It might be easy to assume that any professional with the word “planner” or “advisor” in their title would place a priority on creating a plan for their own professional practice. However, the facts tend to point in a different direction. Studies have found that as few as 28% of advisors have a formal business plan that they use to guide the growth of their practices. This is especially ironic, given the abundant research indicating that enterprises with business plans in place tend to grow faster than those without.

Why do so many advisors avoid a step that they typically urge their clients to take? There are probably as many reasons as there are planners, but certain themes unite most of those who lack a written business plan:

“Writing a business plan for my practice will take too long.” Actually, this does not need to be the case. While it is true that you can spend a lot of time researching competitors, demographics, communication trends and other aspects of the industry environment, the fundamentals of a business plan do not require that much development time (and more on this, below).

“I know my goals; they are just not written down.” Good for you. Goals are very important! But there is more to a business plan than goals. Ultimately, your business plan should tell you not only where you want to go (goals) but also the steps you need to take to get there (the plan).

“I am [or, “My team and I are”] too busy to take time to plan.” Actually, this sentiment is typical of independent advisors who are so busy developing new campaigns, learning new software or trying new techniques in an effort to grow the business that they cannot step back and look at the bigger, more strategic picture. A well-conceived plan can keep you from mistaking “busyness” with actual productivity.

So, what are the elements of a robust business plan for an independent advisor? Here are three solid steps you can take to get started — and you can probably complete these in less than a day.

Step 1 Capture your vision. Have you ever wondered why so many job interviews include the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s because, as Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” What are your dreams for your practice? How would you like your practice to appear in five years — or ten? Whatever the answer is, write it down. Visualizing your desired destination is the all-important first step in getting there.

Step 2 Break it down. Now that you know where you are going, figure out the discrete steps you need to take to get there. What are the intermediate signposts that tell you you’re getting close to home? If you want to grow AUM by a certain percentage in five years, what is the amount you need to reach each year in order to hit the mark? If you want to add ten clients from a certain demographic or professional profile, what do you need to do to meet the requisite number of prospects? Answering these questions can help you determine your next move.

Step 3 Keep it fresh. How many times have you told your clients that they need to review their estate plans every so often? Guess what? The same is true for your business plan. It should not be seen as a static document or a set-it-and-forget-it activity. As your business grows and changes, so should your business plan. General Helmuth von Moltke once said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Things change, and your plan has to be adapted to meet the changes that will inevitably happen.

At the Wealth Advisor Alliance, we understand the challenges you face as an independent financial advisor. We’ve built a community of professionals dedicated to one goal: your success. Click here to learn more about how we can help you amplify your life’s work.

We help advisors establish and grow successful wealth management practices. To learn more about how we can help you amplify your life’s work, contact us at You can follow us on Twitter@theWAAlliance and on LinkedIn.

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