Make your business stronger
When you look at what needs to be done when you run your own business, it can sometimes be overwhelming. The trick is to focus on what’s important, not what’s urgent. Here are four foundations that need to be rock solid if you want to build a great (and valuable) business.
1. Strategy, positioning and proposition
What business are you in? Be careful how you respond, because your answer will drive all future decision making.
I’m coming at this from a marketing viewpoint. What are your customers really looking for from you? It’s all too easy to think you’re in the financial advice business, but are you?
People approach you needing a job done (e.g. investment or pensions advice), however when you’re in front of your target clients, what you deliver is much bigger. You can call it whatever you want (financial planning, life planning etc), but what it actually is, is lifestyle outcomes.
Once you get this clear in your mind, your strategic choices open up like a flower. Now you have to decide what constitutes your version of a fantastic service that uses your skills and knowledge to deliver great lifestyle outcomes to your clients. What you choose (and what you elect to leave out) defines you and positions you in the market.
Own it. Embrace it. Love it. Be you. There’s no one else like you and that’s to be celebrated.
Let it show in your business decisions and you have the essence of your strategy, positioning and proposition.
Don’t worry if you’re early in your development and your positioning doesn’t feel as sharp as you’d like. Do your best and keep looking at it from year to year. Over time, keep searching and you’ll find this becomes clearer. As your business grows, you’ll be continually refining who you are and what you do anyway. It will never be finished.
To get focused and stay focused make sure you put in place some sound external input via a board, mentor, or non-exec. It’s easy to recognise everyone else’s problems, but harder to recognise your own. So make external input a part of your long term commitment to perfecting your strategy.
Once you know why you exist and what you want to deliver, your next challenge is to do it as effectively as possible.
In modern business we tend to think in terms of business process, which includes a mixture of technology, procedural steps, and people. It’s the fusion of all three that helps you deliver on your promises.
In my experience, the key to great operations is an obsessive focus on simplicity. As Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Strip your services and processes back to the bare boards to find out what really does (or doesn’t) matter to your clients. This not only simplifies things and improves efficiency, but often increases client satisfaction as well.
Good business management falls under the heading operations, so make sure you keep track of progress and spend time fixing issues every week. This is where you work on your business.
The best process I’ve seen for operating effectively is using the Level 10 Meeting outlined in Gino Wickman’s book, Traction
Another way to develop your business is to focus on developing your people (see insert box below this article). Invest some time and money in improving the skills of your team. It might be as simple as sending them on a course to use the Microsoft programs (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) more effectively. Or it might be investing in some quarterly training on how to get the most from your back office system.
Getting your operations working properly is what makes life enjoyable, so don’t take shortcuts.
The other essential foundation for a great business is compliance. It goes without saying that failure to adequately address compliance can destroy your business, financial security and reputation.
Having said that, don’t let the lawyers run the company.
It’s my view that in the early stages, you should design your proposition and processes without any regard for compliance at all. By taking a completely customer-centric approach early on, you can create something that is simple and enjoyable for your clients. Only at the last should the compliance team be brought in to help you ensure all steps in your process comply.
If you do it the other way, with compliance people and lawyers designing your process, you usually end up with an over-engineered, dog’s breakfast of a process.
To achieve a customer focused and compliant business outcome you’ll need a compliance person that will find solutions for you, not put up roadblocks. Yes, these people do exist.
4. Investment proposition
I like to think of the investment proposition as being like the engine in a Ferrari. On its own it’s a nice piece of engineering, but not something you’d pay £500,000 for. However when combined with Ferrari’s beautiful design, handling and luxurious interior it’s an amazing package.
The same is true regarding your investment proposition. On its own it’s really good. Yet when it’s combined with your business’s great people skills, technical knowledge, slick processes and focus on what’s really important for clients (i.e. their lifestyle outcomes), it becomes the engine that helps deliver amazing future outcomes.
The investment proposition itself needs to be something you believe in. It needs to be something you’d invest your Mum’s or your Grandmother’s money into. It needs to be kept up-to-date with the latest research. Importantly though, it all needs to be done while taking up as little of your time as possible. The good news is, there are a myriad of outsourced services that can help you do this.
Getting each of these foundations in place will take you forward in giant strides.
Getting all four in place is what gives you the income and the lifestyle that you help your clients achieve with your amazing advice.
Get your operations into shape by Dominika Sieradzka
Dominika Sieradzka is a former practice manager and now operational consultant for financial planners. I’ve worked with Domi for years. Here are her three “must do tasks” for getting your business processes into shape:
Formulate a simple business process and use it to ensure consistency and efficiency of your service delivery
Define roles and responsibilities of each of your team members and align them with your business process
Work smart and optimise the use of your systems to create templates and manage client relationships and deadlines
You can contact Dominika on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone +447812346223.
Want Success – Watch the Talent by Bob Veres
Bob Veres discovered that adviser founders can get more leverage and growth out of spending their time developing their staff than they can doing anything else in the office. Time should be spent with future leaders who will, in turn, train other future leaders. These future leaders will then bring business and new capacity to the firm. Create a leadership track, and put your best people on it.
You can read Bob’s article here.