Are You Growing Your Practice…

… or just running it?

By Mark Sullivan

Mr. Sullivan is the managing partner of Centinel Financial Group, LLC with offices in Needham Heights, Marshfield, Bourne, Maynard, Osterville and Walpole, Massachusetts. He can be reached at 781.446.5001 or by email at [email protected].

There’s more to growing a financial services practice than just attracting and servicing clients. It’s about making sure that you are focused in the right productive areas so that you are always  poised for change… and growth. You have to ask yourself, ‘Are You Growing Your Business, or Running Your Business?’
There are four core areas we have identified in our firm that help properly match a financial professional’s actions with their business intentions. Focusing on these core areas can help you better align your daily business functions towards growth-oriented strategies.

Client Experiences

Your clients are your business. Yet, as you head into each new year, it becomes difficult to provide engaging, meaningful interactions for your clients and relationships based on the size of your practice. As part of your client cultivation and appreciation strategy, it is imperative that you connect and re-connect with your clients in different ways. It first starts with the segmentation of your clients and having a distinct service model for each tier (A, B, C and prospects). From there, your interactions need to not just be financially-focused. Clients are looking for communication on a business as well as a personal level. In our firm, our Marketing Director, Tiffany Flanagan, employs a marketing calendar that is geared for A, B and C clients with specific offerings on both business concepts and meaningful personal concepts. The goal is to help clients remain loyal, by providing them with experiences that are distinct, from hobby-driven client appreciation events, to unique birthday recognitions, to information tied to their lifestyle interests. The end result is more referrals, more efficient use of your time and overall better relationships.

Technology and Infrastructure

Many financial professionals need specialized guidance in areas such as hiring administrative staff and better execution of technology. As the industry has moved into more reliant use of technology, client databases and social media, it’s important to have properly trained staff who are comfortable with technology so that you are not falling behind. If you are not at a level yet where hiring staff is possible, it is important to invest in cloud-based client relationship management systems (CRM) that can act as a virtual assistant. A proper CRM should allow you to create and schedule reviews and tasks for clients that can be on auto-pilot throughout the year. Your system should have automatic reminders of important dates such as birthdays for client contact, posting of emails into client records and the ability to gain up-to-date information on client accounts.
Today’s voice-driven scribing systems have been designed to allow you to post summaries from your clients meetings directly into cloud-based CRM systems, making your compliance and record keeping more efficient. In the absence of these systems, more than half of a financial professional's time becomes spent on paperwork and doing things the hard way, time that is better spent seeing clients.

Know the Equity Value of Your Practice

Take the time and investment to have a third-party practice valuation, just like you would recommend to your business clients. No succession plan is complete without a proper valuation. Furthermore, there is a direct correlation between the form of compensation you take for the services you offer, your product mix and the method in which you connect with clients that affects the future value of your practice for a potential buyer. There are organizations that have the expertise to value both wealth-focused practices and insurance-focused practices so that you have a benchmark of the market value of your business and what you need to do differently moving forward. There are things you could be doing today in your operation that can significantly affect the future value of your business, or the price a buyer is willing to pay for your practice. These include assets under management, technology, product compensation options and recurring revenue. You’ve put the time into building your business and you need to ask yourself what will I actually own when I am ready to leave the business?

Develop an Authentic Plan of Action

Once you have taken the steps above to move your practice into growth mode, it is important to put down your intentions on paper with specific, date-sensitive action steps, preferably in 90-Day Plan format to keep yourself accountable. From there, you need to move on the action steps you commit to and keep the plan visible to you. Having yourself focused on unproductive tasks is one of the greatest detriments to your business. It creates distraction, lack of energy and an overall feeling of frustration with the business and your relationships in general. Granted, it will take some change, and perhaps some investment on your part, but to have the freedom to focus on growing your business vs. running your business is one of the best opportunities you can give yourself and your clients.