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Learning to let go

Liz DeCarlo

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Laying to rest unnecessary tasks increases Genier's time and helps with compliance.
Claude Gagnon

Danielle J. Genier, CLU, CFP, is planning a funeral and she’s pretty excited, especially about the funeral luncheon. She’ll serve tea sandwiches and a cake decorated with candles — lots of candles — each one with a special meaning for Genier or a member of her team.

“The funeral is for all the items we’ve let go this year,” said Genier, a 20-year MDRT member from Timmins, Ontario, Canada. “For every item we let go, we’re going to light a candle on the cake.”

Within the past year or so, Genier’s team has done some reshuffling. Between promotions and job reassignments, it became clear it was time to ask her staff to look carefully at every task they performed. They were encouraged to find some to let go of, even if it meant mourning the death of a longstanding process.

“Sometimes we do things just because we’ve always done them,” said Genier, who asks her team to take a close look at their work on an annual basis. “It takes somebody nudging us or challenging us to see what we can let go.”

Genier, who has been an advisor for 30 years, specializes in employee benefits and working with business owners who are about 10 years from retirement. She is principal of Genier Financial Services and employs a client-service advisor and four administrative staff members.

Since August 2017, Genier has let go of or delegated 30 tasks. She used to get weekly values of investments printed for her. Now she has a reminder to review these on screen once a week. She delegated the organization of two of the firm’s quarterly meetings to an associate advisor.

Look at new tasks

When possible, Genier also looks at new potential processes ahead of time, and does research to see if the additional work is necessary and valuable. For instance, in 2016 when they began moving to online client files, she wasn’t sure how far back to go in scanning the years of paper files.

To assess how often they accessed these files, all the boxes were placed in a room in the basement. “We made a list on the door and noted how many times we went in there,” Genier said. It turned out they rarely entered the room, averaging once a month at the most.

“It made us realize it wasn’t worth the time and money to go back and scan everything,” she said. The files are still in the basement to maintain compliance, but the decision to not scan every single piece of paper was validated. 

Sometimes we do things just because we’ve always done them. It takes somebody nudging us or challenging us to see what we can let go.

Document everything

Genier began her career doing administrative work in a high-volume office for an employee benefits company. The only way to stay on top of the workload was to be extremely organized and develop processes.

Years later, as a business owner, Genier brought that hands-on understanding of processes to her staff. She hired a business-solutions consultant to look at the overall business. “One of the things she identified was that we had a lot of processes, but we didn’t have them written down,” Genier said.

That led to a process for documenting processes. For each task a team member works on — for example the processing of an investment application — they document it from beginning to end. The documentation has to be detailed enough, Genier said, that if the employee were hit by a car tomorrow, another staff member could step in and complete the work.

After they write out their process, it’s reviewed by another staff member. “Someone who has never done it before will take the written instructions and actually do the work,” Genier said.

Genier is also planning to select a time in the upcoming year, when things are slower in the office, to have her staff switch jobs for a week to test processes.

Increasing compliance

One of the biggest reasons for the emphasis on organization and processes is to maintain compliance, Genier said. They have a process for compliance that is written out and completed electronically. She holds quarterly meetings, where they spend about 30 minutes reviewing rules that have changed. At the end, the team takes a short quiz to ensure everyone understands the new regulations.

She has been through spontaneous audits, and has requested audits herself. “We’re willing to put ourselves out there and be audited to make sure we’re doing right by everybody involved,” she said. “It’s to protect our clients and protect ourselves. How else do we know? It’s a learning opportunity.

“Does compliance scare me? Absolutely,” Genier said. “We’ve been through a few audits. To me they’re a way to learn. If we have to do something, let’s change it. Because things are forever ever-changing.”

CONTACT: Danielle Genier danielle.genier@genierfinancial.com

 

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