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Assessing Your Business in 6 Steps

Assessing your current business is an absolutely mandatory analysis you must make to achieve success. The assessment needs to address where you are today, where you want to be at some point in the not to distant future (perhaps three years) and the gaps between the two. From the gaps you must develop strategies, tactics, and action plans to get to your desired state. Planning your future with specific actions is imperative.

You need to examine the practice you have built over the years from at least six vantage points:

  1. Processes
  2. Organization
  3. Technology
  4. Financials
  5. Competition
  6. Clients

Step One: Processes

From a process perspective, we see 6 common and core client facing processes that can and will enhance your effectiveness and efficiency:

  • The Intake process
  • The Financial Planning Process
  • The Risk Management Process
  • The Investment Planning and Management Process
  • The Client Service process
  • The Client Planning and Review Process

Step Two: Organization

From an organization perspective, we see a structure for:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Having the right skills in place in the right seats especially given the limited amount of administrative support resources available to many FAs
  • Having certifications appropriate for your marketplace
  • Knowing your and your teams’ weaknesses as well as its strength’s and skills including business acumen, business development capabilities, product and services knowledge, technology and presentation skills, time management skills, business tracking capabilities, and business planning skills among many other areas

Step Three: Technology

From a technology perspective, we see a need primarily for a:

  • CRM tool
  • Financial Planning tool
  • An investment planning and management tool especially for discretionary accounts
  • Office services such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • Specialized tools where needed and appropriate such as an automated Investment Policy Statement generator
  • Information based tools either internal or tools such as Forefield’s Foremost Advisor

Step Four: Financials

From a financial perspective needs change based on your business whether an independent or a wirehouse and your payout. Leaving the basic needs for offices and overhead we see a need for a marketing budget in a number of areas including client marketing expenses and business marketing expenses whether for collateral material, education, consulting services, etc. We often find the latter expenses unbudgeted.

Step Five: Competition

As competition is such a huge area, we cannot possibly do it justice in this short blog post. Suffice it to say, competition is numerous, including RIAs, Wirehouses, and of course DIYers. The latter is likely the most challenging. William Bernstein says, “I expect no more than 10% of the population passes muster on each of 4 key points…to succeed you need to string all four together. Thus, in a state of nature, just 0.01% of investors have what it takes”. The fact that you have the interests, facilities, knowledge, and discipline…and time…can be a differentiating factor. Note that the Dalbar studies all show DIYers are typically poor performers relative to indices.

Step Six: Clients

The last assessment area is the client, your book of business. Let’s have a look:

  • Who is really important to your business and why, e.g., do they give high value referrals, are they on a fantastic business track, are they a potential Center of Influence?
  • Who is rewarding your efforts both from a revenue and ROA perspective as well as a workload perspective?
  • What is the quality and value of your relationships, i.e., who likes you and who do you like? Who is a referral source?
  • What acquisition methods work/have worked for you? If it worked before, keep doing it.
  • How well do you know or not know the client? How can you leverage/improve relationships? Can you leverage the client’s profession, place of business, hobbies and interests, organizations, etc?

Assessing your business regularly from these 6 vantage points will help you to stay on track for success. In addition to the assessment, don't forget to hold yourself accountable to the outcome and the steps needed to improve. Accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions. It promotes sustainable development. As you are responsible for actions, establish a detailed set of accountability action metrics to enable you to determine if you are taking the correct actions or need to make course corrections over time.
Eric Sheikowitz and Michael Silver are the Founders and Senior Managing Partners at Focus Partners, a practice management coaching and consulting firm. Focus Partners provides advisors and financial services firms with the practice management tools and resources needed to succeed in today's changing environment.

David Leo, Strategic Partner and Senior Coach at Focus Partners, contributed to this article.

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