Getting Ready for 2014

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As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to reflect on 2013 and look ahead to what 2014 may bring. It’s also a great time to put together a business plan. I’ve seen firms that overplan and firms that underplan (and some firms that do no planning at all). But one thing is certain: as financial firms in our industry grow in size and sophistication, more and more advisers are embracing business planning as a best practice.

At a minimum, committing some basic thoughts to paper can help provide direction and guidance for your firm throughout the year. What might you want to include?

As a quick review, it benefits a firm to define:

  • a business vision
  • strategic directives about where you want to go over the next three to five years
  • a set of goals for the coming year

Typically, the clearer the goals, the more effective they are in keeping the firm focused on the things it cares about most. (Try setting SMART goals—that is, ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.) If done well, the business plan need not be more than a page or two.

As firms grow in size, it can be valuable to involve others in the planning process. A firm may have just one founder, but if there are multiple advisers producing at a significant level, it’s wise to involve them. Key support staff can also add value. People really get behind things they help to create!

As important as documenting a plan is, it’s equally important to use the plan throughout the year. Holding a quarterly meeting to review your goals is just as essential as setting the goals in the first place. What’s more, the process of setting goals and tracking performance builds teamwork and encourages continuous improvement. Even when goals change or you miss a target, revisiting your plan is one of those things that can help you make the transition from a practice to a business.

So, why not call your team together and create a game plan for 2014? Then, mark dates on your calendars to revisit your plan every quarter. You may be surprised how far this simple act goes toward achieving big results.

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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