The Elements

By Ironstone   |   January 12, 2016

Ironstone Implementers – Starks Financial Group

Categories: Blog, Business Development, Operational Effectiveness

Ironstone has the privilege to work with phenomenal advisory teams across the country.

Each and every day they motivate us with challenges, dreams, strength, and endurance. This inspired us to share success stories from teams we work with and how they implement practice management strategies and the results they have accomplished.

In this interview with Dawn Starks, President of Starks Financial Group, we explore:

  • Challenges Encountered
  • Practice Management Steps
  • Processes Successfully Implemented
  • Results Achieved

Check out Dawn’s insight on time management, team meetings, hiring needs, job satisfaction, and finding work-life balance.

Ironstone: What are some of the challenges your firm faces?

Dawn: “Really only one – time, or lack thereof. Over the past year and a half of doing the work with Ironstone we have made huge strides in our efficiency, but it definitely took a time commitment.”

Ironstone: What practice management steps is your firm taking to improve your practice?

Dawn: “We have been working through our list of procedures for the office. We have gotten through quite a few, and some we have circled back to after the 6-8 month point in order to review and revise them.”

Ironstone: Do you feel the time taken to create processes and systems for your firm has been beneficial?

Dawn: “Implementing these systems has proven to increase our efficiency in training new hires, as well as served to standardize the work that multiple people might be doing. Our lines of communication are better than ever. For example, the paraplanners will all work together on new systems and stay in touch as they go along so they are all doing things in a consistent way.”

“Likewise, they have felt empowered to come to the planners and tell us when some of us are doing things differently than the others. It then opens a door for us to systemize something else in order to provide a consistent work-product for our clients.”

Ironstone: Does your firm hold regular staff meetings?

Dawn: “My team does a “Morning Meeting,” which is a 15-30 minute meeting where we go over the day’s appointments, and generally make sure everyone is on the same page. This meeting is never run by me, and many days, I do not even attend it. This helps us to even out the workflow (in the event that one planner has a high concentration of cases that week), as well as catch things that might have fallen through the cracks.”

“For the first year or so of our work with Ironstone, we did weekly staff meetings on Thursday over lunch. I would buy lunch for everyone, and we’d have some social time, as well as time to work on our practice management issues, etc. We keep comprehensive minutes for these meetings, which helps from week to week to follow up on tasks. Now that our practice management work has slackened, we are doing this lunch every other week, and anticipate that starting in 2016, we might just make one of the morning meetings into a longer staff meeting.”

Ironstone: As the President and Owner, how are you able to find a comfortable work-life balance? 

Dawn: “On the management side of things, I have delegated most of the operational Branch Manager responsibilities to my long-time business associate, Jennifer Adams. This has freed up numerous hours in my weekly schedule, which has aided my stress-reduction and overall job satisfaction.”

“I work three days per week, and it was becoming difficult to continue that schedule, given our workload. Now a major focus for me and for my partner planners is to delegate like crazy. This serves two purposes – one, it provides a better (and faster) learning environment for our paraplanners, which helps them stay excited about the work. Two, it creates a better efficiency with regard to hourly wage. For example, planners at their hourly rate should not be doing administrative tasks that the administrative folks could be doing at a lower hourly rate.”

“The downside of this, however, is what I alluded to earlier – lack of time. When we are at full capacity, it is easy to see where we need to expand the team. However, because we have expanded the team by one planner and two paraplanners over the past two years, there is a learning curve – so we are just now getting to the place where we feel we are able to correctly ascertain what staffing needs we might have.”

Ironstone: Have the practice management strategies implemented at your firm been successful? 

Dawn: “Pretty much all of the tasks that Andrea gave us to work on have been successful. It has been a blessing that my entire team has been very gung-ho about this entire process, which makes it easier. No one seriously complains about the work we are doing ON the business through our work with Andrea.

“It took no time at all for everyone on the team to understand that this is important work – it will make us all better in the long run, and more successful as a firm.”

– Dawn Starks, President – Starks Financial Group

Ironstone Implementers


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Practice Management

Ironstone is a learning and development consultancy with business acumen that translates across many industries. Our focus is on practice management strategies in order to enhance and improve both business and personal life. We support professionals who want major and comprehensive improvements that look at all aspects not just an isolated area for change. Ironstone has identified 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business.

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