Building your own business, even with a team of experts behind you, requires tough decisions regarding resources, clients and employees.
But most of all it requires leadership.
We launched Dynasty Financial Partners two and half years ago after spending about the same amount of time building our concept and business plan before we launched. What follows are a few lessons we learned in as we continue to build our business.
1. Time Management
In an advisory business, perhaps your most valued asset (other than clients and your team) is your time. As your success and brand grows, more people want more of your time. You have to manage your time sparingly and leverage your team as much as sensible. Delegate as much as possible and relentlessly prioritize your time to only those activities most important to your firm. The truth is there will be less time as you grow and become more successful. Building good time management habits as early as possible in your business life cycle will pay major dividends down the road.
2. Make Tough Decisions and Have Tough Conversations Sooner Rather Than Later
It's human nature to not like confrontation (for most of us)! It's not easy to tell people they are not doing a good job, or that its time to move on. My experience is that, most of the time, you just have good people in the wrong roles and, unfortunately, when that happens change needs to occur. Being warm on people while cold on results is tough, but critical to building a business based on a culture of accountability. Be relentless in upgrading your team whenever possible and never under hire. The best teams usually win, not just the ones with a few star players. Build and enhance your team at every chance.
3. Over Communicate
This sounds easy enough, but its not. The faster you are growing, the more difficult it is to find time to keep everyone on same page. Whatever form of communication works for you, do it! Install contact management systems (make sure people use them), mandate staff meetings that require people to prepare for, have a weekly written business update, ask people to cc partners on emails to keep them in loop, etc. Whatever works for your team. The key to getting maximum leverage out of all your partners is to ensure they are current on company info and are having a voice and opinion at the table. Companies that communicate best, execute best. You'll see our opinion on execution below.
4. Make it About Brand
What we mean here is that the more you can get clients to have a relationship with your brand, the better. It creates better relationships, gives leadership more leverage, and ultimately increases the value of your firm. Further, the brand should not only speak to your clients but to also to your employees, business partners, and vendors. Protecting your brand goes hand in hand with building and developing it. Do not compromise when it comes to your brand integrity, with yourself or anyone else connected to your firm.
5. Pricing Discipline
More people than not would say they have pricing discipline but most do not actually practice it. Think about your fee schedule, now be brutally honest and compare it with your actual client list. For most of us, we discount too much and then over-service the client. Simple repricing exercises can significantly increase ROA and provide more resources for growth and client service going forward. Be clear with clients and prospects about what you do, its quality and value, and what you charge. Most people who discount aggressively either lack confidence in the quality of their work or need practice. Assuming that's not you, stick to your guns!
6. Execute More Than Plan
If given the choice between a stellar business plan and second rate execution vs. an average business plan and world class execution, we'd choose the latter. One of the most common denominators of the successful RIAs we support is that they focus on execution nonstop. They don't just set goals; they lay out specifics on how they will achieve them and then focus on those activities to ensure success is the only outcome. At Dynasty, we constantly focus on execution. As Larry Bossidy called execution "the art of getting things done," it's the name of the game for leaders in building an execution focused culture. The best firms we see don't try to sell what they are going to do, they discuss what they have done. Big difference. Focus on the art of getting things done!
7. Appreciate the Client Every Day
The best firms we support are almost fanatical on talking about their clients. They will not shut up about how great their clients are! They don't talk about the grief that comes with difficult client requests but rather appreciate the fact that their client trusts them enough to ask them for the help. The firms that endure the longest and grow the fastest have a client central lens through which they see the world. At Dynasty, we get up every day and ask what we can do to build a better platform, tools, resources, etc to allow our advisor clients to take better care of their clients. Everything that makes Dynasty possible sits in the offices of our clients. When you see the world that way your response time, service levels, employee effort levels, are all heightened- everything is done just a little better every day. And doing things just a little better than everyone else over a long period of time is often the difference between really good and truly great.
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