I recently spearheaded a two-day workshop focused on the intricacies involved in becoming a better businessperson. Eighty advisers participated in this event, and I was fortunate to speak with many of them individually during the event.
Now, it’s second nature for advisers to talk about financial planning and investment management. Many find discussions about asset allocation or strategies to address a client’s personal financial challenges to be fulfilling. But I often find that discussions on how to be a better businessperson are not greeted with the same enthusiasm. That’s understandable—it’s not especially exciting to talk about business plans, job descriptions and policies and procedures. These are all elements critical to running a successful business, however, and so we must talk about them, think about them and write our facts and commitments down.
The responsibilities of a CEO can seem foreign to some advisers and a distraction from doing what they love, but these tasks are a necessity for businesses to thrive. Not everyone is wired to be a CEO, and that’s okay. But in an industry where we see solos turning into ensembles, working on the business has taken on a life of its own, creating the need for more formality within growing larger firms. It’s important to step up and meet this need.
The Keys to Longevity
Here are the lessons gleaned from the two-day workshop that can help growing firms succeed.
Put it in writing. What the owners of thriving businesses have in common is that they put the critical aspects of their business in writing. The business plan, budget, margins and profitability, employee handbooks, marketing and growth strategies (and implementation calendars), disaster recovery plans and, of course, continuity and succession agreements all need to be documented. Not only does this documentation establish a more official framework, but it also helps to create accountability. Keep in mind that these are not “one and done” projects. They need to be reviewed, updated and used regularly to guide and track the implementation of change and improvement.
Formalize your advisory firm. For the crew of advisers who attended the workshop with me—as well as countless others in our industry—formalizing their advisory firm is the path to longevity. And given all the changes in the industry, this task isn’t going to go away. Rather, the opposite will occur as firms continue to grow and merge. The CEO will be a role dedicated to leading the emerging firms of the future. Are you up to the challenge?
Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.