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How to Execute Your Business Plan

The majority of financial professionals fall into one of three buckets:


[1] Those who don’t write a business plan.


[2] Those who write a business plan and don’t follow it as much as they  intended.


[3] Those who write a business plan and follow it exactly as they intended.


The majority of professionals I know typically fall into bucket No. 2. They write a plan because their manager wants them to, then they stick it in a drawer and forget about it. If that sounds like you, this article will be a big help. If you are in bucket No. 3 and you followed your plan but didn’t hit your targets, this article will also help.

If you are in bucket No. 1, congratulations! You don’t have any bad habits, and you can get right down to properly compiling and executing your business plan.

In compiling your business plan, you need to recognize the difference between a desire and a goal, how to get the results you want in the least amount of time, and how to leverage your staff in the process. When you do this successfully, your office likely will be running itself in about a month!

When I ask advisors about the goals they have for their business plan, I often get a list of desires like “to acquire 50 new clients” or “to sell 100 policies.” Well, there is nothing wrong with having a desire, but planning is about the things you can control. So, instead of expressing a desire to acquire 50 new clients, you might say, “I will spend 10 hours prospecting a week” or “I will use a referral system every time I meet with a client.”

Instead of saying, “I want to sell 100 policies,” you might say, “I will continuously test and improve my insurance presentation until I can close nine out of 10 qualified clients” or “I will conduct at least 10 service meetings a week and present a new insurance strategy whenever appropriate.”

Note the difference between simply stating desires you can’t control and executing controllable activities that will lead directly to achieving those desires. What type of controllable activities should you focus on in your business plan? And how do you leverage your staff in this process? Just as financial professionals fall into one of the three buckets I mentioned earlier, activities fall largely into three buckets as well.

First, you have activities that are important but not urgent. Next, you have activities that are urgent but not important. Finally, you have activities that are both urgent and important.

The bucket that is the biggest time suck is obviously the one containing activities that are urgent but not important. However, the most profitable bucket is the one containing activities that are important but not urgent because, in that bucket, you consciously are able to be proactive about your time.

Now that you know which bucket is the most profitable, can you tell me your most important activities? Strangely, most people can’t. You should be able to rattle them off in your sleep because 80 percent of your results come from only 20 percent of your activities.

For a financial professional, the most important activities are prospecting, meeting with clients and closing sales. Think about it – what percentage of your time did you spend on those activities last month? Now, what would happen to your results if you doubled that percentage of time next month? So those are the important activities on which you should focus to implement your plan successfully and grow your business.

The most common problem I see regarding these activities is simply poor time management. In order to execute your business plan successfully, good time management is critical. Try planning your day the night before by listing the top six things you want to get done. The next day, start by working on the most difficult thing first, when you are fresh, and save the easy things for later in the day.

Now think what would happen if you leveraged this time management system with your staff. Your results really would take off! But how can you manage to do that while you are busy focusing on your own critical activities? This is where you need to leverage your staff to help you execute your plan.

The 80/20 rule is a universal principle. That means 80 percent of staff members’ results come from 20 percent of their activities. Do you know what those activities are? Well, if you don’t know, I can practically guarantee no one else does either. Here is how to find out.

Make a list of all the activities you want this staff person to perform. (We will assume this staff person is self-motivated.) You must have at least 10 items on that list. Next, go through that list and identify the three activities that generate 80 percent of the results. This is not difficult; they will jump right off the page when you see them. Then, ask the person what percentage of their time generally is spent on those items. (Try not to look too upset when you find out!) Now help your staff manage their time with the ideal of doubling the amount of time spent doing these three things, using the six-item technique you will be doing yourself, which is planning your day the night before by listing the top six things you want to get done. In a mornign meeting, review the six things on which your staff will focus each day and help change that list if necessary. After about a month, your office likely will be running itself.

Be aware that as you and your staff spend more time executing those 20 percent of the tasks in your business plan that generate 80 percent of your results, you will become busy. You may even find it necessary to hire additional staff because you will have so much more business to process and so many more clients to serve. Consider linking financial incentives to the staff’s top “20 percent” tasks if you know that timely execution of those tasks will grow your practice. But there is another method to provide incentives that works great and is free. That method is to give your staff feedback and recognition every week. Most advisors I speak with believe this is important but they simply are too busy to remember to do it consistently. I suggest putting a reminder on your calendar.

A goal should be linked to an activity over which you have control. The most important activities to control are the “20 percent” activities that create 80 percent of your results: prospecting, meeting with clients and closing sales. The financial rewards you desire in your business plan are simply a result of good execution of the proper activities.

Planning the top six things on which to focus each day will help you stay on track. Finally, make sure you and your staff discuss the “20 percent” activities that create 80 percent of their results and align those activities with incentives.


Todd Colbeck, MBA, is owner of Colbeck Coaching Group, Miami Beach, Fla. He formerly was brokerage vice president of the northeast U.S. region at American Express Financial Advisors. Contact him at [email protected] .

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