4 Steps to Build Your Firm’s Future
Some advisors are great at strategic planning for others, but never plot out an ideal future for themselves.
Here are 4 steps to help advisors in their efforts to achieve success for their firm in a deliberate, focused, and effective manner.
Source: John Bowen Jr., founder and CEO, CEG Worldwide
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Strategic planning should start with the big picture in mind. Big-picture thinking helps you be a better leader and get out in front of opportunities. It also helps ensure that your business investments support the things you plan to accomplish. And it promotes teamwork - people are motivated by big-picture goals. Finally, it confirms that the day-to-day work you're doing in the trenches is actually aligned with your objectives. It informs the steps and tactics you take each day.
Start by creating a vision of the ideal future for your practice. As you develop a vision for your business, understand why you do what you do - what I call clarity of purpose. I often recommend that advisors ask themselves, "Why am I in this business?" at least five times in a row.
Once you know what you want to offer clients, what kind of impact you want to have both professionally and personally, and what you feel most passionately about (both in work and in life), you develop a clear purpose that will keep you excited as a leader even on those days when work feels like a grind.
Before you get deeper into planning, work backward from the desired results you want. Consider carefully where you want to go and what hurdles you might face along the way.
Think about goals you want to achieve over the next 18 months, for example. Many top advisors pursue goals such as serving larger clients, focusing on target niche markets and generating more referrals.
Then think about the specific obstacles that could prevent you from reaching those specific goals. For example, let's say you want to add 10 new clients or increase income by 25%. Specific obstacles that might get in the way of those types of goals include the time you have to spend training new staff, or systems in place that prevent you from spending time on client interaction.
I believe that all the things that seem to oppose our goals are actually the raw materials for achieving them. It's extremely liberating to think about obstacles in this way. If your obstacles are closely tied to the results you said you wanted to achieve, you immediately have the keys to overcome them.
For instance, say your goal was income growth of 25%, and the obstacles were the time spent training new staff and the systems that take focus off client activities.
In this case, your strategic plan might include solutions such as delegating or outsourcing behind-the-scenes activities, or implementing consistent business processes throughout your practice that would simplify staff training.
The biggest challenge of strategic planning is execution. Let's face it: You'll make no progress if you never act on your plan.
Set specific goals and intermediate milestones to begin the work. Choose the broad strategies you will use to reach each goal, then identify the tactics for executing each. Once these tactics are clear, decide on the actions needed to employ each tactic. Ensure that each action is specific and achievable, assign a person to be responsible for completion and set a target date.
If the solution requires a broader team effort - and it probably will - demonstrate your own commitment by including at least two actions that you will do personally (and immediately) to get started.
Above all, communicate with your people on an ongoing basis. Lack of effective communication is probably the biggest culprit in the failure to execute. Get buy-in before your strategic plan from all the key constituents in your practice - from the overall mission all the way through the plan. You also need to create a direct tie-in to the overall plan for staff. Employees need to know how their daily assignments connect to the overall plan.