Even the best financial planning firms can benefit from a practical review of their business habits in pursuit of excellence. Brett Davidson, FP Advance, has practical tips you can use to review your own business habits and take steps to boost business success
The outcomes we experience in our businesses are directly correlated to the decisions we make, and the actions we take, on a daily basis.
Clearly, if you make good decisions and do what you say you will do every day, your chances of achieving your goals increase dramatically.
Clear the way
In a recent blog from James Clear, master of all things habit, he gave an example of a simple process to become aware of your habits, to then evaluate them and change the ones that don’t serve you.
“To create your own Habits Scorecard, start by making a list of your daily habits.
Here’s a sample of where your list might start:
- Turn off alarm
- Check my phone
- Go to the bathroom
- Weigh myself
- Take a shower
- Brush my teeth
- Floss my teeth
- Put on deodorant
- Hang up towel to dry
- Get dressed
- Make a cup of tea
… and so on.
Once you have a full list, look at each behaviour, and ask yourself, “Is this a good habit, a bad habit, or a neutral habit?” If it is a good habit, write “+” next to it. If it is a bad habit, write “–”. If it is a neutral habit, write “=”.”
I love this. And you can apply it to your business as well.
Almost every business I know wants to either establish great processes or streamline and improve the business processes they’ve got.
Because great processes are the key to consistently delivering an amazing customer experience. They are your institutionalised good habits.
When we’re starting out and operating as a one-person business we can do this via the magic of our own efforts and personality. However, as all one-person businesses eventually find out, once you get full, that is once you have as many clients as you can handle, maintaining your standards of delivery gets tougher and tougher. Either you work all the hours under the sun, or things get missed occasionally. And no one wants to be the business that makes silly mistakes.
What’s the solution to this problem? It is processes.
Improving your processes
Here’s a methodology that might help you on your quest to improve your processes. Let me cover two angles; the philosophy and the practical execution.
Unless you are a process geek, and I’m not, the thought of working on your processes can make you feel slightly ill.
Although I’m not a process geek, I care deeply about customer service or the customer experience. Many advisers and planners are cut from the same cloth.
The way to consider process improvement is to forget process improvement as a concept. Simply focus on the client journey; the client experience.
- How do you want the client to feel as they move through the advice journey with you?
- What are the steps the client moves through to go from initial enquiry to becoming a client?
- What would you do in a perfect world at each of those steps to make people feel like you want them to feel about you, your business, and the process of receiving financial planning advice?
When I think about things from that point of view I find I have more enthusiasm for the task at hand.
A practical approach
This is a whole-of-business exercise. If you’re a smaller business, up to say six staff, including yourself, I’d just get everyone around the table to have the conversations I’m about to describe below.
If you’re a larger business, you might select representatives from the different parts of your business, so that you are capturing perspectives and input from all angles. For example, there might be some advisers, paraplanners, administrators, and your practice manager.
Having established a team to consider this issue here are the steps to take:
1. Set the agenda and thought process:
Brief everyone in the business to make sure you are all aware of the aim of the exercise.
- What are you trying to do in reviewing your processes?
- What impact do you hope it will make?
It’s also vitally important to let people know that the aim of this process is to simplify things as much as possible for everyone’s benefit. Process improvement isn’t going to make them redundant, sometimes a concern for your staff, but will allow the current team to work to the top of their skillset. It will keep them from getting bogged down with lower-level jobs.
2. Have team members look at their own processes:
During the course of each week have all team members, even those not on the process-improvement team, notice the work that they touch and ask themselves these questions:
- What jobs am I touching or getting involved in?
- Is the process working as it should?
- Does doing this specific task add value to the end client?
- Are there any obvious issues that I could feed back to the process-improvement team?
- If it were my business, what changes might I make to this task or process?
- Could this be done more simply?
- Am I the best person to do this task?
- Is there some form of training that would allow me to do an essential task better?
3. Weekly process-improvement meetings:
Meet weekly for 60 minutes (or 90 minutes if this is a massive challenge for your business right now).
At these meetings all staff can give feedback to their representative on what they notice every week; e.g. the administrators feed back to their admin representative, the paraplanners feed back to their paraplanning representative etc.
What you will find is that by chipping away at your issues every week, you start to see some wins; greater efficiency or speed of processing. You may even see some steps in the process disappearing completely, as someone realises that they don’t actually make any difference to the end client.
Processes in your business are like personal habits in your life. A closer look at both of these areas may lead to some tweaks or changes that could change the outputs you’re generating for the better.
Let me know how you go.