At the IFP Conference, back in October, I did a series of short interviews with some great advisers who were circulating over the three days. One of the questions I asked them was: What has been the biggest business breakthrough in your career? This is what they said.
What Has Been The Biggest Business Breakthrough In Your Career?
1. “Taking personal responsibility for my own success.”
Ruth Sturkey (The Red House Consulting Ltd) talked about her epiphany when she was working in middle management for a larger IFA. Her key point is: no one is making me do anything…it’s all down to the limitations that I set myself…If I really want to do something I’ve just got to get on with it.
I’m sure many of you have had similar insights (which is how we ended up working in smaller businesses where we can influence the culture and direction of the firm). However, it can be all too easy to fall back into the ‘poor me’ mentality from time to time. I know this from personal experience. I can catch myself moaning about this and that, or focussing too much on what other people are doing, rather than simply doing the next thing that needs to be done in my own business. In those moments Ruth’s words are a great reminder: no one is making me do this. It’s my choice and if things aren’t going as I would like, it’s up to me to take a step back, work out why and make the necessary changes.
2. “Introducing cashflow modelling.”
Ian O’Connor (Astutue Financial Planning) said the introduction of cashflow modelling was, and still is, his biggest breakthrough.
Despite the push in relation to cashflow modelling over the last few years, there are still a surprisingly large number of firms who are resisting it. This is a huge mistake in my view. As Ian said, “I don’t know how I could have given the same level of advice without cashflow modelling.” Me neither.
I first started using cashflow modelling in my Australian business in about 1995, using a DOS based system called FPI. Later we moved to a much more powerful system called Visiplan, which allowed us to model cashflows not only for individuals, but also for company and trust structures that many of our wealthier clients used. My firm became expert users of this great piece of kit.
Cashflow modelling allowed us to ‘show people that everything was going to be alright’ at each annual review and to help them ‘see’ the benefits of our technical work. I just can’t think of another way to achieve these outcomes in your business.
As any convert to cashflow modelling (and good questions) will tell you, it fundamentally changes the relationship you have with clients for the better; moving you away from an investment or product focus into a lifestyle outcomes focus.
It’s a bit like moving on from ham and pineapple pizza to pepperoni when you’re a kid; once you’ve tried it you can never go back!
3. “Getting external consulting support.”
Ken Welsh (VWM Wealth Management) talked about getting some external consulting support from yours truly! I remember this job with great fondness, although it was a tough one for Ken and his business.
There were some significant staffing issues to resolve, which is never nice. When we conducted an initial financial ratio analysis it was clear that there were too many staff in the business. There was also a slightly toxic environment among some of the team, and Ken was at the end of his very good nature. We discussed the situation and decided to review each and every role within the business to create a more suitable structure and level of staffing. With the help of an external HR consultant, all but two of Ken’s original team were replaced over a 12 month period, and several positions were made redundant.
Although Ken probably already knew what his issues were before I arrived, having some back up and decision-making-support while he took action was crucial. The business is now thriving as a result.
4. “Deciding to be a bigger business.”
Jason Butler (Bloomsbury Wealth) felt his breakthrough happened when he decided to build a bigger business. It is incredible how a single decision can change the way you look at your business, and the questions you then ask yourself about how to make your vision a reality.
The first realisation was that he would have to get really good at hiring people if he was going to get the right people on the bus. If you know Jason’s team, you’ll see that he has become very skilled in this area.
Most businesses recognise the need for a great team, but make almost no effort to get good at recruiting them. This is a recipe for continued stress and failure in my view. If recruitment skills are not your thing then engage someone who can help you do it more effectively.
Tracey Underwood (Pace Solutions) performs this role for a lot of my clients. Other firms I know have a relationship with a specialist HR consultant. External HR consultants are not particularly expensive as an outsourced resource, but can add significant value in a broad range of areas, not just with recruitment.