Sometimes you need to think differently in order to ensure that your business is focused on the most effective areas. Tracey Underwood of PACE Solutions gives practical tips on how you can avoid ‘waste’ and ensure that your financial planning business is fit for the future
Until quite recently, processes and efficiency were rarely mentioned within advisory businesses as it was often perceived there was no added value. Advice, or ‘sales’ was seen as the most important aspect of the business, with processes largely ignored or left with the support team to sort out. As a result, everyone working in the business would appear to be very busy but, without purpose and structure, the business ends up being inefficient and ‘fire-fighting’ when a crisis occurs. This problem is amplified when there are several advisers working within the business, each with their individual thoughts, demands and each one operating according to their own methods.
A tipping point
Experience suggests that support teams thrive when there is efficient, effective organisation and structure in place. However, when a firm is working with several different advisers all of whom operate in different ways, it is a struggle to implement workable processes. Advisers don’t necessarily realise the impact which their demands create upon the business and the support team. They often perceive that things are working well. That’s until a mistake happens.
Even when mistakes occur, the natural tendency for many advisory firms is to respond by employing another member of staff. Usually, the theory behind this is that the new member of staff can pick up the extra workload, subsequently reducing the number of errors and taking the pressure off other staff members.
Get the focus right
However, what soon gets lost between mountainous loads of administration, paperwork and the constant fire fighting is ultimately what the client wants.
So before you start thinking about recruiting a new member of staff and even before tackling your internal processes, you need to step back and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you asked your clients exactly want they want from your business and what aspects they value most?
- Do they really want to read a 60 page report?
- Do they really want to receive 4 reviews a year with 20 fund factsheets?
- Have you ever sought advice from your staff on how the company operates and how this affects them and the client?
If the answer to these questions is no, then it is very likely that you are over-engineering things and creating unnecessary ‘waste’ within your organisation. The amount of ‘waste’ produced within a business has a huge impact on staff morale, on the client and ultimately on business profitability. You’re actually doing much more than you need to be doing. Clients only want to pay for that element which adds value to the finished product or job; anything that detracts from that we can consider as waste. The recent MIFID II cost disclosure has only highlighted this fact, with firms now getting hard questions asked from their clients as to where their fee is being spent and what value they are actually getting for the money they are spending.
Streamlining your business
Once you have ascertained clearly what your clients want from your business, then you can dedicate time to reviewing your internal support systems and processes to help ensure that you deliver that service. When I refer to processes here, I am not exclusively referring to the work undertaken by the support team. It is essential for processes to be ‘joined up’ right across the board – from client engagement through to implementation and review. In this regard, all staff, from support to advisers must be involved and buy into the process if it is to be successful.
You may be constrained by lack of time or capacity to make the changes in which case you may need to consider an Operations/Practice Manager to help you implement the processes required to deliver your service. Key to success is getting the right team behind you to deliver the service consistently and to the standards which clients expect.
Stronger and fitter
There are big rewards from getting this right. The benefits of integrating effective processes will be felt throughout the business, helping to create additional revenue and to reduce costs over the longer term.
Staff are happier because:
- They know exactly what they are delivering and what the expectations are
- There is less confusion
- Work turnaround is more efficient and quicker
- There are less mistakes, less duplication (either from correcting mistakes or misunderstanding the original instruction) and less frustration
Clients are happier because:
- They know exactly what service/s they will receive (and value it!)
- The receive what they want and not what we think they want
- If their regular adviser was unavailable they know that continuity would be maintained as another adviser could deliver the same service
The business is in a better place because:
- Clients are happy
- Staff are happy
- Fewer mistakes are happening
- Advisers and the support team are working cohesively (rather than fire fighting) to deliver the service
- Costs are reduced
- Compliance risk is reduced
- Time is managed more productively
- Professionalism is increased
- Profitability is boosted
If you’re looking for ways to improve the efficiency of your business, taking the time to reflect on what you do and how you to do it and to ask yourself some serious questions, can be a revelation. What have you got to lose? The time for action is now.
About Tracey Underwood
Tracey is the owner and founder of PACE Solutions. The business provides support for financial planning businesses by focusing on operational practices including; recruitment, compliance, processes, client proposition and business strategy. This is achieved not only through a consultancy process but by hands on implementation to ensure that firms achieve effective results that would otherwise not be achieved through consultation only.