How do Advice Firms Grow?

In many ways.

But I believe there are distinct patterns that if understood as part of a bigger cycle, it may help you grow faster or appreciate how you are growing (or why you are not growing as you’d hoped).

I’ve developed a growth model which I refer to as Wobble Theory.


Success causes Wobbles & Wobbles causes growth…

Basically, growth or stagnation occurs because of the wobbles you encounter not because of the success you encounter.

There are five or six stages of growth, but most advice firms get stuck wobbling in stages two or three.

Now, I not saying that the growth or stagnation of your firm is just a big beauty parade where growth is based upon only one or two metrics – that’s ridiculous.

But I saying that Wobble Theory is predictive of what does happen as you grow and what you can do about it.


The stages of growth…

The first stage is ‘Activity Stage’ when you’re in a start-up, this is when you learn not to let your incompetence stop you.

A lesson once learned we too quickly forget.

Those that don’t jump out to start a firm because they believe they aren’t ready are perfectly right, but they will probably also die wondering what might have been.

You’re never really ready and saying you’re not ready, is essentially an excuse for hopefully a better reason but usually no other reason other than fear.

Being incompetent is a prerequisite for this activity stage, but committing to activity is the essential oxygen if your start-up has any chance of survival let alone thriving to your dreams and objectives.

And, yes, most start-ups don’t get to their second or third birthday, but they do learn lots which might be just the preparation they need for the launch of their new venture version 2.


The next stage is ‘Administration Stage’.

Without a commitment to administration, your dreams may need to be achieved by some other means than this venture. Entrepreneurs who fall out of love with their start-ups because of growing administration and paperwork only have themselves to blame. These start-ups fly off and find other eagles whose dreams were also dashed because they had to attend too many meetings.

Once established, the lack of systems or the constant changing of systems that become chassis holding the new venture all together will result in burn-out, high team turnover, high working hours, customers staying mainly through loyalty and worse, the initial dreams become a nightmare of your own creation. Founders can’t get away from it, ever.


Once through ‘Administration Stage’ the next stage is unfortunately even tougher – the ‘Management Stage’.

Even the best systems can’t keep up if there are just too many priorities to handle.

There comes a time when a priority has to actually be a priority.

If everything remains a priority because the founders think so, they are in danger of wobbling off, maybe keeping a few long time and loyal team members, but failing to retain true talent who are usually required for the next required breakthrough to take the firm to greater heights.

Most firms get stuck in either ‘Administration’ or ‘Management Stages’.

But there are more.


Beyond ‘Management Stage’ is the ‘Dependency Stage’ – so called, because the firm needs to become bigger than the founders.

For firms providing advice, this isn’t the stage to get the new team members doing what the old team members used to do. No – this is the stage where the new team members or up-and-coming team members are actually integral to gaining the new bigger opportunities.

This is the stage where the old relationships, initial founders have leveraged their experience, knowledge, networks and alliances and given a leg-up to the up-and-comers to take the business to higher levels of operation and returns – it becomes less dependent for sizeable growth on the founders.


Then there is the ‘Merger and Acquisition Stage’. The firm gets to a stage where it can’t grow quick enough organically and to meet exciting demands from clients and being able to deliver upon those can’t be done organically – it has to take over (pleasantly named merge) with other firms that can and will be moulded into.


So service firms grow in stages.

They either stagnate or blossom within each wobble period.

Wobbles are the staggering reality (staggering because no matter when they hit in your lifecycle, they will appear staggeringly difficult to overcome) of growing a small business.

What do you reckon?



About Jim Stackpool

For nearly 30 years Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted to advisory firms across Australia. As founder of Certainty Advice Group, he leads a like-minded team of professional advisory firms seeking to create greater certainty for their clients. As an author, blogger, columnist, and keynote speaker, Jim is regularly called upon for his professional insights into the advice industry. His latest book Seeking Certainty is available now.

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