Case Study: Wildes Financial Strategies
Financial advisors don’t just offer their clients advice. They offer a team approach to help clients navigate the complex thicket of investments, retirement planning and wealth management. That’s why it’s so crucial for a practice to engage a staff that’s laser-focused on shared goals and principles.
This month, longtime Ironstone Implementer Jeff Wildes, President of Wildes Financial Strategies, talks about the value of joining forces with Andrea Lopez-Schlapia.
THE CHALLENGE: Building a Visionary Team
When I hired Ironstone, I had visions of where I wanted my firm to be, but I was having a hard time making progress with the staff I had. So Andrea and I began by tackling the Operational Effectiveness and Human Element parts of the Fundamental 4™. My team wasn’t enthusiastic about my goals for the business and they were resisting any kind of change. If I had listened to Andrea back then, I would have probably considered hiring a new staff to move forward in a different direction. But doing business in a small town, we decided to first try to help the existing employees grow into their positions.
We worked on goals and objectives for the practice, and on individual goals and objectives. We worked on job descriptions and responsibilities, to create more structure. They were good people. But working with Ironstone, it became clear they were just in the wrong place and they knew it. Jim Collins, who wrote the best-selling book Good to Great, calls it “getting the right people on the bus.” In the end, I didn’t have to let anyone go – they all left of their own free will.
Yet I didn’t bring Andrea in to simply “fix” a staffing problem. I also hired Andrea to coach me. We have biweekly conversations, where we’ll spend an hour and a half on the phone, talking about all kinds of issues. The lines get blurred between what’s my idea and what’s her idea, but we don’t really worry about who takes credit. We are just about getting it done!
Andrea helped me clarify what I wanted to accomplish and showed me how to hire the employees I needed to execute my vision. One unexpected bonus: Going through the staffing turnover gave my firm the tools that made it easier to hire the team we’ve had for the past 18 months – and that will help us in all future hires, as well.
THE SOLUTION: A Staff Fully Invested in Success
With Andrea’s help, we have been able to create roles and task lists that allow the team to do the work they are qualified to do, while developing training programs and career paths to give them the ability to expand their learning, increase their capabilities, and frankly, take the load off of me. When you’ve got somebody who is intelligent, well-educated, really likes what they’re doing, and is committed to the mission of the business, you can go a long way with them.
Under Andrea’s guidance, we have divided some responsibilities into segments. For instance: One team member provides me with investment research, so we’ve trained him to help rebalance clients’ accounts, place trades and explore new investment options. Other team members are assigned the task of becoming subject matter experts on financial planning software programs.
Development Days are another Andrea initiative that emerged from the Strategic Planning component of the Fundamental 4™. Once a month, we close the office so the team can work on their high-priority objectives. I provide the big-picture, long-range blueprint of where we want to go, and they figure out how to get us there. That way, they have ownership in the process. It’s not just me deciding things and telling them what to do. Every Friday, we also have a two-hour staff meeting that’s like a “Mini-Development Day,” which keeps the team focused on how to better serve our clients.
THE RESULTS: A Thriving Practice
When I began working with Andrea, I had pretty good employees. Now, I have great employees with a much bigger vision for our calling as a Christian business and stewards of the blessings God has given us.
The results of Development Days have been incredible. The team has totally embraced the concept. They enjoy being able to take goals and run with them. They handle strategic planning that I would ordinarily have to do, but oftentimes, they come up with better ways of implementing new ideas than I would have – and because it’s their idea and they own it, they’re committed to achieving it. Without that buy-in, you just have employees instead of engaged workers.
Andrea advised us to do quarterly performance feedback meetings, which scared the living daylights out of my team initially! But Andrea’s process is better than any that I’ve ever seen. It spotlights what’s really important. As a result, quarterly reviews have gone from something the staff dreads to something they look forward to. They will even remind me, “Don’t forget, our reviews are coming up next week!”
Andrea is truly part of my team. She knows my business. She understands my personality. She “gets” how I work, how I think. She gives me guidance and reins me in if I get off track. She supports the goals I have for myself and my practice. She knows my team members from having conversations and doing personality assessments on them. You see, if you just hire a consultant to come in to fix a problem, they’re going to get a limited view of what’s going on. But if you work with somebody like Andrea, her value to you will only increase over time. She’s become my right-hand person in this business.