Dallas: “Since it’s probably too late to plan a year-end team retreat, what would you suggest as an alternative?” asked Cliff, during a break at a team leader workshop I was conducting.

What prompted the question was an annual team retreat sample agenda coupled with a worksheet to assist teams in holding their own year-end retreat. As the discussion evolved, one of the teams in attendance talked enthusiastically about its annual off-site retreats and their value to the group. But they were the only team holding these affairs.

After a brief conversation with Cliff, it became apparent that most teams could carve out a few hours before the end of the year to review last year’s performance and discuss their goals for 2011. This got me thinking about helping Chris add a little more depth and breadth to this year-end review. Suddenly it dawned on me that the 16 criteria our research has highlighted as important to today’s affluent could serve as an excellent exercise.

Because the following 16 criteria are so important, it is essential that advisors work to rebrand their practices around them. Herein lies the depth and breadth drill; you want to determine as a team how you’re currently performing in each criterion, then commit to specific actions for course correction in the areas that must be improved.

So, as you read through these 16 criteria, use the following scale to assess how you’re performing.

1= Not Well, 2=Somewhat Well, 3=Moderately Well, 4=Very Well

1. Always having the client’s family's best interests behind every financial recommendation.

2. Providing clear and timely communication.

3. Resolving problems quickly and to the client’s satisfaction.

4. Meeting investment performance expectations.

5. Possessing a comprehensive breadth and depth of industry knowledge.

6. Delivering high-level personal service.

7. Fully disclosing all fees.

8. Fully understanding the client’s family’s goals and needs.

9. Being focused on overseeing the client’s family’s financial affairs.

10. Keeping the client informed of any events that might impact the client’s family's finances.

11. Developing and communicating a financial recovery strategy for the client’s family.

12. Helping create and execute an up-to-date formal financial plan.

13. Cares about the client’s family more than just his/her investments.

14. Coordinating all of the client’s family’s investment decisions.

15. Helping the client organize and keep up-to-date all his/her important financial documents.

16. Using outside experts to help with other financial areas.

When you review your ratings as a team, put your heads together and identify two to three specific areas that everyone agrees need the most attention. Your next step is to commit to specific action steps that will be taken to improve those areas in the first quarter of 2011. Remember that all 16 criteria are important in the eyes of your affluent clients and prospects.

It might be helpful to take notice of the fact that only one of the 16 important criteria involves investment performance — “meeting investment performance expectations” — so it is essential that your team recognizes the importance of the 15 other areas that are important to today’s relationship between affluent clients and advisors.

Use this year-end review to make a commitment for ongoing improvement in every aspect of your practice. Get input from everyone and agree to put in whatever effort is necessary to improve the criterion where you scored three or less. You will want to assign specific areas of improvement according to each individual’s area of responsibility. Because you must inspect what you expect, plan to have another three-hour review meeting (Q1 Review) before entering Q2. Continue raising the bar. Happy Holidays!

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