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Trust Your Process—Lessons From the L.A. Dodgers

It was the fifth inning of Game 2 of the World Series. Dodger pitcher Rich Hill had surrendered just three hits and one run to that point—while striking out seven. The Dodgers trailed 1-0 in the game and led the series 1 game to 0 for Houston. But Hill was being pulled for a reliever to start the top of the frame.

Why? Because it was his third time through the lineup—and the Astro’s heavy hitters were coming up. The odds said this would be a good time to bring in a fresh reliever. The pitching strategy appeared to work for several innings—until the back end of the bullpen broke down.

After the conclusion of Game 2—a heartbreaking one-run loss in extra innings—Dodger Manager Dave Roberts fielded questions on his pitching decisions—including the decision to pull an effective starter, and offered the following analysis:

“You can’t really get caught up in chasing results. You have to believe in the process. And I do.”

In this case, Roberts had a process that had led him to 104 wins during the season—the most in the league. And he wasn’t going to change it in the playoffs.

The same is true for building your advisory business.

Whether you’re bringing in $20 million in net new assets every year, or gunning for $5 million, you need to a) have a process, and b) trust it. You can’t constantly shift based on fickle results that may be out of your control—like market conditions or political situations—or a extremely rare homerun off your lights out closer.

Establishing your process

I’ll never forget talking to a group of seasoned financial advisors several years ago about their business goals—and annual business plans. One advisor in Milwaukee said he didn’t even bother to set dollar-based goals each year. I asked him why, and he said that the dollar amounts were out of his control.

This advisor set activity goals. In other words, he had a process! And he trusted it.

His process: he marketed himself to centers-of-influence, regularly reaching out to estate attorneys and accountants. He also hosted client events, including golf outings. He set marketing activity goals every quarter—how many new people he would contact, how many workshops he would host. And he stuck to it! For the entire year.

Another advisor told me that, just like pitching decisions, timing is everything in setting up your annual marketing process:

“Front-load the year with more hard work, more financial plans, and fee-based conversions. Track all of that plus referrals and new assets. It becomes a game that was fun, as our success reflected the value we were bringing to clients’ lives. And your gross will increase significantly.”

Creating an effective process will give your work more focus. You won’t waste as much time in indecision.

The process of building and growing an advisory practice can be different for everyone.

Obviously, you need to study up on what’s working for other advisors. You can’t be blind to trends. In baseball, and sports in general, the big trend is toward using analytics. That’s why managers like Dave Roberts who subscribe to the “analytics approach” switch pitchers who seem to be striking everyone out. They look at the stats over a long period, not the current results. And the stats give you probabilities, not gut feelings.

You can use stats and analytics in tweaking your own process:

Which marketing activities are resulting in the most qualified leads?

How many contacts with a prospect do you need before you typically gain a new client?

Know your numbers.

But having a steady process means that even when things go wrong—and they often do—you’re not just flying on instinct. You did things based on your system and you can tweak it accordingly.

As of this writing, it’s not too late for the Dodgers to do the same!

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