The end of the year marks a feeling of accomplishment and celebration for another successful year in business. As client meetings have a tendency to slow down for the holidays, it’s a great time to work on the business - evaluating what worked and didn’t work for you over the past year to ensure you’re well-prepared to continue leading your business in the coming year. One critical piece all RIA’s should consider reviewing is their financial planning processes. Results of a 2022 InvestmentNews Research study on elite RIA firms found that a key characteristic of some of the most profitable advisory firms is a focus on process. So, what are some of the specific processes to review as 2022 comes to a close?
Consider auditing your firm's core service offerings to ensure they are truly aligning with your target client’s needs. Are there services you should consider adding? Are there existing services you don’t like offering or perhaps are not good at doing that you would be better off eliminating completely or outsourcing? Who could you outsource those services to? Are you finding a lot of variation in your client base that’s making it difficult to scale? Perhaps it’s time to consider additional refinement of your niche or maybe your firm could benefit from a more tiered-level service structure.
How many meetings your firm is offering annually is also a great item to review. Do you feel you’re being bogged down by too many meetings? Establishing the right meeting cadence for clients is an incredibly important piece to creating a scalable service model. More often than not, we find that some firms are meeting with clients way too much, and there may be opportunities to offer fewer meetings for certain clients who aren’t as needy or replace a meeting with a different type of touch like a Loom or BombBomb video.
The end of the year is a great time to evaluate how well you’re leveraging your firm’s technology. Are you maximizing the newest features and updates? Consider contacting the support team and requesting a demo on how to incorporate new features or to discuss what’s new and how it impacts your firm. Is there additional training you or your staff needs? Quiet time during the holiday season may be an opportune time to get that done. Another aspect to review is how well your tech serves your firm. Likely your firm has evolved since it first launched – could there be better tools that fit your changing needs? Are there any missing pieces?
Additionally, does the tech stack work for your client base? Have there been any client complaints? This should be your biggest red flag that warrants a prompt review. Consider creating an annual tech survey specifically for clients to gauge their experiences with the systems your firm uses. Use that feedback to identify changes or improvements that could be made. Another item to evaluate is if any platforms can be combined for cost savings and efficiencies.
Client onboarding is one of the most important processes in your business because it has the propensity to set the tone for ongoing client relationships both positively and negatively. What is the process for onboarding new clients onto your tech systems? Is it a seamless experience for them or are you encountering bottlenecks? Is the tech working for some clients but not others?
The data-gathering process is another sub-process under client onboarding that often needs regular review as this is where some of the biggest bottlenecks and levels of client disengagement are found. What tools are you using to help gather data? Are the tools effective or is there a better tool? How are you storing and updating the data? If you’re finding yourself constantly updating client data in several places, this could also be a key area for review.
Client Meeting Prep
While client meetings may seem relatively straightforward, as your firm grows and more items are put on your plate, you may find that meetings are quickly becoming a challenge. It might be necessary to take some time to review how streamlined your client meeting process is. When it comes to scheduling meetings, does it feel like a smooth process for clients? Is the client meeting prep as efficient as it could be?
Creating standardized meeting deliverables can be a big help in streamlining client meeting prep as you’re not constantly recreating meeting reports from scratch. Standardized reports can also be extremely helpful for clients as it increases their familiarity with the reports, which helps them to know how to read and understand your firm’s deliverables.
Additionally, how is the client meeting follow-up? Are you finding that tasks are slipping through the cracks? This might be a good opportunity to review your task management software or if you don’t currently have a task management tool, consider adopting one for 2023.
Many firms as they grow continue to operate their business and client interactions based on memory. The “it’s in my head” mentality runs rampant in our industry. However, weekly to-do lists, post-it notes, and tasks will only get you so far. If your goal is to increase your firm’s success, hire someday, or even just decrease your current team’s dependency on you (if you have one), you need detailed workflows. Defined workflows are becoming a distinguishing characteristic for RIAs.
Are your processes documented? If not, this could be a prime time to begin writing your workflows down. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple piece of scratch paper is a good place to start. Make a list of all the existing processes you have and begin documenting them. Then spend some time auditing the workflows. Are you encountering bottlenecks in your steps? Are there any extra steps that can be eliminated? Are there any steps that should be added? Is it time to start incorporating automation tools for additional streamlining?
All of this might seem tedious but taking the time to thoroughly review your processes is well worth it, as it can have an immense impact on your firm’s growth. The first step is making the commitment to dedicate the time, at least annually, to audit your processes. Once you do that, reviewing processes will become an easier and more natural part of running your business. Here at XY Planning Network, we have lots of resources to help support your firm in that endeavor including recorded webinars and courses on how to develop and refine the processes outlined in this blog. For our members, these can all be found in XYPN Academy under the Financial Planning & Processes section. Cheers to another successful year!
About the Author
Kathleen Boyd, CFP®, is XYPN's Financial Planning and Process Coach. In her role, she works closely with XYPN members to guide them in refining their planning process, resulting in stronger ties with clients and a more fulfilling planning experience for all involved.
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