When I started my career as an apprentice administrator back in 2014, I instantly fell in love with the industry and the purpose of financial planning. I loved the fact that clients always come first, and how we can create incredible outcomes for them. While I dabbled in the technical side of things, it really wasn't for me.
That's when I realised: practice management was more my cup of tea.
What does practice management involve?
It's about everything that's held centrally: from the day-to-day running of a company, to high-level business planning. As a practice manager I help with existing processes, efficiencies and systems, organise meetings, work out goals – and even tackle high level compliance and marketing.
While this is a role in itself, it's not one that every firm has. Often the business owner does these things. This takes away from what they really should be doing – that is, thinking about where they want to take their organisation, focusing on clients and indulging in the bigger picture thinking.
Why outsource practice management?
The biggest benefit is the injection of fresh ideas and methods. When business owners do their own practice management, they run the risk of getting tunnel vision. They can easily become stuck in a rut. By working with an external practice manager, they benefit because we work with several firms at a time. We can see what works and what doesn't, and bring our experience to the table.
Another major benefit is that the business owner gets their life back. With someone else to handle the day-to-day stuff, they can take more time off. Several of my clients have been able to go on holiday without checking their emails for the first time, as a result of working with me.
And finally, having a central person who isn’t the business owner can help to avoid bottlenecks. While the business owner is aware of what's going on, they don't have to be as involved.
Is practice management something that only big firms need?
Absolutely not! Practice managers can benefit everyone. For example, my focus at Fusion is on one-man bands and relatively small firms with one or two financial planners and a support team. Even in bigger teams, practice managers can learn the business inside out and offer more of an oversight role. Very large firms are likely to benefit from having their own dedicated in-house practice manager.
What’s the most common issue you're brought on board for?
Business direction is the biggest issue I see. A lot of firms will work with larger consultants or attend a masterclass or course and then struggle to find time to execute the plan they've worked on together. Practice managers can come in, sit down and take stock. We can step back from the business itself and allocate time to get things done at a really practical, hands-on level.
What's your process of working – where do you start with a new client?
We kick things off with a business plan (basically a fact-finding mission). We talk through the issues they've been having and identify any blockages in their system. From there, I develop a plan of action.
I offer a couple of different ways of working. We can start with a one-off project they've decided is prominent, or they can keep us on a monthly retainer for ongoing work. There's nothing in the contract where we have to keep working together. It's very flexible – if we simply aren't a fit, either party can call it quits.
Why isn't practice management more popular?
I think the big issue is awareness. Lots of people join this industry without realising that practice management is a path they can take. If you asked 100 advisers what the most important role in their business is, I highly doubt practice manager would be in the top 3. Even so, lots of people are starting to see the value. Some big advocates such as Michelle Hoskin and Brett Davidson are clearly making a huge impact.
Do you have any advice for aspiring practice managers?
The most important thing is to be true to yourself and use the opportunity to work with businesses that align with your values. I've been clear since day dot about who I want to work with and why. I choose to keep my business small and personal rather than scaling up. Being open, honest and transparent has led to better relationships overall – and means people come to Fusion for the culture we have created internally.
When should firms consider hiring a practice manager?
Hire them before you think you need them. Many people wait until they're completely snowed under to ask for help. After all, it can be hard to delegate 'easy' jobs that you could do yourself – even though it will be a huge weight off your shoulders. By admitting you need someone before things start to stall, you reduce the risk of damaging your business long term.
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