It’s nearly impossible to come through what the world has endured over the past few months without being changed in some way. Yet people are incredibly resilient, demonstrating an ability to reinvent themselves and rethink both their behavior and mindset when circumstances require it.
As we all start to resume “normal” activity, there’s an opportunity for advisors to reflect on their business lives—both past and present—and decide what could change.
Finding Room for Improvement
This crisis forced advisors and the firms they work for to consider new and creative ways to conduct business in the short term. As such, they’ve also been presented with an opportunity to rethink longer-term practices, including means of communication, individual roles and responsibilities, and the tools they use. These five key areas are among the top considerations:
- In-person meetings—Many advisors have discovered that they are more efficient and productive as a result of conducting virtual meetings. Scheduling time for FaceTime or Zoom or even conference calls has proven to be easier and more efficient, and, best of all, clients have been very receptive. As a result, advisors have successfully changed client expectations of how they interact—and in many cases, deepened the connections without compromising the quality of service.
- Team roles—There can be a significant advantage to periodically reviewing how responsibilities are allocated among partners and redefining roles to create areas of specialization or to take better advantage of individual talents and interests. Advisors may now be more willing to acknowledge that there are tasks they don’t enjoy or don’t excel at and would be better handled by a colleague—freeing them to devote more time to core competencies and areas of strength.
- Examining client relationships—This could be the perfect time to review one’s client roster and ask the threshold question: “Is this client still right for our practice?” Take a step back and carefully consider both the current and aspirational business style or model. Then establish updated criteria for identifying those clients who are no longer a good fit and those who are a perfect match, and revise parameters for developing new relationships going forward.
- Creating business continuity—Is the business built in a way that it can survive without a key partner, or is it inseparable from an individual’s identity? An obvious solution is building or joining a team that offers a suitable successor. But keep in mind that it’s not enough to have an on-paper succession plan that’s simply shared among the partners: What will make clients feel better is to know there is a formalized plan in place. It needs to be communicated to clients that they will be well taken care of should their advisor have a short-term absence, as well as made to feel comfortable with the next gen as the business might transition down the road.
- Thinking about legacy—Often situations like this crisis highlight gaps in alignment of values and vision between an advisor and his firm. Has the firm risen to the occasion in supporting the advisor and his clients in these unprecedented times? Most important, is there confidence in the strength of the relationship with the firm and the role it plays in the future of the practice?
It all comes down to this question: If you could hit restart on your business now, what elements would you preserve and take into the days ahead, and where would you make some changes?
Not all change has to be drastic; even subtle tweaks can be meaningful when it impacts your quality of life, both business and personal.
The months ahead will not likely result in a return to business as usual—the impact has been too significant—but it can be an opportunity to welcome some positive change for the future.
Barbara Herman is a senior vice president at Diamond Consultants in Morristown, N.J., a nationally recognized boutique search and consulting firm in the financial services industry.