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Tighten Up Your Time Management – Four Tips for the New Year

Jan 11th 2012
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By Liz Gold

Michael Goodman CPA, CFP, PFS, has always been sensitive to time management. 

A year after starting his New York–based business, Wealthstream Advisors Inc. – a financial planning and investment firm that works with clients who have $1 million or more in assets – Goodman took a personal productivity class that has influenced the way he conducts his days.

That was nearly sixteen years ago, and since then, Goodman has been creating and systemizing his procedures and checklists to well-oil his services.

"We're very customized and personal in what we do, but we have a process for everything", Goodman said. "Everything is routine-oriented. This decreases the chances of something dropping off the plate . . . and increases our time efficiency."

Goodman, who also owns Clarity Investments + Planning LLC (a firm focused on clients with $50,000 to $1 million in assets), is an active member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). He has chaired the annual AICPA Advanced Personal Financial Planning Conference for the last four years (this year's will take place January 15-18), and he plays leadership roles on the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission and the Investment Committee. 

Similar to many CPAs, he's busy. Time management can be like a New Year's resolution – you start out with good intentions but there's always room for improvement when the going gets tough.

For Goodman, four solid time management strategies keep him on track: 

Know when to delegate

"Your time shouldn't be spent doing anything other than your highest competencies", Goodman said. But there are exceptions – Goodman prefers to book his own travel. To keep things in order, every week Goodman sits down with two of his team members who play critical roles in his firm. While he is the primary contact and ultimate decision maker for all of his 120 clients, the day-to-day work is divided and delegated to those two staff members. An hour is designated each week when the three of them go through the complete client list, talk about any open items, review updates on each, and discuss anything that's happening in the market that might affect them. As part of his weekly routine, he also talks with his director of operations as a way to stay on top of all open projects and deadlines.

Know when to say no

Most of us know this is a lot easier said than done. "You have to stick to what you do well and learn how to say no to people", said Goodman, who typically turns down "one-off" jobs. Recently, he was contacted by a divorce attorney who wanted his firm to go through a client's expenses for the last three years to use for a lifestyle analysis – a job that's within his firm's skill set but is time consuming and, ultimately, not in his realm of services. Though it was difficult to turn down the revenue, it was more difficult for Goodman to turn down the attorney. "Because it’s not something we do, it's not really efficient for us or the client. Also, our revenue is 99 percent investment assets. We don't run a volume practice, we run a really concentrated practice, and we stick with our model and turn down clients that don't fit what we're trying to do", said Goodman. That also means ceasing to accommodate clients who call regularly looking to deviate from the firm's investing philosophy. "What I’ve learned is, it's bad business and bad time management when working with clients who don't fit our process. Somewhere along the line, they're probably going to make a mistake because it's not what you're doing and it's not your expertise."

Set goals and be proactive

A long-lasting effect of that early time management class was addressing what he wanted to accomplish over a long period of time, breaking those goals up into smaller steps and taking action. For Goodman, those goals move forward with the ability to be proactive. It's easy to be pulled off track by an e-mail or phone call, and then the priority list for the day becomes tainted. "You're never going to be very successful in getting things done if that’s how you operate", he said. "You have to shut things off." An hour is budgeted into Goodman's calendar every day for phone calls and his big time sucker, e-mails. Even though that may not be enough time, at least he knows that time is blocked out for that reason. He keeps up with his favorite blogs and Twitter feed, either on his hour-long commute or over lunch. 

Let technology make it easier

Goodman has been using a customer relationship management (CRM) system since he opened his doors in 1996. First it was Sage ACT and now it's Junxure, created specifically for financial advisors. Aside from preparing to-do lists and managing all client information and deadlines, the system offers an FYI feature that informs someone in the firm if a change has been made to a certain contact. "If a client calls us with a new address, that kicks off a number of steps. As soon as we do step one and click done, step two kicks up. We're very systemized", said Goodman. Goodman's office is also paperless by using the document management system Worldox. "It's not anything new, but it's really powerful for us, and that saves a ton of time."

Liz Gold owns Rhino Girl Media, offering writing and editing services to companies of all sizes. A published journalist for sixteen years, Liz writes about business and culture. She can be reached at [email protected].

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