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Moving Beyond Transition and Building Your Business

The primary focus for many advisors making a change is on the transition phase of a new business; however, moving beyond transition is where you can best capitalize on the opportunities presented by going independent.  The key to transforming your firm from functioning to flourishing is improving your client experience, increasing the productivity of your team and managing performance metrics. Structuring and aligning these three elements will position you to deliver your target client experience, employee experience and to achieve your firm’s financial goals

Optimize the client experience
          a. Communicate

Effective communication is the core component of your client relationships.  Our work with high performing teams has shown the largest driver of satisfaction is contact and accessibility.  This means more than just responding when a client has a question.  It starts with setting expectations early on about how, when and who on the team will connect with them on different items.  Proactively reaching out demonstrates your dedication to them and increases your client’s sense of security that their finances are well managed. Inform them of any new services, changes in the office and important happenings that affect them directly or indirectly – it’s always surprising the little things that clients will be interested in.  Setting up a client contact schedule that leverages both automated and personal methods lets them know that you are available and, if structured well, can create a sense of confidence so that they don’t only talk to you about bad news.  The more proactive you are with clients – the fewer out of the blue check-in calls you will receive.  Personalized and targeted messages about the client’s interests, rather than sending emails that look like they’ve been sent to hundreds of people, further strengthen the relationship.  Using your communications to start a conversation with questions or other prompts, can further enhance your engagement with clients.

         b. Develop Client Insights

The process of gaining insight into your clients is more than just “Know Your Client” surveys and routine client onboarding questions.  Be mindful of all their preferences, not just by asking questions but also through understanding their behavioral and emotional cues.  While the natural instinct is to rush through onboarding, spending the time to understand clients’ needs and wants on a deeper level will enable you to help clients through difficult decisions.  When positioned properly and managed effectively, these meticulous discovery processes can create significant value and build better client/advisor relationships. Best-practice firms build relationship trees of personal and professional relationships.  These tools can provide a meaningful resource for helping you precisely decide what their financial needs are.

        c. Customize Your Communication

Once you have developed deeper insights about your client, you can customize your contact with them based on what you know.  Tailoring your offering and communications can demonstrate that you understand the client and their needs.  In the narrowest sense, this can inform client servicing activities, including unique gifts and relevant articles.  More importantly, it allows you to modify your style and interaction with clients to meet their personality.  This leads to more effective decisions and better recommendations by appealing to clients’ emotions.  These acts may seem small, but they make a significant difference in their perception of you.

Build a Robust Employee Experience

Upon establishing your independent practice, your practice vision should be a touchstone that is reflected in your decision-making process.  As you move forward, it becomes a force that unifies your team.  There are three pillars that support the upholding of this vision: objectives, roles and culture.

You should constantly communicate what the objectives and roles are for each member of your team and how those impact the client experience.  Build a Robust Employee Experience

Each employee should have a set of specific and realistic objectives to work against – and compensation & incentives that reward achieving them. Ultimately, these objectives interact to deliver on your vision. Clarity in their specific roles and how they contribute to the firm’s objectives provide motivation and ensure alignment for the whole team.

While goal alignment promotes efficiency in the delivery of your client experience, it needs to be supported by a well-defined company culture.  The composition of this culture will depend on who you hire and how you motivate your team.  Instilling a culture that reinforces common values attracts employees that will be the right fit for your team and creates a loop that reinforces and further strengthens it.

Track your performance

The best way to track your company’s performance is by using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  You can determine what your best revenue sources are by tracking both growth and retention rates.  This will tell you whether you are getting more revenue from adding new clients or from capturing additional AUM from existing clients.  However, these metrics are more outcome based; understanding what drives changes will be essential for future planning and development. Rather than taking the numbers at face value, it is useful to analyze these statistics qualitatively.  For example, if your retention rate is high, this probably means that your client engagement and comfortability is high as well.

This doesn’t need to be an overly onerous task.  Spend time up front to identify the key 3 to 5 metrics that will drive your success and then monitor them for change and against targets. Reviewing quarterly and discussing the key drivers of change with your team will maintain their focus on the right things and keep you on track to meet your goals.

Simply running your own advisory business can seem like an overwhelming task; optimizing it can feel like a step too far.   But by focusing on the right 3 or 4 critical areas, you can simplify and focus your efforts.  Let us help you set your business on an upwards path.

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