An adviser asked me recently what a normal working week looked like for other firms I work with.
They explained that they were doing more than a dozen meetings each week of varying complexity and as a result, compliance work and ‘working on the business’ were a struggle.
A member of their team had even said that the thought of working at this pace forever wasn’t great.
It’s a good question to be asking and there are three issues I’d like to address here:
- The “Is it just me?” issue
- The leadership issue
- The causes and potential solutions
Is It Just Me?
Short answer? No, it’s not just you.
That’s not to say that all firms are in this state, but I suspect all businesses have been in this state at some point on their journey. So if you’re there right now, don’t beat yourself up. Just recognise it’s a stage you need to work through.
If you’re the business owner, this is a leadership issue. Your team don’t have the power to fix it. Only you can do that.
It’s no good if your team is under constant pressure. Ignore this issue at your peril.
You don’t want a situation like this to go on for too long. Team members will dig in and try to help you out of a tough spot. However, they won’t do it forever.
If things are just too busy in your business right now the first step as a leader is to acknowledge it openly with your team. Let them know you’re not blind to the situation.
The next step is to identify the root cause (or causes) and address them. Failure to take actions that work will eventually result in loss of your team’s goodwill and support.
With everyone under pressure, mistakes will be made. You and your team can’t do a great job when there’s time pressure on every task. Most people want to do a good job, but if they can’t, they lose any joy for their work. It’s totally unsatisfying.
“One of the biggest reasons why people leave firms is when they have too much on their plates, and leadership isn’t listening to workload challenges.” – Stacey McKinnon, Chief Operating Officer at Morton Capital Management
Source: November 2019 edition of Inside Information – you should subscribe to it
Possible Causes and Solutions
When there’s too much work going on you need to get real. It’s not going to change by itself.
You need to make a change somewhere in your business if you want to see a different outcome.
Here are three areas to look at initially:
A. What are you doing for your clients?
As financial planners, we’re sometimes too concerned about being good value and so we over-engineer our service to clients.
In one firm I spoke to recently, they mentioned they’re doing two reviews a year for most clients. And although the half-yearly review meeting is a pared-down version of the annual review, it still takes work.
For the vast majority of clients, an annual review meeting is enough. If you’re worried that 12 months is a long time between drinks in terms of relationship and contact (and it is), create a client communication strategy that’s scalable for all your clients. Sure, that takes some time and effort to create, but with all the time you and your team will save on those half-yearly reviews, you’ll be miles in front.
B. How many clients do you have?
If you’re really stretched (and 12 meetings a week of any complexity seems like too many for one adviser), it might be time to consider whether you need to let some clients go.
I know it’s a tough issue, so I don’t suggest it lightly.
The starting question is not, “Who can I let go?”
The starting question is “Who do I love to serve?”
You want a client base that is full of people you have chosen to focus your limited time, energy, and financial resources on.
When you ask this question of yourself you need to have in mind what type of business you’re trying to build over the next 5-10 years. Are you serving clients that are no longer suitable for the business you are today or for the business you are working to become in the future?
It’s difficult, but there are ways to elegantly disengage from some clients that can still fit with your own moral or ethical compass. (I cover every possible way to do this in my membership community, Uncover Your Business Potential Online – so you know all of your options).
C. Have you got your capacity right?
This could also be a staffing and capacity issue.
How can you tell?
Take a look at your profitability ratios. You can download a free spreadsheet to help you calculate them correctly here.
Your overhead percentage should be around 35% (or maybe as high as 40% – 45% if you employ a full-time Practice Manager). Overhead is all other expenses after the advisers or selling owner-directors get paid. So it includes, all other staff wages, rent, technology and telephony, printing and stationery, marketing etc. (Everything).
What’s your overhead percentage?
If it’s well above the recommended thresholds then you might not be in a position to just “throw more bodies at it”. In which case you might return to the first two possible causes I’ve outlined above.
If you do have the ability to add more support, consider adding a shadow adviser to support you, or more paraplanning and administration support.
In most situations, I’d be expecting you to have to address all three of these issues to get the results you’re after. (i.e. what you do for clients, how many clients you have and capacity/staffing)
One Final Thought
Here’s a novel concept when it comes to your team. Why not make them your number one concern; even above clients.
Prioritise things in this order:
Happy staff create happy clients, and happy clients refer and create happy shareholders.