Behind the Business: Holland Hahn & Wills - FP Advance

Behind the Business: Holland Hahn & Wills

BY brett

behind-the-business: holland, hahn and wills success Holland Hahn & Wills, based in Hampton Wick, are a Financial Planning business that are really finding success and going places.

The three partners, Chris Hirsch, Jason Lurie and Simon Ainley, are all in their 50s and doing some of the best work of their careers, proving that it’s never too late to get things right if you’re willing.

Here are a few headline statistics. In the last three years:

  • Top line revenue is up 58%
  • Assets Under Management are up 85%
  • Annual recurring revenue is up 86%
  • Net profit has gone from -2% to +20%
  • Average client size has increased from £405,000 to £635,000

Like all the great Financial Planning businesses I know they really believe in the quality of the advice they deliver to clients. I also know all three partners would agree that the quality of what they are delivering has increased too and has become simpler over the last three years of our work together.

Holland Hahn & Wills were a very good Financial Planning firm before I met them. However, in the last three years they’ve also become a very good business:

  • Without losing their soul
  • Whilst simplifying and improving their delivery to clients

As I’ve written about in my previous Moving Forward series, there are six core areas that businesses must have in good shape if they want to succeed. In fact, if you could be 80% good in each of these areas you’d have a fantastic business too.

The six areas (with links to my previous articles on each) are:

Let’s look at what Holland Hahn & Wills do well in each of these areas:

Culture (Values)

Led by the three partners, there is a strong focus on the client and doing the right thing. Interestingly, the staff at Holland Hahn & Wills have happily referred friends and family in the past. This is always a positive sign to me that the team can see and believe in the quality of the work the firm is doing.

Their core values are:

  • Delivering outstanding client-centered solutions/outcomes
  • Do what we say we do
  • Sense of belonging
  • Teamwork
  • Commerciality

Image from one of the birthday cards depicting local scenes, produced by local artist Jill Storey, that HH&W send out for clients “to let them know that they are in our thoughts during the whole year and not just at review time”.
Image from one of the birthday cards depicting local scenes, produced by local artist Jill Storey, that HH&W send out for clients “to let them know that they are in our thoughts during the whole year and not just at review time”.


Behind the performance of any great business is a skilled and committed team of people. This is true for Holland Hahn & Wills too.

When I first arrived on the scene three years ago I asked a lot of searching questions about the existing team, many of whom had been in place for a long time. Chris Hirsch, the non-advising managing partner in the firm, assured me they were the right people.

Once we got absolute clarity on who the business wanted to serve (Retiring Executives) and what they wanted to deliver, Chris was able to set about reviewing the flow of work through the business. In fact, he and the team did such an amazing job of reorganising, that I asked Chris to write about it in a previous guest blog, If You Want to Build a Perfect Team – Ask a Journalist!

The bottom line was this. Each member of the team had certain skills, and Chris was able to help re-design workflows throughout the business to match up with those skills.

For example, a former mortgage administrator now does the cash flow models and suitability report writing. Another team member with brilliant English and grammatical skills checks any reports or letters and makes them fabulous (and accurate). A young apprentice, who is now a full time staff member, with strong mathematical skills, prepares the annual return reports for clients. He took this over from other team members who were then freed up to do jobs that meshed well with their skills. Success all round with everyone in the right role.


There are two aspects to building great processes:

  1. You create great processes by identifying people’s strengths and having them work to those strengths. You collaborate with your team when designing processes. (Which is what Chris did as outlined above).
  2. You create great processes by mapping out ‘what’ (task), ‘who’ (job title), ‘how’ (tools) and ‘when’ (timeframes)

Chris worked closely with the other two advising partners, Jason and Simon, to get clarity on how clients should (and would) move through the advice process. This was done in conjunction with reviewing the team’s skills and roles.

The result is a simplified, yet still comprehensive, financial planning process.

In fact, it became so slick and proprietary that they were able to name it, brand it and trademark it. It’s called The Secure Lifestyle Approach®.

Business Management

As with all partnerships we’ve got different personalities involved. The best way to get beyond that is to institute strong management processes. So, as part of my consulting work I introduced the business-planning process and weekly Level 10 meeting process from Traction, by Gino Wickman. They’ve been excellent adopters and the results speak for themselves.

Also, having a full-time business manager allows the two advising partners to do what they do best.


Holland Hahn & Wills keep their eye on their three key ratios:

  • Profitability ratios
  • Productivity ratios
  • Client Selection ratios

These are the three key levers you can pull within your business to change performance on your path to success.


In the last three years top-line revenue is up 58% and net profit has gone from -2% to +20%.


Productivity is also improving and it’s showing up in the ratios. In the last three years:

  • Revenue per planner is up 58%
  • Revenue per staff is up 25%
  • Net profit per staff member is £19,739 pa (in 2016)

These are all signs that not only are they doing more business, but they are getting more out of the resources they currently have in place. Headcount has only risen by one person during the period.

Client Selection

The third lever, client selection, is also moving upwards; quite dramatically. The quality of the clients coming through the door is significantly higher than it was three years ago.

Average client size has increased from £405,000 to £635,000. That’s a massive change in client quality when you think that to move the average on an existing client base, you have to be adding some sizeable new single clients.

Client Profile

As noted above, client quality has increased. I believe this came about from the clarity that the partners were able to find on ‘who they serve’.

By narrowing their focus, they have been able to say ‘no’ to lots of seemingly attractive sources of business, which to be honest, would have probably just been distractions. They now have a laser focus.

Like all firms, they’d love a few more on-target clients. However, as their thinking gets clearer and clearer, which has happened over the three years, they’ve created The Secure Lifestyle Approach® and are using it as the main thrust of their marketing. This gives them something unique and differentiating to promote in the marketplace.

Summary of Success

hhw-teamHolland Hahn & Wills provide another great example of what can happen when you start to focus on these six key areas for better business performance and success. Inspiring stuff.

Feedback from Holland, Hahn & Wills

Here’s what Holland, Hahn & Wills had to say on how their business has changed for the better.

Chris Hirsch (Managing Partner):

“It seemed like a tough ask for Brett to dig out the gold that we always knew was hidden somewhere within our firm. He put in place the structure and focus we so desperately needed. His logical approach to problem-solving, together with an ability to know just how far to push us, was the key.

Brett has really set us on the way to building a firm that we can be proud of. We are now moving smoothly onto our succession planning and, with Brett’s help, I feel confident that the best is yet to come.”

Jason Lurie (Financial Planner and Partner):

“I always knew we had ‘something good’ but used to get frustrated when we never did as well as we felt we should. We took the hard decision to bring Brett on board four years ago and the results have exceeded my expectations. At first Brett met with us monthly, then as our confidence grew this changed to every two months. For the past 18 months Brett has joined us quarterly for a board meeting day and has proved to be tremendous value. Long may this continue into the future!

Brett also encouraged us to write a regular client blog and my latest article talks about cost versus value. Never has this been truer than the value we are receiving from Brett and his company FP Advance.”

Simon Ainley (Financial Planner and Partner):

“Since we started our business in 1990 we’ve seen steady but, at times, frustratingly slow progress. The best two decisions we made during this entire time are:

  • Becoming Financial Planners using proper cashflow modeling along with ‘Evidence Based’ Portfolios in 2006
  • Working with Brett

Simply put, Brett has led to a complete ‘step change’ in terms of how we work and the success of Holland Hahn & Wills. The numbers speak for themselves.

It now feels as if we’re pulling in the same direction and that we really do have ‘traction’ going forwards!”

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ABOUT BRETT DAVIDSON When you work with FP Advance you work with me, Brett Davidson, directly. My motto is ‘advise better, live better’ and I practice what I preach. I’m straight talking and get to the heart of an issue quickly. There’s no beating about the bush, just a focus on helping things improve. Ask my clients – what I teach works.