Working smarter, not harder is the key to high-performance firms

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By Cameron Cogle, Management Consultant to high-performance firms

What are the key characteristics of a high-performance advice firm?

There are many elements that go into creating a successful, growing advice firm. Obviously, you need passion and drive, you need a clear customer value proposition, you need the right systems and processes, and you need to establish a positive team culture.

What you need most of all is the ability to work on your business rather than just being a slave to your business. It’s about working smarter not harder.

This is all easier said than done. In an industry that has had to cope with successive waves of regulatory, structural, technological and demographic change it can be difficult to get your head up and look at the big picture. But this is vitally important for firms that want to grow, as much as for firms that have already grown strongly, to ensure that growth is sustainable.

In my experience a successful firm usually has the following characteristics:

  • Always in front of the curve and thinking about the next opportunity
  • Has a good culture
  • Is disciplined
  • Continually moves with the times - i.e. smart use of technology
  • Willing to adapt and change
  • Open to new ideas

In consulting with high-performance businesses we look at four levers of success – efficiency, profitability, sustainability and scalability.

Efficiency – This includes making the most of technology to improve the business as well as all the systems, processes and tools, and how they are used. It is important to focus on all areas of your operating capacity, not just one aspect. Outsourcing non-core functions is crucial to achieving efficiency and ensuring you can focus on the things that really add value. 

Profitability - This means really understanding your financials and what they mean for your business, setting appropriate benchmarks, effective client segmentation and looking at ways to drive revenue growth.

Sustainability – To establish a solid platform for profitable growth the importance of a strong ethical culture can’t be overstated. You obviously need the right systems, processes and compliance frameworks but you also need to develop a culture where everyone in the business subscribes to the vision and values. This is what ultimately means the business is self-sustaining without requiring constant micro-management

To drive a successful business, you have to surround yourself with good people. That is not only in your own firm, but external as well.  You also need to ensure you are working with the right clients, helping them achieve their goals.

Scalability – This involves building a solid foundation for the future.

The right marketing strategy will ensure you have the pipeline for growth. This includes having a clear customer value proposition, marketing effectively to your existing clients, referral sources, lead generation and automation. What about inorganic growth? What mergers or acquisitions will add value to the business? What are the medium and long-term business succession plans?

The principal in a high-performing firm has the drive to make the business succeed, they know what their target market is, and they have built a very successful business as a result. 

They are already heading in the right direction. What they need is to be challenged in their thinking and how they are doing things, and see if there are better ways to do it. We provide a framework to develop a coherent, achievable business strategy and help them put in place the disciplines to implement it.

We also want to bring these firms together as a group so they can talk to like-minded people and share and compare best practice.

Our job is to help them step back so they continually improve the business for all key stakeholders – clients, advisers, staff, and themselves.

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