The now, later and sometime of business improvement

05 November 2018

David Braithwaite

David Braithwaite is a Director and Principal financial planner at Citrus Financial Management.

The key to learning from others, such as at conferences, is using your notes effectively to formulate an actionable ‘to do’ list.

I have been to a lot of conferences in my nearly 25 years of being a financial adviser. As a result, I have seen a great number of people presenting – and you never know what you’ll get. There has been some outstanding speakers I will never forget, and some who were less than impressive.

But my point is this: Why do we go to so many conferences and listen to some speakers? Some might be there simply for the CPD hours. But during a conversation with a financial services consultant in the UK recently, she cited there is an innate fear within some financial advisers – the fear of missing out.

She said we are all looking for a lightbulb moment that revolutionises the way in which we work, that turns around our business.

She further added that the journey we are on as advisers is one where we all start as a very raw item, and over the years, our skills are honed by the people we mix with, ideas we hear and so on, to become the versions of ourselves that we are today.

I enjoy going to conferences to listen to tips and techniques that I can apply back in my business, which helps to develop careers, serve clients more effectively, and help me become a more successful financial adviser.

We also like to feel part of a group of people who are ‘in it together’. In other words, a community, where the other attendees understand how we feel.

So, attending a conference and meeting our peers is great to do, but it’s flawed. Let me explain.

The fear obstacle

It’s all very good attending conferences, making copious notes and discussing ideas with your friends and colleagues afterwards, but what really counts is what you do with that information once you leave that environment and head back to your busy office with clients, staff, phone calls and a diary that requires constant juggling.

I get it. It’s hard. But if you want something bad enough, you’ll find the time to make it happen. If not, you will find an excuse. But above all, there lies another obstacle – the one of fear.

Fear in our profession comes in many shapes and sizes: fear that we don’t have the time to use new ideas; fear that we don’t have the relevant expertise or money to implement the changes that we want to make; fear of doing something wrong and upsetting clients; and fear of already having enough on our plate and taking on more work.

It’s hard to change. I get that. But luckily, the only person who will notice that we don’t do something about what we’ve learned is ourselves. So, it’s down to us to be accountable for making changes to our own practices and the way in which we serve our clients.

Now, later, sometime

Of course, it might be that we are perfectly happy where we are, and we don’t want change, but then, why attend a conference?

All too often there is a disconnect between what we hear presented and the notes we make, and what we ultimately implement. The key is doing something with what we learn – whether it’s fearful to do so or not. We all want change, but who actually wants to change?

I have something simple I do when I’m at a conference, which has made a huge difference to how I use the information I have heard while there. As I’m making notes, I have a separate page that is divided into three columns headed: now, later and sometime.

Still take notes as you would do. I always advocate using a journal style notebook and I have one specifically for conferences. I make my notes, and then in the front, I create an index. That way, if I know I want to refer back to a presentation I heard at a previous FPA Congress, I can look up that section page and jump right to it and find what I want.

What you then do is build up an amazing knowledge library of all your notes and collective wisdom, which is all indexed and can build over time.

This saves all your notes being lost easily. Also, it means you can often read back through your notebook, which can jog your memory about something that, although not relevant to you at the time, is now actionable, or simply reminds you of something.

The key to using your notes effectively is all about a ‘to do’ list.

If I hear an idea I can use right away, turn to your columns and add it there – it goes into the ‘now’ column. This should be something you can immediately put in place, or a new way to explain something or just something you need to do – but do it now.

In the ‘later’ column, note something you could implement but it might take a bit more time to figure out. I would limit this to within three months.

Your last column of ‘sometime’ is for those ideas that are a little ‘out there’ but might work, but you aren’t sure if it has any point yet to you or your business.

Then when you are back into your normal world, you can hit the ground running – you have your immediate ‘to do’ list, which is your ‘now’ column!

Then schedule in the time you need to attend to your ‘later’ list and whenever you can, reflect on the ‘sometime’ list, and don’t be afraid to cross out things you have put on there. If it hasn’t got legs, get rid of it.

The key to all of this is having an actionable to do list. Without that, rarely will anything get done.

Taking positive action also cures the fear I talked about. So, the quicker you get started, the faster you will see the benefits.