The only certainties in life? Death and taxes.
The three certainties if you run (or aspire to run) your own financial planning business?
- You will attract more clients
- You will need to assemble a support team
- You will be the handbrake in your own business
Lest you sit there and think these things don’t apply to you, let me explain why they absolutely do (or will) apply to you as your business matures.
Let’s take them one by one.
1. You will attract more clients
If you’ve been in business for a while you’ll understand this one. If you’re still in the early phase of business growth stick with me for a couple of paragraphs.
When you go out on your own and start running your financial planning business, goal Number One is simply to survive. At this stage, you spend an awful lot of time and energy trying to find enough prospects and convincing them that they should become clients.
Attracting more clients is why you exist in the early days.
But here’s what happens next.
At some point on your journey, you get busy. Really busy. ‘At-maximum-capacity’ style busy. You’re under pressure, your personal life is under pressure and your team is under pressure.
Now you face some difficult strategic choices:
- Say ‘no’ to new business
- Grow your team (thereby increasing capacity)
- Let go of some smaller clients
Saying ‘no’ to new business is a total fantasy. Sure, you can say no to smaller leads and increase your minimums, but when that next juicy £1M client arrives are you really going to say ‘no’?
You’ve worked for 10 or 20 years in some cases to put yourself in the position to attract those sorts of leads. Saying ‘no’ is not an option.
But when you say ‘yes’ you just put yourself and your team under more pressure.
Growing your team is the next possible choice and if you’re trying that right now, I don’t need to explain that it’s not easy.
Letting go of smaller clients makes logical sense, but it’s fraught with moral and emotional challenges for most of us because we’re nice people.
There are no easy options here.
2. You will need to assemble a support team
If you don’t like the idea of having to say ‘no’ to new leads then you will need to assemble a great support team around you.
“But I hate managing people,” I hear you say.
Yes, it’s a conundrum.
Good financial planners love giving good financial planning advice, it’s why they exist.
Yet if you want to keep doing that and not get totally overrun with administration and compliance headaches you need to build a team that will do the “stuff” that goes hand-in-hand with giving advice.
Instead of telling yourself that you hate hiring and managing, or telling yourself that it’s really difficult, why not tell yourself that working with great people is really fun and fulfilling. No one achieves anything in this life alone.
Use outsourced team members to get started. Maybe even keep going with that if it allows you to avoid the recruitment issue, which is challenging.
Alternatively, hire a practice manager as soon as you can afford one (probably at around £300k of annual revenue). They can do the hiring, managing and process improvement work and you can stay focused on the client experience, rainmaking and selling side of things.
Like a great show at the theatre, you need the actors and musicians to put on the show, but you also need the behind-the-scenes technicians to make the show work. They’re unseen but vital. So are many positions in a financial planning business.
3. You will be the handbrake in your business
Here’s an awful truth:
Whatever the problem is in your business, it’s your fault.
OMG, I hate this one. “Please let it be anyone’s fault but mine,” I say to myself regularly.
Team member not working out?
Who hired them? Me
Then I delegated hiring to a practice manager and a team member still isn’t working out.
Who hired the practice manager? Me
Who created them? The practice manager.
Damn. My fault again.
Who attracted them? Me
It hurts doesn’t it.
Here’s the thing, you have to be growing and developing you first and foremost.
As you grow and develop you’ll come to realise that when you get yourself in-flow, your organisation will get in-flow behind you.
Running a great business is all about the people you have in it. Great people are attracted to great cultures and great opportunities to grow and develop themselves.
I know you hire people to leverage you and your time, which is a perfectly acceptable goal. However, counter-intuitively, the best way to ultimately leverage your time is to really take care of the people that work for you. That involves some effort up-front but pays you back in spades in the medium and long term.
A happy team leads to happy clients, which leads to happy shareholders. It doesn’t work very well in any other order in my opinion.
What to do?
When you hear all of this it might be making you feel slightly ill. I get it, it sounds like a lot to work on.
But if you refer back to point 1, do you really have a choice?
Clients are going to keep coming because you’ve worked your whole career to make that happen. Don’t make unrealistic strategic decisions just because you’re feeling the pressure.
You can absolutely build a great financial planning business that runs like clockwork.
Understand the size of the task, choose an acceptable time frame and chip away step by step. Progress, not perfection.
Let me know how you go.