In 18 years of consulting I’ve worked with hundreds of financial planning firms.
Some of them were already world-class when I was invited in, but most were still aspiring, in that they knew what they were trying to create, but just weren’t quite where they wanted to be.
In this blog I want to give you a really simple model that has helped me to diagnose where the sticking points are in any financial planning business. You can use it to simplify your decision making and your focus as you try to build your firm.
If we break down the process of growing a business, it’s not very complicated:
- Identify what’s holding you back
- Fix it
Sounds easy enough, but in reality, when it’s your business you can see a thousand things that need fixing. In this confusion and a lack of focus is where you can come unstuck.
If you try to fix multiple projects at the same time you and your team can become overwhelmed and ineffective. My definition of business ‘hell’ is seven projects 98% completed, because a project that’s not finished yields no real benefits.
One project 100% complete by comparison can change your life, and it needn’t be some massive project like “get a new back office system”. One small task taken through to completion can be the win that acts as the first domino that solves a dozen other problems in your business.
Whenever you’re trying to diagnose the impediments to growth, the first question I want you to ask yourself is, “Where’s the constraint?”.
There are only three places that a constraint can lurk:
The first possible constraint is the flow of new leads into your business. Most firms imagine this is their major issue and rush off to bring in the marketing big guns. However, it’s often not true.
If two new on-target leads showed up every month for the next 12 months, could you deal with them AND your existing business-as-usual commitments?
If you could, then lead flow might be your constraint. If you couldn’t, let’s keep digging.
The second possible constraint is sales, or rather, sales conversions.
When new on-target leads do arrive at your door, what percentage of them do you convert? Some firms I’ve spoken to have a conversion rate well below 50% (often 25% – 30%) and this is just too low.
If this is the situation in your business then there’s no point generating a ton of new leads, because ⅔ or ¾ of them will just walk back out of the door.
I want to see hard data in a spreadsheet that tells you what your closing rate is. When I ask lots of advisers what their closing rate is they tell me it’s 99%, or 95% or some other incredible number. No one is closing that percentage of new leads. They’re simply not tracking any data.
The final possible constraint is your capacity. That is, the organisation’s ability to handle and process the back office work that goes with servicing your existing clients and any new prospective clients that are working their way through your client engagement process.
This is really about the size of your team and the quality of your processes and technology. If you want to keep it simple in the short term, just think “Do I have enough staff to handle the workload?”
Once again, if capacity is your constraint, there’s no point generating more leads until you’ve created more capacity.
If capacity is your issue
Where is your Constraint?
Having been through this process, you’ll now know where the constraint is in your business; lead flow, sales, or capacity.
If we return to our process of how to grow a business, we’ve now completed step 1 by identifying what’s holding you back.
Now all you have to do is fix it.
Focus Focus Focus
Having identified the constraint, you need to focus all your resources, time and energy on fixing it, whatever that might take.
You may find you have more than one. Whatever you do, don’t work on all your constraints at the same time. Pick one only and solve that. Then you can go back to step 1 and ask, “Now where’s the constraint?”
This is the part of the process that requires focus and discipline and it’s where I see most business owners come unstuck. We convince ourselves that we can be moving forward multiple ‘fixes’ and by doing so we’ll grow faster than if we only fixed one issue at a time.
In reality, the opposite is true.
Choose one constraint and fix it. If it takes you 3 months, or even 2 years to fix it, don’t stop until it’s fixed. Then you can move on.
A good example for many firms who have identified capacity as their problem right now, is hiring more staff. Many growing firms are looking to hire a new staff member to help resolve their constraint, but the employment market is super tight.
It’s absolutely possible that making that new hire and onboarding the person successfully could take 12 months. When that happens, it’s super frustrating. However, you’ve got no option but to keep working on that constraint until it’s resolved.
Finding your constraint(s), focussing on one problem at a time, and getting that right so you’re tackling it just once, is the fastest way to grow.
So ask yourself, “Where’s the constraint?”
Let me know how you go.