A recent 2018 adviser survey by Schwab in the US noted that the top 20% of firms were growing at almost 15% pa (ok, it was 14.3% pa), and the remaining 80% were averaging 3.7% pa.1
If you grow at 15% pa you double the size of your business every 5 years.
If you grow at 3.7% pa it takes nearly 20 years to double in size.
It’s a dramatic statistic.
Think of your current level of annual revenue and double it. That’s what you could be doing in 5 years. Double it again, and that’s what you could be doing in 10 years. Double it again and that’s your 15 year number.
Like I said, it’s dramatic.
Do these high performing businesses walk around feeling like the superheroes of financial planning?
Do they consider themselves above mere mortals?
I know for a fact that if you spoke with the owners and leaders in the UK’s leading financial planning businesses, they’d feel much the same as you do.
- Feeling not quite good enough
- A little worried about the future (will this success continue?)
- Never quite sure what the ‘right’ decision is
So what’s the difference between these faster growth firms and the rest?
In my experience of working with some of the best firms in the UK financial planning space, there are three things high growth firms focus on heavily:
1. Vision and Execution
Have you noticed throughout your working life or business career, there are times when you’ve got all the motivation in the world, and there are other times when you can’t even get yourself out of bed?
Have you worked out that the difference in these two states of being comes down to one thing: clarity.
When you’re clear on where you are headed the adrenaline courses through your veins. You can walk through brick walls and solve whatever problems arise.
When you’re fuzzy on your future direction, your motivation leaves the building faster than a fast thing in fast land.
The top performing businesses keep their clarity with a meeting rhythm. That is, annual business planning, quarterly goal setting, and weekly leadership team meetings that resolve the issues and niggles that come up every week.
Execution is done via the weekly meetings, too. The leadership team meets every single week to ensure things are on track and are being followed through.
The key difference between the top performers and the rest is simply less slippage. By staying focused, they move things forward in baby steps week on week. And just like compound interest, given long enough, this makes them look amazing.
2. Team Building
Roy Ballentine is the founder of Ballentine Partners, which might just be one of the best Financial Planning businesses in the world, in my opinion. At a recent conference in the US he said (and I’m paraphrasing as accurately as I can):
People have told me all my career that getting the right people in the right seats is the key to everything in building a business. I now believe it’s even more important than that.
If you’re struggling to get things out the door, or to improve processes, it’s often because you’ve got the wrong team in place. The right team leverage your efforts.
However, the very best business owners know that one of the keys to team building is how they themselves behave.
If I could broadcast one quote from teams to business owners it’d be, “Follow the damn process”.
It’s usually the business owner who seems incapable of following whatever process has been agreed and your team find it really frustrating. You can’t demand your team do things right and then be the weak link.
I’m doing a talk at a Practice Managers conference shortly, where I’ll be telling them how to work with business owners. Working with a business owner who operates on a “do as I say, not as I do” basis is a tough gig for your team. Don’t make it tougher than it needs to be.
3. Leadership and Personal Growth
The fast growth firms have leaders who have realised that the business can’t grow faster than they do. Which leads me to my final point.
Angie Herbers, a leading business consultant in the US, says that business leaders need to get themselves organised and ‘in-flow’ first. Then the business and the team will do the same.
It’s great advice.
The same approach applies to your personal development too; fit your own oxygen mask first. What courses, study or training are you doing to improve yourself in your role within your business? And I’m thinking in your leadership role primarily.
Most adviser owners will do some technical or selling skills-based development, but I’m yet to meet many who have taken themselves off to do some form of leadership development. Yet this is the core skill you’ll need to develop if you’re trying to build a great business that’s fun to work in.
When you’ve addressed your own personal development plan, you’re in a much better position to encourage and assist your team to do the same.
The Final Word
Like most things in life, the difference between ordinary and great depends on mastering a few core skills. In my consulting work I see the best firms, who are growing much faster than the rest, focusing on vision and execution, building a great team and on the personal growth and leadership of the owners.
What are you doing in these three areas?
Is there more that you could do?
Let me know how you go.
12019 RIA Benchmarking Study from Charles Schwab