Running a financial planning business should be fun. You help people in a deeply meaningful way and get paid really well for doing it. What’s not to like? However, sometimes the dream slowly turns into a nightmare and you need to take steps to get back to what excited you about the profession in the first place.
Here’s how this slow unravelling happens. You leave a larger organisation so you can do things right. This is the entrepreneurial seizure that Michael Gerber talks about in The E-Myth (a must read for all small business owners). Basically, you’re a great technician, then you start your own business. Your aim is to do more high quality financial planning work, putting the client at the centre of the relationship.
Pretty soon you start having to deal with a range of business issues like premises, technology, suppliers and staff. This is not what you signed up for.
Next thing you know you spend as little as 25-30% of your time seeing clients (this is a global statistic). So what does it take to turn the situation around and make your business fun again?
Do the work only you can do (and love)
Build a team of support around you to take care of every task that prevents you from doing the work that only you can do (and love). In modern business your ‘team’ can include external suppliers and contractors as well as internal employees.
Just as a surgeon wouldn’t undertake administrative jobs like answering the telephone, booking appointments and completing paperwork, it is a massive waste of your skills and experience to do things like write letters to clients, compile suitability reports and complete fact finds. And just as a surgeon wouldn’t handle general practitioner clients with a cold, would another adviser, staff member or even firm be better suited to handling small clients with relatively straightforward financial issues?
Conducting an honest evaluation of your existing team can be an emotionally challenging exercise, but it is crucial to achieving your business goals.
As Gino Wickman explains in his book Traction, everyone on the team has to “get it, want it and have the capacity to do it”. If they’re lacking in any one of these areas, they won’t be an effective member of your team.
Recruit people with the same set of values as you. Without this alignment of values, you’ll find yourselves at cross-purposes and struggling to perform.
Hiring new recruits can feel like a black art at times, but it’s a skill you need to master as a firm if you want to perform and grow profitably.
Very few adviser/owners have natural HR skills, so getting some help in this area – either by hiring an HR expert as part of your team, or by bringing in an external consultant – is essential.
Create an effective management structure
To create a management structure that works you need effective leadership at the top, effective meetings and communication throughout the organisation and a finger on the pulse of the business – week to week, month to month and quarter to quarter.
I speak with lots of firms where meetings are an infrequent occurrence; it’s almost a source of pride. However, when I dig deeper, I find that meetings had been stopped because they were dull, boring, ineffective and no one wanted to attend them. As a result, poor communication and decision-making leads to a slow growing or stagnant business.
Slow growth or stagnation creates major frustration at all levels of an organisation and also makes it difficult to attract and retain good talent. This is a killer because, in a small team, everyone needs to be a performer to ensure success.
Successful firms hold weekly meetings (that start and finish on time) during which they discuss issues and resolve them. These firms get results and grow, creating a more positive environment with greater opportunities for everyone involved.
Brett Davidson is founder of FP Advance, a boutique consulting firm for financial planning professionals