Thompson’s Life After Next Level About Quality, Not Quantity
A naturally gifted organizer, Janice Thompson found her passion in 1992 after receiving her own financial plan from an advisor. Having a direction for her financial future inspired her so much, she asked the advisor if she could work for him for free to learn the process herself – even though she already had a full-time marketing job.
Within a few years, the advisor did hire her, and she acquired her industry experience and licenses. Seven years later she had saved enough money to open her own fee-based practice. She worked from her home for 18 months, then hired her first employee and moved her practice, Strategic Financial Solutions, to downtown San Diego. In 2003, she joined Securities America.
Thompson’s passion to share financial planning with as many clients as possible helped her practice grow. By the time she signed up for Securities America’s Next Level Coaching Program in 2008, she had an eclectic book of business with no focus.
“I had created a monster I could no longer control,” she said. “I had no quality of life. I knew I would grow; it was just a question of whether it would be manageable growth. Because Next Level pays the advisor a bonus equal to the tuition and travel costs if you bring in $10 million in new assets, it was really a no-risk proposition for me.”
Thompson, who graduated from the first Next Level class in 2009, achieved her bonus but said she gained so much more – clarity of her business model, improved client service structure, and a much better quality of life for everyone in her firm.
“Next Level helped me define who I was and who I was not,” she said. “I could no longer do everything with excellence so I had to focus on what I could do well and then figure out how to deliver it in a consistent manner. Because we are now much more proactive rather than reactive with our clients, we are seeing a much higher level of satisfaction. Clients are more responsive to our requests and recommendations and are more decisive in taking action. We feel we are staying a step ahead of them now. ”
Thompson adjusted the fee model for Strategic Financial Solutions, separating asset management fees from planning fees, which she now offers at three levels. As a result, she said, clients seem to place higher value on the services she provides and are acting more on the advice she gives. In introducing the new model, she gave clients the option to join the firm under the new pricing structure. If this was not a good fit, she encouraged them to find another advisor that would better suit their needs.
“We didn’t have to release clients,” she said. “If they didn’t embrace our new model, it was their choice to release us.”
Systematizing processes has allowed Strategic Financial Solutions to create better, more consistent client experiences. The quality of client referrals is much higher now, Thompson said, and prospects are prepared for their first meeting because they already know what to expect. She’s engaging more ideal clients who fit her target revenue goals. Clients who aren’t a right fit are referred to one of the four other advisors that Thompson supervises.
The Managed Opportunities program from Securities America Advisors attracted Thompson back in 2003, and she continues to use the program to manage client assets. She and the advisors she supervises formed an investment committee to manage their own models on Managed Opportunities in addition to using the third-party money managers on the platform.
Thompson, who employs a full-time assistant and a full-time advisor for her own practice, said she hopes to finish systematizing every detail of her practice by the end of the year. Her efforts in the past 18 months have also been focused on improving the client experience. She recently developed a new logo and has begun updating all their marketing materials, including their website and client brochure. Once these tools in place, she then plans to spend more time cultivating her centers of influence.
“It’s been a little like driving a car that we’re building as we go,” she said.
The car, however, appears to be on the right road thanks to Next Level, Thompson said.
“I am seeing more balance back in my life, I’m working fewer hours, and revenue is up,” she said. “I was ready to do things differently. Every tool the Next Level program gave me was something I could use. It not only helped me in my business, but it helped me manage the rest of my life. I’m now able to take focused time away from the office for a couple of days each quarter to proactively plan for our growth. We expect to grow 20 percent a year, so in five years we will have doubled our gross revenue. I want that growth to be manageable. Gratefully, I’m finding you can be successful and still have control of your personal and professional life. I’m not out to build the biggest firm, but I am striving for biggest impact.”
Strategic Financial Solutions has made an impact in the San Diego community with this year’s corporate theme of generosity. The firm has participated in the Walk for Autism and supports military wives and families, as well as Cause Life, an organization that provides safe, clean drinking water solutions in developing countries.
“We want to be known for excellence, integrity and generosity,” Thompson said. “We all need a purpose that goes beyond a monetary standard. The highest form of living is giving!”
A native of Los Angeles, Thompson attended Biola University, graduating with her bachelor’s from San Diego Christian College in San Diego. She earned a master of science in financial services from the American College. She holds the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, is an active member of the Financial Planning Association, and serves on the Board of Kingdom Advisors.