Building efficiencies in to your advisory business, so you can work smarter.

Improving productivity often brings to mind thoughts of doing more with less. A positive experience if implemented correctly, you can do more with less human effort. It usually comes down to how good your systems and processes work together.  Here’s the thing though, there’s no silver bullet. Efficiency and productivity are as much about us personally as they are about systems and processes.

This is such a hot topic for advice businesses and when asked for tips, this topic would have to be in the top 3 requested. Everyone in advice is busy and it seems getting busier; we are overworked, overtired and at times, overwhelmed. So many feel like there is nothing that can be done about their situation and unfortunately just accept it.

Between leading your team, serving clients, growing your business and not to mention, looking after your home life, who can blame you for feeling like you’re overflowing. Some people do get it all done, but they have usually learned the secret sauce in doing so…. They outsource a lot.

 

Achieving anything is possible, will you stay in the cycle of being busy or step outside to be productive? Everyone is busy but not everyone is productive. We all know that when we get things done we feel better about ourselves, more engaged, more productive; we learn more, earn more and have more time to do “the stuff” we really want to. So, a great place to start is looking at your personal productivity and how you set yourself up for success.

Before beginning any of this, you need to really understand your why. This terminology gets a lot of airtime but it’s so important to make sure you arrive at the right place if you’re going to put all of the effort into making some changes to yourself and your business.

There are some days where you might feel like you are a jack of all trades or perhaps your head is spinning so fast you feel like a master of none, but what I know for sure is that most Advisers are not admin gurus and if you are multi-tasking. then you likely don’t want to be. So how can you lead and empower your team to be the best they can be? Before you get started on your business, it’s a great idea to have some honest self-reflection. Simply, if you are not organised then you can’t expect your team and your business to be.

 

Knowing your worth means valuing your time.  Advisers we meet tell us they struggle with articulating value, yet they spend their time on tasks around the office that more skilled administrators could do. You have a team for a reason; everyone in the team has a role to play – if you don’t let them do it, the team dynamic is broken and the inefficiency creeps in. In an interview, Tom Brady, the great American football quarterback, was once asked what does it take to be the best of the best – a truly great sports team? What’s the secret to their success?

His response was so simple “You do your job so that everybody else can do their job, there’s no big secret to it”.

Asking for help isn’t a productivity tip, but arguably it’s the most important point to grab on to. There is always a lot of work to be done in advice and it usually has a tight timeframe to go with it. We see Advisers struggling because they think there’s no other way – there is no help. There are always ways others can help; ask your team, you might be surprised!

If you are at that point of overwhelm, then it’s important to work out your stress points – deadlines, an overflowing inbox, meetings, the phone that never stops ringing, file notes etc. We are all different and we all go through times of the year where we have to give more of ourselves than other times.  Once you’ve pinpointed your frustrations, think about how you could get some help and from whom.

 

Another big leap towards greater personal productivity is to get some clarity, and the best way to do that is to get it all out of your head. Yes, that’s right, the good old brain dump does wonders here. Take a few minutes and write everything down, appointments you have coming up, all the projects you want to get started, all the people you want to call, and all the things you’re waiting on. Once again think about who you might be able to outsource some of these things to or who might be able to help you get clarity.

An Ideal Week Won’t Work….

Yes, we hear that a lot. An ideal week should never be so rigid that it’s inflexible. Discipline is required; the key with the ideal week is to get it set up and then ask someone to help keep you accountable.

Part of the success of an ideal week is your diary management – are you really the best person to be managing your time? The best way to achieve success with an ideal week and diary management is to sit with someone in the team and work through your ideal week, make sure the team understands what you’re trying to achieve – communicate your non-negotiables.

Distracted?

Financial research and education take concentration and eliminating distractions, even temporarily, will make you more productive. Where you can, set up your office so it’s an environment where people can do heads down work. Whilst open plan is great for fostering team culture, sometimes we have to be able to get away to a quiet space. Finally, if you are one of those people that just can’t help but answer the phone or emails, switch the notifications off on both. Better still, get out of your email, put your phone on silent and out of sight, or give it to someone else to answer.

When you just can’t focus, some meditation might help and so too could the Pomodoro technique. Pomodoro is great when you need to do heads down work, you’re on a deadline and it’s great for study too. Any time you need to concentrate this technique will help you get into the zone.  Work in blocks of 25 minutes then have a 5-minute break. It’s really that simple.

Be Your Own Rockstar

There is so much you can do to be your own Rockstar when it comes to productivity, and giving your clients a Rockstar experience for client meetings is one place to start. Giving consideration to how you prepare for your meetings, how you conduct meetings, and then how efficiently and effectively you complete that meeting process will mean clients will leave feeling energised and inspired, and your team will be feeling relaxed and ready to get implementing. 

Know Your Team

If you are the business owner, you’re usually the visionary in the business BUT have you identified who the organisers and the doers are? Every advice business will have the visionary and the doer but it’s not often you’ll have a true organiser.

When you first start out, you need doers otherwise the jobs don’t get done – think Advisers and client service team. Eventually every advice business, whether you like it or not, will need an organiser. This usually falls back to you as the business owner but the best money you will spend hands down is someone who directs traffic with clients, organises both you and your team, the workflow AND generally brings it all together and makes it happen.

Find Your Rhythm

Get organised for the year ahead – if you can book leave as far out as possible – that way you can be prepared for how the business will cover absences. But of course, it’s not just about leave, it’s about everything your business needs to do and achieve every year to make sure there are no gaps and you’re prepared for almost anything to happen. A great place to start with finding the best rhythm for your business is to divide the business into parts: Strategic, Financial, Client, People and Governance. Once you’ve done that, decide at which points in the year you need to act on an annual, half-yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily basis. Document it all; you’ll be shocked at just how much you get through every year.

Process

Whilst we all have a good idea on what happens in our business, it’s common for us to find that processes aren’t documented. Remember process documentation doesn’t have to be perfect; in fact the simpler, the better. The key is to get everyone doing things the same way – having ten people doing things ten different ways will slow things down significantly, it also creates stress and accentuates inefficiencies.

Remember this is not just how you do business, it’s also how you train people if they’re taking on different responsibilities or if they’re new to the team, so consider the details you need to record.  Have a process champion – every time something new happens in the business, give a task to the champion to write the process and store it so it’s accessible to everyone. The champion should be the go-to person in the business, responsible for building, tweaking and training on updates and new processes.

Workflow and task management are subsets of process and are always hot topics. Managing your workflow is not just about a piece of software that you plug everything into so you can get your tasks done. Workflow management is an art that requires planning and organisation to get everything out the door on time. You may have a meeting to co-ordinate but it’s how you plan and communicate that will make managing your workflow seamless.

This is a task for the organiser in your business – they might need to manage two or more Advisers in terms of the reviews that are coming, new clients that you’re working on, making sure that deadlines are met, tasks are up to date, amd the team has what they need to get the job done and if not, plans and arranges the resources so they can.

Tasks can be easy to manage but for many it is hard. The secret to task management is doing them when they come up, don’t put it off! The faster you complete the task you have, the sooner the next person can get on to the next task. Falling into the trap of ignoring tasks and thinking someone else will take care of it is poor form. If you have committed to managing tasks in a certain way and a task is allocated to you, you need to act.

If your processes aren’t right, then this task management may not work for you. Having your process right first means that work will be allocated to the right person once you’re managing from a task list. For those who might be overwhelmed by tasks, then filtering is the best way to overcome the overwhelm – concentrate on what’s due today or what’s overdue before moving on to anything else.

Meetings

Meetings should have an agenda with a specific outcome in mind and be as short as possible. What every advice business can do better is to think about which meetings are important and those that are not creating as much impact. Once you’ve considered this, then think about why you need them and who should attend. If you’re sitting on the fence about a couple of them, that’s telling that you likely don’t need them or you could incorporate the content into another meeting. The key to a great meeting is an agenda, preparation, and what communication of outcomes you expect.

File Notes

Those two very small words make advisers and advice businesses shudder, they can make or break so many things in the advice chain, the results of a file review or in the preparation of a client interaction AND it’s probably the MOST common issue in advice businesses without a doubt. We all have to write file notes it’s how you think of them that will get you into the right frame of mind to get them done. Here are our top tips –

  •  Write them straight after a meeting or phone call – make a commitment to yourself to block the time out. Again, this requires discipline – don’t return to your desk or resume your tasks until that file note is done.
  • Use a template – create a layout based on headings that you will cover to summarise the meeting and prepare your advice – the list below is just a start!
    1. Summarise your discussion with the client/s
    2. Confirm that you provided the current version of your FSG
    3. Highlight why the client has come to see you
    4. Document the client’s goals and objectives based on the reason for the meeting
    5. Confirm the scope of your advice
  • Set up a library of standard text for simple statements that can be repeated without taking a cookie-cutter approach e.g. a standard statement for the delivery of an FSG and your privacy policy. What else can you add to a list of possible standard text?
  • Get smart with tech, voice to text is available and is easily emailed to your team when you’re on the run. There are many apps available to record audio, go the extra step and consider Otter.ai – voice to text makes it super easy for you and your team. If there has been a slight error in voice interpretation, click the text (at the point of the error), listen back to the audio and update the notes to accurately reflect the conversation.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an Assoc. Adviser OR Paraplanner then by all means make them the meeting scribe and introduce them into the process.

 

With some really simple places to begin every Adviser and advice business could find small productivity wins every day. Remember to start with the end in mind, what’s your why and where do you want to be? Map your strategy for efficiency and consider what might give you the greatest impact – it might be something really simple.

When you make the choice to change, make sure everyone understands your why, don’t leave them behind, bring them along and encourage them to take the lead.

 

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