The Elements

By Andrea Schlapia   |   October 17, 2017

13 Questions about Development Day with a Financial Advisor Coach

Categories: Andrea Schlapia, Operational Effectiveness, The Fundamental 4

Do you have a finger on the pulse of how things are going at your financial advisor firm? Seriously, do you really know what your team is thinking, what clients are experiencing and where the problem areas are?

There is one guaranteed way to get to the bottom of what’s going great or what issues lurk beneath. Development Day!

Check out this video for a snapshot about Development Day, then enjoy 13 questions with Andrea Schlapia, an experienced financial advisor coach who helps firms embrace this critical element of their firm’s health and wellbeing.

1) What is “Development Day?”

Development Day is a critically important time when you close the door to clients and focus internally on professional development and educational opportunities. Everyone turns on their voicemail and out of office reply emails, because a successful Development Day requires no distractions. At a minimum they should be held quarterly, but a monthly meeting will always get things moving faster!

2) What signs would a firm see internally that indicates they need a Development Day?

If you feel like you’re “winging it” all the time, which creates chaos and anxiety, that’s a clear need for establishing processes and systems. Building these will provide structure to your firm, and help you avoid reinventing the wheel every time.

Is there a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities throughout your team? That’s another surefire sign that it’s time for a Development Day. I’ve seen teams that have been together for 20+ years and still didn’t really know what the person next to them did!

3) What kinds of client feedback indicates a firm needs a Development Day?

When clients complain about getting different answers from your team members, that’s a red flag that mixed messages are going out which can result in an erosion of clients’ trust in your firm. And if you get complaints about inconsistent processes, that’s another sign that client confidence is flagging. A Development Day will help mitigate these issues and potentially prevent clients from migrating to a different firm.

4) How long should a Development Day last?

Well, the word day in Development Day says it all, especially for larger teams. Teams of 4 or less sometimes do half days. However long you schedule, it’s vital that this becomes a “forever” practice so you can check in on previous goals and develop new ones. This puts your firm on the constant road to improvement, which will boost your team’s morale and client service.

5) How should a team prepare for Development Day?

Those firms that have the highest rate of success with a productive development day usually collaborate as a team to determine the firm’s gaps. Performing a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a surefire way to help set a road map for the Development Day and any preparation or info gathering needed for the meeting.

6) What kinds of topics are typically covered on Development Day?

Topics will typically relate to any items in my Fundamental 4TM :

Strategic Planning
– The business owner communicating the firm’s vision and business plan
Business Development
– Discussions about a marketing plan, social media strategy, identifying niche markets, devising an editorial calendar
Operation Effectiveness
– Designing all process/systems, creating Standard Operating Procedures and reviewing how well they have been implemented
Human Element
– Onboarding training
– Designing and refining roles and detailed responsibilities
– Team building activities, including some fun ones outside of the office like a ropes course, frisbee golf, mini golf, sporting events

7) How can a team keep a Development Day organized and on track?

Our goal poster is an ideal way to stay on track and get some critical needs and goals in writing and up on the wall for all to see. (Plus, it’s free! download the goal poster )

Also, make sure there is an assigned note taker to capture the action items and next steps. At the end of each Development Day, assign all action items and set clear expectations with individual and team deadlines. Finally, spend a few moments determining the agenda for the next Development Day. Do not leave the room without these important elements!

8) How helpful is it to have a coach on hand for the Development Day? Can teams go it alone?

Having a coach onsite for the first Development Day is ideal, as we can facilitate your meeting and help the team understand how to manage the day, what to cover and help outline the Development Day infrastructure specifically to your team.

For example, based on your firm’s current needs and situation uncovered in this first Development Day, we can make recommendations on frequency, schedule actual dates, prioritize areas to cover and more.

For future Development Days, a coach can be offsite and attend small portions via Skype like helping kick off the day or to hear a summary at the end and review next steps. This is a great supplement to the onsite and ensure everyone on your team stays on track throughout the year.

9) How can a team prevent the event from turning into chaos?

First, always have an outlined agenda determined as a team that identifies areas of needs. Touch on each topic, assign action items, ask if there is any additional input and move on to the next item.

If things go awry or chaos rears its head, here is an easy way to determine what went wrong and how to avoid going forward:

At the end of every meeting (of any kind) rank the meeting 1-5 and determine why:

1= Total waste of time
5= Valuable and a lot was accomplished, with excellent communication and collaboration

The ‘why’ of ranking is most important — not just “it sucked and I give it a 1” but rather, it was a 1 because everyone was late and too much personal conversation happened versus sticking to agenda. This gives you an ideal indicator of what needs to be corrected going forward.

10) Are there any ground rules laid down before feedback and ideas are shared to keep it positive or from getting too personal?

What are gaps or areas in need of “fixing” that your team actually can control? If you can’t control it then there is no point to dwell upon it. If there is a way to move it into a “control” aspect, what is that and how can we improve that item?

Another ground rule is that this is not a bitch session. Yes, you’ll sometimes be talking about challenges, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be all complaints. Additionally, make sure everyone is mindful of time and giving others equal opportunities to weigh in with their opinions and ideas.

Finally, you must have a post-meeting action plan with specific assignments and deadlines.

11) What is the typical range of “moods” of a Development Day to help set expectations for how “hot” or “cold” the room can be?

Until a team does it once to get the feel, they are often apprehensive or feel overwhelmed at the idea. The concern may be that certain topics may arise that could be difficult or controversial. Guess what? If those things exist in your firm and you don’t address them, they’ll still exist! Dialogue on Development Day will help you air those topics and get them addressed.

Business owners that try to run the meeting with no team input typically fail. They get busy, there’s no agenda prepared, the team doesn’t prep and it’s a wasted opportunity.

However, if the business owner steps out of the middle and allows the team to collaborate as one to determine areas of focus, frequency, dates/times – it will have much better odds of being a success.

12) What are the immediate and long-term results after a Development Day?
  • Better communication and clarity within your team
  • Higher rate of implementation and refinements to your team
  • Better processes and systems
  • Cross training throughout your team
  • Collaboration and buy-in for change
  • Everyone gets on the same page of thinking
  • Ownership for action assigned and accountability openly discussed
  • Status update and knowing that things are moving forward, not backwards or sideways
  • Peace of mind that you know what’s on your team’s mind, and can fix problems!
13) What is your favorite thing about Development Days?

I love hearing the success stories and seeing progress in motion. These “check-ins” are the opportunities to see their evolution and growth as a team. It’s very gratifying to see baby steps in progress and then feeling fun coming back into the team where frustration and anxiety once was.

Frankly, it’s like being like the proud parent in the back of the room when your kid is on stage sharing their story/success! That feeling of pride and accomplishment is one of the main drivers of why I’m a financial advisor coach.

Want to see a story about a Financial Advisor who just had an incredible breakthrough after their first Development Day? See the case study about what happened at David Adams Wealth Group.


Andrea Schlapia
Organizational Development and Human Capital

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life.

Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.

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