go refer out to here. Like, Here are three other people that you can go and talk to that may be a better fit. And so clients, just want to know, “Okay, well, what am I supposed to do now, if we're not going to work together anymore?” “Well, Here's three names of other people to call.” It's like, “All right, I guess we're going to go call them. Nice knowing you.” And off they went.
Like, we built it up in our heads of how they're going to direct all this focus and anger and whatever else back to us. It was like, no, they just wanted to know what they'll do next. They didn't care about us. They just cared about them. Not in a negative way. They care about them. Just like we get wrapped up with what's going on in our heads. They just wanted to figure out what they were going to do next.
Patty: It's so true. It's so true.
Michael: We helped them get to the next step. They just left faster, and it was less awkward.
Patty: And much easier for you.
Patty: Yeah, yeah. Whenever you're talking to a person, and I see this happen, it's sort of along those lines, an advisor is talking to a client, and they hang up the phone, and they worry about this client, and they worry about it so much. When that client hangs up the phone from you, it's really they don't think about you anymore. And I'm always the one that put myself on the other side. When I hang up with somebody, I'm done. And if you drew a circle, and it was like a pie, and you put one dot in it, that's how big of a part of their life you are. You're just a little dot in their life. And a very important part. Don't ever let me lead you down the wrong path. You're very important to them. But you're not going to linger for them. They're not going to think about you. And so, anything you do, just like the same thing, when you're letting them go, they're just, “Okay, what's next? I got to get going. I got stuff to do. I have a life to live.” And they don't care as much as you do.
Michael: Yeah. I still remember Carl Richards, a wonderful connector and communicator with clients, had these wonderful client relationships for years, ultimately got to a point where he sold his client base as part of a merger a couple of years ago. I still remember. He said the thing that shocked him the most, and he'd been warned about it, but still wasn't really ready for it. Like, he sold his practice and all these client relationships that he'd spent all these years with, doing all of this incredibly intimate financial planning work. Nobody cried.
Patty: That's so sad.
Michael: Nobody cried. Like, told them that he was selling the firm. They were just like, “So who are we working with next?” He said, “Well, I'm going to introduce you to Betty. She's really awesome. She's going to take great care of you.” And the client is like, “Cool. That's great. Wish you the best.”
Patty: And he probably pondered that decision to sell for the longest time and worried about his clients more than they'll ever even know.
Michael: Yeah. And they were like, “Yeah, we wish you the best. Cool. Appreciate working together.”
Patty: Well, and it's a compliment because they trusted who he handed them off to, so they trusted him that much to not put them in bad hands, hopefully.
Michael: Absolutely. Right. Like a huge vote of confidence and testament to how much they trusted him that they accepted that hand-off. But we build this stuff up in our heads like, they'll be tearing at our clothes to keep us from walking away as we ride off into the sunset. And nobody cried.
Patty: No. We're our own worst enemies in many ways. Almost all the time. That's part of that head trash and the blood-brain clutter that gets in the way. We really think a lot of things that will never happen.
Michael: And again, it's not to say the work that we're doing isn't important, and that we don't have really, fantastic relationships and powerful connections with clients. But I think you put it well. Like, we build this story a little bit too far in our heads sometimes that just we're viewing it from our lens, but the client views it from the client's lens, and the client's lens at the end of the day is they just want to know that they're going to be taken care of.
Patty: Exactly. And they appreciate you. And they love you. And I said that you do important work. It's just a matter of just looking at their side. And never reduce your service work that you do. That's not what I'm saying either. It's just, tone it down in your head a little bit. For sure.
Michael: So help us understand. You've talked a bit about helping the advisors you work with. Step one is get to the point where you're able to say no to some things. Figure out what you got to do to get there. The nos become empowering. Can figure out what to say yes to then. You've also talked about trying to help advisors create space, either space to figure that stuff out, or then space to do whatever comes next when they figure out what comes next is after they say no to some things and yes in a more targeted manner.
How Patty Actually Helps Clients Create Space In Their Professional Lives [44:39]
So, how does creating space actually work? Because I'm assuming, particularly in the context of the work that you're doing. It's the same sort of thing we see so often with clients. Like, clients don't come and hire an advisor when everything's financially great. They come and hire a financial advisor when things are messy or strange or complex or problematic or something's broken. And that's like the triggering event that gets them to come off the blocks and actually reach out and work with us. And I got to presume in your world as well, you don't get to do productivity coaching with people who are already pretty good at productivity and trying to get to the next level. You usually get people who are completely drowning and working 72 hours a week, and miserable and unhappy, and all the challenges that go along with that, right? And you say, “Hey, I got a great idea. Let's sit down and spend some time really thinking about what we want this business to turn into and look like.” And they're, “Yeah, if I had the time to do that, Pat, I wouldn't be here.” So how does that whole space-creating thing work?
Patty: Yeah, it's a process. It takes a long time to get there. So it doesn't take just one or two calls to get out of it. But when someone is feeling overwhelmed and really, really frustrated, I just normally, just start, really, general and help them pick apart what it is they do with their time now. And I would say probably 85% to 90% of the time, they have no plan in their day. They go in and whatever emergencies hit them, whether it's through phone, email, a pile on their desk, or anything else, that's what they deal with. They don't ever really have an idea of what they should be doing.
Michael: Right. So the day is, “Whatever client meetings I've got, whatever emails I can hit for between the client meetings, that plan review I've got to do because I got that meeting tomorrow, or Thursday, and just the reactive stuff that shows up that I've got to deal with for the day because I came in for the day. And there's stuff because I've got clients.” So there's stuff. There's always stuff.
Patty: Right. There's never an ounce of proactivity at all. And so what I do is I look at their time with them. And I have them tell me what it is that they do with their time. But before we even get to worry about planning, I take them through a values and needs exercise, which is so important because it identifies what they actually need in their life to make their life work. That's the needs and what they value or what they stand for.
And so often I have a list of words they go through, and they pick three of each, the three most important needs, three of the most important values. And we look at their time. And we go through those individually, and we look and see if they're being incorporated into their daily or weekly or monthly or any kind life at all. If their needs are being met.
So, for example, if somebody says, “Family is really important to me,” and they never see their family because they're working 80 hours a week, or they never visit their parents or their grandparents or whatever it might be that, then obviously, that needs to be fixed. So having an idea of what they value in need really goes a lot deeper, and I take them really deep into that.
And then we can start to look at setting up what I call an ideal week. Now, I just to say this out loud, because I don't have a cookie-cutter solution for everybody. So some people need this, some people don't. I have different things. It just depends on where the coaching takes us. But these are some pretty standard tools that can come in handy. But an ideal week is basically just a blank week that I have, and I help people create. If they got out of bed on a Monday and went to bed on Sunday, the following Sunday, what would their ideal week have looked like had they lived it? Besides being on a beach somewhere, of course. But just what days do you want to see clients? What days do you want to have prospect meetings? What days do you want to do your financial planning? When are you most inclined to do these things? And so I don't want to say, batching or time-blocking is the normal terms for it. But it's like creating an entire week. And I help them do that.
And it's not always an easy task. Because there's that feeling of I have so much to do. What I call buckets. Those are the things you have to do during the week. Like, this is your job description. Putting it into a different context and seeing it visibly different just to listen and plugging them into the time slots on the ideal week really helps people start to think, “My gosh, I do these things whenever the feeling hits me, or sometimes I don't do any of them because I don't get to them.”
And what happens is it starts to weed out the story of the big rocks with Stephen Covey. I know you know that story. And the sand that goes into that jar. And it's the stuff they don't need to do. And they're just doing it. They should be delegating it, but they're afraid to delegate because then they might have to give it to somebody who has already overwhelmed, but that's their job and not the person that should be delegating. So helping them to recognize what should be delegated, what should be forgotten altogether, what needs to go on what days, based on, everybody has their own rhythm. Like, there's morning people, there's afternoon people, there's evening people. And setting it up according to your rhythms, and really what flows best for you and fits into your life.
One of the things about being an advisor is that you basically have the ability, for the most part, to set up a lifestyle business, which means that you build your business around your life. You don't build your life into your business. And that is like an aha moment for some people because they're, “I just keep going and going, but I'm neglecting myself.” But this ideal week allows you to see what you want to do outside of work, and you build that business into it. So if you want to take your kids to school in the morning, or pick them up in the afternoon, or if you want to have dinner with your family several nights a week, or if you want to go out to lunch with, whatever it is you want that you need to do, you put that on your ideal week, and you start to realize and start to see that you are in control of this.
And you can create that week exactly the way that you want to. Including your values and your needs and your lifestyle. You can actually design it however you want. That's the beauty of it. There's no limits to what you want to do. I have people to take off Friday because they can. That used to be a thing when you could work from home Monday and Wednesday but now it seems to be you can do that anytime after the pandemic. But just having an idea of what it is you want, creating that visual. Sometimes it takes a couple of our sessions together to get it and then tweak it as we go along. But it's it really does set that stage for having a plan.
And then obviously, of course, the key to that plan is to have it in front of you and stick to it and commit to it because it is your plan after all.
Michael: So what happens when you try to sit down to create this ideal week and there's more stuff than fits into the week, “Which may be why I'm working 72 hours and reached out to you, in the first place, to say I need help with productivity”?
Patty: Right. Right. Well, that's whenever you start to recognize the things that you're doing that you shouldn't be doing. So, often, as I said earlier, people that can delegate don't, because they worry that they're going to overwhelm the person they're supposed to delegate to, or they don't trust that person. Or they think I can do it better myself, or I'll get it done quicker. All the things that keep delegating from being done.
And so, I obviously work with them on how to delegate and how to allow someone to make mistakes and be okay with that initially until you train them well enough. And as an advisor, you should recognize the fact that investing a small amount up front can really reap a ton on the other end. And so if you invest a couple of hours training somebody and teaching them and being patient with then, obviously, you're going to reap a whole bunch of hours on the other end, because you're not going to have to do that stuff yourself, and it frees you up. You shouldn't be doing $15 an hour work if you're out there making a lot more money, landing million-dollar clients. It's just that simple. You just have to recognize your value and the value of the work that you do and make sure they're commensurate.
Michael: And so, I guess, part of the ideal of setting the ideal week and setting the things that you want to do, that you actually want to do in your ideal week is when you fill the week with that stuff and then you look at the list of things you're actually doing. And I'm literally envisioning, on the left, there's a list of all the things that I do, on the right, there's the calendar of what I want my ideal week to look like. I start taking things from the left and putting them to the right and then, eventually, the right is full because I filled my ideal week and there's still things left on the list on the left of stuff I haven't placed yet that's your delegate list. Like, you just figured it out by process of elimination, if you start placing the things you want to do in the ideal week that would look the way that you want to look at it, whatever is left, almost by definition is here's what you've got to figure out how to delegate or let go of.
Patty: Exactly. And if someone like you, you have a lot of different things that you're involved in. You have a ton of different areas, and so many people do. And you can have it all. Sometimes you just can't have it all at once. And so if you're working on something, and you see this ideal week that doesn't have time to do certain things. There's always next month or next year. Not everything can be done at once. There's a thing called a parking lot. You can create a whiteboard or something and have a list of things that you want to work on, or projects you want to tackle. Because you can't put 20 pound into a 5-pound bag. You can, but it's very uncomfortable. And it doesn't work.
So if you have 180 hours worth of work to do during 168-hours a week of which you sleep a lot of those hours, there's not enough capacity to do it all. And so that's whenever you had to come to have a talk with yourself and say, “What can I do and what can I not do now but do later?” You have to just get some reality in the whole mix because unless you're a superhero, you really don't have that extra time. You can always make more money but you can't make more time.
What An Example Ideal Week Looks Like And How Financial Advisors Can Gain Control Of Their Calendar [54:38]
Michael: So, out of curiosity, just having seen a lot of advisors go through this exercise. Can you describe for us what some ideal weeks look like? Because I'm just imagining for, for some of us out there, we're so buried in what we're doing. It's really hard to imagine a completely different looking ideal week because we just only live the week that we live reacting in the world that we react in. Can you maybe give some examples of just what would ideal weeks look or be shaped as?
Patty: There's just different things that they do. They come up with their buckets. And the buckets might include things, like I said, client meetings, prospect meetings, COI meetings, all the meetings that you have during the week, which is a lot of them. And then administrative work, when you're going to do your financial plans. Sometimes they belong to a BNI or some a networking group that they do every Wednesday. So that's their networking morning, and then they have they schedule their calls on Wednesday after that. There's not a whole lot that you have to do during a week, when it comes to your buckets because client services incorporates a lot of those things. And so whether it's putting notes in after a client meeting, so you have a client meeting for an hour, you schedule the following hour or half-hour to put in the notes, or to do whatever it is that you do to update your system.
And so it's just that kind of thing. Everything that you do that has to be done that runs your business that you want to have... And I would also include things your workout, if you workout on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, at 6:00 in the morning, or I know you don't do it at 6:00 in the morning, but some people might.
Michael: I'm not a morning person. I'm much more likely to be working out at 6 or 8 at night than 6 in the morning. But to each their own. To each their own.
Patty: Exactly. But adding those things in, family time on the weekends. I have people do it the whole entire time. And It's not something that you're ever going to necessarily live. I want you to hear that. This is ideally what I want it to look like. So, for example, we have coaching clients here on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. We never ever, ever set up a coaching client... Because we work with them for a year at a time. So Monday and Friday, we'll never ever have a solid coaching client time slot. Those are there for if we have to reschedule or somebody cancels, and we want to move around, that's fine. Or if you want to work on working on the business and that type of thing. So you have to make some decisions. Some people don't ever want to see clients on Mondays or Fridays or Mondays and Thursdays. I have a client who doesn't see any clients on Wednesdays or Fridays. She's like, “I go golfing at 4 on Wednesdays in my league. I don't want to have anybody during that day so I can clean up." So there's all kinds of things that you just sort of get your rhythm and understanding.
Michael: I was just going to ask about that really quickly. Because I hear this come up very often as a blocking point from advisors trying to think about rearranging their schedules. And it usually goes something in effect of like, “How can you say you're not going to meet with clients on Wednesdays and Fridays? What if they want to meet on Wednesdays and Fridays? Isn't it the definition of giving good service to clients that you're available to them when they need your help?”
Patty: No. It's two things. First, that's the upfront conversation. I don't usually meet clients on Wednesdays and Fridays. Number one. Number two, when you call your doctor, do you call up and say, I need to come in on Wednesday? No, you can't do that. They're going to say, “Well, let me tell you when the doctor is available.” And so if you're in the same kind of boat when it comes to that? You let people know when you work, how you work, and then they will fall within the confines. When I start working with a productivity client, they'll say, “But I just want to accommodate.” I ask them when they're available, then they end up rearranging their entire schedule. And they do all kinds of things. And you shouldn't do that.
And it's not about being service-oriented. It's about being in control of your time. People respect that. If you have a client who calls you up and says, I need to come in and see you, you can say “Okay, I'm available on Tuesday at 9 a.m., or Thursday at 3 would be better? Oh, neither one of those work? Let's go to the next week.” Give them the times that you're available. And if somebody schedules for you, then I highly recommend, and I actually require it is you share your ideal week with that person so that they know and tell them when the time slots are. Like literally, the times. I see people at 9, 11:30, 2 on Wednesdays or whatever day it is. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Give them those exact time slots. And if they can't fit into those, there's always the exception. There's going to be an exception. And that's okay. But don't make the exception the rule. Don't give everybody that opportunity to go off of that. People will wiggle their schedule. “Well, I work with people that can't get out of work? Well, ask them if they can get out of work.” And they usually can. You just never ask them to.
Michael: Yeah, again, as you noted earlier, at some point, the expectations just become the default. If they're used to always having you accommodate to their schedule, and never making any adjustments themselves, of course, they're always just going to keep asking you to accommodate your schedule and never make any adjustments themselves. That doesn't mean if you ask them to work with you on the timing that they can't figure something out.
Patty: Right. People are pretty resourceful. And they do like, Well, oh, yeah, well, I have a doctor's appointment that day. Maybe I can just extend it, and I'll come over and meet with you. People can be creative. And I know, there are some clients that you would never want to, because of the value they bring to the firm or whatever. That's your choice. I'm not here to make you do whatever you don't want to do. But it's just a fact that you can be in control of your time and your schedule, and your life, if you wish to, and not feel so frustrated, continually shifting everything around for your clients, because your clients don't expect you to do that unless you do that for them. So that's all they know. And you can change those expectations.
Michael: Well, and even. I think the example you had earlier was a good one of how does this work with my doctor? Yeah, there can be situations like, “Hey, yeah, I got some health issues going on. No, no, I really need to see the doctor sooner.” And yeah, what ends out happening right there, their scheduler may say, “We'll call you if there's a cancellation, or it looks like I can squeeze you in with the doctor tomorrow at 3. It's going to be a limited time slot. But we can get you in briefly.” Like, when it's legitimately, sort of, an urgent situation, yes, sometimes accommodations get made, but at the same time, that still sets a really notable tone that for a lot of people is like, “Oh, well, if it's that problematic, you know what, it's not that urgent. I'll just take the next opening next Thursday.”
Patty: Right. Well, here's the good news. As a financial advisor, you don't deliver insulin. So, nobody's going to die, typically. So that's pretty cool that you feel the urgency and you feel like that's the client service-ness in you coming out, which is perfect. I love that. But it can be controlled on your end. So maybe a better example is your hairdresser or your barber. You're not going to call them up and say, “I'm coming in on Wednesday at 2, okay?” Maybe the doctor wasn't a good example. But a hairdresser, unless you having a hair emergency. They give you what's available, and you can't really tell people.
So yeah, it's just a matter of being able to take control of your time and not letting other people run you amok. Because I see it happen so much, that that's why they don't get anything done. They're interrupted all the time because their flow is interrupted by meetings that they shouldn't have been having that day or that time. So.
Which really just gets back to getting comfortable in your value proposition, the relationship with the client in the first place to be able to say, “No, I don't have to continuously blow up my schedule for this client or for all my clients just to retain my clients.”
Patty: Right. Right. Your clients love you. You have to trust that relationship. That's another part of it is you have a really good relationship. And I think that some people doubt that. I don't want to make them mad. I don't want to hurt them. You're not. They're people and they get it, you're running a business. And they also love the fact that you're a busy business. I don't want my advisor sitting there waiting for me to call. I want her to be busy. I want them to be busy. I want them to be just really getting a lot of clients. That means they're good at what they do. I don't want someone that's not busy out there. I think that's another thought as well.
Michael: So, as you start building towards an ideal week structure, how long does it usually take someone to actually get there or at least get close, since we may not obtain the ideal but we're at least working in that general direction.
Patty: It doesn't take long. You create it maybe over a couple of calls, which is a month because we talk twice a month. So maybe over a couple of calls. And then we talk about it. And then we start seeing how you're living it. And it's a real big mind shift. And it's very comforting for so many people to like have a map of what they want. And they start to fall into it pretty quickly. It doesn't take a long time.
But just to go back a little bit on the ideal week, and I was saying that create your buckets. Sometimes if you create a list of what you do, if you're getting stuck on how you want to set it up on your week, is once you list them out, think of the week as 100%. So there's 5 days a week, and that's 100% of your time. So each day is 20%. So each half day is 10%. So if it helps, some people are more into numbers out there, if you say you want to have client meetings, what percentage of your week do you need to spend on client meetings? You might say 40%, which is 2 days. Prospect meetings, you might do 20%, which is a day. Or admin might be 10%. And just create that visually on paper first, with the percentages of what you want to spend your time on, making sure of course, it adds up to 100%. And then you can start plugging them into the ideal week.
Sometimes people get stuck with, “I don't know how much time I need on client meetings. Well, how many meetings a week do you have? Well, six. How long are they? Six hours. Okay, so that's a day and a half, or however, you schedule them out of your time.”
Specific Ways Patty Helps Advisors Increase Their Focus And Productivity [01:05:13]
Michael: So we've talked about getting more comfortable saying no, creating some engagement standards, going through a needs and values exercise, trying to craft the ideal week as an exercise. So what else are you, typically, going through with advisors in trying to get productivity up or trying to get more focused in what they do?
Patty: Some of the things that we work on are the technical things, not necessarily technology, but email. I've had somebody come to me with 169,000 emails in their inbox, and that's usually anywhere between 50,000 and that. So email management is a real big part. And I have some really good ways of helping people to declutter their inbox initially. And then how to process email and not just check email.
Michael: I got to hear though. How do you declutter?
Patty: Well, I think that it's pretty unrealistic to say, Well, you have 160,000 emails, go through each one of them. I think that's pretty stupid. So I have people go into their folders and create a folder. And whatever the oldest year is that you have in your inbox, like say 2014. I've gone back further than that. Creating a folder for each year. So you might have 2014, '15, '16, so different folders, and then drag that entire clump of 2014 emails into those folders, then '15 and '16. And just get them out of your inbox initially. I think that's huge. Because you might not think that it weighs on your mind, but it does. It's annoying. So get them out of there. So now you might just have 2021 left. The fact that you didn't delete them, you just stored them, so if you've ever needed them because some people are like, “I might need it someday,” which is the title of my first book, by the way. You might need it someday, but you probably never will.
So you drag them into those folders, get rid of that stuff. And so what's left, you can sort them by from and you create folders for... If you need to keep them. Sometimes you get publications, or emails every day. Like I get news every day from different financial advisor publications. And you can sort them by from, and either create a folder for that, if you feel you need to keep them, or hit bulk delete. And if you don't know how to bulk delete, or just how to do it, you just highlight the top one and scroll down to the bottom one and hit the shift key and tap the bottom one and it takes the whole clump, and you can drag them into a folder or you can delete them. So sorting them by from or from date or whatever it is, or sometimes by subject. There's some really cool tips in Outlook also if anybody's an Outlook buff. I'm looking at my Outlook right now. You can go in and do the cleanup folders, which a cleanup, you can clean up your inbox. And what that does is it takes every single email that has been in a string, so you get the first one and you have 30 iterations of it. It keeps them at one with the most content and it gets rid of the other 29...
Michael: Yeah, just kind of bulks and batches them together.
Patty: Yeah, bulks and batch. So that's one way quick way to get rid of stuff. But really, the key to processing and managing email, later on, is as email comes in, you don't just check email. Please stop checking email on your phone and on your iPad and on your computer. Because all that does is just everything falls below the fold and you don't see it. So, start to act on it. You can either delete it, the first thing is my favorite is delete it. If you've read it, and you don't have to do anything. If it requires action, that can stay in your inbox. That's the only stuff you should have in your inbox is something that you have to actually do. Then you can file it, which is dragging into a folder. If you don't have a lot of folders... Folders are just a file cabinet. And that should be set up to the way that you think. So that's always create folders, don't be afraid to do that. It's better to clutter up your folders than it is to have your inbox cluttered. So there's delete action file, and then forward. So if you have something you need to forward to somebody forward it and then you can either delete it or save it. But don't leave it in your inbox if you don't need to if it's out of your sight.
In Outlook, you can also drag emails to your calendar. So if you have an email, that's from somebody that you had a meeting with, you can literally drag it over your calendar icon at the bottom left, and drop it into the calendar and it'll open up an appointment. And now you can make an appointment with that and just set the date and time. The guts of the email goes right into that appointment, which is a beautiful thing.
Which are ways to get around the email. One of my other favorite little tips is you double-click to open up an email in Outlook. And you can highlight the subject and delete it and type in what actually the action is for that email. So if you have to call Bob at 4:00 on Tuesday, or find 401(k) numbers, whatever it is you have to do, just put that in the subject and then X out. And it'll say, “Do you want to save the changes?” You say yes. And now in the inbox, the subject is now what is your action item? Because so often the subject does not match what has to happen. But now you have a running to-do list in your inbox versus just a bunch of junk, or things that don't make sense as far as a subject goes.
Michael: It sounds like the essence of it is, I think you said earlier, your inbox should really only have the things that actually need action, that you truly need to respond to. Everything else, forward it, delete it, or file it, but get it out of your inbox.
Patty: Get it out of your inbox. Exactly. Perfect. And it's not a storage unit. That's what people use it for. And I know the search feature makes it so lovely and all that, but when you start to... I've had so many people go from thousands and thousands, and now they try to just keep under 40 or 30 or 20 in their inbox. That's their goal now. And so you pick a number at the end of the day that you want to be at and strive for it because it really isn't that hard. It's a lot easier than having things fall through the cracks, which happens so often. Because once it goes below the fold, you don't see it anymore. And so many things don't get taken care of that should. So, setting a goal for yourself on how many you want to have in there. And you'll fall off the wagon once in a while. I get that. But you can also get right back on it. It doesn't take long once you get to that point of a manageable amount.
Michael: So what are other areas that you get into? You said, so email management is one.
Patty: Yeah, I have a couple things that I'll pull out, like a stop. This is really something anybody can do. I'll have you make two columns, or three columns on a piece of paper and draw two lines. And at the top of the left one, I would put the word stop. And in the middle one I'd put start. And then the right column I put continue. And I walk people through that exercise of literally thinking about what you do during your day that you want to stop, start, and continue. A lot of times, this is great for the beginning of a new year. Also, you can do it as often as you want. But it's a great way to start a year off knowing what you want to stop doing from last year or start doing that you haven't been doing. And, of course, there's always things that you need to continue doing. And that's an exercise that works great for any person, any board of directors, any team. If you have initiatives that you want to do and you're just trying to make some changes. It's a great way to help people to get through and just get in a different vision of what it is you want to stop, start, and continue.
And then you can pick one or two things at a time to work on from each column. And it just gives you a nice focus point of what you want to do. And I'm, obviously, over-simplifying that. But it can be a very powerful exercise for someone to get rid of all the junk. In the stop column, usually, it's that they need to start delegating. That's the stuff they need to stop is the stuff they need to start delegating, so it becomes pretty obvious.
So that's another thing that we work on.
How Patty Defines Productivity And What She Helps Advisors Achieve [01:15:40]
Michael: So, I'm just wanting, at a high level, just how do you define productivity and being more productive? When we talk about the high level, what are we trying to get to?
Patty: A lot of times, it's a feeling. And I know that's really kind of weird to hear. But it's like a less stressed feeling. And it's more of that feeling in control. But I think that, overall, what I see emerge from going through the different steps that we take is confidence. Things that people didn't think they could do before they now can, things that they know that they shouldn't be doing, they stop. And so there's just a confidence in building that knowing of what you want, and actually finding the language or the way to get that. And I guess it is a feeling, but it's also just a sense of control. And that is whenever I know that they're ready, where I have helped them to create capacity, that's one of my big job is I help people create capacity. I help clear their space, whether it's their time, space, their physical space because I do help people declutter physically as well, virtually. But just feeling that sense of ease and knowing that I know what I need to do, and having a plan in place, a clear plan. And it's their own plan. That's the beauty of it. It's something that they want to do. And it's what they envision. And taking the time to step back long enough to say, this is what I want. And I've never had any time or anybody to guide me through that. Now I do. And it just says a sense of success, which I think that's what they're after.
Michael: So what do you find advisors tend to not understand or miss about being more productive and are therefore making themselves horrifically unproductive? Like, what are we not getting? Because no one sets out to say, “I got a great idea. I'm going to run my business with no sense of control and a miserable sense of competence,” right? No one made it a goal to do it this way. But we may unwittingly end out that way. So what do we not understand? Or what are we missing about that leads us to all these not necessarily productive habits?
Patty: I think the fact that people think they have to do at all. And just because you can do it doesn't mean you should do it. And not literally stopping to think about what it is they're doing. If you ever want to find out what you're doing. There's a couple of different apps. One is called Clockify. I think it's clockify.me. And you can track your time for a week and see exactly what you're doing. People don't even have a sense of what they're doing with their time. They always say, I never waste time. But then after a week, they're like, “Oh my God, I waste so much time doing XYZ, or I check email 17 hours a week.” So it's not really knowing what you're doing. And then because you feel you have to do it all you don't delegate. It's a big mishmash of just trying to do it all. And not having any boundaries of what they shouldn't be doing or should be doing. And as a result, what happens is their self-care, and people just are tired, they're miserable, they're cranky. And so it's just realizing that there are ways to overcome being unproductive. And they're not difficult. It's just that you have to just be ready.
The Additional Services Patty’s Business Offers [01:16:54]
Michael: So, tell us a little bit more about your business. Like, what do you actually do in the advisor world?
Patty: Well, as a productivity coach, I work with advisors to help them go through all the things that we just talked about. And as I said earlier, we have two sides at our practice. I help them to create capacity. And then we have another arm of the business that helps them to fill that capacity with growth strategies for referrals. But we're speakers. We've written several books. Michelle and I have written a book called "A Woman's Way." We work with both male and female advisors. But we've always had a special little micro niche within that where we support female advisors because they need the extra support, we believe, and hopefully, things that are going to change. But we feel we want to contribute to that.
Michael: I'm just curious. What is it that you think makes the support needs for women advisors different or distinct?
Patty: Well, the subtitle of the book is “Empowering Female Financial Advisors to Authentically Lead and Flourish in a Man's World”. And the industry was created by men, God bless them. I think it's amazing. There's no men-bashing going on here. I think it's just a matter that women do things differently. Men do it a man's way. And a woman does it a woman's way. And sometimes, because there's not as many female advisors, there's not as many role models. And so people are taught to do things a man's way. And it's not wrong, it's just not comfortable. So we've re-wrote the book, which by the way, is applicable to both men and women the tools that we have in there, but it's geared toward female advisors on how they can really just be okay in their own skin and not try to do things a man's way.
Michael: Can you help me understand, like just an example, like what's a man's way, rather than, you call it a traditional way thing, that you view as distinct or different for how women would approach it in the business.
Patty: Yeah, on the productivity side, females seem to have a lot more roles in their life that they play. And just really realizing that they cannot do it all and it's okay to ask for help. Women are not as apt to ask for help, and that's just not in their ways. When it comes to the referral side, again, it's just asking for referrals, they do it differently than men do. Men have a more direct way or they are okay with door knocking or they're okay with smiling and dialing. Women, they're more about the relationship. Not that men aren't. This is a generality. I'm just talking in general. So we just really felt that it was needed to allow women to exercise their nurturing ways or their relationship ways. And it's okay to do it your way and not have to do it the hard way for them. It feels they have a burlap sack on sometimes when they're trying to do things that are not comfortable. It's like abrasive for them to approach someone the “traditional” way.
Michael: And as you're engaging advisors that do want to coach, just how does it work? I've seen productivity coaches and everything from like hourly engagements. We'll work with your a couple of hours to build a few of your habits into year-long engagements. This is an ongoing coaching process. You have to commit to a year at a time. How does it work for you in working with advisors?
Patty: Okay. For the most part, when somebody hires us, they get two coaches. They get myself and Michelle. And Michelle, as I said, is the referral coach and I’m the productivity coach. So it's a two-coach approach where they come on for a year. It's two calls a month. They're about 45, 50 minutes each. There's 23 calls. There's only one call in December and two every month. And they have unlimited access to us through email between those calls. That's if they want to come in, first, of course, to work with me to get capacity. Not everybody works with me and not everybody ever works with Michelle, but they have access. So if they want to come in and they're feeling they're just not quite cutting the productivity that they want, they'll come to me and I'll work with them. It might be one call, it could be six months. And then when we feel the capacity and the confidence is there they'll work with Michelle and she helps them to actually work with their network and their clients and their COIs and sort of dissects their network and helps them to understand who to approach and when to approach and how to build their business, naturally, by relationship referrals. But if somebody just wants productivity, we do have a package that's just six months to work with me alone. That's something that can be done in six months. We know the referral process takes a little bit longer because there are many more components. So we've always had at least a year-long whenever referrals are involved. And it's the same setup. Six months, 2 calls a month, at 45 minutes. So that's basically how we work.
Michael: And is there a typical cost for engagements? I don't know if you guys charge monthly or charge for a six-month scope. How does pricing work? Or is there a particular price range? What should someone expect to be investing into themselves if they want to go down the road of a productivity coach?
Patty: Everything we do here is pretty simple. It's $600 a month. That's about it. And that includes all the stuff that we just talked about. So it's $600 a month, whether it's the year-long or the six months.
Michael: Okay. Okay. So, as you've gone down this road, I am always cognizant of people in the business of coaching, consulting, and training to financial advisors end out building businesses that are not dissimilar from advisory firms themselves, right? You're in the business of selling your expertise to people that you need to get on board who may have all of their own issues that distract them from it from time to time, but we want them to take our recommendations. So, I'm curious. From your own perspective, what surprised you the most about building a business serving the advisor community?
What Surprised Patty The Most About Building A Business To Serve The Advisor Community And The Low Point In Her Journey [01:23:04]
Patty: The thing that was most surprising, and the most aha moment that we had was that we help advisors do exactly what they do for their clients. We help them to feel they're in control, to have a future. We've had many advisors who weren't making a lot of money and we've helped them to turn that around to making a lot of money and feeling like they can grow. We've had people who have to move out of their buildings because they've gotten too many people, they have to get more space. So we really help them do for them what they do for their clients, which is just to grow and have a future and build a legacy with their practice.
Michael: So anything that's surprised you about how that's grown, how that's built from what you expected when you started down this road?
Patty: Yeah, it was surprising because we had not even been focusing on advisors. And as they started to approach us, it surprised us that, that was the reason they were coming to us.
Michael: So, what was the low point for you in building your own business in the industry?
Patty: The low point might low point in my business. Oh, probably, kind of similar to the area of 2008 for you. I had worked myself into an illness. I had worked so many hours. I was working nonstop. And my body finally said, “Hey, guess what? You need to rest.” And so, for about four years, I had to do just that. I had to slow down. And during that time, I was very frustrated because I'm a go-getter and I wanted to get things done, but it really forced me to slow down. And during that time, I became a certified organizer coach, and I created online courses, and I learned how to make passive income. And so, while it was a low point, there was many silver linings during that time, but that was a low point. And that's kind of what I help people. I want to help them prevent getting to that point of working themselves sick because your body can only do so much.
Michael: Interesting. So, any takeaways, I guess, in retrospect, or going forward of doing that differently? You're not doing that to yourself in the future?
Patty: Well, I've certainly changed since then because I had no choice. And it was funny because I was doing so many things. And when I stopped doing it, nobody noticed. Yeah, and that was kind of a wake-up call. It's like nobody really cared that I didn't do this anymore. And I thought, “Okay, so I was doing all that for myself, and look what it got me.” So I really became just very particular about what I wanted to do and who I did it with. And all the lessons that we talked about today have been hard-learned by myself. So there are ways of doing things that are much, much easier than having to work that many hours. The saying of working smarter, not harder, is a real true statement. And slowing down to speed up. I never understood that until then. You can slow down and you slow down. And you really can stop and think about what you're doing and be more deliberate about what you put your time and energy into. And once you get to that point, it feels very good and very clarifying. So that's how I got to that point and where it took me.
Patty’s Advice To Newer Advisors And What Success Means To Her [01:26:15]
Michael: So, for advisors who are maybe newer to the industry, coming in today, and perhaps want to set better habits and patterns so they don't have to call you in 5 to 10 years when they're in the bad place that we've been talking about for some of the others. Like, what advice would you give newer advisors today to try to be on a better path in the first place?
Patty: I think the first one is to find a mentor. Somebody that looks like you and is already where you want to go. And really just, you don't have to be a pest to that person, just really watch and learn and ask if you can ask. And the other thing is to find ways to be as productive as you can early on. Hire a coach. It doesn't have to be me. Just whoever it is. Hire somebody. Because that small investment upfront will give you years of time back in the future. And it gives you the time to grow your practice earlier, methodically. And it'll pay dividends many times over throughout the years. And it's a great investment. I have met people that have been in business 20, 25 years that have hired us. And they are, “I wish I'd have met you so long ago.” Because you just don't think about it. People just do and don't stop to think. So that's something to think about is to become as productive as you can early on.
Michael: So as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success. And one of the themes that always comes up is just the word success can mean very different things to different people. And so, you’ve built this wonderfully successful coaching and consulting business with the advisor community. But I'm wondering, just how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Patty: I think my definition of success is having a lifestyle business. My work is super important to me. But freedom is equally important. That's one of my values or one of my needs, actually. Success is also being able to pay someone to do things rather than doing it myself. I still have a few things I can farm out if I sat down and thought about it. I'm always constantly working on that and thinking about who can do what I don't want to do. But success is being able to buy time for me. So that means paying somebody else to do certain things.
Michael: I love it. I love it. I love just the clarity of that. Like success is being able to buy time.
Patty: Yeah, because, like I always say, you can make more money, but you can never make more time. And this past year really has clarified that for a lot of people.
Michael: True enough. Well, thank you so much, Patty, for joining us on the "Financial Advisors Success" podcast.
Patty: It has been my pleasure, and I've had a blast. Thank you so much, Michael, for having me here. I appreciate it.
Michael: Absolutely. Thank you.
We should always got back to the basics, “human” management has been the same for centuries: time, relationships, energy will never change, not matter the technologies… It’s just tools !
Thanks for this great episode 🙂
As for this topic, our team wrote about and hope you’ll find it useful: https://zenkit.com/en/blog/do-productivity-tools-actually-make-you-productive/
Rosie Buck says
Amazing productivity tips. My productivity has been quite better and improved thanks to your post. Also even if you don’t need technologies to improve your productivity, I highly recommend trying one. I myself use the Connecteam app to maintain my productivity and manage my time.