Recently, at XYPN LIVE, our team put up large posters labeled with different stages of an advisor’s business:
On each of the posters, conference attendees were encouraged to write what they felt they needed at each stage of their business, and how they were feeling. I’ve worked with advisors as a business coach for years, but I was still surprised by some of the common threads I found when sifting through what attendees wrote and shared with their community.
I want to dig deeper into the emotions experienced at each stage of firm ownership. Thank you to everyone brave enough to share. Your insights make content like this possible.
Preparing: Getting Ready to Launch Your Financial Planning Practice
The overwhelming emotion written by attendees on the preparing board was anxious. I suspect that’s due to a fear of the unknown. Some comments and questions on our preparing poster included:
- Scared—Am I going to starve?
- Anxious—So glad for XYPN or I would have quit
- Crazy excited—I just quit my job and can’t wait to build this thing
It’s completely normal to feel a combination of nervous and excited when you’re in the pre-launch phase of your business. It’s also easy to let fear paralyze you, or motivate you to focus on small details about your practice that seem overwhelmingly important at the moment—but won’t matter as much later on. For example, you might find yourself laboring over what shade of blue belongs in your logo instead of working to line up the paperwork needed to file your LLC.
During the preparing stage of a business, you can conquer the rollercoaster of emotions you’re feeling by following a checklist and focusing on the high-priority tasks first. Knowing what the next right step is can help you stay on task and push through any uneasiness that bubbles up as you get going.
The truth is, as a business owner, you’re always going to feel some combination of nervous and excited as you continue to grow a business you love. While that may not make you feel better right now while you’re in the middle of those emotions, it can help you to take a step back and remember that these feelings are always going to be valid and normal—no matter where you are in your business. You’re not less prepared, or less ready to launch, just because you’re feeling unsteady.
Need support? I recommend advisors in this intimidating pre-launch phase get into a study group with like-minded planners who are in the same boat. You can help each other stay on track while moving toward the ultimate goal of launching successful businesses.
Implementing: Launching Your Practice, and Growing in Your First Year
I view the implementation stage of an advisor’s practice as being anywhere in the first year, or within their first 50k of revenue. During this phase, many advisors still feel a sense of anxiety, according to our conference poster activity. More often than not, attendees also expressed feeling overwhelmed. Questions and comments they wrote included:
- How do I do it all?
- I’m overwhelmed with the long list of to-dos.
- How do I connect all of my tech?
- I’m overwhelmed with self-doubt.
- Major imposter syndrome - how is this going to work?
- Do clients really see the value?
- I’ve launched—now what?
As a coach who works exclusively with advisors, I can honestly say the implementation stage is one of my favorites. That first phase of your business can be so intimidating, but also so instrumental in laying a strong foundation to build an incredible practice.
What I’ve found to be true (and what was evidenced in the comments I sifted through) is that advisors in this phase often experience imposter syndrome. This can lead to feeling even more overwhelmed, and even a bit guilty for making a profit.
In this poster exercise and in conversations I had with attendees, advisors shared their apprehension about marketing themselves to a specific niche. There’s a prevailing sense of guilt for new advisors who know they want to work with a specific target market, but don’t feel they should turn away quality clients who aren’t in their niche because they want to help as many people as possible. And frankly, they need the revenue.
My answer to this is simple: it’s okay to have an outbound marketing niche that doesn’t necessarily impact your inbound clientele. For example, if you’re marketing to physicians and a lawyer shows up via referral, you don’t have to turn the lawyer away. A niche doesn’t mean you turn clients away at the beginning of your business; it means you have a strategy for attracting your ideal client over time.
Finally, I noticed another recurring theme from the implementors at our conference who spoke up about how they’re feeling; they’re feeling alone.
This is often where imposter syndrome starts to eat away at advisors in the early stage of their businesses. Being alone sucks, and it makes you feel inadequate in so many ways when you’re stuck inside your own head all day. The small group I recommended for pre-launch advisors applies here as well. The faster you can get in with a group of people who understand your struggles and can support you, the better. I also recommend fighting loneliness by planning ahead in a few different ways:
- Lean into your community. XYPN advisors have the benefit of a members-only online forum platform to connect and share ideas. Use the member forums to vent, chat, ask questions, or send kitten videos after a bad prospect call—whatever helps you stay connected and rooted in reality.
- Get out of the office. Seriously—take a walk, leverage a coworking space, grab lunch with a friend. Don’t stare at your laptop and sit at your kitchen table all day worrying about whether you’re good enough to pull this off. Human contact, or even just a breath of fresh air, can be a huge help.
- Ask for help. If you’re feeling alone, worried, or stuck— ask for help. Reach out to family and friends during the day, or ask them if they’d be willing to schedule a visit during your workweek.
Building: Continuing to Grow in Years 1-5
In the building phase of your business, you’ve moved past the bumpiest stages. You’ve launched, you have a website, you have happy clients, you’re making solid revenue, and you are ready to level up. Questions and comments left by conference attendees in this phase of business included:
- It’s actually happening!
- Excited for what can be, but I wish I would have planned more
- Relieved—I made it!
- Wow, this is really working
- I need a process to keep growing
- Understanding that my time is my single greatest, most important, and valuable commodity
- Frustrated to find I need to come back and revise parts of my business
What I found interesting from this group was the overwhelming feeling of excitement— but also frustration. I’ve found that many business owners expect to move past the initial nervousness of launching their businesses once they start finding some success. They’re surprised to find that being a business owner means constantly reiterating on the existing elements of their businesses to grow and improve.
Your best bet is to release that frustration and (you guessed it) plan ahead for business development that supports growth. A few pieces of your business you may need to reconfigure now that you’re past your initial launch phase include:
- Processes and systems
- Tech stack
- Marketing messaging and strategy
- Team or outsourced contractors
When you have time and a budget allotted for checking in with these pieces of your business, you reduce the amount of frustration you feel about constantly having to redo things you feel you’ve already checked off the list. At the end of the day, making ongoing updates to your business only makes you better and more efficient—and that means more business growth in the long run.
One of the consistent threads in many of the comments made by advisors who are in the building phase of their practice was feeling excited but pressed for time. As you grow, your calendar is going to get busier. For some advisors who enjoyed having the flexibility and free time as a new business owner, having that go away can be stressful.
It’s true that, in this phase of being a business owner, your free time might feel limited. You’re still building your business, and you haven’t fully stepped out of the day-to-day grind, or given up certain tasks to your team (either W2 or contractors) to free up your schedule.
If you’re feeling short on time, here are a few actionable steps to help you claim back some space on your calendar:
- Decide what fills your cup and only do that. This is specifically in reference to industry-facing work. Pick and choose what networking work you want to do and confidently say “no” to other opportunities that pop up.
- Set a limit for your business’s growth. When you were first launching your business, you may have signed on every prospect who had a pulse and a checking account. Now, you’re feeling tight on time and can afford to be more choosy. Instead of signing on everyone who meets with you, set specific criteria for what you want in a new client. You can also decide how many “slots” you have for new clients in a given month or quarter and only take on that many people. Any other prospects will need to sign on in the next signing period.
- Figure out what you can outsource. Where do you spend your time that doesn’t directly impact your client experience or business growth? This could be marketing tasks, admin work, process creation, or any number of other business activities. Figure out what tasks you don’t like doing, or that are time-consuming, and find a budget-friendly way to outsource those tasks.
Scaling: Growing a Team and Looking Ahead
Advisors who are scaling their practices are usually 5+ years in, possibly have a team, are comfortable in their businesses and with their growth, and aren’t experiencing the same necessary drive to hustle. In short, they’ve built successful businesses and are largely in maintenance mode when it comes to growth. However, this group still has a lot of anxiety when it comes to the future of their businesses. Questions and comments from this group included:
- Anxiety - I’m responsible for others’ well-being
- Re-energized and excited
- Confusion over how to move forward
What I found interesting here is that advisors who are scaling their practices aren’t immune to feeling overwhelmed or anxious. They’re still battling questions around growth and best practices, just in new, bigger ways. There’s often a fear that comes with scaling a business. It’s hard to step outside of the daily tasks you’re comfortable performing to focus on long-term growth and building a legacy.
Business owners who are in the scaling phase of their practices are hiring employees, providing an example for their fellow advisors, and thinking about big-picture strategy. During this time, it’s important to remember that you’re tasked with looking to the future and guiding the ship. Although daily tasks and to-do lists may be your comfort zone, you’re now empowered to be the visionary for your practice and that should feel exciting.
You may have thought that you’d be on autopilot by now, but the truth is that no entrepreneur is ever truly on autopilot. After all, you had the drive and the grit to start and grow your practice— that doesn’t just go away now that you’ve found success. You can continue to find fulfillment and avoid overwhelm by:
- Taking time for strategic planning. This could be a team retreat or it could be a full day blocked off to just think and strategize by yourself. Whatever planning for the future means to you, make time for it.
- Saying no to opportunities that don’t align with your vision. You’re driving your team toward continued success—don’t veer off track.
- Seeking new growth opportunities. How can you continue to grow yourself, your team, and your business? You likely won’t feel fulfilled staying at the same level for long, so plan to continue your professional development.
- Embracing your mistakes. As you continue to grow, you’re going to continue making mistakes. Unfortunately, now that you’ve grown a bigger business, the stakes may feel much higher. Focus on learning from mistakes, and addressing them honestly with yourself and your team.
You Can Do This
The biggest emotions that continually cropped up in this exercise, regardless of where an advisor is in the life of their practice, were excitement and anxiety. I think that those two feelings are a constant undercurrent that comes with being a business owner. The key is to find ways to plan ahead for each stage of your business while harnessing the energy you get from your excitement to power through and continue your growth. You’re going to level up naturally as time goes on. By focusing on your wins and learning from your losses, you’re setting yourself up for ongoing growth and success.
At the end of the day, the fact that you’ve set out to create a financial planning practice to serve others and to positively impact future generations is an incredible thing. Whenever you find yourself stalling or slipping into a place where you feel exceptionally overwhelmed, find a way to reconnect with your why. This might be connecting with a study group, partnering with a business coach to focus on big-picture strategy, or even attending industry conferences to network with like-minded professionals.
No matter which phase of business you’re in, you can do this. Feeling anxious, excited, or anything in between is completely normal. You’re going to experience the full spectrum of emotions as you move through your own experience as a business owner. Just remember that by planning ahead and surrounding yourself with a support system, you’ll be able to take the next right step forward— whatever that may be for you.
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.
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