While we are currently living in volatile times in terms of global financial markets, most financial advisers that I speak to are constantly trying to work out how they are going to bring their business to the next level.
Many advisers are determined to build real value in their businesses, to move from being one-man advice shops to being real professional services businesses.
So what are some of the big challenges that advisers looking to make this shift are grappling with?
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 to fix your clients’ problems, constantly battling deadlines for getting advice reports out, carrying our review meetings with clients and also trying to drum up new business.
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, instead allocating this time to plotting out what you need to do to take the business forwards.
It’s all well and good to talk about taking a step back but it’s much harder to do this in reality. The reason for this is that all business owners 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 it means that we haven’t created 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, it 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 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 in terms of management support, business coaching or other support. For others, 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.
Thankfully, there are many examples in the financial advice industry of individuals that have started financial advice businesses 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 orchestra conductors, leading these businesses forwards on steep growth paths, having removed themselves from 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.
Eamonn Twomey is the owner of business strategy firm StepChange.