Archive for the 'Mature Practice' Category

Can You Run the Machinery?

 

Are you over delegating? Is there really such a thing? Does it matter?

I recently read story of an business owner who found himself nearly out of business when three of his four staff people quit and left over a very short period of time. This mass exodus caused great strain on the operation of the business and caused great concern for the owner’s clients.

Are you and your small business prepared for such a possibility? What would you do? Could you survive? Why did this professional’s business nearly fail?

The author of the above referenced article suggested that this was a clear cut case of over delegation. Our business owner had become so far removed from the day to day technology and systems of his business that he was unable to run them in the absence of help. The systems were also of such a proprietary nature that temporary help wouldn’t work. In the short run, outsourcing was also out of the question. However, after immersing himself for a sufficient period of time, the systems were quickly learned and the business did survive.

Was the author correct or was there more going on here? The owner may have been over delegating or there may have been other possibilities might including: Understaffing. Poor pay. Poor employee morale. Lack of cross training or any number of normal employee issues

In the story, we never find out why the employees left but there are clearly some lessons to be learned.

Take a look at your business and realize that it is vulnerable to all sorts of risks and perhaps knowing how to “run the machinery” is a really good idea. Carefully consider your critical systems and ask: Can I run these?, Should I know how to run these?, Do I want to know how to run these? What training will I need?

Also ask: Should I change these systems so they are less proprietary? Can I get temporary help if needed? Can I outsource these functions if needed?

Realize that nothing can take the place of a well run business where your skills are best used where YOUR talents lie.Also, the “care and nurturing” of your staff can be as important as any other business function just like customer service or marketing.

Guide: Oil the machinery: take great care of the staff as well as the hardware, software and systems they use every day.

Action Item: Know which machinery you don’t know how to run and consider what you would do if someone else was not there to run it.

© 2010 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

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Profit per X

 

As Advisors, you face many responsibilities.  You must serve your clients, take care of your family, provide an appropriate work enviroment for your staff and most importantly – stay in business to do these things.

Many organizations in the advisory business will focus on metrics such as: gross revenue, net profits, revenue per client, hourly rate and many, many others.

For most, I would suggest that profit per client or profit per engagement is really the best measure.  This metric lets you know, “Can I afford to do this job?”

Are you serving your clients effectively by allowing some low profit per x clients be subsidized by you high profit per x clients?

What would happen if your high profit per x clients found out they were subsidizing your lower profit per x clients?

Would they be upset or happy?  What would happen to the margin pressure on those higher margin clients?  My speculation is that they would push for and likely demand lower costs as they do not want or deserve to be in the position of subsidizing that lower profit per x engagement.

So think about this as you build new relationships  – Is this engagement going to meet my profit per x hurdle and not cause my best clients to be under-served as a result?

Guide – Measure carefully the profit per x of all your relationships.

Action Item – Consider terminating those relationships that do not currently meet, or in the future are not likely to meet your profit per x hurdle.

© 2010 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved 

Please leave comments to share with others by clicking the comment link below the title of this article.

Top Ten Things to Do in 2010

 

1.  Delegate 10 things that you know you should not be doing.

Nothing will free you up mentally like not doing the “junk” you know you should not be doing.  Just stop!

2.  Fire your nightmare client.

The stress of this account is killing you (perhaps literally).  The energy used to maintain this client is equal to 10 great clients.  Stop hurting yourself and your staff.  If you are not sure which one this is, just ask your staff or spouse.  They will tell you and support the decision.

3.  Treat your staff to a treat.

Practice random acts of kindness.  It feels great and will help everyone be more productive.

4.  Call your top 20 clients and make a non-business only date.

They want to know you.  Visit them at their home, take them out for a meal, invite them to a show, etc. – They really like you.  I call it “go deeper, not wider.”

5.  Spend 3 hours with your best center of influence.

A quick lunch is not enough.  Following the theme of #4 above, really getting to know these people is key to any lasting relationship.

6.  Improve a technology system to make it do what you really need.

Does your CRM system really crank?  Why not!  Spend a few bucks and make it sing.  Find a consultant or some add-ins to help it along.  A great productivity enhancer.

7.  Rework your website and brochure.

Gosh, they get old fast.  Do a short run digital version of the brochure from now on and run fresh ones every 6 months.  Consider purchasing a wide-format color printer and do them in-house.

8.  Redecorate your office.

Yup!  Spruce it up and feel better.  New throw rugs, a fresh coat of paint, and some new wall hangings all help to create a more professional enviroment.

9.  Volunteer.

Giving back somehow, someway gives you a chance to recharge and feel good.  You know you should!

10.  Take time away with your spouse or partner to discuss the direction of your business.

Your loved one is a great sounding board.  They put up with you and listen to you moan all year long.  Sit down, tell them your goals and plans and then shut up and listen.

Guide – Each of these is designed to reduce your stress and enhance productivity.  All proven winners.  Good luck!

Action item – Write these down or print them out.  Post them and knock them off.  Each one stands on its own, so the order does not matter.

© 2010 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

The Rainmaker Dinner

The most successful event in the history of my practice by a long shot?

The Rainmaker dinner!

What is the Rainmaker dinner?

This annual event brings together 7 to 9 professional advisors that you have worked with or want to work with for a private dinner.

  • Identify the attendees – These are the best advisors:  CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Attorneys, etc.
  • Secure a venue.  This would be a private dining room in a nice restaurant.  The seating should be a rectangular table (not round) like your dining room table at home, so everyone can talk with everyone.
  • Identify an outside guest speaker (maybe) – As a newer advisor, you may want to bring in a speaker to talk about a topic your guests would find interesting in the area of practice management or business building.
  • Personally invite each guest with a phone call and explain to them this unique networking opportunity to meet with you and some peers to discuss some ideas.
  • If possible, order dinner in advance as it only takes away from your time together – Give each attendee the choice of a seafood, beef, chicken or vegetarian entrée.  Salads and desserts can be standard.
  • Gather about 6pm for drinks but make sure your server insists that you be seated by 6:30 sharp.  Engage the staff in helping get the group seated.
  • Thank all for being there.  Go around the room and ask the guests to introduce themselves, the name of the firm and their specialty (or ideal client!)
  • After salads are served, ask your speaker to engage the group casually in the topic for the evening.
  • Again after dessert, thank your entire party for their participation in your practice and for coming this evening.
  • Make sure a credit card has already been filed with the restaurant so there is no need to pay as dinner ends.

Be sure and follow up within 48 hours with each guest to set an appointment to discuss the concepts that were brought up over dinner.

This dinner is virtually guaranteed to add value to your relationships!

Guide – Bringing together peer advisors over dinner leads to great comradery and is valuable for all as a cross networking opportunity.

Action item – Set up your rainmaker dinner as soon as possible.  It is really worth it.

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Did It Get Done?

 

This is a follow-up to last week’s Guide on financial metrics and developing your business model and plan.

This week I am writing about activity tracking. 

Plan it; delegate it; do it, track it. Was it completed?  Is there any follow-up? 

Your business integrity is paramount and one of the ways to destroy that integrity is by not completing what you promised to do.

You need a system for that, usually called a “Customer Relationship Management” system or CRM.

Your CRM might be a yellow pad, Post-it® Notes (I have seen that one!), log book, file folders or index cards.

Your CRM might be Microsoft Outlook.

I would suggest you need a multi-user server or internet-based system dedicated to contact management.

Popular examples include Act!, Microsoft CRM, Goldmine, Salesforce.com, Sage, and Sugar CRM.

These powerful tools allow you to delegate and track tasks and opportunities, send group email, share calendars and address books, plus much more.

Most of these CRM’s offer the opportunity for customization, and most of them have consultants in your area that do this stuff full-time.

If you cannot quickly (In 10 minutes or less) and easily (It only takes one person) identify a group of clients and send them a letter or email based on specific criteria, you need to rethink your CRM system.

Even if you have a system, it is ineffective if it is not being fully utilized.  It is not doing the job.

Remember that if you forget to do something, your client will remember that you forgot!

Guide – Your business needs a way to make sure you deliver on everything you promise.

Action Item – Find a true CRM system and a consultant to help you.  Start with your trade association and those nice little block ads in the back of your magazines.  Those folks are usually pretty good!

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

 

Please leave comments to share with others by clicking the comment link below the title of this article.

Getting Your Brand “Followed”

Are your clients and prospects interested in what you are doing?

Should they be?

It seems to me that if they are interested, there must be some sense of loyalty. If there is loyalty, then you have a stronger relationship with that client or prospect.

Forrester Research just released a paper predicting that web sites will become less and less important as people want very specific information pushed at them by their service providers.(http://www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/PrintArticle.aspx?ArticleID=53635)

Will this content delivery be email, social media OR some new and as yet undeveloped platform? Too soon to tell.

So what are you doing NOW to keep people following, interested and loyal to YOUR brand?

Here are some thoughts! (Keep in mind that some of these may require regulatory approval PRIOR to usage.)

  • an emailed newsletter
  • a Blog
  • a Twitter site (or multiple Twitter sites for different lines of business)
  • a Linkedin profile
  • a Facebook page
  • a Facebook fan page
  • emailed commentary
  • seminars
  • press releases
  • writing for a newspaper
  • writing for CLIENTS’ trade journals
  • television
  • radio
  • print advertising
  • advertising on other websites

Guide – Getting your brand “followed” builds loyalty.

Action Item – Start by making sure you have a brand and then work with a pro to get that brand followed!

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved

Please leave comments to share with others by clicking the comment link below the title of this article

Client Review Meetings – Do you have a standard?

Client Review Meetings – Do you have a standard?

Based on my experience, very few professional advisors have a standardized client review presentation. This creates problems and results in lost opportunities.

Clients want to know:

  • Where was I? 
  • Where am I now? 
  • Where am I going?
  • Will I get to where I need to be on time?

Clients also want to feel comfortable that you are on top of their financial situation and that there is a plan.

Problems with not having a Client Review Meeting Standard:

  • Poor client retention because you cannot present or explain your value proposition (Over 65% of  professional advisor clients leave due to poor communication).
  • Poor results because you and the client might be going in different directions or have conflicting expectations.
  • Wasted time because you did the wrong or irrelevant work.
  • Inefficient prep time because you and your staff are constantly creating “one offs” in advance of client review meetings.

 Benefits with having a Client Review Meeting Standard:

  • Great client communication resulting in clients feeling confident that you understand their unique circumstances, needs and goals.
  • You can do great work because you are delivering the “right” work.
  • Your time is leveraged because your staff can develop and deliver most of the elements of the report in advance based on your standardized meeting review process.

What to do next?

Work to design output that meets these requirements… 

  • This might mean instituting a CRM system that tracks this stuff. 
  • This might mean redesigning your billing system.
  • This might mean working with your graphics person to create a cohesive and professional look to your presentations and reports.
  • This might mean training your staff to deliver what you want.
  • And it certainly might mean meeting with a few key clients to “test” the report!

Well, I think you get the idea.

Having a well designed client review “system” will communicate to clients that YOU AND YOUR STAFF REALLY HAVE YOUR ACT TOGETHER!

This will lead to keeping more clients, getting more referrals, better relationships with your clients other advisors (tax, legal, etc.) and, again, more referrals!

Guide – A standardized client review package is a big win for all involved.

Action Item – Start by meeting with your staff to design something new and then refine it as you go.  Something is very likely better than nothing!

 

© 2009 The Advisors Center, LLC – All Rights Reserved


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