Having a practice manager has made a huge difference to our business, but it initially took us some time to come around to the idea.

    Brett Davidson has talked before about the rationale for hiring a practice manager, and we got some time with him as part of winning the Institute of Financial Planning David Norton building excellence award in 2015.

    He was probably the third person to come into our business, take a look at what we were doing, and say: “You need a practice manager.” When three people are telling you the same thing, we realised we needed to take this seriously.

    We were very lucky to find Kerry Burgess, who’s been here over two years and has been a fantastic addition to the team.

    She had done the role previously before joining a major fund group, but I think she missed the day-to-day financial planning aspect of her role, so First Wealth was a good fit for her.

    Kerry coming on board meant that she could provide support on a lot of the things that Rob Caplan, Claire Phillips and I were trying to do as a senior management team. This ranged from running the office and monthly staff catch-ups to crunching the numbers, HR and recruitment.

    The longer she’s been here, the more confident we have become in building the role out, which allows me to focus on other work such as generating new clients.

    The role will likely develop from an office manager to more of an operations director, where she’s effectively helping me run the business. Eventually I may step away into more of an oversight role, and she’ll be involved in day-to-day operations.

    Due diligence sits elsewhere in the business, but the role for us is more around factors such as people, process, client segmentation and managing third party contracts.

    She has been a hugely important addition to the team, to the point where we think we should have made this change earlier. But then again, if we’d done it earlier we wouldn’t have got Kerry, so in a sense we’re grateful that we delayed this to get the right person.

    Claire, Rob and I used to sit in the management meeting and divvy up different responsibilities such as our processes or finance. We’d meet a month later to find out how everyone was getting on, and have to admit we hadn’t got to those jobs because we didn’t have any time to do them.

    We were all doing client work, with the result that all the various projects kept getting pushed back. We were growing all the time, which was a terrific problem to have, but that was the frustration too – we knew what we wanted to achieve, but weren’t getting to it.

    Once Kerry started, she was effectively handed a list of all the things we had been trying to do for the last two or three years, and asked what she wanted to tackle first. It just freed up a lot more time.

    It meant that our processes and procedures were improved, and we got closer to the team through having regular contact with them. That allowed us to gain a greater understanding of what’s going on with them, as well as helping them to evolve their own careers.

    It also freed up time for each of us as a management team to think: “What am I supposed to be doing?” Claire and Rob are in full-time planning roles now, they also do mentoring with some of the team, while I look after mentoring and marketing.

    Hiring a practice manager has allowed us to elevate ourselves to helping the business function and helping others in the firm, rather than it being 100 per cent client work with no time for running the business, which has been massively valuable.

    Of course, you have to find the right person for your business, but for us having a practice manager has been hugely beneficial. We feel we’re in a much better place now.

    You can read our interview with Anthony Villis here, where he discusses building a financial planning brand and learning to take his own advice

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