While we are currently living in volatile times in terms of the global financial markets and very uncertain times in Ireland politically, most financial advisers that I speak to are still constantly trying to work out how they are going to bring their business to the next level. They know that markets will settle down in time and that eventually (whenever that might be!) we will get a government again.
Advisers are determined to build real value in their business, to move it from being a one-man advice shop to being a real professional services business. So what are some of the big challenges that advisers looking to make this shift are grappling with today?
Focus on your business
Time is one of the biggest enemies of financial advisers. You just don’t ever seem to have enough of it! And as a result, you use this precious resource fixing the problems of your clients, constantly battling deadlines of getting advice reports out, carrying our review meetings with clients, while also trying to drum up new clients.
While at the same time your own business actually gets very little of your attention.
We’ve all heard the well-worn phrase, “Work on the business, not in it”. While it might be over-used, it still has a lot of merit. Moving your business in a structured manner to the next level will take energy, focus and time. So the first step is a backwards one away from the day to day work within your business and instead allocating this time to plotting out what you need to do to take your own business forwards.
It’s all well and good to talk about taking a step back. It’s much harder to do this in reality… And the reason for this is because all SME owners such as ourselves believe that no-one can look after our clients as well as we can ourselves. And maybe we are right – maybe no-one can look after them as well. But this is only our own fault. Because we haven’t created the skilled teams around us.
Until you build a team around you that you can delegate your day to day activities to, you are always going to be constrained as you try to grow. You will never have the space to spend time on your own business, instead you will be constantly up against client deadlines. Yes this can feel good being flat out, fighting fires. But you’re not moving your business forwards.
The great thing today is that there are so many flexible options in terms of building a support network around yourself. You can hire people today in a way that suits your needs; full time or part time, in the office or working remotely, indeed most tasks can be fully outsourced if you don’t want to employ someone at this point in time. The main goal though is to free you up to work on the business.
Look at your own skills
And then we all need to get honest with ourselves! While you might be a brilliant adviser and look after your clients really well, do you have the skills to actually build a business? If not, what do you need to do? For most people, it may be that some outside help is needed, either in terms of management support, business coaching or other supports. For other people, maybe you are just not the person to bring the business to the next level and you actually need to employ someone to do this for you.
I personally know one (extremely) successful entrepreneur who recognised this very early on his own growth path. A great ideas man, he built a great “early stage” business but quickly recognised that he didn’t have the skills (or the interest) to follow a structured growth plan. So he hired someone to do this, while he “went again” with another business idea. While most advisers are probably not looking to build a number of businesses like this, you might still need help in bringing your business to the next level.
Thankfully there are many examples in the financial advice industry of individuals who have started financial advice business that became successful based on the advice they were giving, and who managed to step back and build strong teams around them. These individuals are now acting like the conductor of an orchestra, leading these businesses forwards on steep growth paths, having removed themselves out of the day to day client facing work.
Of course there are then all of the challenges of developing your propositions, having structured processes in place and communicating more effectively with clients. But if you start by allocating time to your own business, building the team around you and recognising your own strengths and shortcomings, you will be a long way down the road to bringing your business to the next level.