Eight things essential to scaling a business31st January 2019
The start of a new year is a natural point to take stock and plan for the year ahead. Even if your financial year starts in April, it’s never too early to start thinking about what you want your business to achieve in the coming months, and more importantly, how.
What do you want to achieve?
It starts with defining your goals; setting out the ambitions and putting a stake in the ground so you can build a road map of how to get there.
For some, 2019 will be about keeping the ship steady; dealing with any fallout from Brexit, charting choppy investment waters, retaining clients and managing overheads, and delivering a compliant and excellent service profitably. For others, I’m willing to wager that 2019 will be about growth, or at least putting the building blocks in place to deliver growth in the coming years.
Are you ready for growth?
If growth is on your agenda, you need a clear vision of what you can realistically achieve. Growth generally means increasing the number of clients you have, increasing the fees you earn from them, or ideally both. Either way, be certain that growth will deliver additional profit and not just turnover.
At the same time, you need a strategy for retaining existing clients; there’s little point throwing efforts into recruiting new clients through the front door if existing ones are exiting stage left. Most advisers and planners I meet rarely lose a client. However, that doesn’t mean structures to deliver exceptional service shouldn’t be reviewed regularly.
Options for upscaling
There are four main ways to grow your business, none of which are mutually exclusive:
1. Take on more advisers and planners, either on an employed or self-employed basis. This will increase the capacity of your business to service more clients, although fully-qualified financial planners are in short supply and high demand.
2. Invest in building a structure to support key advisers and planners, who are usually the business owners. The support team, which will include compliance, marketing and paraplanning, becomes the ‘engine room’ of the business, allowing the advisers and planners to take on larger numbers of clients.
3. Grow your own talent by investing in training and development. This is a much slower, but arguably more solid way to build a business. It also requires a vision which is easily understood by staff and shows them a clear career path.
4. Developing back-office systems to increase efficiency. Most of us have invested in IT and software for data and client management but how often do I hear this familiar phrase ‘we only use a 10th of what it can do’? Most of the off-the-shelf have capabilities that can transform a business but require time and a will to exploit them. I do believe that the majority of businesses seriously under-utilise their resources.
The foundations for growth
Having determined that you want to upscale your business, decided how much you want to grow by and when, there are eight essential foundations to put in place:
1. A common purpose: Everyone involved in your business needs to get behind the same mission. Both your employees and suppliers need to understand where you’re heading, the importance of their contribution, and how they will be rewarded.
2. Core values: These are linked to a common purpose and needs to be embedded in the business to ensure your employees understand who you are and what you stand for.
3. Proposition: Does everyone in your business know what you do and who you do it for? Do they know how they will give clients a great experience? However, a client, prospect or professional connection engages with your business, they should receive the same message and treatment, whoever they encounter. One weak link in the chain can be extremely damaging. It’s essential that everyone ‘gets it’.
4. People: Whilst technology enables your business to work more efficiently (and potentially open new revenue streams), any advisory firm seeking growth needs people. So, do you have the right people with the right skills (including suppliers) on board? What do you need to do to attract the people you need to grow? Do you need to invest in training enhanced employee benefits, or perhaps tweak some of your processes to make flexible working more feasible? All of which will aid recruitment of the right people.
5. Finances: Your business is based on helping clients create a financial plan, so where’s yours? Do you know your key numbers and have processes in place to produce them? You will need them for monitoring your planned growth (see 8, below). Be honest about the quality of your own management information.
6. Risks: No business is immune to risk, particularly in a heavily regulated industry. Some are external and largely out of your control. But, others are internal and entirely within your control. The key is to recognise the key risks and put plans in place to mitigate them, or at least minimise their impact.
7. Marketing: Your business is unlikely to grow if you don’t increase your client base. Once you have the operational infrastructure to service more clients you need a strategy for both retaining the ones you have and winning new business.
8. Monitoring: Do you have the right reporting structures in place? Are you taking the time to actively review the numbers and act if they’re not what you expect? Winston Churchill is credited with saying: “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” Even if he didn’t say it, it still holds true; a strategy is all well and good on paper, but the execution of it still needs to deliver on the goals that you set in the first place.
All of this sounds simple. But simple isn’t the same as easy. And it isn’t easy to find the time and resources to deliver on everything needed to power growth.
And here’s the advert…
Play to your strengths, if it’s not your core service, outsource it. At the Beaufort Group, we encourage our partners to ‘let go’ of the tasks that don’t add value, so that they can ‘take control’ of their business growth. If you do no other planning this year, perhaps consider the tasks that you could let go of in 2019.