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Proven Strategies Blog

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2020-11-20 • 20 second read

One of the strangest aspects of writing The Blue Square Method is discarding some of the notes I've accumulated over the years. Observations of the mindset of top fee for service professionals as well as the proven strategies and best practices we've developed along the way get captured, archived and eventually converted from one-offs into a flowing draft. And then they're gone. It's true that sometimes new beginnings involve letting go... 

2020-11-19 • 10 min video

Join Duncan as he provides actionable strategies to help you finish 2020 strong and position yourself for a great 2021! By focusing your efforts on the 20% clients who helped generate 80% of your business, and ratcheting up your service matrix, you will differentiate yourself from the crowd and convert clients into referral generating advocates.

WEBINAR INVITATION: Strategic Planning for 2021 – Dec 3rd at 2:10pm ET
Join Duncan for this actionable webinar, as he discusses the steps to take with your team to make a strategic plan an integral part of your business and an invaluable reference point that won’t be filed away and forgotten. Click here for complimentary registration 

Can't make it? Don't worry, register anyway and we will give you access to the recording.

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2020-11-18 • 20 second read

Ask readers to ask for something as part of your content call-to-action. Write a white paper and you create content that becomes a hook to a first interaction. This helps you sift out prospects from the mass of suspects.


2020-11-17 • 6 minute video

In this episode of the Blue Square Video series Duncan discusses how, when markets are under stress, opportunities to grow and refine your business exist for advisors who are proactive.

He also mentions how rewarding it is to hear from our past and current clients and the impact the work we have done together has impacted them and their business!

For access to videos, scripts and templates to help you be your clients’ voice of reason check out the Pareto Systems Knowledge Bank:

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2020-11-17 • 5 minute read

Controlling the Controllable

Market volatility, political uncertainty, competitive forces and various external dependencies are facts of life for a knowledge-for-profit professional.

It would be great if the world cooperated with our plans on a consistent basis, but that is not the way it is. Let’s face it; that’s why clients hire you. Friction and uncertainty come with the territory. Your ability to deal with this reality is a major factor that separates the best from the rest.

Strategic planning is the first step in focusing that ability. In many ways, strategic planning acts like the noise-canceling headphones I talked about earlier. As with your clients, there is a sea of noise competing for your attention, and the velocity and volume increases every year. A strategic planning process lets you tune out the static and improve the signal-to-noise ratio. This ensures that you focus on what matters - the things you have control over and that have real importance - so you can move in the direction of your vision for the future, relying less on hope and more on process. It gives you the guide you need to begin constructing something of greater value.

I’ll come back to the jigsaw analogy: Have you ever tried to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without the picture as a reference to guide you? It can be done through trial and error, but it takes far longer and is far more frustrating without a frame of reference. A personalized strategic plan serves as your guide as you put the pieces of both life and business together.

A strategic plan can help you make critical observations about the track you are on, based on the Law of Cause and Effect, to ensure that you’re engaged in the activities that contribute to your productivity goals. It can help you identify untapped opportunities and overlooked vulnerabilities, so you take action accordingly.

The key is to apply a process, and not go through that process in isolation. My approach to strategic planning is driven in large part by the gap analysis I discussed. Rather than a generic pep-talk that tells someone what they should be doing and has temporary value, I use a Socratic approach, asking a series of questions that act as a strategic analysis and a path to discovery and self-motivation. I’ve had countless exchanges with professionals over the years where our process leads them to their own conclusions about what really matters and how to make it all a reality.

As an example, I was speaking with a professional advisor recently as part of a strategic planning conversation. We were deep into a conversation on business development, client acquisition and on-boarding when we reached the following sequence of simple questions.

“Do your clients fully understand and appreciate your value?” I asked.

After a long pause, he replied with a tentative, “I think they do.”

I then asked him, “How do your clients describe you?”

“I have no idea, really. They probably say they trust and believe in me,” he said.

“What is your process to make your clients the voice you listen to in order to get the pulse on the effectiveness of your communications?” I asked.

To which he replied, “I don’t have one.”

It is common for professionals from all walks of life to drift into a pattern of sporadic client communication and assume that all is well - part of that inertia confidence I mentioned. While their approach isn’t necessarily bad per se, it certainly isn’t firing on all cylinders.

In the scenario I described, I brought the conversation to the tipping point a few questions later by asking about the advisor’s approach to on-boarding new clients. He proceeded to outline his method, which was fine, but which had several gaps. I then asked him why he did things the way he did, to which he replied, “That’s basically the way we’ve always done it.”

It is essential that you constantly scrutinize your procedures in order to optimize and refine how you do things. There is a place for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra, but when it comes to communication - especially as it relates to competitor-proofing clients, gaining their full empowerment as the relationship unfolds, and new client acquisition through referrals - you can’t take anything for granted.

You must continually strive to raise the bar, and to do that you need to know where you stand.

The advisor I just described is a classic example of someone with significant mileage and experience whose efforts compounded over time, but had brought him to a plateau. In many ways he was mistaking movement for achievement. He didn’t need to repair any damage, and he definitely didn’t need to make any drastic wholesale changes or reinvent the wheel. He simply needed to make some minor adjustments.

It’s not an exact science but I’ve seen time and time again how very successful advisors have done 80 percent of the necessary work on their business, but are only realizing about 20 percent of the reward. A few simple refinements are all that were needed to unlock the full potential.

Continued Success!

Contributed by: Duncan MacPherson

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2020-11-16 • 20 second read

As I take a break from The Blue Square Method, I went for a walk past a Steak House here on the ski hill that won't reopen for a couple of weeks, and I'm reminded of the best two minute video on sales created by Elmer Wheeler in the 1940's. One of his 5 principles was "Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle." Of course he was referring to the experience more than the thing itself.

In other words, it's not what your value is, it's what your value does. It's not what you do but what the client wants and how you get them there that matters. Your clients want, among other things, to achieve a work-optional lifestyle. To be liberated by financial independence to pursue all their aspirations. To go to work because they want to, not because they have to.

As I write this, I'm sitting here in our place in the mountains, I did a webinar in my makeshift "studio", a couple of calls and plugged away at a book. Pretty lucky. My team is humming along back at the office, my wife is holding down the fort and my kids are studying away. I bet it's only the dogs that noticed I'm gone. We're in an amazing era to be portable, flexible and have goals that seem so lofty and yet are attainable. So always remember the impact you can have on the lives of your clients.

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2020-11-13 • 20 sec

You can't want it more than they do. The idea of attracting anyone is all about an alignment of interests: It's all about a fit. You're not trying to convince someone to do something – they’re acknowledging fit.

This is one of the most important concepts we address with the advisors we work with, and that we follow ourselves at Pareto. Any professional that is interested in engaging with us, we take them through a fit process which includes gaining an understanding for our process, and our approach. These daily posts are a great starting point to see if there is an alignment between what we do, and what you are looking to achieve. We hope that some of these posts are having an impact on you and your business.

2020-11-12 • 6 minute video

You are at your highest level of refer-ability right now! Talking to your clients about what's going on right now helps them understand how strong your people, practice and process really are, and what it represents in terms of the value you provide.

To subscribe to Brian Westbury's Monday Morning Outlook, and other timely market commentary, head over to or contact your First Trust Wholesaler to learn more…

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2020-11-12 • 20 second read

As I chip away at The Blue Square Method, I take moments to think about books that have had an impact on me. Now that winter is here up in the mountains, Jim Rohn's book "The Seasons of Life" comes to mind. It's a great read because it gives perspective to the ebb and flow of life. Peaks and valleys are par for the course in any journey. When things are great, we're in the autumn harvest, but winter always follows autumn and we have to plan accordingly. And so it goes. I personally prefer summer but when we're in winter we have a choice to make - get through it or make the best of it. And of course we need the cold to appreciate the warm just as we need the dark to fully appreciate the light. 2020 has been bizarre to say the least (thanks Captain Obvious), just as some winters are more severe and drag on longer than others. I'm optimistic that in the not-so-distant future we are going to turn an incredible corner and head into an absolutely stellar spring and beyond.

There's nothing quite like blue sky after a storm.

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2020-11-11 • 20 second read

A few years ago our friends at Lavish Cards had the privilege of shooting Renee and Justin’s wedding ceremony on Justin’s grandparents’ farm, where he had been raised, followed by a beautiful toast given by Justin’s grandfather, standing on his tractor, surrounded by wildflowers and poppies. A spectacular sea of thousands of beautiful little poppies glowing in the afternoon sun. The perfect backdrop. The groom told Lavish his grandfather would be very happy that we’d used this field on their wedding day, since he’d been instrumental in Justin’s upbringing, and was a World War II veteran. His grandfather had toured Europe years after the war and visited the places he’d been during that difficult time. While he was in Flanders he collected some poppy seeds and brought them home and scattered them on the family homestead in remembrance, and they have flourished.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month countries around the world will recognize the sacrifices made by people like Justin’s grandfather.
It will be Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day. But we will never forget that a poppy by any other name will be as sweet, because it symbolizes love and sacrifice. Not surprisingly, these are two vital ingredients in a successful marriage…

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