Advisor Business Planning

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now" – Alan Lakein

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now" – Alan Lakein

Why write a business plan?

If you have specific goals in mind, you may question the point of putting them down on paper. After all, strategies can change. But even if you need to modify your approach, the process of putting your ideas in writing is invaluable. A documented business plan provides clarity, focus for future initiatives, and can help you navigate potential roadblocks.

It's also a great opportunity to educate your team about your vision. They can see where their roles fit and how they can help you achieve your goals.

Creating a plan now will create foresight and strategies that last well into your business’ future.

What’s in a business plan?

Your business plan acts as your roadmap of where your business is heading, and how you plan to get there. The key elements to include are a vision statement, a SWOT analysis, and a marketing plan.

Vision statement

Your vision is the foundation of your business and a tool to guide your team. Top advisors can describe their business in five years. They know their revenue targets, the size of their team, and their ideal clients. They’ve considered the balance of work and home life and where they’ll excel as a dominant player.

Put your vision in writing and display it prominently for your team. A strong sense of direction will make it easier to identify activities that lead your business forward, and those that don’t.

SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

Take a close look at your business. What are you doing well? What weaknesses do you need to eliminate? What opportunities exist? What are some threats to your success? Remember that strengths and weaknesses are factors operating inside your business, and opportunities and threats are factors outside your business that can affect your success.

Using insights from your SWOT analysis, identify any issues you need to address and what actions you’ll take over the following year to solve for them.

Marketing plan

Get specific about the clients and prospects you want to target using the SMART marketing methodology: select, market, affiliate, respond, and trigger.

You can start by selecting your ideal client profile, whether that’s based on account size, level of future opportunity, behavioural attitudes or preferences, or demographic profile. Next, identify the best ways to market to them. Choose topics to affiliate with them – something that will motivate them to build their relationship with you and that demonstrates the values and characteristics that differentiate you. Plan how you’ll respond to their needs based on a client segmentation model, while prioritizing the clients who will ultimately generate referrals for your business.

Access your copy of our Business Plan Template today.

Review your business

Schedule two hours a week for yourself when you won’t pick up the phone or check emails. Treat this scheduled time to work on your business as you would a formal appointment. Remember, the return on this investment may be greater than any task you might otherwise have accomplished.

During this time, look at your key business activities and how they can be refined to yield greater results – such as saving time, or engaging with clients more often. You need to be consistent by repeating best practices but also consider what the key ratios are for your business. How do you currently allocate your time? Do you have enough prospects coming in? How often are you scheduling client meetings?

It's important to execute on a proven process. Keep working to increase your prospect numbers, but also reflect on the ones who didn’t become clients. It’s not just about making a big sale, but rather, how to attract a steady flow of potential clients. Focus on:

  • addressing any knowledge gaps,
  • generating leads,
  • identifying business opportunities, and
  • reviewing your business and marketing plan.

Involve your team

The success of your business is rooted in team effort and engagement. You’ll want to make sure everyone understands your plan and the metrics needed to track progress, and know what activities they’re responsible for executing. When you acknowledge the value your team brings to the table, you empower them to support your long-term business goals. Review goals each quarter as a team and assess your progress. This is an opportunity to address challenges, refocus and make adjustments.

Consult a coach or advisory board

Working with a business coach is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business. A business coach works with you to elevate your business by helping you analyze challenges, build strengths and identify which best practices to focus on. Follow these three steps to find the right coach for your business:

1. Explore your options

  • Visit various coaching websites or consult with your Sun Life relationship manager to find out who you might like to work with.

2. Take advantage of self-paced learning opportunities

  • Many coaching websites offer free resources, tools, templates and newsletters.

3. Find the right fit

  • Most coaches offer a complimentary introductory session to explain their programs and process. Interview two or three, then consider the best option for your goals and budget.

What would I do if I were a financial advisor?

A perspective from Wayne Miller, BMATH, ASA, ACIA
AVP, Marketing and Business Development, Sun Life


As an outside observer, I’ve looked for common trends to understand what differentiates top-performing advisors, and have come to the conclusion that success in our business doesn’t correlate much with effort, brains, geography, luck or even personality. Instead, success depends on your paradigm – the mindset with which you approach your work. The vast majority (I estimate as high as 90%) of advisors operate within what the Covenant Group refers to as the Sales paradigm. These advisors focus on selling products using their natural charisma, and repeating that process as many times as humanly possible. Over time, they run out of hours in the day to grow their business further. On the other hand, a small number of advisors (I estimate as few as 1%) see themselves as running a business. In this paradigm, advisors have a solid marketing plan in place and spend time planning out their business activities and vision so their team can help them execute.

I estimate that advisors in the Business paradigm generate 100 times more revenue than those in the Sales paradigm.  So why not just adopt this business owner mindset?  I believe advisors don’t know how to get started on the evolution, and they don’t want to commit the time or effort. Likely the underlying reason is that they’re achieving some level of success already and don’t want to change their ways. 


It takes some work and it helps if you have a template to work from that includes your vision, mission, brand foundation, analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) as well as your value proposition, Client segmentation and annual marketing plan. Creating this type of business plan is a pretty big step. I know from experience that it is far too big a first step for most advisors.

A smaller first step is to create an annual marketing plan to bring together your various marketing initiatives or tactics aimed at influencing each of your audiences.  A simple marketing plan should summarize your goals by segment, outline a clear budget, and provide a brief description of each tactic and implementation time frame. The challenge with a marketing plan is that to be most impactful, you need to have a clear idea of your strategy,  you must be willing to invest some money, and if you tend to be more analytical than imaginative, there needs to be a creative mind in the room.

To get started on the journey from the Sales to Business paradigm, I suggest financial advisors invest some time in what I like to call ‘the day that will change your life’


Start by leaving your office for one full day without picking up the phone or checking emails. Remind yourself that the return on this one-day investment will be greater than the return on any task you would have otherwise accomplished at work. Invite all team members to join. Find a facilitator to stay on task. Perhaps even hire a coach.

During this day, there are 4 things to accomplish:

8:30 – 10:00 AM: Segment your Clients

Start by defining segments of Clients.  There are lots of ways to do this but I typically see 3 segments: 1) your most profitable – the segment you want to grow; 2) the Clients with future potential – those whose careers or businesses are growing; and 3) the rest – the ones with little further business potential but you want to retain.

Assign each existing Client to one of these segments by seeking input from the team.

10:00 – 12 NOON: Create a content sharing plan

Any business coach is going to recommend sharing articles with your Clients on a regular basis. Be selective. If you send too many, Clients will stop reading them. However, if each one is very compelling and informative and the frequency is appropriate, the likelihood of the articles being read is greatly improved.

Assign the task of compiling an inventory of excellent content to one person on your team. Sun Life alone produces more than enough content to keep you going for a while. I’d likely choose to send out content on a monthly basis and vary the method of distribution by segment. Some will prefer email and others, hardcopy.  And today, leveraging social media may be the best route to go. Your Clients will be impressed to review content via your LinkedIn connection, for example.

1:00 – 2:30 PM: Plan your Client referral seminar calendar

Design a program where your best Clients can learn more about how you can help them.  And encourage them to bring a friend.  Deliver some sessions yourself, but also leverage the skills and expertise of people on your greater ‘team’ who want you to succeed, such as lawyers and accountants.  Be selective about picking the best topics and speakers, introduce them in an engaging way, and plan for the full year.

As with the content sharing plan, vary the approach by segment. Your most profitable Client segment in particular would receive the white glove treatment.  In fact, I employ this approach very effectively through what I call Thought Leadership events.

2:30 – 3:30 PM: Plan your annual appreciation efforts

Once per year, host an appreciation event for your top Clients. It could be dinner with a keynote speaker.  It may be a festive holiday function. It may even involve an over-night stay at a quaint Inn. The point is for your most profitable Clients to feel appreciated, to stick with you, and to refer you more often.


You will have a high level plan for the year and you’ll have the groundwork against which to bring in more creative marketing ideas and initiatives if you so choose. Your team will be engaged, and your leadership will be appreciated by most. You’ll have a defined set of goals, and a clear strategy on how to achieve them.  As challenges present themselves throughout the year, you should re-engage the team to address them. You will gain a better understanding of what your Clients like and how to connect with them. If you’re willing to do the work, you’ll be in business.

About Wayne Miller, BMATH, ASA, ACIA

Wayne is deeply passionate about helping advisors grow and achieve their goals.  Often referred to as one of the industry’s thought leaders, he is driven by his great respect for the crucially important work advisors do every day in giving Clients priceless peace of mind. Wayne joined Sun Life in 1990 in the individual pricing area and has since held a number of positions of increasing responsibility in the areas of product, marketing and distribution. He’s published white papers on Par as an Asset Class and Insurance for the Affluent and is known as an agent for change amongst successful insurance advisors across Canada. Wayne’s mandate encompasses professional development, market growth programs and practice management. In concert, these areas of concentration will raise the brand of the financial services industry, making Wayne’s reinvigorated vision a reality:  to lead a thriving movement that inspires a meaningful legacy for every Canadian – because they understand and respect the financial services industry and the advisors that serve within it.

Get your toolkit to create effect client meetings.

Get your toolkit

Ask your Sun Life relationship manager for access to the Business Plan Template to create your written plan.

Build an agenda for productive meetings using the Meeting Template