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Client Execution: a Time to Plan, and a Time to Act

By Joel Redmond, CFP

“Lights…camera…planning!”

This isn’t the way we envision Hollywood, is it? Yet the way we often deal with clients, and the science of our profession in general, seems to be thoroughly imbued with a tendency to analyze, vivisect, examine, and consider – but not always the more important tendency to compel, persuade, and influence clients to take action. 

There is virtue in planning – the reason we undertake it is because we need to know the consequences of our recommendations and alternatives, before we tell clients they should accept them. But history doesn’t reward the best planners based on their plans alone. Storied Notre Dame football coach Vince Lombardi would astonish his players, colleagues, and fans when he would hand the opposing team his playbook prior to the game. When asked why he would do something that seemed so patently foolish, Lombardi famously said, “It’s not the planning – it’s the execution.

Listen to this again: It’s not the planning – it’s the execution.

Operation Overlord

Nowhere is this truer than in war. Operation Overlord was one of the master strokes of military planning in the history of the 20th century, and probably in all of world history. This operation began with a 12,000-plane air assault on Nazi-occupied Norman beaches, followed by 7,000 amphibious vessels transporting 166,000 Allied troops on 6 June 1944. By 25 August of the same year, Allied forces had grown to over 3 million throughout France. The operation had two phases. The goal of Phase I was to find a base on French soil from whence the Allied forces could launch assaults; the specific targets were the capture of Cherbourg and the development of an airfield in Caen. The goal of Phase II was to enlarge the area seized in Phase I to include all of the Brittany peninsula, all ports south to the Seine, and the country between the Loire and the Seine.*

The plan worked, the territory was seized, and the war was won. But it wasn’t the plan that saved France, Europe, and the Western world. It was the Allied forces’ execution of the plan. Now…imagine if this master plan had never been enacted, enacted in a halfhearted or ramshackle manner, or worse, put off indefinitely for fear of conditions not being perfect. Imagine if the ones tasked with carrying out the plan were untrained or derelict in their duties, or had lacked the proper drill and training to perform those duties immediately and fully. Our world might be very different.

A  2013 Goal for Financial Planners 

We cannot claim to have stakes as high as this in our daily interactions with our clients. We aren’t evaluating enemy troop movements, making plays for arms caches or prisoner exchanges, or undertaking actions that may be directly measurable in number of human lives saved. But, in a real sense, we do have miniature “Overlord” moments with those we’re charged with. We can help them improve their lives financially, and in doing so, indirectly improve the lives of those they then choose to help. We can help them prepare for the dramatic changes that impend on the political, economic, and tax landscape. We can free them from the immobilizing fear that grips so many of them, and help them “take Omaha Beach.” We can make them believe in a better future, and that the dreams of their parents, and their parents’ parents, grow a bit nearer their grasp with everything we do for them.

We can help our clients to take action. This is what we expect to hear when we’re behind the scenes, and we see the players play.

Make it your resolution to help your clients digest your assiduously-prepared advisements this upcoming year, and to then act on them. Encourage them to consider the eloquence of Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century British Prime Minister: “Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.”

*Source: http://www.history.army.mil/documents/WWII/g4-OL/g4-ol.htm

**Information not intended as individual legal or investment advice.

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