If I asked most owner-advisers to tell me what’s in their business plan, they’d quote me a turnover target.
And this is where the misunderstanding started.
A member of my Uncover Your Business Potential Online community wrote to me recently and said, “I get the impression the course is geared towards very business-minded people who want to grow rapidly.”
They went on to explain how they’re building a lifestyle business and don’t like focusing on their business numbers. They felt it took them away from their focus on serving their clients.
Client Focused vs. Business Focused
All of the great financial planners I know are totally client-focused. Some are also great business people.
Others find the business side of things harder to get to grips with.
When it comes to serving clients the ONLY way to do that is to be 100% focused on them and their issues in any meeting. It’s no good thinking about staffing, profit margins and pricing in that situation.
You can’t be clock-watching in a meeting in the name of productivity. In fact, your focus shouldn’t actually be on productivity at all, which I’ll define as ‘doing more things’, or ‘doing things faster’.
Your focus should be on effectiveness. Productivity is not the same as effectiveness and effectiveness wins by a factor of 100.
However, there is a time and a place to be thinking about those other strategic business issues.
All great adviser-owners face the “wearing two-hats” issue.
In front of clients, it’s all about the people.
At other times in the week, your focus needs to be strategic.
The way to split your attention successfully without tearing yourself in two is by establishing a meeting flow or meeting rhythm that allows you to know when you’re in client empathy mode, and when you’re in strategic business owner mode. As a guide, in a smaller firm, I’m thinking you should be spending 90% of your time in the first one, client empathy mode, and only 10% in the latter.
Your meeting flow looks like this:
- Annual business planning (a day off-site)
- Quarterly reviews (a half-day or full-day off-site)
- Weekly leadership team meetings (90 minutes per week)
When it comes to business strategy, your primary focus should be on improving the service you provide to your clients as a way of improving your business.
Strategy and service are directly connected.
Lifestyle vs Enterprise
Even if your objective is to create a great lifestyle business I’m still of the view that you need to be businesslike in your approach.
Because if you’re not totally organised and ‘on-it’ in terms of the support staff and processes around you, there won’t be much lifestyle.
If you focus on the clients and deliver a great service, you will attract more clients; quite possibly a lot more as time goes on. And it’s that “victim of your own success” issue that will force you to grow.
It sounds possible in theory to just stop taking clients and put a lid on it.
In practice it’s not that straightforward and because we like to help people, saying ’no’ can be very, very difficult.
As the saying goes:
“In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.”
Just because you’re not looking to create a much larger business, doesn’t mean you’re not already in business and a business person.
You can be a totally people-focused businessperson rather than a hard-nosed one.
In the work I do as a consultant I’m not trying to get people to be hard-nosed. However, most advisers could step up one or two notches on the businesslike thinking front.
That’s my mission; to help the good people of our profession develop some business management skills so they can positively affect more client’s lives and also strike the right balance for themselves and their own family.
The work I do facilitates that, while still being mindful of, and in tune with, the lovely people-focused approach that great advisers take.
I want advisers to do as well in their own businesses as their clients do from the advice they receive. If you’re an owner-adviser you are my client and my job is to see you succeed. Not at the expense of your clients, but as a result of building a fun, efficient, joyous business that helps people, contributes to society and makes good money, too.
Surely it’s good, client-focused businesses that should make the most money, not the businesses that seem to not give a shit.
Are You In Business?
The reality is, it doesn’t matter if you’re building a lifestyle business or an enterprise.
A small aspiring lifestyle firm that doesn’t have the right team in place won’t generate much in the way of lifestyle. A larger enterprise without the right team in place feels like you’re trying to sprint with a truck tyre tied around your waist.
The issues are identical, it’s only the ambition that feels different.
Are you in business?
Yes. You are.
Let me know how it’s going.