Ironstone has the privilege to work with phenomenal advisory teams across the country, and we want to share their stories to provide you with motivation for change or validation of your hard work.
These success stories provide tips on how they implemented practice management strategies and the results they’ve achieved.
In this interview with two generations of the Phillips Financial family, we explore:
- Encountering Challenges of All Kinds
- Embracing Practice Management Steps
- Successfully Implementing Processes
- Achieving Results
All advisors will benefit from their insights on task management, internal communication, performance reviews, and more.
What challenges were you experiencing prior to working with Ironstone?
Lynn: We had considerable issues with the quality and accountability of the workflow through the office. There was clearly an imbalance in ownership, effort and communication between team members, and practice management processes we developed weren’t being followed.
We definitely had work to do, both on a professional and personal level to make improvements, right the ship and head in a healthier direction.
Lauren: Before working with Ironstone there were no defined responsibilities or job duties. Tasks were assigned to whoever got to it first.Sometimes employees were working on the same projects or even worse, assumed the other team members were taking care of it.
Also, our services had been growing beyond just the 3 of us. We did not have time to implement new ideas or grow in our respective areas.We needed to bring on another team member but did not have the time or tools to do it.
Patricia: We had general job titles but not were not specific on tasks we each were performing on a daily, monthly, quarterly, annual or as-needed basis.As things came up someone would do them which was confusing at many times.
A lack of clear job duties for the team was definitely impacting our workflow and time management, and we needed structure in place for continuity and better client service.
Lindsey: My hiring was in part thanks to Andrea and Ironstone. So, many of the challenges the firm was facing were being addressed as I was joining the team. Through the interviewing process, it was apparent Phillips Financial was looking for someone to fill the position who would become a long-term member of the team.
I believe Andrea’s interviewing and hiring process pushes job candidates to demonstrate what they are capable of and interested in, in order to find someone to become a beneficial part of the team she’s coaching towards improvement.
What practice management steps is your firm taking to improve your practice?
Lynn: Anything that Andrea tells us to do. It varies as we develop and grow.
Lauren: Every 90 days we each have a performance evaluation with our branch manager to go over our goals and what we have done to complete them.
We also have implemented closing the office to the public on Friday afternoons to work internally. This time us used to collaborate on new ideas and ways to grow and improve our firm.
Patricia: As we worked with Andrea as a group and individually, we were able to establish correct job titles for each employee and we now know what each individual is responsible for on a daily basis. Knowing your job duties and your colleagues have advanced our workflow and time management. No more “who is going to do that?”
Every Friday at noon we close the office for Staff Development. This give us a chance to have our weekly positive focus meeting where we talk about what we’ve done for the week and business we need to address the next week or even the next couple of months.
We also have our quarterly business planning meeting on these Friday afternoons that give us a chance to focus on our amount of communication with our clients and the level of service we give to each one.
Lindsey: In addition to the time we carve out on Friday afternoons for internal meetings and professional development, a helpful practice management step we take, thanks to Andrea, is periodically assessing our task lists.
Each team member has their own areas of focus but as technologies evolve so do our services, and in turn our tasks. We’re able to show how we’ve grown, weed out old processes, and make sure the appropriate team member is handling each task.
What was successfully implemented via your efforts with Ironstone?
Lynn: 4 key areas come to mind where we’ve successfully implemented Andrea’s recommendations.
1. Having the Myers/Briggs testing done. I had Myers Briggs done in the past, but no one ever explained how to use it in dealing with my team. Andrea walked us through each of our styles and how we processed the world. And when conflict would come up, Andrea would point out that a team member who is an introvert would not talk about planning if she hadn’t had time to think about it first, or to wish to be around the others of us. So, I quit taking it personally that this team member seemed to hide…plus the team now has a shared language to discuss our interaction in healthy ways.
2. Getting explicit job descriptions and task lists allows everyone to know exactly who is responsible for the various tasks in the office. Plus we recheck this list every 90 days to see what has been added and if any task need to be shifted.
3. Andrea helped me see that my team was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks that needed to be completed and that we needed more capacity. We made a good hire.
4. We now have quarterly feedback reviews where we discuss performance. The team member evaluates themselves and I do as well. This allows us to address the minor things that can become major things if not confronted head on. For the first year, Andrea sat in on these meetings with me via SKYPE and that was a tremendous help. What I learned is these meetings are not punitive, they are to help the team member be the best she can be and advance in her career. Now my team push me to do the reviews because they get so much out of them! (I am a nervous wreck but they like it.)
Lauren: We hired an additional employee successfully the first time using Ironstone’s process. The thought of hiring a new employee had been haunting us for months. Ironstone had a step by step process and all the tools to have a successful hire the first time.
The first step was to create job descriptions and task lists for our current positions and then for the new position. Not only did we know what we were looking for but the potential hire knew what their job duties would be. Lindsey has been with us for almost 3 years now. This saved us not only money but time.
Patricia: The new client onboarding process is one of our best ideas for client communication. We set a to-do’s each time we bring on a new client. So, over time each employee has a task to perform for the client.
An example is after one month we follow-up with the client to ask if they have any questions about their accounts, statements etc. This process improves and helps maintain communication with our new clients.
Lindsey: The Ironstone 360 quarterly performance review is probably one of the most important things we do. The idea of a performance review seemed daunting at first, but Andrea ushered us along the way and now they are something I look forward to.
They are a positive, structured outlet for Lynn to provide feedback and they also give us an opportunity to discuss our ideas and goals moving forward. Breaking down these assessments quarterly makes our tasks achievable and gives us a strong sense of direction for how to serve clients and improve our workflows (individually and as a team).
The workflows, processes, and systems that are now in place in our office are attributable to Andrea’s guidance. So much so that it is now a habit and Lynn often says “Let’s write a process for that”.
How has the time invested to create processes and systems for your firm been beneficial (internally and for clients)?
Lynn: 5 benefits of working with Ironstone
1. Morale is much higher. We act more like a team and we respect and enjoy each person for what they bring to the organization.
2. We know that issues will be dealt with in an open and appropriate fashion and evaluated from all angles every quarter. So things do not fester. I have learned a lot from my team members about better ways to get things done.
3. Trust has increased 400%! Now I can see where the team tries to cover each other’s backs. Now there is recognition of the value of each person’s role in the effectiveness of the firm as well as the profitability. And we are working as a team.
4. Our incentive program is understandable and attached to concrete achievements by the individual team member as well as the company.
5. Our office now has a designated time each week where we do not see clients. We do in service training, client plan development or research and practice management.
Lauren: Internally we all know who is responsible for what. If someone is out of town we have a manual with step by step instructions on each team member’s daily tasks, allowing us to service clients without waiting for the employee to return.
I think clients have a much better experience now. We have educated them on each team member’s specialty so they know who to ask for, but even if that team member is out we can typically answer their question.
Patricia: We started adding more tasks and special things we would do to assist our clients so we eventually needed to hire an extra person. Andrea assisted us with a sound hiring process that saved us from potential employee turnover. Lynn met with each candidate initially and allowed Lauren and I to interview them too. Andrea had a skype interview with each one too. We all met as a team, examined the pros and cons of each potential new hire and with much advice from Andrea, we picked the right one. Lindsey is still here almost 3 years later!
One thing that amazes me is when our clients contact us by phone, email, mail or fax they know to whom they should address their questions or concerns. This means clients really know our process and team.
Lindsey: Creating and following processes has transformed how we’re able to serve clients. It was difficult at first to get the ball rolling on writing processes but now if we have an idea or see something lacking, we use it as an opportunity to provide a greater, concierge level of service.
An example of this is when it became apparent there needed to be more of collaboration when the advisors met with out of town clients. We tried offering virtual (Skype) meetings but clients seemed uninterested and preferred to continue meeting via the telephone. Once we realized it was due to their lack of experience/confidence in webcam chatting, we developed a new service opportunity out of it. We now have a step-by-step process to help clients become acclimated to meeting virtually, which often includes me practice Skyping with them prior to their actual business meeting with the advisor.
What results have you experienced from your relationship with Ironstone?
Lynn: I never realized that I could enjoy coming to work so much! Now I spend very little of my time and emotional energy on the administration of my office. More of my time is spent working on high productive activities. Our service model has improved as well as my confidence that nothing is falling between the cracks.
Lauren: By completing a Myers-Briggs test and discussing our results within our team, we learned that not everyone processes information the same and it allowed us to be more patient and understanding with each other. Our communication improved almost overnight. We all reach out to other team members if they need help and it is more of a family like atmosphere. We want to see everyone succeed.
Personally, the 90 day performance evaluations have been where I have seen the most improvement. It keeps me motivated when I have clear goals set and know what I am working towards. I also like knowing what is expected of me and where I need to improve. I am always thankful for constructive criticism. For example, the reviews kept me on track to finish my CFP classes and studying for the final exam. I finished 4 classes in the time I completed the previous 2 and now have my CFP designation.
Since using ironstone our team has reached the Chairman’s council with Raymond James, a longtime goal of our firm.
Patricia: Learning mine and my teammates’ working talents, gifts, communication skills, and challenges through Myers-Briggs assessment was essential without me knowing how important it really pertained to the job as a team. It made me more patient and understanding when you learn each team member’s personality.
The weekly positive focus meetings, quarterly business planning meetings, and quarterly 360 employee performance meetings helped us set reasonable short- and long-term goals for the firm.
Lindsey: When I was initially hired, it was for a part-time position, which quickly turned into full-time employment. Fast forward nearly three years, and I am still here and working somewhere I couldn’t imagine leaving.