The Bucket List

A great movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman follows two men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket,” otherwise known as a “bucket list,” from which the movie gets its title.As an advisor, you listen closely to what your clients truly want out of life. A great question to ask your clients is, “What’s on YOUR bucket list?” You may be surprised with some of the amazing things people share. I suggest you document each client’s answers, and on occasion ask your client if any of the things they shared have been “crossed off” their bucket list. If their answer is “yes,” ask them to share a little bit about the experience.

As an advisor, you listen closely to what your clients truly want out of life. A great question to ask your clients is, “What’s on YOUR bucket list?” You may be surprised with some of the amazing things people share. I suggest you document each client’s answers, and on occasion ask your client if any of the things they shared have been “crossed off” their bucket list. If their answer is “yes,” ask them to share a little bit about the experience.Now, here’s the fun part: Ask them if they would allow you to feature them in an article in the section of your monthly newsletter called THE BUCKET LIST! (Get their permission in the form of an email so that you have

Now, here’s the fun part: Ask them if they would allow you to feature them in an article in the section of your monthly newsletter called THE BUCKET LIST! (Get their permission in the form of an email so that you have record of it.) Tell them that you love to feature clients living life to the fullest and following their dreams! Ask if they would share a few pictures of the event to accompany the article.

Even if you send your newsletter using email, I would still send some hardcopies to your clients to share with friends or family who do not use email on a regular basis. Rest assured, your clients will most likely share the email as well as the hardcopies with friends, family, and co-workers.

Congratulations…You have just gotten your information into the hands of new prospects!

You might even consider giving your clients a DVD of the movie “The Bucket List” as a thank you for their participation in your newsletter feature.

Are You on Track for Retirement? Your Personal Super Bowl Sunday…

With the New Year comes new opportunities, changes, and reflection. I think I am correct in saying that most people work with the hope of someday being able to retire. Building your practice in the hopes of retirement is similar to NFL coaches planning for their football season. The success of their entire year is based upon making it to that final championship game…Super Bowl Sunday. This is no easy task, as we all know. Coaches constantly reevaluate their approach and coaching decisions in response to unforeseen roadblocks, such as player injuries, poor player or coaching performance, opponent strengths, game plans, and adjustments, game location weather, etc. They continually tweak their playbook to overcome these obstacles.

Have you reviewed your playbook lately? Are you on track to meet your ultimate goal of retirement? At least once a year, take the time to conduct an audit of your business, just as you would a client review. Make sure that your current business model is in line with achieving your goal. Retirement is a moving target, so you need to ensure that you annually review your income stream, business expenses, client relationships, and overall office productivity. Allow for any tweaks you may need to make. Look to see if you find any pitfalls or opportunities for improvement and, if so, identify what those are. What would be your adjustments? Is your retirement time horizon still the same? What about your business risk tolerance? Are you able to handle market changes, like football coaches plan for the weather? Take advantage of this time to also review (or create, if you haven’t already) your company’s mission and vision statements. Are they still accurate? These are very important questions to ask yourself to ensure the successful achievement of your goal…Retirement. The New Year presents the perfect opportunity to do this.

Have you thought about these questions? We have, and we welcome those conversations….

‘Tis the Season for Giving…Corporate Responsibility and Charity Selection

‘Tis the Season for Giving…Corporate Responsibility and Charity Selection

The holidays have a way of bringing out the generosity in people. As a business owner, showing your generosity is a form of corporate responsibility. But with all of the possible charities to support, how do you identify the right one for you and your company to help?

The outline below can assist you in making a charity decision that is close to your heart.

  • Choose a cause that you are passionate about.
  • Many different people are in need, so finding the perfect charity starts with identifying a cause that is important to you. Around the holidays, many focus on children in need, or protecting homeless people from the cold. Others focus on supporting research for curing a terminal illness, or giving a vet the holiday they deserve. Think about your life. When you watch commercials or the news, what issues bring a tear to your eye? Looking at your friends and family, what challenge has affected them most? Listen to your heart and draw from your own experience to determine a cause that really hits you deeply and personally.
  • Decide how you would like to support your cause.
  • Now that you know which cause you want to support, decide HOW you would like to donate. Are you going to fundraise and donate money? Are you providing your time by giving your service to others? Will you be physically available, like working at a food bank – or financially available, through writing a check? Do you have a special skill, like knitting, that you can draw upon to create blankets and hats for the homeless? Do you have time you can spend standing in front of a store to ring a bell for donations? Decide how you are most likely able to help before you choose the specific charity you will support.
  • Select the geographic area you would like to impact.
  • Many charitable organizations, near and far, are available for support. If you are donating to help research a cure for a disease, will you be donating to a national organization such as the American Cancer Society? Or would you prefer helping closer to home, such as providing for a local family affected by this particular disease? Would you like to create gift packages to send to troops overseas, or bring care packages for local vets to your city’s veteran’s hospital? Deciding on geographic impact will make a big difference in your charitable giving decision.
  • Conduct research and select your charity.
  • Thousands of charities vie for our support, and the process of finding the best charity for you to support could be overwhelming. The steps above should help you wean out many charities that do not apply to your cause or your intentions. Even after taking those steps, you may still find the list of charities available to be lengthy. Making a final decision can be tough. Nearer to home, you may want to contact community organizations (as one example, Goodfellows), local food banks, or soup kitchens. Many local groups gather lists of families you could specifically support, or provide food and/or shelter for those in need. Taking a broader view, check out websites such as or These sites will allow you to better understand your options. On those sites, you can find lists to review, such as “Top 10” and “Charities to Avoid.” These websites also provide statistics about charitable organizations, including how much they spend on overhead expenses and salaries.

*Helpful Tips: Choose a charity with a 90% donation rate or greater. Several popular charities, including some widely known organizations, tend to have a lower donation rate (often in the 80% range, or even lower) because they use many of the dollars they earn for fundraising and administrative expenses rather than for the cause you want to support. This fact is something to be aware of when choosing the right charity for you.

Regardless of the charity you decide to assist, we commend you for making the decision to give. We hope that this outline for choosing your charity is helpful, and makes your decision a little less stressful.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Parkland Securities!

Have you thought about your corporate responsibility? We have…

How Effective is Your Customer Service?

How Effective is Your Customer Service?

You may think that you are doing everything you can to achieve good customer service. You are cordial; you send out a monthly newsletter; you even send your clients a box of chocolates for Christmas as a reminder of how much you appreciate them.

Are there some aspects of your customer service that you could do better? Test yourself on these five customer service points that you may not be utilizing to their full advantage:

  • Are you pleasant on the phone, each and every time you speak to someone?

It may seem easy to pick up the phone and greet your customer in a kind tone, but have you ever just had a bad day, and let it show in your voice? This can become an issue. Some clients only speak to you sporadically. If you are having a bad day on that ONE day that they call you, your tone could be the difference in keeping a client or losing a client (and possibly referrals). If you are having a bad day, the best advice we can give is when your phone rings, take a breath, and start smiling before you answer.  Always smile when speaking with a customer, even over the phone. When you smile while talking on the phone, you will sound much happier and more cordial than your mood would otherwise produce.

  • Do you return all phone calls?

We all have that one customer who tries our patience…a frequent caller who may be rude or long-winded. You may think that not returning that client’s phone call is not important. Think again. Every customer has the ability to refer other clients to you. If you are not answering their phone calls, why would they refer their friends or coworkers to you? Although answering the phone each time/every time is not usually an option, calling your clients back (in a reasonable time) is.

  • Are you listening and responding to client recommendations?

Whether it is a suggestion or a compliment, take all client recommendations seriously. With a suggestion, most people feel they are helping you out. If a client says that you take too long to return their calls, pull them into a discussion to see how you can better meet their expectations. Thank them for their input and then put an action plan together and include them in your outcome. This will show you care, you are listening, and you want to make them happy. When you receive a compliment, acknowledge it graciously. People who seek you out to compliment you are sincerely want you know they appreciate you. Take advantage of it. Send them a card thanking them for everything they do. Post their complimentary letter on your wall so they can see how much you appreciate their kind words (if compliance allows it). Show your clients that they matter, that you hear them, and that you appreciate their responses – good or otherwise.

  • If you can, are you offering more than what the job calls for?

Many issues can be resolved from a simple Google search. If you do not typically provide services that your client is asking for, try to assist them in finding a solution. Explain that you are not able to provide a specific service, but then look up possible solutions / providers to help them. Can they do this research themselves? Sure they can. But putting in a little bit of effort to help them solve their problem can go a long way toward building your relationship. This effort shows how much you care…that you take their problems seriously, regardless if that problem directly involves you. Providing this service shows you are willing to take five extra minutes out of your day to give them the help that they need.

  • Do you over-explain?

Many people come to you because you offer a service that they do not know how to handle themselves. You know an entire industry that they may not have any clue about. Rather than assuming that your clients have “common sense” industry knowledge, offer up that knowledge. Many miscommunications happen when you assume that the client knows something that you believe is common knowledge. They can always come back and say, “Well you didn’t tell me that.” Don’t let that happen. Explain every aspect of each situation, and make sure that when your client leaves your office, they are confident about the conversation that they just had with you. If a client is coming into your office to discuss their retirement, explain the differences between Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Simple IRA, 401(k) or 403(b), etc. Your client may not, in fact, know exactly what they are coming in to see you about. They may think that they want one thing, but they look to you to know what they actually want. By over-explaining all of their options, they may realize that they actually need something different than they thought they originally wanted. They will appreciate your services so much more if you take the time to explore every option and over-explain different options for them.

You may think that your customer service is top-notch…that your customers have never criticized…and your business is doing very well. But imagine if you take the time to bring your service one step further by incorporating some of the steps above. Could you have saved one client who left? Could you acquire one new referral? Each option above is completely doable and 100% free. The only challenge is tweaking your approach to recognize that you could do a little more for your clients.

Are you thinking about all aspects of your client service? We are….

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