Happy February! Hopefully you’ve already started to kick some goals for 2017. Whether you run your Business Plan for the calendar or financial year, we find the New Year break is a time that most people reflect on what they achieved last year and what they’re looking forward to achieving this year. They usually dust off (or rewrite) their business plans, so I thought I’d share with you, what we know to be the four most important things that successful advice firms will work on in 2017.
As a coach, it’s rare that I can make these sweeping statements about what will suit EVERY business. Don’t get me wrong – you will certainly have some specific priorities that are unique to your business, but the current environment will require EVERY advice business to have a serious think about at least 3 of these 4 elements this year.
So what are they?
1. Do a reality-check on your relevance.
There’s an ever-increasing scrutiny on fees and value, and a multitude of competitors gunning to replace you. If you haven’t already done it, you’ll want to take a totally honest, brutal look at your value proposition with an uncensored acknowledgement of what consumers now have and what they want.
This is an incredibly important exercise for every business to take on a regular basis but there’s a reason why it’s number 1 in this specific list for 2017. If you haven’t felt the impact of competitive service providers luring your ‘passive’ customers away from your trail book yet, (and possibly even your clients who consciously pay your fees), make no mistake – it will happen, and it won’t continue to be gradual. You may have been the proverbial frog in the slowly warming pot of water in the past, but it won’t be long before that water gets to boiling in an instant.
I’m not talking just about getting better at selling your services – I’m talking about applying a focus on what you provide to your clients, how you provide it AND what outcomes you generate for your clients as a result of working with them.
What outcome can you expect from this exercise? Threefold:
- For your clients: you’ll make a very real, very positive difference in their lives,
- For your business: you’ll cement your profit and future sustainability,
- For you: you’ll likely gain greater satisfaction from the work that you do, knowing how powerful your advice and support really is, AND life will just get easier as finding and winning clients becomes a breeze.
The actions that come from this – the things that will go on your business plan, will likely influence the next two areas I’m about to discuss. You may change your use of technology; perhaps change your entire pricing model. Changing your language and engagement techniques so that you can better help clients change their behaviours and relationship with money. It may mean a change of licensee if you’re constrained from offering the value you really want to. These things take time to implement – but they start with a conscious decision and a commitment from the leaders in the business.
If you’re not confident that you have an outstanding offer that can win new clients and keep them as raving fans, you’ll want something on your business plan to address this.
2. Take a good hard look at how you use Technology
If you have any situations in your business where your staff are doing double data entry, if your clients have to wait for a human to run a report, compile it, edit it before they can see the full picture of their affairs, if every interaction you have with clients is one-to-one in the flesh, there’s a better way.
If you’re paying a small fortune for a software system that simply isn’t giving you the efficiencies that you long to have, and it drives everyone nuts – make it a priority on your plan to use it better. Analyse your shortfalls, and if retraining staff and re-establishing your processes won’t cut it, find an alternative solution!
I can’t stress just how important this is – not only for the business benefits that come from the efficiency of consistent processes, but also for the improvements you can make in your client experience. Trust me – your clients expect better, more efficient service from their trusted advisers. They’ve come to expect an increased level of visibility, accuracy and immediacy in their daily life – from everyone they receive service from. If you can’t provide this, you’re damaging the trust they need to place in you to engage for the long-term.
While you’re looking at improving the technology you’re already using, also look at new ways to use technology to make your life easier. Take your Business Plan for example – it’s one thing to write it, but then what do you do with it? Once you have your one page plan, you look more closely at the actions required to complete each project, and allocate responsibility to the right team members with a due date. So how does your team manage their daily workflow? Are they slaves to their emails, or do they plan their days? Do they use Outlook tasks? If they use tasks from your financial planning software to manage their client-related work – how do they manage their non-client tasks? Tools such as Asana or DaPulse are fantastic ways to map out a project and keep everyone accountable to getting it done. I’d be remiss too if I didn’t mention here, the Juice Console – specifically designed by Elixir to help advisers to analyse their business, create their one page business plan, then track back against it.
Take a look at this weeks #MomentswithSue videos for some inspiration. Melbourne adviser Hari Maragos got Sue onto a new favourite app that saves a whole lot of time with file notes, and Yaela Shamberg spoke to Sue in San Francisco about digitising your onboarding process. You’ll be excited when you see what’s possible!
3. A revision of your pricing model will be critical in 2017.
Do you know your numbers? I don’t mean just your cashflow, I mean what it costs you to run the business, to bring on each new client, to service each client. Your pricing should continually evolve; updating your numbers as you complete each financial year and your costs and recurring income change, but also considering the actual model you use and whether it is still relevant in a changing environment.
When was the last time you reviewed your pricing model? If you have either of the first two elements from this article on your business plan, these will likely have an impact on your costs. And there are other questions you’ll want to answer:
- Are your fees at a level that represent value to both your clients AND your business?
- Have you adjusted your model (not just the numbers) to suit your service proposition?
- How will you restructure your pricing so you can cope with LIF – if upfront risk commissions have subsidised your profit, what will you do in future?
- If you’ve delivered your Claims management process for free, how will this work in future?
If you’re not already tapping into our pricing resources, make this job easier and more robust by checking out our software, research and consulting services here. You don’t have to fly blind or guess at how your model compares to others!
4. Don’t forget about YOU!
And finally – don’t forget to consider your personal satisfaction and that of the people around you. There is absolutely no point in having a profitable, successful business if it doesn’t empower you to do things that make you happy. Or if you have to work so hard to make it run that you sacrifice your relationships and you no longer have time to look after you; you’ve gained weight, have high blood pressure, or you just can’t fit in the time to get that niggly little something checked out. Just as you tell your clients, pay yourself first – that means deciding on what’s most important to you (time with your kids, exercise, surfing, whatever you choose!). Build your work schedule around that. After all – why else are you self-employed? Make sure you run your business this year and not the other way round!
If you’ve read to this point and you’re still feeling sheepish cos you don’t actually have a business plan yet, let me push you over the edge. The latest stats from Business Health continue to confirm what they keep confirming every time they collect data, the existence of an effective Business Plan results in more profit. The latest stats (released Jan 2017 – thanks Rod and Terry!); tell us that those firms with a documented Business Plan (yup – in your head doesn’t count) saw a 130% impact on their profit. What are you waiting for?
Oh and don’t forget that Elixir Consulting specialise in all that is business planning and evolving advice. We’ve got fantastic coaches ready to help you if you’d like a hand and a trusted confidante to help support you. The independent stats from Business Health prove the power of this too! Business owners who sought external advice/input and met at least quarterly had 108% greater profit than those who didn’t.
If you want help to make sure 2017 is your best year yet, just shoot us an email.
Sue Viskovic CFP is the Founder of the national consulting business Elixir Consulting; a proud mother of four; a sought-after speaker; a business coach; and author of a number of books and programs designed for advisers. Sue is also the proud recipient of the 2015 Mentor of the Year Award.
With over 15 years’ experience in financial services, with roles spanning banking, funds management, advice and licensee services, Sue has built her career and her business on helping financial advisers, accountants and risk specialists to improve the way that they run their businesses and deliver advice.