Take Time to De-Stress

Find your ideal work-life balance

By Jonathan Powell

Key Takeaways:

  • Elite financial advisors are not in business just to have more business, but to enjoy a high quality of life as well.
  • Examine your client base. Having too many non-ideal clients is a major driver of advisor burnout.
  • Joining learning groups, doing time blocking and taking meaningful vacations are simple but effective ways to de-stress and get reinvigorated.

Most financial advisors today are happy with their careers. Approximately six out of ten financial advisors earning less than $1 million annually told CEG Worldwide in a recent survey that they’re very satisfied with their current success.

Of course, even the most content financial advisors feel highly stressed and burned out sometimes. That’s OK—work-related stress is practically unavoidable in an industry in which daily market volatility and clients with ever-growing expectations are the norm. The important question to ask is: What do you do to get back to the ideal work-life balance when you’re feeling overburdened?

At CEG Worldwide, we know that elite financial advisors are not in business just to have more business; they want to enjoy a high quality of life as well. That’s why this week’s column examines stress, and offers ways to cope during those periods when work can feel like a real grind.

Sources of stress

Many financial advisors who take part in our coaching programs initially come to us feeling stressed out. One of the biggest culprits for stress is the challenging market environment we’ve had since 2008. Uncertainty about politics, the economy and the markets means many advisors have had to reassure their clients continuously and do a lot more hand-holding than they used to.

On top of that, lots of advisors simply don’t take time for themselves and work too many hours. Some of this is by choice—advisors are highly driven professionals who care deeply about working hard for themselves and their clients. But too often it’s the result of not “paying themselves first” or of serving too many of the wrong types of clients. In addition, financial advisors who are members of large organizations might face challenges related to the bureaucracy in their firms. Conflicts with partners or team members can be yet another source of stress.

Address your stress

The best way to de-stress and re-energize your attitude toward your business will depend greatly on the root cause of your stress. Here are four proven strategies for handling various high-stress situations.

1. Adjust your mix of clients. Say you are working constantly but struggling to get (or stay) profitable. Your first step should be to examine your existing client base carefully to determine if you are serving too many non-ideal clients. As I’ve pointed out in the past, those advisors who are most successful tend to focus on serving select groups of wealthy investors while leaving prospects who don’t fit their targeted business model to other advisors. These advisors also love coming to work because they truly enjoy the clients they work with. By identifying your ideal clients and devoting your business to them, you may very well address the key driver of stress and burnout in your life.

One advisor who was working with the wrong types of clients when he entered our coaching program told us, “If this doesn’t change my attitude I am retiring.” Once he released his non-ideal clients and brought in the types of clients he enjoyed, his whole life improved. His business results soared and he actually spent less time in the office and more time on vacation.

2. Form a learning group. Firms that focus on being learning organizations often tell us that their teams communicate better—there is more positivity, more dialogue and less stress, and the team members feel more included in the firm’s decisions. Learning groups and team meetings can be ideal forums for staff to discuss what is working and what isn’t, how to communicate more effectively and respectfully, and how to design the overall type of work environment they seek based on shared goals and values.

3. Do time blocking. Advisors commonly block out time on their schedules for client meetings, during which they won’t accept phone calls or other interruptions. But they rarely do the same for other important tasks—from business planning to exercise. The upshot: Make regular appointments with yourself; block out that time on your calendar and treat it as sacredly as you do the time you reserve for clients.

4. Step away from the desk. Some of our coaching clients began making more money once they started taking more time off. Vacations force them to be more efficient at the office. Also, when they’re away, their creative juices start flowing again because they’re away from the distractions of their normal environment. By removing themselves from the business, they actually end up getting inspired and they come back with great business ideas and solutions.

At the start of each year, commit to a vacation schedule. Look for times of the year when your business might be slower than others. If you chronically cancel such plans, consider paying for a big chunk of the vacation in advance or making plans that require a non-refundable deposit. That should motivate you to stick with it. Consider making vacation plans that reflect your values and will be meaningful to you and your family. Such trips can be instrumental in re-invigorating yourself and finding the right work-life balance.

You have control

Stress is unavoidable, especially in our industry. The good news: You have control over how you react to it and how you get yourself back to the right work-life balance. By taking a few steps—some simple, some more complex—you can have a great quality of life while building a hugely successful business.

About the Author

Jonathan Powell is a managing principal at CEG Worldwide, LLC in San Martin, California. Working with many of the nation’s top financial firms, he enjoys helping financial advisors transform their professional and personal lives by implementing CEG Worldwide’s research-backed principles.