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Service Businesses


Don Scott

How to Grow Your Wealth Management Business

July 6, 2017


It’s easy enough decide “We need to grow”, and send out the order to charge the hill. A significant business has already been created. Now, there is a new directive. We want to grow! That is, grow more or grow differently. Perhaps the growth of years past has leveled out.Maybe, the external environment has changed. Or, particular areas within the business haven’t reached their potential. For whatever reasons and under whatever circumstances, the decision has been made. It is time to kick it up a notch.

Let’s take a look at the foundation for success. Four “Levels” that spell out the opportunity for achievement and creation. Some of this might be described as “bread and butter”. Things we already know. What I know is these are often stale, given lip service, or ignored altogether. Everyone is busy and money’s tight.

Level I – Culture, Leadership, and Time Horizon

What is the culture now? As it pertains, directly or indirectly, to the growth objectives. Culture, is defined in this context as:
“The behaviors and beliefs characteristics of a particular group.”
We can’t change who we are fundamentally, overnight. It takes a little time and care. Initiatives fail all the time because the organization asks for behavioral changes that vary too far outside the established culture.
● Is top leadership serious about their objectives? Are the clear? Is everyone else clear? Fully committed? Is top leadership simply sending down the “We want to grow” directive? Or, are they themselves creators, supporting the initiative in all of the ways it takes to be successful?
● Time horizon is an interesting concept, not always carefully considered. Organizations tend to be short-sighted. We need X over the next sixth months. Year two, three and beyond are afterthoughts. What if, we had the luxury to step back and take a hard look at what we could create over the next three years? What if we looked at what we could really build, and planned from that perspective? Only then would we break it back down to more bite-sized increments of time and performance targets.

Level II – Operating Environment

A little like culture, but now drill into what is happening on the ground every day. If management is asking for something new, that implies something more, something that wasn’t there before, new behaviors, etc. This new must come from “what is”. So, “what is now”, and how does that align with the new growth objectives? Two areas come up quickly that will be either huge barriers or drivers. These will make or break success.
● Time and capacity. If there is no individual capacity to go out and create new business, then very little will be created. I remember an Office Managing Partner saying to me once he believed everyone was “selling” all of the new business they could and that if we added more capacity (available time) they would just goof off (basically). So, they worked way too much overtime already, chased around like mad men and women, and then were expected to generate new work in their spare time. Guess how that worked? Mediocre results to meet perfectly with mediocre expectations.
● I believe in hard work. I also believe that in any scenario where employees operate full-out all the time, are over-busy, stressed, etc., they are sub-optimized. Their results are sub-optimized. Most certainly that is also true of the leaders/ managers. Being over-busy and unrealistic in related planning and expectations is a huge mistake. It saves a little costs a ton.
● Reward system. Does the reward system, primarily the compensation structure, directly, clearly, and unequivocally support the desired behaviors and outcomes? Quite often they do not. Management wants to create new behaviors and results, and pay in the same way it always has. Or, it tries to add on a compensation band aide because it is too busy, too in a hurry, or just too cheap to do it right.

Level III – Sales and Marketing

Many organizations tend to skip over Levels I & II, and jump in here. Level III is important, just not the whole picture – by a long shot. Let’s look at a few additional core elements that will drive success, or, if neglected, enable mediocrity.
● Essence and promise. The organization and everyone in it must be clear. These are the fundamentals from which everything else is derived.
●  Value proposition. What does impending failure look like? When the troops on the ground are unclear about the value proposition. They can’t articulate it. That don’t believe in it. They aren’t proud of it. They are squeamish about getting paid for it. Say no more.
●  Strategy. Is there a clear strategy? Is there commitment up and down the line? Is it executable and are the results measurable?

Level IV – The Client Creation Team

Ultimately, it comes down to those who serve clients and interface with potential new clients. Management doesn’t grow a business – not directly. They enable others to do it. Everything in Levels I – III has direct bearing. The critical elements including compensation structure and making sure there is capacity commensurate with the effort required to create the desired results. But, Level IV represents the most fundamental and most powerful element of the whole equation. What is going on inside those individuals who are the only ones who can make it happen?
● Belief system. Do they believe they can? Do they understand the psychology of sales? Can they come to understand and carry this inside themselves as service and not sales at all? Do they believe they can? Do they understand the psychology of client creation?
●  Clarity and commitment. Are they not only comfortable, but passionate? Are they crystal clear on what, why, and how? Are they unequivocally committed to creating the desired results for their clients, the institution, and themselves?
● Knowledge and skills. Fundamental elements of serving existing clients and creating new ones are very similar. However, there is an entirely different level of skills and knowledge necessary to engage with a prospect and help them move through to client status. To what degree are they knowledgeable, skilled, and comfortable?
● System. Do they have their own “system” and processes for client creation? If asked to draw a map of the U.S. on a whiteboard, most people couldn’t come close to 100% accuracy. If we put up a blank map with the states outlined, and asked them to label the states, most would get a lot closer. Human beings work more effectively with an executable road map.
● Action. Action is the result of everything outlined herein. Results come from action. Action from groups of people, not just the few naturally driven to “sell”, takes a lot more than a directive that “We want to grow, now charge the hill!”


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