Greensboro: "I realize that we're in the midst of an unprecedented opportunity, but I don't have the support to be a Rainmaker," said Fred at a recent conference. He continued, "I feel like a one-man army. I'm new to the business and have to share an assistant with a number of advisors."

Any of you who've shared an assistant have also shared at least a moment or two of Fred's frustration. You've had to wear multiple hats. We understand - it's not easy. But for a lot of advisors out there...it's time to stop making excuses.

Why? Nearly every Rainmaker we've encountered shared an assistant early in his or her career, yet still managed to work his or her way into the elite annals of the business.
The million-dollar question is, "How did they jumpstart their business while handling everything else?" The short answer is hard, goal-focused work. These elite advisors were extremely goal focused early in their careers. This focus caused them to work harder, smarter, longer, and more creatively than others. And at each step of the way, they incorporated practice management into their plan. So we ask…

How well is your practice management linked to your plan?

This isn't a question that's often asked by advisors sharing support staff. We have a tendency to think of production goals, with practice management issues as only applicable to big teams, but that's far from true.

It starts with having a plan that goes beyond production numbers. Effective practice management is about consistently delivering on promises. Whether it is service or wealth management, you must be able to deliver. In other words, you're required to manage a great defense (serving clients) and conduct a proactive offense (acquiring new clients) simultaneously with very little help. Ouch.

I'm going to walk you through some of the basic steps for getting the most out of a shared assistant. They're not revolutionary, but these tips will increase efficiency, communication, and hopefully morale, in your relatoinship with your shared assistant. And all of them can be implemented almost immediately.

Step 1: Business Plan
Having clarity regarding the type of client you want to attract, the wealth management solutions you're providing, the service model you want to deliver, the surprise and delight touches you want to incorporate, and the manner in which you're marketing your services is essential in creating a productive working relationship with any assistant, full-time or shared. Few advisors who share assistants have taken this step, thus by default you've already differentiated yourself with your assistant.

Communicating this plan in a manner that takes into account the assistant's responsibilities to other advisors, and that is clear about the importance and role of expectations, will create the platform upon which both of you can build.

Once this platform is in place, your actions will, as they say, speak louder than words when it comes to getting the most out of your assistant. These actions should include...

Step 2: Daily Huddles
The importance of having a daily, structured, albeit brief, communication can never be overstated when it comes to efficiency. You want clear and consistent communication. Our research tells us that performance increases when people communicate on a personal level. These huddles should last no more than five minutes. Your shared assistant will know what you're doing and vice versa.

These daily huddles should build up to...

Step 3: Weekly Meetings
This may sound too time-consuming for a shared assistant, but it's critical for effective practice management. We've seen newer advisors establish a weekly lunch date that combines a weekly practice management meeting, relationship building, and lunch. Naturally, the advisor buys lunch. Others carve out 15 minutes early on a specific day before things get too busy--scheduling it on the same day every week. When there's a will there is a way.

Each meeting should have an agenda that includes an overview of the previous week, outline of the upcoming week, and highlights of any outstanding issues and or problems.

You will be reinforcing your business plan and displaying the business acumen and professionalism that many advisors lack, all while reviewing what you expect from your shared assistant.

Step 4: Clear Delegation
This occurs naturally through your daily huddles and weekly team meetings. You want to be crystal clear as to what tasks need to be completed and what kinds of performance expectations you have. You might occasionally get push-back because of time constraints (remember the assistant serves multiple masters), so always be prepared to pitch in and help out with administrative tasks--but never lose sight of your role as a delegator. Sooner rather than later you'll be one-on-one with an assistant, and when you get there you'll want to be an expert delegator.

Step 5: Merit-based Bonus Structure
The purpose of a bonus structure is to strengthen your assistant's commitment through merit-based incentives. A common mistake is to incorporate bonuses into the compensation package without linking it to performance. In this manner, bonuses often become an expectation. When communicating your business planning, make certain to include your annual goals (metrics) and the bonus pool that will be distributed if everyone contributes to expectations. I watched an advisor give his shared assistant (shared with five advisors) a $10,000 bonus, a watch, and then hire her full-time. And he only came within 10 percent of his target annual metrics (The next year he doubled his business).

When initially setting this up, make sure your assistant knows the areas in which he or she will be measured. Then when bonus time comes around, you can use a simple assessment ranking for each area. For instance, you might rate them in categories like phone support, attention to detail (mistake free), client event setup, portfolio review assistance, or any number of other factors. You can use a rating scale such as:
· Performs exceptionally well - 4 points

· Performs well - 3 points

· Performs moderately well - 2 points

· Needs improvement - 1 point

· Performs poorly - 0 points


On the surface, this might appear to be a simple and straightforward concept, but because you are dealing with people, emotions, performance issues, and money - it is anything but easy.

Warning: you may surprise yourself. We've seen many instances where a re-dedication to creating efficient support out of an untenable (shared assistant) situation creates magic.

Do you believe in magic? I do - but you've got to make it happen.

If you would like to reassess your current bonus structure and ensure that your staff is properly motivated, download our Creating a Performance Based Bonus Structure Document.

Once again, we want to thank all of you who have emailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one.

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