HOLLAND HAHN & WILLS
When I started working with Holland Hahn & Wills they were stuck.
After 20+ years in business the three partners:
They believed they were doing everything right if you wanted to run a great financial planning firm:
But they just hadn’t put it all together in a way that delivered the business and financial results they thought they were due.
When you’ve been nose to the grindstone for a long time, you need to see results. I was concerned that if the three partners didn’t re-establish some momentum, this could be the end of their careers. Boredom and burnout were the biggest risks.
The income each partner was being paid was below market rate for their skill set and experience level, but there just wasn’t the cash available to pay more. One of the partners was feeling pretty bleak about his personal situation; he was divorced and still raising two children. He just couldn’t see how he would ever finance a decent retirement.
Even if we decided to sell the business, the sale price was only going to be small when it was split three ways.
We needed to fix the income and business value urgently.
There was a sense of failure and hypocrisy too. Failure, because they hadn’t finished off the business they’d set out to build. And hypocrisy because they were supposed to be the financial guys and their own finances weren’t great.
They’d put the core building blocks in place and knew they did great work for their clients. However, on it’s own that wasn’t translating into the commercial outcomes they had been hoping for. There was obviously a missing piece or two to the jigsaw puzzle.
It seemed like a tough ask for Brett to dig out the gold that we always knew was hidden 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.
Here’s what I worked on with Holland Hahn & Wills in each of these areas:
We defined their core values and made sure everyone on the team understood the story behind them. Now the business ‘lives’ these values:
Once we got absolute clarity on who the business wanted to serve (Retiring Executives) and what they wanted to deliver, Chris Hirsch, the non-advising managing partner, was able to set about reviewing the flow of work through the business.
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.
We got the team working to their strengths.
We spent some time looking at the client experience the firm wanted to create. Then Chris worked closely with the other two advising partners, Jason Lurie and Simon Ainley, to get clarity on how clients should (and would) move through the advice process.
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®.
As with all partnerships we’ve got different personalities involved, which can easily lead to tension.
The best way to get beyond that is to institute strong management processes. So, as part of my consulting work I introduced our business-planning process and weekly leadership team meetings for the three partners. This allows them to focus on the business issues in a structured format, rather than getting bogged down in the personal stuff.
I taught Holland Hahn & Wills how to keep their eye on their three key ratios:
These are the three key levers you can pull within your business to change performance on your path to success.
All three ratios have improved because they’ve been measured and tracked every quarter.
When used properly, the three key ratios provide feedback to the business owners and answer the question, “What should we work on next?”. No more guess-work, or making things up.
Client quality has increased dramatically. Average client size is up by more than 100%, with the average client now £800,000+ of AUM.
This came from the clarity the partners were able to find (with my help) on ‘who they serve’.
By narrowing their focus, they’ve been able to say ‘no’ to lots of seemingly attractive sources of business, which to be honest, would have been distractions. They now have a laser focus.
(and that’s genuine profit after everyone, including the partners, gets paid a fair market rate for their day job).
Note From Brett:
As I prepared this case study they are on-track to generate £1M of revenue in the 2019/2020 financial year. That’s some improvement.
The value of the business has almost tripled during our work together…and we’re just getting started.
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.
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.
Holland Hahn & Wills provide a great example of what can happen when you focus on the right issues. It’s inspiring stuff.