Grow Your Business by Working with a Virtual Team

10 min read
March 18, 2015

Many new firm owners want to do what they can to bootstrap their business and minimize expenses. These same financial planners might also suffer from an entrepreneurial "superhero syndrome," where they believe they can do everything involved in running a successful practice.

After all, wearing many hats is a money-saver in itself. The more you can do on your own, the less you need to pay someone else to handle that work for you.

But these two mentalities, when working together, can really backfire on financial advisors. Here's the reality: you simply can't do it all. At the very least, you can't do it all and maintain a consistent, high level of quality across the range of tasks you try to complete.

When your firm starts to grow, you should foster that growth by devoting your time to what's truly important to you: serving your clients and providing them with valuable financial planning.

That doesn't mean you drop everything else. You still need to handle administrative, accounting, marketing, and other tasks. If you want to continue to grow your business, you need to start considering how you'll effectively work with a virtual team.

The Argument for Developing a Virtual Team

Many independent financial advisors do not like the idea of relinquishing control of any aspect of their firm to someone else. Who knows your business better than you, right?

The thing is, what you know better than anyone else is your profession (financial planning) and the mission of your business (how you uniquely serve other people who need your knowledge and expertise). There are other elements of your firm, however, that other people could help you manage and provide you with a better result than what you could have created on your own:

  • You probably don't know how to build (and maintain) a website better than a website designer.
  • You probably don't know how to write better than a professional freelance writer who specializes in creating financial content.
  • You probably don't know the ins and outs of the tax codes like a CPA.
  • You probably don't know how to share your message in a way that gets people to sit up and listen on social media better than an online marketing expert.
  • You probably don't know how to create a good looking freemium better than a graphic designer.
  • You probably don't know how to connect with influencers in the industry, book speaking gigs and podcast interviews, and land quotes in the media quite like a well-trained assistant.

Do you know how to do some of these things? Of course! Could you cobble something passable together for some of the other tasks that your business requires? Sure!

But the point is you cannot do everything, all the time, to a high standard of work.

You wouldn't ask designers, writers, accountants, marketers, or administrative assistants to create a comprehensive financial plan for a client. And you shouldn't ask a financial planner to code a website or write 10,000 words per week for various posts and articles.

You might still believe you can do everything, but there's no getting around that you don't have time to do all of this all on your own -- while also providing great, quality service to your clients who deserve the bulk of your focus and energy.

That's where a virtual team comes in. You can outsource appropriate tasks to the right people for those specific jobs.

As a result, you'll have more time, focus, and energy to devote to working on growing your business instead of constantly being stuck working in the trenches of your firm. If you outsource the right way, you'll free yourself to develop a bigger, more profitable financial planning practice.

Why "Outsourcing," and Why Virtually?

Outsourcing in this context simply means hiring on an independent contractor or freelancer to take on tasks required to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently.

XYPN member Mary Beth Storjohann explains that, to her, outsourcing means "passing off the tasks that may not be the best use of my time."

Daniel Wrenne, another XYPN advisor, elaborates on this idea. "[Outsourcing is] taking tasks we currently perform (or would like to perform and don't have the time) and reassigning them to someone outside the firm that will complete these tasks for us in a manner that provides greater overall efficiency and therefore moves us toward our ultimate growth target faster."

Wrenne also emphasizes the fact that financial planners are financial planners, and your attention should be on the people you serve. "My focus areas are working with clients and business planning," he says. "These are the areas I enjoy working in and feel confident in my productivity. Everything else is fair game."

In addition to using outsourcing in order to buy back valuable time, XYPN member Katie Brewer points out that hiring someone to help can also free firm owners from tasks they simply don't enjoy. "Outsourcing for me is taking the parts of my business that I am not an expert at and don't enjoy, and paying someone else to do them!" she says.

Outsourcing tasks doesn't need to come with a lot of complication. You can hire part-time help in the form of independent contractors or freelancers; no need to hire employees. When you choose to make your team virtual -- meaning part-time workers do not come in to your office and can work from anywhere -- you get to choose the best talent available to you because location is not a limiting factor.

What a Virtual Team Can Help You Accomplish

If you're ready to reclaim your time so you can focus running your business instead of getting bogged down in the day-to-day task list, you need to start outsourcing. But how do you determine which tasks to delegate to someone else?

"I keep a running list of things that I don't particularly like to do and that someone else could be doing, and I revisit it every month to see if there is something from it that I can start outsourcing," says Brewer. "Any time I have some extra income start coming in, I will usually start outsourcing one other aspect of my business."

XYPN co-founder Alan Moore takes a similar approach. "I always ask myself, 'do I need to be me to do this task?' and if the answer is no, then I try to outsource it," he explains. "I start with leveraging technology, like online scheduling, to eliminate the task, and will then outsource whatever tasks remain."

For Moore, those specific tasks could be "investment management, financial plan writing, scheduling, marketing, social media and newsletter management, blog writing, etc. The list goes on and on!"

Wrenne adds to the list, saying that he looks at the intersection of what is easy to outsource and also inexpensive to outsource. "I typically start by outsourcing those tasks we are least confident in our feel very unproductive completing ourselves," he adds. For Wrenne, This could include compliance, accounting, content creation, website management, creating marketing material, and administrative work.

XYPN member Sophia Bera takes a slightly different approach to determining where help is needed in her firm. "It's more about finding people who are experts in these areas who'd like to add to my team rather than giving them tasks," Bera explains. "[My accountant] is way faster at bookkeeping that I am, so why would I want to spend 10 hours a month doing that when I can pay her for 5 hours of her time and save myself 10 hours of dreaded bookkeeping? [My content manager] is a much better editor than I'll ever be and she keeps my newsletters interesting! When you are bored of reading your own newsletter, hire a great writer to freshen it up!"

Bera notes that you can also hire someone part-time to help with financial planning, too. "I knew that my client base was growing and that I could use help...but I was also a long way from being able to hire someone full-time. I was able to hire a paraplanner for 3-8 hours per week on an as-needed basis. She's now prepping for my client meetings, creating meeting agendas for check in meetings, and helps me analyze 401(k) investments and company benefits."

Why You (Yes, You) Can Afford to Outsource

The argument for hiring part-time help and developing a virtual team to help with all aspects of your business might be compelling -- but many financial advisors who maintain the "bootstrap it" mindset may find it difficult to justify taking on additional expenses.

But outsourcing your tasks provides you and your business with a tremendous amount of value, that may even help pay for itself if the effort from your freelancers and contractors helps you land new clients or sources of income. "[A virtual team] frees up my time so I’m able to focus on building relationships and marketing," explains Storjohann.

Outsourcing may also provide a much more cost effective route for your business than any other option. "I paid less than $10,000 last year to have 3 experts help me out a few hours a week," says Bera. "I would have had to pay four times that to hire one person, full-time, and they wouldn't have been experts in bookkeeping, financial planning, and marketing."

Bera also explains that it can provide a tangible return for you and your  business, and shared her own experience. "The truth is that outsourcing allowed me to grow my business last year while I was going through a divorce," she says. "I don't think I would have done nearly as good of a job for my clients and keep up with writing gigs if I wasn't able to depend on my freelance team. My social media presence continue to grow during this time as well which has lead to more writing and speaking gigs for 2015."

Remember, outsourcing will add on to your expenses. But it also allows you to scale up and grow your business -- and it provides a better, more cost-effective way of growing than traditional ways of hiring.

"It used to be that in order to grow your firm, you had to hire a full-time staff member," says Moore. "You ended up with a receptionist that you had to train to do bookkeeping and tried to teach how to help with client data intake forms."

"Now, you can hire 3 specialists to perform those tasks. This helps to reduce costs, because you only pay for what you need, and lets you hire true specialists instead of trying to train someone not completely qualified for every single task thrown their way."

Where to Find Quality Freelancers and Contractors

Once you know what tasks need to be outsourced and you're ready to start building a virtual team, you can start seeking out talented people to provide their expertise. Knowing where to look can be difficult if you haven't hired a freelance or contractor before, however.

Choosing someone with a knowledge of or background in finance may provide you with the best experience. XY Planning Network has its own line of extra services for members and nonmembers. If you need to outsource your blog management, blog content, or social media management, this is an excellent way to ensure you hand off this work to a team that innately understands the needs, wants, and goals of a financial planning firm.

And we also like The Client Connection from Careful Cents for this reason. Carrie, the owner of the site, worked as an accountant for 10 years before starting her own business focused around supporting "solopreneurs," or one-person businesses (often run as sole proprietors).

She's built a large network of freelancers and independent contractors with similar backgrounds and experiences in a financial field. Many of her connections -- and members of the Client Connection looking for work -- understand basic personal finance principles and can use language that fits in with a financial brand.

There are other networks that you can try, as well. "99 Designs, Fiverr and ODesk are a good place to start," suggests Brewer. "I am currently looking at the Leapfrog VA Network for a general Virtual Assistant."

Or stick to your own network of people to find great help, says Storjohann. "First, look to your personal network for referrals. Leverage contacts on social media and be open that you’re looking for assistance."

Bera seconds the idea of remaining open to people who may already be in your network or connected to you via social media. "My content manager found me after we connected on Twitter, so that was easy!" she says. "My associate planner went to the University of Georgia with a friend of mine, and then we met in person at a conference. My bookkeeper was a referral from another CFP®.

Wrenne says referrals are a good way to go. "I want referrals from other firms that are already doing a great job on what I would like to do. These referrals are sometimes hard to find but I consider them essential," he explains.

A Few Tips to Keep in Mind Before Outsourcing Work in Your Business

If you're thinking about giving a virtual team a try in order to grow your business, there are a few tips and tricks you can keep in mind -- along with a few resources that might provide more essential information for you.

"I would highly recommend the book Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker to get an idea of how to manage outsourcing and what you can outsource," suggests Brewer.

Storjohann says you should ramp up outsourced work slowly while you learn to manage your new team. "Start with a few hours a week for small tasks that don’t necessarily require your expertise to execute such as updating twitter, uploading blog posts, managing your books, and so on."

Bera says you can lean on your fellow advisors for support, too. "Start by getting clear about the work you need help with and then send the job description to 10 other financial planners," she advises. "We're a resourceful bunch. I think you'd be surprised who comes your way!"

Alan Moore

About the Author

Alan Moore is the CEO and Co-Founder of XY Planning Network—a support ecosystem dedicated to helping fee-for-service advisors start, run, and grow their own financial planning firms and serve the clients they want. His favorite part about his job is dreaming about possibilities for what's next, knowing his stellar team will either tell him no or Get Sh*t Done to make it happen.

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