Guided Planning Has Two Preliminary Steps

Advisors Take Note

There are two questions that must be asked before planning is possible.

The two appeared in a recent Harvard Business Review article by coach Peter Bregman. Many know too much about the value of what they do and too little about the people they do it with.

Question #1 Do you want to do better?

How many projects are carried out a great cost in time and sometimes money to discover later that the person has no intention of implementing. In my experience of succession plans and estate plans, not more than 60% are implemented. If the person does not want to do better, there is little point in the investment.

Question #2 Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and won’t work right away?

Change is a necessary outcome from planning. If it were not, why would anyone bother? As I have discussed before, change is painful and people must be committed to doing the things required. The difficulty of change is not something to underestimate.

Advisors have duties

Many think having the technical skill and the network resources to carry out a planning engagement, they are finished with contributions. They are not. The key additional factors are two.


No plan of this sort is easy to understand. Most rely on arcane tax and family law factors. Some have a finance element. A few are health dependent. All plans have people with conflicting points of view and interests.

A skilled advisor must be prepared to spend time and resources to make the plan easier to understand. Some plans should have visual effects, some want tables of numbers. Others want the source of the reasoning, while other people want to know who else is doing this. Some people want a friend and the plan is the connection.

There may be both written and oral presentations.

Following commitment from the client there will be a layer of communication with other advisors and interested parties. Partners, banks, extended family.


If clients do not implement any significant part of the time, who shall bear the blame? Clients may not like change and may not do it because of that, but they will almost certainly not accept that as their failing. They will see it as an advisor problem.

Motivation includes many parts:

  1. Connect to clients purpose, hopes, fears, and expectations. Start with purpose and develop answers to the “W” questions.
  2. Help the client clarify conflicts and voids in their thinking
  3. Agree on the refined purpose
  4. Select tactics, tools and techniques.
  5. Present from two points of view. 1) why the tactic is a good choice compared to other choices., and 2) how it attaches specifically and clearly to the clients purpose
  6. Get a decision or revisit the tactical choices if client objects
  7. Assist with implementation.
  8. Review as times change.

Moving Forward

Advisors must clarify the purpose of the engagement before going too far. If they can’t get an early buy-in to the idea of planning, education and motivation become the first path.

Be unwilling to carry out much work without a buy-in decision.

I help business owners, professionals, and others understand and manage risk and other financial issues. To help them achieve their goals, I use tax efficiencies and design advantages to acquire more efficient income and larger, more liquid estates.

In previous careers, I have been a partner in a large, international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you. 705-927-4770

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