Sometimes the best way to compete is to trim fat, but be careful not to cut needed muscle to actually keep the practice running.
With the increasingly competitive landscape, every practice should look at ways to change the status quo, particularly because firms increasingly are having their fees questioned and compared with lower-cost investment options, says Catherine Seeber, a CFP and a partner and senior adviser at Wescott Financial Advisory Group in Philadelphia.
“In order to survive, tighter overhead expense control becomes less of a luxury and more of a necessity,” she says. “You need to develop efficiencies of scale while delivering a premier client experience, but how do you do that?”
In determining what expenses need to be cut, advisers should remember that there is never just one single idea that could radically change the bottom line, Seeber says.
Incremental ideas and brainstorming efficiencies that result in little organizational disruption should be tackled first, such as gaining control of miscellaneous expenses, combining client events and assessing return on various investments.
Next, advisers should take an honest assessment of their firm’s strengths and weaknesses and “have the courage” to outsource the rest of what the firm itself can’t deliver well, Seeber says. Most of the wasted revenue of a firm is redoing or undoing a failed best practice that would have cost less if a planner had handed over the reins to an expert, she says.
“In other words, take overdue personnel actions and restructure the jobs of the ‘less than fully busy’ people to confront the problem of underperformers,” Seeber says. “Fill the gaps and consider outsourcing.”
When trying to run a more efficient practice, revisiting overhead expenses is key, but advisers need to find a balance when tightening costs, says Anjali Jariwala, a CFP and the principal of FIT Advisors in Chicago.
“In my personal experience, I realized it is just as important to spend money as it is to save money,” she says.
“Dedicating resources that lead to a more productive and efficient firm creates the ability to free up more of my time for new clients. As a best practice, I try to evaluate my expenses a few times a year to see what costs I can cut,” Jariwala says.
Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer in Running Springs, Calif. She has contributed to American Banker, Risk & Insurance and Human Resource Executive.
This story is part of a 30-30 series on Ways to Upgrade Your Practice.