“Build the relationship first.” This was the advice I once heard from a human resources executive at a company where I worked. As I’ve considered these words over the years and as I now apply them to personal finance, they mean, “Get to know the professional and let them get to know you” before you make demands on them and their services.
Don’t expect the best results in an emergency situation. Here are some steps for your consideration:
Decide the types of professionals you need on your team.
The composition of your team may change over time, as will the help you need from its members. In our first year of working together, many new clients of mine often need help reviewing their insurance needs and updating or creating their estate plans.
These professionals will most likely be part of your team:
- Financial advisors
- Life & Health insurance brokers
- Real estate consultants
- Mortgage consultants
- Property & casualty insurance brokers
- Tax Preparers
Other professionals that you may have a need for less frequently:
- Senior care advisors
- Professional organizers
- Career placement counselors
- College counselors
- General contractors
If you are a business owner, there are many more than this list — marketing specialists, business insurance brokers, office space planners, etc.
Use this form as a guide in making your list. Fill in all the professions you need and the professionals who are currently on your team. This list will also be valuable for estate and incapacity purposes, so keep it in a secure place with all your other important financial paperwork.
Search for professionals to fill the gaps.
Personal referrals — from friends or other trusted professionals — are a great place to begin. I am grateful for the personal referrals given to me by my clients.
Prospective clients usually become clients because we’re similar and known. But it doesn’t end there. Hold on to business cards — one client told me she held on to my card for a year before the time was right and she called me. Check out professionals’ websites, research them on Google and look up their licenses. Keep this information in a file.
Ask for, and prepare for, a complimentary meeting.
At some convenient time, before an emergency situation occurs, get to know each other. For example, you might attend a presentation they are making at a group you belong to or know of. Or, they may host a “getting to know you” session for prospective clients.
Most professionals, including myself, offer an introductory meeting where you both can determine if there is a good fit between your needs and their services, and whether you want to work together. Go to the meeting prepared to discuss your situation and needs. You may want to prepare a list of questions to ask.
I am happy to develop a list of questions with you during one of our meetings.
Invest in the relationship.
Once you begin working together, do things like sharing your preferred communication styles. Work collaboratively in developing recommendations. Give feedback.
By creating a list of the professionals on your “Team Finance,” you’ll be much better prepared for situations that will arise in the future.