We're off to a tremendous start. In fact, I think January 2003 is going to be our largest single month by far,” explained Roger during a coaching conference call to his team. Then he continued. “My concern is that after the first month of a new year, we are going to be at 40 percent of our goal for the entire year.” Roger's fear was that his team members would become complacent once he told them of the early jump they had made on their goals. He was concerned because he understood the importance of momentum.

If you follow sports, you often hear broadcasters use the term to explain why one team seems to be pulling away from the other. But as they often remind you, momentum can suddenly shift to the other side.

As you enter the winter doldrums, you're likely journeying down one of two paths. If you're not on Roger's quick-start path, you're probably stuck in the slow-start track. If it's the latter, you're in danger of falling prey to momentum's viciousness. That means it's time to make an assessment of your progress to date and make the necessary adjustments.

Roger's concerns about losing momentum are valid. A quick start creates an advantage that is soon lost when the team starts rewarding itself by coasting. In this case, averting that complacency was simple. To maintain momentum, the team turned its annual goals into quarterly goals. Everyone committed to the work ethic that begat the strong January, and all agreed to review their progress weekly.

The problem with a slow start is that it creates negative momentum, and it's only by overcoming that force that you can reach your goals. That's why slow starts can become so demoralizing.

Because we are all vulnerable to slumps and slow starts, every financial advisor needs to be able to create and maintain high-energy momentum. This simple process involves three steps:

Step 1: Momentum Assessment

Accurately and honestly assess your results to date: net new money, new relationships, assets in the pipeline, revenues, fees, etc. It serves no purpose to join the chorus of excuses of why you aren't where you need to be. Conversely, it also takes the wind out of the sails of achievement when you assume that because you are off to such a strong start that you won't be able to maintain this level of achievement. Regardless of whether it's a slow or quick start, you must know exactly where you stand.

Step 2: Momentum Projection

Once you have determined your results in Step 1, you need to project each of these numbers out for the remainder of the year. This projection provides you a simple comparative analysis with your original goals. In Roger's case, it enabled him to realize his team could achieve goals in one quarter what they had targeted for the entire year.

Step 3: Momentum Action Plan

If you are off to a quick start, you'll have to establish new goals, define and measure weekly activities and results, and make certain the daily actions of everyone remain in order.

If you are off to a slow start, you must first revisit and, if necessary, adjust your annual goals. It is important that goals are believable and achievable. Each individual must be accountable for doing his or her fixed daily activities. Every slow start requires a jumpstart in order to salvage the year.

For those of you who are on target — it does actually happen — it is important to make certain that everyone is doing his fair share. In other words, it's the activity that drives the dream. Activity should be reviewed weekly with the focus on accountability.

It might be hard to imagine that your entire year will be determined by one month of effort. Then again, part of what makes us human is that we are creatures of habit. Attitudinal patterns influence how we think; behavioral patterns shape what we do. That's why the business habits you establish during the first month of a new year can so easily create the momentum you need to carry you forward.

Writer's BIO:
Matt Oechsli
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients. oechsli.com/rr