Henry Ford Would Have Been a Rich Financial Advisor


assembly lineProject vs Process

Henry Ford is credited with mastering use of the assembly line concept.  In other words, Henry converted machine assembly, which was previously done on a project basis, to a process.  We would not think of manufacturing now in any other way.  Yet when it comes to services, many financial advisors continue to run their practice like it's 1890.

Many financial advisors treat each individual client as a custom, individualized project.  Unless you have clients who will pay you a lot (i.e., you earn at least $15,000 annually per client), you will never have a good business with this approach.

Your business must be set up as a process.  Every new client gets the same services and products.  Sure, they may get them in different proportions, but every client who gets the “moderate portfolio” had better get the same stocks or mutual finds or you set yourself up to spend too much time on each account, providing personalized service when it’s not necessary and not being paid enough to do so.

My clients are all retirees.  I only use two basic building blocks for each portfolio—investment-grade preferred shares and a blue chip stock portfolio (the Dow Dividend Strategy). Some clients may have 70% of their portfolio in the Dow Dividend program and others may have 30%.  But they don’t get to tell me, “I’d really like some small cap stocks in my portfolio—can you tailor that for me?”  You can guess my answer.  Prospects must either use the process I have in place or find another advisor.  You must take the same approach to grow a large business.

A really good business uses a cookie cutter approach to dealing with clients.  That does not meancookie cutter clients get some impersonal program.  It means they get a great program because you have honed the creation of your services and products that you offer to the exact needs of the finely-focused homogeneous market you service.  If you cannot treat each client in a similar fashion, then you have not adequately focused your target market.

Does Intel design a new chip for each customer?  No, they don’t do projects.  Their business is a process, producing millions of the same chips per month.

Should every business be designed as a process?  No.  Estate planning does not often lend itself to a process, and each client may need an individualized program.  Just make sure that when you work on a project basis such as estate planning, you get paid a lot.  You need to choose—does your business have 20 high-value clients with custom services or 300 moderate-value clients that receive a standardized package?

Let’s take examples to make this clear.  Do you think attorneys charge a lot?  They must because it’s difficult to make a process out of the work they do.  Each client is a separate consulting project.  But notice that doctors set themselves up as a process.

Learn from Your Doctor

The family doctor deals with four basic conditions:

  • Muscle or soft tissue problems
  • Joint ache
  • Cold/flu symptoms
  • Headache

He deals with these conditions by giving a prescription and prescribes the same drugs over and over. For conditions outside of the routine, he refers the patient to a specialist.  Each patient is part of a process, an assembly line, not a separate project.

Each patient gets 20 minutes:

  • 4 minutes for the doctor to ask questions
  • 8 minutes to observe the patient
  • 8 minutes to administer a treatment, prescribe a drug or refer to a specialist



  1. That is a wonderful idea. However,I give each client lot of attention in the hope of receiving further business. It is time to segment them and create a system of contacting them based on the business prospect as well as assets under administration.


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