Business Owners, Take Heed

 Working “on” your business helps you improve the great business you have built. 


Business Owners, Take Heed by By Juli McNeely, CFP, CLU, LUTCF

According to the Harris Interactive Business Owner Survey 2015, “today, 68 percent of business owners have never had their business valued, and only 41 percent of growing businesses have an exit or continuation plan in place. Of the 41 percent with an exit plan, only 24 percent have a plan that protects in the event of an owner’s death. And only 16 percent have a buy-sell agreement that protects the owners in the event of a disability.”


Many advisors spend a significant amount of time with their small-business clients and assist them with planning needs. We often become a sounding board or a trusted advisor in many aspects of their business, and at times, our assistance falls outside the financial-services area. In many cases, our small-business clients are excellent at their trade but not necessarily great on the business side. We attempt to assist them in working “on” their business and not just “in” their business. BUT do we do the same with our own practices? Are you an unprepared business owner?


Many advisors are so busy helping their own clients from day to day that they forget that they themselves need to spend time “on” their own business and not just working “in” their business. We often don’t listen to our own advice and get so caught up in what we do day to day that we forget that our businesses need planning too.


Here are a few questions to get you thinking about how you might spend a little time “on” your business this year.



• Do you have a business plan that projects your plans for your business for the year and for three to five years forward?

• Do you have a vision/mission that guides your firm in all decisions?

• Do you have a marketing and publicrelations plan to continuously grow your business?

• Do you have a budget, know where you are spending money, and what sources your revenue is being generated from?

• Have you ever had your business valued? If you could sell it tomorrow, what would it be worth?

• Do you have a succession plan in place for death, disability and retirement? Is the funding in order, and are the legal agreements in place?



• Do you frequently take time to brainstorm ideas to improve how you market, serve and retain clients? • Are you looking for efficiencies in how you do business by considering the integration of new software and technology?

• Do you embrace the use of social media and acknowledge that demographics are changing as are ways to reach clients and prospects?

• Are you looking for new ways to deliver value that will set you apart from your competition?

• Are you embracing cultural changes as the consumer population becomes increasingly more diverse? • Are you continuing to learn about innovative products and services that are being developed?



• Do you have an assistant to assist you with non-revenue-producing activities or to handle tasks that aren’t your strong suit?

• Have you brought in another advisor to begin a transition to a new generation of advisors in your firm? • Do you have a process in place to provide feedback to your team members so they know where they can grow or improve?

• Do you have open and frequent team communication so that everyone is on the same page?

• Have you segmented your clients and determined service levels for each segment?

• Have you standardized processes within your practice for things like onboarding a new client, reviewing existing clients, etc?


I realize this is a long list of questions that may overwhelm you at first; however, it is meant to spur your thinking about how you can continuously improve the great business you have built. There are loads of resources available on all of these topics, and I would suggest starting with


Another great way to start is to convene a meeting of your entire team and begin working through some of these questions together.


Your team members have great ideas on how to improve operations or marketing efforts and sometimes you just need to ask them. Taking time monthly, quarterly and—at a minimum—annually to work “on” your business is a must. After all, the more you work “on” your business, the better resource you will be to your small-business clients. I wish you great success!


Juli McNeely, CFP, CLU, LUTCF, is president of McNeely Financial Services, NAIFA immediate past president and past president of NAIFA Wisconsin. You can reach her at


This article appeared in Advisor Today. 


Topics: Time Management