When it comes to developing your business, it’s important to have a framework in place to do so.
I would go so far as to say it’s not just important, but necessary.
As I touched on in my last article, the difficulty our profession has is that in some cases financial planners are trying to become business owners overnight. A lot of time can be spent and wasted on trying to find the best way of working, when the best practice standards exist already.
In my role, I come across people who are resistant to adopting new processes. Some of the scepticism comes from a fear of more red tape, or that having more systems and controls will somehow put unnecessary limits and restrictions on the day-to-day job of being a planner and/or of running a business.
But having good processes and a robust framework for your business isn’t about any of that. Done right, these systems should serve as an enhancer and enabler to your business, not a limiting factor.
When people first come to either adopting standards or approaching practice development more generally, there tends to be an acceptance that they don’t have all the answers, and that can require a bit of a switch in mindset.
A financial planner spends most if not all of their waking hours charging in and rescuing everybody, but they may not necessarily have those skills when it comes to business.
It’s about understanding that you can use the help that’s out there, whether that’s structures or external support like consultants and coaches.
There can also be wariness around making changes to a business within a team, perhaps due to an unfounded fear that someone is going to be done out of their job.
Where people fight us on change it can be those who are fearful for their own roles.
Making efficiencies can uncover those who perhaps haven’t been doing their job properly, but these business improvements don’t have to mean someone effectively becomes redundant.
If you flip this idea on its head, it’s more the case that if you make improvements and efficiencies, there’s more opportunity for everyone. The scarcity mindset of “I need to have lots of work to do to keep my job” isn’t helpful – busy work is not smart work.
Working from the inside out
When you are improving your business, you have to go from the heart out.
If I was to ask a group of planners who or what is at the centre of your universe, I guarantee they would say clients. This is a great sentiment, but from my perspective the centre of their universe needs to be their business first, and then their clients.
Often, the mistake owner managers can make is they work from the outside in. They spend so much time designing systems and improvements around the client proposition, but are then so exhausted they don’t get to the heart of the problem, which is the business.
I would recommend instead starting from the inside out, that is, focusing on the business first as the most important thing. The consequence of that is things like client service then naturally take care of themselves and fall into place.
Making the change
Having an outside third party to help with the change process can be helpful to bring a level of objectivity. As an example, if you’ve got three directors within a business going around the table on an issue there’s a danger that ego creeps in.
In that situation, there’s no one changing the frame of a discussion, so you can end up talking about all the same stuff that you’ve been talking about for years. To have that kind of independent challenge, whoever it is, is key. This could be an accountant or another external third party, but they need to be able to facilitate a conversation.
If you and your team are going on this journey, you almost need to imagine you’re starting your business from scratch. If we were starting over, how would we do it? What would we do? Would we all still have the same roles?
We have a process we use called ‘the six Rs’ which can be helpful when going through the review process - Rewind, Review, Rethink, Redesign, Reignite, Relaunch:
When going through this process, it’s important not to look at any one part of the business in isolation.
Aspects such as people, proposition and the business plan all need to be looked at in the round, and all areas of the business are equally as important.
We set out eight principles as part of the business review, which you can see on the diagram on the left.
Take one area or layer at a time.
Review them conceptually, but don’t get bogged down in how you need to make changes at this stage, just decide what you are going to do.
If you are talking about people for example, you might decide you are going to recruit 10 people over the next four years. You then move on to the next decision.
Know when to take conversations ‘offline’ so you don’t need get stuck on one issue.
Working in this way, you can then add in another layer of detail across the eight areas at the next meeting.
By repeating this process over time, you’re likely to end up with a taskforce or a work stream for each area of the business, with a dedicated project owner for people changes, proposition and so on.
Then you regroup, and the process continues.
It’s about keeping that momentum going, and not letting it go off the boil.
Overall, if you treat your business like it’s your best client, you won’t lose focus.