If you want to grow your advisory business you’ll need to create a defined process with clear goals and ensure all of your staff are on board, said Spenser Segal of ActiFi at the IMCA conference in Vail, Colorado on Monday.

The first step is to make ideas tangible to employees. This means spending as much energy on the evolution and growth of the business as on the investment portion of your clients’ portfolios. To do this you need to outline business objectives: “You need to ask yourself: What does success look like?” Segal said. “Is success about profit? Do we want to have more time for clients? Do we want to grow assets, revenue or the size of the firm? Do we want to bring value to our employees, clients? When we talk about satisfaction do we mean for our employees, clients or owners?”

The key is to translate your existing process into your ideal- what is being done today versus what the firm should be doing? Segal explained. You need to put a learning environment in place to help people learn by creating the” aha” moment where the person doing the work realizes on their own this would increase the efficiency of the business.

Understanding your firm is also about understanding your expertise. Do you want to be known as the No. 1 estate planner in Newport, California? Segal asked. Or do you have other objectives? All of these items need to be translated from concepts to goals, he added.

Instead of saying I want to grow my firm by 10%, it’s important to have S.M.A.R.T. goals, Segal said. For example, say: “I want to grow revenue by 10% through existing clients by July 2011. That is how to differentiate yourself. “Two different advisors may say the same thing – I want to grow my business by 10%- but their tasks to get there could be radically different,” he said. “Maybe I don’t need new clients I just need to deepen. Someone else would say I need new clients. Define the scope.”

The way to do this is to make sure all your employees are on the same page. This means creating internal documentation for advisors and staff, including process maps, instructions, and templates. Then call everyone into a meeting and ask: “Do we all have the same exact picture of a defined client service model?” Segal said. “The key is to always assume everyone is not on the same page. If you are pleasantly surprised that you are all thinking the same that’s great.”

Remember, 100% of return on investment is tied to people using the processes. It’s not just about creating objectives, but making sure everyone follows through.

You have to ask yourself: “Do we really have the resources to pull this off?” Segal said.  “Can you spend some money? Bring some resources in? If you execute effectively I can guarantee you will earn a much higher return at a much lower level of risk. The only risk is your ability to execute.”

“In the people, process, technology continuum there’s a reason we put people first: That’s the hardest part,” said Segal. “The technology always works. The advances are there. The ability of advisory practices to take advantage of the technology is not improving at a fast enough pace and that’s about the people.”


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