Most of us became independent financial planners because we wanted the freedom to serve others in the way that best fits our values, personality, and goals for the future. We wanted to provide a high level of service and develop deep relationship with those we worked with, all while building a seven-figure incomes so we could give our families the best life possible. Fortunately, the nature of the business allows for all of this if it’s done correctly. Unfortunately, it can also encroach on many of your personal and professional boundaries if you’re not clear on what these are and how to maintain them. Are you struggling to create and maintain healthy boundaries with your clients? Here are some common areas where I see this happening:
Do your clients call or text you at ten o’clock at night on a Saturday? Or do they stay in your office for hours, dumping all of their personal problems on you and causing you to be unprepared for your next client? These are both examples of communication boundaries. You want to provide your clients with top-notch customer service, but you don’t want them to dictate when, where, and how long you communicate with each other.
How much responsibility to take for your clients and their successes or failures is a fine line to walk as a fiduciary. If you take too little responsibility, you come off as uncaring or disconnected. If you take too much, it can start creating an unhealthy co-dependent relationship and interfere with your personal life or relationships with other clients. Remember, your job is to ensure your clients are on the best financial path possible to reach their goals. You are not their mother, priest, psychotherapist, or best friend.
If you create the right kind of business, you’ll attract many clients who you really enjoy being around. You will probably like chatting with them, will get to know their families, and will start to think of them as more than just clients. However, this does not mean you should invite them over to your home for the holidays or meet them after work for a drink every Friday. When clients cross the line and become friends, it introduces a whole host of potential problems that can negatively affect your business.
Establishing Healthy Boundaries
As a true fiduciary, you will act as a counselor as well as a financial advisor for your clients, and this can involve some inevitable boundary violations on both sides of the table. If you are communicative, emotionally agile, and know yourself well, though, you can navigate these boundaries in a healthy manner. Here are some tips on how to do so.
Know Your Priorities and Values Before you can communicate your boundaries, you have to know what they are. Take some time to sit down and write them out. They should be based on both your values and your priorities and be as detailed as possible. While you may never actually share these written priorities with anyone else, it’s vital that you do this for yourself so you can clearly define them in your own head.
Be Honest You can’t expect your clients to know what your boundaries are if you don’t communicate them in an honest and straightforward manner. This is a good conversation to have during your discovery meetings and before you really start working together. That way, if your boundaries don’t sit well with potential clients, they have the option of choosing a different advisor.
Address Boundary Violations Immediately So you told your client you don’t take business calls on weekends and he spent all day Saturday sending your more and more frantic texts to get in touch with him immediately. Now what? It’s best to address this (or any) boundary violation immediately. Explain what the action was, why it violated a boundary, and how you’d like to handle a similar situation in the future.
You can and should develop deep relationships with your clients that will endure throughout the years. However, if you don’t create healthy boundaries, you can easily find yourself losing focus, getting off track on your goals, and experiencing an imbalance in your work and personal life. By establishing, communicating, and enforcing your boundaries with clients, you can create a business you’re proud of while still maintaining personal integrity.
Have questions or a comment about establishing boundaries as a fiduciary? Please leave them below!
When you become a mentor to your clients, deeply understand them, and guide them toward a better future, then you’ve learned the ways of a financial caregiver. You’ve come to know what it means to be a true purveyor of advice, and how to use money as a conduit to a more fulfilling life for yourself and those you serve.