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Effective succession planning is a process for developing potential

By Kate McCaffery | October 30 2015 07:00AM

On one hand, succession planning is a process for identifying and developing those with potential to fulfill key business positions, Dr. Jack Muskat, an organizational psychologist, told an audience of about 450 advisors at a recent symposium held in Toronto by MGA Qualified Financial Services.

Succession planning is “a long-term commitment,” Dr. Muskat told the audience. “It’s deliberate. It requires a commitment of resources. It’s important for your personal and professional growth. It involves others, and it’s a dynamic process, by which I mean it changes, depending on the personnel and the business climate.” Plus, he adds, “it needs to make business sense.”

In reality, on the other hand, he says most times the process is haphazard, unplanned, inconsistent, driven by fear or greed (or both), and is generally poorly executed.

“The behaviours you see in your clients, you may be doing yourselves, unwittingly, because you don’t want to look at the situation. Most of us don’t want to look at the future in that way,” he told the group. “The good news is that you all have the skills, all of the knowledge, the techniques and psychological tips that will help you overcome (client) objections.  You should be able to do the same for yourselves.”

To attract the right people for the future, he suggests thinking about how people like to sell, or to think about how a successor might prefer to manage their own time. “You will need to think about this if you’re selling your business or moving your business. What kind of people do I need now, and for the future, and how can I retail my best performers?”

Other questions he suggests advisors ask themselves include:

  • What drives your best performers?
  • What is your own ability to run the business? Can you lead the business where it needs to go?
  • Are you able to understand future business needs? Do you have vision and foresight? Are you a strategic thinker?
  • Do you have the capacity to lead larger groups of people, or are you better off as an individual contributor or rainmaker?  Are you better off as a team-building sales manager?
  • How well do you deal with yourself? “We’ve all had our bad moments,” he told those gathered. “Are those (moments) typical?”

“You have to make sure your weaknesses and the things that hurt you are not deal breakers. That takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of self-awareness, and it takes a lot of willingness to make changes.”

In overlapping his discussion with another related to branding, he suggests advisors ask additional questions as well:

  • What is my brand? What am I known for in the market?
  • What is my brand worth?
  • Who wants what I have? Do I want them to have it?
  • Who are my employees? Can they deliver the goods?
  • Will they stick around? Why will they stick around?

To help answer some branding questions, QFS then introduced Andris Pone, author of Brand: It ain’t the logo, and president of Coin Branding.

In his presentation, Pone encouraged advisors to get past “what” marketing – describing what they do – to instead embrace and create materials that tell clients and prospective clients why.

“Your brand is not what you say it is,” he told the group, “it’s what Google says it is. People form an opinion on that basis.”

The two most important things an advisor can do, he says, is to have a clear position – to know why you are different, and then get beyond ‘what,’ to make your raison d’être, why you do what you do, clear to those reviewing your materials.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he says. “The opportunity to resonate with people, to drive behaviour, and inspire them, (comes from) talking about why you do what you do. That will get you out of the table stakes area. It will differentiate you from everybody else.”

Pone also says there is brain science to show that addressing people in this way – by communicating at the ‘why’ level, “you communicate to a level of the brain that drives behaviour more than what.”

“Like brands attract,” he adds. “If you want to attract the right centres of influence to you, the right customers, and the right people to work with you, you need to be as strong as those people.”

His other branding recommendations include:

Consistency. Be consistent with imagery, look, and the content across all of your materials (instead of having one look for social media, another for your company website, and a third for your newsletter.) Consistency includes keeping different platforms up-to-date if you decide to make use of social media platforms. “Your social media presence, it’s great in theory, but (if) it hasn’t been touched in two years, it makes you look out of date. It makes you look like you’re not up on things. It makes it look like things are going to slip through the cracks.”

Have a position, not just a list of credentials and experience – the list may be impressive, but do you have a clear position? “What do people say about you? What are the two or three words they think when they hear your name?”

“A brand is what people think of you. It’s not a logo. It’s not an ad, and it’s not your website. Ultimately, it’s what people think. Like brands attract. Figure out your two most important things – your clear position, and your why. And finally, follow the number one rule of branding: be consistent.”

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