Why Taking Small Steps Can Make a Big Difference

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Using a short-term business plan, or micro strategy, can make it much easier for you to accomplish the long-term goal of your advisory practice.

By Angie Herbers


On a recent call with a client, after we discussed his advisory business and his goals for it, he asked me to help him create a long-term plan, including his firm’s goals.

I told him I’m not a fan of long-term plans. Instead, I gave him a small, “micro” two-week goal that would help move him toward his vision. He called back a couple of days later demanding that I establish a long-term plan with a complete list of goals. I asked him how his two-week goal was coming along; he couldn’t remember what it was.

When I started out as business consultant to independent advisors, I helped all my clients create long-term business plans. After a few years, I began to notice a trend: My clients weren’t making any progress toward those goals.

What’s more, I realized I spent most of my time with clients overcoming their resistance to implementing long-term plans.

Over the intervening years, I’ve come to see that the problem wasn’t my clients but rather the long-term plans themselves.

Long-term plans are overwhelming. Seeing all the things that must be achieved in order to attain large goals is both a depressing and discouraging experience to most owner advisors — so they simply avoid taking any action on the plan.

Once I realized the root of the problem, the solution was simple: Stop doing long-term plans. Yes, you read that right — stop doing long-term plans.

Instead, write a vision statement of where you want to end up and map out short-term goals.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your vision is to grow your firm to $1 billion in client assets. What will you need to do to get there? Chances are, new clients.

Next, ask what your firm needs to do to work with more clients? Maybe your existing staff should be handling a few more clients, but, eventually, you’re going to need more advisors.

A good first step is to determine how you’re going to hire and train new advisors. This thought process usually leads to a review of your firm’s organizational structure, client-service structure, compensation plan and path to partnership.

You see where this is leading. Rather than being swamped by everything you’re going to need to do to get to $1 billion in assets, you focus much more on achievable short-term goals, like creating/enhancing the training process for existing and new advisors in your firm.

This way, staff are far better equipped to handle new/more clients when, for example, your two-week goal is building one piece of a marketing plan.

Today, I don’t create long-term plans for my clients. Instead, we simply set out their vision and then decide on what their next steps should be for reaching their main goal.

I call this focus a “micro strategy,” and it’s the only plan you need to accomplish your next step. I work with advisors to decide what to do after the first step is completed. No stress, no pressure. Simply performance.

I have one client who’s even applied this micro-strategy process to his annual budget; he doesn’t do one. This advisor simply started doing monthly budgeting.

As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to anticipate what you’ll bring in and what you’ll pay out in expenses for the coming month. It takes less than one hour every 31 days.

For me, it’s amazing to see the transformation in firm owners’ attitudes  when they shift from macro strategies to micro strategies. Not only are they more motivated and feel more accomplished, but they are more successful.

In life and in business, we often forget that it’s not what we “plan” to do that matters. It’s what we do today that sets us up for success (or failure) tomorrow. If you begin to think in terms of micro, short-term strategies and goals, the “plan” becomes ever-so-clear and attainable.


Angie Herbers is Chief Executive and Senior Consultant at Herbers & Company in the Austin office. She brings over 17 years of experience in human capital management, leadership and corporate financial strategy development to advisory firms. She works with mid-size firms to  multi-location/multi-billion advisory firms to provide solutions that impact growth. She can be reached at angie@angieherbers.com.