Houston: "We've got a lot going on," boasted Owen. But I could tell something was bothering him. I was right, for then he said, "Despite that, I have this uneasy feeling that we aren't approaching each activity and event as carefully as we should."

Making certain that they were doing the right activities, the right way, with the right people, and for the right reasons was important to Owen. And it should be! Following are eight of the activities Owen was talking about. Which would you define as the type of "high impact" activity or event that you should be doing?

  1. Attending a social event later this week.
  2. Attending a business networking event early next week.
  3. The intimate client event they have scheduled for Friday evening, April 8.
  4. The affluent prospect Owen met with yesterday and has now added to his pipeline.
  5. The presentation that Owen will be making to an affluent prospect next week in an effort to convince her to become his client.
  6. The team meeting that is scheduled for 8 AM each Friday morning.
  7. The financial plan one of Owen's team members will be developing for a new affluent client.
  8. The quarterly review meetings Owen will be having by phone with several clients at the end of March and early April.

While you are thinking about the above, here are two more questions I would like you to apply to each statement ...

  • Is there a strategic intent for this? In other words, is there something important you would want to achieve that is related to attracting, servicing, and retaining affluent clients?
  • Can you identify a series of steps that you should go through to prepare for and successfully implement that activity or event?

Yes-Yes should be your response to all eight, including the social event you will be attending later this week. A true Rainmaker approaches every activity and event with strategic intent -- no exception. In addition, a series of steps can be identified for each activity or event to deliberately guide your efforts to achieve your strategic intent. Look again at item four. Adding a new affluent prospect to your pipeline is only the beginning. What is your strategic intent with that prospect? What sequence of activities (steps) should you establish and keep refining in order to achieve that strategic intent?
He who fails to plan, plans to fail the well known proverb tells us. Strategic intent is best achieved through deliberate action that is guided by a plan. That is not to say that unplanned opportunities never occur. They do, but the question of strategic intent is always in play. When you know where you want to go, and you have plan to get there, you will be able to evaluate those unplanned opportunities and avoid becoming pulled off track. That is why you need to plan.

How you plan is as important as why you plan. Some planning techniques are far too complex for the activities and events listed above. I'm going to give you two planning methods that I know you will like -- because they are quick and they work! The first is Checklists, and the second is a marvelous planning tool called Project Mapping.

Checklists

Simple and routine activities, projects and events should not require a lot of thought every time they occur. Instead of having to think everything through every time, then finding that you still overlooked something, a good checklist will ease your mind and enable you to get things done quickly. Repeating a presentation and creating a financial plan are good candidates for checklists once you have done them a couple of times and worked out the wrinkles.

To improve the usefulness of your checklists, follow these tips:

  • Use checklists to organize your thinking, focusing primarily on the sequence of key steps.
  • View checklists as memory-jogging tools, not comprehensive lists. Abbreviate wherever possible; your recall is better than you may think.
  • Where appropriate, reference the resources you will need and where they are located.
  • Place a dot in front of the item as you begin working on it -- or write in the starting date, if that would be useful.
  • Place a checkmark in front of the item as you complete it.

Project Mapping

With a new and more complex project or event, you will benefit by having a way to brainstorm all the steps involved before trying to sequence them. Project Mapping is a quick and creative way to do that. Each new affluent prospect is unique and should be viewed as a special project. The same can probably be said for social events, business networking events, intimate client events, and client review events. Project Mapping in those situations can cut your planning time in half.

Three important principles guide the value and use of Project Mapping:

  • Our attention span is short -- between five and seven minutes depending on the subject and our interest in it. Project Mapping allows you to "dump" your ideas and thoughts onto paper in only a few minutes.
  • Our minds do not think both creatively and logically at the same time. Project Mapping taps into your natural thinking pattern by allowing you to create first, and then prioritize and sequence.
  • There are no right or wrong Project Maps, so you can adapt this simple technique in any way you wish.

Here is how to do it:

  • Begin by drawing a BOX in the center of your paper. You will work from the center out (instead of making a list). In the box, write a brief (1 to 3 words) title of the activity, project, or event you want to plan.
  • Ask yourself, and any others involved, "What needs to be done in planning and executing this project (event, activity)?" Simply start drawing lines from the center out and writing those "to be done" items on those lines. Forget the sequence -- do not number the lines or items at this point. This frees you up from trying to be logical and creative at the same time.
  • Keep asking "What else?" - and continue adding new lines with new "to be done" items written on them.
  • You can add sub-items by attaching new lines to existing lines.
  • When you believe you have a complete list, you can then number the "to be done" items in the right sequence. Those items can then be entered into your day planner.

You can begin a Project Map, leave it, and come back later to continue working on listing your "to be done" items. Wait until your "What else?" question has no more answers before sequencing the items.

Project Mapping is also called Mind Mapping, a process developed by Tony Buzan in the late 1960's. Both Checklists and Project Mapping are thought-expanding, time-saving tools that can make activity, project, and event planning almost a pleasure to do. Most important, these techniques will help you keep focused on the strategic intent that you are striving to achieve. These two techniques significantly improved Owen's team's ability to stay on track.

If you would like a free PDF version of Project Mapping, go to: www.oechsli.com/PM49. Included are added tips and illustrations of sample Project Maps to show more clearly how it's done - and websites where software versions for making both Checklists and Project Maps (Mind Maps) are located.


If you have any topic or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trust & Estates magazines, at rich.santos@penton.com.