“It’s hard when you’re up to your armpits in alligators, to remember you came here to drain the swamp”

Ronald Reagan, President of the USA 1981 – 1989

It’s easy to get distracted by the ‘alligators’; FASEA, Enforceable Undertakings, changing compliance requirements, licensees changing/exiting and so on (you get my drift).  I’m not suggesting for one moment that you ignore them, but don’t let them distract you from taking care of business. The ‘alligators’ are in many ways ‘uncontrollable’ – what will happen, will happen, with or without you. Your business on the other hand, will not happen without your management and guidance. There are clients who need to be serviced, retained and reassured, and staff who need to be managed. Then there’s yourself, the owner – how are you traveling?

I think it is essential to distinguish ‘advice’ related matters (the advice you provide and the legislation around it) from ‘business’ related matters. Both areas need to be continually addressed but concentrating on one side at the expense of the other won’t help anyone and, in fact, it will send you broke! Remembering your business goals and taking care of your business is more important now than ever and should not be neglected. The following highlights some of the key business related areas;

Your Clients

How much thought, time and effort did you invest in the business management of your clients, in say the last 4 weeks? Take your communication for example – when was the last time you reviewed your communication program? Our client survey data has always shown that meaningful and relevant communication, conveyed regularly is one of the greatest drivers of relationship ‘closeness’ with clients. When clients perceive a greater ‘closeness’, they are generally more satisfied with the relationship they have with their adviser and tend to perceive more value in the services they receive.* Note: Email and newsletter content must be relevant to resonate with clients.

To help you to achieve meaningful and relevant communication, you’ll need the type of information which will allow you to build relationships – which is different from the technical ‘stuff’ required to manage the client’s financial plan. If you don’t already, consider holding information on; client’s interests, plans for next year, pastimes, likes and dislikes. Acknowledge their milestones (ie. ’wow’ we’ve been working together for one/five/ten years – thank you!). How about including the names, activities and life goals of their children? Unfortunately, our research reveals that less than one in fifteen businesses hold the data we think they need to build meaningful, ongoing relationships with their clients.*

So, how ‘close’ do your clients think they are to you? Only one in three Australian practices have formally sought feedback from clients in the past 12 months. And… the practices who seek feedback show a 27% increase in profitability over those who don’t.* If you don’t ask, how do you know what your clients are truly thinking about your services? Or how satisfied they are? If you have ever stayed at a hotel, made an online purchase or booked a holiday – chances are the service provider asked for your feedback. I suspect there’s a lot we can learn from other service industries.

Strategic Partners & Centres of Influence

Most of what I’ve written above can also be applied to your strategic partners and COIs. When was the last time you proactively communicated with them to; thank them for referrals or share your plans for the next 12 months, or even better, to let them know how well-placed you are to handle the current industry changes? And perhaps best of all, why your business is different to your competitors, so that referring you is a ‘no brainer’? Keep regular (maybe annual) meetings to review each other’s referrals and to share plans – and use your CRM system to track the frequency and content of communication with your COIs.

Staff

While the average practice is spending around 45 cents in every dollar of revenue on its staff,* I have found many business owners view this as an expense rather than an investment. Try viewing your staff as your business’s second greatest asset (after clients). When was the last time you sought feedback (confidential & anonymous) from your staff? Open and honest communication is a major contributor to team morale. Communication should be frequent, meaningful and personal (sound familiar?). Consider providing a ‘state of the nation address’ to staff every 6-months or so. It’s far better to have everyone on the same page after all.

According to Business Health’s most recent analysis, 33% of practices don’t have up to date, written position descriptions for the majority of their staff, while almost half haven’t conducted a performance appraisal review/appraisal within the last year.* So there’s work to be done for some businesses and it needs to begin reasonably quickly as the battle to find/keep good people is well underway.

KPI Measures & Monitoring

OK, I’ve touched on the various people areas of your business (clients, referrers and staff). Now let’s look at the business itself – is it healthy or does it need a bit of work to whip it into shape? While your business objectives will invariably focus on financials (revenue, cash flow, profitability), it is good practice to regularly measure how your business is tracking in relation to important indicators which, if regularly monitored, reviewed and acted upon, will contribute to the attainment of your desired financial goals; client retention, referral rates, new client acquisition, time spent in client facing meetings/activities, satisfaction levels of clients and staff, staff turnover and industry benchmarking will help to keep you on track.

You

We’re beginning to see more written and discussed about the toll taken on business owners, the challenges they’re facing, the pressures they’re experiencing and the fear many are feeling as they grapple with the myriad of change. In times such as these, it’s imperative that you decide your position for the next 3+ years. Discuss and listen to peers and colleagues, proactively share your experiences and lessons learnt. Licensee and broader industry events (conferences and PD days) are great places to start. I’m also a big fan of discussion groups through which you can meet and share.

The Plan

All of the above won’t get done well (or possibly at all) without a plan which clearly outlines where you’re going, how’re you’re going to get there and by when. And to guide you through what otherwise might turn into your own personal swamp, why not enlist the services of someone you respect and will listen to, a business coach, experienced PDM/BDM or trusted mentor for example?

For your consideration.

* All statistics are from the latest analysis of Business Health’s Australian consolidated data warehouse, Future Ready VII.

Note: The Business HealthClub is a tool developed by Business Health to help financial advisors in practice management matters, providing online tools, guidance and industry benchmarks. If you would like to find out more please contact us: www.businesshealth.com.au or ph 02 9518 6966.

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