Want a Breakthrough Strategy for Advisors? It’s simple …

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From eliminating needless client reports to adding account aggregation and client portal capabilities, it’s all about simplifying your business.

Look at your business. Complexity is everywhere.

Alpha, beta, lambda, it’s literally Greek. As an advisor, you operate in a world that for many, is difficult to decipher. Beyond the asset management issues, you must deal with the complexities of forecasting the future, understand intricacies of tax and estate law, and peel back the nuanced layers of insurance.

Chances are, you’ve been so conditioned to deal with complexity that you’ve come to expect it in your business. There are even many advisors who’ve come to unwittingly prize it in communicating with their clients.

We’ve seen the enemy…

There is a problem with all this complexity. It’s holding your business back. Every bit of complexity adds a cost to your operations and hurts client relationships. Let’s call it a “complexity tax.” Whether or not you’re aware of it, you pay this tax in hundreds of ways—some of them obvious, others more subtle.

Take a look at every single one of your business processes. Are the processes absolutely essential? Do they create huge value for your clients? If not, they’re your enemy — a “complexity tax” – a self-created obstacle to building your business.

The cure: Simplicity. It begins as a philosophy, but quickly turns into a strategy when you learn to ask one question about everything you do: If I eliminate this particular way of doing business, will the majority of my current and future clients care? If the answer is “no,” stop doing it.

“But I have to do it…”

You provide your clients with the core services of planning, investment management and advice. But with the exception of your compliance and reporting requirements (which are often misunderstood and may not need to be as big a task as you think), there is almost nothing else in your business that’s an “absolute must do.” To believe otherwise is the result of uncritical thinking.

You do not have to create incomprehensible, 40 page reports that clients don’t read. You are not required to hold quarterly meetings in your office that clients don’t want to attend. And there is no law that says you must buy expensive advisor software that makes things more expensive and complex.


Think Different

Question all the “must haves”, question them through the lens of an entrepreneur. Ask smarter questions like, what is my cost of acquiring clients, what is my LifeTime Value (LTV) of a client, is my business model balanced? How can I lower my service costs and increase my LTV? These are the business building questions entrepreneurs ask. Entrepreneurs like you.

Technology can play a role, but it’s really up to you.

Yes, technology is key. Software like Blueleaf can do an amazing job of helping you simplify your business, lower costs and drive growth. But no technology matters until you start thinking like the entrepreneur that you are.

For example, adding a client portal to share information with individual clients, particularly one that builds in account aggregation and allows secure sharing with the rest of the client team (CPA, tax attorney etc.) can help. But you have to choose well and that starts from the guiding philosophy of simplicity. [Some additional thoughts here.]

You need to start making choices about everything you do in ways that line up with your strategy and the way you create value for clients. And then you need to minimize or completely eliminate everything that doesn’t help you improve those key metrics.

Don’t wait. Be an entrepreneur. Start shedding the non-essential now.

Also published on Medium.

John is the co-founder and CEO of Blueleaf and is an active startup advisor. He is also an experienced entrepreneur and senior executive. As part of 6 founding teams, he has led the product management, marketing, and finance functions. His background in banking and wealth management has shaped the vision for Blueleaf.
  • Tommy Sikes March 12, 2013, 1:23 pm


    Great insight as always. I always preach to clients that as your money grows, your life should be simpler and easier, not more complex. Usually it’s the opposite. 

    As advisors, we need to think the same way. As our businesses grow it should be easier and more streamlined to deliver great value to our clients. We should help them REDUCE complexity and display it with our own businesses.

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

  • My Portfolio Guide March 12, 2013, 1:58 pm

    Great stuff. This is truly what’s it’s all about. The better we tune out the noise and complexities..the better we ultimately can help clients.

  • Tim L Minert April 5, 2013, 9:45 pm


    Great insight, as a CRM provider we are often asked about Template -Workflows and Business Processes. I always suggest they begin with a whiteboard and yellow pad focus only on the ‘Critical’ Business Process first before they start building. Your article helps them define critical.


  • John Sulhoff May 24, 2013, 7:04 pm

    “Complexity Tax” Spot on. The FA industry is so complex, there is a point of diminishing returns associated with product/strategy bells and whistles. Just b/c it’s a great idea doesn’t mean it’s worth implementing. Simple is usually better. For clients AND advisors.

  • Jim Marzano March 28, 2015, 3:18 pm

    John, Does Blueleaf aggregate listed futures and options positions held by tgr FCM or the custodian?